Saturday, 04 December 2021

Arts & Life



‘BECKETT’ ON NETFLIX


Political intrigue thrillers rooted in paranoia made their mark in the late Sixties and early Seventies with films like Costa-Gravas’ “Z;” Sydney Pollack’s “Three Days of the Condor,” and Alan J. Pakula’s “The Parallax View.”

Netflix’s “Beckett” captures the paranoid action thriller where the protagonist is a Hitchcockian “wrong man” caught up in a case of intrigue and deception for which he’s as clueless as Cary Grant’s character in “North by Northwest.”

In the eponymous role of “Beckett,” John David Washington is an American tourist in Greece, joined by his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander) to explore the rural areas as political unrest in the capital caused them to take leave of Athens.

Driving late at night on backroads to a bed-and-breakfast, Beckett loses control of the vehicle, resulting in a deadly crash into an apparently abandoned house. April dies on the scene, while Beckett passes out after seeing what he believes is a woman and a young boy.

The thriller kicks into gear when Beckett after his hospital stay gets interrogated by a bearded cop. Deciding to revisit the scene of the crash, Beckett finds himself in the crosshairs of the same cop and a blonde woman. He escapes with a superficial gunshot wound.

Hence starts a furious run from his assailants who go to such great lengths to find Beckett that any of the locals that help him meet a terrible fate. In a strange land with a language barrier, Beckett must use his wits to get back to Athens for help from the American Embassy.

The journey is fraught with danger, but Beckett comes upon a pair of activists (Vicky Krieps and Daphne Alexander) headed to a rally in Athens. They believe that Beckett may have seen the kidnapped son of an opposition political leader and decide to help.

At under two hours “Beckett” may not seize the full spirit of a conspiracy thriller of the genre, and yet there is enough intrigue with corrupt government officials and an assassination plot to deliver satisfying enjoyment of the trickery that an everyman has to overcome.

PBS FALL PREVIEW

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has been a mainstay of notable documentaries that have aired on PBS, including “Baseball,” “The Civil War,” and “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”

With his long-term commitment to PBS, it is not surprising that Burns would choose a subject for a biographical documentary who has been as controversial and widely acclaimed as legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.

The four-part series “Muhammad Ali” is set to air in September, and at the PBS press tour Burns observed that “Muhammad comes to us first and foremost as the greatest athlete perhaps of all time, certainly of the 20th Century, and as the greatest boxer.”

“Muhammad Ali” draws from an extraordinary trove of archival footage and photographs, contemporary music, and the insights and memories of eyewitnesses – including family and friends, journalists, boxers and historians, among others – to create a sweeping portrait.

While largely celebrated today as an icon of American sport and culture, Muhammad was at one time reviled by many in society for his involvement in the Nation of Islam and refusal to be inducted into the Army during the Vietnam War.

The draft dodging resulted in five years of legal jeopardy and a three-and-a-half-year banishment from boxing, and yet Ali captivated so many with his combination of speed, agility and power in the ring.

“Muhammad Ali” also captures the three-time heavyweight boxing champion’s charm, wit and outspokenness outside of the boxing ring. From his boastful claim of being “The Greatest” to his steadfast Muslim faith, there is much to learn about the greatest boxer.

The American Film Institute designates Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” as the greatest film of all time, followed by “Casablanca,” “The Godfather” and “Gone with the Wind.”

What’s notable about “Citizen Kane,” a biographical story of fictional wealthy newspaper publisher and industrial magnate Charles Foster Kane, is that it is based on a composite of media moguls that included William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.

PBS’s “American Experience” will explore the story of America’s first media baron William Randolph Hearst in the cleverly-titled “Citizen Hearst,” an obvious nod to the Orson Welles masterpiece.

At an early age, Hearst forsake the family business to find the newspaper game irresistible, and by the 1930s he controlled the largest media empire in the country, using it to attain political power.

A man with prodigious appetites, including his extravagant San Simeon castle, Hearst infamously carried on a decades-long affair with actress Marion Davies while remaining married to Millicent Hearst, the mother of his five sons.

During the PBS press tour presentation, author and San Francisco historian Gary Kamiya observed that we “can’t separate our modern media and celebrity landscape from William Randolph Hearst. He created it in so many ways.”

“Citizen Hearst” explores how everything the media mogul said and did was larger than life, taking note of his unorthodox approach to business as well as his complicated private life. The two episodes air on Sept. 27 and 28.

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



‘STILLWATER’ RATED R

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.

RANDOM TV NEWS

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 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 at 707-263-4944.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

In this tiny conun­drum of a poem, Ross Gay, a poet who defi­ant­ly affirms the pos­si­bil­i­ties of hope and grat­i­tude, reminds us that the capac­i­ty to make a sound, to speak, to sing, is ful­ly con­nect­ed to the capac­i­ty to breathe, to live.

Gay​’s recent book of essays, “The Book of Delights,” is its own cat­a­logue of such hope.

ode to the flute
By Ross Gay
A man sings
by opening his
mouth a man
sings by opening
his lungs by
turning himself into air
a flute can
be made of a man
nothing is explained
a flute lays
on its side
and prays a wind
might enter it


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited submissions. 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 ©2015 by Ross Gay, “ode to the flute” from Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press 2015.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2021 by The Poetry Foundation.

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 www.lakecountysymphonyassociation.org.

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.

Upcoming Calendar

6Dec
12.06.2021 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Lake County 29'ers Cribbage Club Meeting
7Dec
12.07.2021 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
9Dec
12.09.2021 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
11Dec
12.11.2021 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Rodman Preserve Saturday self-guided walks
11Dec
12.11.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Steele
11Dec
13Dec
12.13.2021 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Lake County 29'ers Cribbage Club Meeting
14Dec
12.14.2021 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
16Dec
12.16.2021 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
18Dec
12.18.2021 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Rodman Preserve Saturday self-guided walks

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