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Best Picture nominees reviewed

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: February 26, 2014 - 11:34 AM
Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o and Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave," nominated for nine Academy Awards. Photo by Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight.

All nine movies up for a Best Picture at the Oscars on Sunday night got 4-star reviews from Star Tribune movie critic Colin Covert, except for "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Her," which each received 3.5-star ratings. Click titles below to read Covert's original reviews. Complete Oscars coverage is here. Best Picture poll is here.

American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club

Gravity

Her

Nebraska

Philomena

12 Years a Slave

The Wolf of Wall Street

Jon Hamm charms at Franken fundraiser

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: February 24, 2014 - 5:32 PM

Jon Hamm smiles at hosts Sam and Sylvia Kaplan at a fundraiser they held for Sen. Al Franken. Sonny Boy the lab appears to be the only one in the room not enthralled, but he wound up getting some laying on of Hamm hands anyway. Photos by Susan Lenfestey.

Last Friday's snowstorm couldn't keep Jon Hamm from charming the Ugg boots off everyone he met at Sam and Sylvia Kaplan's spacious riverfront home. The occasion, dubbed "FrankenHamm,"  was a fundraiser for Sen. Al Franken's re-election campaign. Was Hamm, who effortlessly melts hearts even when playing tortured cad Don Draper on "Mad Men," as amiable and preternaturally handsome in real life as you might expect? Yep. By all accounts he patiently posed for photos with attendees who donated between $1,000 and $5,200 (more modest amounts still got you into the reception), and never stopped smiling even when cell phones had been pushed into that famously appealing mug for two hours.

"He's just terrific," said Sam Kaplan, one of the state's top DFL fundraisers and former ambassador to Morocco during President Obama's first term. "He really won our hearts when he sat on the steps to play with our dog Sonny Boy. When he finally stopped petting him, Sonny Boy lifted a paw to indicate he should continue. And he did."

Hamm, who volunteered his time, even stayed for dinner with his hosts. But affable as he was, no one could loosen his lips about the seventh and last season of "Mad Men" beginning in April. Kaplan, a self-described "addict" of the show, tried to wheedle a few hints.  How many did he get? "Zero."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar gets a laugh out of Hamm and her fellow senator and other guest of honor, Al Franken, at the fundraiser. 

BAFTA celebrations in London and Minneapolis as "12 Years A Slave" and Barkhad Abdi win

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: February 17, 2014 - 4:46 PM

Minneapolis film producer William Pohlad had a fine night at Sunday’s 62nd Annual British Academy Film Awards. His weighty historical drama “12 Years A Slave” took the best picture prize. Its star Chiwetel Ejiofor was named best actor.
"We’re honored '12 Years A Slave' received best picture from the BAFTAs,” Pohlad commented Monday. “This kind of bold storytelling is always what interests [Pohlad’s production company] River Road and for it to be embraced and championed in this way is incredibly gratifying. Producing a film like this alongside [Brad Pitt’s company] Plan B, with the vision of [director] Steve McQueen and the affecting performances by a remarkable cast was a humbling experience and one we’re proud to have had a guiding hand in.”
It was a night of celebration as well for Minneapolis actor Barkhad Abdi, who won best supporting actor for his turn as a Somali pirate in “Captain Phillips.”
It’s not clear whether these wins boosted the Minnesotans’ odds of winning an Academy Award. In the last 30 years, the BAFTA best picture winner matched the Oscar winner 40 percent of the time. The best supporting actor went on to accept the Academy Award 26 percent of the time. Jared Leto, the clear Oscar favorite in that category, was not nominated for the BAFTA.

Osmo Vanska seen at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: February 7, 2014 - 6:45 PM

Osmo Vänskä, who resigned as music director of Minnesota Orchestra in October of last year, showed up Friday morning at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. This photo (above) from the musicians' Facebook page shows Vanska, right, talking with Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who is conducting the orchestra this weekend in two homecoming concerts at the renovated hall. Principal cellist Tony Ross is at left.

Since the long labor dispute was settled last month, speculation has been rampant about whether Vanska would be asked to return to the orchestra. He resigned Oct. 1, 2013, when management and musicians failed to reach agreement on a new contract in time to permit the orchestra to keep two concert dates at Carnegie Hall last fall.

While Vanska gave a hint via Facebook a couple of weeks ago that he would consider coming back if invited, orchestra management has said only that it is considering its music-director options.

Vanska reportedly still has his residence in Minneapolis, but he has been guest-conducting all over, with recent stops in Lyon, France and at the San Francisco Symphony. He won rave reviews for his concerts in San Francisco, and Bay Area radio station KDFC-FM will rebroadcast (and stream) one of those shows (with music of Sibelius, Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff) on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. Pacific time.

Here in the Twin Cities, Friday night's concert, including music of Beethoven (Symphony No. 3), Bach (Toccata and Fugue in D minor, orch. Skrowaczewski) and Richard Strauss (Don Juan) will be simulcast

Some musicians will play twice on Saturday (Feb. 8), once at the memorial service for Joan Mondale, and again at the evening homecoming concert at Orchestra Hall.

Watch for full coverage of Friday's concert online at startribune.com and in print on Saturday. A concert review by Larry Fuchsberg will appear in the print edition on Sunday, and online Saturday afternoon.

Renee Fleming in 'Rusalka' livecast Saturday

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: February 6, 2014 - 3:46 PM

Soprano Renee Fleming and Piotr BeczaƂa in "Rusalka," which is broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera House in HD on Saturday. Photo by Ken Howard for the Met.

More than 100 million saw her sing the National Anthem at the Superbowl recently. Now you can catch soprano Renee Fleming in Dvorak's "Rusalka," the opera that helped launch Fleming 25 years ago. That was when she won the Met's National Council Auditions singing the "Rusalka" aria "Song to the Moon."

The Met's HD livecast of "Rusalka" begins at 11:55 a.m. Sat., Feb. 8,at various Twin Cities movie theaters. Tickets and theater details are at the Fathom Events website.

The Met's revival of "Rusalka" with conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin received a mixed review in the New York Times. The story revolves around a water nymph who falls for a human. Uh-oh.

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