Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Music review: Johnson's friendly, green, intimate vibe not well-suited to Cruzan

Jack Johnson brings his mellow vibe to the Cruzan.‭
(‬Photo by Thom Smith‭)

By Thom Smith

It‭’‬s‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬The‭ ‬South Florida sun is still hot enough to cook eggs on the pavement.‭ ‬Most performers would be chilling in their tour buses or having dinner at the Four Seasons.‭ ‬Not Jack Johnson.

‭ ‬Armed only with guitars,‭ ‬he and his old buddy G Love set up on his‭ “‬village green‭”‬ at Cruzan Amphitheatre and sang a few songs for the early arrivals.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a good move:‭ ‬He warms up a little and helps draw attention to the organizations whose booths rim the‭ “‬green.‭”‬

Johnson literally uses green to live green.‭ ‬When he can,‭ ‬he rides a bike‭; ‬when he can‭’‬t,‭ ‬his buses run on biodiesel fuel.‭ ‬From the show‭’‬s proceeds,‭ ‬he matches whatever the organizations on each concert‭’‬s village green‭ ‬raise,‭ ‬up to‭ ‬$2,500.‭ ‬Cruzan‭’‬s beneficiaries included‭ ‬Kids Ecology Corps,‭ ‬Surfrider Foundation,‭ ‬Trash to‭ ‬Treasure‭ ‬Creative‭ ‬Reuse‭ ‬Center,‭ ‬the local arm of‭ ‬Slow Food‭ ‬USA and Indian Riverkeeper.

‭“‬He‭’‬s wearing one of our shirts during the show,‭”‬ Surfrider‭’‬s local vice chair‭ ‬Todd Remmel bubbled.‭ “‬We sold out of shirts.‭”

Johnson‭’‬s presence also generated signatures for petitions to ban offshore drilling on Florida‭’‬s Gulf Coast and to stop construction of environmentally unfriendly breakwaters off Singer Island.‭

Johnson was just as happy to play for the few dozen on the village green are he was‭ ‬for‭ ‬19,000‭ ‬when he walked onto the the Cruzan stage at‭ ‬9‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Thursday.‭ ‬Simply,‭ ‬both are‭ ‬places to play,‭ ‬neighborhoods,‭ ‬large and small,‭ ‬in his community.‭

But with a venue as enormous as Cruzan,‭ ‬performing on the green‭ ‬is the omelet to the‭ ‬big stage‭’‬s scrambled eggs.‭ ‬Cruzan‭’‬s‭ ‬mass renders everything less significant.‭ ‬Even Jack.‭ ‬His music is not small,‭ ‬but it‭’‬s intimate.‭ ‬It‭’‬s why lovers prefer to make love in the back seat of a car than in a stadium.‭

Five years ago,‭ ‬Johnson‭’‬s bus stopped at the Mizner Park Amphitheatre in Boca,‭ ‬a‭ ‬band of five‭ ‬still wet behind the ears in touring terms.‭ ‬For a crowd of‭ ‬2,500,‭ ‬Johnson‭’‬s laid-back style worked fine.‭ ‬It didn‭’‬t hurt that Jimmy Buffett dropped‭ ‬by for a couple of numbers.‭

Cruzan,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬is a different bowl of poi.‭ ‬It‭’‬s‭ ‬great for the bottom line and great for the eco-groups that reaped the proceeds and exposure‭ ‬.‭ ‬.‭ ‬.‭ ‬but not great for the fan who wants to hear,‭ ‬and listen to‭ ‬his lyrics.‭

Both Buffett and Johnson‭ ‬project‭ ‬beach party personas,‭ ‬fueled by boards,‭ ‬buds and beers.‭ ‬Buffett‭’‬s parties are wild,‭ ‬bayou-flavored,‭ ‬spring-break concoctions that inspire bead collecting.‭ ‬Johnson‭’‬s remain more reserved‭ ‬– akin to gathering around a fire at the beach house,‭ ‬grilling some ahi,‭ ‬singing a few tunes,‭ ‬taking quiet walks along the shore.

Buffett was small once.‭ ‬The‭ ‬original‭ ‬Coral Reefers‭ ‬were‭ ‬a band of one,‭ ‬but as his fame grew,‭ ‬so did the band.‭ ‬Three decades ago he played small halls like‭ ‬Miami‭’‬s Gusman Theatre with four backups.‭ ‬Now‭ ‬Buffett‭’‬s Tabernacle Choir numbers a dozen or more and can easily fill the stage‭ ‬at Cruzan.‭ ‬Instant‭ ‬Mardi Gras.

G Love and Jack Johnson.‭
(‬Photo by Kirsten Smith‭)

Unfortunately for Johnson,‭ ‬Cruzan isn‭’‬t suited to singing‭ ‬songs around a campfire.‭ ‬Its sound system could make a piker out of Pavarotti.‭ ‬Johnson‭’‬s‭ ‬fans‭ ‬who know‭ ‬his lyrics can‭ ‬snuggle and sway and sing along,‭ ‬but newcomers to Johnson‭’‬s style‭ ‬were left to shrug and wonder what all the fuss was about.‭

Johnson‭’‬s‭ ‬songs don‭’‬t tell stories like Buffett or raise hackles like Dylan.‭ ‬He‭ ‬ doesn‭’‬t screech like Steven Tyler or strut like Mick Jagger.‭ ‬He doesn‭’‬t‭ ‬reach the high registers like‭ ‬Roger Daltrey or belt bluesy like Otis Redding.‭ ‬Don‭’‬t look for the passion of‭ ‬a Bruce‭ ‬Springsteen,‭ ‬the eroticism of‭ ‬a‭ ‬Jim Morrison‭ ‬or‭ ‬the soul of‭ ‬a‭ ‬Ray Charles in his shows.‭

Folky but not quite funky.‭ ‬Perhaps an occasional Latin rhythm or reggae riff.‭ ‬No screams,‭ ‬no pain.‭ ‬He‭’‬s a surfer,‭ ‬but he doesn‭’‬t sing surfing songs.‭ ‬He‭’‬s Hawaiian,‭ ‬but he doesn‭’‬t include any Hawaiian music,‭ ‬although he‭ ‬did‭ ‬pick up a ukulele for‭ ‬Breakdown.‭

Finally,‭ ‬Johnson begins to fill the stage.‭ ‬With the arrival of guest Duane Betts‭ ‬ (son of West Palm‭’‬s own Dickey Betts‭)‬,‭ ‬the tempo and the mood‭ ‬were revved up with‭ ‬ some hot licks on‭ ‬Mud Football.‭ ‬Betts left,‭ ‬replaced by‭ ‬Hawaiian‭ ‬Paula Fuga‭ ‬plus Dan Liebowitz from opening act ALO who brought along his‭ ‬slide guitar for three songs,‭ ‬and then G Love.‭ ‬They‭ ‬added some needed counterpoint.‭ ‬Too bad Fuga‭’‬s‭ ‬graceful gestures on‭ ‬Turn Your Love‭ ‬and‭ ‬Country Road‭ ‬weren‭’‬t expanded to a full hula.‭

Covers of The Cars‭’‬ Just What I Needed,‭ ‬inserted into‭ ‬Poor Taylor,‭ ‬Steve Miller‭’‬s‭ ‬Joker‭ ‬and Buffett‭’‬s‭ ‬A Pirate Looks at‭ ‬40‭ ‬during the encore added variety and change of pace.‭ ‬To use a Hawaiian surfing metaphor,‭ ‬the added energy was like the difference between‭ ‬Waikiki and the‭ ‬North‭ ‬Shore.

If you like someone who stands at the mike,‭ ‬strums a decent guitar and delivers,‭ ‬without flash,‭ ‬sincere,‭ ‬heartfelt poems‭ ‬– mostly free verse,‭ ‬not much rhyme‭ ‬– set to simple melodies,‭ ‬then Jack‭’‬s your man.‭ ‬Fundamentally,‭ ‬his‭ ‬show flows in‭ ‬streams‭ ‬– no‭ ‬– waves of consciousness.‭ ‬For‭ ‬many fans,‭ ‬his songs are‭ “‬their songs,‭”‬ reminding them of a first date or a special birthday.‭

He has been‭ ‬described as the‭ “‬anti-bling.‭”‬ Perhaps a better moniker would be earth father,‭ ‬as he helps a generation addicted to Facebook and various housewives who dance with Star Trekkies connect to a less obvious but more genuine and productive humanity.‭

After two hours and more than two dozen songs,‭ ‬many‭ ‬people left wanting more.‭ ‬Blame Cruzan‭ ‬– for its impersonal sound‭; ‬credit Jack‭ ‬--‭ ‬for using its size for economic good.
Somewhere down the road,‭ ‬he‭’‬ll‭ ‬come back,‭ ‬and‭ ‬he‭’‬ll give them more.‭ ‬Perhaps in a slightly more intimate‭ ‬venue.‭

Anyone know a beach house where we could‭ ‬light a bonfire‭?‬

Jack Johnson brings the band and crew onstage
to celebrate the end of this leg of his To the Sea tour.‭
(‬Photo by Thom Smith‭)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Aug. 27-29

Punch bowl showing the trade‭ ‬district‭ ‬in Canton,‭ ‬China,‭ ‬about‭ ‬1780.

Art:‭ ‬Earlier this month,‭ ‬China claimed the title of the world‭’‬s second-largest economy,‭ ‬overtaking Japan for‭ ‬the‭ ‬No.‭ ‬2‭ ‬spot behind the United States.‭ ‬It seems a local achievement‭ ‬for a‭ ‬nation‭ ‬that‭ ‬has long been a much-desired‭ ‬global‭ ‬trading partner,‭ ‬and a new show at the Norton Museum of Art focuses on one of the more familiar offshoots of that commercial energy.‭ ‬On‭ ‬the‭ ‬Silk Road and the‭ ‬High Seas features more than‭ ‬70‭ ‬pieces of pottery for the‭ ‬international and domestic‭ ‬markets,‭ ‬including pieces with themes the‭ ‬world‭ ‬has come to associate with Asian art such as an early‭ ‬19th-century peacock blue vase in the form of a magnificent fish.‭ ‬The‭ ‬show runs through Nov.‭ ‬21.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬832-5196‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.norton.org.

Fish vase‭ ‬with‭ ‬ormolu mount,‭ ‬from the‭ ‬reign‭ ‬of Emperor Jiaqing‭ (‬1796-1820‭)‬.

Theater:‭ ‬In a disappointing summer season locally,‭ ‬Florida Stage‭’‬s inaugural production in its new home at the Kravis Center,‭ ‬the musical revue‭ ‬Low Down Dirty Blues,‭ ‬remains the most entertaining show around.‭ ‬But it will not be around for long,‭ ‬since it‭ ‬has to close next Sunday,‭ ‬Sept.‭ ‬5,‭ ‬to make way for the company‭’‬s subscription slate of new works.‭ ‬Set in a Chicago club in the wee hours of the morning,‭ ‬this primer in the blues features an authentic cast of performers who demonstrate the range of emotions,‭ ‬high and low,‭ ‬that the genre encompasses.‭ ‬The show itself could stand some shaping,‭ ‬but the company‭ ‬--‭ ‬Sandra Reaves-Phillips,‭ ‬Mississippi Charles Bevel,‭ ‬Gregory Porter and Felicia P.‭ ‬Fields‭ ‬--‭ ‬could not be bettered.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬561‭) ‬585-3433‭ ‬for tickets.‭ ‬--‭ ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

Paul Dano and Kevin Kline in The Extra Man.

Film:‭ ‬ In the midst of all the summer blockbusters and redundant sequels,‭ ‬The Extra Man is a small whimsical film that deserves to find an audience.‭ ‬Based on a memoir by Jonathan Ames,‭ ‬it is tale of a Midwestern school teacher‭ (‬Paul Dano of‭ ‬Little Miss Sunshine‭) ‬who relocates to New York City and rents a room from a seedy,‭ ‬eccentric old coot‭ (‬Kevin Kline,‭ ‬too long absent from the big screen‭) ‬who tutors him in how to be a freeloader in style.‭ ‬Among his tricks is serving as an‭ “‬extra man,‭”‬ an escort for dowagers at dinner parties,‭ ‬a skill that is not uncommon on Palm Beach.‭ ‬The screenplay is full of head-scratching tangents,‭ ‬such as John C.‭ ‬Reilly in a hirsute,‭ ‬high-pitched cameo,‭ ‬but just accept them as part of the oddball fun.‭ ‬– H.‭ ‬Erstein

Dave‭ ‬Wakeling,‭ ‬in a picture‭ ‬from his website.

Music:‭ ‬Back‭ ‬at‭ ‬the‭ ‬beginning‭ ‬of the‭ ‬1980s,‭ ‬the‭ ‬English guitarist and songwriter‭ ‬Dave Wakeling and his band,‭ ‬The Beat,‭ ‬enlivened the technopop-heavy sounds of the day with infectiously‭ ‬catchy,‭ ‬stripped-down ska-influenced singles such as‭ ‬Save It for Later,‭ ‬I Confess,‭ ‬Mirror in the Bathroom,‭ ‬and even an anti-Tory protest song,‭ ‬Stand Down Margaret.‭ ‬Long a resident of Los Angeles,‭ ‬Wakeling is out on tour‭ ‬again with a new version of the‭ ‬band,‭ ‬known over here as The English Beat,‭ ‬and‭ ‬they‭’‬ll be stopping in‭ ‬Saturday‭ ‬night at the Culture Room in downtown‭ ‬Fort Lauderdale.‭ ‬This is‭ ‬classic British pop,‭ ‬as fun‭ ‬and danceable as it was when it first hit the airwaves,‭ ‬and it still‭ ‬sounds fresh.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$18‭ ‬through Ticketmaster,‭ ‬and‭ ‬the show starts at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭

Matthew Steynor.

Maurice Ravel‭’‬s version of Mussorgsky‭’‬s‭ ‬Pictures at an Exhibition added‭ ‬plenty‭ ‬of orchestral color to the composer‭’‬s original piano suite,‭ ‬and the piece‭ ‬always has attracted musicians who want to put the music in a form richer than that of the solo piano.‭ ‬This Sunday at Miami‭’‬s Trinity Cathedral,‭ ‬the organist Matthew Steynor will perform the suite,‭ ‬drawing from two or three transcriptions,‭ ‬and accompanied by images broadcast on a screen at the front of the cathedral.‭ ‬Steynor also will‭ ‬make‭ ‬a mark for himself by debuting his own arrangement of Respighi‭’‬s beautiful‭ ‬Three Botticelli Pictures,‭ ‬also accompanied by images.‭ ‬Also on the‭ ‬program,‭ ‬called‭ ‬Musical Murals,‭ ‬are works by Schumann‭ ‬and‭ ‬the contemporary Dutch‭ ‬composer‭ ‬Ad Wammes.‭ ‬ The concert begins at‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday‭; ‬tickets are‭ ‬$20-$15.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬305-789-0074‭ ‬or visit www.trinitymiami.org.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book review: Alert the Squid Squad‭! ‬The kraken is‭ ‬(lamely‭) ‬on the loose‭!

Kraken,‭ ‬by China Miéville‭; ‬Ballantine Books‭; ‬509‭ ‬pp.‭; ‬$26.

By Chauncey Mabe

Why is it that genre writers,‭ ‬just when they are about to step onto a wider stage of literature,‭ ‬tend to lose heart‭ – ‬or nerve‭?

I first noticed this in‭ ‬1998‭ ‬when Stephen King,‭ ‬after almost a decade of increasing critical acceptance,‭ ‬retreated to the comforts of‭ ‬Bag of Bones,‭ ‬an overlong,‭ ‬overstuffed supernatural thriller of the kind that made him famous earlier in his career.‭ ‬Perhaps spooked by reviews that took him seriously‭ (‬from the likes of‭ ‬The New York Times‭)‬,‭ ‬King abandoned,‭ ‬if only temporarily,‭ ‬the more rigorous pleasures of novels such as‭ ‬Misery,‭ ‬Gerald’s Game and‭ ‬Dolores Claiborne.

Now China Miéville seems to be following a similar pattern.‭ ‬Last year Miéville,‭ ‬already a popular figure in the neo-horror genre sometimes known as‭ “‬weird fiction,‭” ‬gained new readers and critical acclaim with the spare but deeply inventive fantasy-detective novel, ‬The City and the City.‭ ‬Some critics named it to their year’s best list and at least one‭ (‬uh,‭ ‬that would be me‭) ‬said it was the top novel of the year.

Miéville’s follow-up to that breakthrough,‭ ‬alas,‭ ‬is an exercise in apocalyptic excess titled‭ ‬Kraken‭ (‬yes,‭ “‬kraken‭” ‬as in Liam Neeson thundering,‭ “‬Release the Kraken‭!” ‬in‭ ‬Clash of the Titans‭)‬.‭ ‬It’s a huge disappointment,‭ ‬not only because it signals an aesthetic retreat from the high-wire performance of‭ ‬The City and the City,‭ ‬but also because it’s only so-so,‭ ‬even on its own weird fictional terms.

The ponderously convoluted plot starts when a kraken‭ – ‬a rare giant squid‭ – ‬disappears from the Natural History Museum in London,‭ ‬along with its tank of formalin.‭ ‬This is an impossible crime,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬requiring dozens of men to carry out,‭ ‬and besides,‭ ‬the huge tank would not fit through any of the available doorways.

Genre geeks‭ (‬or at least those unfamiliar with the kitchen-sink aesthetic of weird fiction‭) ‬will think they know what kind of story this is when the police send the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime‭ (‬FARC‭) ‬Unit to investigate.‭ ‬We’re well familiar with occult cops via‭ ‬The X-Files,‭ ‬Torchwood,‭ ‬Fringe,‭ ‬etc.,‭ ‬and we’re primed to admire their interaction and heroics.

Miéville has bigger,‭ ‬er,‭ ‬calamari,‭ ‬to fry,‭ ‬and the FARC squad is soon revealed as unequal to the present apocalyptic crisis.‭ ‬Billy Harrow,‭ ‬the squid’s young curator,‭ ‬doesn’t trust them,‭ ‬casting his lot instead with a cult of kraken worshippers who,‭ ‬to his discomfort,‭ ‬regard him as a prophet.‭ ‬The kraken cult proves impotent as well,‭ ‬and soon Billy is careening around London in the company of Dane,‭ ‬a stupendously competent kraken-cult apostate,‭ ‬trying to recover the missing squid and thereby avert a Fiery End of Everything.

While I’m all for subverting genre expectation‭ – ‬surprise is the soul of great horror,‭ ‬not to mention comedy‭ – ‬Miéville packs so many ideas,‭ ‬characters,‭ ‬and spoofs into this trunk that the fun goes out of the thing.‭ ‬One minute it’s a parody of‭ ‬Star Trek,‭ ‬the next it’s a labor comedy,‭ ‬with magical familiars going on strike against their oppressive masters,‭ ‬and the next it’s a religious thriller.‭ ‬And it’s always a Lovecraft spoof.‭ ‬No matter how clever Miéville is‭ (‬and he is‭)‬,‭ ‬this is not storytelling,‭ ‬it’s riffing.

Much can be found to admire in‭ ‬Kraken.‭ ‬Goss and Subby,‭ ‬an ageless old man and an idiot boy,‭ ‬make for a supernatural team of hit men fit to scare the small child in all of us.‭ ‬Likewise the Tattoo,‭ ‬an occult gang leader turned into,‭ ‬well,‭ ‬a‭ ‬tattoo by a rival‭ – ‬not that this hinders him much in the administration of his underworld business interests.‭

Kraken also is admirable for taking religion seriously‭ – ‬or,‭ ‬if not religion,‭ ‬then at least the faith of those who believe.‭ ‬Of course,‭ ‬it turns out that all religions are equally true,‭ ‬which,‭ ‬in a tiresomely predictable bit of triumphant secularism,‭ ‬means they cancel each other into mutual irrelevancy.‭ ‬This is nicely illustrated when various cults find they have scheduled their competing apocalypses on the same date,‭ ‬one of Miéville’s more successful stabs at humor.

Overall,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬Kraken is just too,‭ ‬too much.‭ ‬On top of everything else,‭ ‬it’s needlessly long.‭ ‬This book would have been significantly more effective with‭ ‬200‭ ‬pages cut out.‭ ‬It has too many passages in which the narrator explains what’s just been made abundantly clear in an exchange of dialogue.‭ ‬Wati,‭ ‬a spirit who can inhabit statues and figurines,‭ ‬spends much of the story in a Capt.‭ ‬Kirk action toy.‭ ‬He’s an important character‭ – ‬yet we do not need the detailed account of how he made his way back from the afterlife to become the leader of the magical helpers‭’ ‬union.

A little restraint might be hoped for next time out,‭ ‬the kind Miéville used to craft the superior‭ ‬The City and the City.‭ ‬Does he know his Lovecraft‭? ‬Indeed he does.‭ ‬But the way Miéville includes every Lovecraftian idea he’s ever had robs the Cthulu tropes of all their uncanniness,‭ ‬leaving them about as scaresome as a pickled specimen in a museum.

Miéville seems to have written‭ ‬Kraken in that café where Clive Barker,‭ ‬Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams take tea.‭ ‬His debt to each one is plain as a nametag or a numbered jersey.‭ ‬While Miéville is as gifted as these esteemed Brit fantasists,‭ ‬this novel,‭ ‬alas,‭ ‬is neither as charming as Gaiman,‭ ‬as funny as Adams,‭ ‬nor yet as sexy‭ (‬or terrifying‭) ‬as Barker.‭ ‬I’ve seldom opened a book with as much anticipation,‭ ‬after the satisfactions of‭ ‬The City and the City,‭ ‬nor been so keenly disappointed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Aug. 20-22

Tilda Swinton as the title character in Orlando.

Film:‭ ‬Tilda Swinton broke into the‭ ‬wider consciousness back in‭ ‬1992‭ ‬with her star turn as Orlando,‭ ‬the‭ ‬androgynous hero/heroine of‭ ‬Virginia Woolf‭’‬s gender-bending novel of a Tudor-era‭ ‬Zelig who‭ ‬begins as a‭ ‬debonair‭ ‬male‭ ‬court‭ ‬poet in‭ ‬1588‭ ‬and ends up‭ ‬in‭ ‬1928‭ ‬as a married woman.‭ ‬In Sally Potter‭’‬s lovely-to-look-at film,‭ ‬Quentin Crisp makes‭ ‬a marvelous‭ ‬Queen‭ ‬Elizabeth‭ ‬I,‭ ‬and there are all kinds of nice historic-era touches,‭ ‬such as when the immortal Orlando encounters Alexander Pope,‭ ‬while a singer warbles Handel‭’‬s‭ ‬Where‭’‬er You Walk in the‭ ‬background.‭ ‬This fascinating film has been digitally remastered and returns to the big screen starting‭ ‬today at Emerging Cinemas outlets including the Mos‭’‬Art Theatre in Lake Park and the newly‭ ‬restored‭ ‬Stonzek Black Box Theater at the Lake Worth Playhouse.

Silent film star Mabel Normand‭ (‬1892-1930‭)‬.

Theater:‭ ‬Broward Stage Door in Coral Springs,‭ ‬which‭ ‬just‭ ‬finished showing‭ ‬The‭ ‬Drowsy Chaperone,‭ ‬stays in the first part of the‭ ‬20th century with Mack and Mabel,‭ ‬Jerry Herman‭’‬s‭ ‬1974‭ ‬musical about the meeting of silent-film pioneer Mack Sennett‭ (‬he of the Keystone Kops‭) ‬and Mabel Normand,‭ ‬who died young of tuberculosis.‭ ‬The‭ ‬show did not do well in its original run,‭ ‬but since has developed a cult following and been revived‭ ‬several‭ ‬times.‭ ‬Herman‭’‬s score‭ ‬contains standouts such as I Won‭’‬t Send Roses,‭ ‬in‭ ‬which‭ ‬Mack tells Mabel to keep her distance,‭ ‬although‭ ‬already it‭’‬s too late for that.‭ ‬The show opens tonight and runs through Sept.‭ ‬26.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$38‭; ‬for more‭ ‬information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬954-344-7765.

Music:‭ ‬Baroque music is again on tap for this weekend,‭ ‬with Keith Paulson-Thorp of St.‭ ‬Paul‭’‬s Episcopal in Delray Beach and his Camerata del Re taking on music from‭ ‬18th-century Spain.‭ ‬Paulson-Thorp is a scholar-musician,‭ ‬and devotees of the former organ‭ ‬series at Bethesda-by-the-Sea may recall him playing two pieces by the completely unknown Catalan composer Fransesc Civil,‭ ‬music that was heavily influenced by Wagner and beautiful nonetheless.‭ ‬Sunday afternoon,‭ ‬it‭’‬s music by‭ ‬Jose‭ ‬Herrando,‭ ‬Salvador‭ ‬Rexach,‭ ‬Juan Astorga and the Pla brothers‭ (‬Juan and José‭)‬,‭ ‬as well as a piece by Boccherini,‭ ‬an Italian who spent much time in Spain working for the archbishop of Toledo.‭ ‬Once again,‭ ‬this regular monthly St.‭ ‬Paul‭’‬s series provides a good chance to hear rare,‭ ‬worthy music and join the Camerata del Re on its voyages of discovery.‭ ‬At‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday‭; ‬tickets:‭ ‬$15-$18.

Gamera,‭ ‬about to enjoy a tasty Eiffel Tower lunch.

Art:‭ ‬It‭’‬s been a brutal summer,‭ ‬weather-wise,‭ ‬and not just here in South Florida where the heat has been so relentless for so long‭ (‬our punishment for a very cool winter,‭ ‬apparently‭)‬.‭ ‬It‭’‬s the kind of thing that raises‭ ‬dark thoughts about what‭’‬s going on with our environment,‭ ‬and that might be a good reason to wander over to the Morikami Museum this weekend‭ ‬for a visit to‭ ‬Kaiju‭! ‬Monster Invasion‭!‬ One of two‭ ‬exhibits currently at the museum of Japanese culture west of Delray Beach,‭ ‬it‭’‬s a display of more than‭ ‬100‭ ‬vintage toys‭ ‬modeled‭ ‬on creatures from the era of Japan‭’‬s big-monster movies and TV shows,‭ ‬beginning‭ ‬with‭ ‬Godzilla in‭ ‬1954.‭ ‬The‭ ‬kaiju‭ ‬– monsters‭ ‬– from‭ ‬the shows were played by actors in rubber suits,‭ ‬and while the results often were unintentionally‭ ‬hilarious,‭ ‬they came out of real fears experienced in Japan after the two nuclear attacks‭ ‬that‭ ‬ended World War II.‭ ‬The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from‭ ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬and tickets range from‭ ‬$7‭ ‬to‭ ‬$12‭; ‬visit‭ ‬www.morikami.org for more information.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Art review: Quiet abstract sculpture at Norton speaks volumes about forms

A view of the Beyond the Figure exhibit.‭
(‬Photo by Kelli Marin‭)

By Amy Broderick

Entering‭ ‬Beyond the Figure at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach,‭ ‬one enters a darkened gallery in which strange‭ ‬forms emerge from the shadows.‭ ‬Although artifacts from our own culture,‭ ‬these forms also point toward a parallel universe — a realm where we understand and know objects with all our senses and our imaginations.‭

The roughly‭ ‬20‭ ‬sculptural works on view do not depict recognizable subjects,‭ ‬so each viewer is left to search for other clues to unlock their mysteries.‭ ‬One gains a deep appreciation for the materiality of each work,‭ ‬encountering objects that are tactile,‭ ‬physical,‭ ‬and irresistible.

These sculptures are remarkably rooted.‭ ‬While the forms are mysterious,‭ ‬the materials and fabrication are amazingly familiar and recognizable.‭ ‬The works invite engagement because they exist in the same space that viewers occupy,‭ ‬giving the curious visitor both physical and visual access to them.‭ ‬This literal access facilitates intellectual access,‭ ‬offering opportunities to spend time appreciating each work.

Macchia Forest‭ (‬1994‭)‬,‭ ‬by Dale Chihuly.

As the light rakes across the surfaces of the pieces,‭ ‬each step of the creative process is revealed.‭ ‬The smooth,‭ ‬seemingly bioluminescent curves of Dale Chihuly’s‭ ‬Macchia Forest‭ (‬1994‭) ‬float along one wall in dramatic contrast with the earthy,‭ ‬sullen crevasses of Ursula von Rydingsvard’s‭ ‬Bowl-in-a-Bowl‭ (‬1999‭)‬.‭ ‬As one moves through the galleries,‭ ‬the mass,‭ ‬interest,‭ ‬and texture of each elegant‭ ‬and refined form are revealed.

Although the exhibition showcases a number of highly reduced,‭ ‬even austere objects,‭ ‬their physical presence,‭ ‬direct presentation,‭ ‬and thoughtful lighting make them endlessly engaging.‭ ‬Close inspection reveals the details of the joinery in Sol LeWitt’s‭ ‬2‭ ‬x‭ ‬7‭ ‬x‭ ‬7‭ (‬1989‭)‬.‭ ‬The brass spines of Harry Bertoia’s‭ ‬Sunburst III‭ (‬1968‭) ‬vibrate and shimmer with light and texture in the subtle meteorology of the gallery.‭ ‬Elsewhere,‭ ‬attentively carved wood transforms into a voluptuous puddle at the base of Toshio Odate’s‭ ‬Suspended Column Melting‭ (‬1974‭)‬.‭

Allan McCollum’s‭ ‬Ninety-Six Plaster Surrogates No.‭ ‬4‭ (‬1982/89‭) ‬and John McCracken’s‭ ‬Black Plank‭ (‬1974‭) ‬are examples of the simplified abstractions in the exhibition.‭ ‬This work creates ambiguities for viewers to consider.‭ ‬Beyond the Figure offers an enormous amount of space,‭ ‬both the physical space of the gallery and intellectual space,‭ ‬space into which viewers — as bodies and as thinkers—are able to project,‭ ‬imagine,‭ ‬and rewrite meaning.

McCollum’s work is an especially good example of this.‭ ‬This work is a seemingly endless number of blank,‭ ‬provisional,‭ ‬repeating forms.‭ ‬These framed gray rectangles are incomplete by their very design,‭ ‬inviting the viewer to complete them.

Dream Builder XVII‭ (‬1994‭)‬,‭ ‬by William Christenberry.

The strong physical presence of McCracken’s sculpture tempts viewers to assign an identity to‭ ‬this otherwise obscure object.‭ ‬The immense black slab becomes something relative to the viewer’s body,‭ ‬but its scale is just uncertain enough that it refuses to point directly to any referent in the world beyond the gallery.‭ ‬Instead,‭ ‬it has an insistent‭ ‬here-ness,‭ ‬demanding acceptance as it is.‭

Tension grows between its strong presence and its ambiguity,‭ ‬allowing one to push it in any number of directions while moving around it.‭ ‬If only I could be under it,‭ ‬it could be a shelter.‭ ‬There might be just enough space behind‭ ‬it for me to use it as a door.‭ ‬It might be flush enough against this wall‭ ‬to be part of the wall itself.‭ ‬It might be just narrow enough for me to dance with it as if it were another body.‭

Joel Shapiro’s‭ ‬Untitled‭ (‬1985‭) ‬is arguably more familiar,‭ ‬precisely scaled to the human figure.‭ ‬Forms are cantilevered as if the sculpture were bending at the waist like one of Edgar Degas‭’ ‬dancers.‭ ‬Although not obviously figural,‭ ‬these rectilinear forms appear to locomote as if human.‭ ‬This familiarity tests the limits of one’s ability to empathize with objects that might otherwise seem distant or blank.‭ ‬This kind of abstraction is so pared down that the objects themselves become invitations to enter into a sensory and contemplative relationship with them.‭

These are incredibly quiet forms,‭ ‬ones that might easily be overlooked in other contexts.‭ ‬Presented together in this exhibition,‭ ‬installed as they are in the company of one another,‭ ‬all this quiet mystery invites—and rewards—careful inspection and patient appreciation.

Amy Broderick is an artist,‭ ‬writer,‭ ‬and professor.‭ ‬She is currently associate professor of drawing and painting at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.‭ ‬She regularly exhibits and delivers lectures about her work locally and nationally.‭ ‬Visit her at www.amybroderick.com.

Beyond the Figure:‭ ‬Abstract Sculpture in the Norton Museum Collection‭ ‬runs through Sept.‭ ‬5‭ ‬at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬832-5136‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.norton.org.

Another view of Beyond the Figure.‭
(‬Photo by Kelli Marin‭)

Monday, August 16, 2010

The View From Home 12: New releases on DVD

By John Thomason

Appointment With Danger,‭ ‬Dark City‬and‭ ‬Union Station (‬Olive Films‭)
Standard list price:‭ ‬$19.99
Release date:‭ ‬July‭ ‬27

Apparently,‭ ‬DVD labels distributed the memo well:‭ ‬2010‭ ‬is‭ ‬the year for classic film noir.‭ ‬Last month Columbia released its‭ ‬Film Noir Classics Vol.‭ ‬2‭ ‬collection‭ (‬SLP‭ ‬$44.99‭)‬,‭ ‬an essential five-disc set that included Fritz Lang’s‭ ‬Human Desire,‭ ‬Phil Karlson’s‭ ‬The Brothers Rico‭ ‬and Jacques Tourneur’s‭ ‬Nightfall,‭ ‬pulpy classics by undisputed masters of the form.‭ ‬A week later,‭ ‬Warner Home Video followed suit with its equally powerful‭ ‬Film Noir Collection Vol.‭ ‬5‭ (‬$37.99‭)‬,‭ ‬and eight-movie affair that featured Karlson’s‭ ‬The Phenix City Story,‭ ‬Anthony Mann’s lean and mean‭ ‬Desperate and Don Siegel’s‭ ‬Crime in the Streets,‭ ‬starring John Cassavetes.

For fans of hard-boiled dialogue,‭ ‬chiaroscuro lighting and moral urban decay,‭ ‬this summer has been Christmas in July,‭ ‬and it doesn’t end with these box sets.‭ ‬The latest noir celebration comes courtesy of Olive Films,‭ ‬which recently unearthed three classics from the Paramount archive.‭ ‬The earliest of these,‭ ‬1950‭’‬s‭ ‬Union Station,‭ ‬is directed by a minor name in the noir pantheon‭ (‬Rudolph Mate‭)‬,‭ ‬but it’s a propulsive,‭ ‬pulse-pounding police procedural with William Holden as a railroad lawman trying to solve the case of the kidnapping of a millionaire’s blind daughter.‭ ‬The combative,‭ ‬suspenseful storytelling is full of Langian brutality and complex set pieces:‭ ‬Its characters chase one another in,‭ ‬out and between train cars and up and down unfinished scaffolding.‭ ‬The violence has an unceremonious matter-of-factness,‭ ‬with one ill-fated villain meeting his death via a stampede of cows.

But the true gem here is William Dieterle’s‭ ‬Dark City,‭ ‬perhaps the noirest title ever.‭ ‬It marks the film debut of Charlton Heston,‭ ‬whose linebacker’s shoulders already cut a distinctive,‭ ‬rocklike figure.‭ ‬He plays a two-bit hustler and gambling bookie consumed with guilt over the suicide of a patsy he and his poker-playing pals conned out of five grand.‭ ‬The guilt soon turns to fear‭ – ‬and the textbook noir morphs into proto-slasher horror‭ – ‬as Heston’s coterie of heavies are systematically slain by the dead patsy’s psychopathic brother.‭ ‬Dieterle shows great command of the camera‭; ‬the poker scene in particular is a memorable montage of close-ups of grimacing,‭ ‬square-jawed fatheads.‭

Dark City may not be perfect.‭ ‬Dieterle’s choice to reveal the shadow-lurking killer only by the bling on his ring finger‭ – ‬accented with a melodramatically ominous score‭ – ‬is a clunky device even for its time.‭ ‬But the film gets away with sleazy scares one minute and references to Greek mythology the next,‭ ‬and it leaves us cheering for the survival of a two-bit thug.

The weakest entry in this‭ ‘‬50s trio is Lewis Allen’s‭ ‬Appointment with Danger,‭ ‬an overly talky‭ ‬policier with Alan Ladd as a relentlessly determined cop pursuing the mysterious death of a postal inspector.‭ ‬So much of the story is banal exposition leading to the titular appointment,‭ ‬and the screenplay’s reams of endless jabber make it feel considerably longer than its‭ ‬89‭ ‬minutes.‭

I’ve also never been a fan of Ladd’s blank,‭ “‬unsmiling hardness,‭” ‬in the words of film historian David Thomson.‭ ‬It may be effective in some parts,‭ ‬but here Ladd is flat and monochromatic,‭ ‬making me yearn for a William Holden,‭ ‬Joel McCrea,‭ ‬or perhaps a Robert Mitchum to bring some emotion into the part.‭ ‬But considering the movie begins with a laughable promotional video for the United States Postal Service,‭ ‬Appointment with Danger is ultimately OK,‭ ‬and it has some grody dialogue I won’t soon forget:‭ “‬Go swallow a germ,‭” ‬spits one criminal to his squawking dame.‭ ‬Now‭ ‬that’s noir.

Home‭ (‬Kino‭)
SLP:‭ ‬$26.99
Release date:‭ ‬July‭ ‬27

A potent allegory about the unintended consequences of industrial development,‭ ‬first-time Swiss director Ursula Meier’s‭ ‬Home follows Marthe‭ (‬Isabelle Huppert‭) ‬and Michel‭ (‬Olivier Gourmet‭)‬,‭ ‬parents of three who live in an isolated home next to an abandoned strip of highway,‭ ‬which they’ve turned into an outdoor extension of their house.‭ ‬But when the public land is finally repaved for the construction of fully functioning multilane highway,‭ ‬the family’s world begins to crumble.‭ ‬The loss of privacy is one thing,‭ ‬and practical concerns abound,‭ ‬from how to transfer food and supplies from the roadside to the house amid steady traffic,‭ ‬to the kids making their way to school,‭ ‬to sleeping through the constant barrage of noise‭ – ‬not to mention the possibilities of exhaust fumes and other contaminants‭ ‬affecting the family’s health.‭ ‬Marthe,‭ ‬in particular,‭ ‬can’t handle their new home life but refuses to leave,‭ ‬eventually prompting Michel to imprison the family in walls of cement to block out the noise‭ (‬and,‭ ‬for most part,‭ ‬oxygen‭)‬.‭ ‬Changing tones dramatically from its lighthearted opening,‭ ‬Home is a dark and disturbing study of a nuclear family’s collective breakdown that had me thinking back to Michael Haneke’s corrosive‭ ‬1989‭ ‬drama‭ ‬The Seventh Continent.‭ ‬Meier,‭ ‬by contrast,‭ ‬at least provides her characters with some light at the end of the highway tunnel.

The Secret of the Grain‭ (‬Criterion‭)
SLP:‭ ‬$37.49
Release date:‭ ‬July‭ ‬27

For a‭ ‬2‭½‬-hour movie,‭ ‬Abdellatif Kechiche’s‭ ‬The Secret of the Grain has relatively few scenes,‭ ‬because each ones plays out like a domestic epic in miniature,‭ ‬building toward a kinetic and unforgettable climax.‭ ‬The story concerns a French-Kurdish family whose sad-faced patriarch,‭ ‬recently nudged out of his longtime construction job,‭ ‬decides to convert a dilapidated houseboat into a thriving restaurant.‭ ‬He encounters resistance all the way,‭ ‬from costs to licensing issues to interfamilial quarrels,‭ ‬with his possible future daughter-in-law his only tried-and-true partner and spokesperson.‭ ‬In his hectic,‭ ‬bustling family scenes,‭ ‬Kechiche has his characters talk over one another in a seemingly scriptless cacophony,‭ ‬brilliantly exhuming Altman and Cassavetes.‭ ‬Not to mention it’s a great food movie,‭ ‬joining the scrumptious pantheon of‭ ‬Babette’s Feast and‭ ‬Big Night.‭ ‬The Secret of the Grain is not without its low-key tragedies,‭ ‬but the film’s tone can best be described as hopeful pragmatism‭; ‬the movie reflects a world in which downsizing and outsourcing are rampant,‭ ‬but with enough community pride and togetherness,‭ ‬goals can be achieved even when the deck is stacked against you.‭ ‬Criterion’s two-disc set features‭ ‬a‭ ‬new interview with the director and film scholar Ludovic Cortade,‭ ‬an excerpt from a television broadcast on the movie,‭ ‬a new essay by critic Wesley Morris and more.

Tapped‭ ‬
SLP:‭ ‬$17.99
Release date:‭ ‬Aug.‭ ‬10

Following to the T the agitprop documentary formula popularized by‭ ‬An Inconvenient Truth,‭ ‬Tapped is the latest feature-length attack on a modern American convenience.‭ ‬Co-directed by Stephanie Soechtig and Jason Lindsey,‭ ‬the‭ ‬80-minute film identifies bottled water as an evil scourge that is damaging our health‭ (‬via the harmful chemicals in PET,‭ ‬which is in our plastic water bottles‭)‬,‭ ‬depleting our natural resources and turning our oceans into soups of discarded plastic‭ (‬so says one of the emotional,‭ ‬pedigreed experts‭)‬.‭ ‬Moreover,‭ ‬bottled water is impure‭ – ‬despite the false advertising of its supposedly virginal nature,‭ ‬it’s‭ ‬40‭ ‬percent tap water‭ – ‬and like most corporately controlled industries,‭ ‬it’s amoral:‭ ‬Tapped is most effective in its journalistic exposing of the Nestle corporation’s water mining in Maine and other water-fertile states,‭ ‬where,‭ ‬thanks to a legal loophole called absolute dominion,‭ ‬the company is permitted to steal the region’s natural water supply,‭ ‬even when massive droughts force fire trucks to provide basic drinking water.‭ ‬Convincing and possibly even lifestyle-changing,‭ ‬Tapped works better emotionally than intellectually or cinematically,‭ ‬where the directors‭’ ‬condescending treatment of bottled water executives has more than a whiff of Michael Moore-style manipulation and‭ “‬gotcha‭” ‬childishness.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Aug. 13-18

Brad Paisley.

Music:‭ ‬Brad Paisley got his start in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia,‭ ‬and since then he‭’‬s gathered up every‭ ‬important award in country music.‭ ‬He‭’‬s on the road a lot,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬and on Saturday afternoon,‭ ‬he‭’‬s at the Cruzan for a stop on his H20‭ ‬World Tour.‭ ‬The‭ ‬tour will feature a‭ ‬“water world plaza‭”‬ meant to evoke summer and water fun,‭ ‬as part of Paisley‭’‬s efforts on behalf of a campaign to bring clean drinking water to‭ ‬needy communities across the country and around the world.

Darius Rucker.

His special guests include Darius Rucker,‭ ‬the Hootie and the Blowfish front man whose forays into country music have been well-received,‭ ‬and‭ ‬up and coming‭ ‬singer/songwriter Justin Moore.‭ ‬The concert is set for‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬at the Cruzan,‭ ‬and tickets are‭ ‬$23.25-$58.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬visit‭ ‬www.Live Nation.com.

A Su Salud,‭ ‬by Katherine Morgan.

Art:‭ ‬Photographer‭ ‬Katherine Morgan focuses on the‭ “‬true beauty‭”‬ of flowers in her work,‭ ‬and starting tonight,‭ ‬the Boca Raton resident is launching a brief show at the Caldwell Theatre to raise funds for the theater company.‭ ‬Close Up:‭ ‬The Inner Beauty of Flowers features‭ ‬25‭ ‬for-sale prints of her flower portraits,‭ ‬and Morgan plans to donate‭ ‬20‭ ‬percent of all sales to the Caldwell.‭

The art show runs through Sept.‭ ‬5‭ ‬and opens‭ ‬along with‭ ‬The Comfort of Darkness,‭ ‬a world premiere play by Joel Gross based on the story of Dr.‭ ‬Anton Mesmer,‭ ‬who gave his name‭ (‬mesmerism‭) ‬to his theories of hypnosis,‭ ‬and his patient,‭ ‬the‭ ‬beautiful‭ ‬blind pianist Maria-Theresa von Paradis.‭ ‬Stevie Ray Dallimore and Jessalyn Maguire star.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬241-7432‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.caldwelltheatre.com.

A scene from Woman Rebel.

Film:‭ ‬Earlier this year,‭ ‬documentarian Kiran Deol‭’‬s‭ ‬37-minute look at the Maoist female rebels of Nepal,‭ ‬Woman Rebel,‭ ‬screened twice at the Delray Beach Film Festival.‭ ‬Wednesday night,‭ ‬the film comes to HBO2‭ ‬at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬with a repeat showing at‭ ‬11:45‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬Aug.‭ ‬26.‭ ‬The film focuses on one of the members of the rebel army,‭ ‬which was‭ ‬40‭ ‬percent female,‭ ‬and her transformation into a government official seeking to make peace.‭ ‬Deol,‭ ‬a Spanish River High School graduate,‭ ‬began filming the movie in Nepal the day after she graduated from Harvard.‭ ‬The film‭’‬s executive producer is Robert Richter,‭ ‬whose credits include an Emmy-winning look at the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.‭

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ArtsPaper Interview: Shelly Isaacs, making the case for international film

Shelly Isaacs.‭
(‬Illustration by Pat Crowley‭)

By Jan Engoren

Shelly Isaacs‭ ‬is a veteran advertising man who wrote the first TV commercial for Duracell batteries in the‭ ‬1970s.‭ ‬But he‭’‬s much better-known these days‭ ‬as one of South Florida‭’‬s most accessible experts on foreign-language film.

The‭ ‬founder of Café Cinematheque International,‭ ‬Isaacs is a Bronx native who‭ ‬earned his undergraduate degree in‭ ‬psychology‭ ‬and‭ ‬marketing from the City College of New York and‭ ‬a master‭’‬s in communications from New‭ ‬York‭ ‬University.‭ ‬He teaches film‭ ‬appreciation in Lifelong Learning at Florida International University and will teach at Florida Atlantic University in the fall.‭ ‬He lives in Boca Raton with his wife of‭ ‬27‭ ‬years,‭ ‬Leslie‭;‬ their daughter,‭ ‬Danie,‭ ‬has just‭ ‬earned a master‭’‬s in fine arts from‭ ‬the‭ ‬Sotheby‭’‬s Institute in London.

Last year,‭ ‬Isaacs relocated his‭ ‬film series from Mizner Park‭ ‬to Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale,‭ ‬the Movies of Delray and the Movies of Lake Worth,‭ ‬and‭ ‬also‭ ‬launched Cinematheque at Sea,‭ ‬a film-appreciation series on cruise ships.‭

Writer Jan Engoren sat down with Isaacs one rainy Monday to‭ ‬talk about international cinema,‭ ‬his all-time favorite directors,‭ ‬road movies without Bob and Bing,‭ ‬watching films on the high seas,‭ ‬and his love of‭ ‬Italian directors and‭ ‬Italian food.

Jan Engoren:‭ ‬Your passion for film seems to span many continents and genres.‭ ‬How did you become interested in cinema,‭ ‬and especially foreign cinema‭?

Shelly Isaacs:‭ ‬As far back as I can remember,‭ ‬I‭’‬ve‭ ‬been interested in the movies.‭ ‬But I‭ ‬prefer‭ ‬the term‭ ‬“foreign-language films.‭”‬ I don‭’‬t want to call them foreign films,‭ ‬because my goal is to‭ ‬bring people together and‭ ‬make the world smaller.‭ ‬Back in the early‭ ‬1950s in the Bronx,‭ ‬when I was‭ ‬7‭ ‬years old,‭ ‬my mother‭ ‬always‭ ‬took me to the movies.‭ ‬I remember‭ ‬my first film was a war movie‭ ‬starring‭ ‬Van Heflin,‭ ‬Anne Francis and‭ ‬Tab Hunter‭ ‬called Battle‭ ‬Cry,‭ ‬based on‭ ‬a book by Leon Uris.‭

I was thrilled.‭ ‬There‭ ‬were three to four‭ ‬other people in the‭ ‬theater‭ ‬with me.‭ ‬When the film‭ ‬ended and‭ ‬I‭ ‬walked out into the lobby,‭ ‬there was a promotion‭ ‬to enlist in the Army.‭ ‬There‭ ‬were uniforms,‭ ‬guns,‭ ‬all the paraphernalia,‭ ‬even a howitzer in the street.‭ ‬I thought,‭ “‬They did this all for me.‭”‬ I was a kid in‭ ‬a candy store‭ ‬– it was wonderful.‭ ‬When‭ ‬my mother returned,‭ ‬she said,‭ “‬You were so good,‭ ‬you can go to the movies by yourself from now on.‭”‬

So,‭ ‬from the age of‭ ‬7,‭ ‬I‭ ‬went to the movies by myself every weekend.‭ ‬When I got older,‭ ‬I snuck out of school to go to the‭ ‬theater.‭ ‬I could sit through‭ ‬the same movie two to three times.‭ ‬I learned‭ ‬about‭ ‬all the actors,‭ ‬how the film was made,‭ ‬what type of music was played,‭ ‬all‭ ‬aspects of the production.‭

When I was‭ ‬9‭ ‬or‭ ‬10,‭ ‬my oldest brother,‭ ‬Harvey,‭ ‬took me to see my first foreign film,‭ ‬François‭ ‬Truffaut‭’‬s‭ ‬400‭ ‬Blows.‭ ‬I‭ ‬immediately fell in love with foreign-language films.‭ ‬I had a pretty eclectic early cinema-going experience.

Engoren:‭ ‬Your knowledge of film is very academic.‭ ‬Did you study film in college‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬I was involved with theater in college,‭ ‬and my interest in film increased.‭ ‬I did‭ ‬some acting off-Broadway.‭ ‬I directed‭ ‬a‭ ‬children‭’‬s theater and then‭ ‬went to graduate school at New York University.‭ ‬I studied media ecology‭ ‬-‭ ‬the study of‭ ‬media trends and environments‭ ‬from a cultural and anthropological viewpoint.‭ ‬I loved it and wound up teaching graduate-level‭ ‬communications and‭ ‬culture.‭

After grad school,‭ ‬I‭ ‬gravitated‭ ‬towards advertising.‭ ‬Like Dustin Hoffman‭ ‬and plastics‭ ‬in‭ ‬The‭ ‬Graduate,‭ ‬someone said to me:‭ “‬Why don‭’‬t you try‭ ‬advertising‭?‬”

It‭ ‬came easily‭ ‬to me,‭ ‬so I‭ ‬spent most of my career in advertising.‭ ‬I did the advertising for the‭ ‬1979‭ ‬films‭ ‬Arthur,‭ ‬Kramer vs.‭ ‬Kramer,‭ ‬and‭ ‬Alien.‭ ‬I‭ ‬created scripts,‭ ‬trailers,‭ ‬ads and posters‭ ‬for‭ ‬many of the big films at the time.‭ ‬I‭ ‬tried my hand in advertising‭ ‬in Hollywood,‭ ‬but it‭ ‬was never a good match for me.‭ ‬I‭’‬m a New York kid.

Jean-Pierre Léaud in The‭ ‬400‭ ‬Blows‭ (‬1959‭)‬.

Engoren:‭ ‬How did you become so knowledgeable‭ ‬about‭ ‬international cinema‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬I‭’‬ve always‭ ‬been partial to international cinema.‭ ‬When I came to Florida in‭ ‬1997,‭ ‬I noticed that there‭ ‬was a void in international film.‭ ‬I saw an opportunity,‭ ‬and together with Temple Beth-El‭ ‬of Boca Raton and‭ ‬the‭ ‬Fort‭ ‬Lauderdale‭ ‬International‭ ‬Film‭ ‬Festival,‭ ‬I‭ ‬created a forum on the Jewish-American experience as portrayed on film.‭ ‬I obtained original prints from the Brandeis University archives and screened nine classic films including‭ ‬The Pawnbroker,‭Judgment at Nuremberg,‭ ‬The Man in the Glass Booth,‭ ‬and‭ ‬Gentleman‭’‬s Agreement,‭ ‬and had a speaker from‭ ‬the prosecuting team in Nuremberg.‭

Engoren:‭ ‬Do you choose films with a particular subject matter or theme‭? ‬What turns you on cinematically‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬Everything.‭ ‬I‭’‬ll watch any film‭;‬ I don‭’‬t‭ ‬have a preference for‭ ‬a particular genre.‭ ‬I love‭ ‬all‭ ‬film.‭ ‬I love storytelling.‭ ‬Storytelling transcends all genres.‭ ‬If it‭’‬s a good story,‭ ‬it will capture my interest and the audiences‭’‬ interest.‭ ‬I like good narrative.‭ ‬I‭’‬m not a fan of today‭’‬s Hollywood blockbuster films or sophomoric comedies.‭ ‬One is fine,‭ ‬but‭ ‬more than that,‭ ‬it becomes derivative.

I enjoy good drama.‭ ‬Science‭ ‬fiction from when I was a kid‭ ‬is always‭ ‬a favorite.‭ ‬I love‭ ‬film noir,‭ ‬thrillers,‭ ‬family drama and comedies.‭ ‬I love‭ ‬films in all shapes and sizes.‭

To paraphrase‭ ‬Jean Luc-Godard,‭ “‬In every great film there are‭ ‬10‭ ‬boring minutes and‭ ‬in every bad film,‭ ‬there are‭ ‬10‭ ‬great minutes.‭”‬ That is,‭ ‬10‭ ‬minutes worth talking about.

Engoren:‭ ‬Do you have a favorite director‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬No.‭ ‬I have favorite directors.‭ ‬The list is endless.‭ ‬Here are some of my favorites,‭ ‬considered‭ ‬to be the masters.‭ ‬I love the‭ ‬Italian neorealists‭ ‬--‭ ‬Vittorio De Sica,‭ ‬Federico‭ ‬Fellini and‭ ‬Luchino‭ ‬Visconti.‭ ‬

De Sica‭’‬s‭ ‬The Bicycle Thief is one of the greatest‭ ‬films of all times.‭ ‬It tells‭ ‬the story of a poor man searching the streets of‭ ‬Rome for his stolen bicycle,‭ ‬which he needs‭ ‬to earn a living.‭ ‬

The film won an honorary Academy Award in‭ ‬1950‭ ‬before there was a category for foreign-language films.‭ ‬It was‭ ‬shot‭ ‬in the‭ ‬1940s‭ ‬on location with non-actors.‭ ‬It deals with human suffering,‭ ‬overcoming poverty,‭ ‬trying to rise above it‭ ‬and survive.‭ ‬When you sit down and analyze this‭ ‬– the filmmakers were forced to improvise.‭ ‬They didn‭’‬t have big budgets.‭ ‬They didn‭’‬t have sets.‭ ‬They had to figure out‭ ‬how‭ ‬to tell the story with what they had.‭

My other favorite directors include‭ ‬Akira Kurosawa,‭ ‬Ingmar‭ ‬Bergman,‭ ‬Fritz Lang and the great American directors,‭ ‬including‭ ‬Howard‭ ‬Hawks,‭ ‬Martin‭ ‬Scorcese,‭ ‬Francis Ford Coppola,‭ ‬Woody Allen and‭ ‬Clint‭ ‬Eastwood.‭

I think‭ ‬Eastwood‭ ‬ is‭ ‬a master.‭ ‬I love what he did with‭ ‬Letters from Iwo Jima and‭ ‬Flags for Our Fathers.‭ ‬Brilliant.‭ ‬They showed all aspects of the war‭ ‬– from both sides‭–‬ the‭ ‬Japanese and American perspectives.

Chishu Ryu and Chieko Higashiyama in Tokyo Story‭ (‬1953‭)‬.

Engoren:‭ ‬Are you the kind of person who can recite scenes verbatim from a film‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬Not verbal scenes.‭ ‬I remember visual scenes.‭ ‬Film is a visual medium and has a language of its own.‭ ‬Sometimes a closeup of a face‭ ‬and the use of light and shadows can express so much emotion.‭ ‬A single shot in a film can blow you away.‭

Frequently,‭ ‬a director will‭ ‬“steal‭”‬ a technique or a shot.‭ ‬In the case of film,‭ ‬it‭’‬s‭ ‬considered‭ ‬an‭ ‬hommage.‭ ‬It‭’‬s also something that works.‭

Often,‭ ‬the‭ ‬hommage is‭ ‬a‭ ‬subconscious‭ ‬process‭–‬ it‭’‬s not derivative.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a technique that works to express feelings.‭ ‬That‭’‬s why it‭ ‬gets used time and again.‭

Another Japanese director I love is Hirokazu‭ ‬Koreeda.‭ ‬He does films about Japanese life and references many of the great masters.‭ ‬There are no special effects.‭ ‬They‭’‬re narratives about the human condition.‭ ‬His films are beautiful:‭ ‬Nobody Knows‭ ‬and a film he did two years ago,‭ ‬Still Walking.‭ ‬I hoped‭ ‬Still Walking would be nominated for an Academy Award.‭

Nobody Knows,‭ ‬about four children,‭ ‬each by a different father and abandoned by their mother who are forced to survive on their own,‭ ‬pays homage to Truffaut‭’‬s‭ ‬400‭ ‬Blows.‭

The last shot‭ ‬in‭ ‬Nobody Knows‭ ‬is a‭ ‬freeze-frame of‭ ‬children walking through a Tokyo neighborhood‭ ‬looking back over their shoulder.‭ ‬That‭’‬s the ending of‭ ‬400‭ ‬Blows:‭ ‬Antoine Doinel standing on‭ ‬the shore,‭ ‬looking at the ocean,‭ ‬running towards the ocean to freedom and‭ ‬the future,‭ ‬but looking backwards.‭ ‬What is back there‭? ‬What‭ ‬is he leaving behind and where‭ ‬is he going‭? ‬That shot encapsulates his feelings.‭ ‬Truffaut‭ ‬originated it‭ ‬and‭ ‬Koreeda‭ ‬appropriates it‭ ‬because it works.‭ ‬He‭’‬s not stealing it.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a shot that works.‭

How do directors‭ ‬create cinematic language‭?‬ That‭’‬s the critical‭ ‬question.‭ ‬How do you take‭ ‬a‭ ‬film and advance the art‭?

Godard says in essence,‭ “‬The ultimate narrative film is to begin to look like a documentary.‭”‬ It begins‭ ‬to look real.‭ ‬The film attains the feeling of a documentary.‭ ‬And vice versa.‭ ‬The goal of a documentary filmmaker‭ ‬is to gain the feeling of narrative‭ ‬– this is a‭ ‬story that transcends reality.‭ ‬When we look at great film‭ ‬– it captures the essence of a story so that you believe it is real.‭ ‬That‭’‬s what Godard has been doing for most of his life.‭

Another one of my favorite directors is the Japanese director,‭ ‬Yasujirō‭ ‬Ozu,‭ ‬known for his distinctive technical style.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1953,‭ ‬he directed one of the greatest films of all time called‭ ‬Tokyo Story,‭ ‬which is considered his masterpiece film.‭

I consider him one of the greatest directors of all time.‭ ‬He directed about‭ ‬50‭ ‬films over the course of his lifetime.‭ ‬They were intimately Japanese and universally accessible.‭ ‬They resonate with feelings and emotions that we all have,‭ ‬so you don‭’‬t have to be Japanese to appreciate them.

One of his traits was to block the camera off at‭ ‬3‭ ‬feet above the ground.‭ ‬It never wavers from that spot.‭ ‬He shot scenes from that vantage point.‭ ‬Why‭? ‬Because that‭’‬s the height of the tatami mat.‭ ‬We see life unfold where Japanese life takes place‭ ‬– on the tatami mat‭ ‬– 3‭ ‬feet off the ground.‭ ‬And it‭’‬s almost as if his characters are floating.‭ ‬There are wonderful insights into the human condition.‭

The great directors are all in their‭ ‬80s and the‭ ‬great‭ ‬Portuguese director,‭ ‬Manoel Cândido Pinto de‭ ‬Olivera,‭ ‬is‭ ‬102‭ ‬and still working.‭ ‬He‭’‬s made some remarkable gems.‭ ‬His‭ ‬2003‭ ‬film,‭ ‬A Talking Picture,‭ ‬is a meditation on war,‭ ‬society and civilization‭ ‬as‭ ‬seen through the eyes of several women from different nationalities‭ ‬while‭ ‬on a cruise.‭ ‬Wonderful.‭ ‬It even had John Malkovich in it.‭

In China,‭ ‬I admire‭ ‬Zhang‭ ‬Yimou and Chen‭ ‬Kaije,‭ ‬part of the‭ ‬fifth generation of Chinese film directors to graduate film after Mao‭ ‬Zedong‭ ‬died.‭ ‬Zhang does great human stories,‭ ‬which are not popular here but are available on DVDs,‭ ‬including‭ ‬The Road Home,‭ ‬Not One Less and‭ ‬Ju Dou.‭ ‬These are contemporary dramas of‭ ‬modern-day China and reflect Chinese history.‭

Engoren:‭ ‬What is the audience like for your film series and cruises‭?‬

Isaacs:‭ ‬Most of the audience is‭ ‬aged‭ ‬50‭ ‬and older.‭ ‬Quality art films require a certain amount of‭ ‬life‭ ‬experience‭ ‬to fully appreciate them.‭ ‬You don‭’‬t have to be an intellectual,‭ ‬but you have had to live and appreciate‭ ‬the world.‭ ‬If‭ ‬you experience life you can relate to the people in these films.‭ ‬They‭’‬re stories about people and their cultures.‭ ‬It‭’‬s the human condition.‭ ‬Stories about love,‭ ‬anger,‭ ‬vengeance and human emotion.‭ ‬What I love about it is that these films create a sense of community.‭ ‬The same people keep coming back.‭

One of my dreams is to take a cruise to Europe and do a short land excursion to Italy.‭ ‬I‭’‬d like to go to‭ ‬Cinecitta‭ ‬Studios,‭ ‬the studio where Fellini shot his films.‭

Filipa de Almeida and Leonor Silveira in A Talking Picture‭ (‬2003‭)‬.

Engoren:‭ ‬You speak almost longingly about film.‭ ‬Have you ever wanted to shoot your own movie‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬I‭’‬d love to,‭ ‬but‭ ‬it‭ ‬hasn‭’‬t been in the cards yet.‭ ‬What I love is‭ ‬talking about films,‭ ‬understanding films,‭ ‬researching films,‭ ‬learning‭ ‬the history of films,‭ ‬the development of films‭ ‬and‭ ‬how the best directors today have‭ ‬been influenced by the classics.‭

Engoren:‭ ‬What genre film are you partial to‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬Road movies are one of the greatest genres.‭ ‬The‭ ‬character must take a journey.‭ ‬In order to be great,‭ ‬a road movie must address the transformation of character and it must take us on a journey through alien territory,‭ ‬to mystery,‭ ‬to characters you‭’‬ve never met before,‭ ‬and‭ ‬where you‭ ‬can‭’‬t anticipate what the characters will do.‭ ‬You never know which way the road will go,‭ ‬and you never know how it will turn out.

Engoren:‭ ‬Do you have a favorite road movie‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬Best road movie‭? ‬Don‭’‬t ask me that.‭ ‬I have‭ ‬too many.‭ ‬Recently I‭ ‬screened a film‭ ‬by‭ ‬Zhang‭ ‬Yimou,‭ ‬Riding‭ ‬Alone for Thousands of Miles,‭ ‬starring the Japanese actor‭ ‬Ken Takakura.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a‭ ‬story‭ ‬about‭ ‬a Japanese man who travels through Japan to fulfill a wish for his son‭ ‬and seek his forgiveness.‭

It‭’‬s about‭ ‬brotherly love and loyalty.‭ ‬On the journey,‭ ‬the character is‭ ‬completely‭ ‬transformed.‭ ‬Road movies don‭’‬t have to be Bob Hope‭ ‬and Bing Crosby.‭ ‬Road‭ ‬movies are about journeys.‭ ‬And it doesn‭’‬t‭ ‬have to be a physical journey.‭ ‬Francis Ford Coppola‭’‬s‭ ‬Apocalypse‭ ‬Now is‭ ‬another example of a good road movie.‭

When I was in graduate school,‭ ‬I‭ ‬heard‭ ‬Coppola‭ ‬give‭ ‬a lecture‭ ‬where he said that one of his goals was to take film,‭ ‬radio,‭ ‬music and TV and converge them into one artistic expression.‭ ‬I‭ ‬think that‭ ‬is wonderful.

Today,‭ ‬Steve Jobs is trying to do this with computers.‭ ‬Converge the world through computers.‭ ‬A good director appreciates all mediums.‭ ‬Radio is the theater of the mind.‭ ‬If you listen to radio it opens up your imagination.‭ ‬And it can lead you to do things in film and TV.‭ ‬TV used to be a very contained box‭ ‬– 21‭ ‬inches.‭ ‬Now,‭ ‬TV‭ ‬is becoming theater.‭ ‬This takes away the intimacy of television.

Engoren:‭ ‬I have some James Lipton-esque questions for you.‭ ‬What qualities do you value‭ ‬in yourself‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬Persistence,‭ ‬patience,‭ ‬humor,‭ ‬and‭ ‬most important,‭ ‬sensitivity.

Engoren:‭ ‬You have many irons in the fire and seem to be involved in a‭ ‬variety of different projects.‭ ‬Do you‭ ‬consider yourself a workaholic‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬No.‭ ‬I‭’‬m constantly reading,‭ ‬researching‭ ‬and viewing films,‭ ‬but‭ ‬it‭’‬s a labor of love.‭ ‬Workaholics don‭’‬t do it because they love it,‭ ‬but because they have to.‭ ‬They‭’‬re compelled.‭ ‬I‭’‬m not a‭ ‬Type A‭ ‬personality.‭

Engoren:‭ ‬What type are you‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬Type Z‭ ‬– off the charts.‭

Engoren:‭ ‬What makes you the happiest‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬My family and sharing great films with others.‭ ‬Seeing films with an audience.‭ ‬Seeing‭ ‬others get the same thrill that I do from a film or sharing any moment in time.‭ ‬Getting joy‭ ‬from the shared experience.‭

Engoren:‭ ‬If you had the chance to transform yourself,‭ ‬like a character in one of these films,‭ ‬what else would you‭ ‬choose to do if you weren‭’‬t doing this‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬You mean,‭ ‬if I come back as something else‭? ‬I‭’‬d love to be a musician.‭ ‬I love all types of music.‭ ‬Or a writer,‭ ‬or‭ ‬possibly,‭ ‬a‭ ‬chef.‭ ‬I love to bake bread and cook Italian food from‭ ‬La‭ ‬Cucina Italiana.‭ ‬I make a delicious pasta dish with tomatoes,‭ ‬capers and lemon zest.‭ ‬My wife ate it and lived.

Engoren:‭ ‬What drives you‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬Right now,‭ ‬a‭ ‬2007‭ ‬Volvo.‭ ‬I‭’‬m not sure I‭’‬d say I was driven‭;‬ I‭’‬d say I was passionate.

Shelly Isaacs at Cafe Cinemathique International.‭

Engoren:‭ ‬Do you ever have time to sit down with a book or just enjoy your downtime‭? ‬What do you do for fun or relaxation‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬I love to travel.‭ ‬I went to Normandy two years ago to see the beaches‭ ‬where the‭ ‬Allies landed.‭ ‬I‭’‬ve been all over the world.‭ ‬I play‭ ‬tennis or read for relaxation.‭ ‬I read the‭ ‬newspaper every day.‭

Engoren:‭ ‬Your career includes many accomplishments.‭ ‬Is there anything you haven‭’‬t done yet that you‭’‬d like to accomplish‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬I‭’‬d like‭ ‬to work‭ ‬with educators and filmmakers.‭ ‬I have an idea for program called‭ ‬Watch,‭ ‬Read and Learn,‭ ‬designed‭ ‬to expose children to foreign-language films.‭ ‬The‭ ‬same way‭ ‬these films open the world up to my older audiences,‭ ‬[they‭]‬ can open the world to children.‭

Engoren:‭ ‬Many people are initially relectant to see foreign-language films with subtitles.‭ ‬Why are subtitles a disincentive to some people‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬In some cases,‭ ‬people are afraid they will miss the film because they are concentrating on the subtitles.‭ ‬Or they don‭’‬t want to work too hard.‭ ‬They don‭’‬t want to think when they see a movie.‭ ‬Some people need to feel that the film is familiar.‭ ‬Subtitles are unfamiliar and other cultures are unfamiliar.‭ ‬People need to open themselves up.‭ ‬Film can change the way you see the world.

Yet,‭ ‬some people who are initially resistant,‭ ‬walk away saying,‭ “‬I want to see more.‭”‬ They are transformed.‭ ‬The greatest thing is to transform someone who initially resists and have them walk away saying,‭ ‬“I want to see more.‭”‬

Engoren:‭ ‬You‭’‬ve had a very interesting and creative career.‭ ‬What have been the highlights‭ ‬for you‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬Teaching at NYU.‭ ‬Learning the ad business from great mentors‭ ‬and legends‭ ‬such as‭ ‬George Lois and‭ ‬Steve Frankfurt,‭ ‬both art directors,‭ ‬and Steve Gordon,‭ ‬a close personal friend who died young‭ (‬44‭)‬,‭ ‬after having written and directed the film,‭ ‬Arthur,‭ ‬starring Dudley Moore.‭ ‬Writing the first commercial for Duracell batteries back in the late‭ ‬70s.

Having the opportunity to direct commercials‭ ‬with the‭ ‬world‭’‬s great talents.‭ ‬In the late‭ ‬‘80s and‭ ‬‘90s‭ ‬I worked on an HBO show called‭ ‬Serious Comedy.‭ ‬I worked with every known comedian at that time‭ ‬– Howie Mandel,‭ ‬Elaine Boozler,‭ ‬Robert Klein,‭ ‬Steven Wright,‭ ‬Louie Anderson,‭ ‬etc.‭

Engoren:‭ ‬Your film series have certainly enriched the cultural landscape of South Florida.‭ ‬What do you see as your legacy‭?

Isaacs:‭ ‬I‭’‬m always looking for sponsors‭ ‬for my film series‭ ‬and I hope part of my legacy will be getting more people to enjoy foreign-language films.‭ ‬I‭’‬d love to create something‭ ‬lasting.‭ ‬Write something.‭ ‬Be part of something.‭ ‬With technology like Skype I‭’‬d love to‭ ‬invite a director to talk and interact with the audience.‭

My‭ ‬ultimate fantasy is to become an itinerant theater on wheels‭ ‬– have a projector and a screen‭ ‬and take the show on the road.‭ ‬There‭’‬s a road trip for you.‭ ‬I‭’‬d make it accessible to different communities.‭ ‬Show films at a park or‭ ‬local amphitheatre.‭ ‬Make it an‭ ‬interactive experience.‭ ‬We‭’‬ve got‭ ‬Facebook,‭ ‬Twitter‭;‬ we‭’‬ve got‭ ‬texts.‭ ‬Announce it‭ ‬– I‭’‬m coming into town‭ ‬– come watch a film‭ ‬with me and let‭’‬s talk about it.

To learn more about Café Cinematheque or Cinematheque at Sea,‭ ‬e-mail Isaacs at:‭ ‬cinematheque1‭@‬aol.com or call:‭ ‬561-347-8509.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Aug. 6-12

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev,
‭ ‬in Countdown to Zero.

Film:‭ ‬Robert Oppenheimer had a very good idea of what his Manhattan Project had unleashed in the New Mexico desert in‭ ‬1945,‭ ‬but at the time,‭ ‬his team was all alone in having become‭ “‬Death,‭ ‬the destroyer of worlds.‭”‬ Today,‭ ‬an estimated‭ ‬23,000‭ ‬nuclear weapons exist,‭ ‬and the makers of the powerful‭ ‬Countdown to Zero‭ ‬want you to understand how terrifying a prospect that is.‭ ‬Approved by the United Nations,‭ ‬the film features interviews with global political luminaries such as Tony Blair,‭ ‬Jimmy Carter and Mikhail Gorbachev,‭ ‬and a host of foreign policy experts,‭ ‬all of whom want the world to reduce its stockpile of these weapons to none.‭ ‬Director Lucy Walker makes‭ ‬a compelling case for how easy it is for dictator-captained rogue nations to obtain nuclear material,‭ ‬but eventually it all becomes a little hard to take,‭ ‬and crosses from timely warning into fearmongering.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬it gives you plenty to think about.‭ ‬At area theaters.‭

Theater:‭ ‬Australian playwright Alma De‭ ‬Groen‭ ‬was inspired to write‭ ‬Wicked Sisters‭ ‬after reading‭ ‬about artificial intelligence and computers,‭ ‬which‭ ‬might seem a long way to go for a play‭ ‬about four middle-aged women who come together after the death of one of the women‭’‬s husbands,‭ ‬a scientific‭ ‬genius named Alec who has succumbed to Alzheimer‭’‬s disease.‭ ‬But De Groen‭’‬s play,‭ ‬which premiered in‭ ‬2002‭ ‬Down Under,‭ ‬is really all about‭ ‬evolution.‭ ‬Wicked Sisters‭ ‬gets its U.S.‭ ‬premiere this week in downtown Fort Lauderdale at the Women‭’‬s Theatre Project.‭ ‬Linda Bernhard,‭ ‬Elizabeth Dimon,‭ ‬Miki Edelman and Jude Parry star in‭ ‬this‭ ‬play,‭ ‬which is directed by Genie Croft.‭ ‬The show in the tiny Sixth Star Studio seats less than‭ ‬50‭ ‬people,‭ ‬so this is‭ ‬also‭ ‬about theater at its most intimate.‭ ‬The show,‭ ‬which opens tonight for a sold-out show,‭ ‬runs‭ ‬through Aug.‭ ‬29.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$25,‭ ‬$15‭ ‬for students.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬866-811-4111‭ ‬for more information.‭ ‬

Ramsey Lewis.‭
(‬Photo by‭ ‬the‭ ‬Ravinia Festival‭)

Music:‭Ramsey Lewis celebrated his‭ ‬75th birthday earlier this year,‭ ‬and the jazz piano titan also issued his first-ever album of entirely original compositions,‭ ‬Songs From‭ ‬the‭ ‬Heart:‭ ‬Ramsey Plays Ramsey.‭ ‬This video on his Website talks about that process,‭ ‬and this coming Thursday,‭ ‬devotees of jazz piano can hear Lewis‭ ‬in a solo concert down in Coral Gables as the last concert‭ ‬in‭ ‬the Community Arts Program‭’‬s Summer Concert Series.‭ ‬Normally,‭ ‬he appears with his trio,‭ ‬so this is a good chance to hear this fine player build architectures all his own‭ ‬– if you can get a ticket.‭ ‬As of Friday,‭ ‬this concert at the Coral Gables Congregational Church was sold out.‭ ‬For‭ ‬appeals,‭ ‬call‭ ‬305-448-7421.

Singer Jennifer Sheehan.

We‭’‬re well into the dog days of August,‭ ‬but there‭’‬s still cabaret in town,‭ ‬and this week at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach,‭ ‬singer Jennifer Sheehan is holding forth in‭ ‬the‭ ‬Royal Room.‭ ‬Sheehan‭’‬s a graduate of Juilliard who can count performances in Mozart‭’‬s Die‭ ‬Zauberflöte among her‭ ‬achievements,‭ ‬but these days she‭’‬s exploring the depths of the Great American Songbook.‭ ‬She appears‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬today‭ ‬and Saturday‭; ‬tickets are‭ ‬$45‭ ‬for the show,‭ ‬and‭ ‬$90‭ ‬for the show and dinner beforehand‭ (‬doors open at‭ ‬6:30‭ ‬p.m.‭)‬.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬659-81o0‭ ‬to make reservations.‭

Thursday, August 5, 2010

ArtsBuzz: 'Spring Awakening' set for Kravis; Classical South Florida chief mum on WXEL changes

Sarah Stevens and Trey Gerrald in ‬Spring Awakening.
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

‭The Kravis Center‭’‬s‭ ‬19th season of theater,‭ ‬film,‭ ‬music,‭ ‬dance and comedy will include a performance in March of‭ ‬Spring Awakening,‭ ‬the Duncan Sheik adaptation of Franz Wedekind‭’‬s play that won the Tony for best musical in‭ ‬2007.

In its initial run,‭ ‬the musical starred Lea Michele,‭ ‬the current star of Fox‭’‬s TV show-choir comedy,‭ ‬Glee.‭ ‬The rock musical of young adult self-discovery will be presented March‭ ‬2.‭

In addition,‭ ‬the performing arts center will mount another season‭ ‬of its Kravis on Broadway series,‭ ‬which features trunk shows of‭ ‬Dreamgirls‭ (‬Nov.‭ ‬23-28‭)‬,‭ ‬Beauty and the Beast‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬4-9‭)‬,‭ ‬Young Frankenstein‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬1-6‭)‬,‭ ‬West Side Story‭ (‬March‭ ‬8-13‭)‬,‭ ‬and‭ ‬The Color Purple‭ (‬May‭ ‬10-15‭)‬.

Also,‭ ‬Idina Menzel,‭ ‬famed for her work‭ ‬in‭ ‬Rent‭ ‬and‭ ‬Wicked and now a recurring character on‭ ‬Glee,‭ ‬arrives Dec.‭ ‬17‭ ‬with an orchestra in tow,‭ ‬and Mandy Patinkin,‭ ‬lately of CBS‭’‬ Criminal Minds,‭ ‬returns to the Kravis on Dec.‭ ‬31‭ ‬with his Dress Casual concert.‭ ‬Another Broadway standout,‭ ‬Bernadette Peters,‭ ‬is back for a show April‭ ‬9.

Other theater-related shows coming to the Kravis include two productions by the New York-based Aquila Theatre Company:‭ ‬Pirandello‭’‬s‭ ‬Six Characters in Search of an Author‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬20-21‭)‬,‭ ‬and Shakespeare‭’‬s‭ ‬A Midsummer Night‭’‬s Dream‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬22-23‭)‬.‭ ‬The Monty Python musical‭ ‬Spamalot arrives Dec.‭ ‬26‭ ‬for one evening,‭ ‬and on Jan.‭ ‬12,‭ ‬the Barter Theatre presents two performances of‭ ‬Forever Plaid,‭ ‬inspired by the vocal group music of the‭ ‬1950s.‭ ‬Also,‭ ‬veteran actress Shirley MacLaine hosts a one-night retrospective of her career Feb.‭ ‬8.

Other notable acts in the coming season:

Comedy:‭ ‬Whoopi Goldberg‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬14‭)‬,‭ ‬Don Rickles and Joan Rivers‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬26‭)‬,‭ ‬Tim Conway‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬16‭) ‬and Jackie Mason‭ (‬March‭ ‬6‭)‬,‭ ‬all of whom are preceded Dec.‭ ‬27‭ ‬by a segment of the‭ ‬Last Comic Standing tour,‭ ‬based on the popular NBC show.

Boomer pop,‭ ‬mostly:‭ ‬The Doobie Brothers‭ (‬Nov.‭ ‬13‭)‬,‭ ‬Paula Cole‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬1‭)‬,‭ ‬Judy Collins‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬16‭)‬,‭ ‬John Tesh with a Christmas program‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬18‭)‬,‭ ‬Michael Bolton‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬13‭)‬,‭ ‬Roberta Flack‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬19‭)‬,‭ ‬Kenny Loggins‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬24‭)‬,‭ ‬Aztec Two-Step in a Simon and Garfunkel tribute‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬28-29‭)‬,‭ ‬Frankie Valli‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬11‭)‬,‭ ‬the Temptations and the Four Tops‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬17‭)‬,‭ ‬Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks‭ (‬April‭ ‬7‭)‬,‭ ‬Boz Scaggs‭ (‬April‭ ‬13‭)‬,‭ ‬Smokey Robinson‭ (‬April‭ ‬14‭)‬,‭ ‬Yanni‭ (‬April‭ ‬15‭)‬,‭ ‬the Beach Boys‭ (‬April‭ ‬17‭)‬,‭ ‬and the Beatles tribute band Rain‭ (‬June‭ ‬3-4‭)‬.

Crooners:‭ ‬Paul Anka‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬29‭)‬,‭ ‬Vic Damone‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬22‭)‬,‭ ‬Michael Feinstein in a Frank Sinatra tribute‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬19‭)‬,‭ ‬Engelbert Humperdinck‭ (‬March‭ ‬30‭)‬,‭ ‬Billy Stritch in a Mel Tormé tribute‭ (‬April‭ ‬1-2‭)‬,‭ ‬Steve Lippia,‭ ‬in a Sinatra tribute‭ (‬April‭ ‬6‭)‬,‭ ‬and Frankie Avalon,‭ ‬Fabian and Bobby Rydell‭ (‬April‭ ‬8‭)‬.Dance:‭ ‬Hubbard Street Dance Chicago‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬14‭)‬,‭ ‬Moscow Classic Ballet,‭ ‬with‭ ‬The Nutcracker‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬22-24‭)‬,‭ ‬State Ballet Theatre of Russia,‭ ‬with‭ ‬Swan Lake‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬2‭)‬,‭ ‬Pilobolus‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬15‭)‬,‭ ‬the National Dance Company of Ireland‭ (‬March‭ ‬16‭)‬,‭ ‬Koresh Dance Company‭ (‬April‭ ‬14-16‭)‬.

In addition to the previously announced classical music Regional Arts series,‭ ‬the Kravis‭ ‬will‭ ‬presents four performances in its Young Artists series in the Rinker Playhouse.‭ ‬The Morgenstern Trio,‭ ‬a piano trio based in Germany,‭ ‬appears Nov.‭ ‬30,‭ ‬followed Jan.‭ ‬17‭ ‬by the Sixth Floor Trio,‭ ‬a threesome of piano,‭ ‬clarinet and bassoon whose pianist,‭ ‬Teddy Abrams,‭ ‬is a conducting fellow at the New World Symphony in Miami.‭ ‬Cellist Dmitri Kouzov takes the stage Feb.‭ ‬14,‭ ‬accompanied by pianist Tao Lin,‭ ‬a Lynn University faculty member,‭ ‬and pianist Michael Mizrahi closes the series April‭ ‬14.

Also,‭ ‬the Boston Pops,‭ ‬directed by Keith Lockhart,‭ ‬comes to the Kravis for two performances March‭ ‬20‭ ‬of a tribute to Cole Porter in the‭ ‬120th anniversary year of the songwriter‭’‬s birth in Indiana‭; ‬Broadway veterans Kelli O‭’‬Hara and Brian D‭’‬Arcy James guest.‭ ‬In addition,‭ ‬jazz trumpeter and crossover artist Chris Botti returns to South Florida with a March‭ ‬17‭ ‬performance,‭ ‬and South Florida Latin jazz icon Arturo Sandoval performs with singer Connie James on Dec.‭ ‬30.‭

For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬832-7469‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.kravis.org.

Douglas Evans of Classical South Florida.

Classical South Florida undecided on WXEL programming

The president of Classical South Florida said Tuesday night his company has not yet made any programming decisions about WXEL radio,‭ ‬which it bought earlier this year.

Classical South Florida has a‭ “‬deep commitment to the cultural well-being of South Florida,‭” ‬Douglas Evans told the Boynton Beach City Commission.‭ ‬But he declined to be specific about what would be heard on the Boynton Beach-based radio station if its sale,‭ ‬which faces regulatory hearings,‭ ‬is formally approved.

“‬We believe in quality radio,‭” ‬he said.‭ “‬We have not made any determinations as to what the programming will be yet.‭”

Commissioner William Orlove told Evans that‭ “‬you keep talking about cultural,‭” ‬but have said nothing about‭ “‬financial,‭ ‬lifestyle‭” ‬or other kinds of programming.

‭“‬We believe in quality radio,‭” ‬Evans repeated,‭ ‬adding that Classical South Florida would respond to‭ “‬community feedback.‭”

The makeup of WXEL’s broadcasts is a point of concern for groups that oppose the sale of WXEL to Classical South Florida,‭ ‬a Fort Lauderdale-based station owned by American Public Media of St.‭ ‬Paul,‭ ‬Minn.‭ ‬WXEL‭ (‬90.7‭ ‬FM‭) ‬and its sister television station‭ (‬Channel‭ ‬42‭) ‬have been owned since‭ ‬1997‭ ‬by Barry University,‭ ‬a private Catholic institution in Miami Shores.

Strategic Broadcast Media,‭ ‬the Community Broadcast Foundation,‭ ‬the WXEL Community Advisory Board,‭ ‬and the Boynton Beach city attorney have all expressed concern that the sale will deprive the community of regular public affairs programming.‭

Barry put the radio station on the market in‭ ‬2004,‭ ‬and after numerous failed purchasing attempts by a variety of entities,‭ ‬Classical South Florida and Barry reached a‭ ‬$3.85‭ ‬million cash sales agreement in April.

However,‭ ‬what Classical South Florida is buying is only the radio station’s operating license.‭ ‬Barry will retain ownership of the radio station itself,‭ ‬and all of its equipment‭ –‬the lease of which by Classical South Florida has been‭ “‬guaranteed‭” ‬for one year in the deal with Barry,‭ ‬Evans told commissioners. ‭ ‬Evans also said his company has‭ “‬no interest‭” ‬in also buying WXEL television.

The question of WXEL’s license transfer to Classical South Florida must be heard and approved by the State Board of Education,‭ ‬and then given final approval by the Federal Communications Commission.

The State Board of Education meets again in September,‭ ‬but does not yet have the WXEL question on its agenda.

Dolora Zajick as Azucena in Verdi’s‭ ‬Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera.

Palm Beach Opera adds Verdi Requiem in concert

The Palm Beach Opera will present a concert performance of Giuseppe Verdi‭’‬s Requiem‭ ‬in January,‭ ‬the company‭ ‬announced Monday.

The concert,‭ ‬set for Jan.‭ ‬16,‭ ‬will feature mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick,‭ ‬renowned for her Verdi roles,‭ ‬rising young soprano Angela Meade and bass Morris Robinson.‭ ‬An announcement about the tenor in the solo quartet is expected this week.

Palm Beach Opera artistic director Bruno Aprea‭ ‬will lead the company‭’‬s orchestra in the concert,‭ ‬which will take place at‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬at the Kravis Center.‭

The chorus will be augmented by guest choruses to create a‭ ‬150-voice ensemble,‭ ‬Palm Beach Opera officials said.‭ ‬The performance will be followed by a gala dinner with the artists and the concert‭’‬s sponsor,‭ ‬noted philanthropist Helen K.‭ ‬Persson.‭

Tickets for the concert will go on sale Oct.‭ ‬2,‭ ‬and range from‭ ‬$20-$125.‭ ‬Tickets for the dinner are‭ ‬$375‭ ‬and come with premium seats for the Requiem.

The Verdi Requiem,‭ ‬written in‭ ‬1873,‭ ‬is widely considered one of the composer‭’‬s finest works.‭ ‬The late British scholar Julian Budden,‭ ‬in his‭ ‬1985‭ ‬monograph on the composer,‭ ‬wrote‭ ‬:‭ ‬“The question,‭ ‬‘which is Verdi‭’‬s supreme masterpiece‭?‬’ is as difficult to answer as in the case of any great artist.‭ ‬But if it be changed to‭ ‬‘which work shows his genius at‭ ‬its most concentrated‭?‬’ then the answer must surely be the Requiem.‭”

The opera company,‭ ‬which will marks its‭ ‬50th anniversary next year,‭ ‬is presenting three full productions and one semi-staged production for the upcoming season.‭ ‬Verdi‭’‬s‭ ‬Nabucco opens the season on Dec.‭ ‬10-13,‭ ‬followed by two concert mountings of Gluck‭’‬s‭ ‬Orfeo ed Euridice on Jan.‭ ‬21‭ ‬and‭ ‬23.‭ ‬The third of the Mozart-Da Ponte operas,‭ ‬Così fan Tutte,‭ ‬takes the stage Feb.‭ ‬25-28,‭ ‬and the season concludes with Puccini‭’‬s‭ ‬Tosca from March‭ ‬25-28.‭

For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬833-7888‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.pbopera.org.

The Flagler Museum.

Flagler gets grant‭ ‬to translate audio tours into three languages

The Flagler Museum on Palm Beach has received a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services‭ ‬that will allow the Whitehall mansion‭’‬s audio tour to be translated into Spanish,‭ ‬French and German.

The three-year,‭ ‬$95,198‭ ‬grant will also enable the translations to be used in virtual tours on the Flagler Museum’s website‭.

“This grant will provide the funding to dramatically improve the visitors‭' ‬experience among international visitors to the Flagler Museum,‭” ‬Executive Director John Blades said in a prepared statement.

The grant was announced July‭ ‬26.‭ ‬The Flagler Museum is located in the opulent‭ ‬1902‭ ‬Beaux Arts residence of Henry Flagler,‭ ‬founder of the Florida East Coast Railway as well as Palm Beach,‭ ‬and often considered the father of Miami and of modern Florida.‭

Norton Museum lays off‭ ‬11

Citing budget constraints,‭ ‬the Norton Museum of Art laid off‭ ‬11‭ ‬staff members at the end of June.

The‭ ‬11‭ ‬Norton employees,‭ ‬who were laid off June‭ ‬28,‭ ‬worked in all the museum departments except for education,‭ ‬officials said.‭ ‬The employees were given severance packages and outplacement help,‭ ‬the museum said.

‭“‬This is something we did not want to do,‭ ‬but the economy over the past two years has given us no choice,‭” ‬Hope Alswang,‭ ‬who took over as director of the West Palm Beach museum in April,‭ ‬said in a news release.‭ “‬Endowment income,‭ ‬government support,‭ ‬and corporate giving are all down.‭ ‬The arts community across the country has been impacted and we are no exception.‭”

Alswang also said in the statement that she was‭ “‬optimistic‭” ‬the economy will begin improving,‭ ‬but that current conditions required the museum to be‭ “‬responsible‭” ‬and make the cuts.‭

-- Compiled by Jan Engoren,‭ ‬John Johnson and Greg Stepanich‭