Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Arts & Life


Animated films have mostly lost their luster and appeal, at least from my perspective in recent years. For instance, Disney’s animated films too often appear to be a variation of the same style and themes.

This, of course, is just a matter of opinion which you may discuss among yourselves. My recent general avoidance of animation may be skewed by perception of missing innovation.

That’s why it’s so refreshing and original that DreamWorks Animation has delivered a true family-friendly entertainment with “The Bad Guys” that everyone on the age spectrum is able to enjoy.

The bad guys are dashing pickpocket Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell); slithering safecracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron); master-of-disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson); short-fused “muscle” Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos); and Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina), the sharp-tongued expert hacker.

This quintet of crackerjack criminals has a deserved reputation as irredeemable animal outlaws that have managed to strike fear in the citizenry and exasperate law enforcement, particularly excitable police chief Misty Luggins (Alex Borstein).

Things take a turn when after the gang is caught, the dapper, ultra-smooth Mr. Wolf brokers a deal with the foxy Governor Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz) to avoid prison with the most-wanted villains putatively deciding to go straight.

Mr. Wolf’s deal doesn’t sit very well with the crew, but now under the tutelage of Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade), an arrogant guinea pig with a British accent, the bad guys will have to pretend at least to mend their ways.

How will it be possible for these hardened criminals who have terrorized the city for so long be able to reform their behavior? Will these dastardly criminals avoid a potential recidivism?

Complicating matters is the tension that arises between Mr. Wolf’s wanting to do good while his pals remain subversively tied to planning heists as if they were the lead characters in “Ocean’s Eleven.”

The fun in “The Bad Guys” comes from the wise-cracking animals who take so much pleasure in their capers and how they torment the police chief, as well as the high-speed chases in Mr. Wolf’s vintage muscle car.

The fast pace of “The Bad Guys” is exhilarating and the gags are funny. Tune in to experience the joy and find out if the bad guys finally redeem themselves.


For the TCM Classic Film Festival, movies of the 1940s and 1950s on display may not necessarily be classics in the mold of “Casablanca” or “Giant,” but in the case of “Queen Bee” and “The Letter,” they offer an insight to the draw of iconic actors.

In an introduction to “Queen Bee,” writer and filmmaker William Joyce noted the checkered career of star Joan Crawford went from being the “high priestess of glamor” to “box office poison” before reinventing herself for the classic “Mildred Pierce.”

Though it received mixed reviews in 1955, “Queen Bee” is a gem for showing Joan Crawford at her best and her worst in this lurid melodrama as she deliciously flaunts her wiles with an amusingly vicious streak.

As a Southern matriarch out to keep her former lover Jud Prentiss (John Ireland) from marrying her sister-in-law (Betsy Palmer), Crawford’s Eva Phillips is evil personified.

Eva thrashes one rival’s bedroom and uses the engagement party to reveal her past affair. Does her ruthless skewering actually lead one of the leading characters to suicide?

Joan Crawford’s manic energy as the noxious shrew leads her to dominate every scene, and as William Joyce so aptly observed, her character “descends to devour everyone in the movie.”

Arguably, Joan Crawford takes a serious approach to her character’s mean traits that drove her husband to alcoholism and bitterness. From a contemporary viewpoint, her performance looks like a generous helping of delightful “camp.”

Bette Davis was another strong actress with a stellar career who made several films directed by William Wyler, with whom she had a romantic and professional relationship according to Kathryn Sermak, the cofounder of the Bette Davis Foundation.

In an introduction to 1940’s “The Letter,” Sermak observed that star Bette Davis was an actor from the old school who created her character from within her persona. Fittingly, Davis was known to have respected Joan Crawford.

An emotionally potent film, “The Letter” showcases Davis in a stellar performance as Leslie Crosbie, an upper-class woman who pumps six bullets into a lover and then spends the rest of the film lying to cover her real motive.

Though claiming self-defense, Leslie is arrested for murder and her husband Robert (Herbert Marshall) hires attorney Howard Joyce (James Stephenson) to defend her.

Predictably enough, blackmail and intrigue beset the trial. The lawyer uncovers an incriminating letter that casts serious doubt on the veracity of Leslie’s story of victimhood.

“The Letter” may not rise to the level of vintage film noir, but a dark tale of murder and adultery is about as good as it gets when stirring the pot with a heavy dose of duplicity and conspiracy. An icon of that era, Bette Davis delivers the goods.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Eric Pankey, in his poem, ​“In Such a Way That,” par­tic­i­pates in one of the rit­u­als prac­ticed by poets the world over — the mark­ing of the chang­ing sea­sons.

The tran­si­tions from win­ter to spring, from rainy-sea­son to dry-sea­son, from mon­soon to autumn and from har­mat­tan to spring, are announced with poems rich with inti­ma­tions of begin­nings and end­ings.

This poem bor­rows, with sub­tle­ty, from the bib­li­cal can­ti­cles and psalms asso­ci­at­ed with the ves­pers, invok­ing grat­i­tude and con­fes­sion in a space where con­tra­dic­tions and ​“dou­ble assign­ments” (entan­gle­ments and lodg­ings, shel­ters and stag­ing grounds) abound. In the end, there is some com­fort, for Pankey, in the chang­ing sea­sons and in these remem­bered prayers.

In Such a Way That
By Eric Pankey

Winter ends with a miscellany’s logic: a leaden horizon,
A narrow but unbridgeable distance.

Stolen moments are exchanged for isolated hours,
Elaborate entanglements, a lodging.

One’s suitable room fulfills a double assignment
As a stage and shelter. The heady pollen of stargazer lilies

Covers the bureaus, the desktop, and end tables.
Beyond the window, the sacred mountain

Is depleted of snow. On a frequency
At the far end of the dial, one can hear

Vespers, and recall the little Latin one learned long ago,
Knowing even then it would come in handy

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 Eric Pankey, “In Such a Way That” from The Georgia Review, Winter 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.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — Middletown resident, photographer and now author Sharon Dawson will hold a launch and signing event for her new book, “Suddenly Terminal,” on Friday, April 22.

The gathering will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Middletown Art Center, 21456 Highway 175.

“Suddenly Terminal” is Dawson’s story about winning a good fight against cancer.

The story is laced with honesty and lots of humor as she walks into the arms of death and straight back out.

Lake County Poet Laureate Georgina Marie Guardado also will be on hand for the event.

There will be food and drink for guests, and books will be available for purchase.

UKIAH, Calif. — Ukiah’s Grace Hudson Museum’s first exhibition of the year, featuring newly acquired artworks by renowned Ukiah-based painter and the museum’s namesake, Grace Carpenter Hudson (1865-1937), is winding down.

The Art of Collecting: New Additions to the Grace Hudson Museum explores the variety of items collected by the museum and provides context for how it curates them.

The show, which began in February, runs through Sunday, May 8.

Supporting a rich and often complex story about both Grace Hudson and the region’s Pomo peoples — the original inhabitants of southern Mendocino County — the museum’s holdings include an array of Hudson’s artwork, Pomo basketry and material culture, and an archive of historic photographs, letters, and documents tied to the Carpenter-Hudson family.

“This new exhibit will strengthen and further highlight the significance of our city’s beloved museum, while shining light on Grace Hudson’s artistic achievements, and the history and culture of Pomo peoples,” said Ukiah Mayor Jim Brown. “I’m certain our residents, and visitors from around the country and world, will greatly appreciate and enjoy it.

A cornerstone of the exhibition are 16 Hudson paintings that were gifted late last year by the Palm Springs Art Museum in Southern California, where the paintings previously resided for decades.

“We believe Hudson, as an artist and a woman, to be a significant figure in the history of art in California and beyond,” said Adam Lerner, the JoAnn McGrath executive director/CEO at the Palm Springs institution. “With our gift, we are able to better serve her legacy, while at the same time continuing to appropriately represent her work in our own collection.”

Costs of transferring the paintings to Ukiah were secured by the Grace Hudson Museum via a generous grant from the Miner Anderson Family Foundation in San Francisco, which believed in bringing the works back to the place where they were originally created.

“We were surprised and thrilled when Palm Springs first approached us about gifting us the paintings,” said David Burton, director of the Grace Hudson Museum. “We are enormously grateful to Adam, the staff, and the trustees at Palm Springs Art Museum, and also to the Miner Anderson Family Foundation. In addition to the gift, Palms Springs is also providing two other Hudson paintings to us on long-term loan. We are very excited to share them with the public, along with our recent acquisitions.”

Visit the museum online at https://www.gracehudsonmuseum.org/.


Amazon’s “All the Old Knives” is not the type of espionage thriller one has come to appreciate in the James Bond series. This is a cerebral affair akin to something that might have been written by John le Carre and then adapted to film like “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

Expecting anyone to draw a gun resulting in a protracted shootout will not come to fruition. Notwithstanding the title, no one pulls a knife unless to carve a juicy tenderloin. Don’t recall that happening.

No explosions or extended car chases ensue. At one point, we see veteran CIA case officer Henry Pelham (Chris Pine) driving a spiffy convertible near the Big Sur area and it looks like he’s adhering to the speed limit.

Why is Henry driving the scenic route along the coast of Northern California? We’ll get to that soon enough, but first Henry is stationed in cold, wintry Vienna where he reports to CIA Chief of Station Victor Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne).

On a bleak morning in the capital of Austria, Chief Wallinger delivers some explosive news about an airline terrorist attack that remains unsolved from eight years ago.

A Chechen extremist by the name of Ilyas Shushani (Orli Shuka), apparently the mastermind behind a deadly hijacking that killed more than 120 airline passengers and crew, has been captured by the agency.

During interrogation, Shusani reveals that a mole in the Vienna station provided vital intelligence to the hijackers, resulting in the tragic loss of life. Faced with this new information, Henry is assigned to reopen the case of Flight 127 to find the traitorous double agent.

The mission means revisiting painful memories and laying traps for old friends, and even for a spy as adept at compartmentalizing his emotions as Henry is, that’s no easy task.

First stop on the cold trail is where Henry meets at a London pub his cagey former superior Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce), who was second in command in Vienna during the terrorist attack on the airliner.

Long since retired from the agency, Bill considers the incident ancient history not to be dredged up, but Henry points out several disturbing inconsistencies in Bill’s story that suggest he knows far more than he’s letting on.

The path forward now leads Henry to Carmel-by-the-Sea to question another retired Vienna colleague, Celia Harrison (Thadiwe Newton). More than just ex-coworkers, Henry and Celia were once passionate lovers.

The relationship fell apart after the hijacking disaster. Celia is now married with children, but romantic sparks reignite when they meet at stylish cliffside restaurant.

Reminiscing about their bittersweet past over a meal gives way to a more intense situation as the conversation drifts into a sly cat-and-mouse game played by two experts.

Common to many spy thrillers, red herrings arise to tempt the viewer into identifying the culprit. In the end “All the Old Knives” is not that compelling but Pine and Newton have enough chemistry to make their seaside reunion worth watching.


Flatch, Ohio, a fictional small town with a population of 1,526, is the setting for the new FOX comedy “Welcome to Flatch,” a mockumentary that follows the daily routines of two cousins who are best friends.

The show has the same sort of style as series like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” and “Welcome to Flatch” takes a cue from the former by being based upon a British comedy series called “This Country.”

The cousins are twentysomethings trapped emotionally, it would appear, in their teen years as they navigate the stereotypical mundane life of a small town where the highlight of the year is the Scarecrow Festival.

Kelly Mallet (Holmes) and Lloyd “Shrub” Mallet (Sam Straley) are motivated, respectively, to win the skillet-tossing contest or taking the prize for the best scarecrow, and other kicks come from messing with the local bus driver.

Colorful town character Mandy “Big Mandy” Matthews (Krystal Smith) notes that Flatch has only two restaurants, one with menus, and observes that youth are the future while excluding Kelly and Shrub as “walking disappointments.”

One of the more recognizable cast members is Seann William Scott’s Father Joe, the local minister who ends up helping Kelly with her scheme to create a ride share business called “Kuber.”

Kelly is quite amusing telling Father Joe that she is “an idiot savant with business ideas” who comes from a “long line of business tycoons” because her father ran a Christmas tree farm and her grandmother operated a “successful black market cigarette ring in prison.”

Eccentric characters abound in Flatch. Nadine (Taylor Ortega) pitches the Flatch Historical Society’s efforts to preserve a historic outhouse and Aya Cash’s Cheryl gave up big city reporting to be the editor of the “Flatch Patriot” with a circulation in the hundreds.

Big Mandy tells the documentary crew that there’s no decent place to stay in Flatch. The TV viewer, of course, is only visiting, and “Welcome to Flatch” may be worth a look.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

In the 1st century apostle Luke’s epistle (the Bible, Luke 3:5), he quotes John the Baptist’s announcement of himself as the prophet who will, among other things, make smooth the “rough ways.”

If Nate Marshall was not conscious of this allusion in “my mother’s hands,” his tender praise song to his mother, he certainly would not mind the connection.

In the end, this unabashedly sentimental poem (poets are allowed), is offered as a balm for the vividly expressed hardships against which this mother’s love is a bulwark: “we survive/ every fire without becoming/ ash.”

my mother’s hands
By Nate Marshall

would moisturize
my face from jaw inward
the days she had too
much on her hands
when what needed
to come through
did or didn't show.
she still shone, still made
smooth her every rough
edge, heel to brow.
hugged my temples
with slick hands,
as if to say son be mine
as if to say this i give you
as if to say we are people
color of good oak but we
will not burn, we survive
every fire without becoming

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 Nate Marshall, “my mother’s hands” from Finna (Penguin Random House, 2020.) 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.

Upcoming Calendar

11.29.2022 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
12.01.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
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12.08.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
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12.09.2022 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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