Year after year, the most powerful people in Hollywood cram into the Hollywood and Highland Centre (yes, with the digital-age bankruptcy of film purveyor Kodak, the theater's name has changed) and take part in this incessant pageant of predictability, a globally televised popularity contest masquerading as a ceremony where the truly deserving gets honored for their work. But the truth of the matter is, the awards are usually handed out for a number of reasons (the winner had a kick-ass publicity campaign that caught Oscar voters’ attention, for one), the least of which being that the recipients actually deserve it.
But even before the awards are given, it seemed that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reminded people just how bland, safe and, of course, predictable this year’s ceremonies would be just from the nominations alone. The nine nominees for Best Picture are mostly, in a word, unspectacular, true remnants of a mediocre year in movies. Oh sure, you have your arty crowd-pleasers (The Artist, Hugo, Midnight in Paris) and flawed-but-ambitious serious films (Moneyball, The Descendants, The Tree of Life, War Horse), but you also have those prestige pics that are straight-up awful but the Academy nominated them anyway (The Help, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).
Looking at the Best Picture nominees is like having to deal with all those Republican presidential candidates again. I mean, honestly, would you say any of these films are truly Best Picture material? Judging from how most of these films are under-performing at the box office, apparently not. Usually, films that are nominated for Oscars get boosts in ticket sales. But it appears this has been a season where audiences would rather see Channing Tatum woo his amnesiac love interest than most of the Best Picture nominees. Let’s take The Artist, for example. The dazzling, silent thoroughbred in Harvey Weinstein’s stable, it’s been poised to take home the Best Picture prize. And yet, the film has yet to gross over $30 million since it went nationwide. Now, compare that to last year’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech (another Harvey Weinstein production), which already grossed $100 million even before it got the Oscar.
Since she’s coming to Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on Monday to promote her memoir Agorafabulous! , Artery rounded up 10 of her funniest moments on YouTube. (For more, look through ol’ girl’s YouTube page.)
Sara Starts Beef with Rapper Jean Grae
In what has to be one of the funniest celebrity co-signs of an MC ever, Benincasa endorses Brooklyn rapper Grae (how did those two even hook up?) by claiming to be perturbed by her witty rhymes and launching a mock campaign to stop Grae from being funnier than her. As she puts it in the clip, “I feel about Jean Grae the same way the Tea Party feels about Mexicans.”
Sara Explains Lost in Five Minutes
Sure, she hasn’t seen one episode, but she’s heard enough from obsessed friends to basically break down the entire show. To be honest, from the way she describes it—from calling it “a fucked-up, Lord of the Flies thing” to constantly referring to Josh Holloway’s Sawyer as a lesbian—her version of the show sounds much preferable.
There’s a certain contradiction when a production celebrates the 25th anniversary of a world-wide musical theater phenomenon by completely discarding the original’s landmark production concept—and then cutting, according to reports, somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes from the show. That, however, is the outcome with the 25th Anniversary Tour of LES MISERABLES which stops at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium this week.
The odd result is a historical production (in more than one sense of the term) that seems entirely focused on the new instead. In addition to new orchestrations and new costumes, an entirely new set design, abetted by a new stage technology, has mandated equally new blocking as well.
Apparently producers Cameron Mackintosh and NETworks Presentations have aimed here for a LES MIS for a new generation. At least, let’s hope so: Those who remember the superlative strengths of the original (whose Raleigh performance we reviewed in Nov. 1997) are unlikely to be convinced that this brisk—or, actually, brusque—version is an improvement.
It’s amazing to consider how much a single element of technical design can influence an entire production. But then, the original version of LES MIS was amazing by almost any measure. Directors John Caird and Trevor Nunn’s brilliant use of scenic designer John Napier’s stage-length turntable repeatedly swept us along with the flow of history. It nimbly threaded us through the veritable urban mazes that the central character, the condemned Jean Valjean, negotiated to elude his nemesis, the implacable Inspector Javert.
Cinematically, that rotating set disclosed the horrors of warfare when it displayed one side of the barricade where the student revolutionaries in the Paris Uprising of 1839 made their last doomed stand—before turning, inexorably, to reveal all that had been laid to waste beyond it. In the midst of these, a number of other scenes shifted, quite literally, from one character’s point of view to another’s. In instance after instance, the show's original design added significant kinetic dimensions to the story.
With their assistance, Gethard has done awesome (and awesomely weird) episodes like “Night of Zero Laughs” (where Gethard and company tries not to laugh during the whole show), “Monologues Only” (an entire episode where Gethard does late-night talk show-style monologue jokes) and “The Dominatrix Show” (whatever you’re thinking of, yes, that was the show).
This weekly dose of usually off-the-cuff nuttiness is something Gethard, who is both a regular of New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and an author who has dabble in weird, strange things (along with writing for the Weird U.S. travel-guide books, he has just released his own book, A Bad Idea I’m About to Do: True Tales of Seriously Poor Judgment and Stunningly Awkward Adventure).
Luckily, he’s bringing this show to the Cat’s Cradle on Friday, as part of the N.C. Comedy Arts Festival, which comes to a close on Saturday. We spoke to the 31-year-old, Queens-based Jersey boy about his show and why he prefers the company of weirdos like himself.
ARTERY:An easy place to start would be where the hell did The Chris Gethard Show come from?
GETHARD: I've been doing comedy in New York for 12 years and have done all the traditional types—improv is my base, I do storytelling, stand up, pretty much anything. But, along the way, I also got a reputation for staging some sort of out-of-the-box, stunt-driven stuff. Eventually the UCB Theatre gave me one night a month as a home just for those bigger, weirder ideas. A lot of it was spurred by the time I rented a bus to take people all over New Jersey showing them where my stories took place. That event's high point was taking 60 strangers into the basement where I lost my virginity. It was weird, but people dug it. That led to a lot of momentum that lead to my very weird show.
You seem to be a person who has built a bit of a rep for basically capturing general weirdness, whether it’s on your show or your work with Weird U.S. Where did that desire to unearth weird stuff come from?
I think being from New Jersey helps a lot with it. New Jersey makes people really appreciate odd stuff and out-of-the-box stuff, and also sort of puts a chip on peoples' shoulders. In my case, that meant growing up to be the type of person who likes to see stuff up close, likes to deal with things head-on. I just have always had a very curious side and a lot of willingness to take things slightly farther than they probably should have been taken.
On Saturday, Feb. 18, fans will head to Chapel Hill Comics to pay $15 for a comic book with a locally drawn cover depicting a princess made of bubblegum and a vampire rocker who drinks the color red instead of blood, and was traumatized by her father eating her fries as a child. And I will be among them.
From the Adventure Time episode "It Came From the Nightosphere": Marceline the Vampire Queen sings of the traumatic childhood incident where her father ate her fries.
The comic book, Adventure Time, is based on an Emmy-nominated animated series on Cartoon Network (Mondays, 7:30 p.m.) that, since its premiere in April 2010, has become a strange sensation among children and adults alike. Kids enjoy the bright colors and wacky characters such as Lumpy Space Princess and Lady Rainicorn.
Say the word “click” out loud. It’s only one syllable, but its sound has a beginning, middle and end. There’s a duration, albeit brief, before its harsh, terminal consonants. Despite that fact, photographs are commonly thought of as moments of frozen time. The camera’s click doesn’t elapse, it just occurs.
That said, many of Sharp’s images look like regular photographs. Blurred outlines, light discrepancies, or other long-exposure clues are rarely present. In some, odd luminosities and hyperreal details could give the sense that the image isn’t in the simple “click” family of exposures, but never demonstratively so. They aren’t about their process. Instead, they speak to Sharp’s curiosity about seeing in a way that the human eye simply can’t. And they represent, for Sharp, how time might be experienced similarly.
Unfortunately, AMERICAN IDIOT is not—repeat, not—the great American grunge opera.
Not with seven central characters this poorly defined and developed. And not with a flimsy book that reads, more than once, like a downer version of HAIR retrofitted specifically for Generation Y.
Since it’s hardly the first—or the twentieth—retelling of the story of disillusioned youth trying to come of age, it’s particularly disappointing that AMERICAN IDIOT comes up with so few new findings.
Much of that difficulty lies with director Michael Mayer. Though Green Day's 2004 propulsive, raw concept album made a number of lists for best album of that year (and decade), the main plot points in Mayer's stage adaptation appear to have been lifted from a couple of that era's movies of the week instead.
Johnny and Tunny, two not particularly robust examples of the genus man-child, forsake the crushing banality of suburbia by fleeing to the big city. (A third man-child, Will, opts to stay home after his girlfriend becomes pregnant.) The experience humbles both in short order: one gets into drugs, while the other joins a military that is—wait for it—dehumanizing and nothing like the commercials on TV.
Just imagine. I’ll wait; it shouldn’t take you very long.
With only a small handful of dialogue lines written (by Mayer and singer Billie Joe Armstrong) to link the various songs, the album’s lyrics basically form the book for these far too familiar tales. Unfortunately, it’s one that’s uneven at best.
The epochs of classic creature features and splatter fests have gradually given way to a contemporary horror film genre shaped by Asian influences and, more notably, the trappings of today’s technology. Starting with Hideo Nakata’s Ringu—a convenient, affecting marriage of these two influences—popular modern scare fare is the stuff of The Blair Witch Project and such progeny as Paranormal Activity. They’re the same chills and thrills, just filtered through the grainy prism of camcorder and surveillance monitors.
From this standpoint, The Woman in Black feels more like a musty curio than a standalone frightener. This adaptation of Susan Hill’s 1983 novel—already the basis for a West End theater production now approaching a run of 23 years—pays homage to the Gothic Hammer Horror films, not coincidental as it is the first feature shot in England under the until-recently dormant production banner in over thirty years.
Director James Watkins imbues every scene with the typical tropes: creepy kids, evil apparitions, a vine-covered manse, overgrown cemeteries and an array of spooky toys and music boxes. Shadows flutter about and objects jump out of nowhere, usually accompanied by a musical flourish. It’s all a handsome showcase that taps your sense of nostalgia more intensely than your adrenal gland.
Set in Victorian England, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a widower whose wife died four years ago while giving birth to their son (Misha Handley). Now a struggling solicitor and single dad, Kipps is dispatched to Crythin Gifford, a fictitious town on the east coast of Britain, to attend to the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow, a recently deceased recluse. There, Kipps finds a village of the damned as townsfolk grapple with an inexplicable epidemic of their children doing fatal harm to themselves.
However, he’s still very much an integral, behind-the-scenes member of his pride and joy, the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, which began yesterday with shows at the DSI Comedy Theater. We spoke to Ward about what to expect at this year’s festival, as well as what’s going on comedy-wise over in his new Boston home.
Independent:So, Zach, you're up in Boston now. How long have you been there and what made you decide to move there?
Zach Ward: My first day as managing director of ImprovBoston was June 13, 2011. I was actively recruited by ImprovBoston, a 30-year-old comedy theater in Cambridge. I felt confident in both my company in Carrboro and the DSI leadership, so I was excited to take a pretty exciting professional step for my own comedy career. Paula Pazderka assumed my role as artistic director two weeks before I left for Boston and she has done exceptional work over the last seven months.
What made you decide to make the move up to Boston, and how different is the comedy scene over there as it is in the Triangle?
ImprovBoston as a theater and comedy school is very similar in many respects. However, the scope of my work has increased exponentially just given the metro market and what it takes to operate an arts organization in the city. The comedy scene and community are much larger—which has obvious benefits and unique challenges.
Was it difficult rounding up talent for the festival since you're in Beantown?
Not at all. NCCAF grows each year and we continue to see more and more unique acts to register, in addition to the veteran acts who have become festival favorites. I've been exposed to even more acts by traveling outside of North Carolina and, with our festival jury reviewing online submissions, NCCAF was able to curate one of the best line-ups we have ever had for the festival.
I see there is no film section this year. Why is there no more of that?
We really seek to provide the best line-up possible. NCCAF will bring film back when we can provide the strongest line-up possible with the ability to also bring the artists involved to the festival. For the past few years we have had specialized weeks, but we are considering introducing NCCAF Film into the other weeks for 2013 as a way to highlight projects by acts who may be performing live in standup, sketch or improv.
Mike Birbiglia is one of the headliners this year. He's lately been getting a lot of buzz for his movie, Sleepwalk with Me, which just played Sundance. You couldn't get him to play that flick at NCCAF?
Mike is part of our partnership with the Carolina Theatre—that is new this year. As we understand it, Mike was working on the film right up until the festival. Maybe next year. For 2012, Mike will be in town for the show and that's about it. But even that is awesome for comedy in the Triangle and great for the festival.