Tuesday, 16 April 2024

Arts & Life




‘THE HOLDOVERS’ RATED R

Released late last October, “The Holdovers” achieved almost universal acclaim, and yet seemingly did not snare a wide audience. With possibly limited commercial appeal, the film may have been too thought-provoking to catch on in theaters.

Fortunately, “The Holdovers” is now streaming exclusively on Peacock, a platform that gives this wonderfully bittersweet holiday story more exposure. The film reunites “Sideways” director Alexander Payne and star Paul Giamatti.

The time is December 1970 at the Barton Academy boarding school in New England. Giamatti’s Paul Hunham, a stern taskmaster, teaches ancient history to privileged, disinterested students bored out of their minds with the subject matter.

Worse still, the pupils intensely dislike the curmudgeonly instructor, and not just because a good grade is hard to achieve. These pampered kids come from wealthy families, and their sense of entitlement is grating to someone like Hunham, even though he’s a Barton grad himself.

As the Christmas break approaches, the irascible teacher also finds himself out of favor with Headmaster Woodrup (Andrew Garman) for having the temerity to flunk the son of a senator, who just happens to be a major donor.

With four students, for various reasons, having to spend the holiday break staying on campus, Hunham is assigned the duty of babysitter, and you can be sure his charges are not thrilled to discover they are stuck in an educational detention camp.

Among the holiday hostages are the brash Teddy Kountze (Brady Hepner) and laidback jock Jason Smith (Michael Provost), and two younger students. Not long into the break, they are freed by Smith’s family for a ski trip.

Not so lucky is the last-minute addition of upperclassman Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) as a holdover, because his remarried mother (Gillian Vigman) decided that a Caribbean vacation with her new husband would be better off without her son.

Failing to get parental permission to join the other students on a ski excursion, Angus is stuck with a teacher he despises and school cook Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a grieving mother whose son died in Vietnam.

An interesting dynamic emerges between the damaged, brainy troublemaker and the crusty teacher who seemingly has no life outside the boundaries of the school. An unlikely bond slowly forms when Angus needs medical care and they are both invited to a Christmas party.

The true beauty of “The Holdovers” is driven by sharp dialogue and meaningful character development. The film proves to be a bittersweet dramedy with truly humorous touches. Paul Giamatti deserves a Best Actor Oscar.

JANUARY MOVIES ON THE LIFETIME CHANNEL

A “Ripped from the Headlines” movie, “Girl in the Video” examines the story of widowed mother Mo (Cush Jumbo) who is managing parenting two teens the best she can. Her daughter Krissy (Tia May Watts) has begun secretly chatting online with a boy she believes is a cute high school senior.

Krissy sneaks out one night to meet him at a party. When Mo discovers her daughter is missing the next morning, Mo and her son Robbie start an all-out search for her and alert local detectives.

As the case garners media attention, an anonymous tip reveals Krissy is being held captive and exploited in sexually abusive live streams for money on the dark web. Racing to find Krissy before she is murdered, Mo and Robbie track down every clue they can to try to bring her home.

Inspired by true events, “Dying in Plain Sight” tells the emotional story of overweight high school student Morgan Cruz (Raffa Virago) and her mother Kim (Nicola Correia-Damude), who both harbor dark secrets that lead to devastating circumstances.

When Kim leaves her cheating husband, she becomes so focused on “clean eating” that she doesn’t notice that Morgan has stopped eating altogether. While Morgan receives positive validation for her changing body, privately she begins to experience the terrible side effects of her disorder.

Morgan’s cries for help seem to fall on deaf ears until she’s hospitalized for life-threatening malnutrition, leading Kim to finally realize how her own disordered eating was a terrible influence on Morgan, pushing her to the brink of death.

Inspired by real stories, “Confessions of a Cam Girl” follows the eighteen-year-old fashion savant Kristen (Megan Best) who is set to become the first in her family to graduate from college.

Her working-class parents are furious when she reveals a plan to attend fashion school instead of college. Her parents refuse to use her college fund for her farfetched dream.

Determined to pay for fashion school herself, Kristen secretly creates an online explicit content page to raise $10,000 for her dream program. Confident she can keep her side hustle under wraps, Kristen’s secret unravels and threatens not just her future, but the safety of her family as well.

The Lifetime Channel is known for its movies based on true stories, and some as the Internet will tell you are so outrageous that you won’t believe they are based on real life. There will be more to come.

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




‘THE BOYS IN THE BOAT’ RATED PG-13

When thinking about the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, the American accomplishment that most readily comes to mind is the triumph of African-American track and field gold winner Jesse Owens.

Winning four gold medals in sprints, relay and long jump, Owens was not just a hero of the Games but a symbol that belied the Nazi theory of Aryan superiority, even though Germany won the most gold and total medals.

George Clooney’s “The Boys in the Boat,” based upon the best-selling non-fiction novel of Daniel James Brown published a decade ago, brings to wider public awareness the improbable story of nine working-class college boys becoming champion rowers at the 1936 Olympics.

At the height of the Great Depression, Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) symbolizes the struggle of those on the lower rung of the economic scale.

Abandoned by his father during childhood, Rantz was on his own as a teenager but he overcame the odds to make it to the University of Washington.

Faced with the prospect of losing his place in college unless he could come up with tuition money, the jobless Rantz was attracted to rowing because a spot on the team would offer a place to live and financial support.

It’s one thing to want to join the team, and it’s quite another to qualify for what is truly a team sport where each member of the crew must work in unison and be able to survive the rigorous training and regimen.

Aside from coxswain Bobby Moch (Luke Slattery) and nervous introverted rower Don Hume (Jack Mulhern), Rantz stands out as the heart of the junior varsity team that would soon best the varsity team to compete with more elite schools.

Under the tutelage of head coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton), a man almost of few words as his star rower, the JV team beats the better-equipped University of California team in a regional competition.

The bigger challenge comes when the team travels to the East Coast to face Ivy League teams in qualifying for the Olympics. It’s a case of “no money versus old money,” and the underdog Washington Huskies prevail.

When informed by the U.S. Olympics Committee that the Huskies must pay their own way to Berlin, one more challenge is overcome when the community rallies in fundraising. A touching moment arrives when an unexpected donor helps them to meet their financial target.

When it is said that “rowing is more poetry than sport,” that sentiment seems to apply to the crew’s shell builder George Pocock (Peter Guinness) who enlists Rantz’s help in sanding and applying finish to the hull. A bond is formed between the two, adding a grace note to the development of Rantz’s character.

The big moment for the Americans comes in Berlin where the omnipresence of Nazi flags and banners, along with an appearance by Adolf Hitler and a German populace enthralled by the Fuhrer, does not deter them from their mission.

Knowing the outcome, the race itself must have enough drama to be entertaining. As usual, the Huskies get off to a slow start from a disadvantaged position on the water, and eventually prevail in what is as thrilling as a photo finish at the Kentucky Derby.

Cynics may dismiss “The Boys in the Boat” as an underdog sports drama we’ve seen too many times before. A conventional formula works here to deliver a pleasurable old-fashioned inspirational story that is extremely well-crafted.

To the untrained eye, rowing looks like a very mechanical sport with the coxswain and eight rowers propelling the racing shell in a straight line. In the film, the cinematography captures the tension and taxing physical nature of the sport in a very thrilling way.

Above all else, “The Boys in the Boat” is about scrappy team spirit overcoming all odds for the rowers to be heroes to their school as well as the nation. That this film is based on a true story makes it all the more remarkable.

TRIBUTE TO COLUMBIA PICTURES ON TCM CHANNEL

During the month of January, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Columbia Pictures.

TCM host Ben Mankiewicz’s month-long showcase of the studio’s films with a different decade from the 1920s and 1930s with “It Happened One Night” all they through to the 2000s.

Other great films from the first night include the classic 1937 screwball comedy “The Awful Truth,” starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, and the 1938 comedy “You Can’t Take It With You,” starring James Stewart and Jean Arthur.

The second night includes Elia Kazan’s masterpiece “On the Waterfront,” starring Marlon Brando and featuring Eva Marie Saint in her film debut.

“On the Waterfront” won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Brando and Best Director for Kazan.

Over other Wednesday nights, the tribute includes “Taxi Driver” with a young Jodie Foster, “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Funny Girl” starring Barbara Streisand, and ending with 2006’s “Marie Antoinette.”

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

The performers take an ovation bow. Courtesy photo.

UKIAH, Calif. — It’s that time of year again that so many piano lovers have been waiting for.

On Jan. 27 and 28, the 31st annual Professional Pianist Concert will hit the stage with two exciting concerts featuring eleven different pianists at the Mendocino College Center Theatre in Ukiah.

Performers letting the keys fly this year are Spencer Brewer, Elena Casanova, Wendy DeWitt, Barney McClure, Frankie J, Tom Ganoung, Elizabeth MacDougall, Ed Reinhart, Ben Rueb, Charlie Seltzer and Janice Hawthorne Timm.

The musical styles will range from classical to jazz, boogie-woogie to Cuban, Broadway to ragtime. Each performance will be completely different.

This utterly fun and stimulating series features the finest regional pianists on stage in a living room environment. Throughout the performance they trade stories and melodies with two pianos on stage to accommodate impromptu collaborations.

The event is an annual sellout because of the diversity and quality of music in a multitude of styles, and the humor that takes place throughout the evening.

Saturday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. will feature Spencer Brewer, Elena Casanova, Frankie J., Elizabeth MacDougall, Barney McClure and Ed Reinhart.

Sunday, Jan. 28, at 2 p.m. will include Spencer Brewer, Wendy DeWitt, Tom Ganoung, Ben Rueb, Charlie Seltzer and Janice Hawthorne Timm.

No two concerts are the same, so if you love piano and piano music, please consider enjoying more than one performance.

The concerts benefit the Ukiah Community Concert Association, Mendocino College Recording Arts Club and the Allegro Scholarship Program. Tickets are on sale at Mendocino Book Co. in Ukiah, Mazahar in Willits and online at www.UkiahConcerts.org. Tickets are $25 general admission and $30 "I ‘Wanna’ See the Hands" limited seating. For more information call 707-463-2738.

Sponsors are Fowler Auto Center, Sparetime Supply, Savings Bank of Mendocino, Ukiah Community Concerts, Waterman Plants, K-WINE/MAX, KOZT-The Coast and KZYX/Z. Refreshments will be provided by Ukiah Community Concert Association.

The Mendocino College Center Theatre is at 1000 Hensley Creek Rd in Ukiah. There will be autographed CD's, music and books by the artists for sale in the lobby.

Jaymie Hernandez de la Torre installing Growth Rings at the Middletown Arts Center. Photo by Tim de la Torre.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Art Center proudly announces the highly anticipated exhibition, “Raíces Hermosas~Gorgeous Roots,” showcasing a vibrant collection of Latinx art.

This compelling exhibit serves as a testament to the rich cultural heritage and artistic contributions of the Latinx community.

The opening reception of Raíces Hermosas on Saturday, Jan. 13, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. is a celebration of contemporary Latinx identity, culture and artistic expression.

The exhibit explores roots and addresses pertinent issues through a guest-curated exhibition featuring the exceptional work of local and regional Latinx artists.

Visitors will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a visual narrative that reflects the depth and diversity of the Latinx community.

“It’s a privilege to share the gallery with fellow Latino artists in the MAC’s new group show Raises Hermosas,” said Alex Blas, a Middletown artist originally from Mexico City. “This collection of work not only represents the inspiring diversity of Latinx artists; it also provides an opportunity to share our stories, dreams and passions with our broader community.”

The opening reception will provide an opportunity for art enthusiasts, community members, and supporters of Latinx culture to engage with the artists and explore the exhibition firsthand.

Attendees will have the chance to interact with the creators behind these captivating artworks, gaining insights into their creative processes and inspirations.

“Raíces Hermosas arose from a need to unify our diverse community through the shared language of art,” said Zabdy Neria, a behavioral health professional, Konocti School District Board member and Rotarian who joined the MAC board and planted the seed for this project.

“I firmly believe that our shared humanity unites us more than our apparent differences,” said Neria. “Raíces Hermosas celebrates Latinx culture and traditions and provides a platform to share these gifts with the rest of the community. MAC’s Posadas Party in early December was a wonderful taste of what's to come! I encourage people of all ages to visit the exhibit and attend upcoming workshops and community festivals at MAC.”

Raíces Hermosas will be on display from Jan. 13 to June 3, Thursday through Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The exhibit and opening reception are free and open to the public.

In addition to the exhibit, Raíces Hermosas is committed to engaging the local community, especially young minds through free guided school field trips to the gallery with hands-on creative art activities in the studio.

Approximately 3,600 Lake County students will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of Latinx art and culture through this unique program.

By providing a platform for local and regional Latinx artists, and by nurturing the educational experiences of thousands of students, this project aims to create a lasting impact on our cultural landscape.

There are still some dates available for field trips and educators are encouraged to contact MAC if they are interested in providing their students with a unique educational and cultural experience at 707-355-4465 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Funding for the Raíces Hermosas project is provided by Specified General Fund for the Museum Grant Program under the California Cultural and Historical Endowment.

Middletown Art Center is a Lake County nonprofit dedicated to engaging the public in art making, art education, and art appreciation.

Through exhibitions, performances, workshops, and community events, the art center provides a platform for diverse voices and perspectives, striving to create an inclusive and accessible space for all.

To learn more and donate to support Raíces Hermosas and other MAC arts and cultural programs visit www.middletownartcenter.org or call 707-809-8118. The MAC is located at 21456 State Highway 175 in Middletown.










‘ANYONE BUT YOU’ RATED R

Hardly a novel idea emanates from the romantic comedy tropes that turn “Anyone But You” into an artificial reimagining of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” where wit and banter have much to do with romantic deception, intrigue and trickery.

Nor is anyone going to think about one of the all-time greats of this genre in 1934’s “It Happened One Night,” a screwball romantic comedy in which Claudette Colbert’s married socialite falls for Clark Gable’s recently fired newspaper reporter.

The mismatched lovers in “Anyone But You” are Glen Powell’s Ben, a finance guy, and Sydney Sweeney’s Bea, a law school student who’s ambivalent at best about a career path of a lawyer.

On a superficial level, Powell (“Top Gun: Maverick”) and Sweeney (TV’s “Euphoria”) are the type of photogenic beautiful people with a screen presence that practically screams for attention.

They first meet in a most serendipitous way at an upscale coffee shop thanks to the snippy attitude of a barista who won’t let frantic Bea use the bathroom without first having made a purchase.

Standing in a long line is Ben, who comes to the rescue by pretending to be Bea’s husband. This is followed by an amusing malfunction in the restroom, leading to a return to Ben’s place for grilled cheese sandwiches and a night spent together.

While the pair fall asleep on the couch fully clothed, the next morning Bea slips away without so much as a goodbye. Ben’s best friend Pete (GaTa) shows up and the jilted Ben makes disparaging remarks about his date that Bea happens to overhear after she decides to return moments later.

What should have been the start of a relationship turns sour with misunderstanding by both parties. Six months later, the two meet again at a bar under awkward circumstances, not knowing they would soon be linked to an upcoming wedding.

Pete’s sister Claudia (Alexandra Shipp) is marrying Bea’s sister Halle (Hadley Robinson). The wedding is going to take place at the exotically beautiful locale of a beachfront estate in Sydney, Australia.

The fun begins when Ben and Bea are stuck on the same long plane ride to Australia. They can’t resist sniping at each other, the result being that their banter takes a rancorous tone with no sign of abating.

The Shakespearean twist takes hold at the gathering of friends and family in Australia. Everyone comes to the conclusion that they are former lovers who can’t abide each other. A scheme begins to get them back together so that the wedding won’t be marred by their acrimony.

Bea’s parents Leo (Dermot Mulroney) and Innie (Rachel Griffiths) add some fuel to the fire by inviting Bea’s ex-boyfriend Jonathan (Darren Barnet) to the wedding, hoping to rekindle the relationship.

However, Ben and Bea decide to play along as a couple so that her parents will stop meddling, and then Ben’s former flame Margaret (Charlee Fraser) happens to be part of the wedding party. Margaret’s presence just adds another complication on the jealousy side.

There are some humorous moments to enjoy. A better one might be how the younger guests on a hike pay attention to a cute koala bear in a tree while ignoring Ben stripping naked as he yanks off all his clothes when a tarantula ends up in his shorts.

The failing of “Anyone But You,” regardless of its gorgeous setting, is that Ben and Bea arguably lack the convincing chemistry to seal the deal for true romance. With the glistening beauty of Sydney and its beaches on display, the winner here is the local tourism board.




‘THE CURIOUS CASE OF NATALIA GRACE: NATALIA SPEAKS’ ON ID TV

Earlier this year, ID TV’s documentary “The Curious Case of Natalia Grace” was a stranger-than-fiction series that explored the question of whether Natalia Grace Barnett was an exploited Ukrainian adopted child with dwarfism or a dangerous adult masquerading as an adolescent.

This real-life story mirrored the horror film “Orphan” in which a couple trying to rebuild their marriage after the loss of their baby decide to adopt a child who turns out to be a psychopath with dwarfism and a mysterious past.

Beginning on Jan. 1, “The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Grace” retraces her adoption saga and the Barnett family’s allegations about her real age when she was adopted.

The series will showcase an emotional sit-down between Natalia and adoptive father Michael Barnett as they come to terms with the accusations that have been thrown around in both directions.

“Natalia Speaks” may offer insight into what really went on behind closed doors in the Barnetts’ home and how much truth there actually is to their claim Natalia was not a 6-year-old Ukrainian orphan with a rare genetic disorder, but rather a homicidal adult intent on harming them.

Previously unseen evidence and footage, as well as new theories and testimony from an array of voices, including the FBI agents who investigated the case, will shed light on the case.

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



Anyone remembering sex scandals of the late Nineties (not involving Monica Lewinsky) may recall the tabloid fodder story of Mary Kay Letourneau, a 35-year-old teacher convicted of child rape in a sexual relationship with a sixth-grade student.

The Netflix film “May December” is an unsettling reminder of a case of pedophilia that should not be normalized under any circumstance. The characters here are fictional, with the Letourneau story merely a twisted premise for a fraught history of predatory scandal.

Natalie Portman’s Elizabeth is a Hollywood actress preparing for some method acting by exploring first-hand the story of the older woman Gracie (Julianne Moore) having an affair outside her marriage with a 13-year-old co-worker at a pet store.

The child who had sex with Gracie in the store’s stockroom is now 36-year-old Joe (Charles Melton). The scandal happened more than 20 years ago, and even though Joe and Gracie are married and living in Savannah, Georgia, the couple may never escape the opprobrium of the townsfolk.

Embedding herself with the family, Elizabeth took interest in the script of an indie film to take the starring role, thinking aloud that in Gracie she sees “a woman with a lot more to her than I remember from the tabloids and our cultural memory.”

Elizabeth sits down with Gracie’s ex-husband Tom (D.W. Moffett), and discovers that to this day he has not gotten over the shock of being married to a then 36-year-old woman having an affair with a seventh-grade student.

As the affair led to pregnancy, Joe and Gracie have three children, the oldest being Honor (Piper Curda) coming home from college with a chip on her shoulder, while the younger twins Mary (Elizabeth Yu) and Charlie (Gabriel Chung) are about to graduate from high school.

“May December” moves at a laborious pace, seemingly entreating the viewer to savor the dialogue and parse the words for hidden meaning, while figuring out whether the emotions and feelings of the characters reveal some sort of truth.

Throughout the movie, it seems all too often that family members from Gracie and Joe to their three children say things are “fine” when one senses the expression cloaks a deeper sense of anguish bubbling under the surface.

As the film closes with Elizabeth on set with a young lover, I am at a loss on the symbolism of the garden snake she holds, but then the supposed edgy, dark humor also doesn’t resonate in a meaningful way for me. Viewers will need to arrive at their own suppositions.

Even though the focus is apparently Natalie Portman’s Elizabeth analyzing the essence of Julian Moore’s Gracie for her film role, “May December” belongs in great part to Charlie Melton’s Joe, a man-child at a crossroads in processing the reality of life.




‘ARCHIE’ ON BRITBOX

The four-part series “Archie” on BritBox is about the life of Hollywood leading man Gary Grant, who was born in Bristol, England in 1904 with the given name of Archibald Alexander Leach.

Tracing his troubled childhood in a family living in extreme poverty, Archie’s story as a child had to deal with his father’s adultery and the loss of his older brother John that tore the family apart and sent his loving mother into a downward spiral of grief and depression.

At 14, Archie auditioned for the music hall act of the Bob Pender Troupe, a band of acrobats, stilt walkers, clowns and comedians after seeing them perform at the Bristol Hippodrome.

Lean and athletic, Archie learned the art of stilt walking, and when the troupe went on tour to the United States, teenage Archie was intoxicated by the land of opportunity. Believing he had no family to return to in England, he decided to stay in America to try to make his way in show business.

With no thoughts of acting, a chance meeting with the comedian George Burns helped him find his first footing on the acting ladder and a contract with a movie studio who felt he needed to change his name, and Cary Grant was born.

The drama intercuts with scenes from 1961 when at the height of his fame, living in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, the legendary actor (Jason Isaacs) was breaking all box office records, but desperately unhappy in his private life.

With two failed marriages behind him, Cary began to woo an actress he’d seen on a TV show, Dyan Cannon (Laura Aikman). Thirty-three years his junior, Dyan didn’t initially fall for his charms, turning down his attempts to meet, because she didn’t feel they could ever be a match.

Dashingly handsome, suave and sophisticated, Cary continued to pursue her, with introductions to his famous friends, until they eventually wed in Las Vegas in 1965. The marriage didn’t last long but the couple had a daughter.

With the blessing of Cary Grant’s daughter, Jennifer Grant, and ex-wife Dyan Cannon, the pair serve as Executive Producers of “Archie.” Dainton Anderson, Calam Lynch, and Oaklee Pendergast pay young versions of Archie Leach.

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

Upcoming Calendar

16Apr
04.16.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Lakeport City Council
17Apr
04.17.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
18Apr
04.18.2024 11:00 am - 3:00 pm
Earth Day celebration
20Apr
04.20.2024 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Earth Day Celebration
Calpine Geothermal Visitor Center
20Apr
04.20.2024 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Boatique Wines Stand-up Comedy Night
25Apr
04.25.2024 1:30 pm - 7:30 pm
FireScape Mendocino workshop
27Apr
04.27.2024 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Northshore Ready Fest
27Apr
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Prescription Drug Take Back Day
27Apr
04.27.2024 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Inaugural Team Trivia Challenge

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