Friday, 04 December 2020

Arts & Life



‘PALM SPRINGS’ (RATED R) ON HULU

The seemingly endless time loop of reliving each day, most memorably realized in “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray’s weatherman Phil Connors trapped in an existential purgatory of arrested development, is the basic premise in play for the offbeat romantic comedy of “Palm Springs.”

The thematic genesis of “Palm Springs,” now streaming on Hulu with a MPAA rating as the film had been destined for wide theatrical release, is not just the Bill Murray opus but also a touch of the black comedy slasher film “Happy Death Day.”

Andy Samberg’s Nyles, by all appearances a slacker with a girlfriend he doesn’t seem to care about in any serious way, is a wedding guest doomed to repeat the same day over and over at a tony spot somewhere in the southern California desert.

Waking up each day next to his girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner), a self-absorbed party girl who consents to meaningless quickie sex, Nyles is constantly reliving November 9, the wedding day of Tala (Camila Mendes) and Abe (Tyler Hoechlin).

As the plus-one for bridesmaid Misty, Nyles feels no consequences for his actions, showing up at the wedding and reception wearing shorts and a bright Hawaiian shirt and delivering an impromptu toast to the newlyweds.

At the reception, Nyles meets Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the older sister of the bride and a pariah in her own family. An attraction develops between them, especially after Nyles discovers Misty cheating on him.

Things get weird when a seriously deranged older man named Roy (J.K. Simmons), starts shooting arrows from his bow in an attempt to kill Nyles, thereby interrupting a romantic moment with Sarah.

With an arrow stuck in his shoulder, Nyles crawls into a nearby cave that is glowing with a baffling light, and though he warns Sarah not to follow, she also gets sucked into the mysterious flaming whirlpool.

As a result, now both Sarah and Nyles are trapped in the time loop, and unlike the equivocal Nyles, Sarah wants so badly to escape that she resorts vainly to drastic measures such as driving back to Texas and running in front of a speeding truck.

When desperation fails, Sarah turns to tutorials in quantum physics to find the way out of the metaphysical limbo, sharing her plan with Nyles, who expresses love for her but seems to be okay staying in the loop.

With the repeats of the chaotic wedding day unveiling secrets of family members, the bantering and bickering Nyles and Sarah form a deeper bond that blossoms into love regardless of their shortcomings.

A whimsical romantic comedy, “Palm Springs” works because of the mismatched chemistry of the energetic, snarky Andy Samberg’s Nyles and the despairing, mordant Cristin Milioti’s Sarah, the unwilling maid of honor.

‘MR. LUCKY’ CLASSIC TV ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

From the same era of the late Fifties in which the private eye series “Peter Gunn” began its three-season run, “Mr. Lucky,” another half-hour crime show, shared similar traits in that the series was also created by Blake Edwards with music by Henry Mancini.

In the role of the titular character, John Vivyan owned a floating casino. With his sidekick Andamo (Ross Martin), Mr. Lucky would become enmeshed with the mischiefs of assorted gamblers, crooks, gangsters, fugitives and hit men cavorting on his yacht.

The first episode finds Mr. Lucky and Andamo operating the casino on a banana republic island ruled by the corrupt dictator El Presidente (Nehemiah Persoff). To curry favor and keep his enterprise open for business, Mr. Lucky would purposely lose money to the dictator in weekly poker games.

Fortune would run out for Mr. Lucky when Andamo was exposed as a revolutionary seeking the overthrow of the government by running guns and plotting an assassination of El Presidente.

The floating casino named Fortuna was sunk by government forces, forcing Mr. Lucky and his compatriot to flee with only the clothes on their backs and some pocket change.

Relocating to an American port city in the second episode, Mr. Lucky scored a big haul in a dice game and managed to buy the yacht of a swindler and turned it into a casino that was christened the Fortuna II.

Skirting the laws against gambling, the Fortuna II was anchored three miles offshore in international waters, and the floating casino became identified as “Lucky’s” with a pair of dice brightly illuminated to flash the numbers seven and eleven.

The “Mr. Lucky” series suffered misfortune midway into its one and only season when major sponsor Lever Brothers decided its product did not mix with gambling and insisted the casino be turned into a floating restaurant and nightclub.

The absence of the shady world of gambling took the edge off a series that delighted in having disreputable people mixing it up with conflicts that had to be resolved aboard a seabound casino.

Catch the early gritty black-and-white episodes of “Mr. Lucky” on Amazon Prime Video before the chance slips away.

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




‘HAMILTON’ ON DISNEY+

Notching just shy of 2,000 Broadway performances before coronavirus shut down the Richard Rodgers Theatre in mid-March, the musical “Hamilton” had become a cultural phenomenon that appeared destined to run forever.

Having captured the stage production of “Hamilton” on film, which is a rather infrequent exercise under any circumstances, the musical was immortalized for posterity in 2016 to capture the original Broadway cast.

“Hamilton” had been scheduled for a theatrical release in late 2021, but Disney made a seemingly wise business decision to launch the film on Disney Plus, thereby handing its streaming service a significant boost in the number of subscribers.

As a musical, “Hamilton” features an exciting, innovative score that blends rap, hip-hop, jazz, and rhythm and blues, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show creator and actor who is also the titular character.

To capture the energy of the stage production, the filming took place during a couple of live performances along with a session in an empty house that allowed for close-ups and shots from the rear of the stage.

Beginning with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers and the first secretary of the treasury, the leading performers form an interesting color-blind cast, with the notable exception of Jonathan Groff’s King George.

Born out of wedlock on the Caribbean island of Nevis and orphaned as a child, Hamilton leaves his home at a young age to emigrate to New York at the precipice of the American Revolution.

When Hamilton arrives in America, among the first people he meets are eventual rival Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr., Tony Award winner for Best Actor in a Musical) and the Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs), and as a group they avow a revolutionary fervor against the Crown.

An amusing interlude has the preening, imperious King George insisting on his authority for the colonies, realized in the song “You’ll Be Back,” a flippant counterpunch to the colonist’s rebellion.

A man of serious intellect and ambition who later co-authored “The Federalist Papers,” Hamilton becomes the right-hand man to General George Washington (Christopher Jackson), and later a pivotal figure at the Siege of Yorktown.

It’s not all war, politics and economics for Hamilton. His personal life is detailed in a romance with Phillipa Soo’s Eliza, one of the wealthy Schuyler sisters, that blossoms into marriage, which later turns rocky after his affair with a married woman.

As Aaron Burr resents Hamilton’s rise in the government and his sway with President Washington, the inevitable day of reckoning comes, leaving Burr with a tarnished legacy of a villain.

There is a school of thought so enthralled with “Hamilton” as to believe in its educational value for history. Sure, the musical is based on historical events and real people, but as with supposedly fact-based stories dramatic license is taken.

Whatever liberties appropriated by Lin-Manuel Miranda in creating a historical account, “Hamilton” is a masterpiece of theater that now comes alive for a wider audience that would find the price of Broadway ducats a little too steep.

‘THE SAINT’ CLASSIC TV ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

The ongoing lockdown of multiplexes is allowing me to have a greater appreciation of classic television shows, leading to a viewing habit that may not go away once liberated from the figurative basement.

At the moment on Amazon Prime Video, I am indulging in episodes of “The Saint,” a British show that starred the charismatic Roger Moore as the suave playboy and adventurer Simon Templar with enough free time on his hands to solve murders or help aggrieved parties.

“The Saint” is very much of its time during its six-season run during the Sixties, with its first four seasons in glorious black and white episodes set in plenty of daytime action, in contrast to the nighttime “Peter Gunn” series written about last week.

With his wit and charm and physical prowess in abundant slugfests with assorted villains, Roger Moore’s effortless, breezy performance of a rogue with a moral code underscores how easily he later slipped into the role of James Bond.

Templar may be a man of mystery, but he’s often introduced as “the famous Simon Templar” and a halo appears over his head as he speaks directly to the audience to clue them in on the plausibility of his newest adventure in some exotic locale.

From Rome to Monaco to Paris and beyond, Templar is recognized everywhere as if he might be a head of state. It’s a pretty good guess that British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan of that era lacked public recognition of that same magnitude.

More often than not, Templar is also known to the local authorities, and not always in a good way. The inevitable friction with the police adds to the excitement of Templar’s go-it-alone approach to solving a crime.

With each episode a standalone story, there’s little doubt that no matter how dire the circumstances for our sainted hero, Templar is unfailing in solving the mystery.

“The Saint” proves to be a heavenly entertainment in a fantasy world of criminal mischief.

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

LAKEPORT, Calif. – Lakeport Auto Movies will be among hundreds of movie drive-ins featuring a virtual concert by country music superstar Blake Shelton on Saturday, July 25.

The concert is part of Encore Drive-In Nights, with shows to air at drive-in and outdoor theaters across the United States and Canada.

These all-new performances will be filmed exclusively for each one-night-only event, and include cinematic interviews and storytelling.

The concert experience will deliver a front-row look at the world’s most iconic recording artists to fans across North America.

The series kicks off on July 25 with an all-new performance featuring Blake Shelton, who will be joined by very special guests Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins.

Tickets for the show are on sale now at http://ticketmaster.com/encore-blakeshelton .

The Encore Drive-In Nights series is presented by leading event production company Encore Live.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-in theaters have proven to be a safe, creative way to deliver fans world-class entertainment thanks to their ability to engage and delight large groups of people in open-air layouts.

Fans will experience the Encore Drive-In Nights presents Blake Shelton with Very Special Guests Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins concert feature and additional Encore Drive-In Nights shows from the safety of their personal vehicles.

Drive-in theaters hosting the Encore Drive-In Nights will adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended guidelines as well as all state and local health mandates. Staff will wear personal protective equipment and enforce at least six feet of space between cars.

The series will also use contactless payment and ticketing systems and limit capacity in restrooms. Guidelines around concessions will be enforced to abide by individual state regulations.

For a full list of procedures that the Encore Drive-In Nights is employing to keep fans and staff safe, visit http://encorenights.com .

“This is such a great way to enjoy music with your family and friends and stay safe,” said Shelton. “I’m excited we’re getting the chance to perform a concert for fans and we’re going to go back and play old hits like “Austin,” newer songs like “God’s Country” and we might even introduce something brand new! So fill up those popcorn tubs and get ready for some country music!”

Encore Live launched the series in response to overwhelming fan enthusiasm surrounding its June 27 ‘‘Garth Brooks: A Drive-In Concert Experience’ production, which also was shown at the Lakeport drive-in.

“After the overwhelming response to Garth Brooks’ drive-in concert feature, we knew we had to launch Encore Drive-In Nights to provide music fans across the USA and Canada the chance to see their favorite artists in a cool new way,” said Encore Live Founder and CEO Walter Kinzie. “We can’t wait to bring music’s biggest stars to outdoor movie screens all across North America so that people can get back out there again and safely enjoy engaging in-person experiences.”

With drive-in theaters all across North America lined up to air the Encore Drive-In Nights, fans everywhere will have access to a completely unique concert film experience.

Additional Encore Drive-In Nights performances will be announced in the coming weeks. Information on upcoming acts and tickets can be found at https://www.ticketmaster.com/encoredriveinnights .

Unlike traditional concert tickets that are bought for individual admission, each ticket for the Encore Drive-In Nights will admit one passenger car, truck or SUV. That means up to six family members or friends (as many as there are legal seatbelts) can enjoy these exciting experiences together for one low cost.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

When I look in a mirror, I try to compose my face so that it is at its best, but it’s a face that beyond my bathroom gets supplanted by all the more homely faces I carry out into the world.

John Thornberg is a Minnesota poet, but here’s a poem of his that reflects upon all of us everywhere.

Stolen Glances

Every time I turn to peer
at my reflection in the mirror,

a cruel bargain comes in play:
the glass takes off another day

from my expected living span.
It’s vanity’s fair payment plan.

Each time I look I pay, alas.
I see already how the glass

has laced its silver in my hair,
my youth was stolen unaware.

The real me just fades away,
glance by glance, day by day,

until too late I’ll turn to see
the mirror has stolen off with me!


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by John Thornberg, “Stolen Glances.” Poem reprinted by permission of John Thornberg. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Laura Kennedy with the armature for her owl at Trailside Park in Middletown, California. Photo courtesy of Middletown Art Center.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – EcoArts Sculpture Walk is happening a little differently this year due to COVID-19.

But, thanks to an award from the National Endowment for the Arts for “LOCUS, A Sense of Place,” work is currently being co-created and installed at the park.

This Friday, July 17, and Saturday, July 18, from 8 to 11a.m., the public is invited to join Laura Kennedy to co-create an owl and learn some of Laura’s sculpture making techniques.

“My hope is to educate and inspire people about the rich web of life in action that we witness here in Lake County through this piece,” said Kennedy. “I chose the owl as my subject for EcoArts this year, to call some attention to the night creatures that are key contributors to ecosystems, as well as to ecosystem recovery.”

Kennedy came to Lake County in 2010, left for a few years and returned the weekend the Valley fire ignited in September 2015.

She has been here since, for the most part, and is sinking her roots deeper. “The diverse natural world here in Lake County is my heart space,” she said.

Those interested in collaborating with Kennedy are encouraged to sign up in advance at www.middletownartcenter.org/classes to reserve a spot or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Registration helps MAC prepare and stay in touch for scheduling. The class is offered by donation, from $0 to $30.

Additional meetings will take place in the days to come. Please email MAC if you can’t make it this weekend but are interested in participating at another time in the coming week or two.

The goal of LOCUS is to revitalize public spaces damaged in the Valley fire through collaborative sculpture making.

Since May 2019, the Middletown Art Center a.k.a. EcoArts of Lake County, has initiated the making of several collaborative sculptures, led by artists, at Trailside Park and at Rabbit Hill.

Installations are made possible through partnerships with the Lake County Public Services Department and the Lake County Land Trust.

“Getting out into nature in public spaces and seeing some art is a great way to get some exercise, relief and enrichment in this time of Social Distancing,” said MAC Programs Director Lisa Kaplan. “We encourage you to join a workshop, and co-create with us, or come and enjoy the trails and artwork!”

To find out more about what’s happening at MAC and ways to support their efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County visit www.middletownartcenter.org .

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

How much pain and anger can a good poet pack into just a few words?

A lot, in this fifteen-word haiku by Laura Foley from her 2019 collection of poems from Headmistress Press entitled “Why I Never Finished My Dissertation,” her seventh book.

Foley lives in Vermont.

Black Belt

Her husband in a coma,
she in the dojo,
learning to kill with her toes.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Laura Foley, “Black Belt,” from Why I Never Finished My Dissertation, (Headmistress Press, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Laura Foley and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Upcoming Calendar

5Dec
12.05.2020 5:30 pm - 5:45 pm
Virtual Christmas tree lighting
5Dec
12.05.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Gallery Open Reception: Home
Middletown Art Center
5Dec
6Dec
12Dec
12.12.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
13Dec
12.13.2020 8:30 am - 11:00 am
American Legion Post breakfast
19Dec
12.19.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
24Dec
12.24.2020
Christmas Eve
25Dec
12.25.2020
Christmas Day
26Dec
12.26.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market

Mini Calendar

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