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Monday, March 31, 2014

Kingdom County Productions to Produce New Film, 'Peter and John'

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 5:30 PM

Jacqueline Bisset - COURTESY OF KINGDOM COUNTY PRODUCTIONS
  • Courtesy of Kingdom County Productions
  • Jacqueline Bisset

Kingdom County Productions
, the independent filmmaking company headquartered in the Northeast Kingdom town of Barnet, has announced that it will commence shooting for the new film Peter and John in April. Principal photography will take place on Nantucket Island, Mass.

Based on the novel of the same name by Guy de Maupassant, Peter and John will feature, among other performers, Jacqueline Bisset. She's the latest in the series of well-known actors to appear in Kingdom County's films; others include Rip Torn in Where the Rivers Flow North and Kris Kristofferson in Disappearances.

The film is being produced through the Movies From Marlboro program: Kingdom County cofounder Jay Craven teaches at Marlboro College. This program affords 30 film students from various departments the chance to work on films with professional mentors.

Kingdom County has announced a Kickstarter campaign to raise $55,000 for the film's production.

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Werner Herzog in Vermont: The Saga Continues!

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Werner Herzog - COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA
  • Courtesy of Wikipedia
  • Werner Herzog

Last fall, filmmaker Werner Herzog made an unexpected contribution to Vermont film culture by shooting original Super 8mm footage and giving it to University of Vermont film students to do with what they would. (You can find Live Culture's multi-part coverage of this story here.) Professor Peter Gruner Shellenberger initiated the project by bringing his own Super 8 camera to a lecture by Herzog at Dartmouth College and requesting that he use it to shoot something for the class Shellenberger was teaching. To his surprise, Herzog consented.

Those students, following Herzog's stipulations for the use of his footage, made their own films, which will be shown on Wednesday, April 2, at the BCA Center in Burlington. Titled, as per Herzog's conditions, "Where's Da Party At?" the short films use Herzog's footage as a springboard from which students crafted their own works.

The event is free; donations are welcome.


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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Burlington Considers How to Become a Bikable City at Walk/Bike Summit

Posted By on Sun, Mar 30, 2014 at 12:00 PM

At Burlington's walk/bike summit on Saturday - PHOTO: KEVIN J. KELLEY
  • Photo: Kevin J. Kelley
  • At Burlington's walk/bike summit on Saturday

Cycling culture keeps getting stronger in the Burlington area, but the infrastructure to support it hasn't developed as quickly or as extensively. Those dynamics were the focus of the first statewide walk/bike summit held at the Burlington Hilton on Saturday, March 29, and attended by more than 250 people-powered transportation enthusiasts.

Vermont is beginning to accommodate alternatives to the private automobile, Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter said during a panel discussion. But the administration of Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin has had to build on a flimsy base, Minter pointed out. From 2003 to 2011, “no new bike and pedestrian programs were being enabled,” she said, referring to the years when Republican Gov. James Douglas was in power.

Since Shumlin's election, Minter added, the state has invested about $8 million in cycling and walking initiatives. But “we're not taking big steps forward,” observed fellow panelist Noelle MacKay, commissioner of the state Department of Housing and Community Affairs. And that's partly because of “how slowly things move in the legislature,” said the third panelist, Progressive State Rep. Mollie Burke of Brattleboro.

Piecemeal progress is occuring in parts of the state, however.

Burlington will experience an upgrade of its cycling infrastructure with the reconstruction of the lakefront bike path between Perkins Pier and North Beach. The widening and rerouting project gets underway this summer, but much of the work will take place in the fall when the path is less heavily used.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Movies You Missed & More: Electrick Children

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 2:34 PM

A prairie girl goes to Oz, aka Vegas. - PHASE FOUR FILMS
  • Phase Four Films
  • A prairie girl goes to Oz, aka Vegas.

This week in movies you missed:
 The Netflix blurb for this one hooked me: "An idealistic teen from a devout Mormon family believes that she's been impregnated by listening to music and travels to Las Vegas to find the father."

I figured Electrick Children would play this bizarre premise for cheap laughs ("Oh, aren't naïve Mormons who believe in immaculate conception funny?"). Wrong. Rebecca Thomas' directorial debut is very much in earnest.

What You Missed
Fifteen-year-old Rachel (Julia Garner) lives in a fundamentalist Mormon compound in rural Utah. The man she knows as her father is the sect's prophet (Billy Zane). But her mom (Cynthia Watros) tells mysterious stories of meeting a "red Mustang" in the desert that suggest Rachel may have had a less holy origin.

Curious about forbidden technology, Rachel finds a rickety old tape recorder in her basement and plays the first cassette that comes to hand — a cover of "Hanging on the Telephone" by the Nerves. She finds the raw sound so powerful that, when she discovers months later that she's pregnant, she believes the unknown singer has done the deed with divine assistance.

Continue reading »

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UVM's Orchesis Dance Company Hosts Spring Showcase

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Orchesis Dance Company - COURTESY OF KELSEY DEWITT
  • Courtesy of Kelsey Dewitt
  • Orchesis Dance Company

Some Vermonters spend cold winter nights — or cold spring nights — indoors watching movies, reading books or listening to music. Others prefer braving bone-chilling temperatures and getting outdoors to embrace the season before the arrival of April weather. At the University of Vermont, a group of 15 women has found movement the best way to get warm — indoors. They spend countless hours every week rehearsing their chosen form of expression: dance. They are Orchesis.

The student-run Orchesis Dance Company began at UVM in the 1960s. This Saturday, March 29, its current members will showcase their best moves, according to an announcement from Orchesis president Alyssa Jones.

 The dancers rely on each other for inspiration. After spending their mornings and afternoons in class, they come together to share their ideas for new dances. There are no coaches or teachers guiding the way. Instead, these women express through movement whatever lives inside them. Any member of the club can choreograph a dance to any song and in any style she chooses. Watch a sample rehearsal here.

The result of this autonomy and individuality promises, says Jones, “a dynamic and varied showcase” for the audience to enjoy. She adds, “No two shows are ever alike.” Fourteen original pieces will be performed on Saturday.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Following Successful Film About Living With Autism, Mark Utter Writes On

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 2:41 PM

Mark Utter with Emily Anderson in 2012 - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • FIle: Matthew Thorsen
  • Mark Utter with Emily Anderson in 2012
For someone who cannot speak verbally, Mark Utter has had an awful lot to say lately. The 49-year-old Colchester man, who was featured in an April 11, 2012, Seven Days cover story, "Utterly Mark: A Vermonter with autism makes his inner voice heard through film,” has been traveling around the state screening his film, I Am in Here, most recently on Wednesday night in Montpelier as part of the 2014 Green Mountain Film Festival.

Utter has screened his film at least 20 times since it premiered in Burlington on March 16, 2013. The 30-minute autobiographical movie, which Utter wrote and animated himself with help from his facilitator, Emily Anderson of Vermont’s Awareness Theater Company  is typically followed by a one-hour question-and-answer session with the audience.

Those discussions present some unique challenges for the nonverbal Utter, who communicates with Anderson’s help with a method known as facilitated communication (FC) or “supported typing.” Essentially, Anderson sits at Utter’s side with one hand gently resting on his arm while he hunts and pecks at a computer keyboard. As Utter explained in 2012, having Anderson by his side, occasionally offering him verbal cues and encouragement, helps focus his brain on the task at hand.

During the Q&A sessions with his audience, Utter’s words are projected onto a screen behind him while he types. As the audience discovers, the process can take several minutes to produce just two or three sentences. So why use words projected on a screen and not, say, a computer-generated voice like the kind made famous by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking?

“If it’s just going to be this funny computer voice coming out, it doesn’t really show Mark’s work at it,” Anderson explains. Seeing Utter’s words appear on screen, including his frequent typos and corrections, she says, shows, in real time, just how much effort goes into his writing.

And Utter has been doing quite a lot of writing since he completed his film. Last month, he was invited to give a presentation before a fine arts thesis class at New York University. There, Utter provided about 10 pages of recent journal entries for the class’ review and critique. 

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

7 Questions for Theresa Somerset, Traditional Ukrainian Egg Painter

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 9:15 AM

Traditional Ukrainian-style painted eggs - COURTESY OF THERESA SOMERSET
  • Courtesy of Theresa Somerset
  • Traditional Ukrainian-style painted eggs


Ukraine is much in the news these days for its conflict with Russia. But at Frog Hollow State Craft Center in Burlington this weekend, the focus is not on geopolitics but eggs — that is, the Ukrainian craft of painting eggs called psyanky.

Theresa Somerset isn't Ukrainian, but the Essex Junction-based artisan has become known for the intricate works of art she produces by etching tiny, detailed wax designs on eggshells. Pysanky eggs were originally created to pay tribute to pre-Christian sun deities in Eastern Europe; traditionally made in the spring, they were offerings for fertility and rebirth. The craft was kept alive through the centuries and eventually became associated with the Christian belief in the resurrection of Christ — in other words, Easter eggs.

Somerset has been making pysanky eggs, with traditional and nontraditional designs, since 2000. She sometimes incorporates them into her paintings, as well. For nearly a decade, she's been giving demonstrations and teaching workshops, and these have become an annual favorite at Frog Hollow.

"I usually bring some traditional designs, which is what most people that know pysanky will expect to see," Somerset says. "Then I bring what I like to do, which might be a mix of traditional and nontraditional, what I call my art eggs." 

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James Kochalka Writes a Letter to Himself ... in the Past

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 9:00 AM

The cartoonist as a young man - COURTESY OF JAMES KOCHALKA
  • Courtesy of James Kochalka
  • The cartoonist as a young man

For fans who can't get enough of James Kochalka, here's another opportunity to indulge yourself. On a site called Dear Teen Me — on which authors write letters to their teenage selves — the Burlington-based cartoonist has done just that. Not only that, but he includes a heartthrob photo of himself with hair!

The letter reveals what we already know, namely, that Kochalka has a lot of self-confidence. But it's interesting to note how he convinces himself — retroactively — to just let himself rip. Or, as we boomers used to say, to let his freak flag fly. A psychiatrist might read more into his mental self-psyching, but I think lines such as "Please, please remember to always let your ridiculous side shine through" (mission accomplished!) speak for themselves.

Kochalka, now 46, has mastered the art of keeping his inner child intact while having enough grown-up savvy to successfully create and market his cartoons in print, on the web, in comic books, TV shows, games and several series of children's books. To say nothing of his James Kochalka Superstar music career (see YouTube for any number of music vids).

Speaking of books, Kochalka's latest, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, is out now on First Second. As he notes, after a career in indie comics, this is his first book with a traditional publisher. He's also created a game called Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork.

For the record, Kochalka also contributes a weekly cartoon to Seven Days — the current series is "Elf Cat." But since you're reading a Seven Days blog, you probably already knew that. And I'd be remiss not to note that Kochalka was the first-ever Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont — a title he recently relinquished, after a three-year term, to Brookfield-based New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What I'm Watching: 'Speed'

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 5:52 PM

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in 'Speed' - TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX PICTURES
  • Twentieth Century Fox Pictures
  • Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in 'Speed'

Without knowing it, I commemorated the 20th anniversary of the release of Jan de Bont's 1994 action film Speed by watching it for the first time in years. I suppose it will date me to admit this, but when I watched the film a little while ago (probably about the 10th or 12th time I've seen it), it was the first time that I had seen it via any sort of digital medium. I saw it in 35mm in more than one Connecticut movie theater during its initial release, and, thereafter, if you can believe it, most of my viewings of Speed were courtesy of my old LaserDisc copy of the film. This time, I watched it on the two-disc "Five Star Collection" DVD, which is itself over a decade old. Gracious, how did I get so old?

While I have nothing against digital formats, I do have sort of a soft spot for LaserDiscs, a format whose time never really came. I still have my old battleship of a Pioneer LD player hooked up to the home stereo system ... though the hundreds of LaserDiscs in my possession are currently in boxes in the basement. Can't say as I watch 'em very often, but I hang on to them for some reason, maybe because of my students' wide-eyed puzzlement when I show them what looks like an LP-sized CD. (Three outdated technologies for the price of one!)
LD-to-DVD size comparison - FROM WIKIPEDIA
  • from Wikipedia
  • LD-to-DVD size comparison

It's worth noting that the video images carried by LaserDiscs are not digital. Their information is not recorded as a series of ones and zeroes, but as a series of etched "pits" whose length and shape actually plays a part in determining the nature of the image. By definition, this is an analog process. (Wikipedia has a pretty good explanation of this subject.) Some LDs do indeed include digital soundtracks, but the technology is itself fundamentally analog. 

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Interview With Jazz Singer Molly Ringwald

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 9:31 AM

COURTESY OF MOLLY RINGWALD
  • Courtesy of Molly Ringwald

Taking a break from her performance schedule, jazz chanteuse Molly Ringwald, who will perform in Stowe this Saturday, took a moment for an interview with Seven Days.

Yep, you read that right. Molly Ringwald, erstwhile pouty teenage muse of the late film director John Hughes, has reinvented herself as a jazz singer.

Ringwald, 46, has performed as both an actor and a singer since she was a young girl — and has sung on both stage and recordings on numerous occasions — so this should come as no surprise.

Still, though her singing voice is clearly not that of a teenage girl, when you hear Ringwald sing standards such as “I’ll Take Romance” or “The Very Thought of You,” it's hard not to think of her iconic movie performances. But even I, who had a pretty major crush on Ringwald at one point in my life, am willing to accept that artists need not confine themselves to one form of expression. If Molly Ringwald wants to sing, I will listen.

Now performing with a four-piece jazz band (sax, piano, drums and bass), Ringwald will exercise her vocal cords at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe on Saturday, March 29. 

Continue reading »

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