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, 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.
“I was shocked. It was completely out of the blue. I was dumbfounded,” Kimberly Elise said by phone from her Los Angeles home. The Minneapolis native was nonplussed by the call she received from her agent June 29 informing her that she had been inducted into the ultimate Hollywood insiders’ club, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “I’ve been out here for almost 20 years,” she said, “and to have my opinion included in the pinnacle of our industry is quite an honor.
Elise, 46, is a four-time NAACP Image Award winner whose myriad acting credits include “For Colored Girls,” “Beloved” and “The Manchurian Candidate.” While she had no insight into the selection process that invited 276 newcomers into the Oscar voting pool, she ventured, “I believe it has to do with my body of work. I imagine with has to do with your work and your pedigree within the industry.”
Twenty-one other actors including Rosario Dawson, Paula Patton, Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Oh, Danny Trejo and Michael Pena received the call. Prince was tapped along with nine others to join the musician’s wing of the organization.
"These individuals are among the best filmmakers working in the industry today," said Academy President Hawk Koch.
Industry observers believe the Academy is hoping to make its membership more inclusive. A Los Angeles Times study found last year that the academy’s voting members were disproportionately white, male and older than 50.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to be part of the community not just through my acting but as part of a major organization,” Elise said. “This is a statement of, ‘We recognize your work, we appreciate your work. We want you to be a part of what we’re doing.’ It’s the appreciation of the artists who make up the Academy and that’s a great feeling.”She said she intends to use her new clout as a voter to ensure that every film artist whose work deserves attention will get due consideration in the awards process.
As for the Academy’s attempts to increase diversity, she said, “I don’t think I’ll be their token Vegan. There’s a lot of us out here.”
Last week the British press and international sports news outlets reported that producer-director William Pohlad’s upcoming drama about Formula One racing champion Jackie Stewart had spun out of control. Now a person familiar with the production says the high-profile Grand Prix drama is is still speeding down the track.
Pohlad, the Minneapolis-based filmmaker/financier whose River Road Entertainment funded Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain,” Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” and Robert Altman’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” met Stewart in the 1970s. Pohlad trained for Formula One racing in his twenties and planned to draw on that experience as director.
The film's focus is Stewart’s competitive rivalry and off-track friendship with his racing protégé, the late Francois Cevert.
The dashing French driver, Stewart’s partner on the Tyrell racing team, was a media star in his own right. He tragically died in practice for the 1973 U.S. Grand Prix, which was to be Stewart’s next-to-last race. Sir Jackie, now 74, retired from racing after Cevert’s accident.
England’s Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that Sir Jackie’s wife, Lady Helen Stewart, vetoed the film drama. She reportedly objected because the script (by “Children of Men” screenwriter Timothy J. Sexton) fabricated an affair between her and Cevert. The Stewarts, childhood sweethearts, have been married for 50 years.
Lady Stewart, 65, said the soap opera element “was probably the most exciting part of the film- if it was true. But it wasn't. Francois was a great friend of Jackie's and of mine but they wanted to make something of it - which was crazy.” Because of her opposition, Lady Stewart said, the film was “scrapped.”
Not so says Pohlad publicist Mara Buxbaum. The project was delayed, partly to avoid a conflict with Ron Howard’s Grand Prix film “Rush,” starring Chris Hemsworth, due for release this fall. Casting for Pohlad’s Stewart film continues, with Sir Jackie favoring motorcycle racer Ewan McGregor to star. The project “remains very much in development at River Road,” Buxbaum said.
More immediately, Pohlad is set to direct “Love & Mercy,” a biography of reclusive, psychologically troubled Beach Boys singer-songwriter Brian Wilson. Paul Dano (“There Will Be Blood”) portrays the young Wilson. John Cusack (“High Fidelity”) will play him later in life. Paul Giamatti (“Sideways”) plays Wilson’s therapist, who claimed to be the co-writer of some of Wilson's later work. The film begins principal photography in Los Angeles July 15.
McKnight Fellowships are intended, in part, to challenge artists to try new materials, explore new concepts and test their mettle against the unknown. The four ceramicists whose work is on view through July 7 at the Northern Clay Center made splendid use of the opportunities afforded by their McKnight support.
Brian Boldon and Ursula Hargens received McKnight fellowships in 2012; Edith Garcia and Janet Williams had McKnight residencies to work at the center for serveral months in 2011. Their four-person show offers an excellent sample of contemporary ceramic sculpture ranging in scale from Garcia's doll-sized modernist figures to Boldon's room-sized installation. Conceptually it encompases Hargens' beautiful ceramic alphabets and Williams' ethereal landscape collages mapped on graph paper and boldly sketched in porcelain and wire.
Brian Boldon's work is dramatically installed in a midnight blue gallery that compliments his steel, aluminum, rubber and stoneware sculptures whose surfaces are imprinted with digital photos of cattails and rice grass. Taken at dusk just as the landscape around his northern Wisconsin cabin disappeared into blackness, the photos were sharply illuminated by flashlights that make the grasses stand out against the night sky. He later transfer-printed the images onto rectangular ceramic cylinders that are threaded onto steel pipes. Thanks to Boldon's keen design sense, the sculptures retain their poetry despite a remarkable amount of technical manipulation, and the installation is mesmerizingly beautiful.
Ursula Hargens' handsome ceramic alphabet seems disarmingly childlike, a grid of tile-like letters and numbers each about a foot tall. They appear to be glazed in random colors -- rose, brown, French blue, lemon yellow. But there is more to her earthenware alphabet than meets the casual eye. She has, as she explains in a gallery placard, a neurological condition that inherently associates colors and letters. Called color-grapheme synesthesia, her linkage is not a simple "P = pink" system but a more arbitrary yet persistent tie in which, for example, S = orange/yellow. From that starting point she has created tiles with various linguisitic connections, some with letters excised from flora designs, others combining colors and letters in what she calls a "Mash-up." The results are both beautiful and conceptually fascinating.
Janet Williams incorporates personal information -- her fingerprint -- into computer-assisted line drawings that suggest airy maps of imaginary landscapes. Pushing the technology, she creates topographical sculptures consisting of dozens of tabs of glazed clay that are imprinted with her fingerprints and attached by monofilament wires to an overhead frame. Suspended in semi-circles at different heights, the tabs appear to form in mid-air a topographical image of an imaginary mountain.
Since completing her BFA at Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1998, Edith Garcia worked and exhibited in many locales before settling in London. Her doll-sized androgynous figures hang on the wall but seem to be performers in enigmatic little dramas of non-communication. Though their actions and expressions are inscrutible, they are strangely compelling characters whose silence speaks louder than words.
Edith Garcia "Constant, Same and Forever" (detail)
Michelle Hensley will take her Ten Thousand Things model to Berkeley next year, coaching California Shakespeare Theater through a production of "Twelfth Night." This is similar to Ten Thousand Things' project a few years ago with the Public Theater in New York.
Cal Shakes is spearheading a Bay Area initiative to bring performance to audiences that have little access to the arts. That very idea is what has propelled Hensley's troupe to national recognition. She will direct an all-female staging of the Shakespeare play, similar to one that Ten Thousand Things did in 2008.
The production will use California actors, but will follow the TTT aesthetic of bare sets and minimal props and costumes. Another essential element is the musical soundscape usually provided by Peter Vitale, TTT's music director. He will work with Bay Area musicians to do the same for the production in spring, 2014.
"Michelle has created a methodology that relies on a simple equation," said Cal Shakes Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone. "Make the work as excellent as possible and bring it as close as possible to people."
Ten Thousand Things just concluded its season with a four-person, stripped-down version of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire."
In 2010, Hensley directed "Measure for Measure" for the Public, which brought the production to several nontraditional venues in New York.
Dancer Greg Waletski, who is retiring from Zenon after 22 years, won a McKnight grant, along with five others. / Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler
Each choreography fellow recieves $25,000 and is eligible to apply for a national residency with one of four affiliated national dance partners.
The winning dancers are Kari Mosel, Tamara Ober, and Gregory Waletski.
Each dancer-winner receives $25,000, plus the opportunity to commission a choreographer of his/her choice to create a new solo work to be performed in the Twin Cities in fall 2014.
The McKnight, aided by Northrop dance, also funds a Minnesota residency for an international choreographer to visit the Twin Cities and create a new work with Twin Cities dancers. Chosen this year is Montreal-based George Stamos, who will spend two weeks here in June to work with dancers Ryan Dean, Robert Haarman, Patrick Jeffrey, Justin Leaf, Nic Lincoln and understudy Eben Kowler. A first performance of that work is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 22 at the TekBox Theater in Minneapolis (612-624-2345).