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Garrison Keillor: Out of surgery and on to orange Jell-O

Posted by: Tim Campbell Updated: September 26, 2014 - 3:44 PM
Photo by Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

Garrison Keillor reports he is "feeling good" after surgery Thursday at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

"The IV went in and night fell and a couple hours later I woke in Recovery, no fuss, with a very pleasant nurse who gave me some ice to chew on and we chatted like old pals and at noon I got wheeled up to my room for a lovely lunch of vegetable broth, coffee, cranberry juice, and orange Jell-O," he posted on Facebook.

The Minnesota writer and "Prairie Home Companion" host has not disclosed the precise nature of the procedure, but earlier this month when he announced he was canceling Saturday's "PHC," he wrote: "If you've noticed my upstairs bathroom light go on at 10 p.m., 10:10, 10:25, 10:40, etc., you know all you need to know."

No word on when he'll leave the hospital. In his Facebook post he joked, "The Scot in me says, 'you will pay for this someday' and maybe so but meanwhile I am having a very good day, made all the better by a funny phone call from my daughter. Who reminded me that long ago in this hospital coming out of a tonsillectomy she stuck her tongue out at me. Despite anesthesia she remembered that I was the Judas who took her into the OR."

Keillor, 72, is scheduled to return to the Fitzgerald Theater stage Oct. 4 for a "Prairie Home" show featuring bluegrassers the Gibson Brothers and local singer/songwriter Ellis.

But don't be surprised if he makes an appearance this weekend at the History Theater in St. Paul, where his playwriting debut, "Radio Man," opens Saturday night.

(In the photo at right, Keillor clowned with actor Pearce Bunting, who plays his alter ego in "Radio Man," during a rehearsal earlier this month. The play has a preview staging Friday night.)

P.S. After this was posted, a friend shared a letter to the Anoka County Union that Keillor wrote two weeks ago after an outing to his old high school. It's quite sweet:

To the Editor:

Last Friday, I drove up to Anoka for the Anoka-Coon Rapids football game and sat in the bleachers about 10 feet below the pressbox where, as a 14-year-old kid, I sat and wrote up the games for the Anoka Herald.

Goodrich Field looks so much the same as it did back then and off to my right was a student cheering section, about 300 strong, distinguished by wearing odds and ends of white, white shirts, headbands, caps, one boy in a white off-the-shoulder toga, tossing white streamers, setting off white smoke bombs – a solid block of high spirited goofiness and tumult and swaying and dancing in the stands – in their whiteness, the opposite of goth, more like moths fluttering at a porch light, and so utterly different from the self-conscious solemnity of the Fifties teenager. I know alcohol and this was not alcohol: this was joy and humor and hormones. The band got to play the Fight Song a couple times and I joined the throng in the end zone and the game ended, Anoka up 14-6, and the kids in white bolted for the field and a huge mash-up of bodies at midfield, arms in the air, chanting the Fight Song, and then headed for the exits, a river of youth with a happy alumnus of 72 in their midst. If these folks represent what it’s like to be young now, I am all in favor of it.

A joyful September night in my old town and the downtown cafes crowded and my old stately junior high standing big and proud on Second Avenue, where my dad graduated in 1931. Go, Tornadoes.

Garrison Keillor, St. Paul

Burning the midnight oil

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: September 11, 2014 - 10:45 AM
Photo by Ann Heisenfeldt

As host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” writer Garrison Keillor works up to the Saturday performance deadline, tinkering with his script. Playwright Garrison Keillor knows that will not work in the theater – although he’s pushing things as far as he can with “Radio Man,” at the History Theatre in St. Paul.

Keillor delivered a significant rewrite on Wednesday. An aide delivered the copy to director Ron Peluso, who leafed through a few pages and muttered something about “having a heart attack.” But he put on his best smiling face when the playwright arrived at rehearsal for the show, which opens Sept. 27.

"You've been busy," Peluso joked when Keillor arrived at rehearsal a little later. In an interview, Keillor said he felt he owed it to the actors to be finished with the script by Saturday – which coincidentally is the opening show of the 40th annniversary season of “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Keillor mentioned this Saturday deadline to Peluso as they walked into the rehearsal hall after a break. “Saturday? I was thinking maybe tomorrow,” the director said. They agreed on Friday and then got back to work.

Good vibrations in Toronto for Bill Pohlad's Beach Boy biopic

Posted by: Tim Campbell Updated: September 9, 2014 - 12:21 PM

Bill Pohlad, right, directing Paul Dano in "Love & Mercy," in a scene showing Brian Wilson producing the Beach Boys' landmark "Pet Sounds" album." (photo by François Duhamel)

Minneapolis filmmaker Bill Pohlad and pop visionary Brian Wilson got a standing ovation Monday night at the Toronto Film Festival premiere of “Love & Mercy,” the Wilson biopic that put Pohlad back in the director’s chair for the first time in decades.

Early reviews suggest a smash.

The highly influential trade magazine Variety called it a "finely crafted split portrait" -- Paul Dano plays Wilson in his hitmaking prime, while John Cusack represents his older, embattled self -- that is "miles removed from the cookie-cutter approach taken by so many other rock bios."John Cusack with Elizabeth Banks in "Love & Mercy."

"An unusual, moving portrait stuffed with the thrill of music-making," summed up the Hollywood Reporter, adding that Cusack (pictured at right with Elizabeth Banks) "gives one of the best performances of his career."

The Los Angeles Times report echoed a common thread in the reviews -- that while music biopics are typically tedious, "Love & Mercy" is a "refreshing surprise" that breaks the mold and invigorates the form. No doubt part of the credit belongs to screenwriter Oren Moverman, who also scripted "I'm Not There," the kaleidoscopic Bob Dylan portrait that featured six actors portraying different facets of the enigmatic singer/songwriter.

Pohlad told the L.A. writer that he dusted off an old screenplay about Wilson and enlisted Moverman for a rewrite. “If it was just telling young Brian’s story about the music, I don’t know that I would have done it,” he said. “But there were a lot of different levels besides that. On another level it’s about creative genius vs. madness. And it’s also a story of how [his future wife] pulled Brian Wilson out of a deep hole.”

After the disappointing reception of his feature debut, 1990's "Old Explorers," Pohlad kept close wraps on "Love & Mercy," showing it to virtually no one until its premiere Sunday, as he told the New York Times in a piece last weekend.

He also -- cannily, it appears now -- held off on striking a distribution deal for the film. Do we smell a bidding war?

As a side note, I want to mention that our own critic, Colin Covert, had planned to attend Monday's premiere. Regrettably, he suffered a bicycle accident last month but is now recovering at home and eagerly monitoring the news out of Toronto. I can't wait to read Colin's own take on this film.

There's no trailer for the film, so it seems fitting to give Wilson the last word:

 

Minnesota talent represents at the Toronto International Film Festival

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: July 25, 2014 - 2:08 PM

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.

Local talent produces a double feature

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: June 20, 2014 - 5:59 PM

Notable deals from a couple of local filmmaker types.

Screenwriter Nick Schenk (of Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino”) has another Warner Bros. star project due in theaters Oct. 10. Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton and Vera Farmiga star in “The Judge,” Schenk’s story of a hotshot criminal defense lawyer who must defend his estranged father on a murder charge. David (“The Wedding Crashers” ) Dobkin directs.

Eric D. Howell, whose Minneapolis- shot short  “Anna’s Playground” was shortlisted for a 2009 Oscar is slated to make his feature debut with the psychological thriller “The Voice of the Stone.” Emilia Clarke from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” will star as a nurse in 1950s Italy helping a boy traumatized by the sudden death of his mother, a famed opera singer. She discovers that the family’s Tuscan castle harbors a malevolent force. "It's a ‘Sixth Sense’-like tale of how she’s ensnared, a slow-burn haunting,” Howell said. “Is it real or is it not?”

Clarke is a fast-rising star, slated to play Sarah Connor in the upcoming “Terminator: Genesis” alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. The independently financed ghost story is scheduled to begin production near Siena in October, Howell said, with an eye to a debut on the following year’s fall film festival circuit.

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