Welcome to Artcetera. Arts-and-entertainment writers and critics post movie news, concert updates, people items, video, photos and more. Share your views. Check it daily. Remain in the know. Contributors: Mary Abbe, Aimee Blanchette, Jon Bream, Tim Campbell, Colin Covert, Laurie Hertzel, Tom Horgen, Neal Justin, Claude Peck, Rohan Preston, Chris Riemenschneider, Graydon Royce, Randy Salas and Kristin Tillotson.
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.
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.
The works, memory and achievements of Amiri Baraka, the influential poet, playwright, essayist and cultural theorist who died Jan. 9 at 79, will be celebrated Saturday in the Twin Cities, a place where he had tremendous influence.
"Dutchman," Baraka's landmark play that was turned into a film, was the first work produced at Mixed Blood when the theater was founded by Jack Reuler in 1976. It was directed by Lou Bellamy, who would go on to found Penumbra Theatre.
Baraka gave frequent readings in the Twin Cities, often travelling with family members.
"Spirit Reach," as the tribute is titled, will be hosted by novelist, professor and educational theorist Alexs Pate, and Arleta Little, arts program officer at the McKnight Foundation.
The slate of performers includes multi-instrumentalist and composer Douglas Ewart, rapper Toki Wright, actor Sha Cage and dancer Leah Nelson.
The free event also will feature performances by such pre-eminent spoken word artists as Bao Phi, Tish Jones, J. Otis Powell, E.G. Bailey, Truthmaze, Andrea Jenkins and veteran poet Louis Alemayehu.
2-4 p.m. Sat., Capri Theater, 2027 W. Broadway, Mpls. 612-822-0015 or online. Admission is free.
He’s back! After a two-year absence from the State Fair, Garrison Keillor will bring “A Prairie Home
Companion” back to the grandstand on Aug. 29.
Before his hiatus (to undertake “Prairie Home” cruises), Keillor had performed eight consecutive years at the Great Minnesota Get Together. Tickets, priced at $25 and $32, will go on sale at noon Saturday.
Country superstar Tim McGraw (right, Star Tribune photo by Renee Jones Schneider) will be returning to the grandstand for the second consecutive year, with an Aug. 27 concert. Tickets, priced at $56 and $71, will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday. It will be his fifth appearance at the state fair.
The fair also announced DigiFest Minnesota, starring the vocal group Fifth Harmony of “X Factor” fame and YouTube favorite Cimorelli, on Aug. 24 at the grandstand. Tickets, priced at $20 and $30, will go on sale at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Tickets can be purchased at mnstatefair.org, etix.com and -1-800-514-3849. The state fair box office will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
These three concerts join the previously announced shows: Kid Rock on Aug. 23, Linkin Park on Aug. 26 and the Happy Together Tour starring the Turtles on Aug. 25.
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.
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