Friday, 02 December 2022

Arts & Life

KELSEYVILLE – Clear Lake Performing Arts will present the Lake County Symphony in the winter concert, "Mozart Masterpieces" on Sunday, Nov. 18.

The concert will take place at 3 p.m. at the Kelseyville High School Student Center.

CLPA members admission is $10, non-members is $15, and youth and children under 18 admitted free.

Kelseyville High School is located at 5480 Main St.

For more information call 279-0877.



It’s still too early for the Christmas spirit. I can tell, because even my goofy neighbor hasn’t put up a string of multi-colored lights around his porch.

But that’s not stopping Warner Bros from stuffing “Fred Claus” in our cinematic stocking. While it’s better than a lump of coal, “Fred Claus” fails to match the level of holiday cheer realized from those goofy Tim Allen comedies about jolly Saint Nick.

Still, a comedy with Vince Vaughn has plenty of redeeming values, especially when the fast-talking actor retains his borderline surly, cantankerous persona for subversive comic effect. More to the point, “Fred Claus” draws laughs from the unlikely situation of Santa Claus having to deal with sibling rivalry.

Vince Vaughn’s Fred Claus is the firstborn in the Claus family (Kathy Bates and Trevor Peacock as the parents). Sibling rivalry develops when his younger brother Nicholas (Paul Giamatti in the adult role) is born and starts showing signs of saintly behavior. Of course, Fred grows up being jealous of his younger sibling, and as the years pass, he becomes distant from Nicholas.

As an adult, Fred resents being in the shadow of his famous brother who lives at the North Pole and makes the children of the world happy. Fred is a fast-talking Chicago repo man who thinks nothing of repossessing a child’s plasma TV during the holiday season. He also gets into serious trouble running a charity scam, and ends up having to call on Santa Claus to post bail. On top of that, he’s scheming to open up a betting parlor across from the stock exchange.

Over the objections of his concerned wife Annette (Miranda Richardson), Nicholas gets Fred out of jail on the condition that he work off the loan by going to the North Pole and earning the money as a helper in Santa’s workshop. The trouble is that Fred isn’t exactly elf material, and with Christmas fast approaching, he could jeopardize the entire holiday.

He’s also jeopardizing his relationship with girlfriend Wanda (Rachel Weisz), an attractive meter maid who has grown weary of Fred’s irresponsible behavior and tendency to forget special occasions, to say nothing of his commitment avoidance.

Up at the North Pole, things are not going smoothly for Santa. We learn that Santa is overweight because he eats too much due to stress, and his wife constantly fusses about many things, in addition to being displeased about Santa’s soft touch in terms of helping the reckless Fred.

Even worse than a meddling spouse, more problems for Santa arrive in the form of cold-hearted efficiency expert Clyde Northcutt (Kevin Spacey), who has been sent to scrutinize Santa’s operation and to determine whether the whole North Pole gig should be outsourced to a more productive outfit.

Moreover, the well-intentioned Fred has a few quirks that upend the precision of the elves workshop. For one thing, he flips out when the workshop DJ Donnie (Ludacris) refuses to stop playing “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” over and over again.

Taking control of the airwaves, Fred gets the elves hooked on rock 'n' roll. He also starts to loosen up the head elf Willie (John Michael Higgins), giving him encouragement to work up the nerve to do something more than just pine away for the statuesque Charlene (Elizabeth Banks).

It’s rather curious that Santa’s chief of operations is a hot chick who wears a low-cut costume. She may be an attractive bean counter, but Santa is an upstanding family man even if he has to put up with nagging from his wife and mother. For a Christmas movie, it is a curiosity that so many of the characters have a dark side that would seem out of place in a movie that seeks family reconciliation.

Nevertheless, “Fred Claus” has its pleasures and joys in its numerous gags and comic situations, eliciting enough laughs to make the film enjoyable if not memorable.

Despite Vince Vaughn’s comic ability to get some mileage out of even the most predictable circumstances, “Fred Claus” is likely in the end to have a shelf life shorter than the holiday season.


The coming holiday season seems the right time for the release of “A Dennis the Menace Christmas,” which combines “A Christmas Carol” with the live action version of one of America’s most widely recognizable, chaos-wreaking comic strip characters.

Film and television star Robert Wagner takes on the role of Mr. Wilson, while Louise Fletcher is Mrs. Wilson and newcomer Maxwell Perry Cotton, in the role of Dennis, becomes his tormentor.

Dennis faces his greatest challenge to deliver Mr. Wilson the “Holiday Spirit” and secure Santa’s delivery of his ultimate present, the Raleigh Mite-Y-Max bike.

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


North Coast native and author Roy Kesey. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY – The Friends of the Mendocino College Library are hosting a reading by author Roy Kesey on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Room 5310 in the Center for the Visual & Performing Arts on the Ukiah campus.

Roy Kesey has strong family ties in Lake County. He is the son of Tom and Jane Kesey, and the grandson of Bill and Carolyn Kesey. Bill Kesey was the longtime superintendent of schools in Lake County, and Tom Kesey has recently retired as the long-serving vice president of business services at Mendocino College.

Roy Kesey grew up in Ukiah, and now lives in Beijing with his wife and children. His fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in more than sixty magazines, including McSweeney's, The Georgia Review and The Iowa Review, and in several anthologies including The Future Dictionary of America, New Sudden Fiction and The Robert Olen Butler Prize Anthology.

His short story "Wait" is included in Best American Short Stories 2007, which was edited by Stephen King. He's also the author of a historical travel guide to the city of Nanjing, a novella called Nothing in the World, and his recent collection of short stories called All Over was published on Oct. 23.

Hailed as one of our bright young authors, Kesey will be reading at Mendocino College and do a book signing following the reading. Mendocino Book Company will be on hand with copies of his work for those who wish to get copies autographed.

For more information regarding the reading, please visit or call John Koetzner at (707) 468-3051.

The Friends of the Mendocino College Library is an affiliate group of the Mendocino College Foundation and it is entering its fourth year of support for readings by authors.






LAKEPORT – Lakeport's 22nd annual Christmas Festival of Music will be held Friday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Come start the season off by listening to community choirs, instrumentalists, vocalists and caroling.

Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is located at 600 16th St. in Lakeport.


The French have a saying, “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” The translation goes, “the more a thing changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

Whoever came up with this axiom may have inadvertently had the foresight to be thinking of the annual American Film Market (AFM), a gathering place for international buyers and sellers of films. The event takes place in the seaside venue of Santa Monica at the Loews Beach Hotel, with its spectacular view of the ocean as well as the famous Santa Monica pier. It’s not the glamorous French Riviera, where the Cannes Film Festival serves as a model for film markets everywhere, including the AFM.

Anyway, back to that French adage, things are looking both the same and different at this year’s American Film Market, where foreign buyers find that their currency, especially euros, has plenty of purchasing power, due to the declining value of the dollar. Since these buyers are looking at America as one big factory outlet, you’d think they would be buying scads of films, considering the writers strike may soon cause a dearth of decent product. Many people that I interviewed seemed to feel that the depressed value of the U.S. currency was not doing much to improve the fortunes of anyone other than local stores selling the usual clothes and trinkets.

Something that will never change, notwithstanding appearances to the contrary, is the nearly insatiable appetite of foreign buyers for horror films. Everywhere you turn during the market, going from one hotel suite to the next, where promotional fliers hawk the products as if you had stumbled upon a huge indoor flea market, the horror titles spring forth as ubiquitous reminders of the AFM’s primary mission.

As a general rule, horror films are so derivative that it is hardly surprising that films are increasingly promoted as imitations of better known works. One horror film called “Gag,” whose promotional tagline is “Dying is easy ... staying alive is torture,” is described in its publicity material as a film in the tradition of “Saw,” and if you only look at the poster art, the image of a terrified face encased in metal clamps should be the tip-off.

One tradition of the AFM has been the unrestrained desire of hordes of Japanese and Koreans anxious to scoop up the horror films, and that seems not to have changed. However, the market is witnessing an increased amount of Japanese-made horror films being offered for sale, and not just ones in the custom of “Godzilla,” though the Japanese horror film “Reigo” features an immense sea monster that looks like a waterborne Godzilla.

The Japanese are also gleefully ripping off famed zombie director George A. Romero, coming up with “Zombie, the Self Defense Force,” a story of the man-eating living dead running wild in the forests near Mount Fuji. The zombie genre remains incredibly popular, judging by the marketplace. “Mutants Fear the Truth” creates zombies from medical experiments gone horribly wrong. Chaos reigns in London in “The Zombie Diaries,” as the undead run amok in the shadow of Big Ben. Even the Italians are getting into the act with “Zombies the Beginning”, in which genetically altered mutants are brought to life.

Women figure prominently in many horror films, and not always as victims. In the British vampire film “The Witches Hammer,” the heroine is brought back from the brink of death by a top secret agency and transformed into a genetically enhanced vampire, only to be trained as a lethal assassin and sent on missions to kill other creatures of the night.

But women are often at risk in these films, such as “Gruesome,” where a college girl is caught up in an endless nightmare when imprisoned by a psychotic killer. The innocent-sounding title “Lilith” belies the horror that awaits five college girls who unwittingly unleash the spirit of a horrible demon while researching obscure pagan beliefs.

It goes without saying that there are plenty of cheesy horror films available, most of them involving a tawdry, but efficiently horrible creature.

“Hogzilla” is one such film, featuring a mutant feral hog believed to weigh over a ton and with an appetite to match, as it snacks on members of a camping party who also have to contend with a band of treacherous poachers. “Supercroc” taps into the fear of crocodiles on the loose, but none as fierce as the prehistoric breed that are unleashed after a massive California earthquake. And let’s not forget the reliable dinosaur, appearing in “Tyrannosaurus Azteca,” that goes on a rampage in the year 1518 when Spanish conquistadors explore a remote, lost valley just inland from the Gulf of Mexico.

One dubious area of female equality appears more frequently in thrillers and even some horror films at AFM. More and more women are cast as the chief villains. The aptly-titled “A Woman’s Rage” is about a beautiful woman having trouble keeping men, as she tends to become very obsessive and jealous. When she loses the man of her dreams, she vows revenge by stealing away the teenage son of his new girlfriend.

“The Perfect Assistant” is the cautionary tale for the married executive who learns his attractive assistant not only kills his wife but develops a fatal attraction more violent than the one realized by Glenn Close. Maybe the strangest case of the deadly female is the one inspired by true events in “Stuck,” wherein a woman (Mena Suvari) hits a homeless man with her car, allowing him to stay stuck in her windshield as she parks the car in her garage and decides to let him bleed to death.

As much fun as it is to check out some of the low-rent movies on offer, there are actually some real quality films sold at AFM and which are likely to show up in mainstream movie theaters. But the latest Paris Hilton film “Bottoms Up” is not one of them.

In even more disappointing news, Steven Seagal returns in “Killing Point” in the role of a homicide detective. How does this guy keep performing mediocre action roles when he must be old enough to collect Social Security?

The answer may not be found at AFM, because apparently some people will buy anything.

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


Allen Markowski playing the guitar. Photo by Joanne Bateni.

LAKEPORT – Two magicians did their tricks and three musicians treated patrons to old and new tunes on Saturday, Nov. 3, during Cafe Victoria's Open Mic event.

Philip Martin, who has been practicing magic for three years, performed card tricks and thimble tricks.

Twelve-year magic show veteran, S2 “d” Clown, made a dollar bill disappear and then pulled it out of a fresh lime. You had to be there to appreciate their great tricks.

Host Phil Mathewson introduced Nice resident Dave Hendricks, who hasn’t played in public since moving here three years ago. His hiatus hasn’t effected his guitar playing and singing style though, as he sang some of his favorite folk songs.

Phil filled in between Dave’s performances with his original songs about Lake County and read some of his poetry.

Allen Markowski, who is involved with school music programs in Clearlake, sang his original songs while strumming his guitar. He did some of the tunes that are favorites with the kids, such as “Boogeyman” and “Lying on a Cloud.” He reminisced with “Twenty Five Years Ago” about how Orange County used to be. He finished with one of my favorites “My Old Bag Lady” which is really funny.

Thanks to the magicians and musicians for a great open mic. If you missed the show come by next month on the first Saturday, which is Dec. 1. Most of the performers have promised to be back from 4 to 6 p.m.

Café Victoria is located at 301 Main St. in Lakeport.


Upcoming Calendar

12.02.2022 5:30 pm - 10:00 pm
Christmas in the Country
12.03.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
12.03.2022 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Weekly writing workshop
12.06.2022 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
12.08.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
12.08.2022 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Adult Literacy Program in-person tutor training
12.09.2022 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Hometown Christmas in Lower Lake
12.10.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
12.10.2022 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
12.10.2022 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Weekly writing workshop

Mini Calendar



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