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Arts & Culture

SLIFF: 'Special'

Nov 17, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 17, 2008 - "Special" is something of a one-joke movie, but it's a pretty good - and ultimately touching - one. The hero, Les Franken (Michael Rapaport) is living a simple but dull life reading comic books and working in traffic-meter violations when he signs on to test a new anti-depressant product called "Special." Unfortunately, there are side effects.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 16, 2008 - The new paintings by Max Cole at Schmidt Contemporary Art are everything one would expect out of the 70-something artist: graceful, contemplative and minimalist without being cold or controlling.

Helping families, using jazz

Nov 15, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 15, 2008 - Jazz history has deep roots in the rich soil of Missouri. Our river system worked as a musical highway bringing the sounds of the riverboats into the streets of the city. Far removed from its "Golden Age," the new millennium finds the art form sustaining itself through education.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 15, 2008 - "Kassim the Dream" is an documentary film that works on two levels, first as an intimate look inside the private life of an athlete at the peak of his abilities, and second, as a harrowing examination of a serious human rights crisis. One aspect is uplifting, the other devastating; By the end of this exceptional film, the two threads have been sewn together into a single powerful story.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 15, 2008 - Coming-of-age films are a staple of film festivals, so much so that it becomes difficult to say anything new about them. But while childhood experiences are universal, they're also - like Tolstoy's unhappy families - unique, which is why filmmakers keep returning to them.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 14, 2008 - Just because you're still trying to figure out how to catch every film at the festival this weekend (Let's see, if I can just teleport from Plaza Frontenac to the Tivoli in time for "Mishima" and then go back in time to catch "Song Sung Blue"...) doesn't mean that there isn't any other film news to think about. For instance...

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 14, 2008 - Kim Lowell writes on her bed, surrounded by mountains of laundry from her 9-year-old son and 3-year-old triplets. She writes about voting, her non-tattooed husband, their lives together and their four children.

She writes from her St. Louis home while the kids are at school. But from that place, she connects with moms around the country. Her posts, and those of other women who blog about motherhood, ring with humor and exhaustion.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 14, 2008 - It's a busy time for Walter Bargen, who is traveling the state as Missouri's first-ever poet laureate. Through readings and workshops, he's had a forum to discuss his beloved craft and help others improve their writing. But when it comes to creating his own poetry...

"Isn't that the irony?" Bargen said. "I hardly have any time for writing, and that's a frustrating element for me."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 13, 2008 - Only a mixed review will do for Rachel Getting Married, starring Anne Hathaway as a young woman who has been in and out of rehab for a decade. Part of the problem comes from novice writer Jenny Lumet, daughter of the late director Sidney Lumet. While much of the dialogue and action rings true, some of it strains credulity.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 12, 2008 - Updated Nov. 14, 2008

'Vanaja'

Reviewed by Nick Otten | Special to the Beacon

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 12, 2008 - There are two frequent presumptions about "Dear Zachary" that need to be addressed - or dismissed - before any discussion can begin. The first is that reviews need to be labeled "Spoiler Alert," that irritating online tradition based on the notion that films - or narratives of any kind - can be reduced to a handful of plot twists and surprise endings. Have we reached the stage where even works of nonfiction are subject to this juvenile one-upmanship?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 11, 2008 - The new selection of shows at Bruno David is wonderfully cohesive, with equal parts expression and concept. In other words, there's something for everybody, and it all works well together.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 11, 2008 - The start of the St. Louis International Film Festival is just a couple of days away, and we'll be using this space to try to preview as many of the 2,340 films (just an estimate) as humanly possible. But there's no way to cover everything, no way to even guess which of the 3,680 films will be an unheralded masterpiece. So take a few chances, go out on a limb. That's what film festivals are for.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 11, 2008 - When Toto gives a tug to the drapery and reveals Oz's secret to Dorothy and her loyal retinue, the Wizard issues a final stern but ludicrous order: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

Although we certainly don't style ourselves "great and powerful" here at the St. Louis International Film Festival, we do like to think that every November, for 11 days, we manage a small bit of wizardry by conjuring the world's cinema for local moviegoers. And unlike Oz's magic man, we don't mind a peek behind our curtain.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 10, 2008 - St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor David Robertson likens this week's Guitar Festival to a "Pre-Thanksgiving dinner" in which various stringed instruments and those who play them get together for a feast over which they can share conversation and celebrate their similarities, however distant.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 10, 2008 - He passes, tackles, pitches, bats, fields, hits, shoots and defends. Cody King is an increasingly rare breed among high school athletes -- a three-sport standout.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 10, 2008 - Way back in the late 20th century, after the Academy Award nominations were announced, I would routinely get phone calls from St. Louisans asking me if any of the film nominated in the documentary categories had played here. And I would routinely answer "No."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 9, 2008 - Brian Pelletier was putting in long days and flying around the world in his demanding job as a public relations executive at Fleishman-Hillard's world headquarters downtown when he decided to make a change. Another job at another agency? No. A cushier gig, perhaps with more money and fewer hours, at a local corporation? Not what he had in mind.

Pelletier, 41, wanted to make gourmet chocolate by hand and sell it for a living out of his own shop. Never mind that the economy wasn't the best and no one really knew if cash-strapped consumers would shell out a premium price to appease their palates. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 9, 2008- I still hear the lingering sound effects of Kristallnacht, the so-called Night of Broken Glass, ringing in my head. It's 70 years since the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, when countrywide pogroms heralded the official start of wholesale violence against Germany's Jews. I haven't forgotten.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 7, 2008 - It was a rainy afternoon in mid-September when I was introduced to Ward Stare, resident conductor of the SLSO and music director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. It was the first rehearsal for the Youth Orchestra, and I was working on a story featuring two young Kurdish musicians from Northern Iraq. They're studying English on scholarship at St. Louis University and will perform for Stare.

Review: 'Blood Knot' is strong, challenging theater

Nov 7, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 7, 2008 - This week when Americans have elected their first president with a black skin, one can't imagine a play that resonates more powerfully than "Blood Knot." It runs tonight through Sunday evening at the Upstream Theatre, 501 North Grand Boulevard in Grand Center.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 6, 2008 - A year ago -- almost to the day -- the St. Louis Art Museum's Board of Commissioners announced ambitious plans for long-discussed, long-delayed expansion of the museum in Forest Park.

That was Nov. 5, 2007.

On Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2008, the museum announced that commencement of construction of a new building is on hold.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 5, 2008 - I have bowled in Switzerland. I have bowled on upstairs lanes. I have bowled in black light. I have bowled at Missouri's largest alley. I own my deceased grandmother's 35-year-old monogrammed ball complete with faux-leather carrying case. I once scored a 246 at the age of 18. I grew up in a town with more bowling alleys than movie theaters, coffee shops and KFC's.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 5, 2008 - University City stay-at-home-mom Stacy Braeske was standing on the corner of Midland and Delmar boulevards ushering her 4-year-old princess into her Halloween parade when a car passed with music blaring -- not with Jay-Z or even with "Monster Mash," but with "Sleigh Ride" by Johnny Mathis.

Gooey butter - a taste of home goes big time

Nov 3, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 3, 2008 - When Dale Schotte took over Perk on the Park, a Lafayette Square coffee joint, in August 2006, the name change he implemented was a minor one; it became known, more straightforwardly, as Park Avenue Coffee. But the new slogan Schotte came up with spoke volumes: "Same good people, good coffee, good gooey butter cake. Good, good, good."

Bowling Hall of Fame packs up its pins

Nov 3, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 3, 2008 - Ray Bluth and his "little black book" are parting company.

John Archibald's deathless prose will rest in peace at a new location.

And St. Louis, which some considered the center of the bowling universe, is about to become just another ten-pin outpost in the galaxy of alleys.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 30, 2008 - British director Mike Leigh can fool you. While his best known movie, "Secrets and Lies," is about exactly what the title says it is about, some of his earlier films - such as "Life is Sweet" and "High Hopes" - are a lot darker than the words on the marquee suggest. So, I approached his newest film, "Happy-Go-Lucky," with some trepidation - was I about to watch a movie that would have been more accurately titled "Misery and Misfortune"?

Day of the Dead celebrates lives

Oct 30, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 30, 2008 - “El Dia de los Muertos,” or Day of the Dead will be celebrated this weekend among the area's Mexican and Hispanic communities. The holiday may not be as well known as Cinco de Mayo, but it is gradually becoming more prominent.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 29, 2008 - As a critic, I saw tantalizing possibilities in the proposition of Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976. Originating at the Jewish Museum in New York before coming to us in St. Louis, Action/Abstraction promised to re-evaluate mid-century American art against the backdrop of the art criticism of the day.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 29, 2008 - With "Refraction: Three Contemporary Photographers," St. Louis artist Amy Bautz has brought together, at the Regional Arts Commission's gallery, voices that represent the wide-ranging possibilities photography has to offer. To works by Antje Umstaetter, an established artist based in Berlin, she's added photos by two true-blue St. Louisans, Bob Reuter and Mark Douglas. The mix results in interesting chemistry.

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