Tuesday, August 25, 2020


 Entertainment” “Morgana”, a female Icarus soars to erotic sun


By Dwight Casimere


Morgana is a quixotic but riveting documentary focused on the inexplicable rise of an overweight, abused housewife on the outer fringes of 50, to stardom in the world of erotic films.  From a tiny burg on the outskirts of Victoria, Australia, Morgana resurrects from the ashes of a broken marriage and suicidal depression to reinvent herself as an influential independent filmmaker.


A first-time feature by directors and writers Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess, Morgana dazzles in its revelatory bliss, even as it pushes the limits of common wisdom and propriety. The film, which premiered at the 2019 Melbourne Film Festival, has won awards at festivals from Sydney to San Francisco.


Morgana Muses (yes, that is her real name) spent 20 years in a loveless, sexless marriage. Divorcing after years of misery, she made the desperate decision to hire a male escort to have one last fling before committing suicide. Rather than reinforcing her sense of hopelessness, the encounter instead led her to believe that there was something better in store. She felt liberated, and began exploring a part of herself that had been buried beneath layers of self-loathing and emotional repression.


After hearing about a competition for first time erotic film makers, Morgana decided to turn her male escort into the co-star of her first film, a self portrait entitled Duty Bound, which ‘SURPRISE!” captured the Petra Joy Award for first time film makers in 2012. Since then, her films have screened all over the world and captured awards in leading erotic festivals, such as Cinekink New York, the Berlin Porn Film Festival in 2015 and three awards at the 2017 Toronto Porn Film Festival.


Inspired by her late father’s wanderlust (“My father had a choice; move to Argentina or Australia. He flipped a coin and went to Australia.”) So, she struck out for Berlin, the historic epicenter of free sexual expression. “Why go to therapy,” she mused (pardon the pun), when I can go to Berlin and be weird.”


The move paid off with dividends. Using money from her divorce settlement, Morgana began producing and starring in her own films, working with award-winning filmmaker Josie Hess. When Morgana got the idea to do a wildly imaginative film, documenting her 50th birthday, Josie enlisted the aid of fellow punk rock and erotic filmmaker Isabel Peppard. The rest, as they say, is erotic film history.


Morgana’s vivid concept of having herself suspended naked in an elaborate bondage installation as a birthday gift to herself blossomed into a full-scale feature-length bio doc, tracing her miserable roots in rural Victoria to the BDSM clubs of Berlin and beyond. What followed were a flurry of titles from the newly spawned team; its My Birthday and I’ll Fly If I Want To-2014, I Am Whole 2015, Having My Cake 2015, Breathtaking 2016, Labia of Love 2017.


In Morgana, the Cinematography by Hess and Peppard is arresting. A series of Miniature set pieces designed and built by Peppard and filmed by Gerald Thompson are a stroke of genius. The punk-influenced score by Jordan Gilmour accentuates the high wire daring of Morgana’s imaginings.


Morgana found herself the darling of the erotic film world. Instead of fueling elation, it plunged her deeper into depression. “The last 3 years have been a whirlwind. I had come full circle. So many highs, but I knew it was just a matter of time before I would fall. (Bi-polar and depressed) I felt that sometimes it’s better to feel worthless, then you don’t have so far to fall.”


Morgana faces her demons head on and wrestles them, literally, to the ground with her artful films. There are dazzling images that strokes of pure cinematic genius throughout the film. Her images probe deep beneath layers of emotional suppression and erupt a subterranean volcano of sensuality.


Morgana is an empowering film that shatters all preconceptions of what erotic films are all about. More than anything, Morgana is a film about empowerment and the willingness to risk everything to rise to meet the horizon of your wildest dreams. Morgana premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival 2020 and will soon be available VOD. It will screen digitally at the festival through Sept. 2. For further details, visit morganadocumentary.com.





Wednesday, August 19, 2020



Nadal, Halep skip on corona fears, Serena eyes 24th Grand Slam title

By Dwight Casimere

Serena Williams has been undertaking a rigorous training regimen

Naomi Osaka was hesitant to commit, but has entered with her coach saying her expectation of repeating her dramatic 2018 title wine over Serena Williams "will be low."

The US Open is set to begin August 31 at the Billy Jean King Tennis Center in New York, in spite of the withdrawal of some of the top players in the game.


USTA CEO and Executive Director Mike Dowse told a national Media Conference Call on Health and Safety Protocols that many of the competitors have already started arriving at the tournament’s bio-secure compound at the Marriott on Long Island. 


This will be the first non-spectator US Open ever, with the stands devoid of fans and the players on lockdown due to rigorous multi-tiered health and safety protocols for them and their entourage. The same will apply to the phalanx of service personnel, drivers, caterers and the army corps of support staff that makes such a massive undertaking possible.


A weakened field of top tier female players could mean that Serena William’s chance of gaining that elusive 24th Grand Slam Singles Title has just been ratcheted up a notch. Her flight to Grand Slam-Heaven has just gotten a First Class ticket with the withdrawals of World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia and No. 2 Simona Halep of Romania. Irina Khromacheva of Russia replaces Halep in the main draw.


16-year-old tennis sensation Coco Gauff is signed up to compete. She has her eye keenly on upsetting the 38-year-old Serena’s chances.


Naomi Osaka, No. 3, who defeated Serena in a tear-and-tantrum drama for the 2018 US Open title has announced through her management team that she will compete in this year’s tournament. Her coach has already telegraphed a bid for sympathy with the ploy that her “expectation would be low.” That remains to be seen.


There’s plenty of star-power to go around in spite of the many withdrawals. Besides Serena, No.1 seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, No. 2 Sofia Kenin, are joined by Petra Kvitova and the powerful Spaniard Garbine Muguruza.


On the men’s side, Rafael Nadal will not return to defend his US Open title for what would have been a possible fifth win for fear of his safety because he did not feel that the pandemic is under control. Aussie Nick Kyrgios says he won’t show up for the same reason, to the disappointment of no one.  Stan Wawrinka, the 2016 US Open Champion, is also out as is somersault sensation Gael Monfils of France.


There is some good news. Novak Djokovic, the World No. 1, and the hardest working man in tennis and three-time US Open champion, leads the entry list that includes seven of the world’s Top Ten men.  The list is an impressive one; No. 3 Dominic Thiem was expressing second thoughts, but so far remains in. No. 5 Danill Medvedev, who dropped to Nadal in an exhaustive 2019 US Open final, is back seeking a better outcome. No. 4 Roger Federer had previously withdrawn due to aright knee injury, that just leaves the speedway wide open for the rest of the men’s field, which includes No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 7 Alexander Zverev, No. 8 Matteo Berrettini, No. 10 David Goffin and 2014 US Open champion, No. 37 Marin Cilic.



The good new is that with the withdrawals of some of tennis’ top cash and crowd draws dropping out, a host of hopefuls have moved into the Main Draw.


There’s a sizeable purse for the winners, in spite of the drain on revenues due to no ticket sales and reduced sponsorship opportunities. Nearly 95% of the cash prize money is guaranteed, with the total prize money pool at $53.4 million, down a mere 6.7% from last year. The men’s and women’s singles champions will each receive $3 million to fill the silver chalice replica they’ll take home, down 22% from last year. First-round prize money gets a 5% boost from $58 grand for 2019 to $61,000. Second and third round money remains unchanged. In addition to holding reasonably steady on the prize money, all of the players stand to get a boost from a total of $7.6 million the USTA has set aside for monetary assistance for players who have had their earnings reduced this year by the nearly five month suspension of the tour.


The 13 Americans who received direct entry into this year’s tournament are: No. 21 John Isner, of Greensboro, N.C.; No. 24 Taylor Fritz, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; No. 39 Reilly Opelka, of Delray Beach, Fla.; No. 45 Sam Querrey, of Las Vegas; No. 55 Tennys Sandgren, of Gallatin, Tenn.; No. 57 Tommy Paul, of Delray Beach; No. 63 Steve Johnson, of Redondo Beach, Calif.; No. 81 Frances Tiafoe, of Hyattsville, Md.; No. 83 Mackenzie McDonald, of Orlando, Fla.; No. 102 Marcos Giron, of Thousand Oaks, Calif.; No. 111 Denis Kudla, of Arlington, Va.; No. 119 Jack Sock, of Kansas City, Mo.; and No. 126 Bradley Klahn, of Los Angeles.




There’s plenty of opportunity to watch the 2020 US Open. ESPN is presenting first-to-last-ball coverage of the tournament for its 12th consecutive year with nearly 140 hours on TV via ESPN and ESPN2. Tennis fans will also have the opportunity for a digital grounds pass with more than 1,000 hours of coverage from all courts streaming live across ESPN3, ESPN+ and the ESPN app. Tennis Channel will also deliver daily US Open preview shows and extensive match encore programming. The 2020 US Open is from August 31 to September 13 live from Flushing Meadows, New York. Visit usopen.org for complete information.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Wine of the Week-From Portugal With Love-Quita De Santiago Alvarinho Reserva 2018-$17.59



By Dwight Casimere


Fresh flowers. Hints of jasmine and orange blossoms, with flavors of fresh Asian pears and a faint touch of mint, Quinta De Santiago Alvarinho Reserva 2018 ($17.59), is the elegant, rich, and full-bodied white wine you’ve been waiting for.  From Portugal’s Vinhos Verde region, and specifically, the Sub-region of Mancao and Melgaco, its the wine you want to have with your favorite dish of Pad Thai, Shrimp Kung Pao, Korean “Candy” Chicken, or Mongolian Ramen.


Made from 100% Alvarinho grapes, this is the go-to wine for the waning days of summer. With its rich fruit flavor and bright minerality, it goes with a variety of summertime dishes, even lending itself to heartier fare, like a whole salmon roasted on the grill and stuffed with hot and sweet peppers and an abundance of oregano and sage. Because of its close affinity to spicy Asian dishes, I decided to take a cultural leap and try one of the New Orleans favorites that I grew up with, Seafood Gumbo. When you think about it, what goes into an Asian stir-fry and a gumbo isn’t all that different. With the exception of building the ‘Roux’, or rich spicy gravy made with the pan drippings, making a Gumbo isn’t that different from building a stir-fry. The blend of sweet and spicy peppers, fresh garden oregano, sage and garlic and onion and a heady seafood broth derived from fresh Gulf Shrimp and Blue Crab from Galveston and, of course, a splash of Alvarinho, made for a dance party in the mouth. Instead of the usual fluffy white rice, I used wild rice, which gave the dish an added nutty flavor that melded just perfectly with the Alvarinho.


This is a finely crafted wine, using both old world and modern techniques to create a truly unique expression of Alvarinho. The wine is harvested by hand and the grapes are pressed gently to extract the concentrated juice. A short pre-fermentation maceration and the juice is off to temperature controlled cold fermentation before being aged in French oak barrels (70%), and stainless steel tanks (30%). The wine is allowed to remain on the lees until bottling. The distinctively shaped green bottle caresses the golden colored wine with flecks of spring green, a hint of the elegance therein.


For a white wine, Santiago Alvarinho Reserva has a lot of backbone. It’s imbued with 14% alcohol, which gives it substantial legs and a hefty mouth feel that is unique for a white wine. The freshness and mineral character and pronounced aromatics derives from its unique micro-terroir along the Minho River. Protected from marine influences of the Atlantic, the wine stands out from others in the region, giving it a distinct expression of the Alvarinho grape. Versatile with all kinds of seafood, chicken, veal, or just a plate of cheese and some nice sausages and cured meats, this is a wine for every mood. If you’re still on self-imposed lockdown with the pandemic, you couldn’t ask for a more pliable companion. Quinta De Santiago, Alvarinho Reserva 2018-$17.59. From Portugal with Love! Visit quintadesantiago.pt for more details.