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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sova Looks Fun, Shorts IS Fun, and Lorna Is No Fun

I've been away a little bit - does anyone want to move to Vancouver with me? - so let's jump back into this with a calendar.
Aug. 31 - Pay What You Can preview of Eclipsed at Woolly Mammoth Theater (Sept. 1 as well). People start lining up pretty early, so best to get there by about 6:30.
Theater J (very busy this week!) hosts a Town Hall meeting to kick off their season (8pm). Drinks and refreshments will be served.
Sept. 1 - Movies Under the Stars in Bethesda Row - final one: Chicago 8:45 pm.
Sept. 2 - The Atlas district in Northeast DC has an Open Mike Night at Sova, inviting poets, musician, comics and storytellers toi compete for a $50 prize. This looks like a great new place. On Saturday the 5th they'll be featuring Appalachian Mountain Music with Sabra Guzman and the Blind Tiger String Band. Looks like a blast! And it's just $5. Bring your square dancing shoes.
Sept. 3 - There's live salsa music at the wonderful Kogod Courtyard in the Smithsonian American Art Museum from 5-8 pm
Sept. 4 - Dupont's First Friday features Mentor + Mentee show at Printmakers, Susan Serafin and Nekisha Durrett at Hillyer, a Silent Auction at Foundry Gallery (a good chance to buy original work), Maryland Printmakers at Gallery 10, and an All-Members Show at Studio.
The 2009 Ultimate Karaoke Challenge takes place at Champps on Pentagon Row from 8pm 1:30am

It's worth repeating about the upcoming DC Shorts Film Festival - tickets are now on sale! I got mine for the 7pm Friday night, Sept. 11 show at the Navy Memorial (a very reasonable $13). It includes admission to the opening-night party which provides food, drinks and live music in the Navy Memorial plaza. Jon Gann runs a great festival; his imprint was all over the recent International Shorts Festival as wll, which also lighted up DC for a week. This will sell out.

New on the movie front is Lorna's Silence (nnn) from the gritty and urban Dardenne brothers. I thought last year's Revanche, which was nominated for a foreign-film Oscar, did this story better: the petty criminal involved with the Russian mobsters trying to make a life. That one had a twist. Lorna's Silence is extremely well-done but just too bleak and straightforward for my tastes. Information leaks out and the story proceeds, but don't expect any exhilarating moments.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hop on the 'Caravan'; Feel Good With Julie & Julia; DC Shorts, a Festival to Trust

Tell me why I do like Mondays. Okay. The Caravan of Thieves. This past Monday we were fortunate enough to catch their show at Iota in Clarendon, and it proved to be quite the goulash of fun, talent and Mercury rising. You are fortunate that they will be playing three more Mondays at Iota, Sept. 21, Oct. 19 and Nov. 16. A talented bass player and an amazing violinist bookend the handsome husband-and-wife, singer-songwriting, wine-making team of Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni (just kidding on the wine). They played songs from their new CD Bouquet mixed with an inventive repertoire of covers that includes an excellent Bohemian Rhapsody (get it? Freddie Mercury rising. Wow, first a Boomtown Rats reference and now Queen. It's British rocker day!)

I am very sold on the movie Julie and Julia (nnnn=). It takes two separate stories--Julia Child's culinary march to fame in Paris--and then, 50 years later, Queens (the place not the band) government worker Julie Powell's attempt to bake, brown and bone her way through Child's cookbook. You can't have two more excellent, likeable actresses than Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. (That reminds me of two more rentals: the wonderful Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 where Streep is shown in a photo as the college girlfriend of one of the players and Junebug. (I am going to make a separate list to post of all these great rentals I mention.) The film moves so humorously and intelligently from story to story that I was disappointed each time it went to the other. (Not so for Melinda and Melinda, though Gwyneth Paltrow did well with the two plots in Sliding Doors.) Go see it.

Last September, we watched about 10 creative, well-crafted short films at Landmark E Street and then went up to a rooftop soiree nearby. It was a beautiful night and food, drinks and live music plentifully wafted into the intellectually charged air. A French director of one of the films attracted many of the prettiest females, so he seemed a good guy to get to know. Well, guess what? It's back! Tickets for the DC Shorts Film Festival are now on sale! I got mine for the 7pm opening night at the E Street Cinema ($12). I believe that includes admission to the opening-night party (it did last year), but there is no mention of it. I sent an email asking for clarification, but no reply yet. Anyway, for that price, I think tickets will sell out fairly quickly.

September is already looking nuts with events. In particular, Sept 12 will find the Kennedy Center Open House, the Rosslyn Jazz Festival (yay, Frederic Yonnet, the jazz harmonica guy, is back!) and Arts on Foot. Yikes! Good thing I'm a cyclist.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Culture Club, a Crisply Crafted 'Cove' and More Events

If you're looking for a group to do some cultural events with try the Meetup Culture Club. Upcoming they have jazz at the Smithsonian American Art Museum this Thursday in the great Kogod Courtyard, an Indian Summer Showcase concert this Saturday at 5pm, and the free Shakespeare Taming of the Shrew on Friday Aug. 28. It's a wonderful way to meet people with similar interests and to see cool events.

It just so happens that Cinthia, the main orgainzer of the Culture Club, changed her eating habits after seeing The Cove (nnn/) and I can now see why. It is a powerful documentary about the slaughtering of dolphins in an incredibly beautiful area of Japan (talk about a juxtaposition). The star of the film is Ric O'Barry, the guy from the old television series Flipper. Apparently, have dolphins to save and O'Barry will be there, even at whatever age he must be now (70+?). The movie unfolds like an undercover spy operation as a team of do-gooders must infiltrate this well-guarded cove to get the footage they need to expose the bad guys. I was engaged but not enthralled; it just didn't have the payoff that say the Enron movie did a couple years ago. But at some point (hopefully between meals), you should see it.

Here are some events for this week. Once we hit Labor Day, everyone will be back in business.

Monday: author Michael Rosen talks about his interesting new book, What Else But Home at Politics & Prose bookstore.
Tuesday: Bike & Brunch, the premier social cycling group in the area, hosts their annual Movie Night at Strathmore. Come out for munchies, prizes and socializing at Singing in the Rain. It is a classic and for good reason.
Wednesday: I would recommend Wolf Trap's last big bargain of the season, $10 lawn seats for Face of America: Glacier National Park Trey McIntyre Project. I've attended these Face of America performances the last few years and they have all been interesting.
Thursday: Join the aforementioned Culture Club at the Smithsonian American Art Museum for their monthly jazz concert. Can there be any better place to be on a hot Washington day than the Kogod Atrium?
Friday: Head down to Georgetown for a pre-dinner wine at the Parish Gallery's summer show. This won't be as active this area gets next month, but in the August dog days we'll take what we can get.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

'Souls' Power, Funny People Entertains, August Pay What You Cans

UPCOMING: I've loved the plays of Anton Chekhov all my life - probably since seeing a star-studded Uncle Vanya on Broadway as a youngster in the mid-1970s (George C. Scott, Julie Christie, Barnard Hughes and others). I also love the ongoing theme in Three Sisters where the women keep saying that everything will be better once they get to Moscow and, of course, they never get there. How many of us have our own "Moscows"? Filmmakers seem to love these plays as well because there have been numerous adaptations over the years, the best being Vanya on 42nd Street and Last Summer in the Hamptons (The Seagull). Another one opens in about a week, and the buzz is good. Cold Souls stars Paul Giamatti as a version of himself, acting in Uncle Vanya and deciding that his soul is getting in the way of a great performance. So he has it removed. (The great David Straithairn plays the soul-storage director.) I caught Sophie Barthes, the young French writer/director, and Giamatti on Charlie Rose the other night. For everyone who has an idea, be heartened, because she came up to Giamatti at an event a few years ago and showed him her idea. He liked it and it got made.
There will be a free screening Monday at the E Street Landmark Theatre. To try for tickets, send an e-mail to with "COLD" in the subject line. 100 winners will be selected at random from entries received by noon on Friday, August 14th. To receive ongoing invites, go to and hit Join Film Club. You can also join the DC Film Society; they will have 50 passes or the screening, and many more screenings throughout the year.

REVIEW: Funny People (nnnn out of 5) was better than I expected. It's a strange confluence of crude jokes, serious comedians and relationship problems, but writer/director Judd Apatow keeps his story moving and his characters interesting. I was laughing with my 40-something friends last night that we certainly don't talk like Apatow's characters do. Yet, they go against stereotyping and perhaps talk like we wish people might talk - not hiding anything, stating their desires and voicing their criticisms. I certainly recommend it.

UPCOMING: Hillyer Art Space will have a discussion tonight with some of the artists for their current show: Six in the Mix. I'll also have more information soon about a film they will be showing on Aug. 26. As the saying goes, I will follow these folks anywhere.
On Thursday, you have your choice of an International Club rooftop Happy Hour, the Phillips Museum's Thursday evening festivities, the Torpedo Factory's Second Thursday wine and music, and a Washington Post rooftop event at Clarendon Ballroom. Yikes!
In the theater world, here are some upcoming pay-what-you-can performances:
Eclipsed at Woolly Mammoth August 31 and Sept. 1
Zero Hour at Theater J August 30 and Sept. 1 (with a season-opening discussion on Aug. 31)
Dublin Hour at H Street Playhouse August 22 and 23 (I hope this is a better production than one at Writers Center last year)
Wittenberg at Rep Stage every Wednesday
The Musical of Musicals at MetroStage on Aug. 27
It is AMAZING all of the opportunities we have here to see shows at bargain prices, and that's not even including all the ushering possibilities there are.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Events for the Week from Cafe Saint Ex to Torpedo Factory

Here are some interesting upcoming events.

***You're going to start to realize that I will follow DC Shorts anywhere, so if they're going to the cool Cafe Saint Ex at 14th and T Streets this Sunday night then so am I. At 9pm and 10:15pm, they'll be screening the best of the 2008 festival in what they're calling Gate 54 Film Night. It's FREE and they will be serving $7 pizzas and $4 Peronis.

***Come to the final Screen on the Green this Monday night: Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus (the voice of Rutgers' own Mr. Magoo) and Dennis Hopper. E-mail Eric of DC Classics at if you want to be part of a group.

***The Embassy of Argentina sponsors some wonderful events throughout the year, so why should the summer be any different. Tuesday night at 6pm, catch the opening reception of Argentinean and Washington-based artist Alza Burd's new show at the IDB Atrium, 1300 New York Ave., NW.

***At The Folger Theater this Wednesday, come hear and see Stories from the Folger Vaults: Practical Magic, "a magical evening with a rare treasure, a book of spells dating to the 16th century. Generations of users consulted the book to learn how to catch thieves, find love, or cure sickness. Heather Wolfe, curator of manuscripts at the Folger, shares stories from her work with this remarkable volume. The event also includes an after-hours viewing of the exhibition The Curatorial Eye: Discoveries from the Folger Vault and a dessert reception. Hello!

***On Thursday at Alexandria's Torpedo Factory, 2nd Thursday's Art Night includes the opening of In the Flesh II - an exhibition of contemporary figurative art - at The Target Gallery, The juror for this is show is Andrea Pollan, founder and curator of the diminutive in size, large in stature Curator's Office at 1515 14th Street next to Studio Theatre. They are having an opening tonight, in fact, along with Irvine across the street.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jump on 'Streetcar'; Signature Moments this Saturday; Folger Offers a Magical Evening; and Famous Movie Lines

The Kennedy Center will be the home to some great theater this fall, and the ticket rush has already started. The Sydney Theatre Company's A Streetcar Named Desire starring Cate Blanchett runs from Oct. 29 - Nov. 21. It will be a rare opportunity to see Blanchett up close; she will also be doing a noon conversation open to the public on Nov. 3 ($15). The Ken Cen does a very cool thing with most big shows - they offer a few $25 tickets. But usually, you have to be a member to get a shot at these (there is always a member purchase period), though not always. Membership is just $60, so it can pay for itself pretty quickly. On Nov. 24, the Ken Cen starts a run of the Broadway production and Tony- and Pulitzer-prize winner, August: Osage County. Tickets will go on sale in September with the same deals in tact. Later on in the season, they will present the Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein, two Terence McNally plays, Thurgood, starring Laurence Fishburne and Mary Poppins. Spend now, save later.

I wrote about this last week, but it bears repeating. This Saturday, Aug. 8, Signature Theater's Target Open House shines in Shirlington. And with high temperatures expected, it may be just the place to be. At 1:15 pm, hear a concert from Julia Nixon, who if she did not take a break to raise her son, would be a Broadway star by now. We saw her at Studio Theater in Caroline or Change a couple years ago and she nearly blew the house down. At 2:30 and again at 6:15, Emily Skinner performs. She IS a Broadway star. You'll also be allowed to take a photograph with Signature's recently acquired Tony Award, hear music from Dizzy Miss Lizzie's Roadside Revue, watch a master acting class given by Signature mastermind Eric Schaeffer, and hear the Nigerian singer Kuku. The day wraps up with a Broadway-style grand concert at 8:30 and it's all FREE!

The Folger Theater has been running a very cool series of free summer lectures, and there's one more on Aug. 12. Stories from the Folger Vaults: Practical Magic will invite viewers to experience "a magical evening with a rare treasure, a book of spells dating to the 16th century. Generations of users consulted the book to learn how to catch thieves, find love, or cure sickness. Heather Wolfe, curator of manuscripts at the Folger, shares stories from her work with this remarkable volume. The event also includes an after-hours viewing of the exhibition The Curatorial Eye: Discoveries from the Folger Vault and a dessert reception. Hello!

**First Friday this week.
August used to be a throwaway month but not any more.
**A Bike & Brunch picnic at Lake Needwood on Sunday
**The final Screen on the Green Monday - Rebel Without a Cause
btw, it was funny last Monday when we got to see yet another famous quote from movie history. It came in On the Waterfront: "I could've been a contender!" The requisite cheer went up. The last one I recall was from Treasure of Sierra Madre: "We don't need no stinking badges." It's kind of like when you're watching Shakespeare and you hear a line that's now a cliche. "Oh, that's where it came from!"

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Great Bluesy Swing, Cricket, Films, Phillips, Filling Up with Wine!

Excitement pervades the air these days as we hit August, meaning September and the full start of the cultural season. Here are some upcoming events that stand out:

** Friend of Ronndezvous Brian Gross and his Mojo Hands plays the Spanish Ballroom at Golen Echo on Sunday night. They always do a good job of getting everyone jumping and jiving on the dance floor.
**Also Sunday at the Source Theater on 14th Street, as part of their all-day festival, there will be a Wine & Cheese at 4pm with all the resident theater companies. One of those, the Washington Improv folks who I saw do a hilarious show on St. Patricks Day, are doing an all-weekend Improvalooza.
**Screen on the Green Monday night is the classic On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando. Email if you need a group to join up with.
**Tuesday back at the DCJCC is another movie/reception - Four Seasons Lodge, a documentary about a group of Holocaust survivors in the Catskills. We will have a group for that. It's $10. At last Thursday's reception, they opened up the steps on 16th Street, and it was awesome sitting there sipping wine on a summer night.
**The Phillips Collection continues its First Thursday evening celebrations - highly recommended.
**Next week's First Friday already shapes up to be a good one. Printmakers features its National Small Works show - they are on a roll lately! There are annual All-Members Show at the Foundry and Studio.

That film we saw on Thursday, Turn Left at the the End of the World, turned out to be artsy, interesting, a nice mix of cultures....and a bit pornographic. Yikes! What was that movie a few years ago where Elle McPherson, Tara Fitzgerald (well, she always took her shirt off) and other pretty women all undressed in the name of an Artsy Movie? That's right, SIrens. This was like that. It also used Cricket as a funny way to show the difference in cultures. This was also done in Bend It Like Beckham, Finding Neverland, Wondrous Oblivion and by far, the best of them all, Seducing Doctor Lewis. If you have not seen this, rent it. It's a riot! But why not croquet?