Monday, 25 October 2021

Arts & Life


The case of Amanda Knox, an American student living in Italy who was arrested and charged with the murder of her roommate, created sensational headlines.

She was convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison term even though she maintained her innocence.

“Stillwater” ostensibly trades on the Knox case at least in the sense that another American studying abroad, Allison (Abigail Breslin) from Oklahoma, ends up in a French prison for the murder of her roommate.

Arguably, “Stillwater,” a city in Oklahoma that is the home of Allison, is more about the redemption of her father Bill Baker (Matt Damon), an unemployed oil rig worker who travels to Marseille to deliver supplies and news to his estranged daughter.

Bill’s working-class hard life has been marred by a past of alcohol and drug abuse, and though Allison doesn’t trust him, he tries to make up for not being in her life with an effort to chase a new tip that could exonerate Allison.

When Allison’s French lawyer declines to pursue a new investigation, Bill takes matters into his own hands, even though he’s confronted with a language barrier and cultural differences, and there are dark turns as he pursues a lead for exculpatory DNA.

Dressed in jeans, plaid shirt and baseball cap, the stoic Bill stands out among the locals as the quintessential heartland American. He has better luck after helping a young girl locked out of the hotel room next to his.

Life takes a new direction for Bill when the mother of the girl, avant-garde actress Virginie (Camille Cottin), appreciates his act of kindness to the winsome 8-year-old Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), a charming scene-stealer.

Virginie becomes a translator, and conveniently, Bill becomes a tenant at her home. The emotional core of “Stillwater” is the new life Bill forges with Virginie and Maya, but then Bill faces difficult choices that threaten his last shot at redemption.

Though plodding in its pacing at times, “Stillwater” merits attention for a suspenseful story and notable acting from an international cast. The ending may seem to be inconclusive. What is not in doubt is how good are Damon and the two French actresses in his orbit.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt grew up on the small screen with roles on multiple series, most notably in his co-starring role in the long-running NBC comedy “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

Now he returns to series television as writer, director and star of “Mr. Corman” on Apple TV+. Gordon-Levitt’s Josh Corman is an artist at heart but not by trade. Things haven’t been going his way.

A lifelong dream of a career in music didn’t pan out for Josh, and he finds himself teaching fifth grade at a school in the San Fernando Valley, his ex-fiance Megan has moved out and his high school buddy has moved in.

Aware that he still has a lot to be thankful for, Josh struggles nevertheless through universal feelings of anxiety, loneliness and self-doubt. “Mr. Corman” is intended to be a darkly funny and relatable comedy-drama for the 30-something crowd.

The British outlandish sense of black comedy comes to “Masterpiece” on PBS in September with the four-episodes series “Guilt” about a hit-and-run that conjures up the old saying, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.”

Mark Bonnar and Jamie Sives star as brothers Max and Jake who forgot the ancient dictum and thus hide their guilt after running into an elderly pedestrian during an inebriated drive home from a wedding.

Not ordinary perpetrators, Max and Jake carry the victim’s corpse to his house nearby and set him up in an easy chair. They find a letter that he has terminal cancer, leading Max to say, “He was dying slowly. We just made it quick.”

Farcical turns abound in “Guilt,” and classic slacker Jake falls in love with the victim’s niece. Max hires an alcoholic detective to botch an investigation but who then decides to go sober and solve the case. British critics raved about the series, and maybe we will too.

As a forewarning we may not remember thirteen months from now, Amazon Studios has announced that its highly anticipated, yet-to-be-titled “The Lord of the Rings” television series will premiere Friday, September 2, 2022 on its Prime Video.

This new epic drama brings to screens for the very first time J.R.R. Tolkien’s fabled Second Age of Middle-Earth’s history. It begins in a time of relative peace, thousands of years before the events of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” books.

The series will follow an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-Earth. Filming the first season has been completed in New Zealand.

The announcement quoted Bilbo Baggins saying, “Now I think I am quite ready to go on another journey.” Fans of “The Lord of the Rings” book, which have sold more than 150 million copies, might ask why we have to wait more than a year for the new series.

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

Professor Steve Hellman. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — A creative writing class for older adults will be held at the Mendocino College Lake Center of Mendocino College.

The class will take place on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon from Aug. 18 through Dec. 8.

Writing in all genres is welcome, from poetry, fiction and memoir, to nonfiction and script.

“Come unleash your creative verve,” said Professor Steve Hellman.

With more than 45 years experience in writing and teaching, Professor Hellman offers encouraging guidance to writers in their creative process.

He creates a safe and positive classroom environment with a focus on the collaborative process and the importance of trusting in your own forms of self-expression.

Participants will sample the work of published authors, share in an exchange of ideas, styles and techniques, and then share and enjoy reviewing each other’s work.

Masking and social distancing are required in the classroom.

Register for English 503-2015 at the Lake Center, 2565 Parallel Drive, Lakeport, or online at

The cost is only $12.

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or the Lake Center office at 707-263-4944.


Anyone who has been to Disneyland since 1955 has probably been on the Jungle Cruise adventure ride where young tour guides take passengers on a tongue-in-cheek journey through treacherous rivers.

Disney’s “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne Johnson as skipper Frank Wolff, takes a cue from its theme-park attraction.

Naive tourists around the time of World War I are either amused or terrified by Frank’s Amazon River excursions during which he delivers corny jokes.

Meanwhile, in London Emily Blunt’s Dr. Lily Houghton confronts a male chauvinist scientific group with a vain pitch to explore the rain forests to obtain a flower petal from a fabled tree found in the Amazon that supposedly is a cure for all diseases.

Close on the heels of Dr. Lily is the villainous Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) who seeks the petal for nefarious purposes for Germany long before Hitler launched his quest for world domination.

With her stuffy, uptight brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) in tow, Lily ends up hiring Frank after a series of amusing deceptions that involve taming a jaguar named Proxima and deceiving riverboat bigshot Nilo (Paul Giamatti).

Operating a rickety tour boat, Frank has to rely on guile and his charm, plus the fact that he’s a cheap hire, to take Lily and MacGregor on a trip that is dangerous not just for the rapids but for encounters with snakes and cannibals along the way.

The gruff, wisecracking Frank quickly starts bickering with Lily, calling her “Pants” because she wears trousers, and in turn Lily derisively calls him “Skippy.” The bantering continues throughout the journey, with an outcome you might suspect.

There’s also perilous danger at every turn when the trio is captured by a tribe of apparent headhunters led by a formidable woman, Trader Sam (Veronica Falcon), but that’s hardly the worst of it.

The supernatural comes into play with undead Spanish conquistadors who have been trapped in the Amazon for four centuries after a failed quest to retrieve a petal from the tree that is known as the Tears of the Moon.

As leader of the undead, Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his crew, who have been cursed to remain stuck in the rain forest forever, bring a supernatural element to a climactic final confrontation.

Above all else, “Jungle Cruise” is really inspired by the classic Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn film “The African Queen.” Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt update the premise for a fun adventure the whole family may enjoy.


At first blush, the new series that remakes a 1989 Tom Hanks movie for the family-friendly Disney+ looks like it’s trying to determine whether it’s intended for a younger audience despite some of its edgier content.

The similarly named “Turner & Hooch” pays homage to Tom Hanks in that Josh Peck’s Scott Turner, the son of his film character, is now an uptight Deputy U.S. Marshal who inherits a giant unruly dog from his recently deceased father.

Based in San Francisco, the meticulous Scott finds his ordered life upended when his sister Laura (Lyndsy Fonseca) shows up at his door with the drooling Hooch, a massive junkyard dog who proceeds to destroy his tidy apartment.

Laughs ensue, of course, because Hooch chews more than the scenery as he moves about Scott’s immaculate abode with the destructive power of a Category 5 hurricane obliterating everything in its path. Well, so far so good for tame entertainment.

Since Scott is clueless on how to handle the French mastiff, he enlists help from attractive K-9 trainer Erica (Vanessa Lengies). Scott’s also oblivious to the signals from Erica of her interest in him, and that’s the way it goes for at least the first three episodes.

Rambunctious fun with the canine soon gives way to a more serious tone when Scott shows up at the office with Hooch, and a case of guarding a witness set to testify in a criminal trial goes awry when the subject of the Marshal’s protective detail is kidnapped.

While wrangling with his boss James Mendes (Anthony Ruivivar) for an opportunity to join the A-team led by Trent (Matt Hamilton), Scott is saddled with his pregnant partner Jessica (Carra Patterson) for more mundane assignments.

In one of the episodes, Scott’s involvement in the security detail for a hotel gathering of an Olympic Games delegation has him babysitting the young daughter of a diplomat.

But Hooch proves, even with his love for donuts, that he may be more intuitive and effective at police work in tracking down the criminals that abducted the witness than the veteran Marshals that are dismissive of Scott’s involvement.

Though the dad’s career was no more taxing than writing parking tickets, Scott and his sister discover a mysterious case file that their father was secretly investigating which may lead to a recurring subplot.

“Turner & Hooch” offers a mix of comedy and action, and yet there are times the level of violence, with shootouts and fistfights, feels out of place for the Disney family universe.

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

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — String, woodwind, brass and percussion players with band or orchestra experience are invited to join the Lake County Symphony Association Community Orchestra.

Musicians from middle school through adults are welcome.

Rehearsals begin Sept. 19 at the Kelseyville Presbyterian Church, located at Church and Third streets, from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Performances will be held at the Soper Reese Theatre in Lakeport.

"All styles of music will be performed," said Conductor Sue Condit. "This is perfect for adults wanting to get back into playing music again!"

There is open enrollment for those wishing to participate, with a semester fee of $30.

For more information and to print out an enrollment form, go to

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

French American poet, Natalie Handal, has lived in Europe, Latin America and the Arab world since her birth in Haiti, and she offers here a clever and somewhat whimsical self-portrait that flirts with the idea that it is often impossible to presume what is inside of us simply by what our faces offer.

“Cara Aceitunada” is Spanish for “olive-colored face.”

Cara Aceitunada
By Natalie Handal
In Granada
a man asked
for the birds inside of me

I told him I’ve never
belonged to anyone

He asked
where I was from
I gave him a list of cities

He said
the mirrors of history
confuse history

but in your olive-colored face
no one can disturb your heart

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 Natalie Handal, “Cara Aceitunada” from A Country Album (University of Pittsburg Press 2020.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 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.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — The Lake County Symphony Association is now taking registrations for students fourth grade and above and for adults for classes in cello, violin and viola.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Lake County Wine Alliance, lessons are free.

Instruments are not provided. Rentals and purchases are available in Kelseyville, Ukiah and Santa Rosa.

Registration deadline is Sept. 1.

Classes are held Sunday afternoons at the Presbyterian Church, located at Church and Third streets, in Kelseyville.

The date of the first class is Sept. 19.

Registration forms are available to print out at

Completed forms should be returned to LCSA, P.O. Box 974, Lakeport, CA 95453.

Upcoming Calendar

10.26.2021 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Board of Supervisors
10.26.2021 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
10.26.2021 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Retail Trends and Opportunities in Downtown
10.27.2021 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Retail Trends and Opportunities in Downtown
10.27.2021 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Lakeport Retail and Franchise Opportunities
10.27.2021 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Thompson virtual town hall
10.28.2021 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
10.28.2021 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Lakeport Retail and Franchise Opportunities
10.30.2021 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Rodman Preserve Saturday self-guided walks

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