Sunday, 02 April 2023

Arts & Life



‘JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4’ RATED R

Retirement is not in the cards for Keanu Reeves’ titular character in “John Wick: Chapter 4.” He sought to leave behind his days as an assassin but he’s constantly pulled back in by the international crime syndicate known as the High Table.

Ardent followers of the franchise are already well aware that Wick’s world is fraught with danger at every turn, from the time he had to avenge the brutal killing of his puppy by Russian thugs to fending off deadly foes of all stripes.

What exactly is the High Table? It’s akin to a secret society like the Yakuza or the Illuminati, and in this case, the group is a council of twelve crime lords that governs the underworld’s most powerful organizations.

For some time now, John Wick has been seeking his freedom from the unseen crime bosses, and his defiance of their rules results in multimillion dollar bounties for his elimination.

The stakes are much higher now in this fourth chapter, where even old friends turn into lethal adversaries. Nevertheless, some remain allies most of the time, as is the case with Winston (Ian McShane), the owner of the New York Continental Hotel, a refuge for assassins.

During the course of the franchise, Wick committed the unpardonable sin of breaching the rules of the Continental, a sanctuary for hired killers where the conduct of business is forbidden.

You could say that Wick conducted “business” on hotel grounds by killing a despicable adversary in a situation that was unavoidable. Yet, penalties ensued as he broke the laws of Winston’s establishment.

The High Table is under new management, and maybe Wick had something to do with that when a horseback trek through the desert results in him killing an elder of high standing.

In the early going, a High Table functionary known as the Harbinger (Clancy Brown) shows up at the Continental Hotel and informs Winston and his concierge Charon (the late Lance Reddick) that the hotel is to be demolished within the hour.

Losing his hotel is a real blow to Winston. The hotelier is a suave figure who becomes more dangerous when what he values is stripped away. He may be Wick’s only hope when he cunningly devises a strategy for the on-the-run hitman to be finally free of the High Table.

With some help from underground crime boss Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), Wick is going to take the fight to the overlords. He will not be deterred by the appearance of the High Table’s emissary, Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard).

The sadistic and pompous Paris-based Marquis hangs out in opulent places like the Paris Opera House. He fancies himself too refined to do any dirty work, so he’s got a plethora of henchmen at his behest.

With a dwindling number of friends, Wick seeks refuge at the Osaka Continental Hotel which is owned by Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada), thereby earning the wrath of the High Table for helping an old friend.

The Osaka hotel is quickly besieged by a relentless number of expendable thugs armed with swords and guns as well as martial arts skills. Shimazu and his daughter Akira (Rina Sawayama) are soon in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the odious Marquis has coerced Wick’s old friend, Caine (Donnie Yen), a retired blind assassin, to employ his lethal skills against Wick under the threat of harm to his daughter.

The presence of Caine as the martial arts master creates a fascinating scenario in that there is no personal animosity with Wick. A complex being, the blind assassin proves believable as someone that Wick may not be able to defeat.

Another player engaged by the High Table as a pursuer is known only as the Tracker (Shamier Anderson), who’s assisted by his faithful canine, a Belgian Malinois with a killer instinct.

Like most other assassins, the Tracker is motivated by money, and yet he’s also very mysterious in that we are not really sure what side he’s on at any given moment. Tracker does appreciate that Wick sees to it that no harm comes to his dog.

Wick is also drawn back to his adoptive Russian family that raised him in the underworld. He’s tasked with taking out a villain named Killa (Scott Adkins), which results in a frenzied action scene in a pulsating Berlin nightclub.

At nearly three-hours long, one might think “John Wick: Chapter 4” could have used some editing. In truth, the pace is so fast that the thought of overkill may be easily discounted.

To be sure, the mayhem may feel excessive with the body count seeming to be almost higher than the previous installments combined. One of the best scenes involves a mad car chase around the Arc de Triomphe with guns blazing.

Details of a climactic duel at dawn at the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre shall not be spoiled here. By this point in time, the hand-to-hand combat and the surfeit of gunplay have been relentless and thrilling. Fans of this franchise won’t be disappointed.

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

TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL PREVIEW

The TCM Classic Film Festival will be even better this year than last, as it finally returns to a pre-pandemic experience with no longer having last year’s requirement that attendees must wear irritating masks during the screenings.

Expressing a sense of optimism, the festival theme is “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” and the fun begins on April 13th for a four-day indulgence that celebrates film legacies of the stories told and retold over generations.

Though rapidly dwindling, time remains to make plans for a trip to Los Angeles to hang out at the famous Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the central gathering point for the TCM Classic Film Festival.

The ability to purchase one of the four levels of festival passes may become very limited nearer to the start of the event, and one contemplating a trip would be well-advised to make haste and carefully consider what each type of pass offers.

Anticipation of good times launches on Thursday the 13th and concludes on Sunday, April 16, and in-between there will be more great movies, appearances by legendary stars and filmmakers, presentations and panel discussions, and special events than one could possibly take in.

Kickoff to the 14th annual TCM Classic Film Festival will be a red carpet opening night screening of the classic Western “Rio Bravo” starring John Wayne as a sheriff fending off a gang of armed attackers intent on breaking out a prisoner.

Wayne’s sheriff has a group of unlikely allies in Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson helping to defend the jail, along with help from Angie Dickinson, who by the way will be in attendance to have a conversation with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz about this 1959 film.

Richly filmed in Technicolor, “Rio Bravo” will look better than ever in a world premiere 4k restoration. In 2014, this film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

A bonus to opening night is that the screening takes place in the crown jewel of theaters built by showman Sid Grauman, the world-famous Chinese Theatre that continues after nearly a century to be a coveted venue for Hollywood premieres.

No trip to Hollywood would be complete without taking in the sidewalks of the Chinese Theatre’s forecourt and the famous footprints, handprints and signatures that dot the cement with a veritable catalog of movie history.

TCM has a fondness for commemorating anniversaries and the spotlight this year is on the 100th anniversary of Warner Bros., which explains the screening of “Casablanca,” one of the most beloved films of all time.

The Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman romantic World War II drama is one of the high points of the Hollywood studio system. What’s not to love about these two stars and a cast of European emigrants populating a restless Moroccan cafe, with refugees desperate to escape the war?

A festival may not be whole without an Alfred Hitchcock film. Personal favorites include “Rear Window,” “North by Northwest,” “Vertigo,” “To Catch a Thief,” and “Psycho.” And yet, there are so many more to add to this list.

The small-town psychological thriller “Shadow of a Doubt” is one of Hitchcock’s personal favorites, and it is being screened for its 80th anniversary in a new 4k restoration.

Better-known now as a popular film director, Ron Howard was once a child actor, probably most recognizable as Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show.” As a young actor, Howard was a lead in the coming-of-age film “American Graffiti,” which is being screened in its 50th anniversary.

Richard Dreyfuss and Howard are part of a group of teenagers spending the last night of the summer of 1962 in their small California town. Writer-director George Lucas followed his cast from the diner to the sock hop, cruising in vintage hot rods to a soundtrack of rock ‘n roll hits.

Each year the Festival pays tribute to a select group of individuals whose work in Hollywood has left a lasting impact on film. Academy Award-winning production designer Patrizia von Brandenstein and actor, dancer, director, artist, and choreographer Russ Tamblyn will be honored.

Von Brandenstein earned critical acclaim for her work on “Six Degrees of Separation” (1993) and the Academy Award for Best Art Direction in “Amadeus” (1984).

Tamblyn’s early training as a gymnast prepared him for one of his earliest roles in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954), and subsequently earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in “Peyton Place” (1957).

All four of these films will be screened at the Festival with introductions from von Brandenstein and Tamblyn. Both will sit down with TCM hosts in Club TCM at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for extended conversations about their lives and work.

Thinking of the TCM Classic Film Festival as the Super Bowl for movie buffs may not be an exaggeration. A high level of talent is on display and cinephiles should not be disappointed.

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

Performers at a previous festival. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — The Lake County Arts Council will host performers from around the county to share their love of dance with the community this spring.

The 42nd Annual Spring Dance Festival hits the stage at the MAC Theatre on April 1 at 1 and 6 p.m.

Admission is $15, and tickets are available at https://lakearts.org/ or at the door.

This year’s theme is “Dancin’ In the Street” and the show will be dedicated in memory of Betty Lou Surber, who was a driving force of the Spring Dance Festival for many years.

The Spring Dance Festival is a time-honored tradition, showcasing a variety of styles, including ballroom, ballet, belly dancing, hip hop, hula and more over the years.

Over 50 dancers of all ages will share their talents with the community.

The event would not be possible without the contributions of local dance studios, including Antoinette’s School of Dance, Michelle Smith’s Clear Lake Clickers, Jeanette Marchais’s Center Stage Studios and Claire Zimmerman’s BiZi Dance Co.

Other talented choreographers include Brianna Rojas, Audrey Showen, Elise Johns and Jamie Bracisco.

Come out and support our talented local dancers.

You can learn more at https://lakearts.org/spring-dance-festival/.

Alabama Hills. Photo by David Kirk, BLM.
BISHOP, Calif. — The Bureau of Land Management is currently accepting applications for the Fall Artist in Residence program at the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area near Lone Pine, California.

Selected artists will have the opportunity to speak with Park Rangers and be inspired by the many scenic areas within the Alabama Hills, located amongst the Sierra Nevada skyline.

The residency is available for a one-week period between Oct. 1 and Nov. 11, 2023.

During their stay, artists will share their vision in a 45-minute public presentation.

Following their residency, artists donate at least one digital image of their completed artwork to the Alabama Hills, representative of their stay. Housing or a stipend may be provided by partner organizations.

“The Artist in Residence program is a wonderful way to bring artists into our communities and inspire visitors to care for and protect public lands,” said Bishop Field Manager Sherri Lisius. “We are excited to continue this program this year and enhance opportunities for the community and Alabama Hills.”

This is the second year of the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area Artist in Residence program. The art from the first year of the program is on display at the BLM Bishop Field Office located at 351 Pacu Lane, suite 100, Bishop.

The Alabama Hills consists of rounded rocks and eroded hills set between the jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada and Owens Valley. In March of 2019, Congress designated 18,745 acres of the Alabama Hills as a National Scenic Area.

The BLM encourages artists of all mediums to apply, including but not limited to painters, photographers, printmakers, illustrators and graphic artists; all will be given equal consideration.

Interested artists may obtain more information here or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Applications must be submitted by April 30.

The 2022-23 winning entry of Canada geese by John Brennan.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife invites artists to submit their original artwork to the 2023-2024 California Duck Stamp Art Contest. Submissions will be accepted May 1 through June 9.

The artwork must depict the species selected by the California Fish and Game Commission, which for the 2023-2024 hunting season is the ring-necked duck.

Often found in small flocks, these small to medium-sized diving ducks frequent shallower bodies of water including fresh marshes, wooded ponds and flooded agricultural fields.

They are identified by their noticeably peaked head, which on males is an iridescent black that continues down across the back and chest.

The namesake ring around their neck is usually difficult to see, but the prominent white bands around their bill are easily recognizable.

The winning artwork will be reproduced on the 2023-2024 California Duck Stamp. The top submissions are traditionally showcased at the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association’s art show, which is scheduled to take place in July.

The contest is open to U.S. residents 18 years of age or older as of March 23, 2023. Entrants need not reside in California. Current and former CDFW employees are ineligible.

All entries must be accompanied by a completed participation agreement and entry form. These forms and the official rules are available online at wildlife.ca.gov/duck-stamp/contest.

The design is to be in full color and in the medium (or combination of mediums) of the artist’s choosing, except that no photographic process, digital art, metallic paints or fluorescent paints may be used in the finished design.

Photographs, computer-generated art, art produced from a computer printer or other computer/mechanical output device (air brush method excepted) are not eligible for entry and will be disqualified. The design must be the contestant’s original hand-drawn creation.

The entry design may not be copied or duplicated from previously published art, including photographs, or from images in any format published on the Internet.

Entries will be judged in June. The judges’ panel, which will consist of experts in the fields of ornithology, conservation, and art and printing, will choose first, second and third-place winners, as well as honorable mention.

Since 1971, CDFW’s annual contest has attracted top wildlife artists from around the country. All proceeds generated from stamp sales go directly to waterfowl conservation projects throughout California. In past years, hunters were required to purchase and affix the stamp to their hunting license.

Now California has moved to an automated licensing system and hunters are no longer required to carry the physical stamps in the field (proof of purchase prints directly onto the license).

However, CDFW will still produce the stamps, which can be requested by interested individuals at wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/collector-stamps.

The state of California is making an unprecedented investment in the arts.

The “California Creative Corps” program will award $60 million in grants statewide to implement media, outreach, and engagement campaigns.

The goal is to increase awareness related to issues such as public health, water and energy conservation, climate mitigation, and emergency preparedness, relief and recovery.

The Nevada County Arts Council is the administering organization for the upstate region, which covers 19 counties in the northern part of the state.

It will award more than $3 million in grants for artists, as well as for arts and social service organizations that will employ artists between spring 2023 and spring 2024.

Supporting local outreach with local knowledge, as well as technical assistance for artists, and program development and evaluation, are multiple county arts agencies serving what amounts to the largest, most diverse, geographic area in California.

“We are identifying issues that are specific to communities across our service region, and inviting artists to position themselves to create awareness around them and get paid for it,” says Eliza Tudor, executive director at Nevada County Arts Council. “We want our process to be as inclusive and accessible as possible and to draw upon creative processes that spur conversation around how to create lasting change that our diverse populations can take pride in.”

The launch of a statewide Creative Corps pilot program is the result of a recommendation from the Governor’s economic and jobs recovery task force and is the first of its kind in the nation.

Grant applications are now open and will run until April 28.

There are multiple mechanisms in place for support in the grant application process, both regionally through Upstate Creative Corps, and locally, through county arts partners. These include informational webinars, grant writing workshops, training and panel discussions.

To learn more visit www.upstatecreativecorps.org.

Upcoming Calendar

3Apr
04.03.2023 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Courting The Muse~Mixed Media Art Class
6Apr
04.06.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
6Apr
04.06.2023 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Character Design~Art Class for Teens
8Apr
04.08.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
8Apr
04.08.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
9Apr
04.09.2023
Easter Sunday
9Apr
04.09.2023 1:15 pm - 2:00 pm
Lakeport Rotary Club Easter Egg Hunt
10Apr
04.10.2023
Easter Monday
10Apr
04.10.2023 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Courting The Muse~Mixed Media Art Class

Mini Calendar

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