Archive: December, 2009
|You, too, can live a healthy and productive life with genital herpes.|
Anyone catch MTV's Jersey Shore ' a reality show where people stop being polite and start getting day-drunk ' last night? I missed it but don't think I won't be scouring MTV for a rerun, based solely on this preview (and the fact that one character refers to himself as The Situation):
Daniel Cappello, executive director of the Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau, is not particularly happy about the show's portrayal of the Jerz:
'We're flattered that MTV thinks we're an interesting enough destination to warrant an entire reality series,' said Cappello. 'But the national TV audience is hardly getting the full story.'
'MTV is providing a one-dimensional, dramatized version of a very small group of visitors' summer experiences in one Jersey Shore town. We have many spectacular ocean and bay beaches in Monmouth and Ocean County, from the Atlantic Highlands down to Long Beach Island, and countless choices for people of all ages and walks of life to enjoy year round.
'The Jersey Shore's world-renowned legacy speaks for itself. There's a reason why millions of people have made us their primary vacation destination for two centuries. People who escape to other destinations once in their lives return to the Jersey Shore for a wholesome family experience year after year, from generation to generation. We welcome visitors to come here, even during the holiday season, to enjoy a cultural diversity that in no way reflects what is seen on MTV.'
Dude, the house is in Seaside Heights. Instead of espousing the benefits of family friendly environs in a long statement, Cappello could have just gone with, "Look, MTV highlighting Seaside Heights is like a high-end steakhouse only serving the cow's inner rectum. Try Sea Isle City."
New episodes of Jersey Shore premiere Thursdays at 10 p.m. on MTV.
|Photo | John Vettese|
Waiting for Espers to take the stage at Johnny Brenda's last night, a buddy and I debated their catalogue. He's a loyalist to the original document, the self-titled debut. Myself, I'm partial to the deep, dark chasms of Espers II. We eventually agreed that it's compelling and commendable how each of their releases ' particularly the brighter, more serene new Espers III ' has its own distinct identity. And then we watched as those identities bended seamlessly with one another when performed live.
|Photo | John Vettese|
The opener "Mansfield and Cyclops" ' a definitive Espers song if there was one ' comes from their second album, and Meg Baird's haunting intonations in the expansive composition positively dovetailed into harmonies with Greg Weeks on foggy, proggy "Road of Golden Dust" from III. The six-piece ensemble then moved into "Flaming Telepaths," a Blue 'yster Cult tune from their covers album The Weed Tree, which was just as complimentary. Later, they reached back to the first release for "Riding." Kind of an odd selection since it structurally feelt more like a transitionary afterthought than a stand-alone piece of music, but sonically it played right into the cat's cradle of interwoven eras.
The dissonant old songs felt more airy. The sparer new moments had more grounding (credit new bassist to Norm Fetter for beefing up the thinner tones on the record). And the set enraptured the ample crowd, much of which was politely seated on the Johnny Brenda's floor.
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Photo | John Vettese|
Another perk was the comforts-of-home vibe Espers' set gave off. Greg Weeks is a understatedly funny dude, and doesn't always let it show through onstage, but Johnny Brenda's must put him at ease. He cracked wise about the title of The Weed Tree, telling us it was named for an errant tree in guitarist Brooke Sietinsons' backyard, or maybe it was actually "something I dreamed up when I was putting weed in my bong." Awesome. Later, when Baird broke a string (and the band couldn't get together their Durutti Column cover my other buddy was yelling for), Weeks unwittingly found himself filling the space with discursive banter about their recent European tour. He recounted tales of harassment for his recently-trimmed stache at a Dublin dance club ("I don't like your mustache and I don't like you!"), where he was later set upon by a trio of Italian guys "because there was this woman dancing within like three meters of me and I guess I was perceived as a threat." When Meg made it back up on stage, Weeks said his monologue was a learning experience; "we learned we can't play without you." Naw, dude. You did just fine.
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Photo | John Vettese|
Also worth noting were the openers, both of whom were notable in opposite extremes.
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Photo | John Vettese|
Standing at a piano, belting out jazz standards and jazzy derivatives, a laptop flipped open at her side - which I swear was simply decorative as it did not seem to accomplish a damn thing - and taking frequent breaks to sip on, what was that, a Long Island Iced Tea? Seriously??...Chicago songwriter Azita came off like a hot mess. She's clearly an exceptionally skilled pianist; she's clearly got a powerhouse voice. And she clearly is fine with bludgeoning both those strengths to a pulp with sloppy carelessness - over-emoting one moment, underselling a crescendo the next, and at several points apologizing for not being drunk enough. I'm thinking crap, sister, you wanted to be drunker? Although bits of beauty eked through here and there, her set was mostly a train wreck of Cat Power proportions. Part of me wondered what the performance would be like if she had her shit together. Part of me wonders if, a la The Greatest and the Memphis Rhythm Band tour, it wouldn't nearly be as intriguing.
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Photo | John Vettese|
On the other side of the coin was red headed Canadian Doug Paisley. He played slow, low and striking rootsy folk, the stuff of Jackson Browne and Gram Parsons. He was charming and soft-spoken; the crowd watched in hushed attentiveness. And while his songs tended to drift into subaudible territory (a cover of Roy Orbison's "Candy Man" "Crying" notwithstanding), his worked the neck of his guitar so skillfully it was confounding.
Matterfact, between him and Meg Baird, I'd say I spent a good portion of the evening fixated in amazement at nimble fretting fingers.
|Photo | John Vettese|
Edardo Gonzalez was still feeling raw and drained when we spoke several days after respected folk musician and community activist Joaquin Rivera died in triage while waiting for medical care and was then robbed by three homeless men. Last night Gonzales spoke as best he could about his long time friend and music partner, compadre and inspiration.
"I keep thinking, this is just like Joaquin," said Edgardo Gonzalez,"if he had to die, he was going to do something with it." While Joaquin was best known as a musician, Gonzalez was referring to his activism. Rivera, a counselor at Olney High School, was a longtime advocate of bilingual education and active in the return of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques from the U.S. Navy. "The political marches he took part in, people don't know about that," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez swore he was cried out, but still choked with emotion. The very day that Rivera passed away he had been at the Gonzalez home. "I thought he seemed fine while he was here, having fun, but my wife said he was acting a little different," says Gonzalez. Playing music together was a long time habit for these men; Gonzalez played bass in Rivera's Los Pleneros del Batey, his band that played traditional Puerto Rican folk music.
But now, Gonzalez reflects on the way Rivera died. A man with insurance ' neglected despite asking for medical attention ' has brought international attention to the U.S. health care debate, according to the reactions Gonzalez has received. The world is watching. If he had to go, Joaquin Rivera would be pleased to have it be one last eloquent plea for justice.
At 6 p.m. tonight ' far north of the barrio ' there will be a viewing at the Givnish Home (10975 Academy Rd.), chosen for its large capacity. "People are flying in from Puerto Rico, Florida, Boston, all over," says Gonzalez. As the viewing starts off Joaquin's band will remember him in the heart of the barrio, starting this afternoon with a jam at Centro Musical (464 W Lehigh Ave.), where all the musicians hang. Gradually the music will move over to Taller Puertorrique'o (2721 North 5th St), where Gonzalez chairs the board and Executive Director Dr. Carmen Febo-San Miguel issued the statement, "We have lost a friend, a committed and tireless fighter for Puerto Rican rights and culture and a generous soul." A long-planned art opening on Taller's second floor gallery by well-known Puerto Rican painter To'o Martorell, will now be dedicated to the memory of Rivera.
Tomorrow morning there is another viewing at the church at St. Ambrose (600 West Venango), starting at 9 a.m. After that will be the funeral mass. "It will be a simple service with lots of singing, people standing up to speak about Joaquin," according to Gonzalez. Following the service he says, "Every Latino group in the city will be taking part," playing for Rivera as mourners walk down Venango to the Greemount Cemetery at Front and Luzerne streets. It will be a traffic stopping spectacle.
Gonzalez tells us there will be many more tributes and fond remembrances of Rivera who was so devoted to celebrating and sharing the heritage of his homeland. He also promises that all the holiday gigs that wouldn't be the same without some traditional songs will feature Los Pleneros, playing to honor Rivera. Check back here for updates.
If you want to find Gonzalez during any of these funeral events, he'll be easy to spot. "I kept thinking, 'What'll I wear? Guayabera?'" Gonzalez said, referring to the typical performing garb for pleneros. But Gonzalez settled on something that mixes the honor of formality with a nod to Rivera's tastes and sense of humor. Look for the man in a traditional black suit with the Ron Ca'a rum t-shirt peeping through, a final toast with Rivera's favorite tipple.
Tongiht, Viewing, 6 p.m., John F. Givnish Funeral Home, 10975 Academy Rd.
Sat., Dec. 5, Viewing, 9 a.m., Funeral Mass, 10 a.m., St. Ambrose, 600 W. Venango St.
GET LIT: Win a copy of Joel Waldfogel's Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays
|Princeton Press, 186 pp.,
$9.95, Oct. 25
It's day two of Book Quarterly Giveaway Week, and we're already confusing you. Today's trivia challenge concerns not a book reviewed in our BQ, but an eensy-weensy one I shouted out in this week's Kaleidoscope. Tomato, tomahto.
Joel Waldfogel's Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays packs a hefty punch for such a tiny book. Here's what I had to say about it:
Now that you've absorbed the mission behind our DIY Gift Guide ' that handmade prezzies are more thoughtful/less wallet-assaulting than store-bought ones ' Joel Waldfogel is here to harsh your yuletide buzz: The Wharton prof's Scroogenomics calls gift-giving a "deadweight loss": Presents generate waste and unhappiness and credit card debt, Waldfogel says, and in the end, we all lose. And while this little 4-by-6 party-pooper's perfectly sized as a stocking-stuffer, gifting a $10 book about thriftiness is a conundrum. To buy or not to buy?
To win a copy, thereby following Waldfogel's advice about not spending money, answer me this:
Speaking of cheapskates, Scrooge McDuck supposedly hails from what miserly city?
E-mail email@example.com for a chance to win. And on Monday, check back with Critical Mass for more trivia. Monday's book of the day: Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness.
|Courtesy of Frankford Ave. Arts Corridor|
For a more subversive, less drunk-bus-y First Friday than you may be used to getting in Old City, everyone knows by now to head to Fishtown and NoLibs. (Or just the 319 N. 11th St. building. Six galleries in one place!) In a step that further proves itself as the new center of gravity in Philly's art scene, there are a slew of kinda-new galleries and boutiques officially opening up tonight in Fishtown:
' the gallery Extra Extra, which arts ed Carolyn Huckabay mentioned in her First Friday Focus this week
' the caf' Bella Sera
' the vintage boutique two percent to glory, whose official opening will be Fri., Dec. 11
' the not-new-in-general, but recently-moved dance academy Philadelphia Argentine Tango School
' the artists' collective Part-Time Collective
' the artists' collective Piranha Betty's Art Market
To celebrate their new neighbors, the New Kensington Community Development Corporation is hosting a holiday walk tonight from 6 to 9 p.m., with all sorts of drinks, art shows, craft shows, sales, DIY decoration workshops, DJs and ' aw, gee ' hot cocoa. For lots more details, hit up Frankford Ave. Arts Corridor's Web site.
'I've moved on to another victim, but I'm still a maniac.'
The first chords on the radio screamed 'Moving Day.' It hasn't been heard it in years, and what a sporty version. Who could it be jazzing up this old Charlie Poole chestnut? It sounds like Loudon Wainwright III. Since there's nobody who sounds like LWIII but himself, this bears investigation. A search turned up an entire two-CD tribute to Charlie Poole, High Wide & Handsome (Second Story), that features Wainwright and his extended musical family ' kids, exes, former in-laws, sister.
Wainwright is best known for his clever songwriting. Namesake son of Life mag editor, product of dad's alma mater (that once thoroughly WASP bastion of Epicopalian refinement, St. Andrews in Middletown DE) he has all the advantages for refined and imaginative writing. But the whole time he was studying in Delaware Wainwright recalls carefully choosing his weekends to come north to Philly. 'I'd come up to the Second Fret to see my heroes like Ramblin' Jack Eliott and Jim Kweskin.'
Take note of those names, both known wild men.
During his formation as a folk-inspired writer there was a general revival of interest in the late '20s/early '30s recordings made by Charlie Poole. Poole was a Carolina banjo picker who favored large living and silly songs like 'Moving Day' and 'The Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World' (both respectfully updated by Wainwright and Co.). Poole was also the first to have a huge hit with rural sounds. People of the Great Folk Music Scare of the '60s loved reissues of his stuff and attempting to play it exactly as he had. Now Wainwright is bound to see that the 20-aughts catch Poole fever as well.
As Wainwright writes in the lavishly annotated booklet, there was a time when he identified with Poole so strongly he thought he might even write a motion picture about the showman ' and star in it. That project never got done, but when Dick Connette approached Wainwright to do a tribute recording, it didn't take much persuasion.
The result, High Wide & Handsome, the Charlie Poole Project (Second Story) lives appropriately large, two CDs and a nice thick booklet packed with notes and reproduced sheet music, photos plus lyrics for every song. The songs are split between numbers popularized by Poole and Wainwright originals that tell Poole's short but vivid life story. Among the graphics is a postcard he sent home from Chester PA, reproduced with its 1920 postmark, is tantalizing mystery as to our southerly neighbor's connection to old time music in that era.
The package works well in telling Poole's bio, from the title song that explains what Wainwright figures to have been the Poole motto to 'The Man in the Moon' written from the perspective of Poole's longsuffering wife. The latter is sung by former in-law Maggie Roche with such touching tenderness it begged the question, 'Is that you as much as Charlie?' Yeah, he admits, he can be tough to be married to. 'I've moved on to another victim,' he chortles, 'but I'm still a maniac.'
It took over two years complete the recording. 'We had a ball making the record. It was done over a long time,' says Wainwright. But that allowed family members with conflicting schedules to all contribute. The collection works so well musically and narratively it begs a Broadway show more than a feature movie.
Given the difficulty of getting Rufus and Martha and the Roches free for even the one night they performed the CD live in NYC earlier this fall, let alone the instrumentalists like Chris Thile and Chaim Tannenbaum, Dana Lynn and Rayna Gellert, a long running show is unlikely. But load the CDs so the songs play in sequence and imagine you're listening to a live radio broadcast from back in the day. It will take you there.
Fri., Dec. 4, 8 p.m., $29-$37, Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave, Glenside, 215-572-7650, keswicktheatre.com.
So, there's this movie you need to see if you haven't already. Seriously, open up your little Netflix queue before you read the rest of this.
Okay, in the search field type in Sexy Beast. Add. Enjoy the fuck out of it.
For those already into Beast-iality, 44 Inch Chest is the follow-up from SB writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto and reunites much of the core cast (okay, so only two from the cast' but whatever). SB began with a shot of the glorious Ray Winstone sunbathing in his Spanish retirement villa, barrel belly protruding from an itsy bitsy neon-mankini. He's tan, well-rested and far and away from the gangster doings of his London life (and certainly not expecting the onslaught of badassery that is Ben Kingsley's character). Here, Winstone is a man of a different sort: He plays Colin, whose wife (Joanne Whalley) wants out of their marriage because she's miserable and banging some other dude. Colin, needless to say, is pissed.
So he gets together his buddies who just so happen to be made up of my favorite British character actors: Ian McShane! John Hurt! Tom Wilkinson! How do I know that I will thoroughly enjoy this movie? John Hurt's character's name is Old Man Peanut. And Ian McShane is in it. Like many, I first encountered McShane as Al Swearengen on HBO's Deadwood (haven't seen it? Add to queue) where he said 'cocksucker' every 47 seconds and manipulated a shitload of people mainly because he felt like it and because he could. So, I love seeing him in dandified role. His hair may be slicked back, he may be in a well-tailored suit but I have no qualms about the fact that he's still Al motherfuckin' Swearengen at heart.
44 Inch Chest will be distributed in the U.S. by Image Entertainment but no release date has been set.
|Aloof Hills: Family Meeting, by Kara Crombie|
Vox Populi's always got a ton of shows going on simultaneously in its third-floor gallery space in Chinatown. But we were particularly drawn to Kara Crombie's Aloof Hills animation series, which follows a Civil War-era plantation family in a whacked-out, super-saturated adventure.
Here's more, from yesterday's First Friday Focus:
Crombie's inspirations are as varied as her multimedia samples: She used a clip from Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, shot background scenery in idyllic South Carolina and clipped a YouTube video of a little boy high on dentist-administered nitrous. "The cool thing about sampling is that unconscious vibe you get," Crombie says. "You may not know where it's from, but it has a ... vague memory attached to it."
I asked Kara some questions about her myriad inspirations for the work, which you can read below. And be sure to check out tonight's opening at Vox. (Opening reception Fri., Dec. 4, 6-11 p.m., free, ends Jan. 3, 319 N. 11th St., third floor, 215-238-1236, voxpopuligallery.org.)
City Paper: I am in love with the concept for this piece, and certainly haven't seen anything quite like it. How did you come up with the idea?
Kara Crombie: A couple of years ago I was reading an article about Christian Revisionists. I got really interested in it and I started checking out their Web sites, which are basically sales catalogs for things like home school textbooks and civil war costumes for 10-year-old boys. I thought, "What do Christian revisionists do for porn?" So I thought about writing a great trashy romance novel for them. The main character would be the beautiful teenage daughter of a plantation owner 'fighting in the Civil War. Her adventures would lead to 'many exciting sexual encounters, and at the end she would meet Stonewall Jackson, find God, and renounce her sexual misdeeds. I figured this would be a big hit on the Vision Forum Web site, I could make a million bucks and Christian Revisionists could get some porn. Everyone deserves the opportunity to take pleasure in "deviant" stuff without guilt.
In the extended fantasy it became a series on HBO that would be so over-the-top that the Christian Revisionists, not realizing they had been reading porn all along, would burn all my books. So that was fake plan for a couple of years. Then, one day this summer I thought, "Duh, this isn't a hundred thousand dollar fantasy. Just make it an animation." But that origin seems really distant now. When you actually get to work on something, it all changes, and hopefully you figure out some better things.
CP: The work seems really literary in nature ' do you have a background in literature that influences this knack for storytelling?
KC: No, I watch a lot of film. There are three books, though, that really influenced me when I was writing the script: East of Eden (Steinback), The Diary of Laura Palmer (Jennifer Lynch) and Flowers in the Attic (VC Andrews). They're all amazing.
CP: Tell me about the anachronisms of the story that you hope will make the piece seem more like a collective cultural dream.
KC: Despite being set during the Civil War, both the music and dialogue are contemporary. And the film and video sources span decades. But I don't think any of these "samples" would be recognizable to anyone. They are altered and put to a new beat. But the cool thing about sampling is that unconscious vibe you get. You may not know where it's from, but has a certain feel, and sometimes even vague memory attached to it.
CP: How did you decide where you'd cull your source material? It's pretty diverse ' from porn to Christian Revisionist coloring books.
KC: I shot all the landscapes this summer in South Carolina because I wanted them to look a particular way. But after that, there are narrative moments that need to be illustrated, and that's where the animation and sampling come in. I think the photographic image was invented and then every artist after that fits into two camps: photographers and non-photographers. Duchamp was a photographer, Jeff Koons is a photographer, Jay-Z is a photographer. Those who put frames around things and then recontexualize them. How do you pick what to frame? Whatever best helps you express what you're trying to say. I'm not interested in the "metanarrative" of appropriation. For example, I have a little clip from Sweet Sweetback's'Baadasssss Song, but not because I'm try to say something about Blaxploitation Films, but because it's a beautiful, incredibly sexy shot that was perfect in this two-second context. Then there is this scene where a young boy is tripping on mushrooms. As it turns out, there is a footage on YouTube of a little kid high after a dentist appointment, which no amount of brilliant animation or acting skills could beat. The fact that a million people have seen this video attests to its quality. There's an ode to photographer Thomas Demand in there, too, as Laurie walks through some of his spaces. He's one of the greats when it come to doing this stuff ' picking what to frame and how.
KC: All of the music is done by Gerhardt Koerner. I am always distracted by well-known pop songs in film. And then Gerhardt, Dana Fedeli, Josh Rickards and Jim Hinz do voices for the characters. They're all great.
CP: Can you tell me about the next installments and your plans for them?
KC: Laurie runs away from the Aloof Hills Plantation and has many adventures with an Evil Buddhist and some Lesbian Native Americans. She finally meets Stonewall Jackson and marries an amputee soldier on the front. They name the child Jackson. That's the end of Season 1. Season 2 will follow Jackson and his meteoric rise to musical stardom in Chicago in the early '20s.
Last year, our fair city cleaned up at the Sundance Film Festival via the presence of West Philly-born Lee Daniels and his powerhouse Precious, which took home the grand jury prize and the audience award for drama as well as a special jury prize for acting for Mo'nique.
This year, Philadelphia makes its presence known with Tanya Hamilton's Night Catches Us ' previously known as Stringbean and Marcus ' starring Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington. The Roots' Tariq Trotter also takes on a part. Shadow and Act has the press release from producer Ron Simons:
Set in Philadelphia in 1978, Night Catches Us focuses on two former Black Panthers, Marcus (Mackie) and Pat (Washington), who reignite a love affair when Marcus returns home after a decade in exile.
Pat's ten-year-old daughter Iris (newcomer Jamara Griffin) at first rejects Marcus' return, but soon discovers a kindred spirit in a man who can fill in the missing pieces of her family history. This peace is threatened by a triangle of opposing forces: local Panther leader Do-Right (Hector), who wants to settle past debts with Marcus; Detective Gordon (Pierce), who tries to blackmail him; and Jimmy (Off-Broadway sensation Amari Cheatom), a troubled client of Pat's pro bono law practice, who takes a twisted idea of Panther justice into his own hands.
The community is thrown into chaos, as racial conflict explodes and Marcus is forced to confront the truth about what had kept him on the run for so many years.
The film was originally set to star Mos Def in the Mackie role, and while I gave Mos Def and Kaleidoscopic shout out, Mackie was fantastic in The Hurt Locker and I'd like to see what he can do in this role.
See the full list of in-competition films afters the jump. The Sundance Film Festival takes place Jan. 21-31, 2010. Look out in February for Sam Adams' annual Sundance round-up.Via Sundance Festival 2010:
U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
This year's 16 films were selected from 862 submissions. Each film is a world premiere.
Bhutto (Directors: Jessica Hernandez and Johnny O'Hara; Screenwriter: Johnny O'Hara)'A riveting journey through the life and work of 'recently assassinated Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani prime minister and a polarizing figure in the Muslim world. World Premiere
CASINO JACK & The United States of Money (Director: Alex Gibney)'A probing investigation into the lies, greed and corruption surrounding D.C. super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies. 'World Premiere
Family Affair (Director: Chico Colvard)'An uncompromising documentary that examines resilience, survival and the capacity to accommodate a parent's past crimes in order to satisfy the longing for family. World Premiere
Freedom Riders (Director: Stanley Nelson)'The story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists called the Freedom Riders who in 1961 creatively challenged segregation in the American South. World Premiere
Gas Land (Director: Josh Fox)'A cross-country odyssey uncovers toxic streams, dying livestock, flammable sinks and weakening health among rural citizens on the front lines of the natural gas drilling craze. World Premiere
I'm Pat _______ Tillman (Director: Amir Bar-Lev)'The story of professional football star and decorated U.S. soldier Pat Tillman, whose family takes on the U.S. government when their beloved son dies in a "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan in 2004. World Premiere
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (Director: Tamra Davis)'The story of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose work defined, electrified and challenged an era, and whose untimely death at age 27 has made him a cultural icon. World Premiere
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Directors: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg)'A rare, brutally honest glimpse into the comedic process and private dramas of legendary comedian and pop icon Joan Rivers as she fights tooth and nail to keep her American dream alive. World Premiere
Lucky (Director: Jeffrey Blitz)'The story of what happens when ordinary people hit the lottery jackpot.
My Perestroika (Director: Robin Hessman)'My Perestroika follows five ordinary Russians living in extraordinary times ' from their sheltered Soviet childhood, to the collapse of the Soviet Union during their teenage years, to the constantly shifting political landscape of post-Soviet Russia. Together, these childhood classmates paint a complex picture of the dreams and disillusionments of those raised behind the Iron Curtain. World Premiere
The Oath (Director: Laura Poitras)' Filmed in Yemen, The Oath tells the story of two men whose fateful encounter in 1996 set them on a course of events that led them to Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantanamo, and the U.S. Supreme Court. World Premiere
Restrepo (Directors: Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington)'Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's year dug in with the Second Platoon in one of Afghanistan's most strategically crucial valleys reveals extraordinary insight into the surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie as the soldiers painfully push back the Taliban. World Premiere
A Small Act (Director: Jennifer Arnold)'A young Kenyan's life changes dramatically when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he founds his own scholarship program to replicate the kindness he once received. World Premiere
Smash His Camera (Director: Leon Gast)'Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sued him, and Marlon Brando broke his jaw. The story of notorious, reviled paparazzo Ron Galella opens a Pandora's Box of issues from right to privacy, freedom of the press and the ever-growing vortex of celebrity worship. World Premiere
12th & Delaware (Directors: Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing)'The abortion battle continues to rage in unexpected ways on an unassuming corner in America. World Premiere
Waiting for Superman (Director: Davis Guggenheim)'Waiting for Superman examines the crisis of public education in the United States through multiple interlocking stories'from a handful of students and their families whose futures hang in the balance, to the educators and reformers trying to find real and lasting solutions within a dysfunctional system. World Premiere
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
This year's 16 films were selected from 1,058 submissions. Each film is a world premiere.
Blue Valentine (Director: Derek Cianfrance; Screenwriters: Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis) 'Blue Valentine is the story of love lost and love found told in two parallel moments in time. Flooded with romantic memories of their courtship, Dean and Cindy use one night to try and save their failing marriage. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in this honest portrait of a relationship on the rocks. Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, Faith Wladyka. World Premiere
Douchebag (Director: Drake Doremus; Screenwriters: Lindsay Stidham, Drake Doremus, Jonathan Schwartz and Andrew Dickler) 'On the verge of getting married, Sam Nussbaum insists he escort his younger brother, Tom, on a wild goose chase of a journey to find Tom's fifth grade girlfriend. Cast: Andrew Dickler, Ben York Jones, Marguerite Moreau, Nicole Vicius, Amy Ferguson, Wendi McClendon-Covey. World Premiere
The Dry Land (Director and screenwriter: Ryan Piers Williams)'A U.S. soldier returning home from war struggles to reconcile his experiences abroad with the life and family he left in Texas. Cast: Ryan O'Nan, America Ferrera, Wilmer Valderrama, Ethan Suplee, June Diane Raphael, Melissa Leo. World Premiere
happythankyoumoreplease (Director and screenwriter: Josh Radnor)'Six New Yorkers' negotiate love, friendship, and gratitude at a time when they're too old to be precocious and not ready to be adults. Cast: Malin Akerman, Josh Radnor, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Tony Hale, Pablo Schreiber, Michael Algieri. World Premiere
Hesher(Director: Spencer Susser; Screenwriters: Spencer Susser and David Michod; Story by Brian Charles Frank)'A mysterious, anarchical trickster descends on the lives of a family struggling to deal with a painful loss. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Devin Brochu, Piper Laurie, John Carroll Lynch. World Premiere
Holy Rollers (Director: Kevin Tyler Asch; Screenwriter: Antonio Macia)'A young Hasidic man, seduced by money, power and opportunity, becomes an international Ecstasy smuggler. Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Danny A. Abeckaser, Ari Graynor, Jason Fuchs. World Premiere
Howl (Directors and screenwriters: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman)'A nonfiction drama about the young Allen Ginsberg finding his voice, the creation of his groundbreaking poem HOWL, and the landmark obscenity trial that followed. Cast: James Franco, David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels. World Premiere
The Imperialists are still Alive! (Director and screenwriter: Zeina Durra)'Juggling the sudden abduction of her childhood sweetheart as well as a blooming love affair, a French Manhattanite makes her way as an artist in an indifferent, sometimes hostile world. Cast: 'lodie Bouchez, Jos' Mar'a de Tavira, Karim Saleh Karolina Muller, Marianna Kulukundis, Rita Ackerman. World Premiere
Lovers of Hate (Director and screenwriter: Bryan Poyser)'The shaky reunion of estranged brothers takes a turn for the worse when the woman they both love chooses one over the other.' Cast: Chris Doubek, Heather Kafka, Alex Karpovsky, Zach Green. World Premiere
Night Catches Us (Director and screenwriter: Tanya Hamilton)'In 1978, complex political and emotional forces are set in motion when a young man returns to the race-torn Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age during the Black Power movement. Cast: Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Jamie Hector, Wendell Pierce, Jamara Griffin. World Premiere
Obselidia (Director and screenwriter: Diane Bell)'A lonely librarian believes love is obsolete until a road trip to Death Valley with a beguiling cinema projectionist teaches him otherwise. Cast: Gaynor Howe, Michael Piccirilli, Frank Hoyt Taylor. World Premiere
Skateland (Director: Anthony Burns; Screenwriters: Anthony Burns, Brandon Freeman, Heath Freeman)'In the early 1980s, in small-town Texas, dramatic events force a 19-year-old skating rink manager to look at his life in a very new way. Cast: Shiloh Fernandez, A.J. Buckley, Ashley Greene, Brett Cullen, Ellen Hollman, Heath Freeman. World Premiere
Sympathy for Delicious (Director: Mark Ruffalo; Screenwriter: Christopher Thornton)'A newly paralyzed DJ gets more than he bargained for when he seeks out the world of faith healing. Cast: Orlando Bloom, Mark Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, Laura Linney, John Carroll Lynch. World Premiere
3 Backyards (Director and screenwriter: Eric Mendelsohn)'A quiet suburban town becomes an intense emotional terrain for three residents over the course of one curious autumn day. Cast: Embeth Davidtz, Edie Falco, Elias Koteas, Rachel Resheff, Kathryn Erbe, Danai Gurira. World Premiere
Welcome to the Rileys (Director: Jake Scott; Screenwriter: Ken Hixon)'On a business trip to New Orleans, a damaged man seeks salvation by caring for a wayward young woman. Cast: James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, Melissa Leo. World Premiere
Winter's Bone (Director: Debra Granik; Screenwriters: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini)'An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Kevin Breznahan. World Premiere
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
This year's 12 films were selected from 782 international documentary submissions.
A Film Unfinished / Germany, Israel (Director: Yael Hersonski)'Film reels uncovered in Nazi archives reveal the mechanisms used to stage Warsaw Ghetto life--images which have shaped our view of history. World Premiere
Enemies of the People / Cambodia, United Kingdom(Directors: Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath)'A young journalist whose family was killed by the Khmer Rouge befriends the perpetrators of the Killing Fields genocide, evoking shocking revelations. U.S. Premiere
Fix ME / France, Palestinian Territories, Switzerland(Director: Raed Andoni)'When Palestinian filmmaker Raed Andoni gets a headache that won't quit, he seeks out help and insight in different forms in his hometown of Ramallah. International Premiere
His & Hers / Ireland (Director: Ken Wardrop)'Seventy Irish women offer moving insights into the relationships between women and men. North American Premiere
Kick in Iran / Gemany (Director: Fatima Geza Abdollahyan)'The first female professional Taekwondo fighter from Iran to qualify for the Olympic Games struggles for recognition in a society where women still play a subordinate role. World Premiere
Last Train Home / Canada (Director: Lixin Fan)'Getting a train ticket in China proves a towering ordeal as a migrant worker family embarks on a journey, along with 200 million other peasants, to reunite with their distant family. U.S. Premiere
The Red Chapel (Det R'de Kapel) / Denmark (Director: Mads Br'gger)'A journalist with no scruples, a self-proclaimed spastic, and a comedian travel to North Korea under the guise of a cultural exchange visit to challenge one of the world's most notorious regimes. U.S. Premiere
Russian Lessons / Russia, Georgia, Norway (Directors: Olga Konskaya and Andrei Nekrasov)'An investigation into Russian actions during the 2008 war in Georgia, revealing the little known story of the ethnic cleansing in the region since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. World Premiere
Secrets of the Tribe / Brazil (Director: Jos' Padilha)'Is the academic Anthropology community capable of generating real knowledge about mankind? The scandals and the infighting regarding the representation of indigenous Indians in the Amazon Basin seems to indicate that the answer may be a resounding no. World Premiere
Sins of My Father / Argentina, Colombia (Director: Nicolas Entel)'The life and times of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar are recounted through the eyes of his son, who fled Colombia to move beyond his father's legacy. North American Premiere
Space Tourists / Switzerland (Director: Christian Frei)'A humorous and laconic view of the way billionaires depart our planet earth to travel into outer space for fun. North American Premiere
Waste Land / United Kingdom (Director: Lucy Walker)'Lives are transformed when international art star Vik Muniz collaborates with garbage pickers in the world's largest landfill in Rio de Janeiro. World Premiere
WORLD CINEMA NARRATIVE COMPETITION
This year's 14 films were selected from 1,022 international narrative feature submissions.
All that I Love / Poland (Director and screenwriter: Jacek Borcuch)'In 1981, during the growing Polish Solidarity movement, four small-town teenagers form a punk rock band with the hope of playing at a local festival. Cast: Mateusz Ko?ciukiewicz, Jakub Giersza?, Mateusz Banasiuk, Olga Frycz, Igor Ob?oza. North American Premiere
Animal Kingdom / Australia (Director and screenwriter: David Mich'd)'After the death of his mother, a seventeen year-old boy is thrust precariously between an explosive criminal family and a detective who thinks he can save him. Cast: Guy Pearce, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver,' James Frecheville. World Premiere
Boy / New Zealand (Director and screenwriter: Taika Waititi)'When his father returns home after many years away, 11-year-old Boy and his little brother Rocky must reconcile reality with the fantasy dad they created in their imagination. Cast: Taika Waititi, James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone. World Premiere
Contracorriente (Undertow) / Colombia, France, Germany, Peru (Director and screenwriter: Javier Fuentes-Leon)'An unusual ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside, a married fisherman struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his town's rigid traditions. Cast: Cristian Mercado, Manolo Cardona, Tatiana Astengo. North American Premiere
Four Lions / UK (Director: Chris Morris and screenwriters: Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain)'A comedy tour de force about a bunch of self styled British jihadis. Cast: Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak. World Premiere
Grown Up Movie Star / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Adriana Maggs)'After her mother runs away, a teenage girl, determined to grow up fast, is left to care for her hopelessly rural father. Cast: Shawn Doyle, Tatiana Maslany, Jonny Harris, Mark O'Brien, Andy Jones, Julia Kennedy. U.S. Premiere
The Man Next Door (El Hombre de al Lado) / Argentina (Directors and screenwriters: Mariano Cohn and Gast'n; Screenwriter: Andres Duprat)'' A small incident over two neighbors common wall sparks a conflict which affects the intimacy of the view over the chimney; the protagonist sparks a conflict and with paranoiac obsession destroys everyday life. Cast: Rafael Spregelburd, Daniel Ar'oz, Eugenia Alonso, In's Budassi, Lorenza Acu'a. International Premiere
Me Too (Yo, Tambi'n) / Spain(Directors and screenwriters: 'lvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro)'A 34-year-old college-educated man with Down syndrome and his free-spirited co-worker forge an unconventional relationship. Cast: Pablo Pineda, Lola Due'as, Antonio Naharro, Isabel Garcia Lorca, Pedro Alvarez Ossorio. International Premiere
Nuummioq / Greenland (Directors: Otto Rosing and Torben Bech; Screenwriter: Torben Bech)'A young man's journey through the exquisite natural landscape of Greenland allows him to piece together elements of his past and move on with his life. Cast: Lars Rosing, Angunnguaq Larsen, Julie Berthelsen, Morten Rose, Makka Kleist, Mariu Olsen. World Premiere
Peepli Live / India (Director and screenwriter: Anusha Rizvi)'A satirical look at the predicament of a poor farmer who creates a media frenzy when, beset with debt, he announces that he will commits suicide so his family can receive government compensation. Cast: Omkar Das, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Raghubir Yadav, Shalini Vatsa, Farukh Jaffer' World Premiere
Son of Babylon / Iraq (Director: Mohamed Al Daradji; Screenwriters: Mohamed Al-Daradji, Jennifer Norridge, Mithal Ghazi) In the days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a young Kurdish boy and his grandmother venture through Iraq on a quest to find their missing father/son. Cast: Yasser Talib, Shazda Hussein, Bashir Al-Majid. International Premiere
Southern District (Zona Sur) / Bolivia (Director and screenwriter: Juan Carlos Valdivia)'In La Paz, Bolivia, in a villa surrounded by beautiful gardens, an upper-class family experiences final halcyon days of luxury as social change penetrates their bubble. 'Cast: Nin'n del Castillo, Pascual Loayza, Nicol's Fern'ndez, Juan Pablo Koria, Mariana Vargas. North American Premiere
The Temptation of St. Tony / Estonia (Director and screenwriter: Veiko 'unpuu)'A mid-level manager who develops an aversion to being "good" 'finds himself confronting the mysteries of middle-age and morality as he loses grasp of what was once his quiet life. Cast: Taavi Eelmaa, Rain Tolk, Tiina Tauraite, Katariina Lauk, Raivo E. Tamm. World Premiere
Vegetarian (Chaesikjueuija) / South Korea (Director and screenwriter: Lim Woo-seong)'A young housewife, finds herself having strange dreams that make her disgusted by meat, leading to trouble with her meat-loving husband and attention from her artist brother in law. Cast: CHEA Min-Seo, KIM Hyun-Sung, KIM Yeo-Jin, KIM Young-Jae. International Premiere
Every Thursday, we give you this week's LGBTQ to-do list.
-- Does the holiday season have you feeling especially generous this year? If so, you could mosey on by Tavern on Camac (243 S. Camac St., 215-545-0900) tonight from to 8 p.m. to make a contribution to Wayne Bowman's 11th Annual Toy Drive. Each gift will go to children served in the AIDS Coalition of South Jersey, a social service that provides support for those affected by HIV/AIDS. This event is held in conjunction with Nightlifegay.com's monthly social gathering, Smile Happy Hour, so you can bring a gift and have a well-deserved cocktail while you're there.
-- If you find yourself feeling a tad bit heavier this week after a gluttonous holiday feast, then you may want to shed some of that extra jiggle through the art of rump shaking. On Fri., Dec. 4 from 9 to 1 a.m., L2 Lounge (2201 South St., 215-732-7878) is hosting the party "Oh, What A Night." DJs John Bobon and Jeb '7701' Corner will take turns spinning remixed pop hits and mash-ups of everyone's favorite party anthems. L2 Lounge is also partaking in the spirit of giving, donating the $10 cover charge to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
-- I'm really excited about a show coming to the Painted Bride Theater (230 Vine St., 215-925-9914) this weekend: Becoming A Man in 127 EASY Steps ($25). It goes down on Fri.-Sat., Dec. 4-5 at 8 p.m. Written and performed by trans artist Scott Turner Schofield (pictured), the show plays out like one of those 'choose-your-own-adventure' stories by allowing the audience to decide which direction the show takes. Turner says each storyline will examine the drama and humor behind what it means to be a 'man' in today's society and will incorporate his own transitional experiences via direct dialogue and a display of aerial dance and acrobatics. (You can read more about it in my Agenda pick here.) This definitely sounds like a performance that shouldn't be missed, but be warned ladies: You may leave with a serious crush on your hands ' Scott is pretty darn easy on the eyes. Woot!
-- Starting Sat., Dec. 5, and continuing every Saturday through Feb. 13 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the Attic Youth Center (255 S. 16th St., 215-545-4331) is hosting a free workshop for those interested in learning to express themselves through the art of erotic writing. Event coordinator and Philadelphia poet J. Mason says the purpose of the group is to provide a comfortable space for LGBTQ, female-identified people to discuss and write about sexual issues that concern or titillate them. Some of the topics that will be discussed throughout the 10-week series include sexual consent, healing from negative experiences involving our bodies, and even foul-mouthed love poems. The group, which welcomes people of all writing levels, will be led by Mason and two other Philly poets, Saida Agostini and Erica Laue.
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