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Sep 30th
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Film

Reviews and Times

On With The Show

Todd Graff pumps ‘Camp’ with passion, wit and charm. So, why is he biting his nails? (Did we mention it’s his directorial debut?)

When I was 13, I played the viola just because it was different. It was. And so was I. What the hell is a viola? was the typical response. (Like myself at the time, that oft overlooked stringed instrument just seemed out of place in the world.) In the end, my alto-cleff’d cohort—and my expanding teenage waistline—became the ridicule of the school band. I didn’t help that I wore a retainer, had a horrible faux Sean Cassidy hairdo that was two years out of date and that to I chose Stanislaus as my Catholic Confirmation name. (Sorry, St. Stan, it wound up becoming the most hellish, old-world, three-syllabled moniker I could have chosen.)  Summer camp was worse. While watching active teens frolic in camp,

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Reviews and Times

Heaven ... Then Hell

Heaven ... Then Hell

Angels soar, but did the devil steal the plot?

In 1976, I was a fat Polish kid in Chicago. I wore a retainer, had a dysfunctional family and was oddly drawn to Farrah Fawcett. (I figured out the true meaning of that in therapy, but let’s move onto … more about me.)

Charlie’s Angels was the most popular TV series on the tube at the time and I was a pop culture junkie. I created a scrapbook of the Angels, and chronicled the publicity that the actresses, and the show, received over the next five years in a flimsy paper-filled 11 by 17 scrapbook I bought at the local five and dime: Farrah left, Cheryl Ladd came in, Kate Jackson left, Shelley Hack came in—I never thought the producer’s should have dumped Hack, but what can you do?—and after Hack, along came Tanya Roberts. Most everyone seemed drawn to the show and the Angels mystique and mindless appeal. It was purely escapist fare and my scrapbook was a bloated three-volumed beast.

Flashforward to 2000: suddenly ...

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Reviews and Times

Director Andrew Jarecki on The Friedmans

Capturing the Friedmans, this year’s Memento, nabbed the Grand Jury Prize Award at the Sundance Film Festival months ago and sent the film industry buzzing. How did a guy who set out to make a light-hearted documentary about Silly Billy, one of New York City’s better-known children’s party clowns, eventually find himself overhauling the entire project to create the year’s most mind-bending tale—a tale about sex, lies and old film reels that revolved around the criminal case that dismantled the clown’s entire family? To this day, Jarecki remains stumped over the Friedman case.

“I always did feel that the truth is a very difficult thing to figure out,” Jarecki says in a recent interview with GT.

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Reviews and Times

Hail Whale Rider

Writer-director Niki Caro may have created a knockout indie hit with Whale Rider, but first, there was a legend to learn


You are a filmmaker living in the western world. You’re modernized, scrutinized and accessorized. You’re hip, but you’re also deep, which is way your burning desire to make a movie out of Witi Ihimaera’s novel about the surprise emergence of a female leader in a so-not-westernized male-dominated coastal New Zealand tribe takes 10 years, a great deal of patience and hell of a lot of humility.

If you were screenwriter/director Niki Caro, you may be experiencing some pride these days—Caro’s artistic verve resonates in every frame of the fascinating-to-watch Whale Rider, opening at the Nickelodeon Theatre this week.

But long before the film became a reality,

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Reviews and Times

The Green Vile


Lou Ferrigno, come out, come out wherever you are!

The muscles bulge, the pants split open and voila—the big monster is set free. But, sadly, this Hulk goes limp.

In some ways, you want to really like Ang Lee’s ambitious outing. It looks and feels like a big screen comic book and, overall, the FX are impressive, but after two hours and 18 minutes of misadventures, you’d be more apt to just toss this Hulk  a bottle of zanax and call it a day. (Talk about annoying mood swings!) Screenwriters James Schamus, John Turman and Michael France have penned characters audiences should care about: a mad scientist horrified over his own mishap (Nick Nolte, who steals the show), a man uncertain of the molecular manipulation he’s been put through (newcomer Eric Bana as eager scientist Bruce Banner), a caring woman falling for an emotionally unavailable man (Jennifer Connelly).

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Reviews and Times

To LL and Back

It’s a battle of Good Vs. Eva for LL Cool J

James Todd Smith aka LL Cool J struts into a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, his sleek, diamond-stud earrings capturing the light, reflecting it back to the occupants of the room. By no means does it blind us, but it does make an impact, which is symbolic because ever since the one-time “legend in leather” became the über stud of Def Jam Records back in the ’80s he’s been evolving as an “artist,” often throwing a brick into the glass house where stale perceptions live.

Get ready. Here comes another brick.

LL Cool J as a leading man in a romantic comedy? It’s true. Start sweeping up the glass.

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Reviews and Times

Wajda Doing


Andrzej Wajda on Zemsta, Roman Polanski and Polish Culture


It was back in 2000 that Andrzej Wajda got a peck on the cheek from Jane Fonda in front of millions of people. One second later, she handed him the Oscar for Lifetime Achievement and suddenly his life changed. Or did it? Certainly the honor was well received, but it didn’t necessarily change Wajda’s own vision as an artist, which was to create fine films with significant messages. And that he’s done. Wajda has been the leading filmmaker in the world for more than 50 years. His early creations— the trilogy of A Generation (1954), Kanal (1957) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958)—pushed the limits of Soviet censorship. But other films were full of pathos and a great many were nominated for Best Foreign Film by the Academy. Land of Promise (1975), The Maids of Wilko (1979) and Man of Iron (1981)—they all turned heads. Now, Zemsta has become a hit in Poland and local company MGE is bringing t to North American audiences. The film also reunites the director with a former struggling actor—Roman Polanski, who starred in Wajda’s A Generation in 1955. In Zemsta, Polanski takes on the role of Papkin in a film that’s full of a comedy of errors.

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Reviews and Times

His Kind of Town

His Kind of Town

‘Chicago’ director Rob Marshall opens up about his big screen razzle-dazzler

Like the town it’s named after, the film Chicago boasts guts, glory and a gust of (show biz) wind that will bowl you over. It’s one of the best films to come out of Hollywood in the last decade and deserves every morsel of praise it’s getting. That said, get a ticket and indulge in the Chicago experience when it officially opens in Santa Cruz County next Friday, Feb. 7. In the meantime, check local listing for sneak previews this weekend.

What makes Chicago the show-stopping, pulse-pounding entertainment extravaganza that it is?

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Reviews and Times

Where No Man Has Gonged Before

Where No Man Has Gonged Before

So, was Chuck Barris really a CIA operative or is it just confessions of a frivolous mind?

Chuck Barris is tired of being asked the same question by the press. Was the famous Hollywood producer of such campy TV game show hits like The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and later, The Gong Show, also a CIA hitman?

If it’s time to go to confession, Barris isn’t budging. And why should he? Keeping his lips zipped to that juicy question will only lure people into see Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the high-profile film directed by George Clooney and written by screenwriter du jour Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation). The big-screen outing is based on Barris’s 1980 memoirs of the same name, in which he writes:

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Reviews and Times

Keys to Adrien Brody

Keys to Adrien Brody

Brody strikes a chord in the lead role in Roman Polanski’s haunting Holocaust film, ‘The Pianist’

Adrien Brody sighs deeply, his charcoal eyes lost in his own brooding thoughts. Sometimes, it’s hard to put into words how, exactly, he changed personally after taking on the title role in Roman Polanksi’s new film The Pianist.

There’s the obvious—it had to be the role of a lifetime morphing into Wladysaw Szpilman, the Polish Jew/composer-pianist who barely survived the Warsaw Ghetto during the German occupation in WW II. That Polanski, an Alpha director known for

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Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

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Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

Santa Cruz  |  Unemployed

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”