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  • Issue of
  • Oct 10-16, 2007
  • Vol. 27, No. 52

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • The Short Films of the Quay Brothers

    Twins Stephen and Timothy Quay, now 60, have been at the vanguard of stop-motion animation since the 1970s. Their movies have a creepy elegance that Tim Burton can only dream of, and eschew narrative niceties for a surrealism that taps right into the unconscious. Certainly, there are times watching a Quay brothers film that it feels more like an obligation to aesthetics than cinematic pleasure, but their rigor has its rewards. This five-film retrospective is packed with quintessential Quay moments, and also charts their evolution.
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  • The Scene
  • Pete Seeger: The Power of Song

    A tireless performer driven to advocate social change through song, folkie Pete Seeger found that the only audience he was allowed to cultivate was children. So he pursued this vocation with the same fervor he’d used to help organize labor unions and support Progressive Party presidential candidate Henry Wallace. Seeger didn’t start a political revolution, observes biographer David Dunaway, but he did launch a musical one. Extensive talking head interviews, from historians and protest participants to Seeger’s musical progeny (including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Bruce Springsteen), are at the core of this film, providing an exhaustive but entertaining look at the American century through the eyes of one of its most enthusiastic participants. But it’s Brown’s interviews with Seeger and his extended family that really make this portrait something special.
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  • The Scene
  • The Last Winter

    Director Larry Fessenden mines environmental issues to craft a topical story about a research team in Alaska’s Artic National Wildlife Refuge. The team — there to scout oil drilling sites — is leader Ed (Ron Perlman), his former lover and second in command Abby (Connie Britton), newbie Maxx (Zach Gilford) and loopy mechanic Motor (Kevin Corrigan). James (James LeGros) and Elliot (Jamie Harold) are employees hired to evaluate the ecological impact, and they won’t sign off the necessary paperwork. Ed is a right-wing blowhard under work pressure and he continually spouts off about how he represents the “American people” and their demands for crude oil. He considers James and Elliot nuisances and attempts to bully them in hopes of cutting though so much environmental red tape. So when Maxx disappears while mapping some territory, only to return looking freaked and disoriented, he claims he saw spirits. Most of the staff calls it cabin fever. Desperate and maybe deranged, he heads out to capture what he’s seen with a video camera. Maxx is found dead the next morning. But what he caught on video ignites the team’s growing paranoia. Strange incidents and deaths ensue, and the team spirals down a horrific path of accusations, violence and retribution.
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  • The Scene
  • The Seeker: The Dark is Rising

    The clunky plot centers on extremely average teen Will Stanton, played with extraordinary blandness by Alexander Ludwig. Shortly after his large yuppie family relocates to merry old England, middle child Will discovers he’s actually the 7th son of a 7th son, and as we know from countless stories and heavy metal lyrics; that’s a very special thing. This curious birthright has endowed our boy with exceptional powers, aside from his deadly anti-charisma and the ability to keep his hair permanently spiked like a Jersey mall girl circa mid ’80s. He also gets his own collection of tweedy mystic overseers called “The Old Ones,” consisting of several hammy middle-aged character actors, lead by the ever graceful Ian McShane. Unfortunately the salty Deadwood star is working in a tepid PG environment that prevents him from peppering the script with his trademark vulgarity and entertaining bluster. Our pimply would-be savior needs all the help he can get, since he can’t even muster the courage to talk to his pretty crush (Amelia Warner ), let alone save the world from the nefarious forces of darkness that are busily marshalling for a showdown. Those ill-defined baddies can do fairly cool things like turn into a flock of ravens or a mass of hissing snakes, but they are lead by a dork called “the Rider” (former Dr. Who star Christopher Eccleston), who spends most of his time mumbling ominous gibberish through the bandana over his face. What’s it all mean? Why should we care for a single moment? The Seeker doesn’t even pass the “Would kids like it” sniff test, since I’m fairly certain the average kid can find something more engaging and worthwhile on his PSP, or just maybe, the library.
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  • The Scene
  • I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With

    I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With is that rare film that shows its insight by what it doesn’t say and do. Jeff Garlin, a gentle, funny, unpretentious bear of a guy, has a film loaded with his friends but a sketchy plot. Oddball characters and narrative detours undermine the film’s modest ambitions. From Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson) to Bonnie Hunt to director Paul Mazursky to Amy Sedaris, the cameos keep piling on. In the end, Garlin offers a perfectly distilled meditation on aging, the role of parents and children and the underlying role of performance. Too bad he had to walk a seriously twisted path to reach his destination. But isn’t that the nature of improv?
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  • The Scene
  • Into the Wild

    Sean Penn's adaptation of John Krakauer’s debut novel, following Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a 24-year-old Emory University graduate who dropped out of society, lived as a free-spirited vagabond and ended up starving to death in the Alaska wilderness in the spring of 1992. To some, Chris will come off as a likable but spoiled brat, eager to punish his dysfunctional parents and too cocky by half. To others, his retreat into the natural world will stir something primal, a profound dissatisfaction with modern living. In the end, Into the Wilds’ relentlessly internal quest hits hardest once Chris reaches Alaska. Alone, living in its savage and unforgiving beauty, nature begins to erode his psyche and the line between being free and being trapped is erased. Chris’ deathbed revelation — that happiness is useless if it isn’t shared — reveals a far deeper truth than any of Penn’s poetic narrative musings.
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  • The Scene
  • The Jane Austen Book Club

    The Jane Austen Book Club falls squarely into the category of the chick flick. Although this label is rather dismissive, what it denotes is an optimistic worldview in which change, no matter how painful, will lead to growth and deeper happiness. And that relentless positivism infuses this Book Club, which follows a half-dozen Sacramento, Calif., folks during the six months they meet to dissect Jane Austen’s six novels. The heady rush to judgment in Pride & Prejudice or the achingly suppressed longing of Persuasion seem foreign to these Austen readers, who prefer their grand passions safely filed away in the pages of her books.
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  • The Scene
  • The Heartbreak Kid

    After spending Valentine’s Day at his ex’s fairytale wedding, the marriage-shy Eddie meets Lila (Malin Akerman) when — in a display of Old World gallantry — he tries to stop a purse-snatcher. Soon, Eddie’s convinced that he’s finally ready to take the plunge by his randy, foul-mouthed dad (Jerry Stiller) and best friend (Robb Corddry), whose own marriage is an exercise in terror. So before the first flush of brain-fogging infatuation has worn off, Eddie marries Lila a few weeks later. On a road trip from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico — in a Mini Cooper that suddenly feels incredibly small — Eddie begins the painful process of discovering that the supremely annoying and clingy Lila is nothing like her lovely facade. But does this realization make Eddie any less of an asshole for pursuing Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), the real girl of his dreams, while on his honeymoon with Lila? It’s a toss-up.
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Food & Drink

  • Table and Bar
  • Way to go, Ohio

    Walk into what appears to be a handsome long ballroom in an Italian villa, seating two hundred, and eat traditional classics, beginning with generously proportioned appetizers, and moving on to Milanese veal, gorgonzola lamb chops, lasagna Bolognese, five different cuts of beef or 10 imaginatively constructed pasta dishes.
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Music

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