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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vermont Legislature to Proclaim 2015 Year of the Arts

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 6:30 PM

Bread and Puppet Theater
  • Bread and Puppet Theater

Stop the presses! The Vermont Legislature is going to declare 2015 Year of the Arts tomorrow morning — Thursday, May 1, at 9:30 a.m. — and the Vermont Arts Council will be given an unlimited budget!

Imagine the funds that the agency will be able to shower on the state's artists — which, as near as we can tell, is about every third person. So totally awesome, and not a moment too soon, because, perhaps you've heard, artists are starving.

OK, I made up that part about unlimited budget. For a moment I got the VAC confused with the Pentagon. And most of Vermont's artists are probably not starving. (Such as Bread and Puppet, above, chosen as a totally random example of Vermont artiness.)

Asked about any possible financial windfall that might result from the legislature's proclamation, the ever-good-natured Alex Aldrich, ED of the arts council, said simply, "Wouldn't that be nice?" Well, he also said he dreams about waking up one morning and finding the Golden Dome over the Vermont Arts Council. I don't know what he meant by that. Maybe he would melt it down for cash?  Well, a guy can dream.

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What I'm Watching: 'The Living Skeleton'

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 3:23 PM

The Living Skeleton will have you seeing double - THE CRITERION COLLECTION
  • The Criterion Collection
  • The Living Skeleton will have you seeing double

“When Horror Came to Shochiku,” a four-DVD box set released under the Criterion Collection’s “Eclipse” imprint in 2012, is quite possibly the weirdest and coolest release by this venerable, taste-making video-distribution company. It’s a collection of oddball exploitation/horror movies from Shochiku, one of the oldest and most storied of all Japanese film studios. I haven’t yet watched all four films (though I’m especially looking forward to Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell), but did just spend an evening with The Living Skeleton, directed by Hiroshi Matsuno in 1968.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

VCFA Announces New MFA Writing Program

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Trinie Dalton, head of VCFA's new School of Writing and Publishing - COURTESY OF VCFA
  • Courtesy of VCFA
  • Trinie Dalton, head of VCFA's new School of Writing and Publishing
Montpelier’s Vermont College of Fine Arts, known for its low-residency MFA programs, has just added to its offerings a full-time graduate program in writing. In a somewhat unusual move, the program was acquired from another university: The University of Southern California’s former Master of Professional Writing program will henceforth be known as VCFA’s School of Writing and Publishing. Students will begin taking classes in September.

VCFA did not lay out any money to acquire the program but rather, said VCFA president Thomas Greene, “reached an agreement to relocate the program here, to Montpelier.” According to Greene, USC had decided to move its graduate programs “in a different direction”; as soon as he learned about that, Greene contacted the university about moving the program to VCFA.

Asked why his school chose this particular program for its first venture into residential graduate programs, Greene offered two reasons. The first, he said, is that VCFA “is nationally known for writing more than for anything else.” The second was the opportunity to bring a well-regarded program to Montpelier. “That was something that, when it came to my attention, I moved pretty quickly on,” he said.

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Movies You Missed & More: Interior. Leather Bar.

Posted By on Sat, Apr 26, 2014 at 9:58 AM

Lauren (left) does his Pacino impersonation, with Christian Patrick. - STRAND RELEASING
  • Strand Releasing
  • Lauren (left) does his Pacino impersonation, with Christian Patrick.

This week in movies you missed:
 This film features James Franco and explicit male-on-male BDSM. Not together.

What You Missed

In case you haven't visited the internet since 2005, let me take the time to inform you that actor James Franco has recreated himself as an all-purpose merry prankster and multimedia provocateur. (Here's a piece on his latest NSFW art project. Ask Seth Rogen about that when he comes to town next week.) As part of that effort, Franco is now a prolific director of short films, features and sort-of-features, like this one, which he codirected with Travis Mathews.

"Interior. Leather Bar." is the title of a scene in William Friedkin's 1980 thriller Cruising,  in which Al Pacino played a cop who went undercover in the gay club scene to catch a killer. To avoid getting an X rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, Friedkin had to cut 40 minutes of explicit footage, which was later destroyed.

Franco's mission? Recreate the missing reels using actor Val Lauren as a Pacino lookalike.

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What I'm Watching: 'Marwencol'

Posted By on Sat, Apr 26, 2014 at 7:36 AM

From marwencol.com - MARK HOGANCAMP
  • Mark Hogancamp
  • From marwencol.com

There aren’t too many documentaries I return to often, and I’m not really sure why. I probably watch as many docs as fiction films, but the latter show up more frequently in my “repeat viewing” list. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen Big Trouble in Little China.

I don’t think favoring fiction films means it’s more fun to project yourself into an imagined world than into a slice of the real one. For one thing, I’ve found that the axiom “truth is stranger than fiction” is pretty accurate. For another, one of the few docs I do revisit is one that fills me with abject horror. That would be Errol Morris’ second feature, Vernon, Florida (1981), a film that most people probably don’t find as terrifying as I do. Whenever I see it I feel a chill, because I share most of my genetic material with the deranged lunatics who populate that great movie.

Another documentary in rotation at my place is Jeff Malmberg’s 2010 film Marwencol, in part because my wife, Laura, is very fond of it. Every time I watch it, I like it a little more, too.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

A Week of Cinephilia at VCFA

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Jennifer Lawrence in Deborah Granik's 'Winter's Bone' - ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS
  • Roadside Attractions
  • Jennifer Lawrence in Deborah Granik's 'Winter's Bone'
"Film lovers are sick people." So said filmmaker and film theorist François Truffaut in one of his more quotable moments. Vermonters suffering from a case of cine-sickness might find a bit more of what ails 'em by heading next week to Montpelier.

There, the Vermont College of Fine Arts has assembled a week of treats for cinephiles: screenings, talks, interviews and transmedia projects, all with an emphasis on the current American independent cinema. From Monday, April 28, to Thursday, May 1, the Savoy Theater, where all events will take place, will be the state's de facto epicenter of film.

Kicking things off is a screening of Andrew Bujalski's acclaimed and charmingly odd film Computer Chess, to be followed by a Skype conversation with the director. This low-budget, black-and-white film about nerds, computers and chess has had surprisingly long legs, playing in festivals long after its release and building up a small cult following.

Independent director Deborah Granik will be spotlighted on April 29, when attendees will be given a preview of her latest work. Granik is best known for the award-winning drama Winter's Bone, which screens later that day at VCFA.

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"Before I Die" Exhibit Comes to MAC Center for the Arts

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 2:07 PM

COURTESY OF JULIE POULIN
  • Courtesy of Julie Poulin

Newport, Vt., now shares something in common with more than 65 countries around the world. Sydney Stevens, who serves on the board of directors as well as on the gallery committee at the MAC Center for the Arts, heard about a project called “Before I Die” and wanted to bring the exhibit to the Newport community. The exhibit has been recreated in some 425 locations, and in more than 30 languages, worldwide.

"Before I Die"’s website describes the project as “an interactive art project that invites people to share their personal aspirations in a public space.” Artist Candy Chang created the project with the first board in a neighborhood in New Orleans. At a gallery committee meeting, Stevens told the story of “Before I Die” and impressed her committee members – more than 50 local artists, writers and musicians — that the project should come to MAC.

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A Middlebury College Student Takes Whistling to a New Level

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 8:46 AM

screen_shot_2014-04-23_at_8.51.17_am.png
Here and there, a popular song will incorporate a whistled refrain: Axl Rose puckered up for Guns N' Roses' 1989 hit "Patience," and the whistled chorus at the end of the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold" is burned into the memories of many a listener approximately my age. Surely, though, it was the coda of Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay" that forever cemented whistling's place in pop music.

But that's just it: Whistling might have a small and tenuous place in popular music, but it's never gained much of a toehold in more "serious" genres. If Middlebury College student Yuki Takeda has his way, though, we might be seeing the dawn of whistling's new golden age.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dog Mountain's General Manager to Depart

Posted By on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 4:57 PM

Jill Brown - COURTESY OF STEPHEN HUNECK GALLERY
  • Courtesy of Stephen Huneck Gallery
  • Jill Brown

Most Vermonters are familiar with at least the general story of Dog Mountain, home of the Stephen Huneck Gallery and the Dog Chapel  in St. Johnsbury. (If you're not, you can read my September 2013 story about it here.) Following the suicides of the beloved canine-centric folk artist, in 2010, and his widow, Gwen, three years later, a handful of devoted staffers remained to carry on.

One of them was general manager Jill Brown, who today in Dog Mountain's e-newsletter announced her departure after seven years. She had been Gwen Huneck's personal assistant for the few years following Stephen's death and before Gwen herself succumbed to grief and took her own life. Both Hunecks died intestate; Gwen's brother, Jonathan Ide, who lives in Wisconsin, has been working through the muddled estate and trying from afar to put the gallery and tourist destination on surer financial footing.

Meantime, Brown, along with creative director Amanda McDermott and several other employees, has kept up the gallery's business — selling, shipping and cataloguing art; reproducing giclée prints, and creating new volumes in Huneck's line of "Sally" books (Sally Goes to Heaven is out this month). Brown and crew have also welcomed thousands of visitors annually to Dog Mountain and hosted popular dog parties.

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Seth Rogen Comes to Burlington on May 1

Posted By on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 3:11 PM

click image Seth Rogen with Rose Byrne in 'Neighbors.' - UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • Universal Pictures
  • Seth Rogen with Rose Byrne in 'Neighbors.'

UPDATE 4/25: Owing to concerns about security at Rogen's appearance, we have removed any mention of its scheduled venue from this post. Please be aware that the screening is not open to the public, and its venue may change without notice.

In his new movie Neighbors, Canadian comedian Seth Rogen plays a nice family man who experiences hell on earth after he moves in next door to a rowdy college fraternity. In real life, Rogen's relationship with a certain University of Vermont fraternity is a lot more cordial. So cordial, in fact, that he and his wife, actress Lauren Miller, will come to an undisclosed Burlington-area theater on Thursday, May 1, to host a special, private screening of Neighbors for the men of Pi Kappa Alpha.

How'd that happen? Well, Rogen and Miller are outspoken advocates of Alzheimer's research — Miller's mother was diagnosed with the disease at age 55 — and started the organization Hilarity for Charity to get Generation Y behind the cause. Part of that is a collegiate contest called HFC U, in which more than 270 campus organizations around the country vied to raise the most funds for the Alzheimer's Association.

The winner? UVM's Pi Kappa Alpha, with more than $27,000 raised. (HFC U collectively raised nearly $130,000 for Alzheimer's research, according to an HFC press release.) Their prize is the special screening on Thursday, with Rogen and Miller in attendance for a Q&A.

Here are a WPTZ report and a Vermont Cynic article with details on the frat's fundraising effort.

So if you happen to see Seth Rogen around town next Thursday, just act normal. Maybe you could ask him if he's a freak or a geek, or how he feels about Vermont's maple penis. Meanwhile, check out this video of the funnyman testifying before Congress about the need for Alzheimer's research — a cause he's pretty damn serious about.

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