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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.

Adopt Films' new film may be its latest Oscar contender

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: February 27, 2015 - 1:51 PM
Laia Costa as "Victoria." Photo: Adopt Films

Laia Costa as "Victoria." Photo: Adopt Films

Since it started in 2011, Adopt Films has marketed four best foreign feature Oscar nominees in the U.S.

The New York/Twin Cities film distributor may soon be adopting a fifth.

Its new acquisition is the Berlin film festival prize-winner “Victoria.” Jury president Darren Aronofsky (director of “The Wrestler,” “Black Swan” and “Noah”) awarded the Silver Bear, saying “This film rocked my world.”

“Fly away, ‘Birdman,' there’s a new one-shot wonder in town,’” crowed Variety’s breathless review, calling it a “heart-in-mouth heist thriller … with a surprising degree of grace and emotional authenticity.”

Adopt founder Tim Grady calls “Victoria” a sort of updated “Run Lola Run” with a bravura technical breakthrough. Celebrated films like “Rope,” “Russian Ark” and “Birdman” have presented the illusion of one continuous take from start to finish, but “Victoria” truly delivers the goods. A single shot by Norwegian cameraman Sturla Brandth Grøvlen chases the cast across Berlin uninterrupted for two hours.

They race from a throbbing rave club to a botched bank robbery to a landslide of dangerous and funny consequences. The diverse international cast improvised their all-English dialog from a terse 12-page script by German actor turned director Sebastian Schipper.

“This is younger than a lot of our films,” Grady said. Adopt has acquired over 20 foreign language films since it began, mostly promoting mature fare like the 2014 Oscar nominee “Omar,” and last fall’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Winter Sleep.” “But there’s an audience for this,” he said, thanks to its creative verve. Its American release is planned for fall, the customary start of Oscar season.  

'American Sniper' widow to share her perspective at Beth El Synagogue

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: January 20, 2015 - 2:55 PM
Bradley Cooper received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in "American Sniper." Keith Bernstein/AP

Bradley Cooper received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in "American Sniper." Keith Bernstein/AP

Both "American Sniper," coming off a near-record breaking $90.2 million opening for the three-day weekend, and "Selma," which earned $26.4 million since opening wide three weeks earlier, are history-based films that deal in myths.

"Selma" triggered criticism for portraying President Lyndon Johnson as a slow supporter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s campaign for black voter rights. Similarly, "American Sniper" has made substantial alterations from its source material, the best-selling memoir by the late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. The film shows Kyle fighting a former Olympic marksman in a sharpshooters' battle to the death, though the two never encountered each other in real life. It also created a fictional Iraqi terrorist who murders children with electric drills. Film star, screenwriter and director Seth Rogen on Twitter said it reminded him of a fictional Nazi propaganda film.

Kyle's wife, Taya Kyle, who was interviewed extensively by screenwriter Jason Hall, will share her insights about her husband’s experiences in battle and on the home front, and about the film version of his life story, in an event Feb. 8 at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park.

Jim DeFelice, co-author of "American Sniper," will appear as well at the 7 p.m. event, a part of the synagogue's Heroes Among Us series. Admission is $18 for members of the military, $36 for the general public, $100 for reserved seating and $360 for a VIP meeting with the special guests.

A portion of the proceeds will help underwrite the synagogue’s Minnesota National Guard unit support initiative, benefiting the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, the 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter, and the 204th Area Support Medical Company.

Beth El Synagogue is located at 5225 Barry St. W., St. Louis Park.

Soap Factory in Minneapolis to celebrate 25th anniversary

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: November 12, 2014 - 1:22 PM

Alexa Horochowski's 2014 installation at The Soap Factory. Star Tribune photo by Tom Sweeney

A lot has changed in the 25 years since The Soap Factory art complex started life as No Name Exhibitions.The popoular outpost for Halloween fun and experimental art is celebrating its quarter century anniversary with a benefit  party from 6 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Nov. 15 in its cavernous, brick-and-timber warehouse, a former soap factory,  at 514 S.E. Second St., Minneapolis.

The Factory's presence there has been a spur to development in what is now a fast-gentrifying neighborhood near the Mississippi River. Back in 1989, what is now a rough-hew home to avant garde art was still a functioning factory.

"There have been a lot of changes in this building," said Ben Heywood, executive director of The Soap Factory. "Back then they were literally melting down animals and turning them into fat and then throwing lye into it and turning it into soap."

Back then a group of local artists banded together and started No Name Exhibitions in another quasi derelict building known as the Skunk House. On the opposite side of the Mississippi and just west of Hennepin Av., the Skunk House was subsequently acquired by the Federal Reserve bank to house its air conditioning plant, Heywood said. No Name then moved into the bottling house of the former Grain Belt Brewery and from there to the Soap Factory in 1995.

"Our exhibition space went from 600 square feet to 50,000 square feet when we moved here, so that's a big change," Heywood said.

The Factory building is still pretty raw, but it too has changed over the years. Now, for example, it has bathrooms. And in January it will add heating and air conditioning for the basement and first floor. Previously the place closed in winter months when there was no heat.

Other improvements include the addition of a permanent staff, rather than volunteers who ran the place until 2002. With staff came a year-round exhibition and performance program. And the ever-popular Haunted Basement Halloween shindig. And now the 25th anniversary party. 

Billed as a "day of citywide fun," the anniversary committee may have overpromised a bit. There won't be hot air balloons or marching bands on Nicollet Mall, much as Heywood would love such stuff. By "city-wide" they mean art impressario and cultural gadabout Andy Sturdevant leading a Soap Factory History tour starting at 3 p.m. Saturday in a vintage bus that will roll past previous Factory locales.

"Andy is a city-wide celebration in himself," Heywood explained. Indeed.

The Factory invited 9,000 people to the shindig and expects a good turn out.

"We can hold 700 people on the first floor and we should have a full house," Heywood said.

Party goers can expect Beatrix* JAR and Solid Gold to kick off the event with DJs Diarrhea (Jackie Beckey) and Christopher Saint Christopher (Christopher Allen) commanding the dance floor and emcee Ian Rans running the show.

There will be complimentary cocktails by Bittercube, gourmet nibbles from Fabulous Catering and Common Roots catering, small plates from Tilia, Heyday, Haute Dish, Third Bird, and the University of MN College of Design. Plus art by Aaron Dysart and Andy DuCett. Performances by artist Jaime Carrera and theater company Live Action Set. Plus an auction, of course.

(Party 6 p.m. to midnight, Nov, 15, tickets $50 to $2,000. The Soap Factory, 514 Second St. S.E., Mpls. For tickets: www.soapfactory.org)


 

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