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There’s a fair amount of Minnesota heat at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
The prestigious Opening Night slot goes to “The Judge,” written by Minneapolis native Nick (“Gran Torino”) Schenk. The film boasts the world’s biggest movie star, Robert Downey Jr., as a cosmopolitan superlawyer who finds himself in his corn belt home town, defending his estranged father (Robert Duvall) on a murder charge. First Clint Eastwood as a testy retired auto worker, then Duvall as a peppery retired jurist. Schenk sure has something about grumpy old men.
After decades away from the director’s chair, longtime producer William Pohlad takes the helm with “Love & Mercy,” a biographical drama about the Beach Boys’ troubled genius Brian Wilson. Since directing his first film, 1990’s “Old Explorers,” he’s collaborated with the likes of Ang Lee, Steve McQueen, Robert Altman, Terrence Malick, Doug Liman and Sean Penn. It should be interesting to see how the Twins scion has upped his game. His new film stars Paul Dano, John Cusack and Paul Giamatti.
The there’s “Wild,” a new drama from Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”) based on the memoir by Minnesota native Cheryl Strayed. Reese Witherspoon plays Strayed as she copes with personal issues on a long-distance hiking adventure that challenges and heals her.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 4-14.
Celebrities from near and far are expected to attend the Starkey Hearing Foundation's 14th Annual "So the World May Hear Gala" this Sunday at the St. Paul River Centre. A handful of A-listers usually come to town for the event, which raises money to provide hearing aids to people in need around the world.
Some of the confirmed stars who will be in St. Paul include: former first lady/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Forest Whitaker, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adrian Peterson, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, Greg Jennings, Shannon Elizabeth, Verne Troyer and Marlee Matlin among others.
John Legend, Rob Thomas and Sammy Hagar are a few of the VIPs scheduled to perform throughout the evening. Comedian Norm Crosby is hosting the event.
Gala organizers usually keep the names of a few famous faces under wraps, so there's no telling if other stars plan to grace the red carpet. Want to catch of glimpse of the star-studded hoopla? The celebrities will be walking the red carpet outside the Kellogg Boulevard entrance from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
The Starkey Foundation is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The annual fundraiser raised more than $8 million last year.
(Photo above by Jeff Wheeler: Actor Forest Whitaker arrived on the red carptet before the gala in 2013.)
Patrick Scully poses as poet Walt Whitman. Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler.
POST BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
Sometimes the best way to learn about an artist is through the perspective of another artist. With “Leaves of Grass – Uncut” Patrick Scully summons the radical spirit of 19th-century poet Walt Whitman. Over the course of the show, which had its first performance Thursday night as part of the Fresh Ink Series at the Illusion Theater, we learn that the two men have much in common when it comes to defying rules and embracing life.
Scully assumes the role of Whitman, talking through his life story, railing against the puritan morals of his day, lauding the love of other men, extolling his contemporaries (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oscar Wilde) and reading excerpts from his works. Whitman, as portrayed by Scully, is a confident man who explains how he would code his language to escape the wrath of a rabidly homophobic society. Despite these efforts, Whitman’s works were banned and critics were quick to denounce him with their harshest words, which is hard to imagine today given the significant influence and great beauty of his writing.
But Whitman was undeterred by these obstacles, which explains why he is such a hero to Scully, a proud rabble-rouser himself. With “Leaves of Grass – Uncut” Scully creates an onstage world that Whitman would have appreciated. Seventeen men dance together in tender, sensual and playful moments. In the opening scene they strip down entirely to bathe, setting the tone for an evening about relationships between men and how society has sought to deny them.
The movement itself is based in contact improvisation, which emphasizes the intuitive give and take of dancing with another person. Scully’s company members take great care to support and inspire one another. Kevin Kortan makes an appearance as Whitman’s lover Peter Doyle and in one of the work’s more poignant moments they discuss the poet’s refusal to use the pronoun “he” (instead using “she”) in his writing to describe their passionate relationship. Scully shows us that Whitman wasn’t always so bold.
The Fresh Ink series provides opportunities for artists to try out new ideas. Scully still has some work to do with tightening up the production – there are a couple of false endings – but it is a heartfelt salute to Whitman. Without this daring poet’s soaring words and his willingness to take risks in a hostile era, we may never know what it means to “sing the body electric.” Scully is the perfect caretaker for Whitman’s legacy.
“Leaves of Grass – Uncut” continues through Sunday, July 13 (8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun). Illusion Theatre, Cowles Center, eighth floor, 528 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. $14-$19, 612-339-4944 or illusiontheater.org.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has hired Jill Ahlberg Yohe to be Assistant Curator of Native American Art in the department of Africa and the Americas. Ahlberg Yohe, who will start work in Minneapolis on August 4, comes from the Saint Louis Art Museum where she has been an assistant curator of Native American Art since 2013 and a Mellon Fellow since 2011. She replaces Joe Horse-Capture, former associate curator of Native American Art, who moved to Washington, D. C. in May 2013 for a post at the National Museum of the American Indian.
Ahlberg Yohe earned a doctorate in cultural anthropology at the University of New Mexico with a dissertation on "The Social Life of Weaving in Contemporary Navaho Life." Previously she was a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA. She co-curated the exhibition "Mother Earth, Father Sky: Textiles from the Navajo World," which is currently on view at the St. Louis Art Museum.
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