Thursday, 11 August 2022

Arts & Life

HAIRSPRAY (Rated PG)


This is not the first time that a movie musical based on a stage musical has its origins in an original non-musical film. While Mel Brooks has no claim on “Hairspray,” it’s still a delightfully light and breezy comedy set to music which belies the musical’s roots in the disturbed mind of cult film director John Waters.


To tap into the zeitgeist of the quirky filmmaker’s predilection for the bizarre, one would only have to watch his classic “Pink Flamingos,” which starred the transvestite Divine in a role that was intended to shock normal sensibilities. In fact, Waters subtitled this film “an exercise in poor taste.”


The visible extent of John Waters’ involvement in this musical version of “Hairspray” is his appropriately funny cameo of a flasher on the streets of Baltimore. It’s a wink to the knowing members of the audience, even more so than having Alfred Hitchcock stroll through a scene in one of his classics.


Nevertheless, there’s nothing in bad taste about “Hairspray” unless you’re offended by the presence of John Travolta in drag, heavily padded by a fat suit so as to be practically unrecognizable. If offense is given, then you’re missing the point of a film which tilts the balance in favor of people who just don’t fit in to the everyday world of Baltimore circa 1962, when the push for integration and social acceptance is taking hold.


At the heart of this movie is a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart. Tracy Turnblad (delightful newcomer Nikki Blonsky), a perky yet chubby teen, bounces out of bed every morning with a passion for dancing. Every day after school, she rushes home with her best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) to watch the teen dance TV program, “The Corny Collins Show,” the object of her fantasy. It’s Baltimore’s hippest dance party, but her plus-sized figure sets her apart from the cool crowd and makes her an unlikely contestant. That is, until the day TV host Corny Collins (James Marsden) catches Tracy’s dance moves and finds her irresistible.


At home, Tracy is reminded of her outcast status by her loving but overly protective plus-sized mother Edna (John Travolta), who fears her daughter’s obsession with the TV dance show can only lead to heartache. Edna may be reserved because she hasn’t stepped foot out of the house since 1951.


Tracy’s eccentric dad Wilbur (Christopher Walken), who runs a shop that sells jokes and novelties, is more understanding. At school, Tracy is often in trouble and finds herself the only white student in detention, which proves to be fortuitous because she learns better dance moves from the black students. Of course, Tracy’s ease on the dance floor wins her a spot on “The Corny Collins Show” where she becomes an instant on-air sensation.


The sudden popularity of Tracy Turnblad causes much grief and consternation for the show’s reigning princess, the ice cool blonde beauty Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow). Even worse for Amber, it appears that her boyfriend Link Larkin (Zac Efron) is smitten with Tracy’s charms.


Not to be outdone by her pudgy rival, Amber gets an assist from her scheming mother Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer), the racist TV station manager who only lets blacks show up on the program in a monthly event that is condescendingly billed as “Negro Day.” The bitter Velma stops at nothing to keep the coveted “Miss Teenage Hairspray” crown in the family.


Meanwhile, with help from her school friends and record store owner Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah), Tracy becomes the catalyst of social reform by leading an integration march right on to the dance floor. It’s interesting how the serious issues of the early 1960s get wrapped up so neatly in song and dance, but the mission is effectively accomplished without being preachy, thus resulting in a movie both endearing and great fun to watch.


At its core, “Hairspray” is as bouncy as the bubbly Tracy and as goofy as her family members. With musical numbers wonderfully cheery, “Hairspray” is a perfect summer entertainment, full of laughs and an infectious spirit of fun that could put anyone in the mood to dance.


Tim Riley reviews movies for Lake County News.


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LAKEPORT The Lake County Arts Council is happy to announce that it will hold a live art auction on Sunday, July 22, at the Main Street Gallery in Lakeport.


This will be in the series of live auctions that was begun last year, of work from the collection of the Arts Council and from private collections.


The series of auctions has been successful in a number of ways. Art lovers with modest budgets got to bring beauty into their homes; artwork that had been languishing forlorn in rarely-visited closets got to please and dazzle once more; space has been cleared in the art storage area of the Gallery; and stored art has been converted into cash to pay for Pastels in the Park and such. And all of these worthwhile things have been accomplished in an atmosphere of friendly but intense interaction.


These auctions are the real thing. They don't have a dinner, silent auctions, entertainment, a guest speaker, or a fashion show. They are not auctioning off a tour to the New Hebrides, nor a two-week stay at the Cato Institute. Just art.


They have paintings in oils, acrylics, watercolors and pastels, prints original and reproduction, photos, weavings and sculpture.


The work to be auctioned will be on display in the back room of the Main Street Gallery on Saturday, July 21, from noon to closing time at 3 p.m. There will be another hour for inspection on Sunday, from noon to 1 p.m., when the auction will commence. The auction will last for about an hour.


There will be a table by the front door where those who want to participate can sign up. There is no charge to sign up to bid. Refreshments will be served to those who are registered. All ages are welcome.


For more information, call or stop by the Main Street Gallery, 325 N. Main Street, Lakeport, telephone 263-6658, or visit the Arts Council Web site at www.lakecountyartscouncil.com.


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Yo Daddy performed Friday night at Library Park. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

LAKEPORT – The Summer Concerts in the Park drew the largest crowd to Library Park so far this season on Friday.


Community members and visitors came out to hear Lake County's own Yo Daddy Friday perform Friday evening.


Warm temperatures and a light breeze made the evening a most enjoyable one.


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A huge crowd came out to enjoy great music and beautiful weather on Friday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

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Frankie J (left) leads Real Deal. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKE COUNTY – The Summer Concerts in the Park have consistently gotten better each week, and this week's concert featuring Real Deal was the best yet.


Take great weather – 83 degrees with a light breeze – add some great music and toss in an estimated 2,000 people and you wind up with a great show in Library Park.


Real Deal opened with an extended rendition of a Booker T and the MGs hit before they rolled and rocked right on through a couple dozen Motown hits. The music brought hundreds of people to the dance lawn and kept them there until the party spilled onto the parking lots around Library Park.

 

 

Real Deal took these Motown and R&B classics and stretched them out while adding just enough new funk to them to give them a newer, more distinct sound, but never wavering too far from the familiar.

 

 

James Browns, Stevie Wonder, the great Ray Charles and Chuck Barry were just a handful of the original artists this group of four Nor Cal musicians draws on to entertain audience.


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Real Deal's lead guitarist gave the crowd a very convincing Chuck Barry impression. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 


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Friday's concert draw the largest and most animated crowd of the summer concert series so far. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

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Barry Brenner will be among the headliners at this week's Blue Wing Blues Festival in Upper Lake. Courtesy photo.

 

UPPER LAKE – This week, a new event is coming to Upper Lake with the inaugural Blue Wing Blues Festival.


Freddie Hughes, Bettie Mae Fikes, Mike Wilhelm and Frankie Lee will be featured vocalists during four evenings of world-class blues music in the open air garden setting of the Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake, from Wednesday, July 18 through Saturday, July 21.


Hotel and Saloon owner Bernie Butcher organized the show, which is co-sponsored by local radio station KNTI-FM 99.5.


The Blue Wing Blues Festival starts each evening at 5:30 p.m. with a set from the great finger-style, steel string blues guitarist Barry “Big B” Brenner, followed by the headliner of the evening. The Blue Wing Saloon will be serving a tasty barbecue dinner with the show. The cost for the show and dinner is $25.


The festival opens on July 18 with Freddie Hughes launching his new CD on the BluesExpress label.


Born and raised in Berkeley, Hughes has performed world-wide since his first hit single in 1970 and has appeared with such greats as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Etta James.


Hughes will be backed by the Rich Kirch Blues Band. A Chicago native, Kirch moved to the Bay Area in 1988 at the invitation of the late, great John Lee Hooker and played with Hooker on tours around the world for 13 years. He and his band have backed Freddie Hughes, Kathi McDonald and many others in recording sessions over the years.


Although Bettie Mae Fikes now lives in Los Angeles, she is well known in Lake County from her regular appearances at the Konocti Blues Café. Born in Selma, Alabama, Fikes was active in the Civil Rights Movement, beginning her singing career with the SNCC Freedom Singers and performing at the 1964 Democratic Party convention in Atlantic City and again at the 40th anniversary convention in 2004.


Fikes has graced the stages of Carnegie Hall, Newport Jazz Festival, the Library of Congress, and numerous blues festivals. She will be backed by a band organized by Nice resident Robert Watson, who played lead guitar with James Brown until Brown’s death last year.


Friday evening belongs to two popular groups that have appeared regularly at the Blue Wing Saloon/Café during its weekly “Monday Blues” sessions. The Lake Blues All-Stars feature guitarist Jim Williams, bass player Jon Hopkins, and Mike Wilhelm, who is featured on guitar and vocals.


Known for his adroit finger picking and bottomless baritone, Wilhelm has a long and varied music history stretching from the Summer of Love in San Francisco to the Blue Wing Blues Festival 40 years later. Friday will conclude with a high-energy set from Twice as Good, featuring the popular father and son duo of Rich and Paul Steward.


The grand finale of the festival on Saturday will feature BluesExpress recording artist Frankie Lee, whose appearance in Lake County is being co-sponsored by ReMax Realty.


From his humble beginnings in rural Texas, Lee moved from gospel music in the Baptist Church to his life-long love affair with the blues. His career took off in the early 1960s when he was invited to join the Ike and Tina Turner Review as a featured vocalist in their traveling road show. Since then, Lee and his band have traveled world-wide and most recently released a popular CD called “Here I Go Again.”


For more information visit the Blue Wing Saloon Web site at www.bluewingsaloon.com, telephone 275-2233.


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Guitar legend and Lake County resident Mike Wilhelm and the Blues All-Stars play on Friday. Courtesy photo.

 

 


HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (Rated PG-13)


The darker tone that sets in with “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” has much to do with the fact that Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his classmates are facing the choices and challenges of young adulthood.


Without so much as one game of Quidditch, this fifth installment in the series leaves behind the adolescent exuberance and playfulness of the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which in turn is no longer a sanctuary for those eager to learn the magical arts. Villainy arrives in a form more sinister than that posed by Lord Voldemort, though he hangs like a black cloud over Harry’s every move.


“Harry Potter 5” begins with the end of another long, lonely summer at the Dursley household for Harry Potter as he awaits another year at Hogwarts. In defense against an unprovoked and inexplicable attack by two Dementors, Harry is forced to use his magical powers outside of school and in the presence of a Muggle, namely his obnoxious cousin. For this transgression, Harry is about to be expelled from Hogwarts in a kangaroo court orchestrated by the Minister of Magic.


Fortunately, Headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) intervenes with an impassioned defense, allowing Harry to return to school. However, much of the wizardry community believes that the story of the teenager’s recent encounter with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is an outright lie.


Once back at school and feeling ostracized and alone, Harry is beset by nightmares that seem to foretell sinister events. The return to Hogwarts makes the star student apprehensive and uncomfortable. Even Dumbledore is suddenly acting strangely distant from the confused young wizard. Only his longtime chums, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), stick by him.


Meanwhile, the Ministry of Magic, in an effort to keep an eye on Dumbledore and the Hogwarts students like Harry, appoint a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the extremely duplicitous Professor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton).


The arrival of Umbridge signals a new era of unbearable authoritarian rule at Hogwarts. Wearing a Cheshire cat-like grin and constantly pink clothes, the stout professor of Dark Arts is a reliable functionary who would have been at home in a totalitarian regime run by Stalin or Hitler. She’s a fanatic for rules and regulations which she imposes at the slightest whim, and has new edicts posted on the school walls at a speed that almost runs out of space.


The main object of Umbridge's wrath is Harry and she clamps down on him so hard that he becomes more isolated. Meanwhile, her method of instruction is to dispense with any useful teaching of magical arts. Then she begins getting rid of teachers sympathetic to the students, before ultimately confronting Dumbledore to assert complete control over the school.


Since the Umbridge method of teaching the course of defensive magic leaves the young wizards woefully unprepared to defend themselves against the Dark Forces threatening them, Harry organizes an underground rebel band. Meeting in secret and calling themselves Dumbledore’s Army, the students learn from Harry, Hermione and Ron how to fight back against the evil forces, something that will come in handy for the inevitable showdown with Umbridge on campus and the more sinister forces lurking outside the school.


So much of the plot is dominated by the reign of terror imposed by Umbridge that Lord Voldemort is almost an afterthought, though he does appear for a climactic battle scene. Due in part to the looming threat at Hogwarts, the movie allows for the friendship of Harry, Hermione and Ron to blossom with even greater importance for their own survival.


Another milestone is that Harry gets his first kiss, which seems almost quaint considering that Daniel Radcliffe appeared recently on the London stage in Peter Shaffer’s “Equus,” notable for the fact that the young actor was required to be fully disrobed.


As Harry prepares for the battles ahead, he is tutored by his godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who reveals the existence of the secret organization of the Order of the Phoenix. The training that Harry and his pals conduct will prove most helpful when a big confrontation occurs in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic, where they face off with the insidious Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) and his odious henchwoman Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter).


Fans of the books and the previous film installments should see “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” if only because it would seem too irresistible to pass it up. Anyone just now stumbling upon the franchise may not be so impressed, if only because the dark mood may not be terribly enlightening and the plot not so compelling as a stand-alone story.


Still, the presence of Imelda Staunton as the eerie and creepy Dolores Umbridge is a wickedly delicious treat. And speaking of creepy, one should not overlook the wonderful performance of Alan Rickman as the dreaded Professor Snape.


Tim Riley writes film reviews for Lake County News.


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