Monday, July 30, 2012


Hey, kids, check it out!

Here's the cool new poster for Chasing Mavericks, which is the new title of the Jay Moriarty surf movie that was shot on location right here in Santa Cruz last summer.

The shooting title at that time was Of Men and Mavericks,  but maybe that one sounded a little too, I don't know, Steinbeck-ian? The new title implies movement and action, and there's sure to be plenty of both in a dramatic fiction film about local hero Moriarty and his quest to challenge the gigantic surf break at Mavericks in Half Moon Bay.

Remember last summer when director Curtis Hanson and the production crew were in town? Sightings of the Hollywood equipment trucks, catering wagon, actors and crew were frequent at the Boardwallk, the harbor, and local beaches. Rumors of star Gerard Butler (he plays Jay's mentor, Frosty Hesson), wandering around Pleasure Point in a wetsuit peeled down to his waist fueled party chitchat for weeks.

Anyway, Chasing Mavericks is coming soon to a theater near you. That's Butler on the right in the poster with Jonny Weston, who plays Jay. Release date is October 26, and it will be interesting to see if, this time, the movies get Santa Cruz right.

Update: here's a link to the new Chasing Mavericks trailer on IMDB!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The debate over whether violent movies inspire real-life violence rages on in the wake of the mass murders last week at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. It's important to remember that the suspect had not actually seen the film. Still, it can't help but color one's view of the way movies in general package violent action as mass entertainment.

Nolan is a master of violent action. Long, chaotic vehicle chases, extreme shootouts, and massive explosions (often all part of the same sequence) are the main reasons Nolan's Batman films bloat up to well past two hours in length (The Dark Knight Rises, clocking in at two hours and 44 minutes, contains all of the above). There are also queasy-making scenes when the villain and his paramilitary thugs bust into crowded public places like the Stock Exchange or a football stadium. But at least in the movie the body count accrues mostly from lawmen and villains fighting each other, not innocent bystanders.

As usual, what's best about this final installment of Nolan's brooding trilogy is the evolution of Batman's personal story. Corrupt officials in Gotham City are trying to defang the anti-crime Dent Law, that's been in effect for the eight years since the events of the previous film, The Dark Knight. Meanwhile, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) sulks in his mansion with a bum knee and a bad attitude; he's given up the batsuit now that everyone believes Batman is a murdering psycho. (A ruse he concocted to preserve the heroic image of secretly corrupted DA Harvey Dent in the last film.)

But trouble is brewing in the person of Bane (Tom Hardy), heir to the terrorist empire of Ra's al Ghul, who was Bruce Wayne's martial arts mentor, nemesis, and victim back in the first film, Batman Begins. (There's a great density of backstory in this movie, so you have to keep up.) (Read more)

Btw, here's an observation there wasn't room for in my GT review (in print tomorrow and online soon). Yes, I loved Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman (a cat burglar by trade, so her alter-ego makes a bit more sense); she brings much-needed zip and humor to the otherwise dark, troubling atmosphere of Nolan's Bat films.

But notice how they package sexy Selina for the fanboy public. When Batman rides his souped-up Bat Cycle (or whatever the heck it's called), his cape billows out from his shoulders and swirls over the back of the machine like a moody black cloud. But no cape for Selina; when she's stretched prone over the roaring engine, her pert black-leather derriere is visible to all, aiming for the sky.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 23, 2012


Say you've got a budding young swashbuckler in your life. Maybe she or he has seen too many Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, but when other kids are off at the beach or the skatepark, yours is in the back yard with an old broom handle, shouting, "En garde!" and practicing to thrust, parry and riposte.

Well, here's your chance to earn major brownie points by treating your young pirate-in-training to a live performance of Shakespeare Santa Cruz's rip-snorting new production of The Man in the Iron Mask—for free!

A brand new play penned by SSC stalwart Scott Wentworth, Iron Mask is a sequel to last season's hugely popular production of The Three Musketeers. It's based on a later novel by Alexandre Dumas in which the older Musketeers come out of retirement to join D'Artagnan for one last escapade, replacing the corrupt and heartless King Louis XIV with his compassionate twin brother, who has been imprisoned all his life.

If last season's twin productions of Musketeers and King Henry IV Part 1 are any indication, Iron Mask is sure to kick up some dust in the Festival Glen with plenty of action, clashing swords, and derring-do. And you can and your little swashbuckler can be a part of it when SSC presents Atlantis Fantasyworld Day on Saturday, August 4.

In partnership with the beloved local comic shop, SSC is offering one free child's ticket with the purchase of a full-priced adult ticket for the 2 pm performance of The Man in the Iron Mask on Saturday, August 4, only. Purchase tickets by phone (831 459-2159) or in person at the UCSC Ticket Office. Mention the code word "Atlantis" to get your free child's ticket for this performance; but the offer is only good for tickets purchased in advance before July 29. That's this coming Sunday, so act fast!

But wait, there's more: kids are invited to come in costume as their favorite Musketeer to participate in a pre-show costume contest at 12:30 pm on the 4th. Winner of the costume contest will receive a hardcover graphic novel of The Man in the Iron Mask from Atlantis.

Meanwhile, get in the mood for the new play (it opens this Saturday night), by revisiting my highly subjective history of Three Musketeers adaptations, Dueling Musketeers, which I posted last year at just about this time. En garde!

Friday, July 20, 2012


It's back-to-basics in Cabrillo Stage's vivid, heartfelt 'Chorus Line'

Talk about a singular sensation.

When A Chorus Line debuted in 1975, it broke all the rules for what a Broadway musical is supposed to be. There are no elaborate sets or scene changes; it all takes place on a bare rehearsal stage with one mirrored wall. Playing out in more or less real time, with no intermission, the storyline—you couldn't call it a plot, exactly—concerns a score of young dancers auditioning for the chorus of a Broadway show. Costumes? The kind of practice clothes every dancer has in his or her wardrobe. It also presents various gay and ethnically diverse characters in frankly sympathetic terms.

But everything that was supposed to be wrong with the show was evidently right on—it won nine Tonys, numerous Drama Desk and Obie Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. It also ran on Broadway for 19 years.

Cabrillo Stage veteran Janie Scott was a young dancer in 1977 when she won a place in one of the first touring companies of A Chorus Line, cast by the show's original director and choreographer, the legendary Michael Bennett. And now she recaptures the stripped-down, no-frills, emotionally exposed vibe of the original show as director-choreographer of her own vivid production of A Chorus Line, the flagship event in the 2012 Cabrillo Stage summer musical season. (Read more)

(Photo: Jana Marcus)

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Check it out! Today's Google Doodle is an homage to Gustav Klimt!

As I mentioned in my recent post (see below), July 14 is the 150th anniversary of the great Klimt, leader of Vienna's Secession movement ca. 1900. They've been going nuts over Klimt in Vienna all year, in honor of this auspicious occasion, and I guess they're not the only ones!

For more on Klimt (and, seriously, you can't get enough of Klimt!) take a look at the video Bruce Bratton posted next to my little blurb in his online column this week.

Scroll about halfway down the page (it's under the blue Anchor in Antarctica box) for the video, "Klimt 2012. A kiss changes the world." To get the full effect, make sure you play it at full screen size.

Thanks, Bruce! And big thanks to Google for a lovely homage.

Friday, July 13, 2012


6-year-old heroine galvanizes magical bayou survival fable, 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'

It's one of the most common plotlines there is: finding one's place in the universe. But rarely has a coming-of-age story been told with such engrossing originality as in Beasts of the Southern Wild. This remarkable first feature from Benh Zeitlin takes a potentially gritty tale of a philosophical six-year-old Southern bayou girl forged in the crucible of extreme circumstance, and infuses it with elements of fairy tale, folklore and magic realism in a way that has won hearts and earned accolades from Sundance to Cannes.

At the center of the storm (both metaphorically and literally, plot-wise) is a tiny dynamo named Quvenzhané Wallis, the non-professional actress who stars in the film. As its unlikely heroine, a girl called Hushpuppy, Wallis is onscreen in every scene, and we never get tired of her expressive face; she's a poignant little vessel soaking up experience at every turn, reacting with wonder, rage, or determination as circumstances continue to shift. As poetic or surreal as the story may become, she keeps things firmly grounded in reality.

Hushpuppy lives with her daddy in a lowland region of the Southern Delta nicknamed "The Bathtub" for its susceptibility to flooding. Over on "the dry side" of the levee, says Hushpuppy, "they afraid of the water like a bunch of babies." But she and her daddy, Wink (the excellent Dwight Henry), love the water, navigating the bayou in their pontoon fishing boat built from spare junk parts. (Read more)

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Christopher Moore is a merry madman. To call the Bay Area novelist a comic author does not begin to address the richness of his outrageous and singular oeuvre.

Moore can take a sacred plot (literally, like the Gospels, in Lamb, or figuratively, like King Lear in Fool) and profane it with scatological knavery, gleeful anachronisms and undistilled irreverence. The result is rudely, raucously funny, and yet weirdly true to the spirit of the source material.

(I can imagine Will Shakespeare laughing himself into a state of derangement over Fool, then stealing some of the funniest bits for his own future reference.)

Early in his career, Moore came to town for a book event at the Capitola Book Cafe, and he's been a staunch friend and supporter of the store ever since. This Saturday, in support of the Book Cafe's ongoing Survive and Thrive campaign, Moore returns for a 2 p.m. reading and signing of his latest assault on history and culture as we know it, Sacre Bleu.

In this new novel, Moore takes on modern art (the Post-Impressionists, in particular), and the French, for a tale in which Henri de Toulouse L'autrec and a young apprentice artist delve into the unknown story behind Vincent van Gogh's apparent "suicide."

More than this I can't reveal, mainly since I have yet to read Sacre Bleu. I'm waiting to buy my copy at the Book Cafe on Saturday, hear what the author has to say about it, and maybe score an autograph.

To reiterate, that's 2 in the afternoon, Saturday July 14. The Book Cafe is promising lots of fun activities yet to be announced, so keep checking their event page for further details.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Searching for Klimt in Vienna with The Inconstant Traveler

This week (July 14, 2012, to be exact) is the 150th anniversary of the birth of hometown boy Gustav Klimt, and the museums in Vienna are hosting special Klimt events all year. I love Klimt, leader of the Secession Movement at the turn of the last century that broke away from traditional, conservative classicism to pioneer a new sensual, decorative, and expressionistic painting style.  We couldn't wait to get to Vienna last month to see the Klimts.

But like the waters in Casablanca, I found I was misinformed. It's not that there aren't any Klimts in Vienna, I just didn't always know the right places to look.

The Leopold Museum, in the Museum Quartier (a modern courtyard just south of the Innere Stadt on the edge of the surrounding Ringstrasse) has the most comprehensive exhibit: an entire floor devoted to Klimt's paintings (including this masterful Tod und Leben (Death and Life)), sketches and landscapes. There are partial recreations of lost work and a series of display boxes snaking throughout the entire exhibit space containing Klimt's lifelong correspondence with friend and patron Emilie Floge. (The Klimt exhibit runs through August 27.)

Another entire floor is devoted to the permanent exhibit, Vienna, 1900, featuring the art, graphics, furniture and objects of the Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop),  the Viennese version of the Arts and Crafts Movement that looks as stunningly modern today as ever. And yet another floor is filled with a special exhibit on Rudolf Kalvach and the next generation of graphic artists inspired by Klimt and the Wiener Werkstatte style. And as if all this wasn't enough, the Leopold also houses the largest collection of Egon Schiele's dark hypnotic, expressionist paintings in the world (and yes, that's another floor).

We all loved the Leopold, but we didn't get there until 2 pm and it closes at 6. If you go, get there early and plan to spend the whole day.

The Kunsthistorisches (Art History) Museum, just across the Ringstrasse from the MQ, heavily promotes its participation in the Klimt festivities. The museum has erected a pedestrian bridge over the staircase in the main rotunda from which to view a series of paintings between columns and over archways executed by the young Klimt as part of the interiors designed by Klimt's colleague Franz Matsch.

These depict the female spirits of Greek and Egyptian Arts in their wonderfully decorated alcoves (gazing out with their impassive, insouciant turn-of-the-century faces), a meditative Dante regarding a wistful angel in a gorgeously patterned gown, and a few other vignettes. They are fabulous, but, sadly, they are the only Klimts in the entire museum.

We were similarly—well, I wouldn't say disappointed, exactly, but surprised—by the Secession Museum, in the Opera district. Designed in 1898 to exhibit the new wave of art, the temple-like building itself is magnificent under its "onion dome" of gilded wrought iron leaves. But our mistaken expectations were disappointed in that we went in expecting the Secession museum to house art of the Secessionists.

Not so. Except for Klimt's marvelous Beethoven Frieze in the basement, the Secession remains stubbornly true to its original design as a showcase for the new and avant-garde—which in this day and age, means mostly (yawn) video installations and the like. History repeats itself; now we Klimt-lovers are the Philistines, longing for the painterly values represented by the (now old-school) Secession artists.

However, the Beethoven Frieze is well worth the price of admission. Painted in 1902 to adorn the walls high above a Secession exhibit devoted to the composer, the piece was never intended to outlive the original exhibition. But some canny collector bought and preserved it, and today the entire restored fresco is on permanent display in the climate-controlled Secession basement—where another handy bridge boosts viewers up to eye-level with Klimt's extraordinary work.
 Detail from the Stoclet House frieze

Inspired by Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (which includes the "Ode To Joy"), the frieze depicts humankind's search for happiness and meaning through arts and poetry. The journey includes an allegorical questing knight all in gold (who bears a not coincidental resemblance to Beethoven himself), who acts as guide through the various sins and horrors that plague humankind, leading at last to a chorus of inspirational angels—all culminating in a "kiss" of connection to the universe and the natural world.

(Here's a look at the Frieze in situ from the Secession website.)

(I saw a very similar allegory in an ancient, peeling 15th Century fresco painted on a wall inside St. Michael's Church a few winding side-streets away in Vienna. Only in that image, it was the Angel Michael leading humble humanity away from the Devil toward the Madonna and Christ Child. Exactly the same allegory; only the savior and the nature of salvation had evolved.)

The kiss is important to Klimt. It's the subject and title of his most famous painting, and embracing couples also figure prominently in the Beethoven Frieze and in  another larger-than-life-size mosaic frieze Klimt designed for the dining room at Stoclet House in Brussels, the private home of a wealthy patron. The enormous full-color sketch "cartoons" of this project are on view at another Vienna museum, the MAK (Museum of Applied Arts), and they're pretty spectacular. They're on the top floor, and it gets a bit stuffy in the MAK, so make sure you start there and work your way down. (And don't miss the Wiener Werkstatte artifacts in the adjoining room.)

Back home again, I found out that five of Klimt's major paintings—including The Kiss—are on view at the Belvedere, a garden palace-turned-museum far to the southeast of the Innere Stadt, and it kills me that I missed them.  My advice is, if you go to Vienna to see the Klimts, start with the Belvedere. Give yourself a whole day to soak them in. Then devote the rest of your time to the museums around the Ringstrasse—the Leopold (plan to spend the entire day!), the MAK, the Kunsthistoriches, the Wien (for the famous Portrait of Emilie Floge, which I also missed) and the Secession.

If anything, I guess I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't still 1900 in Vienna, with Klimt swanning around in his blue robe, his women/models posing in their radical, unstructured "reform" gowns, and Secession art and objets in every storefront gallery. But until they invent time travel, the Klimt anniversary celebrations in Vienna are the next best thing.

(This museum pass will get you in at a discounted rate at every Klimt exhibit in Vienna—if you can find them.)

Friday, July 6, 2012


Mother, daughter bond in fresh, funny, feminist 'Brave'

There are so many fairy tales that feature a wicked stepmother, or absent or negligent parents, it's refreshing to see one devoted to the loving, if sometimes fraught relationship between a mother and daughter.

 That would be Brave, the latest animated collaboration between the Disney and Pixar studios, an entertaining story of a girl, her bow and arrow, and her destiny. But underlying the elements of magic and adventure is a quiet family tale in which a girl's best friend proves to be her mother—and vice-versa.

Like its feisty, appealing young heroine, a medieval Scottish princess called Merida, Brave dances to its own drummer in many ways. It's the first Pixar film to feature a female protagonist, whose job it is to carry the story. It's one of the few Disney cartoons in recent memory spun from a completely original story (by Brenda Chapman, who also receives co-director and co-writing credits), and not based on a classic fairy tale, historical vignette, or previous film.

And it's the first "Disney Princess" movie (yes, Merida dolls are on the way) that doesn't feature a romantic interest. This girl isn't waiting for her prince to come; she's too busy finding herself.

Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) grows up in a craggy hillside castle with sweeping ocean views on one side and a deep, dense forest on the other. Her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) is a big, blustery, fun-loving force of nature who gives his daughter her first bow and arrow as a wee lass. Her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) is an elegant, refined lady who despairs of ever teaching her teenage daughter proper princess decorum.

When her mother deems the time has come to gather the lairds of the outlying clans to come present their sons as potential suitors, Merida has a fit. Custom demands a competition for the princess' hand in marriage, but when archery is chosen as the contest, Merida scandalizes her mum by entering the lists and "shooting for ma own hand."

Of course, she out-shoots all the men, and after she and her mother quarrel, Merida flees into the refuge of the forest. There, she begs a witch (Julie Walters) for a spell to "change her destiny" by changing her mother. But, as so often happens, the spell doesn't go exactly as planned.

Chapman and her team (writing partner Irene Mecchi and co-writer/directors Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell) trade in classical fairy tale situations—the old witch in the wood, a magical spell to be broken, animal transformation. But the feminine/feminist viewpoint gives the story a cheeky, modern YA vibe, and the character comedy is good-hearted, sophisticated, and funny. (Whenever the women are away from the castle—which looks appropriately vast, drafty, and rough-hewn—the king and the clansmen quickly descend into brawling chaos without their civilizing presence.)

And while Merida does ultimately ride to the rescue, she's not obliged to don armor and become a warrior to save the day (the fatal flaw of the recent Snow White movie). She can be "brave" without  turning into a killer, while her mother demonstrates her mettle (and her love) in no uncertain terms as well.
Gorgeous Celtic-inspired faux tapestries are another highlight

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Bookshop Santa Cruz unveils the Espresso Book Machine

Coming soon to a bookstore near you: the future of bookselling.

That's what Casey Coonerty Protti, owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz, calls the Espresso Book Machine. It's a piece of technology about the size of an old-fashioned Xerox copy machine that's capable of creating a professionally printed, perfect-bound, and trimmed paperback book in minutes—books to go, while you wait. And it's being unveiled to the public at a special launch party at Bookshop Santa Cruz next Wednesday, July 11.

Bearing the weighty technical name Espresso Book Machine® (EBM)—A Xerox Solution, the device is produced by parent company On Demand Books, and positioned to send the beleaguered book industry reeling into the future—ready or not.  Can't find the book you want on the shelves? No need to make a special order (or order it online), and wait days, or weeks, for it to arrive. The EBM will print one up for you on the spot—so long as the desired title is available through EspressNet®, the EBM's digital catalog of content. With major-player publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins (among others) making their in-print backlists available, and public domain titles provided through the Google Books program, there are currently some eight million titles available in any language via the EBM. As more publishers and book providers sign on, those numbers will only increase.

But wait—there's more. In addition to ushering in a brave new world of instant book access for readers, the EBM is poised to be a boon for authors, as well. The same technology that makes it possible to format and print a book on the spot will also allow an author to upload his or her manuscript and turn it into book form in a matter of minutes. Hard copy—an actual book!—that most elusive Holy Grail of so many unpublished authors is now within everyone's grasp. (Read more)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


More adventures with The Inconstant Traveler

Since we were going to be as close as Prague, Art Boy also wanted to visit Vienna. His main objective was to make a pilgrimage to Kunst Haus Wien, the museum devoted to 20th Century artist/designer/architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

This was a man who abhored the straight line. His museum (along with the residential apartment building he designed a few blocks away) is a riot of opposing colors, organic shapes, patterned tiles and mosaics, sloping floors, mismatched windows, and sudden bursts of greenery (including trees and shrubbery planted on the roof).

In the gallery rooms upstairs (walls painted deep blue, hunter green, cinnamon, steel grey, anything but boring "gallery white"),  we saw the incredibly subtle to vivid coloration and craftsmanship of Hundertwasser's "mixed media" originals (watercolor, pen, ink, gouache, gold and silver leaf, and who knows what else). Ideas and images cascade, execution is playful and passionate, and we were simply staggered by the power of the work in real life.

Art Boy in Heaven: Kunst Haus Wien

We strolled for about half an hour in a light drizzle along the south bank of the Danube Canal to get to the Hundertwasser museum, which is located a few blocks east of Vienna's central Innere Stadt (Inner City) section. (You could probably get there by tram in about ten minutes). But it was so worth it!

We also had a light lunch at the museum cafe and goggled at the extravagantly tiled bathrooms. At the end, we visited the gift shop, although all I bought was the postcard above. This wasn't about collecting souvenirs from Hundertwasser-Land. It was about diving into the experience and coming away awed!