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Local screenwriter Michael Starrbury ("The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete") is coming off a remarkable week and looking forward to another one.
On Jan. 15 he dined at the White House, where his dramatic comedy about a pair of hard-luck New York City minority kids was presented for an audience including the First Lady.
In addition to dinner and a bag of official White House popcorn, "I got to meet Mrs. Obama. It was an incredible experience. She's so humble and sweet," he said.
She had nice things to say about him at the event as well, leading a round of applause for his work and smiling, "Well done, well done... This movie ws so powerful to me." (The comments begin at the 12 minute mark of the video above.)
And on March 1, the day before the Oscars ceremony, Starrbury will be at the Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. He's nominated for best first screenplay prize.
"I've had calls from people telling me they likes it and they're voting for it," he said, "but the main thing is to go and chill out and get out of this Minnesota weather for a minute."
While he's there, Starrbury will be pitching a new feature for Universal Studios, a kids' comedy.
He'll also attend New Line Studios live reading of his upcoming script "The Great Unknown," based on the graphic novel by Duncan Rouleau. Also attending will be the project's director Jorma Taccone ("MacGruber.") The project is a low-fi action comedy about a daydreaming slacker convinced that telepathic thieves are stealing all his great ideas.
Minneapolis author R.D. Zimmerman, who writes under the pen name Robert Alexander, is thrilled that one of his novels, "The Kitchen Boy," is becoming a film with prestigious names attached -- Oscar-winning screenwriter Sir Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "Quartet") has written the script, and Stefan Ruzowitzky, who won Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2008 for "The Counterfeiters," will direct. Kristin Scott Thomas will star as Tsarina Alexandra Romanov in the fictionalized tale of the tumultous final ruling days of Tsar Nicholas II before he and his family were banished to Siberia.
Zimmerman, who sold a business he co-owned in St. Petersburg two years ago, helped raise Russian money to finance the project so his book could go Hollywood.
"Or as they say in Russia, Gollyvood," he said.
The film will probably shoot for a month this summer in Lithuania, which offers a good film-production rebate, and a few days in Russia.
"Luckily there's a band of imperial Russian buildings in Lithuainia we can use" to stand in for the tsar's royal quarters, he said.
Chastity Brown, performing at outgoing Mayor R.T. Rybak's "Un-auguration" at First Avenue, also will play at Mayor Betsy Hodges' inaugural party on Jan. 11. Photo by Ben Brewer, Special to the Star Tribune.
Saturday night's inaugural party for Betsy Hodges, the new mayor of Minneapolis, will feature music by Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, Chastity Brown and her Band, Desdemona, Iron Boy Drum Circle, the Brass Messengers, and more. Theater of Public Policy is also on the entertainment lineup.
"One Minneapolis: A City in Verse" will be peformed by a small army of poets that includes: John Colburn & Sarah Fox, Juliet Patterson, Paula Cisewski, Ed Bok Lee, Kirk Washington Jr., Heid Erdrich, Andrea Jenkins, Bao Phi, Allison Broeren,Brian Beatty, Sun Yun Shin, Doug Wilhide and Nimo Farah.
The bash, which suggests a dress code of "Minneapolis chic," also inaugurates new and returning members of the Minneapolis City Council.
Some beloved local eateries will be working the food court, including Afro Deli, Wise Acre Eatery, Birchwood Cafe, Barbette, Red Stag Supperclub, Kyatchi, Manny's Steakhouse, Gandhi Mahal, Manny's Torta's, Sen Yai Sen Lek, Scott's Ice Cream, Glam Doll Donuts.
Photo of Hearne, Texas, street by Alec Soth.
The dreamy on-the-road partnership between photographer Alec Soth and writer Brad Zellar just wrapped another chapter. Chronicled in their self-styled newspaper, The LBM Dispatch, the two visit various parts of the country and attempt to capture that mix of geography, humanity and circumstance that creates regional character.
Though the results often seem serendipitous, they have an itinerary heading out, Zellar said. “We hate being in the van so we usually know where we’re going with some idea of why,” he said.
They’ve previously applied their particular documentary style to Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and upstate New York This time out the pair tackled the Texas Triangle, a more than 60,000-square mile swath that’s home to 70 percent of the state’s population. Among their stops were the site of JFK’s assassination on its 50th anniversary, the 16th execution of a Texas death-row prisoner in 2013, and a tatty shrine to the Virgin Mary erected by a farmer who claimed in a hand-lettered sign that she helped him get his tractor unstuck.
Throughout the trip, Zellar and Soth had looked in vain for that archetypal kind of town made immortal by “The Last Picture Show.” Toward the end, on the way back to Huntsville to cover the state’s 16th and last execution of the year, they stumbled onto tiny, desolate Hearne.
“It was at the exact epicenter of the Texas Triangle formed by San Antonio, Dallas and Houston,” Zellar said. “The light was perfect. There were no cars. Along six or seven blocks of this super-wide main street, everything was closed down but a drugstore. It was spooky, it was so abandoned. When we got back to the motel we found out it was one of the first towns that WalMart moved into.”
Unusually unprofitable itself, that WalMart was closed in 1990 and turned into a high school.
Like the LBM’s five previous editions, a print version of the collected stories and photos may be previewed and purchased at lbmdispatch.tumblr.com.
The duo have been attracting interest from far-flung corners, including the New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog and the Russian version of Esquire magazine, which flew a stylist and three trunks of designer clothes from Moscow to Grand Junction, Colorado, for a fashion shoot photographed by Soth and featuring Zellar as the model. Brad was game for the job, despite momentary hesitation on how to pronounce “Givenchy.”
See below for one of the surreal images from that experience.
Brad Zellar channels Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" for a fashion shoot for Russian Esquire. Photo by Alec Soth.
Garrison Keillor/ Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace
Garrison Keillor will bring his “A Prairie Home Companion” to his home base, the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, for seven shows in January, February and March.
Guests will include Rhonda Vincent, Paula Poundstone, Hilary Thavis and Mike Compton & Joe Newberry.
After being on tour in Texas, Tennessee and elsewhere, PHC will be broadcast live from the Fitzgerald on Jan. 17 and 25, Feb. 1 and March 8, 15, 22 and 29.
Tickets, priced from $32 to $48, will go on sale at noon Wednesday through Ticketmaster outlets (including 1-800-745-3000) and at the Fitzgerald box office.
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