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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

To See or Not to See: Running With Scissors

A comedy? A tragedy?

By Jan Stetter/QCFMag.com

Running With Scissors is a movie based on the autobiography of writer Augusten Burroughs. Growing up in a middle class neighborhood in seventies Massachusetts, Augusten had a mother, a father and a dog. A quintessential existence? Think again.

Critically acclaimed author Augusten Burrough’s bizarre life story is told in magnified grandeur through the vehicle of film and the impressive adaptation of the novel Running With Scissors by playwright Ryan Murphy. Supported by an outstanding cast of film veterans such as Annette Benning, Jill Clayburgh, Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes, the acting alone is worthy of Oscar nominations.

Annette Benning and Jill Clayburgh were outstanding in their performances. One played a lost soul who abdicated her relationship with her only child. The other played a character who lost her soul when she lost sight of her dreams. Their performances were penetrating and raw – very courageous for actresses in this youth-obsessed culture to reveal their craft in such a riveting, honest, inelegant and ungraceful setting.

Joseph Cross plays the main character during his teen years. Incredibly, he seems the most normal of all of the bizarre characters in this film. A modulated performance by Cross served well in expressing the pain of his lost childhood. The reversal of roles in his relationship with his mother, Annette Benning, fits neatly into the lunacy of Augusten’s young life. The more erratic Benning’s character became, the more Augsten was forced to be the adult.

If you are a fan of Augusten Burrough’s writing, this movie will satisfy. It is full of crippled characters; specifically a delusional mother, a distant alcoholic father, an unscrupulous psychiatrist and several wounded souls.

My complaint is trailers that set the movie up to be a comedy/dramedy. This movie was far from being a comedy. It was a TRAGEDY. It told the story of a young man’s life spent under the care of a deranged psychiatrist. And how this doctor managed not only to bankrupt his own personal finances, but more importantly forever bankrupt the lives of his wife, children and patients.

They say, “Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” For Augusten Burrough, Running With Scissors didn’t kill him. It made him a famous author and a beneficiary of a movie that tells the story of his damaged, unconventional life.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

To See or Not to See: October in Cincinnati

There's a lot of month left.
by Jan Stetter

As we enter the final week of Enjoy the Arts 20/20 program and other events for the remainder of October, I would like to write in this week’s column a cornucopia of films and various venues for you TO SEE! OR... NOT TO SEE. The selection is provided by greater Cincinnati’s devoted peoples of the arts. It’s a wide selection! Here in chronological order:

Harlem Renaissance (a 2020 event) Date: 10/16/2006
Presenting Organization: Know Theatre Tribe
Description: This is part of their celebrated "Know-to-Go" traveling education theatre series.
Venue: The Know Theatre Tribe, 1120 Jackson, Cincinnati

TOM: The Outdoor Museum (a 2020 Festival Event)
Dates: 8/8/2006 to 12/17/2006
Presenting Organization: ArtWorks Time Warner Gallery
Description: The Outdoor Museum (TOM) is an innovative public art project produced by ArtWorks.
Venue: ArtWorks Time Warner Cable Gallery, 811 Race Street, Cincinnati

Acclaim Theatre Artist Project Fund/League of Cincinnati Theatres
Dates: 10/16/2006 Cast Party (a 2020 event)
Presenting Organization: League of Cincinnati Theatres
Description: Young Professionals (and the Young at Heart) meet the hottest new Young Performers in town.
Venue: Contemporary Arts Center, 44 East 6th Street

Cincinnati World Cinema: Mini Film Festival - Blues Legend
(A 2020 event) Date: 10/17/2006
Description: BLUES LEGEND: The Life & Times of H-Bomb Ferguson famed musician; hometown Cincinnati
Venue: Madison Theater, 730 Madison Ave., Covington 41017

Ace - Play, Presenting Organization: Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
(A 2020 event) Date: 10/18/2006
Description: This is a high flying world premiere musical! Featuring a charming and glorious score, Ace is a heartwarming coming-of-age story of a 1950s boy searching for a sense of family and identity. When troubled 10-year-old Billy Lucas is given a model airplane, it unlocks the door to a fantastic new world, with the mysterious fighter pilot Ace as his guide. Special Admission Price: $12 for Enjoy the Arts and half-price for START and 20/20 Passport card holders.
Venue: Playhouse in the Park, Marx Theatre, 962 Mt. Adam Circle, Cinti.

A Night at the Krohn Conservatory (a 2020 event) Date: 10/18/2006
Description: Take advantage of extended hours; explore the tropics by evening light.
Venue: Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Dr. Cincinnati 45202
20/20 After Party at the Pavilion (a 2020 event) Date: 10/18/2006
Presenting Organization: Enjoy the Arts/START
Description: Co-hosted by CincyUpdate Join us for a nightcap as we close out another great 20/20 series.
Venue: Mt. Adams Pavilion, 949 Pavilion St., Cincinnati 45208

Cincinnati Art Museum: Irreverent Tour Series (a 2020 event)
Date: 10/18/2006
Presenting Organization: Cincinnati Art Museum
Description: Got an hour before dinner or the show? Pick the Unlikely Tour that fits your mood and enjoy music performed by CCM students.
Venue: Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati 45202

The Puppetry Guild: Puppet Slam (a 2020 event) Date: 10/18/2006
Presenting Organization: Cincinnati Art Museum
Description: This is not a children's puppet Show! See local puppeteers take the stage to perform quirky, off-beat skits that are often on the edge. It's open mic night for puppets! The Show starts at 8 p.m.
Venue: Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati 45202

And beyond 20/20, through October try:
Cincinnati World Cinema presents: AFTER INNOCENCE Date: 10/21/2006
Description: A documentary about men wrongfully imprisoned for decades and then released after DNA evidence proved their innocence.
Venue: Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, 45202
Aronoff Center: Spamalot A play based on the films Monty Python & The Holy Grail and what else? SPAM!
Dates: Running October 17 through October 29
Venue: Aronoff Center, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Art Opening and Reception for Art Beyond Boundaries Date:10/25/2006
Description: View emerging artists and their works at this local downtown gallery
6:00 to 8:00 pm
Venue: Art Beyond Boundaries 35 East 7th St. Cincinnati

Not to save the best for last but; this outing sounds like a winner for Halloween night!
BUBBA HO-TEP! Date: October 31, 2006 Time: 7:30 pm
Venue: The Cincinnati Art Museum Fath Auditorium
Presented by: Cincinnati World Cinema
Description: This is a cult classic comedy horror spoof where Elvis played by Bruce Campbell and JFK played by Ozzie Davis take on the Ho-Tep mummy in cowboy boots; all living together in the old folk’s home from hell!
Added Incentive: Prizes for the best Ho-Tep or Halloween costumes

So all you faithful readers, all you adventurers, moviegoers, theatre enthusiasts, Halloween Costume junkies, or even reformed couch potatoes—CINCINNATI has a lot to offer you in the way of entertainment, eclectic excursions, artistic fair, and just plain fun!
Now the choice is yours: TO SEE... OR NOT TO SEE?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

To See or Not to See: The Departed

by Jan Stetter

It’s not a Who done it. It’s a Who is it. That’s the question that will keep you in suspense and at the edge of your seat while watching the movie The Departed. Set in Boston, the story involves two opposing sides of the law infiltrating each other’s realm.

The Departed is a Martin Scorsese film clocking in at 149 minutes. Kudos to Mr. Scorsese for directing a movie that finally is less than epic proportions yet will remain a blockbuster due to its fine cast and puissant storyline. With actors like Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin and the convincingly miscreant Jack Nicholson, how could it not be a winner?

At the root of this story are two local boys – both graduates of the police academy. One, Matt Damon, rises through the ranks as a promising addition to the Classified Organized Crime Unit. The other, a fellow graduate with a suspect family history (DiCaprio) is persuaded to go underground as a mole. He agrees to work for the head kingpin of the Irish mob led by none other than Jack Nicholson a.k.a. Frank Costello. In reality, Matt Damon’s character has been groomed since adolescence as a mob “son”. He is supported by Frank Costello with the expectation that, upon employment, Damon will filter classified information back to the mob.

What separates this movie from the age old story of good versus evil is that you never quite know who is on the side of evil or good. And, does it really matter, as asked by Nicholson’s character: “When I was your age, they would say you could become cops or criminals. What I'm saying is this: When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?” Now imagine these lines said by Jack in his finest form, and you are in for a treat. Fans of Jack Nicholson will revel in his nuanced performance and, at times, blatant appeal of a masochistic criminal.

Alec Baldwin entertains us as the head of the Special Crime Unit. The dialogue is witty, smart and he delivers it with convincing Irish “Everyman Boston” conviction. Likewise, Mark Wahlberg conveys his hometown’s dialect and streetwise attitude. Matt Damon as a clean cut infiltrator who is challenged by the question of loyalty versus being kept alive is credible. Yet it is Leo DiCaprio who most impresses with this role. No longer can he be seen as a pretty boy. His gritty, physical, calculating performance amidst turns of frightening paranoia has parlayed this actor into the echelon of great actors.

Lest this movie be too glorified, it must be stated that it is extremely graphic and violent. If actors are being paid to act and tell a story, can anything be left to our imaginations? Must blood and guts literally be sprayed across the screen to convince us that being shot in the head will kill us?

As good as this movie is ask yourself if graphic violence enhances this movie or just serves to desensitize the audience?