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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

'Third World' Shows Off Chilean Film-making

Just by luck, I hit it really good tonight at the AFI Latin American Film Festival in Silver Spring. I went over to use a member's pass to get a ticket to Norberto's Deadline, a Uruguayan movie that I'll be leading a meetup to on October 9. (It looks really funny!) And the Chilean film Third World was playing just when I got there. What a beautiful film! It tells three stories - in Chile, Bolivia and Costa Rica - but doesn't worry about weaving them all together. (What a new concept!) What does hold the stories together is a belief in the extra-terrestrials, UFOs and the idea of other life. An eclipse is coming to South America and there just might be something a little magical in the air. And why not. Wonderful acting, and an original script and sensitive directing by Cesar Caro Cruz make for a really top-notch film. Unfortunately, it will not be shown again in this festival, but I will look for it and let you know when it comes around again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Studio Finds Its Muse; Longview Hosts a Documentary

Studio Theater had a bit of an off year last season. But with David Muse now at the helm - as both the new artistic director and the director of the thought-provoking and entertaining Circle Mirror Transformation - they are off no more. Who thought five everyday people in an acting class could provide so many "moments"? But Annie Baker's well-written play, fresh from a New York Theater Row production last year, gives some five actors a chance to shine and shine they do. My friend thought McKenzie Meehan as the teen Lauren stole the show with her deadpanned reactions to four complicated adults (though part of the point is aren't we all to some extent). I liked Jeff Talbott as unlikely lothario Schultz and Kathleen McElfresh as an emotionally up and down Theresa. But judging from the applause, I think others liked the ubiquitous Jennifer Mendenhall and portly Harry A. Winter as a seen-better-days couple. The play runs 1 hour, 45 minutes without intermission, and although I enjoyed the characters it feels just about right. Short scenes keep the acting-turned-psychotherapy classes that we see at a nice rhythm, and when a scene takes a little longer, we know to pay attention - all the way to the very clever ending.
Studio runs a lot of deals for tickets - Goldstar, TicketPlace, DC Film Society - so please keep your eyes out and try to catch this. It looks like Studio is back!

Today's Tip: There's a free documentary tomorrow (Tuesday) night at Longview Gallery called Predictions of Fire - something about the Slovenian Art Movement (won many accolades). Check out If it's Longview, it's going to be a fun evening.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Poetry and English Patient Coming to Georgetown U; Arena Stage on Campus Monday

My friend Cinthia and I happened on a very cool lecture series poster tonight at Georgetown University. They will be hosting famous writers with a seminar at 5:30 and a reading and reception at 8pm and they're free! Here are the first three:
9/29 - Fanny Howe, award-winning Irish-American poet/novelist.
10/5 - Tomaz Salamun, Slovenia's greatest living poet
10/26 - Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient and other great novels

We ended up in The Car Barn to see a play that was performed at this summer's Fringe Festival: Drunk With Hope in Chicago starring Tara Handron. It was a powerful performance in an intimate setting. Congrats to Handron for putting in the time and energy to make a captivating night for her audience.

We also went by the Gonda Theater on campus where this Monday Arena Stage will be teaming with Georgetown to present a reading of Two Men of Florence by Richard Goodwin (followed by a reception). The evening is free. There is a lot of cultural exploring to be done on our local college campuses. Remember to catch Jonathan Franzen tomorrow evening at Lisner.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lebanon a Little Too Real; Buster Keaton on the Big Screen

I think I just went to one too many "realistic" films. The Israeli film Lebanon won the biggest award at the Venice Film Festival last year. Saw it at that great place for movies - the second floor of the Avalon Theater. (It's not a great theater but they show all these interesting movies.) I should have believed what the critics were saying: that you'll feel what war is like. I did feel it, but it's just not my thing. The gore reminded me of District 9. Sorry, I should have gone to the French film The Hideaway that was playing in the big Avalon Theater.

I have taken over the reins of the Washington Arthouse Film Meetup from my friend Cinthia. We have scheduled a fantastic meetup for Wednesday, October 20. We'll be going to see The Cameraman starring Buster Keaton in the glorious courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery. I can't recall them having an event like this for the general public. Check out the site and I hope you can join us.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Last Train Home Visually Stunning; Franzen Appears on Friday

Last Train Home first played in the Washington area during SilverDocs. I missed it there but caught it tonight at its one-cinema (possibly one-week) run at E Street. Made in China by a Canadian company, the documentary tells the story of a family separated by the parents having to leave their beautiful rural home to find work. They are part of the huge migrating class of Chinese, most of whom are allowed to go home just once all year, during the Chinese New Year. The conflict comes with the two kids and the pressure they face to do well in school and escape the hard lives of their parents. The cinematography in this film is spectacular; what a gorgeous and complicated country this is! Last Train Home is not exactly a feel-good movie; but it shows that things are not predictable anymore even in rural China. (A clever scene earlier in the film shows the parents bringing their daughter a cell phone. The world is a much smaller place these days.) Given the scenery, if you can catch this film in the theater, I recommend you do so. Otherwise, put it on your Netflix queue.

Today's Tip: Star author Jonathan Franzen will be giving a reading at Lisner Auditorium this Friday at 7 pm and it is free. Politics and Prose, of course, is the sponsor. Franzen's new book, Freedom, has been the talk of the literary world of late. For anyone who read his amazing first book, The Corrections, this is a big event.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Free Concerts at LOC and Latin American Film Festival

The Library of Congress concert schedule is out. There are a number of free concerts, and tickets are now available.  Go to and put Library of Congress in the search window. Concerts include the Arcanto Quartet, Talich Quartet, Helsinki Baroque and Thomas Hampson and Craig Rutenberg.

The AFI's Latin American Film Festival starts tomorrow with a film from Mexico called Revolucion. It features 10 short films from 10 prominent directors including Mariana Chenillo - whose Nora's Will starts at the Avalon on Friday - Rodrigo Garcia and Gael Garcia Bernal. Check out the full schedule! I saw the Peruvian film The Milk of Sorrow that was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign film last year. It was very pretty and dreamy but just didn't feel that compelling. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shelby Lyman Eat Your Bishop Out: Chess Is a Hit

Today starts new daily posts for ronndezvous! Hope you stay with us. It will include a new wine column and the usual culture recommendations and receptions.
Let's start with a recommendation. If the definition of a good musical is that you walk out humming its tunes, then Chess at Signature Theater wins going away. I came in singing One Night in Bangkok (do you know the lyrics actually do talk about chess?) and left singing everything else - especially Nobody's Side which Jill Paice delivers in show-stopping fashion. Paice, who was in 39 Steps and Curtains (with David Hyde Pierce) on Broadway combines with Broadway vets Euan Morton and Jeremy Kushnier to make a good musical exceptional. I guess those Abba guys can really write music. Funny, I saw Paice afterward in Harris Teeter and she looked so...ordinary. Onstage, she's anything but. Outside the theater is a giant chessboard and all the pieces set up. I hope they keep it up after the production.  I saw two people playing and about 15 people quickly gathered to watch. It's a great idea - I guess you just have to pray nobody steals any pieces. I'll look for some deals for Chess and report back.

TODAY's TIP: This Thursday at 7:30 pm at Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar on H Street, NE, they will be showing the Best of DC Shorts. The screening is free and well worth the time!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Something You Did Is Something You Should See

I would probably pay to watch Rick Foucheux read my camera operating manual - the one that I have not fully read for the last two years. (Hmmm, not  bad idea for an audio.) Anyway, whether in  Death of a Salesman at Arena, Dead Man's Cellphone at Woolly or the one-night Odd Couple that Theater J did last year and will happily reprise this year, Foucheux always brings surprises to his roles. In the current Something You Did at Theater J, he plays the heavy, which is to say it's a tough role because there's not too much gray in Willy Holtzman's script, based on characters and events from radical underground groups of the 1960s. But Foucheux mixes it up in wonderful scenes with Norman Aronovic as the loveable old lawyer and past love Deborah Hazlett as a woman jailed for 35 years for a bombing that killed a policeman. We know where he's coming from and going but what a pleasure to watch him get there. Same with the rest of the cast. While not a very good show, this IS very good theater. Ninety tight minutes of five excellent actors in a cozy, comfortable theater. Theater J is an excellent company that has had just a few hiccups over the last few years and some great highlights. To be within 20 feet of some riveting scenes makes this a highlight despite the black-and-white characters (and I'm not talking about racial makeup, although it's always a bonus to see multiracial casts. Lolita-Marie does a great job as the prison guard.) Go see Something You Did. They are running a bunch of deals to get people in the door, so check their website.