Monday, January 28, 2008

Opening Night: Octopus

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2008 at 5:57 PM

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Things I learned at the opening night of Actor's Express' Octopus, the world premiere play by Steve Yockey:

1) If the curtain speech mentions an "official clothing sponsor" of a play that features considerable nudity, the opening night audience might laugh with gusto. (Incidentally, that sponsor is Boy Next Door Menswear.)

2) You should always have an odd number of participants at your orgy. After Octopus was over, someone told me that if you go with an even number, either someone will get left out, or the orgy-goers could pair up in ways that could have uncomfortable repercussions later on. I feel edified.

3) Any sound effects in Octopus that remind audiences of a certain movie currently in theaters in which a monster attacks Manhattan are purely and completely coincidental.

4) In Actor's Express' summer production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (June 19-July 19, but likely to be held over), Hedwig will be played by Atlanta actor Craig Waldrip. Waldrip has proved to have strong pipes and a flair for drag, so he's a fitting choice, although it'll be a challenge for anyone to measure up to such a powerhouse role. Apparently the show will take place at a differently "themed" bar compared to the country-western roadhouse of the Express' 2003 production, but the theme has yet to be decided.

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Sun-Dancing: Throwing ’bos with Morgan Spurlock (return trip)

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2008 at 5:20 PM

(A firsthand account of the films, celebrities, snow and occasional Mormons that compose the greatest film festival in the world ... or that we've been to so far.)

INT. -- SALT LAKE CITY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — MORNING

I'm leaving finally. I get to return to my bed, Varsity hamburgers and as much bumper-to-bumper traffic as any man could want. After three days of updates, I decided there was nothing worth telling until the end. The Sundance Film Festival is a marathon, not a sprint. When tackling the beast it's important not to get burned out.

Had I gotten a media pass (wink wink, Ed, just kidding), there might be more to share. For the causal movie-goer, the festival itself is relentless. There is no end to the screenings, discussions, presentations, panels and stargazing. It really is amazing, and it engulfs two cities. It swallowed me whole by Wednesday. I needed a break after four consecutive days of waiting in line, sitting through panels and just a general lack of naptime. Reporters are like bats. We're mostly blind and sleep for days.

So I chose to gamble in my downtime. Wendover is a small community of casinos and fast-food restaurants just across the Nevada boarder. With sin just about an hour-and-a-half away, I chose to go blow my rent money. I actually came away with about $168 bucks, most of which I spent on souvenirs — one being a poster I just realized I lost.

Continue reading »

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Sundance reviews: Hamlet 2

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2008 at 4:16 PM

Hamlet 2

(U.S., 2007, 92 min, color, 35mm)

Directed by Andy Fleming. Written by Andy Fleming, Pam Brady. Starring Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, David Arquette, Amy Poehler and Marshall Bell.

There are no adequate ways to describe the experience of Hamlet 2. Well, there is one way, but you're not going to like it. OK, ready?

It feels like I just got raped in the face. And for some reason, I'm totally OK with that. And you will be, too. You may even ask for more. There are likely few films at Sundance carried as far by a performance than that of Steve Coogan in Hamlet 2. He's absurd and hilarious, and he has to be to champion a script this loaded with the offensive material.

I thought racist midgets in In Bruges were bad. Hamlet 2 — in theory — should be worse, but it isn't. The movie dances across the line of dignity with the grace of a ballerina.

Coogan plays Dana, a failed actor-turned-theater-teacher who never embraces his desolation and lack of talent. His dream of Hollywood greatness stays alive and well in his classroom work, translating such greats as Erin Brockovich to the high school stage. Coogan limps through life guiding his two eager students and attempting parenthood with his wife.

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Sundance reviews: Absurdistan

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2008 at 3:16 PM

ABSURDISTAN

(Germany/Azerbaijan, 2007, 88 min, color, 35mm)

Directed by Veit Helmer. Written by Veit Helmer, Zaza Buadze. Starring Maximilian Mauff, Kristyna Malerova, Assun Planas, Kaghat Azelarab, Suzana Petricevic.

If you were to tell me a film using less than 15 minutes of dialog was the best thing I would see at the Sundance Film Festival, I might laugh and then spit on you. There would at least have been a long, crazy laugh.

But you’d be right. Absurdistan is — and I hate saying this — a wonderful display of the strength of international film and storytelling over ours here in the States. I love American film, and in a year in which we’re given two of the best American movies in years (No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood), we’re still behind.

The movie just gets everything right. It’s beautiful, hilarious and heartwarming, but most of all it’s charming. Absurdistan gives us a look at the lengths to which man will go to woo the love of a woman or to simply get in her pants. The story follows a young pair of soon-to-be lovers, Aya and Temelko. Their homeland survives off the hard work of the women, the sexual vitality of the men, and a slow but steady water supply from a pipeline feeding out of the mountains.

Continue reading »

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

See & Do: Travis Dodd: The Machete

Posted By on Sun, Jan 27, 2008 at 10:08 AM

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(Photo Travis Dodd)

For those who thought Generation X only begat apathy, irony and the philosophy of whatever, artist Travis Dodd offers some imagery to shake up the stereotype. His series of photographs printed on vintage blueprint paper in TRAVIS DODD: THE MACHETE, continuing Sun., JAN. 27, depicts bleak urban spaces where comely young things raise fists, scale walls, hoist machetes, gyrate and pose against distressed backdrops. The art's let's-start-a-revolution attitude suggests Che Guevara meets Diesel jeans, and while it may not inspire Gen X to change the world, it shows the eternal sex appeal that defying the status quo has always had for dissatisfied youth. Through Feb. 2. Free. Fri., 3-8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 1-6 p.m. Eyedrum, 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Suite 8. 404-522-0655. www.eyedrum.org.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

See & Do: Tom Rhodes

Posted By on Sat, Jan 26, 2008 at 10:58 AM

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(Photo Pacific Comedy)

Originally from the Sunshine State, TOM RHODES spent years as the David Letterman of Amsterdam before returning stateside to resume his stand-up career. Rhodes comes from the school of observational comedy and isn't afraid to talk about politics. His well-known Comedy Central performance "Viva Vietnam" paid homage to troops. He's a thinking man's comic, so expect humor that makes you reflect as much as it makes you laugh. He continues a four-night run at the Punchline tonight, JAN. 26. Through Jan. 27. $18-$22. Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 8 and 10 p.m.; Sat., 7, 9 and 11 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m. 280 Hilderbrand Drive. 404-252-5233. www.punchline.com.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

This just in: Nikki Giovanni at Emory

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2008 at 11:01 PM

Emory announced a nice little coup today with the booking of Nikki Giovanni for a Feb. 6 lecture, which will include selected readings of her award-winning poetry and thoughts on challenges confronting the African-American community.

The lecture will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, in Tull Auditorium at Emory's law school (1301 Clifton Road). The event is in conjunction with the Black Student Caucus Heritage Week activities at the Candler School of Theology. A book signing will follow this free event.

Giovanni is a distinguished professor at Virginia Tech, and if you're wondering if she can connect with an audience, check out this rousing speech she gave following the campus shooting tragedy at the hands of Seung-Hui Cho (who was reportedly a student in one of her poetry classes and whom Giovanni had sought to have removed for his behavior).

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Silver Scream Spook Show: Like Cloverfield with an ape

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2008 at 10:11 PM

The Silver Scream Spook Show returns to the Plaza Theatre with a cleverly timed flick: the original King Kong on Sat., Jan. 26. Just eight days after Cloverfield stormed into theaters to show a giant, uh, whatever it was destroy New York, King Kong shows how monsters were kicking it old-school in 1933 (and by "it" I mean "national monuments in Manhattan"). Peter Jackson's recent remake is literally twice as long as the original film but, despite some cool set pieces (especially the giant bugs and nearly all of the last act in New York), it isn't nearly as good. Even the dated quality of the special effects makes the film less realistic, but more dreamlike. This fan trailer edits clips from the original King Kong as if it were a preview you'd see today:

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Incidentally, I'd name both King Kong and Cloverfield as two of the very best giant-monster movies of all time, along with:

The original Godzilla from 1954 (which has aged even more than King Kong, but has undeniable symbolic power);

Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park (which has its share of dumb moments, but the scariest cinematic dinosaur in film history);

South Korea's The Host (for the way it turns monster conventions upside down, as well as the monster itself);

and an obscure Japanese film called Gamera 3: The Awakening of Iris. It's the final film (so far) in a series of Godzilla knockoffs about a flaming, flying giant turtle called Gamera, which has a pretty infantile heritage -- and yet, in the final film, combines an "X-Files"-worthy plot, harrowing footage of collateral damage and imaginative effects (even though it's a guy in a suit) that portray Gamera along the lines of a Christian martyr. (Really!)

I must be forgetting some; something by stop-motion special-effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen definitely needs to be on my list, too, but I can't decide which one.

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It’s raining indie

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2008 at 4:11 PM

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(Photo courtesy Opal Gallery/Christy Bush, “Will Martin in Paris”)

A kind of virtual gallery, considering how it’s being launched by former Atlantans who now all live in New York and Washington, D.C., Opal Gallery at 484 Moreland Ave. is perched in alt-heaven. It’s next door to A Cappella Books, a stone’s throw from Criminal Records and Aurora Coffee, day job and exhibition space to many Atlanta artists.

For its Feb. 5 (6-8 p.m.) opening, Opal will feature the work of NYC-based photographer and UGA grad Christy Bush, whose Soundtrack to Nothing documents teenage indie-rock fans.

I can't wait to check out the space.

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King Kong at the Plaza

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2008 at 3:08 PM

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I was talking to two longtime and, like me, retro-obsessed Atlanta artists Mark and Red Sandlin yesterday. We were sitting at the Dancing Goat in Decatur lamenting the absence of repertory film in Atlanta, and they told me tales of all the great classic film theaters that used to thrive in the city until I wept with phantom nostalgia for places I had never seen. Atlanta should be proud, however, to have the Plaza Theatre, whose regular screenings of classic film represent one of the city’s last beacons of a dying film culture. It is killing me that I am heading out of town this weekend and will miss the Jan. 26 matinee with the Silver Scream Spook Show’s grand guignol hijinks of King Kong (1933), featuring lovely Fay Wray and her monkey boy. The Silver Scream Spook Show is so committed to turning younger kids on to classic film, kids 12 and under get into the 1 p.m. matinee for FREE. This is 2008, for godsakes — nothing is free anymore, which makes me love it all the more.

There’s nothing better than seeing film in the slightly seedy but sublimely old-fashioned downstairs house and feel transported back to my early days fresh out of college in New York at the Biograph (gone), Theater 80 St. Marks (gone) and Film Forum (still kicking). Nothing, not even the wonderful ease of movies by mail, will ever replace that magical shared energy of seeing great film alongside strangers in an old building, communing at the church of cinema.

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