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Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival: from police drama to pickled herring

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: October 17, 2014 - 5:06 PM
"Dancing in Jaffa" IFC Films.

"Dancing in Jaffa" IFC Films.

With a dozen films over 15 days, the 2014 Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival is a showcase of zany comedy, dark police drama and heart-warning historical documentary. With screenings at both Minneapolis’s Sabes Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Community Center of the Greater St. Paul Area, the series offers features in English and subtitled Hebrew, German, Spanish and Arabic, running from Oct. 19 through Nov. 2.
The charming “Dancing in Jaffa” opens the festival at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Sabes JCC. Getting fifth-grade boys and girls to dance together is tough. It’s tougher still when the students are a diverse mix of Palestinian Israelis and Israeli Jews. That’s the challenge ballroom dance champion Pierre Dulaine took on. When boys and girls dance together, Dulaine’s theory goes, they will see a person, not a vilified abstraction. A fey, theatrical fellow, Dulaine is a natural camera subject. Whether the cross-cultural friendships begun here will stand the test of time is anyone’s guess, but it’s a start.
On Thursday at 7:30, the subject is the legendary New York fish market “Russ& Daughters,” whose history since 1914 (including four generations and 1,800,000 pounds of pickled herring) is celebrated in “The Sturgeon Queens.” The 52-minute documentary interviews scores of the late owner Joel Russ’s descendents and fans as diverse as actress Maggie Gyllenhaal and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The screening is at the St. Paul JCC.
Oct. 23 at 7:30 there’s “Zero Motivation,” an Israeli “Private Benjamin”-style satire of female military misfits. Variety called the film – nominated for a record-maker 12 Ophir awards, the equivalent of Oscars – “a biting, darkly comic look at the life of the women of the Israeli military [that] showed audiences that for these female secretaries and paper-pushers, boredom can be just as dangerous as battle.”
For a full listing of films and accompanying events, visit http://tcjfilmfest.org/films-and-events.php. You can purchase tickets at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/producer/247176, call the Box Office at 952-381-3499, or email tickets@sabesjcc.org.

'White Bird in a Blizzard' soundtrack is Bananarama-free

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 16, 2014 - 4:21 PM
Shailene Woodly and director Gregg Araki. / AP photo.

The new Gregg Araki movie, "White Bird in a Blizzard," opening in the Twin Cities Oct. 24, is set in the late 1980s. As expected from Araki (see his "Nowhere" soundtrack CD, with Marilyn Manson, Blur, Hole, Chemical Brothers, Elastica, more), this movie has great music, all of it drawn from the darker side of the '80s pop, i.e. no Bananarama, no Bangles, no Go-Gos. I think I have every song in my dust-gathering vinyl collection.

The R-rated movie stars Shailene Woodley as a smart, sensible, hormonal teen growing up with nutty mom Eva Green and semi-catatonic dad Christopher Meloni. Mom's sudden disappearance drives the plot, along with the hookups of Woodley's character, Kat.

Araki, who has always been good at picking good music to set a mood and establish a time period, uses moody, synth-y songs, including ones by Cocteau Twins ("Sea Swallow Me"), Psychedelic Furs ("Heartbreak Beat"), and New Order ("Temptation"). Other acts represented in the movie include The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, This Mortal Coil, Pet Shop Boys, Echo and the Bunnymen and Everything but the Girl.

Netrebko sings Lady Macbeth, live from the Met in HD

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 6, 2014 - 3:59 PM
Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera. Photo by Hiroyuki Ito.

Since making her Met debut in 2009 in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor," Russian soprano Anna Netrebko has sung regularly on the Met stage, and on the popular livecasts from the Metropolitan Opera.

This Saturday (noon, Oct. 11), Netrebko will appear as Lady Macbeth live in "Macbeth," Verdi's opera based on Shakespeare's blood-soaked tragedy. Her Macbeth is Ċ½eljko Lucic in a production that also stars Joseph Calleja as Macduff and René Pape as Banquo. Fabio Luisi conducts this revivial of Adrian Nobles' modern-dress 2007 production.

Netrebko gave a "riveting performance dispatched with artistry and fearless intensity," said the critic at Bloomberg news. In a recent interview, Netrebko talked about the challenges she faces as she takes on more dramatic opera roles.

In recent years, Netrebko has sung in such Met operas as "Lammermoor" (2009), "Don Pasquale" (2010), "L'Elisir d'Amore" (2012) and "Eugene Onegin" (2013).

For these events, crowds gather at movie theaters across the United States on Saturday afternoons to watch and hear big-name singers in big-deal operas, without having to pay for trips to New York City and tickets to the Opera House at Lincoln Center. The live telecasts are usually repeated in the evening on the following Wednesday.

To get tickets for this Live in HD event, which is beaming to seven metro-area movie theaters on Saturday, go here. Next up, on Oct. 18, is Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro," conducted by James Levine.

'The Nance,' starring Nathan Lane, coming to PBS

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 3, 2014 - 5:11 PM

"The Nance," starring two-time Tony winner Nathan Lane as a bawdy gay entertainer in the waning days of burlesque in New York City, is coming to "Live from Lincoln Center" on PBS.

Locally, TPT, Channel 2, airs it at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 10.

The show, which played at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway in 2013, tells the story of Chauncey Miles, played by Lane, whose broadly comic stage shows are jam-packed with swishy double entendres that make him a minor star and allow him to fly under the radar until censors take note and pressure theater owners to get rid of Miles and his fellow performers. Offstage, Miles falls in love with Ned (Jonny Orsini), a romance that must be kept secret.

The play takes place in 1937, on a revolving set (by John Lee Beatty) that turns to reveal a burlesque stage, the backstage area, an Automat frequented by gays, and Miles' apartment. Other cast members include Lewis Stadlen, Cady Huffman, Jenni Barber and Andrea Burns. Jack O'Brien directs.

"The Nance," by Douglas Carter Beane, was nominated for five Tony Awards, including a Best Actor nod for Lane.

McPherson's 'The Night Alive' opens in Chicago

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 2, 2014 - 3:42 PM

Helen Sadler and Francis Guinan in "The Night Alive" at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Set design is by Todd Rosenthal. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Steppenwolf Theatre, the Chicago playhouse that has a knack for birthing hit plays, some of which have gone on to Broadway runs and Tony wins, just opened "The Night Alive," by Irish playwright Conor McPherson.

I saw the production in previews in September, and can't wait for the play to arrive in the Twin Cities. The Jungle Theater, which has produced such other McPherson plays as "The Seafarer" (2009) and "Shining City (2007), would be great home for this darkly amusing meditation on violence, mortality, charity, friendship, illusion and dreams deferred.

As directed at Steppenwolf by Henry Fishcamper (who is a resident artistic associate at Chicago's Goodman Theatre), "The Night Alive" takes place in the extremely messy, bare bones rented room of Tommy (Francis Guinan, marvelous), whose landlord Uncle Marice is played by veteran character actor M. Emmet Walsh.

One night, Tommy, one of the most lovable losers ever to have graced a stage, brings home Aimee (Helen Sadler), a young woman who has taken a beating. Their growing relationship plays out alongside Tommy's dim sidekick Doc (Tim Hopper), Maurice, and a malevolent Kenneth (Dan Waller).

While the action and plot are wonderfully grounded in quotidian detail -- dented cups of tea, piles of dirty laundry, a travel poster of Finland -- the script leaves open the possibility of multiple metaphoric interpretations. This became abundantly clear in the post-play discussion with Steppenwolf's Martha Lavey and Fishcamper, which raised more questions about the play than were conveniently answered.

Chicago critics praised the play as "raw and beautiful" (Tribune) and said Guinan is "just about perfect as Tommy." (Reader).

"The Night Alive" continues at Steppenwolf through Nov. 16.

Francis Guinan, M. Emmet Walsh and Tim Hopper in Steppenwolf's "The Night Alive," by Conor McPherson. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

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