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Dec 24th
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Film

Reviews and Times

John Cameron Mitchell: Shortbus it

John Cameron Mitchell: Shortbus it

The Hedwig alum opens up—real wide

If you think John Cameron Mitchell turned heads—or was it wigs?—earlier this decade with the film version of his stage hit, Hedwig and The Angry Inch, you really haven't seen anything yet. In Shortbus, a hypnotic, visual, soul-stirring, gem, the writer-director takes audiences inside the lives of fractured twentysomethings desperate to find deep connection. Most try to find it via sex. But the allure proves futile. In one of the artists' most daring feats, he boldly illuminates what haunts us beyond the sheets.

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Reviews and Times

Embracing Amy

Embracing Amy

The wild rise of Amy Sedaris's alter ego and why it's coming to a movie theater near you

When a 47-year-old ex-con junky-whore with one hell of an overbite leaves the slammer and heads home, she's surprised to find her daddy has lapsed into a coma. Believing that if she just made him proud, he would see the light of day again, she decides that the best way to turn her life around is pick up right where she left off: As a freshman in high school. Welcome to Strangers With Candy—and Jerri Blank, Amy Sedaris's mind-bending alter ego. Strangers is the audacious big screen transformation of the cult Comedy Central hit spawned by Sedaris, Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello back in 1999.

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Reviews and Times

Lily Tomlin Gives In

Lily Tomlin Gives In

Lady Lily unveils the deeper truths about life—and working with Robert Altman

Let’s get one thing straight: Lily Tomlin loved morphing into the characters of Edith Ann and Ernestine on stage and in the hit ’70s show Laugh-In, but she also relished working with a phenom like Robert Altman (Short  Cuts, Gosford Park). The revered director did, after all, cast Tomlin in her big screen, Oscar-nominated debut in 1975’s Nashville, a film that launched a bevy of careers, Cybil Shepherd and Jeff Bridges among them. Altman is also at the helm of this June’s A Prairie Home Companion, a vibrant ensemble piece in which Tomlin co-stars alongside Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen, Woody Harleson and the avuncular Garrison Keillor—it’s based on Keillor’s

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Reviews and Times

King Kong: Great Ape

King Kong: Great Ape

With ‘Kong,’ Peter Jackson uncages a bold, fascinating new look at an old beast

Director Peter Jackson may be a complex man, but his approach filmmaking is simple: he dives into his task as if it was a Midwestern smorgasbord and doesn’t come up for air until he’s consumed every last morsel of that fifth portion of vanilla bean dessert pudding. And aren’t we all the better for it?  Jackson’s work, this decade in particular, is just epic. Who could argue that his Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy took cinema to new heights—all that state-of-the-art digital dancing; the grand achievement of bringing Tolkien’s revered lit to the screen; storytelling, reborn at last, at the cineplex. Marvelous. Give the man awards, and keep feeding him, please.

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Reviews and Times

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain It's Crouching Cowboy, Hidden Gay Man in Ang Lee’s beautifully crafted masterpiece

There’s a moment in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain where the film’s two male leads meet for the first time in four years and realize that they are, indeed, in love with each other. They share a series of passionate kisses and embrace underneath a stairwell. For a fleeting moment, they forget that it’s 1967, that they’re committed to other women, and that Wyoming’s machismo set wouldn’t quite know how to embrace the fact that they’re embracing. So the men retreat from the hunger for something they cannot yet articulate and keep their love for each other hidden as they continue their relationship—for 20 years.

And so it goes in one of the most talked about movies of the year. Headlined by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback was being touted as “one of the most important films of the decade” long before its release this winter. Why? For starters,

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Reviews and Times

Batman Has Bite

Batman Has Bite

Re-imagined superhero saves a dying film franchise

Finally—an intelligent Batman that soars high. In a story that often moves against the typical currents that make up a major Hollywood blockbuster, director Christopher Nolan delivers a beautifully polished, wondrously executed Batman Begins. And with it, comes the rebirth of a franchise left for dead by the likes of George Clooney.

Out: the post-modern Batman weighed down by the theatrics of directors Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. In: a plausible Batman that digs deep into the psychology of the man behind the mask and draws its inspiration from classics like  The Man Who Would Be King, Blade Runner, the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and—surprisingly—Lawrence of Arabia. (Yes, you read that right.) What Burton’s Batman did for the campy ’60s TV show of the same name, Nolan does to Burton’s Batman (1989).

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Reviews and Times

Mad About Ballroom

Mad About Ballroom

It’s kids, it’s ballroom. It works.

Ten years ago director Marilyn Agrelo could not have imagined that her very first film would be about kids, or on dancing for that matter. “Oh, it wouldn’t have been edgy enough for my tastes,” she admits with a laugh.

Fortunately, like a ballroom dancer, Agrelo surrendered herself to some of the creative rhythms working around her, proving there’s a certain reward in taking up a dance that has nothing to do with the “dance” you’re dancing. The result is Mad Hot Ballroom (***1/2), one of the most dazzling, heartfelt—and downright fun—documentaries of the season.

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Reviews and Times

With Them, The Force Is

With Them, The Force Is

‘Revenge of Sith’ satisfies in its attempts to bring the Star Wars saga full circle

About 10 minutes into Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) find themselves in a galactic bind. Obi-Wan turns to Anakin and says, “How did this happen, we’re smarter than this?”

You want to laugh—and not in the good way. Most would have said the same thing after Attack of the Clones in 2002.  And after Phantom Menace (1999), who could blame them? But McGregor’s corny delivery of the line—something that was better suited coming out of the likes of Mark Hamill back in the ’70s—immediately brings to the surface the main problem with the prequels to George Lucas’s Star Wars: Many of his characters lack passion on screen.

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Reviews and Times

Lust For The Dust

Lust For The DustDana Brown washes up on shore and heads to the desert and an exhilarating ride via ‘Dust to Glory’

The Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 is the longest nonstop, point-to-point race in the world. And that, apparently, was all a filmmaker like Dana Brown needed to hear before he embarked on filming the spectacle—it’s the MTV Music Awards on wheels, a desert road race that boasts as much glam as it does raunchy, cutthroat competition amidst a revelry of screaming fans. Add death-defying debauchery to the mix and the entire package suddenly smacks of must-see. Enter Brown, who never really does shy away from adventure, or misadventure for that matter. He has, in fact, become somewhat of the pied piper of extreme sports documentary filmmaking.

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Reviews and Times

Kevin Bacon Sizzles

Kevin Bacon Sizzles

Once footloose and fancy free, Kevin Bacon turns heads in ‘The Woodsman’ and becomes Hollywood’s most valuable player

Kevin Bacon is one of the most curious creatures in Hollywood. The man, devoid of any real tabloid hoopla or insufferable career crash-and-burns, would be considered royalty if he lived in London—he’s an unscathable beast capable of always landing on his feet, dimples intact, blue eyes forever blinding.

Bacon’s is a tale of longevity. Here is an actor who can be big-movie poster boy one minute (Footloose) and award-ceremony contender the next (Diner, Mystic River); somebody whose road to stardom is by way of keeping his celebrity always a bit low on Tinseltown’s rapturous radar screen.

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Dancing In the Rain

District Attorney Bob Lee’s death in October stunned the Santa Cruz community, but he had battled cancer fiercely—and privately—for more than a decade. Now one of his closest friends reveals the remarkable inside story

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Pinned Down

Actors shine in true-crime wrestling drama ‘Foxcatcher’
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Best Bites of 2014

A look back at the year in good taste

 

What downtown business is good for both one-stop shopping and last-minute gifts?

The Homeless Garden Project store. Because it is a community effort and has really useful and beautiful things, and allows you to connect with a lot of folks who are doing great work in Santa Cruz. Miriam Greenberg, Santa Cruz, UCSC Professor

 

Vino Tabi Winery

One of Santa Cruz’s most happening areas to go wine tasting is in the westside’s Swift Street Courtyard complex. Ever since a group of about a dozen wineries got together and formed Surf City Vintners (SCV), the place has been a hive of activity, and a wine-tasting mecca. Adding to the mix is the lively Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing beer company—making Swift Street Courtyard a perfect spot for a glass of wine or a pitcher of ale.

 

Betty’s Eat Inn

Yes, she’s a real person; no, this isn’t her