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HBO options Marlon James' "Brief History"

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: April 29, 2015 - 11:15 AM

Marlon James’ critically acclaimed novel, “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” may soon be coming to the small screen.

HBO has optioned James’ rangy epic that was inspired by the 1976 assassination attempt on the life of reggae icon Bob Marley. The novel spans decades as it touches on transnational drug trafficking, CIA Cold War activities and the crack epidemic.

James, an English professor at Macalester College, is doing his own adaptation, overseen by screenwriter Eric Roth, who won an Academy Award for “Forrest Gump.” Roth built his reputation adapting books into screenplays, including “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Munich.”

“Seven Killings” is James’ third novel. His debut was “John Crow’s Devil,” about a Biblical spiritual battle in 1957 Jamaica. His sophomore effort, “The Book of Night Women,” was a slavery-era work often likened to Toni Morrison with splashes of magical realism. “Night Women” was optioned by Samuel Jackson’s production company, an option that was recently renewed.

“Seven Killings” includes Quentin Tarantino-style explorations of violence.

“I was really excited and shocked at how much HBO was interested in the whole story,” he said. “I thought maybe they would be interested in the espionage angle or something about Americans abroad. But they realize the main character, Josey Wales, should be the center of it. A lot of this is still up in the air, but it’s still a big deal.”

James will have some time to work on the adaptation. On Wednesday, he was grading his last three papers of the semester before a yearlong sabbatical. He is a fan of such TV series as “The Sopranos” and “The Wire,” which, he noted sadly, “got Baltimore right.”

“I like the TV serial in terms of what you can do to explore characters,” he said. “There are some characters in the book who are minor who I’d love to dig into in a bigger way. And I know that Jamaica may be wary that the main character, Josey Wales, is a gangster, a bad man. But you can look to New Jersey to see how they deal with ‘The Sopranos.’ They don’t take pride in the criminality, but they look at the show and say, this [setting] is a place of deep, meaningful stories.”

As to the questions about how to keep the show authentic, James said he is not worried.

“A good percentage of the actors portraying convincing Americans on TV are British, and you wouldn’t know until they tell you,” he said. “There are ways of ensuring that with acting, directing, everything. The show runner makes Vancouver feel like New York.”

Minneapolis Institute of Arts to show reproduction paintings on Minneapolis streets

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 23, 2015 - 6:45 PM

Rembrandt's "Lucretia"

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts will place high-quality reproductions of four of its paintings outside Minneapolis stores and businesses during May. Museum docents will be on site sharing anecdotes and answering questions about the art from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. each Saturday, weather permitting.

The project is part of the MIA's 100th birthday celebration. The reproductions will appear about May 1 and will be moved to new sites at the middle of the month. The first round will feature the following pictures at these locations:

Rembrandt's "Lucretia" at Bobby and Steve's Auto World. As there are several Bobby and Steve's in Minneapolis, the promise of a "Lucretia" sighting is perhaps an enticement to visit them all in hopes of spying her. One of the MIA's most famous pictures, "Lucretia" depicts a Roman noblewoman committing suicide to salvage her honor after having been raped.

Monet's "Grainstack, Sun in the Mist," at U.S. Bank, 2420 Hennepin Av. in Uptown. Shimmering with sunny pinks at sundown, the picture features a huge muffin-shaped stack of wheat in a French meadow.

Van Gogh's "Olive Trees," at the Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall in downtown MInneapolis.  A typically turbulent Van Gogh image, "Olive Trees" shows gnarled and twisted trees sweltering in the midday sun.

Chaim Soutine's "Carcass of Beef," at Kramarczuk's Deli, 215 E. Hennepin in Northeast Minneapolis. One of the more inspired pairings of art and enterprise, this places the Russian-born artist's expressively brutal image of a flayed carcass at a meatmarket famous for delicious sausage and other Eastern European delicacies linked to its founder's Ukrainian heritage.

The reproductions will be moved later to the Wedge Table, Loring Park, the Stone Arch Bridge and the Strip Club Meat & Fish. Check out other MIA birthday surprises at the museum's birthday website.

Beach Boys composer Brian Wilson biography “Love & Mercy” debuts in director Bill Pohlad’s home turf

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: April 22, 2015 - 12:51 PM

While there are no tickets left for this weekend’s sold-out public screenings, Minneapolis is hosting the Midwest double-debuts of a film worth noting. After a decade as producer of acclaimed films including Ang Lee’s "Brokeback Mountain," Robert Altman’s "A Prairie Home Companion" and Steve McQueen’s "12 Years a Slave," Minneapolis financier Bill Pohlad moved behind the camera to direct the Brian Wilson biography "Love & Mercy." The drama, starring Paul Dano and John Cusack as the legendary Beach Boys composer in parallel stages of his talented yet troubled life, has been winning scads of praise. Variety called it "a vibrant cure for the common musical biopic" thanks in part to its soundtrack filled with Wilson hits. "A deeply satisfying pop biopic whose subject’s bifurcated creative life lends itself to an unconventional structure," wrote The Hollywood Reporter. The Washington Post said "Pohlad’s extraordinary, even visionary chronicle" with "unconventionality and form-busting structure" plainly "stole the show" at September’s prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. No wonder then that Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival partnered to present it Friday and Saturday evening respectively, with Pohlad on hand to discuss it. The official opening comes June 5, but for some things, you just can’t wait.

Beth El Synagogue retraces the steps -- well, dives -- of the submarine Cousteau family

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: April 20, 2015 - 2:20 PM
Jean-Michel, Fabien and Céline Cousteau.     Photo: Beth El Synagogue

Jean-Michel, Fabien and Céline Cousteau. Photo: Beth El Synagogue

Sure, James Cameron has combined filmmaking and deep marine diving in remarkable ways. But exploring ocean worlds that few bipeds experience all began with the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the most celebrated undersea explorer of the 20th century.

For nearly 60 years, the late trailblazer and his offspring have produced and starred in underwater exploration films and TV shows promoting marine conservation and education, a legacy that is still going strong.

Now there’s a chance to encounter their accomplishments personally. On Thursday, May 7, Cousteau’s son Jean-Michel, and his children Fabien and Céline will be featured in “An Evening with the Cousteau Family,” presented at Beth El Synagogue of Saint Louis Park.

The evening includes the Cousteau family’s remarks, high quality film projection highlighting their very colorful work, and a moderated audience Q&A session. The evening features gastronomy as well as oceanography. A VIP reception with the family will include coastal fare prepared by Robert Wohlfiel, executive chef of The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Minneapolis.

The evening is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. May 7 at Beth El Synagogue, 5225 Barry St. W., Saint Louis Park. Ticketing runs from $25 to $500. For additional information about the event, visit www.besyn.org/cousteaus or call (952) 873-7300.

Walker Art Center curator heads to Andy Warhol Museum

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 14, 2015 - 3:12 PM

Bartholomew Ryan (left) with artist Goshka Macuga and Walker curator Peter Eleey. Star Tribune file photo by Joel Koyama.

Walker Art Center curator Bartholomew Ryan is leaving Minneapolis for a senior curatorial post at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA starting May 18. He will be the Milton Fine Curator of Art at the Warhol institution.

Most recently, Ryan co-curated with Darsie Alexander the ambitious "International Pop" show which opened April 11 at the Walker. Five years in the making, "International Pop" brought to Minneapolis more than 175 artworks by 100 artists from 20 countries. A stellar example of in-depth scholarship combined with splendid showmanship, the show is a brilliant and wide-ranging reappraisal of a pivotal moment in American art.

Running through August 29, "International Pop" focuses on 1958 - 1972 when Pop art was being adopted as a stylistic and conceptual approach by artists around the world, many of whom looked askance at American consumer culture but nevertheless realized that the bold, colorful techniques of advertising and popular publications could be used effectively to critique and even lampoon the heavy-handed politics of dictatorial governments elsewhere.

Minneapolis pals and museum colleagues from around the country stopped to high-five and congratulate Ryan, 38, at the crowded IP opening party Saturday night. Sipping a beer, he ruminated a bit about his six year tenure at the Walker.

With all its resources of staff, money, reputation, and travel opportunities, the Walker gave him a privileged perspective on the art world, he said. Curators at many of the places he and Alexander visited in preparing the IP show simply couldn't afford to put together an exhibition of that scale. Still, thinking of the new Warhol post, he said he was looking forward to rethinking how Andy Warhol is understood in art history and finding new ways to interpret his work.

"Walker really changed my perspective on art," Ryan said. "It's been great here, but it's time," for a change.

The Warhol museum apparently agrees. Announcing Ryan's new position, the Warhol museum said his work on "International Pop" prepared him to "further contextualize Andy Warhol and his place in global art history."

Ryan joined the Walker as a curatorial fellow and stayed on as an assistant curator. Shows he organized for the Walker often brought together international artists not previously seen in the Midwest. His  2013 group exhibition "9 Artists" actually featured the work of eight artists:  Yael Bartana, Liam Gillick, Renzo Martens, Bjarne Melgaard, Nastio Mosquito, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Hito Steyerl, and Danh Vo. That year he also co-curated "Painter Painter," an examination of contemporary approaches to abstraction. He oversaw the Walker's presentation of the 2012 traveling show "This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s," and the previous year co-curated residency projects by Goshka Macuga and Pedro Reyes.

Ryan has a MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and a B.A in drama and theater studies from Trinity College, Dublin.


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