Archive: July, 2011
Q&A with MIKE CAHILL: "We have a primal fear of being alone in the universe. That’s why we reach out."
Another Earth starts and leaves its viewers with one haunting question: If there were a mirror Earth, what would it mean? Could lost loved ones be there? Could you wipe away the stains of your crimes and sins? Would you like your mirror-self? And what sacrifice would you be willing to make to be on that other version of Earth?
Director/writer Mike Cahill and star/writer/co-producer Brit Marling probed these questions in their film, in which Marling plays a girl who leads a charmed life — including having just been accepted into MIT. But then she strikes a sedan and kills the family in it (all but one member). After being imprisoned for four years, feeling worthless and working menial jobs, she seeks out the once-comatose widower of the deceased family, a classical composer played by William Mapother. While she grows close to the widower without him knowing who she is, she enters and wins an essay contest where the prize is a trip to Another Earth.
To tell you more would be cruel. But to let Cahill do it is a joy.
City Paper: How does a guy with such a deep résumé of music documentaries (Sting, Leonard Cohen) start thinking about Another Earth?
Mike Cahill: When I was still studying at Georgetown, I was making a lot of shorts — fictional films starring Brit, who was like four years younger than me. So we had this collaborative background in fiction, kids telling stories. When I graduated, I started working for National Geographic and started on real authentic stories, like the music docs. But I always wanted Brit and I to go back to our roots. Documentaries give you a confidence in regard to walking into a scene. You so often have to capture the unpredictable. Add an extra amount of control and your meter for authenticity goes up — that’s your barometer. So I approached Another Earth as if it were a documentary, taking a story that is science fiction but grounding it in reality.
CP: The film definitely has that feel. What visual twist did you wish to lend Another Earth to make it adaptable to fiction?
MC: I always thought it was be interesting if the camera from Dogma 95, the stripped-down, bare, naturalistic thing, caught that other Earth in the sky. District 9 in its intent, more modest in its budget. If it felt real in its look and its technique, we could make it feel real. There are cues and syntax that an audience understands. Magic realism, if you will; heavy-handed, even.
CP: You took the words out of my mouth. Talk about the emotionalism of second chances and how you married that with science.
MC: We as humans have a primal sort of fear of being alone, alone in the universe. That’s why we reach out. We don’t want to be the only ones here. That’s just a microcosm. Humans have a singular perspective. No matter how people are around us, there’s intense loneliness. That emotion — that’s captured in The Double Life of Veronique, the cultural notion of doppelgangers — a soul mate, is part of the subconscious. We made a twist on that by saying that there is another one of each and every one of all of us, 3 billion of us. Think about that complication, externalizing that interior process. That emotion bled into the science and the fiction of it.
Grace Ortelere makes shopping even more fun (and cheap!) with her weekly roundup of the best bargains in Philly.
While getting paid to shop would be the ultimate career, that luxury is typically only reserved for the few and far between. But don't lose sight of your dream just yet. The Indie Boutique Shopper Card is a local rewards program that offers a spiffy incentive when you purchase schwag in area stores. Every time you spend $50 at one of the ten participating locations, you get a stamp. Once you have ten stamps, you get a $10 gift certificate to each place. Sound difficult? Here are a few suggestions for racking up the necessary points:
➤ Start out at the Northern Liberties location of the eco-friendly boutique Arcadia (819 N. Second St., 215-667-8099). It’s not hard to drop a few hundred here, but you can find some sale pieces like the Abalone tank for $58.
➤ Then head over to Art Star (623 N. Second St., 215-238-1557), which is a gallery and boutique not far away. Although the Penelope Rakov Cotton Candy ring is adorable, it's not enough to get a stamp. Throw in a postcard decorated with an adorable set of owls and the words “Who doesn’t love a pair of hooters?” and a Johnny Cash finger puppet (why not?) and you’re good to go.
➤ Next up is Once Worn (910 N. Second St., 215-627-1122), where you can snag consignment items. Check out the jewelry selection — pearl earrings and a vintage brooch will bring you closer to the jackpot.
➤ Colorful denim is in this summer, so grab some WeSC Roxanne bright red shorts from Omoi (1608 Pine St., 215-545-0963)for $68. Or grab a hot pink paper weight in the shape of Beethoven and subway maps for a grand total of $55.
➤ Tired yet? Only five more to go: Loop, Spool, Jinxed, Arcadia’s Rittenhouse location and Wilbur Vintage. That should do the trick. Next weekend you can reap the benefits of your hard work by heading back out with your gift cards to stock up on a few more essentials. Winning!
Every Friday, Ryan Carey dishes on who and what's giving Philly the giggles.
Tonight Alex J. Gross hosts the Gross Show at Philly Improv Theater. Described by Gross as a "trashy talk show," the Gross Show is a character-based variety show starring a cross section of Philly comedians like Maureen Costello, Paul Triggiani, Sue Taney, Alejandro Morales, and Greg Maughan. The "guests" that come on the show include aliens, fast-food eating competitors, dating game contestants and "Philly Got Talent" acts including the "world's greatest *****-eater.
The 22-year-old Gross started doing comedy at his high school in Schuylkill County. He graduated from NYC's Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre in May of 2009 and came straight to Philadelphia to start doing comedy. An eager gentleman, Gross offered several ambitious pitches — one being Nude Improv — before finally getting the okay from PHIT to do the Gross Show. I asked if he had gotten any folks willing to participate in the nude show: "I had some maybes, but the people who seemed most willing to do it were not the kind of people you would normally want to see naked."
The monthly show, which started this past January, is preceded by "Hey Everybody" standup comedy at 7 p.m., Camp Woods sketch at 8:30 p.m., and The Theme Show at 10:00 p.m.. Doing tonight's Gross Show theme song will be Vineland, N.J. hip-hop duo The Highsley Brothers.
Tonight, 10:30 p.m., $10 ($5 with the password "Goatsy"), Shubin Theatre, 407 Bainbridge St., 267-233-1556, phillyimprovtheater.com.
With independent book sellers dropping like flies across the country, there are several in Philly that have managed to stay afloat. City Paper's Peter Chawaga heads out in search of these local gems to discover what it is that's kept an open sign swinging on their front doors.
For my first piece on quirky new and used bookstores in the city, I decided to visit the famous Whodunit?, Philly’s well-known mystery bookstore located at 1931 Chestnut St. The store carries over 20,000 books and has been in the same location since 1977. I talked to one of the store’s partners, Art Bourgeau, and he graciously attempted to field my questions the best he could as book deliveries and customers breezed in and out. He informed me that Whodunit? is the oldest mystery book store in the world, but as the digital age has made it possible for enthusiasts to find these books online, they had to broaden their selection. Since mystery fans no longer travel thousands of miles to visit the store, Art and his partner Henry Reifsnyder decided to welcome science-fiction, history, religion and literature onto their shelves. Art tells me that the key to their success is the ability to keep shopping to find obscure titles. This has not only allowed them to continue drawing customers, but to sell to the likes of the Vatican, the University of St. Petersburg and even the White House.
Whodunit? has books to browse through on a table outside and on the insdie, shelves are jam-packed with volumes. Their famous mystery collection is now surrounded by plenty of rare and classic books of every genre. In particular, their crime history and African-American fiction sections were impressive, as were their affordable prices. Art is extremely knowledgeable and chatted with everyone who walked into the store. Whodunit? is worth a visit, even if you just plan on perusing their shelves. But if you don't feel like leaving the house, you can shop their collection online at abebooks.com/home/whodunit/.
Christopher Seybert dishes on the week's best and worst moments in daytime talk.
A Runaway Bride’s Publicity Tour
June is the month to get married, unless of course you’re 85-year-old Hugh Hefner. Last month, his 25-year-old fiancé, Crystal Harris, broke off their engagement, fleeing the Playboy Mansion and public eye until her media tour this week promoting the breakup.
The former Girls Next Door star appeared on The View and The Howard Stern Show this week to reveal a slew of dirt on her May-December romance. Her conversation with Whoopi and the girls was certainly more PG but just as telling. After confessing that she was more intrigued with the Playboy lifestyle than Mr. Playboy himself, she insisted they’re still friends. If so, he may not want to remain amicable after she alleged to Howard Stern that her lone sexual encounter with Hef lasted only two seconds. Guess she missed PR 101 when they discussed never kissing and telling. TMI overload!
Sometimes in an actor’s career, they embody a role so well that it becomes a part of them for the rest of their lives — whether they like it or not. Much like Sarah Jessica Parker can never get away from Carrie Bradshaw, Denise Richards will never do an interview without being referred to as Charlie Sheen’s ex-wife, despite being divorced six years.
Denise stopped by the fourth hour of Today to chat with Kathie Lee and Hoda about her new book The Real Girl Next Door. Though some would find it easy to badmouth the man who has complicated her life tremendously in the past year, Denise remained classy and positive saying that she and Charlie talk every day and things are great between them. An interesting section in the book, though, describes her move into Sheen’s bachelor pad where there was a fire pole in her closet, a panic room and a bullet proof bedroom door. If those weren’t warning signs, I don’t know what are.
Fifty teams of spoken-word youth poets assembled in San Francisco last week to take part in the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival. Amid stiff competition — many of the participants are internationally renowned — the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM) took home the gold.
“We were confident but still surprised. There are so many talented poets in the competition so when the final scores were announced we were pretty shocked,” said Perry DiVirgilio, one of the team’s coaches.
This is the second time a team from PYPM has won at Brave New Voices, the largest event of its kind. The first time was in 2007, one year after Greg Corbin, a poet, activist and community leader, founded the organization as a non-profit dedicated to helping Philadelphia youth find their voice through slam poetry. Since then, PYPM has grown by leaps and bounds — drawing crowds of more than 200 at its monthly poetry slams and attracting the attention of major funders like the Knight Foundation and city officials like Mayor Nutter, who called the team on Monday to offer his congratulations. All this adds up to make last Saturday’s victory that much sweeter.
But success didn’t come easily. After PYPM organizers put together the team by tallying point totals earned by youth poets at poetry slams held throughout the year, team members Sinnea Douglas, Jamar Hall, Chamira Nelson, Kai David and Safiya Washington proved their dedication by practicing together for up to six hours a day, five to six days a week. Despite this effort, the Philadelphia teenagers struggled to stay afloat during the competition. “This team is a bunch of come back kids. Every single round we participated in [at Brave New Voices] we were down and we came back to win. They earned everything they had. They never wavered or got nervous, they just pushed forward,” DiVirgilio commented. In the end, their hard work paid off: the PYPM team took the top prize in a nail-biting finish — winning by just a third of a point.
CP's Brian Wilensky is on a mission to hit up every karaoke haunt in town — and then share all the mellifluous details.
I witnessed a few personal karaoke firsts Tuesday night at Downey’s, despite the fact that it was one of the smallest karaoke crowds yet. But since there wasn’t any place to hide, everyone paid attention and just about all singers were given ample praise.
The range of songs chosen by the singers was surprising — ranging from Rihanna and Sinatra to Green Day and Billy Idol. And then some guy dropped some hints when he sang a song about “having an enormous penis.” But maybe he sang that for the same reason people drive Hummers. And if that wasn't uncomfortable enough, he later sang “Hakuna Matata” with his buddy. Yeah, the song from the Lion King.
It also isn’t too often that the KJ gets up to sing a song of his own, but when it does happen, you’d think they'd pick something that’d get a rise out of the crowd. Well, the Downey guy picked “Baby Got Back,” and not even the original version. He picked the cover by lounge-lizard comedian, Richard Cheese.
Hearing Tenacious D’s “Wonder Boy,” was like a breath of fresh air: the aforementioned karaoke first. And then you wouldn’t believe what happened next. Suddenly there was a conga line of about six people going back and forth through the bar: another karaoke first.
Nitty Gritty for Performers: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 p.m., free, Downey’s Irish Pub, 526 S. Front St., 215-625-9500, downeysrestaurant.com.
After the senseless tragedy of the Oslo slayings by Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik there came the manifesto. There’s always a manifesto. That it included rants railing against hip-hop and its gateway potential for drug use and violent behavior was odd but not shocking.
That Breivik’s racist texts which cribbed from American academic John H. McWhorter (a 2003 essay “How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back”) happened to mention Philly’s own gangsta rap giant Schoolly D and his street anthem “PSK What Does It Mean” — now that was the odd part.
Odd enough to draw the attention of City Paper editor Pat Rapa before XXL, Ego Trip, Synthesis, Hip Hop Radar and Chuck D’s Rap Station dot com got the word. Schoolly’s written and performed some incendiary material in his time. But we know like Schoolly knows: the effect of art is individual in its response. Schoolly’s work has been as a witness to the violence he saw, reportage. Schoolly contacted me not long after he read the texts and the on-line follow ups and wanted to respond. Here’s some of what we said.
City Paper: Have you had an opportunity to, and I mean it is impossible because it is this lengthy diatribe, have you had an opportunity to look at any of what this guy wrote?
Schoolly D: I did. And I have been trying to think of something to say. I’m trying to avoid the attention being on me … it’s just not my style. But this is pretty weird.
CP: It’s a rant. And the violence before the rant was heinous.
SD: Obviously it’s really bad but also we have ALWAYS treated each other badly, we have ALWAYS found a reason to do that. I was watching a documentary about people who would put people inside of a bull and they would cook them. Then they put a whistle or a horn inside the mouth of the bull so while you were screaming and dying it would sound like the bull was coming back to life; and that’s the kind of shit we have been doing to each other. That’s what I’m thinking — this guy is like no different. His mind is warped. The only thing that is different now is we have the media and other things so when these things happen its like with bells and whistles on you know what I’m saying? So we actually know what we are doing to each other. It’s like “Remember two weeks ago when those people got shot in Philadelphia?”
CP: Well, we’ve got something better for you, something bloodier.
SD: Yeah. More people died.
Devoted poet/avid concert-goer/nerd-grrrl extraordinaire Jane Cassady's weekly horoscopes run in this space every Friday morning.
Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): “Leave no stone unturned/ In your quest to/disrupt a rock garden.” (Demetri Martin) Be as anti-Zen as you’d like, Leo. Make a mess out of every calm. Be uppity, overwhelming, and out of control.
Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): Gaps in inspiration are scary like cliffs, but they aren’t cliffs, so don’t fall in. Soon enough a spark and glimmer, a new hot song in your head, a telephone full of love letters, or at least X's and O's.
Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): It may be too hot now for this, but the stars like to picture you walking through the cool woods at twilight, maybe with a nice Virgo, just as the Narnian lamps come on, just as the fireflies start their amorous signaling.
Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): “It takes a team of four horses to force the giant clam of the South Seas to yawn against its will. Every passive mollusk demonstrates the hidden vigor of introversion, the power that is contained in peace.” (Tom Robbins)
Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): A mini tarot reading for you. The past: The (sensible) Emperor. The present: The Tower, but in a good way. The future: the Ten of Cups, a cup-city spilling over with wealth and friendship, a triumph just as soon as you arrive.
Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): From the way your children sing the bawdy songs of other families, I guess you’re connected forever, never alone no matter how often you travel, no matter how your mailbox sticks shut, you are all loved, you are always loved.
DRAW A THING/WIN TICKETS: Local artist/romantic scores Death Cab for Cutie/Frightened Rabbit tickets!
The contest was pretty simple, we thought. Draw, like, a scared bunny or a some sort of doom taxi and send it to us. Then we'd pick the best one and give the winner two tickets to see Death Cab for Cutie and Frightened Rabbit next Friday at the Mann. Well, unless you count the guy who emailed asking for tickets but didn't doodle anything, we only got one entry. People. Luckily, this Eliot B can draw a little and seems like a right on dude:
These are mine and the girl of my dreams favorite bands. This is our second date! She is dying for me to win this and win her heart. The midnight organ fight and transatlanticism taught me how to love again. ...
Things get kinda mushy from there. Enjoy the show, you two!
Death Cab plays with Frightened Rabbit Fri., Aug. 5 at the Mann. More info here.
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