Sunday, 21 April 2024

Arts & Life

LAKEPORT The 26th Annual Spring Dance Festival is coming, and you don't want to miss it. It will be on the stage of the Marge Alakszay Center in Lakeport for two shows: at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 28 and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 29.


This is the first year that the festival will be held in the new, state-of-the-art performance facility a stone's throw from the Clear Lake High School gym where the show has been held for so many years.


The Alakszay Center has been longed for and anticipated by dancers and audience alike, and the festival committee has been knocking itself out to prepare a suitably expansive production for the pleasure of Lake County.


In the long history of the Spring Dance Festival there have been many new beginnings. It could be said that the festival recreates itself every year, bringing new talent and new choreography to the dance floor.


Those who have often attended the annual event have seen young dancers getting better and becoming stunning adults, and choreographers developing new styles in keeping with timely tastes. The festival has traced the changes as dance groups have come and gone, or stayed and evolved, or have burst upon the scene with dynamic determination.


Such would be the Lake Line Dancers, new to the Festival, as are B. I. O. Dance Company, Chemical Reaction Dance Team and Serenity Place Dancing. There is a lot of variety in that one sentence, and I won't try to describe them. If you want to be in the know, you will come to this show.


Returning, fortunately, are the teachers, choreographers and dancers who have given us so much pleasure in the past. If you have seen the work of the Clearlake Clikkers, Antoinette's School of Dance or the Jazz Factory Company, you will be eager to attend. If you have ever seen Kayla Gates, Hailey Yaffee, Rod Rehe or Lavonne Pattee dance (to name only a few, from a distinguished list), you will want to be there to see them again.


Tickets can be purchased at The Main Street Gallery, 325 N. Main St., Lakeport; Catfish Books, Willow Tree Plaza, Lakeport; The Bunk House, Middletown; and Direct Image Printing, Clearlake. A small number of reserved seats are available at the Main Street Gallery only.


For more information, call the Lake County Arts Council at 263-6658.


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I've been weeping ever since I opened my morning paper Thursday. I hope you are too.


Forget about Paris Hilton and her sidekick Nicole; instead, I offer this tribute to our national conscience, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., who died this past week at age 84.


Vonnegut came to Milwaukee's Centennial Hall on Oct. 17, 1985, on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Milwaukee Public Library. There, he gave a speech titled "How To Get A Job Like Mine" to 719 people.


He told of his beginnings as a short story writer. His first short story sold for $750, his second, for $850. "Pretty soon money was piling up in a corner of the house, but this opportunity has dried up," he continued. "People used to pay for their babies by writing short stories."


Later, he taught at the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, where he offered this advice to students who were having trouble with a piece of fiction:


"1. Throw away the first three pages and you will have a high energy beginning.


"2. You're one character short. That character is Iago. Without Iago everybody is going to sit around like lumps on toast. Iago gets everybody jazzed up."


Vonnegut did not hold out false hopes to those who wish to become professional writers: "Maybe 20 people in this room can make it if they really work hard. But there are no jobs waiting. There are fewer successful writers in a year than there are ball players or active admirals."


After his first book, "Player Piano," sold 100,000 paperback copies to only 7,000 in hard cover, Vonnegut started writing original paperbacks "because you could get your money right away." The rest is literary history. He went on to touch on many subjects.


On how to get money to write a book: "Marry well. Mark Twain did. He lived in swell houses."


On reading: "Reading is a superb meditation, far superior to Eastern forms. The Maharishi taught me the latter for $85, a handkerchief and an apple. It is like scuba diving in bouillon."


On the recent banning of his book, "Slaughterhouse Five," in Racine, WI: "It usually happens in small towns. But Racine, with 100,000 people; that's the biggest town that ever did anything so stupid. When I was a kid, communities burned people. Now, they're burning books. That's progress. We're making progress. I want to send them my collected works and some kerosene. We've come a long way."


He was funny. He was compassionate. He was all the things anyone who's read him would expect him to be. And, in the final segment of his talk, reading another speech he'd given at New York's Cathedral of St. John The Divine, he was brilliant.


It was called "The Worst Imaginable Consequences Of Doing Without The Hydrogen Bomb." But, first he established that dead is dead whether you get there by nuclear annihilation or burning at the stake. "But are there fates worse than death?" he continued, only establishing one crucifixion.


"I don't believe we are about to be crucified," he dispensed of that one. "No enemy we face has enough carpenters."


He ended with a dream.


"I dreamed last night of our descendants a thousand years from now, that is to say, all humanity ... I asked them how humanity managed, against all odds, to keep going another millennium. They told me that they and their ancestors did it by preferring life over death for themselves and others at every opportunity."


E-mail Gary Peterson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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ARE WE DONE YET? (Rated PG)


There are so few comedies suitable for the family that it would be unseemly to get bogged down in quibbling about absurd plot contrivances or the minor flaws that could easily induce a reality check.


Picking up somewhere “Are We There Yet?” left off, the Ice Cube comedy vehicle keeps rolling along, to somewhat better effect this time, in “Are We Done Yet?”


Probably the biggest surprise is seeing edgy hip-hop artist Ice Cube, though his scowl remains intact, playing the part of a cuddly G-rated family man, more like an urbanized Ozzie Nelson, even if he’s befuddled with the household routine.


“Are We Done Yet?” finds its humor in the nightmare of home improvement that once plagued Tom Hanks in “The Money Pit.” Notwithstanding more contemporary references, the film makes it clear that its source of inspiration is a vintage screwball comedy, the Cary Grant classic “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.”


Since his last film, Ice Cube’s Nick Persons is newly married to Suzanne (Nia Long), even though it makes him stepfather to a pair of moody adolescents, 8-year-old Kevin (Philip Daniel Bolden) and 13-year-old Lindsey (Aleisha Allen).


Along with the family dog, this nuclear family is trying to coexist in Nick’s cramped bachelor pad. When Suzanne announces they are expecting twins, Nick thinks it best to move to the countryside, much to the dismay of his stepchildren, who don’t want to leave the city.


Nick finds a seemingly idyllic Victorian home in a bucolic area, thought it requires dealing with unctuous real estate salesman Chuck Mitchell (John C. McGinley), who apparently is oblivious to the ethics code of his profession.


As soon as the ink is dry on the escrow papers, everything starts to go wrong with the dream house. When Nick realizes he can’t turn the house into a fix-it-yourself project, he calls for the local contractor, which also turns out to be Chuck. Soon the property is overrun by Chuck’s cronies, including the Hawaiian dry-rot specialists and the blind plumbers.


Naturally, things go horribly wrong when the premises are overrun by subcontractors coping with problems that multiply exponentially. From corroded plumbing to faulty electrical wiring, the house gets even worse when floors collapse and walls disintegrate, and pretty soon flying bats and hungry raccoons invade.


When Nick runs afoul of some of the workers, he also finds to his chagrin that Chuck is the town’s building inspector, and only too eager to issue citations and make life miserable for Nick.


Not unexpectedly, “Are We Done Yet?” is the kind of agreeable comedy that nevertheless lacks the ambition to score some knockout punches. Tending to be blander than daring, the humor is obvious in an inoffensive manner.


The movie’s biggest surprise is that Nick has ostensibly deep pockets. But at least Ice Cube is a likeable, charming character, while John C. McGinley chews the scenery with his manic personality.

 


GRINDHOUSE (Rated R)


Trash cinema is alive and well in “Grindhouse,” a double dose of exploitation thrills that include zombies on a rampage and a psycho serial killer’s roving, racing death machine.


“Grindhouse” pays homage to the cheap slasher and splatter films that could be seen in dilapidated all-night theaters and drive-ins that cranked out three and four movies in one viewing.


To achieve verisimilitude of 1970s-era exploitation cinema, “Grindhouse” is a collaborative effort of two directors, Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) and Robert Rodriguez (“El Mariachi”), who also wrote the two screenplays for this modern take on the independent horror and schlock genre.


The beauty, if you can call it that, of “Grindhouse” is its brilliantly over-the-top and ridiculously lowbrow descent into glorification of bad action-packed movies. Style is as important as substance, considering that the film itself is presented as a double-bill deliberately made to look scratchy, complete with missing scenes.


Best of all, there are “Coming Attractions” for nonexistent, low-grade movies that are so perversely funny and outrageously bizarre that you keep wishing for more.


The first part of “Grindhouse” is Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror,” a cheesy zombie horror story that turns a small Texas town into a horrible vision of chemical apocalypse. An experiment gone badly wrong casts a plague on townsfolk who turn into pus-oozing mutants on a rampage to mutilate, dismember and destroy those not infected.


Doctors William and Dakota Block (Josh Brolin and Marley Shelton), facing a meltdown of their marriage, are working the graveyard shift to cope with the heavy influx of people bloodied and maimed.


Among the wounded is Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), an exotic dancer who loses her leg during a roadside attack. Her ex-boyfriend Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) is in trouble with the law, but he’s at her side, and eventually helps her to get a machine-gun as a prosthetic device.


As the legions of zombies continue to multiply, Cherry and Wray set up shop at a seedy Texas barbecue joint and lead a team of accidental warriors into the night to fight the ghoulish flesh-eating fiends who seek to annihilate everyone.


“Planet Terror” is loaded with interesting and mysterious characters, such as Bruce Willis as a secretive military operative and Naveen Andrews who has an unhealthy obsession with certain body parts. Then there’s the bodacious Stacy Ferguson, better known as the singer “Fergie,” whose best features are on display until she’s viciously attacked by flesh-eaters.


Tarantino delivers on his part of the double feature with “Death Proof,” the tale of a psycho killer behind the wheel of a souped-up Chevy Nova in a high-octane car chase with his female victims. It’s also classic Tarantino devotion to camaraderie that allows for plenty of observational dialogue.


Pretty Sydney Tamiia Poitier’s Jungle Julia is an Austin DJ hanging out with her friends at a local tavern, where the sinister, scar-faced Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) takes notice of the ladies. His interest proves deadly on a deserted stretch of country road.


The action shift to Tennessee where real-life stuntwoman Zoe Bell plays herself, and is joined by Tracie Thoms’ Kim as a fellow stuntwoman on location for a film shoot. Also joining them are Rosario Dawson’s Abernathy, a makeup artist, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Lee, a young actress.


Enjoying some time off, this quartet of lively women find time to test drive a 1970 Dodge Challenger, in what clearly pays homage to “Vanishing Point.” Their daredevil antics on the back roads draw notice from Stuntman Mike, now driving a Dodge Charger. This time, the movie really takes off with exciting car chase sequences, and the action becomes a full-throttled chick-revenge flick.


“Grindhouse,” rated R for good reason, is likely to draw heavily on the younger male audience revved up for action and thrills heavy on guns, guts, gore and chase scenes. There’s plenty of clever stuff here that spoofs the exploitation genre, turning this whole enterprise into a guilty pleasure.


Running at slightly more than three hours, “Grindhouse” is an endurance test that requires a certain perverse fascination with the genre.


Tim Riley reviews movies for Lake County News.


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DISTURBIA (Rated PG-13)


Smarter and more exciting than the usual teen suspense thriller, “Disturbia” taps into the Alfred Hitchcock sensibility of claustrophobic chills that made “Rear Window” an iconic masterpiece.


While director D.J. Caruso has a body of work not likely to be confused with that of the Master of Suspense, he delivers a more than decent thriller in “Disturbia” that fully exploits the chilling lure of voyeurism updated to the modern era’s obsession with such technological innovations as video cameras, cell phones and laptops. One can only imagine and wonder how Hitchcock would use our fascination with the high-tech world if he were still alive. “Disturbia” might be on to something.


Traumatized by the tragic death of his father a year earlier, Shia LaBeouf’s Kale, though evidently smart, suffers long-lasting psychological effects that have him shut down and withdrawn. When an insensitive teacher brings up his father, Kale punches him out, and only the intervention of his mother (Carrie-Anne Moss) keeps him out of juvenile hall.


Instead, he gets to spend his summer vacation under house arrest, wearing an ankle monitor that permits him only to wander no more than 100 feet from the perimeter of his house. On top of these restrictions, he soon loses his video games and cable TV when his exasperated mom takes away privileges.


With nothing to do outside of occasional visits from his goofy friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), Kale begins spying on his neighbors to kill the boredom. Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once said “you can observe a lot by just watching,” and Kale takes this heart by turning his binoculars on the neighborhood.


First, he detects a businessman’s pattern of indiscretion with the housemaid when his wife is away. Then, he takes greater notice in the hot teen girl, Ashley (Sarah Roemer), who moves in next door, mainly because she likes to lounge around the pool in a bikini and goes for frequent swims.


Things take a darker, more serious turn when Kale becomes suspicious of an older man, Mr. Turner (David Morse), whose mysterious behavior includes an uncanny ability to quickly repair his vintage Mustang, seemingly identical to the one identified in TV news reports as having something to do with the disappearance of a young woman.


Not having any visible means of support, Turner nonetheless attracts young women to his nice house, with one visit become very unsettling. Kale suspects his neighbor is a serial killer, and tries to enlist his dubious friend Ronnie for some dangerous surveillance work, seeing how Kale can’t leave the house, and if he happens to trigger his ankle monitor, the vengeful cop likely to show up on the scene is a cousin to the Spanish teacher that Kale knocked senseless.


The flirtatious Ashley becomes increasingly attracted to Kale’s shenanigans, perhaps because she shares the same overactive imagination. both Ashley and Ronnie become Kale’s surrogate investigators, able to move about freely, often getting into some dangerous situations that are frightening or sinister.


The fact of the matter is that the elusive neighbor is indeed so creepy that there appears little reasonable doubt to his guilt. Naturally, Kale’s mom and the authorities are not convinced that the smarmy neighbor is any kind of threat. Well, let’s just say, there are plenty of chilling and suspenseful surprises in store.


Though wrapped up in teen angst and bitterness, “Disturbia” puts modern technological ingenuity to good effect in coming up with a darkly chilling thriller that works effectively with obvious paranoia. Even when the trail becomes somewhat predictable, this film beats a path to some fairly stunning shocks that create a satisfying suspense ride.


PERFECT STRANGER (Rated R)


Putting together the stellar casting of Bruce Willis and Halle Berry is just simply not enough to create the “sexy thriller” that the filmmakers are so desperate to achieve in “Perfect Stranger.”


What results is far less than perfect, in fact so much so that this thriller is even more laughable than films like “Catwoman” and “Gothika,” which coincidentally are two stinkers that starred the exquisitely beautiful Miss Berry. In fact, if it weren’t for the “X-Men” series she’d be in a slump worse than that of the 1962 New York Mets.


Bruce Willis fares no better than his co-star, where he’s reduced to smirking a lot and looking guilty for any indiscretion that might be the least bit plausible. But, I seem to digress about the essential point of “Perfect Stranger,” which appears to be in a race with “Basic Instinct 2” for bottom-feeder entertainment.


Berry’s Rowena Price, an investigative reporter, unfortunately and unlike Sharon Stone keeps her clothes on, though she shows her curvaceous assets more than you would expect from a so-called respectable journalist.


From the get-go, Rowena isn’t much fun or even likable, coming off whiny and shrill, even after putting behind her the disappointment of having her big story on a politician’s shocking gay affairs with male interns squelched from publication.


After quitting her tabloid job, Rowena gets caught up in the murder of her estranged childhood friend Grace (Nicki Aycox), who apparently threatened to expose an affair she had with the powerful and married advertising executive Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis).


Thanks to help from her seedy associate Miles (Giovanni Ribisi), a computer whiz, Rowena gains access to Grace’s e-mail and learns details of the relationship with the randy Harrison. Armed with some knowledge, Rowena goes undercover and becomes a temp at Harrison’s agency, getting close to the object of her suspicions.


Meanwhile, as things unfold, Grace is revealed to have been sleeping with just about every eligible adult male in Manhattan, and Harrison starts to look like the person least likely to hook up with such damaged goods. Nevertheless, the cloud of skepticism hangs over Harrison for no other reason than his annoying smugness.


Frankly, there’s not much interesting to say about this movie because it is an unremarkable and wasted effort to create a suspense thriller. This exercise in futility has more plot twists than a sack full of pretzels.


“Perfect Stranger” is a train wreck that goes off the rails in the early going, never to recover from the inevitable absurdity of a thriller completely lacking in credibility. This unmitigated disaster wastes the talent of everyone involved, but it certainly shouldn’t waste your hard-earned money, as long as you have been warned.


Tim Riley reviews films for Lake County News.


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CLEARLAKE Because the second Sunday in April was Easter, this month’s Second Sunday Cinema will occur on the third Sunday, April 15.


The free film this month will be a nonpartisan documentary that is getting a lot of buzz from both sides of the political spectrum America: Freedom to Fascism.


This screening, free, of course, will be held at the Clearlake United Methodist Church, which generously allows use of their social hall. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for snacks and conversation.


The film will be shown at 6 p.m., and will be followed by a completely optional, open discussion.


This documentary was written and directed by Aaron Russo, producer of “The Rose,” starring Bette Midler, and “Trading Places, starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Akyroyd.


In the words of its Web site, America: Freedom to Fascism is an “expose of the Internal Revenue Service (that) proves conclusively there is no law requiring an American citizen to pay a direct unapportioned tax on their labor.”


The documentary continues on to explore the connection between income tax collection and the chilling erosion of civil liberties in America.


Thanks to Russo’s Hollywood experience and knowledge, this documentary is very watchable, and really grabs your interest. It includes interviews with former agents of the FBI and the IRS, a former IRS commissioner and Republican Congressman Ron Paul.


As always, Second Sunday Cinema does not pretend to have facts “proving” the information this film presents. Instead, the group presents provocative films that will get people thinking – and discussing with each other the information offered and what concerned citizens can do to get involved.


For more information, please call 279-2957.


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Guitarist Mike Wilhelm and the Lake County Blues Allstars are performing around Lake County this month. Courtesy photo.

 

LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Blues Allstars will be bringing the blues to a stage near you in April.


The group will be performing at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at the Saw Shop Gallery Bistro in Kelseyville; and from 7 to 10 p.m. Monday, April 16, and Monday, April 23, at the Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake.


The group features some of the county's – and, arguably, the planet's – most talented musicians.


The lineup includes guitar master Mike Wilhelm, a founding member of San Francisco's first psychedelic rock group, the Charlatans; blues ace Jim Williams; and Jon E. Hopkins, the “High Sheriff of the Bass.”


Featured guests are Jimmy “The Lion” Leonardis on tenor sax; Neon, the songbird who lights up the night; and Stephan Holland, guitarist extraordinaire (Holland will not perform at the April 12 event).


Sit-ins are welcome; call Jim Williams at Strings & Things, 262-0622.


The Saw Shop Gallery Bistro is located at 3825 Main St., Kelseyville; for dinner reservations call 278-0129. The Blue Wing Saloon is located on Main Street in downtown Upper Lake.


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Upcoming Calendar

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
04.27.2024 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Prescription Drug Take Back Day
27Apr
04.27.2024 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Inaugural Team Trivia Challenge
4May
05.04.2024 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Park Study Club afternoon tea
5May
05.05.2024
Cinco de Mayo
6May
05.06.2024 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Senior Summit
12May
05.12.2024
Mother's Day
27May
05.27.2024
Memorial Day

Mini Calendar

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