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True Grit is Legit

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After months upon agonizing months of waiting quite impatiently, True Grit finally opened  tonight and I was in my seat 40 minutes early with beverage in hand.  No one else but the Coen brothers could possibly drag me out to a theater full of coughing old people on a week night.  That is, not when there’s still yet another crap filled day of work in store before Christmas vacation.  You’ll do what you have to though when your favorite screen play writers/directors craft another cinematic hug.  From the moment H.I. Mcdunnough scraped his knuckles on that trailer’s popcorn ceiling in Raising Arizona, I’ve been fanatical for anything they touch.  Even the mediocre stuff (The Lady Killers, Intolerable Cruelty) is still better than many film maker’s best efforts.  But man when they’re at their best, (Fargo, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men, and my favorite of all time The Big Lebowski) it’s the reason why I and most people watch movies.  To escape.  To be taken to a place your imagination could never dream up because you don’t have the capacity or the wit to get there.  The most you can hope for is that someone else is blessed with the talent to do so and by God did that ever happen with the Coens. I read their screenplays constantly, searching for the formula, for the gift that they have but it’s impossible to replicate.  The most that I will be allowed is just to appreciate the mastery that they have been anointed with.

Now if you have seen the original True Grit with John Wayne and are thinking this is a remake, well, you can just put that notion right back in your pocket.  This is not your pappy’s version.  No slight to the original mind you, it was the only movie Wayne ever won an Oscar for and one of the main reasons I developed a  love of Westerns.  Daydreaming about riding horses through the prairie, kicking ass, getting sweet revenge and so on filled my head quite a bit during my “Cable Guy” childhood.  But the original was a “movie”, what the Coens’ have done is made a film.  Instead of just giving the people a redux, they broke out the Charles Portis novel and said “Let’s do OUR thing” in much the same way as they did with Cormac Mccarthy’s “No Country”.  It’s as authentic in the realms of Western’s as you will find while still being scrubbed fresh with their freakish brilliance.  If you beg to know how they did it you’ll simply get a humble “We just lifted it from the book”.  They haven’t even seen the original since childhood and just plain never got around to it during prep.  Ask them if they’ll watch their adaptation more than once and they’ll tell you, “probably not”.  It’s down right kooky to be that damn good.

An even dispersal of credit has to be dealt when it comes to the cast.  If you’ve been longing to see them work with Jeff Bridges again, his turn as Rooster Cogburn is every bit as epic as the cosmic strangle hold that he had on “The Dude”.  But while Jeffrey Lebowski was a pot smoking pacifist, Rooster Cogburn snuffs out so many men on a frequent basis, he can’t quite recall if it’s 14 or 24.  In one of the opening scenes as he testifies about one such incident, we are enlightened to the fact that those are just the ones he killed.  If you ask him how many he’s shot, who knows how much ink it would take to write that list.  Precisely why the clever and wise 14 year old, Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) seeks out the Deputy Marshall to help bring Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) the man who robbed and killed her father to justice.  Steinfeld’s portrayal is immaculate and will instantly force you into complete fandom.  When an older voice of the character reflectively narrates during the train ride to town for her father’s remains, “You must pay for everything in this world.  There is nothing free except the grace of God” her fortitude is cemented.

Matt Damon has made a long haul from being lampooned as a mouth breathing imbecile in Team America-World Police and his take on Texas Ranger La Boeuf makes Glen Campbell’s role in the original seem like HE’s developmentally disabled. Was he? I’m sorry Glenn, Merry Christmas. Damon’s La Boeuf is sharp, cocky and the dialogue between Mattie and he during their first meeting will leave you howling.  In fact, much of True Grit will have you laughing your fool head off when you’re not wincing at the necessary violence that is put upon the very deserved. There is nothing compromised with the PG-13 rating. It will satisfy any blood lust you may require. While Brolin’s part is small as an intellectually challenged thief and murderer, he delivers everything you’ve come to expect from him. Don’t even bring up “Jonah Hex” as I’ve deleted it from my memory banks.  He was far too good for that pile so let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.  Same thing with Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper (must’ve been in the stars) who plays a small role also but takes it straight to the bone like always.  You’d honestly be hard pressed to find anyone (even the smallest character) left to chance which seems to be a running theme with the Coens.  They don’t think of anybody in their movies as just an incidental.  Every actor is a part of the machine that drives the script expertly.

I’d really be a dope if I didn’t mention the cinematography which was stunning but ultimately the dialogue is the glue.  With lines like “If they wanted a proper burial they should’a got themselves kilt in summertime”, you’ll find yourself smiling like a goon as the accurate dialect is hysterically and poignantly delivered with perfect timing for the full length.  And while the majority of Joel and Ethan’s works are dripping with irony, its not a driving force this go around.  Have no doubt , it’s coated in their juices what with the expert set ups of each scene which climax perfectly into the mega moviegasm at the end, it’s still much more literal than the majority of their works.

There is absolutely no way the Duke is spinning in his grave on this one.  If anything, he’s tippin’ a hat to a couple of pilgrims who took his best movie and made it even better.  O.k., The Sons of Katie Elder was his BEST but whatev’s.  Just saying, even if you can’t afford to go to Maui for the Holidays, you can still take a 2 hour MENTAL vacation via the Coen Brothers Express.  I promise, five minutes in and you won’t even notice the hacking geriatric two rows back.

Art

Rain and Fire in Sedona

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Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando

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Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.

 

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Dance

“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward

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Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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