Sunday, 26 June 2022

Arts & Life




‘SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME’ RATED PG-13

Except for the hardcore fans of the franchise, there have been enough “Spider-Man” films in the last two decades that it proves a challenge to keep track of the exploits of the succession of costumed crimefighters from Tobey Maguire to Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland, the current Spidey.

Just like Sean Connery in the James Bond films, Tobey Maguire may remain the favorite, though that takes nothing away from his successors who put their own stamp on the friendly neighborhood hero from Queens.

Not everyone in the film’s public sees Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, having been exposed to be teenager Peter Parker by newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) in the previous outing, as a hero after being accused of causing the death of Mysterio.

Peter’s troubles are only intensified at the beginning of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” with the execrable, ruthless Jameson as a cable host now gaslighting Peter on his widely-viewed program the Daily Bugle.

With family and friends in danger due to a lack of his secret identity, Peter summons help from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to use his magic to erase Peter’s identity from the public consciousness, but that simple request gets so convoluted as to engender chaos.

Complications over Peter’s perceived misdeeds affect his plans for college as well as those of his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), all three of them finding their hopes to be accepted at MIT being dashed due to Spider-Man’s newfound notoriety.

It’s bad enough for Peter and his friends to deal with unwanted media attention and peer hassles in the corridors of high school. This leads us back to Doctor Strange casting a spell that unwittingly causes villains from other dimensions to be foisted on our planet.

Emerging from their alternate worlds, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Alfred Molina’s Dr. Otto Octavius, Jamie Foxx’s Electro, Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman and Rhys Ifans’ The Lizard pose a climactic challenge to Spider-Man in a pitched battle at the Statue of Liberty.

It should not come as a surprise to anyone following these superhero films that “Spider-Man” does not resist an end credits scene of a familiar figure whose presence leaves little doubt that another sequel is in the works.

As it goes so far, Tom Holland has the insouciant charm of youthfulness that serves him well for Peter Parker’s believable alter ego of Spider-Man, and it would seem his boyish poise is good for another round or two.

Memory does not serve to recall sufficient details of all previous films in the franchise, but it must be said that “No Way Home” ranks at or at least near the top of the best, an opinion vindicated in no small measure by the boffo box-office returns.

Elements of the storyline can at times be confusing, but the filmmakers bring technical excellence to all facets of superhero action. Efforts have been taken here to avoid spoilers about some of the key characters. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” merits a trip to the multiplex.



‘THE TENDER BAR’ ON PRIME VIDEO

Now streaming on Prime Video, “The Tender Bar,” adapted from the same-titled memoir of journalist J.R. Moehringer, is a coming-of-age story directed by George Clooney.

In 1972, 9-year-old J.R. Maguire (Daniel Ranieri, a gifted young actor) and his mother Dorothy (Lily Rabe) are displaced from the big city and have no other choice than to move back to the Manhasset, Long Island home of the boy’s curmudgeonly grandfather (Christopher Lloyd).

Young J.R.’s real father is a deadbeat radio deejay by the nickname of “The Voice” (Max Martini) who deserted him and his mom years earlier. J.R. dreams of being reunited with his father, but that hope seems rather elusive.

Stepping in as an unconventional father figure is the good-hearted Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), a self-educated voracious reader who tends bar at the local watering hole called “The Dickens,” a friendly dive bar that becomes J.R.’s hangout.

Uncle Charlie, as well as a number of other relatives that seem to come and go, lives at grandpa’s house as well, where his closet is full of classic books. Charlie encourages J.R. to read and forego any notion of playing sports.

Charlie tends to wax philosophically at The Dickens pub, where an assortment of amiable barflies prove supportive of Charlie’s tutelage and encouragement of J.R. to become a writer.

Meanwhile, with not a dollar to her name, Dorothy wants nothing more than for J.R. to go to Yale. Soon enough, we see college student J.R. (Tye Sheridan) achieve his goal in the Ivy League, where he seems more obsessed with pretty rich girl Sydney (Briana Middleton).

After a stint at the New York Times, J.R. makes his way back to Manhasset and The Dickens. Uncle Charlie is still there to dispense advice and J.R. has a final reckoning with his absentee father.

Ben Affleck delivers a tour de force touching, colorful performance in his guidance of J.R., and for this reason alone “The Tender Bar” is worth watching.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Albert Goldbarth’s imagination has the unique penchant for a certain absurdist insistence on the delight we can derive from strangeness.

The poet hears his wife singing and thinks of a horse’s skull. This seems like a prelude to intimations of mortality (the poem’s title is, after all, “Tough Day: Closure”), but then, what happens is not quite humor, but dogged joy, “as if the brain/ is determined to sing and fly.”

And the image that stays with me is this one, a bird rising out of a horse’s skull.

Tough Day: Closure
By Albert Goldbarth

Upstairs, in the bath, my wife
is humming some made-up tune
in which the mood of a zoned-out
happiness willfully prevails.

Why do I suddenly think of the horse skull
that I saw last year in the countryside?

Because a bird rose out of it,

as if the brain
is determined to sing and fly,
the brain is determined to sing and fly
no matter what.


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 ©2021 by Albert Goldbrath, “Tough Day: Closure” from Other Worlds, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021). 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.



‘NIGHTMARE ALLEY’ RATED R

The definition of a “geek” is thought to apply to one obsessed with digital technology or a socially inept person.

An older version of the term, which plays a part in “Nightmare Alley,” means a carnival or circus performer whose show consists of bizarre or grotesque acts.

The original slang term for geek has a central conceit in William Lindsey Gresham’s 1946 novel “Nightmare Alley,” which was adapted for a film starting Tyrone Power a year later, and now in the hands of director Guillermo del Toro the new version hews to the basic themes of Gresham’s work.

As a film noir and psychological thriller, “Nightmare Alley” is sufficiently disturbing and laden with the grim sense of hopelessness and despair for the Great Depression-era backwater touring carnivals.

Stumbling into the world of carnies and hucksters is Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper), a drifter running from his own nightmares who impresses carnival barker Clem Hoatley (William Dafoe) to land a position assisting mentalists.

While fascinated by the geek’s sad misfortune of being an alcoholic who bites the heads off chickens as a sideshow attraction, Stan is tutored by Zeena (Toni Collette) in the art of being a bogus psychic.

Adapting well to the carny lifestyle, Stan woos the mild-mannered, pretty Molly (Rooney Mara), whose talent as the “electric girl” is to dazzle audiences with an ability to withstand a powerful current.

Driven by ambition to strike out on his own, Stan leaves with Molly to take his psychic act to big city nightclub acts where the couple work in tandem to astonish sophisticated audiences.

What would film noir be without a femme fatale? That role certainly does not go to the good-hearted Molly. It falls to the sleek, elegant psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), who first challenges Stan’s ersatz shtick before being drawn to his charms.

Working with inside knowledge of Lilith’s patients, Stan and the doctor team up to fleece wealthy tycoons like Ezra Grindle (Richard Jenkins) who are gullible victims for sham spiritualism.

Not unexpectedly, with Stan’s broken moral compass, things are bound to go horribly wrong. After all, this is film noir and there will be a reckoning that is ugly.

“Nightmare Alley” features an impressive cast, but it’s definitely a movie outside the mainstream with potentially limited commercial appeal. As an adult-skewing drama, it might get more traction if it ends up on a streaming service.

SUSPENSE MOVIES ON LIFETIME

Following a usually hectic holiday schedule, January is a slow month for new theatrical releases, but the Lifetime cable channel picks up the slack with new suspense-filled original movies.

Marking his directorial debut, Boris Kodjoe directs real-life wife Nicole Ari Parker in the home invasion thriller “Safe Room” that centers on Parker’s recently widowed Lila Jackson and her 14-year-old autistic son Ian (Nik Sanchez).

Since the death of her husband, Lila is grateful for their kind gestures of kind neighbor Neil (Boris Kodjoe). After Ian accidentally witnesses a break-in at the house across the street and records a horrific murder, the Jackson family is in peril.

Lila becomes embroiled in a deadly struggle to protect her son from intruders Dominic (Mackenzie Astin) and Rocco (Drea De Matteo), who will stop at nothing to retrieve the video of the crime.

Hiding and trapped in a makeshift panic room created by her late husband, Lila and Ian must use all of their strength and intelligence to outsmart the intruders to save themselves.

Following a week later, the chills and thrills continue in “Vanished: Searching For My Sister” with the story of a sister who poses as her missing twin, starring Tatyana Ali playing both twins.

Twins Jada and Kayla could not be more opposite. Jada being the mild-mannered sister with an office job, and Kayla the wild child recently divorced from her husband Warren (Justin Bruening).

Kayla asks Jada to watch her daughter while she sets up her new apartment. But after a few days with no word from Kayla, Jada begins to worry and reports her sister missing.

With no leads and the police investigation at a standstill, Jada takes matters into her own hands. She disguises herself as her sister and gets pulled into a world of drugs and deceit in order to learn the shocking truth about what really happened to Kayla.

Early February brings the original thriller “Single Black Female” starring Raven Goodwin as Monica, who is reeling from the death of her beloved father and a difficult breakup.

Monica is ready to move forward with her life as she tries to land the new hosting job for an afternoon talk show. When she hires a new assistant, Simone (Amber Riley), the two quickly become close friends as Simone moves in next door.

Becoming completely immersed in Monica’s life, Simone harbors a dark secret and as time goes on cracks in her sweet exterior begin to appear.

Monica decides to sever ties once and for all with Simone, but Simone has other plans and is determined to take over Monica’s life for good.

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

Professor Steve Hellman. Courtesy photo.

LAKEPORT, Calif. — A creative writing class for older adults will be held from Jan. 19 through May 18 at the Lake Center campus of Mendocino College.

The classes will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Writing in all genres is welcome.

With more than 45 years experience in writing and teaching, Professor Steve 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 enjoy reviewing each other’s work.

Masking and social distancing are required in the classroom.

Register for English 503-0042 at the Lake Center, 2565 Parallel Dr, Lakeport, or online at www.mendocino.edu. 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, 707-263-4944.

“Tipsy” by Monte Brill. Photo by Middletown Art Center staff.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Art Center has opened its new exhibit, “MOVE!”

The exhibit features compelling work by new and familiar artists.

Politically, spiritually, physically and compositionally, the exhibit speaks to the theme of movement through diverse materials and content.

From Kelseyville artist Monte Brill’s whimsical kinetic fountain sculpture made out of wine bottles and glasses to Lower Lake artist Ruth Richard’s black and white “The Laws of Women,” the MOVE! exhibit invites you to stretch your edges and think.

"Water is a magical thing," Brill said of his whimsical kinetic sculpture “Tipsy,” an elegant, automated decanter that is somewhat of a riddle as to how it works.

The design is inspired by the physics of shishi odoshi (deer scarer) — ancient Japanese devices made to frighten away animals that pose a threat to agriculture. Using materials found in modern wineries, two wine bottles perpetually refill and pour into revolving wheels of wineglasses below. The piece is mesmerizing in its motion and in the resulting sounds of moving water.

Richards created “The Laws Women” to bring awareness to the plight of the Zapatistas who declared war against the Mexican government in 1994.

Her digital drawings depict the Women's Revolutionary Law, a set of 10 laws that grant rights to women regarding marriage, children, work, health, education, and political and military participation while protecting them from violence.

Women fought alongside men in the Zapatista National Liberation Army in response to over 500 years of oppression, poverty and exploitation. The series is powerful, and always relevant.

MOVE! will be on view through March 28.

The MAC Gallery is open Thursday through Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment by calling 707-809-8118.

MAC continues to innovate and adapt to offer arts and cultural events to the community at MAC and virtually, during this challenging time.

Find out more about programs, opportunities 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.​


“The Laws of Women #9” by Ruth Richards.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Some­times a poem achieves its beau­ty by a cer­tain fix­a­tion on a small detail that is not bur­dened with the need to be ​“impor­tant.”

Here, in ​“Oolong,” Adri­enne Su cre­ates her own tea rit­u­al, a med­i­ta­tive moment to reflect on the ordi­nary, the quo­tid­i­an.

Tea and the drink­ing of tea, treat­ed to such care­ful study, become a way to think of life as it moves from strong to weak and back again.

Oolong
By Adrienne Su

From strong to weak, a single cup
can carry me from waking up
to the mild hush of the bedtime snack.
Fresh hot water brings it back
from depletion, or threat of such.

What ancient genius gained so much
from roasting pieces of a shrub?
I watch it change, as daylight flags,
from strong to weak,

ending with the faded touch
of flavor that was once robust.
faintness helps the mind relax,
but part of me remains perplexed
that every day unfurls as it must,
from strong to weak.


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 ©2021 by Adrienne Su, “Oolong” from Peach State, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021). 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.

Upcoming Calendar

27Jun
06.27.2022 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Scotts Valley Advisory Council
28Jun
06.28.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
28Jun
06.28.2022 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
30Jun
06.30.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
2Jul
2Jul
07.02.2022 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Junior Ranger Program: Lake ecology
2Jul
07.02.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
2Jul
07.02.2022 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Weekly writing workshop
2Jul
07.02.2022 11:00 am - 11:00 pm
64th annual Redbud Parade and Festival
4Jul
07.04.2022
Independence Day

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