Archive: October, 2009
You remember that proposed 6 to 8 percent state arts tax ' the one that seemed not as bad it could have been, compared to the Doomsday scenarios floating around earlier this year, but still pretty unfair, given that big-guy sports and movies weren't being taxed ' we told you about last month? Well, the art fags have spoken, and the state actually listened (!). Last Friday, the state House removed mention of it from the budget. Then, yesterday, the Senate passed a amended tax code bill that did not include any tax on arts or cultural tickets. An added bonus: SB 1085 will provide $11 million in arts grants (via the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts) and $1.7 million for museum grants (via the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission).
Of course, the budget isn't finalized yet, but this is pretty good news, no?
John Woo returns to China after essentially teaching Quentin Tarantino how to direct an action sequence before coming stateside, making his directorial debut with world's-greatest-actor Jean Claude Van Damme, helming one of the most poetic action movies ever (Face/Off) and then taking point on some of the worst (Windtalkers? Hostage? Sigh). Red Cliff look positively epic, telling the story of the 208 A.D. titular battle in which two vastly outnumbered armies align with each other in order to defeat the Han Dynasty who are unused to fighting by sea (hence the whole cliff thing). Not only is this Woo's homecoming, but it also marks a reunion with Tony Leung, who previously worked with Woo on the incredible Hard Boiled.
But out of all of these return-to-forms, I'm most pumped about the revival of the battle epic. I give Zack Snyder props for making 300 on a shoestring with a cast of no A-listers, but half the reason 300 is entertaining is the homoerotic campiness of it all, not necessarily the direction, as Watchman proved. Because of movies like 300, studios think they can forgo bigger, traditional epics like 300 for a lower price tag, especially in this economy. But I love a good epic. Sure, for every terrible epic (Alexander, Australia), there are mind blowing ones (The Godfather I & II, Once Upon a Time in the West), and while they have a tendency to feel bloated, I think Woo is an economical enough filmmaker to pull this off.
Although, this reportedly 148-minute movie is just the first half. Red Cliff II already received its Chinese domestic release this year. Now, that's fuckin' epic.
Red Cliff premieres locally at the Philadelphia International Film Fest. Interestingly enough, it's being released theatrically in the States by the second volume of Six Shooter Film Series ' that seemingly deals in that-looks-fuckin'-awesome foreign films, two of which are playing at the Fest: District B13: Ultimatum (the original is awesome, but apparently this one stands alone) and Bronson (you may remember it from the Trailer!).
THE CURATOR: female anatomy letterpresses, art questions, trashy club wear, Lord Whimsy at Haunted Poe
Every Tuesday, Critical Mass sifts through the art blog world so you don't have to.
-Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof's artblog offers up a taste of the current letterpress exhibit, "Poems/Posters," which is up at the Kelly Writers House. It features broadsides that pair text with prints, including visiting artist Megan O'Connell's Agile Reactions: 33 Bean Games, which is a humorous, cutesy ode to female anatomy.
-After a long summer hiatus, Funnel Pages is back. They've got a new feature, 'Ask An Art Question,' where readers can submit a query and have the community add its two cents. But not just any question. Curator Shaun insists that something like, 'Is shooting paint out of my butt awesome or what?' won't make the cut.
-PW Style has picked up on the fact that a certain go-to-shop for trashy club wear has gone a bit biblical. Unfortunately, it was Black Box ' not the Bible ' that said, "you got the body, so why don't you use it?'
-Lord Whimsy (pictured, right) wrote on his blog that he got a sneak peak of Brat Production's Haunted Poe, a haunted house-cum-tour that we told you about in this week's Agenda section. To commemorate the poet's 200th birthday, the troupe is setting up a warehouse with Poe-inspired spooks and specters. Whimsy wasn't afraid to dress up for the event, so neither should you.
In conjunction with Design Philadelphia (which we covered in last week's City Paper), First Person Arts and InLiquid present the Welcome House, a 10-foot cube in which artists of all stripes settle in for a day and create. It's open-ended, inventive and often pretty wacky (we're talking knit-yourself-into-a-cocoon wacky). Our intrepid reporter Cristina Perachio will be swinging by the House all week, observing, taking photos and maybe ' just maybe ' getting in on the action herself.
'I'm Confused But I Like It!'
|Photo | Cristina Perachio|
Yellow, pink, green and blue Post-Its with appreciative words ('Relaxing. So Relaxing.'), angry words ('Get a fucking job!') and half-hearted threats ('This better not be art.') are strewn across the clear, 10-by-10-by-10 cube in LOVE Park.'
The cube is an artists' residence by day and art installation by night. Named The Welcome House, the cube is meant to encourage new forms of creative expression in an organic, ever-changing way with help from those passing by the park.' From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., the artist of the day has free range for their art while a videographer captures the day's events.' From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., the cube is wrapped in spandex and the video is projected directly on the cube.'
Today, The Welcome House features Nicole Bindler, Liza Clark and others in a daylong improvisational dance. Post-Its and pens are stacked on the modern, funky white furniture to serve as seating for the crowd watching. The idea is for the dance to evolve with input from the crowd, who're supposed to scribble their ideas and stick them on the cube.
More pictures, and more wacky, after the jump.
|Photo | Cristina Perachio|
Around lunchtime, three dancers in the cube seem to be playing some form of follow-the-leader. They are lined up diagonally across the cube while the woman in front does a series of dance moves and then in a quick succession, like dominos, the other two imitate her. We're not talking ballet, either: There was hopping up and down on one foot, bouncing while crouching, barrel rolls, spinning aimlessly.
After several minutes of giggling, two of the women are replaced with a man who grabs the one remaining woman by the waist.' There is an excited rumble that passes through the audience as the man and woman prepare for the next dance.' Perhaps a tango?' Kind of. The man continues to hold the woman by the waist with one hand as she walks around, continually stumbling and falling away from him.' He steadies her, time after time, with a few close calls where the other members of the troupe gasp as her head comes close to bashing into the floor or wall.' It's incredibly graceful despite the free-fall force of the woman's movements.' I'm hypnotized.
|Photo | Cristina Perachio|
At one point she falls, face first toward the ground, but he lifts her at the last second so he's holding her upside-down in mid-air, her legs straight up in a V like a kama sutra position.' There are a few scattered cat-calls and oh-damns from the crowd. She kicks free and they unceremoniously go sit back behind the cube.' I feel like I should clap or something to signify the end of this performance.' I don't and a woman comes out to do a headstand against a cube wall.
One of the dancers comes around to reposition the post-its on the cube.' She peels one off the side that reads, 'I'm confused but I like it!' This seems to have given her some confidence.' She walks out to the audience and asks a man who keeps yelling 'Oh shit!' at the performance if he'd like to join them in the cube.' His response?' 'Oh shit!' She shrugs and heads to the cube for another game of follow-the-leader which, technically, could last until 7 p.m. tonight.
You love these dirty hippies, don't you? We sure do, especially in the out-of-doors ' the place where their boot-stompin' bluegrass works best. They'll be playing a show at noon today at such a venue: the Drexel University Farmers Market (33rd and Chestnut streets), for free. Sounds like a nice little lunch break.
North Philly hip-hop duo Outerspace ' Planetary and Crypt the Warchild, frequent Jedi Mind Trick collaborators ' are in the studio working on their new album My Brother's Keeper, and rolling the camera: "This is a song produced by C-Lance, a new cat in the camp fresh out of Boston featuring Abdiel, who you heard on God's Fury on 'Anointing of Sick' featuring Psycho Realm and on our Tribute to Gang Starr mixtape, on the song 'Hustla.'"
|Photo | Mark Stehle|
Big ups to Bruce Graham, whose Something Intangible at the Arden Theatre Co. walked away with seven Barrymore Awards last night at the Walnut (including Outstanding Direction of a Play, Outstanding Set Design, Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play and Outstanding New Play' whew). Our own A.D. Amorosi interviewed Graham in April upon the opening of Intangible, finding the man to be equal parts brilliant and humble. Sez the playwright:
"To tell you the truth I've never dreamed of any sort of greatness. I thought I was gonna be a schoolteacher who wrote plays. Great stuff comes from artists and I'm no artist. I'm a craftsman. Artists suffer. Screw that."
Well, there's no turning back now, friend. Read an extended Q&A with Bruce Graham (in which A.D. grills him on his best -- and worst -- plays to date) here, and hop past the jump for a complete list of winners. (We're especially pleased that Kate Eastwood Norris took home Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for her role as Eleanor/Adult Esme in the Wilma Theatre's Rock 'n' Roll.''
Outstanding Overall Production of a Play
Something Intangible ' Arden Theatre Company
Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical
Cinderella ' The People's Light & Theatre Company
Harmelin Media Award for Outstanding Direction of a Play
Terrence J. Nolen ' Something Intangible ' Arden Theatre Company
Outstanding Direction of a Musical
Pete Pryor ' Cinderella ' The People's Light & Theatre Company
Outstanding Music Direction
Dan Kazemi ' Avenue X ' 11th Hour Theatre Company
Ark Media Award for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play
Ian Merrill Peakes as Tony Wiston ' Something Intangible ' Arden Theatre Company
The Charlotte Cushman Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play
Kate Eastwood Norris as Eleanor/Adult Esme ' Rock 'n' Roll ' The Wilma Theater
Garfield Refining Company Award for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical
Michael Philip O'Brien as Pasquale ' Avenue X ' 11th Hour Theatre Company
Garfield Refining Company Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical
Jennie Eisenhower ' Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits ' Walnut Street Theatre, Independence Studio on 3
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play
Jered McLenigan as Freddie Filmore ' It's a Wonderful Life!' A Live Radio Play ' Prince Music Theater
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play
Janis Dardaris as Nazira/Nawal 60-65 ' Scorched ' The Wilma Theater
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
Forrest McClendon as Roscoe ' Avenue X ' 11th Hour Theatre Company
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
Mary Martello as Old Woman ' Candide ' Arden Theatre Company
Outstanding Set Design
James Kronzer ' Something Intangible ' Arden Theatre Company
PECO Award for Outstanding Lighting Design
F. Mitchell Dana ' Something Intangible ' Arden Theatre Company
Earl Girls Award for Outstanding Costume Design
Rosemarie E. McKelvey ' Something Intangible ' Arden Theatre Company
Clear Sound Award for Outstanding Sound Design
Jorge Cousineau ' Scorched ' The Wilma Theater
Outstanding Original Music
Michael Ogborn ' Cinderella ' The People's Light & Theatre Company
Christopher Gattelli ' Altar Boyz ' Bristol Riverside Theatre
Independence Foundation Award for Outstanding New Play
Something Intangible ' By Bruce Graham ' Arden Theatre Company
Outstanding Ensemble in a Play
Scorched ' The Wilma Theater
Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical
Cinderella ' The People's Light & Theatre Company
The Ted and Stevie Wolf Award for New Approaches to Collaborations
Delaware Theatre Company & The Ferris School for Boys ' No Child'
Excellence in Theatre Education and Community Service Award
Lantern Theater Company ' Classroom Connections
F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist
Charlotte Cloe Fox Wind
Special Recognition Award
Lifetime Achievement Award
|Courtesy of Future Islands|
Most of the songs by Future Islands don't waste any time getting to the good stuff. They just jump right into the catchy synth hooks and dance licks. Consider yourself warned: These songs will remain in your head for hours, but in the most pleasant way. The sound is a bit fuzzy, very DIY-influenced, and feels carbonated. Though the music is airy and fun, the vocals tend to contrast that, providing grounding for each song. There's a desperation in the singer's voice, but at the same time there's always this hint of a smirk. Is that smirk the sound of a little hope coming through? Or are they just creeping along the line of self-parody? Maybe the latter: One of their videos shows frontman Sam Herring dramatically singing his little heart out, only he's singing into a toothbrush. The videos on their MySpace page are DayGlo-bright collages of people dancing, wearing giant tiger heads, manning hot air balloons, and kissing up a storm. It's an accurate reflection of their music.
Mon., Oct. 5, 8 p.m., $5-$10 donation, with Lonnie Walker, Danger Danger Gallery, 5013 Baltimore Ave., myspace.com/dangerdangergallery.
You don't often see a musician frolic outside of the green room before a show as much as Kurt Vile did at Kung Fu Necktie on Saturday night, but, of course, this is his hometown. And Kung Fu ' located in his home 'hood Fishtown ' may just be his bar. He seemed to know virtually every person who came through, saying hello to freak-folk sartorialists and working-class Port Richmond lifers alike. (Then again, maybe the latter were his parents?) All the while, he was wearing a disheveled, comfy-looking green hoodie, a piece of clothing that mirrored his slightly disheveled, yet comfy-looking demeanor.
After a set by Birds of Maya, a local death psych rock band that never seems to get the love it deserves, Vile and his Violators ' three men with hair as curly, long and in need of a ponytail as their frontman's ' aggressively took off. A bit too aggressively, in fact, though the young man clutching the amp and rocking back and forth next to me clearly disagreed. I kept waiting for the show's falling action, but it was permanently set to climax: Vile's two backup guitarists violently charged through each and every song, simmering down only to play a much-needed sax or harmonica.
Which was really too bad. Childish Prodigy thrives off the sweet, soft nuances tucked into its gruffier lo-fi sound, and most of that was lost on Saturday night. It's hard to tell if this was mostly the venue's fault (Kung Fu is awfully small, which can be either a good or a bad thing for acoustics, depending on the act), or an unfortunate side effect of the band's obvious, day-before-Christmas excitement. Something tells me it may have been more of the former ' I could see Vile, his Cousin It-hair swinging to and fro, shredding the guitar. But, layered below heavy drums and the other guitarists' basic chord changes, I just couldn't hear it.
I've said it once and I'll say it again: Parsing the quality of an E Street Band show is a superfluous exercise. They're always going to be good, you're always going to get your money's worth and the thousands of people lucky enough to have a ticket will never go home disappointed (unless, to paraphrase Jon Stewart ' the Jerz's third greatest export ' you hate joy). While Springsteen and the boys have a definite affinity for Philadelphia, the Meadowlands is where they call home. So when the camera panned to a guy holding up a sign that said "You're our Local Hero," he's both referring to the song off of 1992's Lucky Town and welcoming home the prodigal son. But here's the deal with Bruce: He's a local hero everywhere he goes. His universality is inherent in his appeal. So how was Giants Stadium different from the Spectrum, Madison Square Garden, even the Vet? It wasn't. He still testified, he still did the band intro ("You've just witnessed the pants droppin', heart stoppin''") and he's still one of the only guys who can keep an arena on their feet for three straight hours. In honor of Giants Stadium's imminent destruction, Bruce broke out a new one, fittingly titled "Wrecking Ball," a tradition I hope he continues when he graces the Spectrum's stage for the last time in a couple of weeks. (Notice the words projected in the background, so we could sing along even though we'd never heard it before):
But I had also heard that you haven't seen Bruce until you've seen him at Giants Stadium and that it was a must for any true fan. So, again, how was it different? It was my best friend Lindsey who came up with the answer. After the show was over ' after the entirety of Born in the U.S.A., after the luckiest 13-year-old birthday girl in the world taught Bruce a few lessons on how to move, after a righteous "Kitty's Back" jam that rivaled his April encore ' she turned to me and said, "I never thought I'd cheer that hard for New Jersey." Setlist w/notes:
- Wrecking Ball ' Why, hello Bruce.
- Out In The Street
- Outlaw Pete ' Out of all of the new stuff, I'm glad this has made it into the set rotation. Like at the last Philly show, he sang it up against a white light background. One day, I will write an essay about Bruce's call the audience of "Can you hear me?" in confluence with "Radio Nowhere"'s "Is anybody alive out there?" and the connotations it has on his celebrity status. No one will read it but I'll think it's good.
- Hungry Heart ' I wish he played more from The River but because, as mentioned above, he played through the entirety of Born in the U.S.A., there simply wasn't enough time for "Crush on You" (hint, Bruce, if you're reading this, I'd really like to hear that when you play Philly. Thanks.)
- Working On A Dream
- Born In The U.S.A. ' As much as Born to Run is my favorite album, I'm glad he went through all of the Born in the U.S.A. It's high energy with few low spots. It also meant I didn't have to hear "Meeting Across the River." Goddamnit, I hate that song.
- Cover Me
- Darlington County ' "I see the glory of the comin' of the lord'"
- Working On The Highway
- Downbound Train
- I'm On Fire ' A beautiful rendition of a beautiful song but I still can't listen to it straightfaced after seeing this:
- No Surrender ' Other than this being a sentimental favorite, this is how we became tailgating friends with the people next to us in the parking lot. We had a broken styrofoam cooler filled with Buds. They had a tent, a grill, a table, snacks and port-a-potty (yeah, they brought one of those). We, to say the least, are amateurs.
- Bobby Jean
- I'm Goin' Down ' I've wanted to hear this live FOREVER. This is my second favorite Bruce Springsteen song at any given moment and I think it's one of the most romantic songs about someone not loving you anymore.
- Glory Days
- Dancing In The Dark
- My Hometown
- The Promised Land
- Last to Die
- Long Walk Home
- The Rising ' One of the reasons this song is so important is that it's not only a rallying cry for American post-9/11 but it's a rallying cry for the band, the first album after a far-too-long hiatus. I always like hearing this live because I think, out of everyone in the place, the band feels it the most.
- Born To Run
- Jersey Girl Encore (of sorts, they didn't leave the stage but poor Clarence had to sit for most of the concert and he was wearing some fierce gold nail polish to match his sax so I didn't begrudge him)
- Kitty's Back
- Detroit Medley
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- Waiting On A Sunny Day
- Thunder Road
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