Friday, February 24, 2012

Tommy, Can We Hear You? Yes, at Street Theatre Company This Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 5:01 AM

Tommy in Concert
When: Continues through Sunday, Feb. 26
Where: Street Theatre Company at 1933 Elm Hill Pike

Some of us are old enough to remember that moment when an older, musically hip sister placed a needle on a vinyl record and said, “Listen to this … ” That’s how I first heard the 1969 rock opera Tommy: a compelling drama driven solely by music — no video, no cable TV, no movie, no YouTube. The Who’s music alone was enough to drive the story of the “deaf, dumb and blind kid,” with Pete Townshend’s guitar work and Roger Daltrey’s blistering vocals electrifying a generation. Subsequent stage mountings and a 1975 Ken Russell film (from which we've pasted the notoriously insane clip above) helped to hype the Tommy franchise.

Nashville’s latest encounter with the work will be this concert version at Street Theatre Company, produced in what director Cathy Street calls the “neo-apocalyptic/steampunk arena.” (Steampunk, for those who aren’t into sci-fi or fantasy, is a somewhat broad literary subgenre where anachronistic technology merges with alternate historical periods. The speculative fiction of William Gibson is a likely progenitor.) So we can expect some kind of time-travel here in the story of the young pinball wizard.

As long as the music’s performed faithfully, the visual aspect may even be irrelevant: You can simply close your eyes and listen. The production features Holly Shepherd as Mrs. Walker, Ben Van Diepen as Capt. Walker and Michael Holder in the title role. We feel certain any of them will do better than this guy:

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Like Uke: Free Ukulele Doc and Concert Tonight at Sarratt

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 1:09 PM

Tonight's offering at Vanderbilt's "International Lens" film series combines two things dear to Country Life's heart: free stuff, and ukulele music.

At 7:30 p.m., Vanderbilt's Sarratt Cinema hosts a free screening of Mighty Uke, Tony Coleman and Margaret Meagher's documentary about the revival of interest in the four-stringed instrument:

Originally brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants, the tiny instrument first captured the musical imaginations of the Hawaiian royal court in the 1880’s. With the dawn of the radio broadcasting age, ukulele music owned the airwaves. Broadway produced ukulele musicals. Hollywood produced ukulele movie stars. The little instrument was so inexpensive and easy to play that by the early twenties the uke was the most popular instrument in the American home and the first musical voice for millions of children. Over the next thirty years the uke was number one, and then, with the rise of rock and roll guitar, faded into nerdy obscurity, until now.

Nerdy obscurity, my ass, says Tiny Tim. Anyway, the filmmakers chart the triumphant 21st century resurrection of ukulele music from Swedish punk to California pop. On hand to introduce the film will be Blair School of Music senior lecturer Jennifer Gunderman — who, on a side note, was great sitting in the other night at Family Wash with Paul Burch and the WPA Ballclub (if not on ukulele).

Afterward, there'll be a brief concert by Nashville ukumaniacs the Ukedelics. (We guarantee it won't be a No Ukes concert.) Come early, stay late, and party til you uke.

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Act of Valor: A War Movie That's as Real as It Gets

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Can a war film have heart? I had never indulged such a notion until seeing the premiere two weeks ago of Act of Valor — the new anti-terrorism thriller shot with a cast of U.S. Navy SEALs. I went not expecting much but left more satisfied than I had been by almost any film I've seen in years. And the more I learned of the film's backstory from the filmmakers and "cast" at the premiere, the more I impressed I was.

There are many things that give Act of Valor a mystique that may not be duplicated again in the film industry. First — anyone you see in the film wearing a uniform as a SEAL team member was just that: an actual SEAL team member assigned to active combat duty during the four years it took to shoot the film. As a filmmaker, I can't imagine the stress of shooting a feature and suddenly — poof! — your cast is gone, sent away to the dangers of some unknown battlefield.

"You make friends with these guys, they become your brothers, and suddenly they're rolling out on some gnarly combat deployment," says Mike "Mouse" McCoy, the stuntman turned filmmaker who co-produced and co-directed Act of Valor with lifelong friend Scott Waugh. "It's pretty tough ... especially to see how hard it is for the families to see their husbands leave."

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Dee Rees' Pariah, Bela Tarr, Dardennes, Margaret on Belcourt's March-April Schedule

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 9:00 AM

For months, we've been getting asked when Nashville would get a chance to see Pariah, the acclaimed debut feature by former Middle Tennessee resident Dee Rees that received a lot of year-end notice. Thanks to The Belcourt's March-April schedule, just released yesterday afternoon, we've got an answer: March 9. That's when Pariah opens for a week's run, part of a strong spring lineup that includes multiple Oscar nominees, selections new and old by international masters, and one movie rescued from near-oblivion.

Pariah, a coming-out drama with a knockout performance by Adepero Oduye as a Brooklyn teen embracing her sexual identity, has earned excellent notices for writer-director Rees — a Nashville native who left to pursue a film career, including a stint as an assistant to Spike Lee (a Pariah executive producer). "[What] we're seeing here is the emergence of a promising writer-director, an actor and a cinematographer who are all exciting, and have cared to make a film that seeks helpful truths,” Roger Ebert wrote. No word yet on whether Rees will participate in any way.

As for other standouts, it's easier just to print the entire list, as we've done below. But mark your calendars particularly for The Turin Horse, which, if you believe the announcements, will be the last film of Satantango director Bela Tarr (whose astonishing Werckmeister Harmonies gets a return Nashville screening also); The Kid with a Bike, the latest film by Belgium's invaluable Dardenne brothers; a pair of surprise Oscar nominees in the animated Cuban romance Chico & Rita and Belgian psychological drama Bullhead; and — yes! — the Nashville premiere of Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret, the superb drama rescued by concerted critical effort from its disastrous initial release, with Anna Paquin and Mark Ruffalo.

The full list:

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Pete's Pick of the Week: Harpeth

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Harpeth now resides at the Nashville Humane Association while waiting for you. A male Aussie mix, 3 years young, is housebroken, loves to romp and be attached at the hip. He’s leash trained and from what I hear he loves peanut butter. His face won me over, as did his soulful eyes and lopsided ears. If you haven’t been to the NHA you need to go. It’s bright, clean, fun, and people-friendly. Call Kenneth to set up a meeting: 352-1010.

Portrait by

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Tonight: Friends and Friends feat. Swagnum P.I. at Bongo After Hours

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Friends and Friends feat. Swagnum P.I.
9 p.m. Feb. 23 at Bongo After Hours, 2007 Belmont Blvd.

Let’s be clear — parody rap is one of the most worthless genres of art mankind has ever known. Conversely, punch-line rap might be one of the best. While parody rap is generally a ham-fisted and half-baked retread of stale ideas and shitty mic skills, punch-line rap takes an expert combination of cleverness, comedic talent and actual mic skills.

Hence our wholehearted approval of Swagnum P.I., the alter ego of local alt-comedian Gary Fletcher — he’s got punch lines for days and raps circles around most of the “serious” rappers that bombard our inbox every day. (Note to serious rappers: Lighten the fuck up.) Basically, sucker MCs and sucker, um, comedians need to step up their game or they’re gonna get Swagnum’s P all up in their I. And that’s gonna hurt more than any parody rap ever could.

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NPT Tonight: No Going Back: Women and the War

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 5:15 AM

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., NPT-Channel 8 airs a new documentary examining how the role of Southern women was affected by the Civil War. No Going Back: Women and the War is the third installment of NPT's Tennessee Civil War 150 series, and is narrated by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

From the press release:

The mid-19th century was a white man’s world,” says Carpenter in the documentary’s narration. “Especially in the antebellum South. North of the Mason-Dixon line, the industrial revolution drew increasing numbers of women out of the home and into the factories. But in the agrarian-South, there was no such exodus. The early rumblings of the women's suffrage movement could be felt in Northern cities as early as the 1840s. However, Southerners took solace in the notion that they had somehow been able to quarantine their homes, churches and schools from the forces of modernization that was seen as a threat to their traditional way of life.”

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Battle Royale: The Wait Is Over! April 13-14 at Belcourt

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Hunger Games, shmunger games — you could hear the fanboy shrieks all the way to Woodbine last weekend when The Belcourt unveiled the trailer for its upcoming midnight movie: Kinji Fukasaku's notorious Battle Royale, scheduled to play two Belcourt midnight slots April 13 and 14.

For the duration of the Aughts, it looked like the late Fukasaku's furious 2000 satire about Japanese schoolkids dispatched to a remote island — where they're expected to dispatch each other — was untouchable by the standards of U.S. distributors. Whether money or post-Columbine squeamishness was the reason, the movie's unavailability made it the bootleg item of the decade.

The movie's finally getting a U.S. release next month from Anchor Bay, however, and The Belcourt secured one of the coveted slots on its tour, which coincides with its deluxe DVD release. But you'll want to see this in a theater, with a huge audience going nuts — which you already know, if you attended the capacity-crowd secret screening the Scene tipped you to several years ago ...

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Tonight: Trenton Doyle Hancock at Vanderbilt

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 10:31 AM

“Vegans do Their Dirtiest Work,” Trenton Doyle Hancock
  • “Vegans do Their Dirtiest Work,” Trenton Doyle Hancock

StudioVU Lecture Series presents Trenton Doyle Hancock
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 at Vanderbilt's Stevenson Center, Room 4327

To anyone who frequents Vanderbilt’s artist lecture series Studio VU, the fact that an artist’s capacity for public speaking can range from riveting (The Yes Men’s Mike Bonanno) to cringe-worthy (the painfully shy Barry McGee) should come as no surprise. Being a great artist and a great speaker are — big surprise — not always the same thing.

But Trenton Doyle Hancock is both extremely articulate and extremely talented. (Frist Center curator Mark Scala recently told me he selected Hancock to be a part of an upcoming artists panel in large part because of how well-spoken he is.) Hancock also makes work that is wrapped up in narrative — the Mounds are the artist’s invented ancient species of “half-human, half-plant mutants that came to life about 50,000 years ago when an ape man masturbated in a field of flowers.” He’s created an entire universe around this mythology, and each artwork he creates is some sort of appendage of the story. The very first of the species (Legend), a superhero character named Torpedo Boy, an opposing tribe called The Vegans — all of his paintings incorporate his invented world in some way. It should make for a hell of an evening of storytelling, slide shows and give us an insider’s look into the process of the most interesting artists working today.

View more works by Hancock here and here, read Vanderbilt's press release for tonight's lecture below, and check back with Country Life tomorrow for a post reviewing the event.

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Kickstarter Round-Up: T-Shirts, 'Mockucation,' Vintage Racing and More

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Ectoplasm photo, possibly available as a print
  • Micah Caputo
  • Ectoplasm photo, possibly available as a print
I'm guessing most of you have heard of the fundraising site Kickstarter. (If you haven't, it's a site where you can pledge to back a project, and you only pay if the project goal is met.) Perhaps you've given up having money for Lent. Or maybe you're just naturally altruistic, and you think it'd be cool to help some of your fellow Nashvillians follow their dreams or, at the very least, raise enough money to accomplish something they want to accomplish. And from a photography project documenting Southern superstition to a steampunk blaster gun, we've got some folks who want to accomplish some things.

For instance, Yoshie Lewis wants to make a movie about the legacy of atomic energy in Japan: "Atomic Japan," she writes, "will explore the short and long-term effects of the bombings; the history of nuclear energy in Japan — its debacles and cover-ups; and take a look at the anti-nuclear movement." This one's got a ways to go toward its rather ambitious goal of $35,000. Ever wanted to see your name roll by in the credits? Or just help make a movie?

Here are a few more Nashville-based projects I found:

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