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Saturday, February 28, 2015

What I'm Watching: 'Tomatos Another Day'

Posted By on Sat, Feb 28, 2015 at 9:01 AM

One of the challenges in teaching film history is convincing undergraduate students that filmmakers of decades and even centuries past were not mere rubes. I suppose that the members of every generation think those of previous generations were nowhere near as sophisticated or savvy or clever as they are. I’ve found this attitude to be particularly prevalent among modern film students, perhaps because they feel they are at an advantage for having heretofore inconceivable digital access to much of the world’s film history.

I savor the irony, then, of including, below, an embedded YouTube video of the pioneering avant-garde film "Tomatos Another Day." Made in 1930, at the dawn of the sound era, the film is, above all, a modern text: highly referential, self-reflexive, self-aware, imbued with the playful spirit of a text that does not take itself too seriously.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Movies You Missed: Night Moves

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 3:21 PM

click image Eisenberg as Josh. - CINEDIGM
  • Cinedigm
  • Eisenberg as Josh.

This week in movies you missed:
In the latest from writer-director Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy), former child stars set out to explode things for the planet.

What You Missed
Oregonians Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) have a plan. It involves buying a boat in cash from a retiree. Scouting out a massive hydroelectric dam. Connecting with a former Marine (Peter Sarsgaard) who lives in a trailer and knows a thing or two about fake IDs and explosives. Purchasing 1000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer from a very suspicious clerk (James Le Gros).

Their plan does not involve hurting anyone. But even best-laid plans can go awry.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Late-Night Yik Yak Love Connection

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 11:02 AM

For the last six weeks or so, every time I get bored, or check Facebook on my phone, I've also opened up the mobile messaging app Yik Yak. Unlike Facebook, it forces all its users to be anonymous. Yik Yak lets you share your anonymous posts — called yaks — with other users within a 10-mile radius.

I'm way too old to be using this app, I know. Yik Yak is supposed to be for college students, and I'm pushing 40. I downloaded it because I wanted to see what the local students were saying — about life, about Burlington, about each other.

It was a fun experiment. I was mostly checking it from Winooski, or Burlington, where the yak scene is pretty active. I compiled a long list of memorable yaks that made me smile, or gag. I up voted and down voted enough of them to rack up about 400 points of "yakarma" — you get a point for every vote, so that gives you a sense of how active I've been. I wrote about my findings for this week's Seven Days Sex Issue.

I also wanted to include a transcript of a late-night thread I found one when I woke up early one Friday morning, but I didn't have room in print, so I'm presenting it here online. It reminded me of the "finds" I used to see in Found Magazine.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On Screen This Week: Radicals and Beats, Alice and Patrick

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 at 12:35 PM

  • Aadi Productions / Louverture Films
  • Highway
This week, cinemas all over the state will host films from all around the globe.

Saturday, February 28

The Dana Auditorium at Middlebury College will screen Something in the Air, a recent film by the marvelously talented French director Olivier Assayas, who’s regarded by many as one of the best living filmmakers. The semiautobiogaphical film, about a young man who’s torn between his passions for art and for political radicalism, won the screenwriting prize at the 2012 Venice International Film Festival.

Something in the Air screens at 3 and 8 p.m. in Middlebury College’s Dana Auditorium. Free.

Monday, March 2

At another of Vermont’s colleges this week, screenwriter Austin Bunn will be on hand to present and answer questions about Kill Your Darlings, the 2013 drama that he penned. Bunn’s talk, and the screening of the film, will be presented under the aegis of the Norwich University Writers Series — highly appropriate, given the film’s subject matter. Kill Your Darlings is set in the milieu of the early days (and daze) of the Beat Generation, and features Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg, Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs and a host of other familiar faces in the roles of proto-hippie authors.
  • Courtesy of Norwich University
  • Screenwriter Austin Bunn

The film’s morbid title, incidentally, is a reference to a piece of writerly advice, which I first heard as an undergraduate film student certain I’d soon pen the next big blockbuster. If you have a scene (or a line, or a word) that you absolutely love, it’s probably a good idea to excise it from whatever you’re writing, lest its putative incandescence detract from the piece as a whole.

Solid advice, that.

Kill Your Darlings, followed by a Q&A with screenwriter Austin Bunn, is at 6 p.m. in Norwich University’s Cabot Hall. Free.

This week also sees the kickoff of the Vermont International Film Foundation’s “Global Roots” series, the mission of which is to screen films from the home nations of some of Vermont’s New Americans. 

The first film in this year’s three-film series is the 2012 Nepalese feature Highway, which employs a time-tested narrative device to explore the new political realities of post-revolutionary Nepal. That device, which has worked for artists in all media and in all eras, involves placing several radically different people in a small, enclosed location; tensions mount when personality types clash. In the case of Highway, the situation unfolds on a bus traveling from eastern Nepal to the capital city of Kathmandu; conflicts arise when the bus is halted by protesters.

Highway screens at 6:30 p.m. at the Community College of Vermont’s Winooski location. Free.

Wednesday, March 4

At last Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, Julianne Moore picked up the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Still Alice, the recent drama about a professor who develops Alzheimer’s disease. The Oscar was the icing on the cake for Moore, one of the most gifted of all screen performers; the role also earned her a Golden Globe, a BAFTA award, a Broadcast Film Critics Association award and plenty of others.

Though the Fletcher Free Library will not screen Still Alice, it will host a “community dialogue” about the film and the health issues that it raises. Those who attend the free event are invited to share their reactions to the film, as well as their thoughts on how Alzheimer’s affects residents of Vermont.

The community dialogue about Still Alice takes place at 6 p.m. at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington. Free.
  • Ignition Film Productions/Underground Films
  • Patrick's Day

Thursday, March 5

At Merrill’s Roxy Cinema, March 5 is Patrick’s Day. No, not Saint Patrick’s Day — that’s about a week and a half later — but Patrick’s Day. That’s the name of the film that will be screened as a special event.

Produced in Ireland and released last year, Patrick’s Day recently won the Feature Film Contest that is one of the components of the annual, traveling Manhattan Short Film Festival, which the Roxy also hosts. Every year, that festival’s selection committee picks a single film that they believe should receive a wide, theatrical release.

The film concerns a young man with schizophrenia who struggles to achieve intimacy. Patrick’s Day has won multiple awards, including several for its lead actor, Moe Dunford.

Patrick’s Day screens at 7 p.m. at Merrill’s Roxy Cinema in Burlington. Regular ticket prices apply.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

What I'm Watching: Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonite" Video

Posted By on Sat, Feb 21, 2015 at 9:00 AM

I have a complicated relationship with the music of Billy Squier.

For better or worse, I grew up listening to “classic rock” radio, so my youthful musical diet consisted of “Fly Like an Eagle” sandwiches and “Stairway to Heaven” blue-plate specials. At the time, I thought it was the Best Music Ever; since then, my musical tastes have diversified tremendously, and I return only very rarely to the kind of stuff that dominates the classic-rock airwaves. (Seriously, guys: Your songs have remained the same, as it were, for three-plus decades. Time to shake up the playlists a bit.)

Now and then, though, I’ll still listen to Billy Squier. Back when I was listening to classic-rock radio, Squier’s tunes — mostly the several big hits from his still-terrific 1981 album Don’t Say No — showed up with some frequency, as, I gather, they still do today. I’ve always considered Squier to be a cut above most of the other “arena rock” performers with whom he is often grouped: Styx, Bad Company, Boston. His music rocks a little harder; he has a fine ear for melody; he’s got that distinctive, plaintive voice; he’s a hell of a guitarist.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Movies You Missed: Pre-Oscar Edition: Ida

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 3:00 PM

click image Agata Trzebuchowska as the title character - MUSIC BOX FILMS
  • Music Box Films
  • Agata Trzebuchowska as the title character
This Week in Movies You Missed: This quiet, black-and-white Polish drama from cowriter-director Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love) is up for two Oscars: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography. It's easy to stream, and well worth seeing.

Folks who like self-consciously "old-fashioned" movies, but not the kind full of treacly sentimentality, should especially check Ida out.

What You Missed
Poland, early 1960s. Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), a young novice living in a convent, has one task before she can take the veil: She must visit her only known living relative, her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza).

City dweller Wanda is a worldly, jaded loner who serves as a Communist Party judge, handing down penalties to "enemies of socialism." She takes one look at Anna's habit and asks caustically, "A Jewish nun?"

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Nominations Due for Annual Barbara Smail Award

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 7:10 AM

Sumru Tekin, left, with 2013 recipient Kate Donnelly and BCA Center curator DJ Hellerman - COURTESY OF BURLINGTON CITY ARTS
  • Courtesy of Burlington City Arts
  • Sumru Tekin, left, with 2013 recipient Kate Donnelly and BCA Center curator DJ Hellerman
In 2003, the family and friends of the late Vermont painter Barbara Smail established an award in her name for mid-career artists in the area. Administered and augmented by Burlington City Arts, the prize consists of a $1,500 stipend and $1,000 toward classes or use of BCA's facilities and resources, including the print, photography and clay studios.

At the end of the recipient's year, BCA hosts an exhibit of his or her work, and asks the artist to donate one piece to support the program.

You can help choose a winner. Hey, if you're a "Vermont-based artist who has a desire to expand his or her creative experience, has displayed enthusiastic support of his or her peers and has been under-recognized in the community either through exhibition or other awards and programs," you can nominate yourself!

That is to say, BCA welcomes nominations from the public, and all will be considered by BCA's Gallery Advisory Committee and board of directors. Find more information on the award, a list of previous winners, and instructions for nominating here. The deadline is Friday, February 27.

The 2015 winner will be announced at the reception for an exhibition by 2014 recipient Sumru Tekin, at the BCA Center on April 10.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Vermont — and Howard Dean — Star on 'Jeopardy!'

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 6:31 PM

Earlier this month, Monkton teacher Kate La Rivière-Gagner walked away from the "Jeopardy!" teachers tournament with $10,000.

Turns out that's not the only moment of "Jeopardy!" stardom Vermont achieved in February: The program devoted an entire category to the Green Mountain State on last night's show.

Thanks to some helpful fans on the forum, we dug up the full list of Vermont-centric questions. Er, we meant answers.

The $200 clue: "The French words 'Vert' & 'Mont' mean this, giving the state its nickname as well as its name."

For $400, continuing the total softball trend: "About 8,000 folks living there make this the least-populated state capital."

Next, "The Vermont quarter shows a hardy resident holding a bucket to tap 2 of these trees."

Really, though, would it have been a category about Vermont if it didn't mention maple? After all, Vermont produces the most maple syrup of any state in the nation. (No, Québec, you don't count).

Incidentally, Stephanie Engel, one of last night's contestants, taps maples at her home in Pennsylvania. Despite her hobby, she was not the first to ring in.

The $800 clue was trickier: "Naturally, the 400-mile-long Connecticut River forms the boundary between Vermont and this state." Don't lie — if you didn't live here, you'd probably have guessed Connecticut, too.

And finally, the $1,000 clue was "Time for a shout out to this ex-Vermont governor." Though by "shout," we're pretty sure they meant "scream." The Vermont State Police apparently dominated the round:
We're just glad there were no questions about the vocal Facebook opponents of the state's proposed Latin motto.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Tunes: "Casino" by Caroline Rose

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 3:11 PM

  • Courtesy of Caroline Rose
  • Caroline Rose
In an interview for a September 2014 Seven Days profile, local songwriter Caroline Rose told me, "I just wanna burn my acoustic guitar." She was being facetious — at I least I think she was. But her point was that she was starting to move away from the acoustic-oriented aesthetic of her first record, America Religious — and, to a lesser degree, that of her then-new album, I Will Not Be Afraid — toward a grittier (and electric) sound.

Recently, Rose sent 7D a glimpse of her new, punkabilly-tinged direction in the form of a video for "Casino," a song she recently tracked with her band at the Barn. The song is one of seven that will presumably make up an EP due out later this year. This version, however was not recorded at Phish's fabled Vermont studio. Rather, Rose and pedal steel player Brett Lanier laid it down while on tour from North Carolina. In a bathroom. Because Caroline Rose is awesome.

Check it out below. And catch Rose and band at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge in South Burlington this Saturday, February 21, with Waylon Speed.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pssst, Wanna Buy a Billboard?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 7:54 PM

Robert Hitzig's billboard in Queensbury, N.Y. - COURTESY OF EMMA DODGE HANSON
  • Courtesy of Emma Dodge Hanson
  • Robert Hitzig's billboard in Queensbury, N.Y.
That headline above is how Montpelier artist Rob Hitzig titled his announcement that, well, he has a billboard for sale. Sure, billboards are illegal in Vermont, but not if you display it in, say, your living room. Or your barn.

Hitzig's billboard, you see, is actually art, not an advertisement. He intended it "as an antidote to the barrage of messages we all encounter every day," he writes. "This piece is designed to let the viewer take a mental pause and just 'be.'"

If the photo here looks familiar, you probably remember that I wrote about Hitzig's billboard project before on this very blog. For four weeks late last year, Hitzig displayed the vibrant, five-color abstract work on a rented billboard space in Queensbury, N.Y., just south of Lake George.

Now it's for sale on eBay. The starting bid? $1,000.

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