Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Arts & Life

The feathers have been fading for some time now on the peacock symbol of the NBC television network. Proof of this sad state of affairs is found in the TV ratings, which are even below par for the prime Thursday night lineup of well-regarded comedies.


More proof is to be had in a pop quiz. Quick, try to name just one new show from last winter’s midseason schedule. Without looking back at my notes, I would have been hard pressed to recall “Raines” or “The Black Donnellys,” two crime dramas that obviously fizzled.


The summer did not begin auspiciously for the network when the departure of top executive Kevin Reilly became a subject of speculation within the industry and a topic of conversation during a recent TV critics press tour.


I don’t want to dwell on how NBC executives described Reilly’s exit as a matter of him realizing that “there was just no role for him (Reilly) at the company and decided to move on.” This assertion by new co-chairman of NBC Entertainment Ben Silverman elicited laughter, the kind you hear when these corporate types try to explain someone’s involuntary exodus as a desire to spend quality time with the family or to explore new opportunities.


A sure sign that the bank of creative ideas is running low on funds is the new one-hour drama “Bionic Woman.” To be sure, Lindsay Wagner was wonderful as the reconstructed tennis player Jaime Sommers, but then she played the indestructible heroine 30 years ago. Revived to the modern era, British thespian Michelle Ryan portrays Sommers as a struggling bartender and surrogate mom to her teenage sister in San Francisco. She didn’t think life could get much harder, until a devastating car accident leaves her at death’s door.


Jaime’s only hope for survival is top-secret technology that comes at a hefty price. Shouldering a big debt and coping with a new existence, Jaime must figure out how to use her extraordinary abilities for good, and hence there are sacrifices she must make to become the Bionic Woman.


Willing to court some controversy, and perhaps to draw notice to this show, NBC has hired Isaiah Washington to guest star in an arc of five episodes, where his character is a mysterious person instructing Jaime on how to handle her bionic powers. Washington caused a stir with an anti-gay slur during the Golden Globes, which brought enough negative publicity that ABC did not invite him back for the new season of “Grey’s Anatomy.”


Another San Francisco story is the romantic mystery-drama “Journeyman,” where newspaper reporter and family man Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd) inexplicably begins to travel through time and change the course of people’s lives. Along the way, he must also deal with the difficulties and stress at work and home brought on by his sudden disappearances.


However, his freewheeling travels through the years reunite him with his long-lost fiancée Livia (Moon Bloodgood), which in itself complicates his blissful, present-day life with his vivacious wife Katie (Gretchen Egolf) and adorable son Zach (Charles Henry Wyson). As if there aren’t enough tricky situations, Dan’s cop brother Jack (Reed Diamond) once dated Katie.


Speaking of obstacles, “Life,” a new one-hour drama about a detective who is given a second chance, is full of complications. Complex and offbeat Detective Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis) returns to the police force after years in prison, thanks to a close friend and attorney, after serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. There’s no mention of whether he sues his previous lawyers for malpractice.


But he’s out of the joint and teamed up with the proverbially skeptical and demanding partner (Sarah Shahi, a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader). For some extra toughness and a reminder of the past, Adam Arkin has a starring role as Charlie’s former cellmate Ted Early.


Though it won’t be on the Thursday night comedy lineup, “Chuck” is a one-hour, action-comedy series about a computer geek who is catapulted into a new career as the government’s most vital secret agent.


When Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) opens an email subliminally encoded with government secrets, he unwittingly downloads an entire server of sensitive data into his brain. Now, the fate of the world rests in the unlikely hands of a guy who works at a Buy More Electronics store. Instead of fighting computer viruses, he must now confront assassins and international terrorists.


With the government’s most precious secrets in Chuck’s head, Major John Casey (Adam Baldwin) of the National Security Agency assumes the responsibility of protecting him. Chuck’s partner is the CIA’s top agent (and his first date in years), Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strzechowski). They’ll try to keep him safe by trading in his pocket protector for a bulletproof vest. Also starring are Joshua Gomez as Morgan, Chuck’s best friend, and Sarah Lancaster as Chuck’s ever-supportive sister, Ellie.


It can’t be said often enough that NBC’s best night is the Thursday lineup of comedies, from “My Name is Earl” to “The Office.” To revive the franchise with a spark of energy, Jerry Seinfeld has been recruited to come back for one week on the Thursday schedule where he had such great success. In a tailor-made role, Seinfeld will appear as himself on the premiere episode of “30 Rock,” where viewers can tune in to see how he shakes things up with abrasive network executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).


Speaking to a gathering of TV critics recently, NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman announced that the network has a deal with supernatural artist Criss Angel and famed mentalist Uri Geller to create a reality series for a live competition search for the next guy who can bend spoons with his mind. Silverman said the network is “looking for the next great mind-blower.”


Just a thought, but NBC should channel their mystical powers to come up with a few hit shows.


Tim Riley writes television and movie reviews for Lake County News.


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COBB – The Coyote Film Festival, Lake County’s Own Independent Film Festival, draws to a close this weekend with its final selection of award winning short films "under the stars" at Langtry Estates and Vineyards.


The showings take place both Friday, Sept. 14 and Saturday, Sept. 15. Doors open at 7 p.m., with films beginning at 8 p.m. and finishing around 9:30 p.m.


Tickets are $12 and available at the door. Sweaters are advised this month; the weather is expected to be cool.


“The theme for September is ‘Life on the Job’ with films and animations about various aspects of working or dealing with working,” explained Karen Turcotte, coordinator of the event. “We are delighted to present two films by actor/writer/filmmaker Gregg Brown.


Turcott said Brown is visiting from Los Angeles and will be on hand for a question-and-answer session after the screening his wonderful short film The Metho” and newest short, Shrinks.


In The Method, the main character is devoted to the rigorous acting technique known as "The Method,” in which performers go to extreme lengths in order to literally "become" the character. He's gotten two callbacks for a major part in a movie. And now he's got one more callback to nail the part of a vicious criminal. He's really a nice guy … he just needs to get this part. This film has won many grand prize and audience favorite awards, said Turcotte.


Brown’s second film, Shrinks, is about five shrinks and one neurotic patient; it's a modern comedy about mental health. Shrinks premiered at the Rhode Island International Film Festival last month, winning first place for Best Comedy Short. Coyote Film Festival will be the second screening ever of this new film.


This month’s animations range from the renowned animator Bill Plympton’s Parking, in which a parking lot attendant takes on a stubborn blade of grass; to Christopher Conforti’s Frog, a frog desperate to find his pond; and Signe Baumane’s Dentist, a dentist with a phobic patient and a strange painting on the wall.


Another short film is Pol Pot’s Birthday by director Talmage Cooley. The brutal dictator’s office staff have to throw him a surprise birthday party. Pol Pot's Birthday premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and has received numerous awards at festivals around the world.


In keeping with our theme of Life on the Job, Turcott said the festival has the dark comedy, Improvisation, a film by writer and director, Zack Litwack.


In Improvisation, Elliot, a young photographer, aspires for wealth and fame in the art world, but he uncovers a conspiracy to sabotage his success. By choosing anonymous artistic fulfillment over fame, he cheats a bleak destiny. The film was the Student Short Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner.


A Guy Named Murphy, by Director Alex Ranarivelo, shows lawyer Ed Murphy devising a unique way to get revenge. Sit back, hold on and don't blink! This five-minute film moves fast. It's another multiple award winner.


Films contain adult situations and/or language, so parental discretion is advised.


Langtry’s tasting room is open during the festival. Bring a picnic for the lawn or tables. There is a 20-foot screen, stereo sound, seating and refreshments available.


All proceeds benefit EcoArts of Lake County, a non-profit dedicated to promoting visual art, visual art education and ecologic stewardship. See more at www.EcoArtsofLakeCounty.org


Langtry Estates and Vineyards, 21000 Butts Canyon Road in Middletown.


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Author Peg Kingman reads from her new book, Not Yet Drown'd, at Mendocino College on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m.

 

 

UKIAH – The Friends of the Mendocino College Library are sponsoring a reading by novelist Peg Kingman, whose book, Not Yet Drown'd, is being published by W.W. Norton in early September.


The reading will take place in the Little Theater in the Lowery Library Building at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The Ukiah campus is located at 1000 Hensley Creek Rd. in Ukiah. Admission for this event is free and tea will be served following the reading.

 

 

The novel follows Catherine MacDonald who is astonished to receive from her twin brother who had reportedly drowned a year earlier, in the monsoon floods of 1821 a kashmiri shawl, a caddy of unusual tea and a sheaf of traditional bagpipe music in his handwriting. When had he sent it? And why had he re-titled a certain tune "Not Yet Drown'd"?

 

 

Irresistibly, Catherine is drawn to India to search for answers. With her stepdaughter and their two maids one an enigmatic Hindu, the other a runaway American slave she follows an obscure trail of tea, opium, and bagpipe music. In the course of their journey they meet botanists, smugglers, engineers, soldiers, and artists as well as love and betrayal. And as they copy, translate, and finally understand certain Scottish and Indian paintings and music, they discover unsuspected truths about the man they are seeking.

 

 

Peg Kingman, formerly a tea merchant, lives on a mountaintop in Redwood Valley where she grows tea and plays the bagpipe.

 

 

The Friends of the Mendocino College Library, an affiliate group of the Mendocino College Foundation, sponsor readings throughout the academic year at the college. The next reading will take place in November.


For more information about these events, check www.mendocino.edu or call John Koetzner at the Mendocino College library, 468-3051.


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Marcie Ann Long is taking her art to a Napa festival. Image courtesy of Marcie Ann Long.

 

KELSEYVILLE – Kelseyville painter Marcie Ann Long will show a variety of vineyard plein air paintings at the invitational 24th Annual Napa Valley Harvest Festival and Art Exhibition, Saturday Sept. 15 on the Lincoln Theatre grounds (near the Veterans Hospital).


This art and wine festival from 1 to 5 p.m. features 20 or more well known Napa wineries and restaurants as well as continuous musical entertainment.


Marcie and her studio partner, Steven Guy Bilodeau, opened the New California Gallery and Studio at 149 N. Main Street, Lakeport, in November of last year. Marcie and Steve met while members of the Konocti Plein Air Painters.


Because both Marcie and Steve are plein air painters the gallery is open irregular hours, usually when the artists are working in the adjoining studio, or by appointment. Marcie sometimes shows her black and white photography, including duotones of the Pomo baskets from the Lake County Museum, and landscapes of local Lake county scenes as well as more exotic locales. Works by local artist J.V. Magoon, and San Francisco painter Allen Freidlander add two more original visions to the mix.


Marcie has just been accepted into San Francisco's Artists Alley,which has just moved to a new space at 863 Mission, across from the new Bloomingdales, in the heart of the evolving museum district.


Her plant studies, especially orchids, will be shown at the Artists Alley starting Sept. 15 through the holidays. Her brightly colored acrylic paintings strive for a realistic representation of enlarged blossoms and foliage while employing an expressionistic palette and calligraphic brush strokes.

 

If you would like to see their work, call 279-1702 or 391-7147 (cell), e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or just drop by. Preview their work at www.newcaliforniagallery.com.


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Long is a plein air painter recently accepted into the San Francisco Artists Alley. Image courtesy of Marcie Ann Long.

SHOOT ‘EM UP (Rated R)


The pervasively strong bloody violence that runs nonstop through “Shoot ‘Em Up” is an American tribute to the Hong Kong action cinema popularized by director John Woo, most particularly in “Hardboiled.”


Writer-director Michael Davis has made it clear that the seeds of unrelenting gunplay of his new movie were sown by the inspiration of Woo, which has frankly been evident in a number of recent films that stage outlandish scenarios of explosive gunfights. So over-the-top in its violence, “Shoot ‘Em Up” seems that it would have been most fitting as part of the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez collaboration that was “Grindhouse.”


Excess is redefined in “Shoot ‘Em Up,” where the amount of firepower delivered from handguns to machine guns is enough to rival numerous major offensives in large scale military battles.


The film’s hero is the enigmatic Mr. Smith (British actor Clive Owen), who comes across as the world’s angriest man with a fetish for raw carrots. We first see him minding his own business, sitting at a bus stop in an unidentified grimy urban area.


Munching on the proverbial carrot, Mr. Smith springs into action when a pregnant woman runs by screaming as she’s pursued by a carload of assassins. Intervening to save the helpless woman, Mr. Smith is soon acting as midwife for a delivery, while holding off an assault of bad guys with expert precision in formidable gunplay. Unlike Bugs Bunny, Mr. Smith also demonstrates the lethal power of a well-placed carrot.


In the midst of a ferocious gunfight, the hardboiled Mr. Smith takes it upon himself to protect an innocent newborn child. After the mother dies of a gunshot wound, his maternal instincts are seriously lacking, so he teams up with a lactating prostitute named DQ (Monica Bellucci), with whom he has some sort of shaky history.


While his mysterious brooding quality remains intact, Mr. Smith reveals little of himself, except his annoyance with the little things in life that can be irritating, with his temper blowing up amusingly in a scene where he becomes vengeful against a driver committing the cardinal sins of not using his turn signals and throwing trash out the window of his car.


When not teaching a lesson to careless and rude jerks, Mr. Smith is spending most of his time reloading and shooting a variety of weapons. This is necessary because he and DQ must save the baby from Hertz (Paul Giamatti), a sadistic gangster with a pencil pusher’s eyeglasses and a terrible combover.


Though plot is hardly an integral matter, the machinations behind the scenes involve a diabolical plan to harvest babies for the bone marrow needed by a crusading politician running for president, who ironically is in favor of strict gun control, if only for the moment. Senator Rutledge (Daniel Pilon) is the usual annoying political gasbag full of hot air, and you can easily anticipate his deserved fate.


Possibly the fastest-moving film of the modern era (even surpassing the adrenaline-fueled “Crank”), “Shoot ‘Em Up” does little more than turn Mr. Smith loose for every conceivable type of shootout, with each setup increasingly more outlandish. Mr. Smith spins a playground carousel with bullets so a sniper can’t shoot the baby lying on it. He rappels down a stairwell on a rope, shooting scores of black-clad commandos in the rapid fire of his machine gun. There’s a gunfight while Mr. Smith and paratroopers are free-falling out of an airplane. Even during a lovemaking scene with DQ, Mr. Smith becomes engaged in a gun battle.


By now, it should be abundantly clear that the comic-book violence of endless shootouts is nonstop, increasingly inventive and cleverly entertaining, at least for action junkies.


“Shoot ‘Em Up” delights in its ability to go completely wild and out-of-control, but it also has a dark sense of humor that is most promising. Indeed, there are a slew of witty one-liners delivered by the sarcastic Mr. Smith, and Hertz gets in the act with well-placed verbal punches.


“Shoot ‘Em Up” is not for every taste, but it is a strangely fun ride. Caution should be exercised by moviegoers, as this film is definitely not the family-friendly type.


Tim Riley writes television and movie reviews for Lake County News.


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Author Alice Walker, speaking recently at SolFest in Hopland and simultaneously in my living room, courtesy of KZYX and KZYZ radio of Mendocino County, stopped my puttering with these words:


“In Rwanda, women are 48 percent of the parliament, the highest percentage of any country in the world.” And then she went on with the horrifying explanation that this may well be because 800,000 Rwandan men were slaughtered in the genocidal war of 1994.


SolFest is such a broad-ranging event that Walker was a perfect speaker. A poet and author of several non fiction books and novels, the best-known her Pulitzer Prize winner “The Color Purple” she seems to have no limits on her interests, from farming to quilting, health, orchids, peace, saving old buildings, and creating new and better societies.


The talk was just an appetizer. I thought I had read most of her work, but had never heard of “We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: nner Light in a Time of Darkness,” her 2006 collection of essays, meditations and talks to groups ranging from graduating classes to midwives and black yoga teachers.


The book is a full meal, a feast. No, a full life, from birth to death. In addressing midwives in New Mexico she speaks of the primary life-saving importance of welcoming the newborn; in addressing college graduates, she advises having only one child and she repeatedly urges the protection of all children and the bombing of none.


Walker is not popular with the present-day United States government. She has been arrested in peace demonstrations, is outspokenly critical of the war on Iraq and greatly admires Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro for the widespread health care and universal literacy his much-maligned regime has achieved.


The book's title is a line from the late poet June Jordan's “Poem for South African Women.” Walker and Jordan were friends for 30 years. We are the ones is an inspiring and comforting thought; the Elders of the Hopi Nation of Oraibi, Ariz., liked it too, enough to use it as the end of a message which begins “We have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour/Now we must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.”


Walker, now 63, is the daughter of Georgia sharecroppers with African, Cherokee, Irish and Scottish ancestry who attended Spelman College in Atlanta on full scholarship and later transferred to Sarah Lawrence. She has traveled widely, and continues to do so, when not at one of her homes in Mendocino County, San Francisco or Mexico.


At both SolFest and in the book she has scattered little nuggets of humor coating chewy centers.


  • On the power of language: Why do modern women call each other “guys”?

  • On coloring her hair: “the struggle for hair liberation does not, I feel, stop at nappiness.”

  • On slave owners who ordered their slaves to wear pastels: “Obviously we looked great in red ... that was the problem.”


Two of her passions resonated strongly for me. First her own “intense house hunger,” which she has fed by owning several and building one. “I will never build another ... use what is still beautiful and sound, repair, what is broken; in a word, renovate housing that already exists.” It was no surprise to learn she collects quilts, those useful and beautiful creations made from useless scraps.


Then, “The pause,” that moment when we have finished a project and are ready to rush into another. “Wisdom, however, requests a pause. If we cannot give ourselves such a pause, the universe will likely give it to us,” perhaps as illness or some other unwelcome event which requires us “to stop, to sit down, to reflect.”


She serves generous helpings of gratitude to the multitude of women and men who have guided her through her life, poets of many nations, spiritual and political leaders of many persuasions, including singer Bob Marley, whom she never met but for whom she named her dog.


This can be a quick read, but it's sure to require long digestion.


We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for: Light in a Time of Darkness

Format: Hardcover

Pub. Date: 11/1/2006

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co Inc

Paperback

Pub. Date:11/30/2007

Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc


E-mail Sophie Annan Jensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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