Tuesday, 07 February 2023

Arts & Life



‘THE BATMAN’ RATED PG-13

You don’t have to be of a certain age, because of streaming options, to be familiar with the ‘60s camp classic television series “Batman” to appreciate the comical times of the Caped Crusader’s battles with evildoers like the Penguin, the Riddler and the Joker.

Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, clad in a green suit adorned with question marks, offered riddles for his nefarious deeds. Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, who had an affinity for umbrellas, waddled around in a tuxedo imitating the namesake bird.

Cesar Romero’s clown-faced Joker was a villainous prankster leaving behind jokes as clues to his crimes. For Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” there are no cartoonish characters. Even the Joker is nowhere to be found.

This reboot of the DC universe’s crimefighter takes a different turn with Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne/Batman, as he is not the billionaire playboy of old, but rather a reclusive figure who causes a stir when making a rare public appearance without the costume.

More than ever, Gotham City is a putrid cesspool of violent criminals, corrupt politicians and morally compromised police officials. The crime-riddled streets are populated with the dregs of society who look like they escaped from a “Mad Max” movie.

“The Batman” is a nocturnal journey through the rain-soaked streets of the metropolis, the habitat for Batman who observes in one of many voiceovers, “They think I am hiding in the shadows. I am the shadows.”

In the midst of a heated campaign for mayor of Gotham City, the incumbent Don Mitchell
(Rupert Penry-Jones), the establishment favorite, is challenged by reformer and political neophyte Bella Real (Jayme Lawson) seeking real change.

The amoral mayor is having an affair with Annika (Hana Hrzic), who just happens to be a roommate with Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), and both of them work at the Iceberg Lounge, a nightclub favored by the criminal class and a few city officials like D.A. Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard).

Aside from dealing with petty thugs beating up on innocent bystanders, Batman gets called to duty by way of the Bat-signal when the mayor is brutally murdered in his own home on the eve of the election.

One of Batman’s closest friends is Jeffrey Wright’s Lt. Jim Gordon, who is on the crime scene of the gruesome death. To the chagrin of other police officials, Gordon has asked Batman to join him for some detective work.

The friendship between Batman and the lieutenant is rooted in mutual admiration for honesty and rectitude that is woefully lacking within Gotham City’s power structure and law enforcement.

It quickly becomes apparent that a serial killer is on the loose in “The Batman,” and the first slaying is that of the mayor, a gruesome act that is linked to the elusive Riddler (Paul Dano), who taunts Batman with a greeting card message teasing more deaths and mayhem to come.

This is enough to put the brooding Batman, a tortured soul, into a deeper funk. Even his faithful butler Alfred (Andy Serkis) can’t help, and possibly that’s because Batman remains anguished over the deaths of his parents.

Little does Batman know at the initial brush of investigating the death of the Riddler’s first victim that more torment and pain are in store as family secrets come to light in mysterious ways, courtesy of the serial killer.

Circumstances bring Selina and Batman together to pursue leads that fit each one’s agenda, and while they may be at odds sometimes, they make a good pair confronting the Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell), who reports to his boss, the crime lord Carmine Falcone (John Turturro).

Most of the time it rains in Gotham City, thereby heightening the grim mood that pervades throughout the series of murders and other catastrophes that beset the populace. Yet, “The Batman” is masterful in depicting trauma that even the hero can’t fully fix.

Don’t come to “The Batman” expecting humor or wisecracks to lighten its deadly seriousness. Darkness reigns and daylight never shines on Gotham City. This is as far away as one can get from Adam West’s frivolity, but it seems fitting for the times we are living in today.

Not the typical superhero adventure, “The Batman” is foremost a detective story, with Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego working hand-in-hand with Gotham’s finest detective in Jim Gordon. Of course, it helps immensely that Batman has more tools at his disposal.

A real bonus to appreciating “The Batman” are the soundtrack by Michael Giacchino and cinematography by Greig Fraser, both of which capture the tenor and essence of Gotham’s forbidding chaos.

Compared to other Caped Crusader films, “The Batman” is a modern film noir, where the flaws and foibles of the main characters, even those of the hero, are on full display.

Unlike other indestructible superheroes, Batman’s humanity and emotions make for a more compelling hero. Everything adds up to making “The Batman” one of the best DC adaptations, and it is definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Marwa Helal’s poem is anchored by a line of aspiration and effort, “I am trying to tell you something,” a line, in other words, that might easily be the mantra of all poets.

In “generation of feeling,” she seems to say that poetry, language, and words, arranged and rearranged, alter, change the universe.

These lines should be reassuring even when we are bewildered and alarmed by the strange violence of the first stanza’s image: bones, fires, and the pains of growing.

She invites us to keep rearranging words to achieve hopeful meaning. Sometimes this is what poetry aspires to.

generation of feeling
By Marwa Helal

these growing pains though
this good will hunting
we
fallen twigs
look like bones
waiting to be lit

i am trying to tell you something about how
rearranging words
rearranges the universe


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 Marwa Helal, “generation of feeling” from Invasive species (Nightboat Books, 2019.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Fire Series 2 by Ali Meders-Knight.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Art Center will host a panel discussion this weekend on traditional ecological knowledge, or TEK, and fire management.

The event will take place via Zoom from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 5.

The panel discussion will feature Meyo Marrufo, Ali Meders-Knight and Jessica Brown and be facilitated by Corine Pearce, lead artist of the Weaving Project. All are TEK practitioners, cultural educators, cultural artists and basket weavers.

In their work on the land, they have tended gathering sites and helped people restore native plants and ecological balance to areas impacted by wildfires. There is much to learn and put to practice from TEK, to live more sustainably in a region where fire is part of life.

“People have to understand that we'll never win. Fire will always win. And so what we have to do is work in accordance with the fire to be able to defend our space, doing what we need to do before we get to catastrophic fires,” said Brown, a Southeastern Pomo land steward who has been working in ecorestoration and fire ecology in Lake County and on a food sovereignty project for the Elem Tribe.

TEK is based on 20,000 years of place-based Indigenous knowledge of local ecosystems and watersheds.

“It is the ancestral knowledge that our people have practiced over time,” said Maruffo. “It's a new word but not a new theory.”

Marrufo, an Eastern Pomo from the Clear Lake Basin, also works to restore and protect environmental and cultural landscapes and tribal ways of life as the environmental director for Guidiville Rancheria in Mendocino County and is the California Representative for the EPA National Tribal Caucus.

“My people managed this land collectively to achieve peace, prosperity and health for all who lived here. This is why it’s important now to educate the whole community on how to manage the land, as it sustains our economy,” explained Meders-Knight, Mechoopda tribal member in the Chico area and advocate for community resilience and shared prosperity through community land management.

Register for Zoom access to this invaluable discussion at www.bit.ly/TEKlake. Preregistration is required so that the Zoom room can accommodate all virtual attendees. Fees are sliding scale and support the project and project documentation. No one turned away for lack of funds.

This event was previously scheduled for Feb. 26 and due to unforeseen circumstances has been rescheduled for March 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. If you have already registered, the same Zoom link will work.

For more information visit www.middletownartcenter.org.​

Corine Pearce demonstrates weaving, wearing an acorn pouch. Photo by Gemini Garcia.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — Join basket weavers of all skill levels and across cultures on Saturday, March 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Middletown Art Center and on Zoom when the popular WEAVING workshop series continues.

Corine Pearce will lead participants in “Beginning/Intermediate Weaving: Simple Twine Baskets and Acorn Pouches.” The workshop includes a presentation on weaving materials.

“Weaving is part of safeguarding our culture,” said Pearce, whose Pomo name means “basket-flower-woman.”

As a basket weaver herself, as well as an author, educator and lead artist of the WEAVING project, her vision is “to grow the number of traditional basket-makers and inspire more artists. I have spent the last three years harvesting and hand-processing a large quantity of natural, native materials to teach larger classes and to mentor new weavers, especially youth. This project provides a framework to gather generations together. Growing plants, harvesting them, and weaving baskets together will unite us,” said Pearce.

Preregistration is required as there is limited space available at MAC. Zoom access is available to view the presentation and enjoy weaving in-community. Direct instruction for Zoom participants will be limited.

Learn more about the WEAVING project and register at middletownartcenter.org/weaving. Fees are sliding scale and support the project and project documentation.

WEAVING was designed to provide a forum for understanding and sharing of the cultural traditions and history that have shaped Lake County. Using baskets as a vessel for healing and unity, the holistic process of basketry, from plant cultivation and preparation to weaving in community, revitalizes traditional cultural practices, increases non-Indigenous awareness of these practices, and weaves bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

The project will culminate in exhibits of traditional and contemporary Indigenous art at the Middletown Art Center Gallery in July in tandem with Pomo heritage basket exhibits at the County’s three Historical Museums.

WEAVING is supported in part by a grant award from the California Arts Council, a state agency.

Find out more about programs, opportunities, events and ways to get involved, support, and celebrate the MAC’s efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County ​at ​www.middletownartcenter.org.​



‘UNCHARTED’ RATED PG-13

What happens when you mix the first “Indiana Jones” movie with “Tomb Raider” and “National Treasure?” Since one of the three is actually based on a video game, we may arrive at the conclusion that “Uncharted” proves to be a hybrid of high-octane adventure and electronic thrills.

Given that it is based on the PlayStation video game by Naughty Dog, “Uncharted” could either go the dismal route of so many videogame-to-movie transitions that flopped or surprise with a rollicking sense of fun with some likable characters up against nasty foes.

With Tom Holland (“Spider-Man”) and Mark Wahlberg as the leads paired on a treasure hunt, this video game movie falls into the latter category, an unserious yet fun escapade involving affable con artists on a wild ride.

In the spirit of fantastic stunts that permeate a rough journey, the film begins with Holland’s Nathan Drake dangling perilously by a strap tied to cargo floating out of the rear of an airborne plane.

More thrills are in store, but first a flashback to Nathan’s childhood. History buff Nathan is seen as a 10-year-old orphan with his older brother Sam breaking into a museum.

Before being apprehended by security, the boys find their attention drawn to a vintage map of the world that offers a clue to where Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan hid a treasure valued at billions.

Separated by the authorities, Sam goes on the run and young Nathan grows up without family. In the present day, Nathan has become a New York City bartender juggling bottles like Tom Cruise in “Cocktail” and also moonlights as a pickpocket.

Recruited by Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) with the admission of knowing his lost brother, Nathan’s interest is aroused by the scheme to search for Magellan’s gold fortune.

But first, Nathan and Victor must infiltrate a posh auction house and coordinate a tricky ploy to purloin a golden cross that unlocks clues that takes them to Barcelona and beyond.

Trust issues arise between the two treasure hunters, with Nathan dubious about his shady mentor’s honesty and credibility, and while they are not exactly bosom buddies, they share an obsession to find the cache of gold probably located in a pirate’s cove.

Once in Spain, they encounter one of Sully’s cronies, a young woman named Chloe (Sophia Ali) who is tough and resourceful. But she’s about as trustworthy as the scorpion in the fable that involves hitching a ride on a frog’s back with a false promise not to sting him.

An even greater challenge for Nathan and Sully is the obsession of the sinister Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) who claims that Magellan’s lost treasure belongs to his family’s House of Moncada.

A more interesting and exceedingly dangerous villain is Moncada’s sexy confederate Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), and unlike Chloe, there’s no mystery about what side she’s fighting on.

Amid the backstabbing, lies and double-crosses, piled on top of battling cutthroat thugs in a pizza parlor and on the high-seas and everywhere in-between, Victor and Nathan are on a bumpy road filled with some fast-paced and energetic thrills.

Knowing anything at all about the film’s origin in a video game is irrelevant for enjoyment of a rousing adventure where the bantering duo of Nathan and Sully turns on the chemistry of their wisecracks and feelings to deliver a satisfying buddy relationship.

What’s not to love about the spectacular stunts that come with 16th century Spanish galleons flying through the air for climactic battles between our heroes and Moncada’s cadre of henchmen and mercenaries?

Leaving open the almost certain possibility of a sequel, “Uncharted” could not ask for a better scenario than a repeat performance for the main protagonists and their female counterparts. “Uncharted” should set sail for its next chapter of risky ventures.



‘ANGELA BLACK’ ON SPECTRUM

A Spectrum Originals production, the limited series “Angela Black” is a spellbinding psychological thriller of a woman’s life seeming like a dream, but in reality, she’s living in a nightmare from which an escape may be elusive.

Angela (Joanne Froggatt) lives an ostensibly idyllic life in a lovely house in suburban London with two beautiful sons and a charming, hardworking husband, and volunteers at a dog shelter.

Behind this facade of charmed domesticity, Angela is a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her spouse Olivier (Michiel Huisman). Though Olivier is controlling and brutal, Angela loves him and he’s the father of her children.

The daily abuse causes Angela to cover her bruises with makeup and fabricate lies to explain away her missing teeth. Until one day, Angela is approached by Ed (Samuel Adewunmi), a private investigator who smashes her already strained domestic life to pieces.

Ed reveals Olivier’s deepest secrets to Angela, and she is faced with horrifying truths about her husband and his betrayals.

Forced to take matters into her own hands, the situation could become desperate for a mother trying to protect her kids.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

It is not entirely clear what has arrived, here in this poem “Psalm For Arrival.”

What is clear, is the familiar sense that sometimes, after a long effort, we are able to “find sounds/ for words” — to articulate, the difficult stuff of memory.

And perhaps this is what has arrived, the voicing of the difficult things.

In the end, however, Khaled Mattawa finds no great relief in speaking these words. Somehow the deadening effects of memory can be persistent, despite our necessary efforts to disavow “old sentiments”.

Psalm For Arrival
By Khaled Mattawa

When we find the sounds
for words we need, their death
rattle begins to echo in our throats.

Memory creeps up on old sentiments,
finds them lurking like blind fish
in the twilight of our blood.

Dead and living on—ancient prophecies
or frozen microbes—something we disavow
continues to feed on us.


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 ©2020 by Khaled Mattawa, “PSALM FOR ARRIVAL” from Fugitive Atlas (Greywolf Press, 2020.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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