Pop Life: Aretha Franklin; Corto Maltese

Stuff I'm watching, reading, hearing.

"Amazing Grace." What a perfect way to spend Easter weekend - watching the Queen of Soul belt out gospel tunes before a small, live audience in a Los Angeles church. The experience is rapturous, even if you're not terribly, or traditionally, religious. Filmed in 1972 by director Sydney Pollack and a small crew, this wasn't released at the time due to technical issues (they didn't manage to syn the image and sound!), but is now beautifully restored. Filmed over two nights, the first is the best. The second seems more self-conscious and aware - as Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones are spotted by the camera seated in the back pew - and Aretha's too-slick and creepy dad taks the mic. But when she sings, man. Even the folks in the choir, no slouches themselves in the vocal department, can't help but gasp. In good theaters now.

"Corto Maltese: The Secret Rose." I'm only now getting into this series of remarkable graphic novels ("albums," they've called 'em for decades in Europe) by the amazing cartoonist Hugo Pratt. Corto Maltese is a rogueish, sea-faring adventurer. And, from what I've seen he does have real adventures. But in this one, the adventure takes place within his mind, as he contemplates alchemy, good and evil and the Holy Grail while under the mental/spiritual influence of author Hermann Hesse, who he meets up with while in Switzerland. Pratt's art - simple and in black and white - is a great example of what's so wonderful, and achievable in the comics medium as Corto travels through the surreal landscapes of his own consciousness. I need to take a deep dive into Pratt's work - this one moved and inspired me as only the best literature, graphic or otherwise, can. Order it here.