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Saturday, December 26, 2015

What I'm Watching: The Battle of San Pietro

Posted By on Sat, Dec 26, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Death and chaos in The Battle of San Pietro - U.S. WAR DEPARTMENT
  • U.S. War Department
  • Death and chaos in The Battle of San Pietro
In a documentary history class that I took in graduate school, my professor informed us that World War II, inasmuch as it can be considered a single historical entity, is the most-filmed event in world history. He asked us for our guesses for No. 2, and I recall that I got the answer correct: the National Football League, the footage of whose games must surely, by now, be more voluminous than that of WWII. After all, WWII is over, but the NFL marches ever onward.

Regardless of the answers to such trivia questions as this one, filmmakers employed by both the Axis and the Allies shot and developed an incredible amount of footage of the Second World War. Many Western viewers have a general familiarity with such Allies-produced propaganda films as Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series, and many have seen the flag-waving trailers that encouraged viewers to buy war bonds. (One of the better-known such shorts — as well as one of the most controversial; watch it after the jump and you’ll see why — features a crooning, patriotic Bugs Bunny.)

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

'Mothers and Sons' Inspires Photo Competition

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2015 at 3:33 PM

Production photo for Mothers and Sons - COURTESY OF VERMONT STAGE COMPANY
  • Courtesy of Vermont Stage Company
  • Production photo for Mothers and Sons
The first production of 2016 for Vermont Stage Company is Terrence McNally's Tony-nominated Mothers and Sons. A drama that "addresses change, reconciliation and what it means to be family," according to VSC's description, it explores relationships past and present between adults (gay and straight), and between adults and their children. Critics described the 2013 work as "moving," "intense" and "resonant." 

Mothers and Sons is decidedly adult fare, not an all-ages family entertainment. But its themes inspired VSC to ask Vermonters what family means to them — or rather, what it looks like — in photographs. "How do you define your family? Who is a part of it? How do you see them? What do you like to do together?" queries a press release.

The company invites photographers of all levels to send a photo that "best describes your family" to no later than Wednesday January 11. It can also be mailed to 110 Main Street, Burlington, VT 05401. Include name, contact info and a brief description of your photo.

If your photo is chosen, you'll win two free tickets to the production, which runs January 27 through February 14 at FlynnSpace in Burlington. The top 10 photos submitted will be on display at the theater.

If you don't have a suitable family photo but just want to see the play, get tickets here.

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Vermont's Cartoonist Laureate Goes High Fashion

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2015 at 12:58 PM

A still from "A Holiday Haven With Hermès," animation by Ed Koren for Hermès - COURTESY OF ED KOREN
  • Courtesy of Ed Koren
  • A still from "A Holiday Haven With Hermès," animation by Ed Koren for Hermès
As most Vermonters surely know, Ed Koren is the state's second-ever cartoonist laureate — but is known and beloved far beyond our borders. Koren, who has lived in Brookfield since 1987, made his name with a fuzzy, sometimes furry, and always funny comic aesthetic that has graced the pages of the New Yorker, Vogue, Vanity Fair, the Nation and many other publications. This holiday season, Koren has another feather (quill?) to stick in his cap: the video "A Holiday Haven With Hermès." 

It is one of a series on the label's website. You might call it "a haute couture Christmas with Koren."

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

One of the Atlantic's Top 50 Podcasts: 'Rumble Strip Vermont'

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2015 at 2:04 PM

'Rumble Strip Vermont' podcast producer Erica Heilman - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • 'Rumble Strip Vermont' podcast producer Erica Heilman

The Atlantic magazine has released its list of the top 50 podcast episodes of 2015, and "Rumble Strip Vermont," which we profiled back in May, has two entrants.

East Calais resident Erica Heilman launched "Rumble Strip" nearly three years ago. The podcast focuses on Vermonters whose lives play out beyond the gaze of traditional media, and episodes eschew the polished veneer and traditional narrative structure common to public radio.

The Atlantic chose two episodes of "Rumble Strip" for its list. "I Am in Here," features Colchester resident Mark Utter, who suffers from nonverbal autism and communicates with supported computer typing; and "An American Life," features St. Johsbury barber Vaughan Hood discussing his experiences in the Vietnam War.

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

What I'm Watching: 'Futurama'

Posted By on Sat, Dec 19, 2015 at 9:00 AM

The Flip the Frog cartoon "The Soup Song" (1931), excerpted in "Futurama" - 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • 20th Century Fox
  • The Flip the Frog cartoon "The Soup Song" (1931), excerpted in "Futurama"
As I sometimes do when I’m too tired to invest in a feature-length movie but still want to watch something before I go to sleep, I have recently returned to one of my favorite shows: “Futurama.” I’ve watched the whole run of the show several times now, so I’m amazed that, on my fourth or fifth pass, each episode still makes me laugh out loud. The writing and the visual gags are so intensely intelligent and witty, and the satire still so trenchant that, for me, the show hasn’t aged a bit. I find it funnier, on the whole, than creator Matt Groening’s better-known cultural touchstone, “The Simpsons.”

“Futurama” is a show that rewards diehard fans with all sorts of Easter eggs: little semi-hidden gags or references that only make sense if you know the show’s “universe” particularly well. (That's another reason why this show is still rewarding for me — I know it well enough by now that I understand some of the gags that were previously obscure to me.) Here’s a primer for the uninitiated, but I recommend just watching the show.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Six Vermont Organizations Receive NEA Grants

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 11:10 AM

Performance by Carmelita Tropicana and Ela Troyano - COURTESY OF VERMONT PERFORMANCE LAB AND ELA TROYANO
  • Courtesy of Vermont Performance Lab and Ela Troyano
  • Performance by Carmelita Tropicana and Ela Troyano
In the latest round of arts funding announced last week by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), six Vermont arts organizations were awarded a total of $110,000. Of these groups, four are music, dance or theater related, one is literary and one is both writing and visual arts related (Vermont Studio Center). 

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Movies You Missed (or Might Miss): Award Season Edition

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 8:44 AM

Cate Blanchett looks like she has a Christmas present for Rooney Mara in Carol. - WEINSTEIN COMPANY
  • Weinstein Company
  • Cate Blanchett looks like she has a Christmas present for Rooney Mara in Carol.
'Tis the time of year when movie critics receive piles of screeners — films that may or may not have played at your local theater (in Vermont, generally not), but that studios and distributors want to push for year-end awards.

This year, the studios are doing something new, presumably to discourage piracy: requiring a signature for those packages. Let's just say I've become well acquainted with my UPS guy.

So I thought I'd write up five films you can't (yet) see in local theaters —  movies to look forward to at the multiplex or art house, or to seek out on DVD or your favorite streaming service.

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

What I'm Watching: "Reason and Emotion"

Posted By on Sat, Dec 12, 2015 at 9:00 AM

"Emotion" steers in the direction of an attractive woman. - WALT DISNEY PICTURES
  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • "Emotion" steers in the direction of an attractive woman.
The 1943 Disney cartoon “Reason and Emotion” reestablished itself in popular consciousness this year, when various media outlets noted that its premise was revived by Pixar’s summer release, Inside Out. When I saw Inside Out (at the glorious Sunset Drive-In in Colchester), “Reason and Emotion” was the first thing that came to my mind, too.

The connections between the two films are strong and obvious. The conceit of both movies is the personification of human feelings and thoughts with little characters who live in our heads and govern our actions.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Introducing Special Collections: A Series About Stuff We Love

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 4:32 PM

  • Courtesy of Shelburne Museum
  • Scrimshaw objects
Hector the Collector, the protagonist of a totally delightful Shel Silverstein poem, and wealthier-than-God collectors of repute, such as Shelburne Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb, are on different ends of the same spectrum. In Silverstein's poem, "Hector called to all the people, / 'Come and share my treasure trunk!' / And all the silly sightless people / Came and looked...and called it junk." In 1947, Webb founded a museum on 45 acres that Vermonters and visitors alike continue to visit today.

Hector, of course, is a fictional character but can act as a playful stand-in for folks who don't achieve cultural recognition for their collections. Sometimes they're considered hoarders, sometimes just nerds. 

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Finding Abbey Wins National Outdoor Book Award

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 12:18 PM

Sean Prentiss - SARAH HINGSTON
  • Sarah Hingston
  • Sean Prentiss
Finding Abbey, the book by Woodbury writer and Norwich University professor Sean Prentiss, has been honored with this year’s National Outdoor Book Award in the “history/biography” category. Prentiss’ lively book, which is as much about radical environmentalist Edward Abbey as it is about the author’s own relationship to the wild, joins 16 other prizewinners in the 2015 class.

“I had totally forgotten that I was nominated [by my publisher, University of New Mexico Press] for it, and had no expectation of being a finalist or a winner,” said Prentiss in a phone interview with Seven Days. “So to get an email out of the blue, letting me know that I was not only considered but had won — that was a complete shock. … a wonderful shock.”

The National Outdoor Book Awards annually recognize the best works in such categories as fiction and nonfiction outdoor literature, guidebooks and natural history literature. The awards are not accompanied by cash prizes, but the winning books will, in any subsequent editions, have their cover emblazoned with the NOBA medallion.

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