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Monday, 31 January 2011

Ultimate Picture Palace cinema could be sold

     

OXFORD’S last independent cinema could be sold after its owners admitted running the screen had left them exhausted.

Philippa Farrow and Jane Derricott said they are considering putting the Ultimate Picture Palace on the market because of family commitments.

Last night Miss Farrow vowed to help keep the East Oxford cinema independent and said they hoped to find someone who will carry on their work.

The women – who have been friends for 15 years – bought the cinema in Jeune Street, off Cowley Road, in 2009 and have run it with a team of volunteers.

Miss Farrow said: “We are both very sorry we may have to sell the cinema because it has been so much fun.

“But we are both exhausted and have too much going on in our lives to dedicate the time and energy it deserves.

“If this was all we did then it would be brilliant, but it’s not. We haven’t placed it on the market yet, but we are seriously considering it.”

Miss Farrow said ticket sales had been strong over the past 18 months, with screenings regularly selling out.

As well as showing a mixture of current blockbusters and arthouse films, guests can also hire the cinema for a special occasion.

She added: “I believe it is the most authentic cinema in Britain and I think our time here has been very successful. “It has stayed true to its independent roots and we will certainly look to keep it that way if we sell it.

“We are lucky to have a fantastic team of volunteers running the cinema and the audiences are always brilliant.

“We will be very sad to leave, but it would be a great opportunity for someone who loves cinema and also has the time to step in and take over.”

Next month the iconic building will celebrate its 100th birthday.

The Oxford Picture Palace, as it was then known, opened on February 24, 1911, with seating for 400 people.

After it closed down after the First World War, the building was used as a furniture warehouse until the 1970s when radio presenter Bill Heine reopened it as the Penultimate Picture Palace.

It was taken over by squatters in 1994 before being reopened as the 185-seat Ultimate Picture Palace two years later.

A potential sale price is not known.

Erica Steinhauer is closing her Cowley Road store Bead Games in the next couple of weeks ahead of her retirement.

She said: “This is really sad news. They have done a great job there and I sincerely hope the cinema is not sold to a chain.

“If it were to be, it would mark yet another nail in the coffin of the Cowley Road. Venues like the picture palace are so important for the community.”

St Clements ward city councillor Nuala Young said: “It has been one of our hidden treasures for some time and is an important part of East Oxford. The cinema adds to the character to the area, as well as being a good resource for us.”


By Dan Hearn

category: Interesting Articles

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Olympic boost to Thames region for spectacular community events

     

Legacy Trust UK has just announced they will be awarding a major grant to Thames Arts, a collaborative arts organisation that includes CIAO!, Henley Festival, Oxford Inspires and Windsor Festival. The funding will be to set up and promote a programme of events along the River Thames as part of the Cultural Olympiad (cultural celebrations of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games) in 2012.

‘The Tree of Light’ has been selected to be one of only four ‘Community Celebrations’ by Legacy Trust UK, an independent charity set up to create a cultural and sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Two of the events will be in England with one in both Scotland and Northern Ireland and each will receive £750,000 to towards their respective projects.

Five spectacular events will take place in the Thames region giving more than one thousand participants from Oxford, Reading, Henley, Windsor and Slough the chance to take part in all the excitement of 2012. The centre piece of the project will be a giant sculpted Tree of Light lit by low energy LED light and powered by sustainable energy largely generated by cyclists and rowers from each local community.

The year long project will not only celebrate the Olympic movement but will also highlight the need to live and work with sustainability and the natural environment and culminate in a major weekend celebration prior to the games. There will also be a strong educational aspect of the programme with schools and community groups from across the region working with environmental scientists and professionals from the worlds of visual arts, music and dance to create a huge performance piece.

Sally Abbott, Regional Director, South East, Arts Council England, said:
‘We are delighted to support this consortium of strong cultural arts organisations through our Grants for the arts scheme and their environmentally focused project which is inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralmypic Games. We hope that thousands of people living in the Thames region will take part in this magical celebration that brilliantly brings science, art and sport together under one banner.’

Dugald Mackie, Chair of Legacy Trust UK said:
“The Tree of Light will help spread the magic and excitement of the 2012 Games outside London and leave a lasting legacy across the South East of England. The Games aren’t just for two weeks, and they’re not just for sports fans. Through projects such as this, they will have an enduring impact on many people’s lives.”

The creative team for the project include the innovative high tech theatrical design duo Block 9 who have become a regular fixture at Glastonbury Festival, leading Composer Orlando Gough who is one of the UK’s most highly rated composers for ballet, contemporary dance and theatre and Choreographer Charlie Morrissey whose achievements include production elements for the opening of the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.

Stewart Collins, Artistic Director of Henley Festival and the inspiration behind the Tree of Light project said:
“This is an utterly brilliant piece of news. From the word go we felt we had a wonderful and unique project but having now been given the thumbs up we can confidently look forward to producing a spectacle that will have an impact on many levels right across the Thames Valley – not to mention London itself. The creative team we’ve assembled is strong in every department and I think the project will have a real impact – and legacy.”

The Thames Arts Consortium is made up of the following partners: CIAO! Festival, Henley Festival, Oxford Inspires and Windsor Festival. The Tree of Light is supported with £200,000 in Arts Council England Grants for the arts funding, their open access funding scheme. The project is also strongly supported by local authorities and bodies across the *Thames region.


category: Interesting Articles

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Film Review: Barney’s Version

     

The eponymous hero in director Richard J. Lewis’ Barney’s Version is the kind of nondescript schlub—a much-married producer of a tacky, long-running Montreal soap opera and generally sloppy individual—who might not normally be worth over two hours of screen time. But as masterfully played by Paul Giamatti, Barney Panofsky becomes the kind of blunt, out-of-control loser who commands attention.

Art-house fans who can get past so pathetic a character will revel in the performance and succumb to those of a supporting cast whose big names and meaty roles also carry weight. The multiple Montreal locations, evocation of Jewish life in the city, and some detours to Rome also help sustain interest.

Barney, brash and crude, could be considered a third cousin to Duddy Kravitz, Richler’s other fictional schnook who was portrayed in both the novel and film adaptation The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, starring Richard Dreyfuss in one of his most memorable performances.

In Barney’s Version, the story moves back and forth in time and between locales (Montreal, a nearby country retreat, and Rome). The film begins with the aged Barney’s missteps in Montreal and his harsh and embittered late-in-life, late-night harassment phone call to ex-wife Miriam’s (Rosamund Pike) new husband Blair (Bruce Greenwood). It’s all downhill from there, but first some backstory.

Flashbacks establish Barney as a young man in 1974 Rome, with a modest olive oil exporting business. He hangs out with a dubious group of arty wannabes, ex-pats and natives. His circle includes close pal Boogie (Scott Speedman), an aspiring, drug-prone novelist, and trashy, pregnant girlfriend Clara (Rachelle Lefevre), whom he marries before she loses the baby. Clara, a liar and poseur, is another incarnation of Barney’s bad luck and bad taste. After letting him know that he wasn’t even the father, she commits suicide.

Back in Montreal, Barney, addicted to his local bar and hockey games, is mentored by crude Uncle Irv (Howard Jerome), who sets him up with the cheesy TV series and introduces him to a spoiled Jewish American Princess (Minnie Driver), identified only as “the second Mrs. P.”

A pre-nuptial dinner is arranged at the luxurious home of the bride-to-be’s wealthy, snobby parents. Barney brings along dad Izzy (Dustin Hoffman), a crude, uneducated ex-cop prone to awful, often dirty jokes.

No sooner have the couple gone through a lavish Jewish wedding to die for than Barney, still in his groom duds and by now drunk, espies departing guest Miriam (Pike), the beautiful shiksa of his dreams. He chases her to the train station, proclaims his love and watches as she leaves for her home in New York.

Barney endures his yappy wife’s superficiality as he enjoys the parent-provided perks, including a cozy lakeside country house outside Montreal. But a visit from the now drug-addicted Boogie changes everything. Barney finds Boogie and his wife en flagrante—a relief to Barney because now he has a way out of the marriage. But when he and Boogie later argue by the lake, Boogie disappears and Barney emerges a prime suspect in spite of his “version” of events.

As soon as wife number two is history, Barney reconnects with the lovely Miriam, who, unbelievably, responds to this nervy schnook and marries him. It works for many years and two nice kids emerge from it. But Miriam befriends someone more suitable, arouses Barney’s jealousy, and thus triggers a one-night stand he should not have had.

The film, both an obvious journey and one to a place that we don’t suspect, delivers its share of dark and distasteful humor and dollops of what might be perceived as anti-Semitic swipes. While the more subversive in the audience may tolerate such cheek, dedicated cinephiles will derive fun from spotting the movie’s cameos from well-known Canadian filmmakers David Cronenberg, Denys Arcand and Ted Kotcheff. And the most introspective of filmgoers may own up to how much of themselves there is in Barney Panofsky.


By Doris Toumarkine

category: Film Reviews

Film Review: Biutiful

     

According to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful, times sure are hard in Barcelona. Uxbal (Javier Bardem) scrapes by, earning a living for himself and two children by being the middleman for the employment of all manner of illegal immigrants, be they Senegalese street vendors or Chinese sweatshop laborers. It's an unsavory life, filled with unsavory characters, like the shady employers he must deal with, but he manages to fulfill his basic parental duties, which is a lot more than can be said for his estranged wife Marambra (Maricel Alvarez), totally unreliable due to her bipolar, alcoholic nature. When Uxbal is told that he is dying of cancer, the desperation he feels is only amplified.

Bardem, more wearily weathered and better than ever, proves the very heart and soul of this film, which basically delivers emotionally. But, as this is an Iñárritu work, it suffers from protracted length and an often overindulgent fascination with its own cinematic pyrotechnics. One sequence—a hair-raising police raid in the center of Barcelona, with cops chasing down the African purse merchants—is both brilliant and breathtaking, but then there's a scene of a drugged-out Uxbal, bottoming out in a deafeningly loud disco, that goes on for an eternity, seriously sapping the film of its requisite urgency.

But Biutiful holds your attention even as you question certain choices, like why the ruthless Chinese boss man (Taisheng Cheng) is made to be clandestinely gay, a subplot which serves no definable purpose other than to provide one more bad homosexual movie wind-up to an already dishonorably overloaded historical list. Then there are the excessive impending-death moments, filled with all manner of dark visions, including Uxbal seeing himself suspended from the ceiling.

Iñárritu’s instincts are far stronger in the intimate family scenes, which are a charming respite from all the grit going on in the streets. Bardem's interplay with his kids is charming—celebratory even in the midst of dire poverty—and when discipline is called for, Papa proves that he could show any fawning yupster a thing or two. The dissolute Alvarez is flashy and moving, like a Catalan Gladys George, and Eduard Fernández is sleazily ingratiating as Uxbal's less principled brother.

The film is a mixed bag, but there is no denying that afterwards you do feel as if you've really seen something (the fate of those Chinese laborers is especially devastating), and Iñárritu frames it between two afterlife scenes that have a hushed, unforgettably mythic quality to them.


By David Noh

category: Film Reviews

Film Review: The Fighter

     

Even though it’s based on the true story of Lowell, Massachusetts-born bruiser “Irish” Micky Ward, you’d be forgiven for thinking that The Fighter more closely resembles a 21st-century remake of the boxing-movie classic Rocky. After all, both films revolve around working-class journeymen palookas better known for taking punishment than winning matches who, through a combination of determination and luck, end up with a once-in-a-lifetime chance at a title shot. And in the hands of another director, The Fighter could very easily have turned out to be a Son of Rocky clone.

But within the first ten minutes, it becomes clear that David O. Russell—the unpredictable auteur previously responsible for Spanking the Monkey, Three Kings and the woefully underrated I Heart Huckabees—has something quite different in mind. Where Rocky was a spare and self-serious picture, The Fighter is a loud, rowdy and often very funny movie that’s closer in spirit to Russell’s terrific 1996 comedy Flirting With Disaster. Like that film, The Fighter is, at heart, the story of one guy’s turbulent relationship with his eccentric extended family.

Filmed largely on location in Lowell, The Fighter introduces us to the battling Wards, a clan of eleven that includes no-nonsense matriarch Alice (Melissa Leo), her quiet husband George (Jack McGee), seven nattering girls and Alice’s troublemaking son from a previous relationship, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), a once-promising fighter (he briefly became a hometown hero for knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard during a bout, although, in actuality, the champion just tripped) who was knocked out of the ring by drug addiction. The family’s one straight arrow is Micky (Mark Wahlberg), who grew up idolizing his half-brother and follows him into the boxing business.

But several years into his pro career, success eludes Micky. Instead, he’s become famous for being a “stepping stone,” the guy other up-and-coming boxers fight and defeat in order to square off against more prestigious opponents. Naturally, Micky is unhappy with his reputation, but family loyalty makes him unwilling to fire his manager (Alice) or his trainer (Dicky…when he remembers to show up for sparring sessions, that is). Like the Italian Stallion before him, it takes the love of a good woman—in this case, brassy barmaid Charlene (Amy Adams)—to refocus his energies on becoming the best boxer he can be, even if that means firing his mom and brother from his staff.

Wahlberg has been itching to tell Ward’s story for several years now—in fact, an earlier incarnation of The Fighter was set to star Brad Pitt as Dicky with Darren Aronofsky in the director’s chair. (Aronofsky opted to make The Wrestler instead, but remains onboard as an executive producer.) Buffed up and radiating earnest enthusiasm, the actor makes the perfect straight man for the rambunctious family comedy Russell has in mind. That’s not to denigrate Wahlberg’s performance, by the way. He’s never been a particularly dynamic screen presence, but he always comes poised and prepared and shows little interest in hogging the limelight.

In The Fighter, Wahlberg effectively holds down the center of the movie while his co-stars push the material to extremes. Take Bale, for instance; freed from the somber action-hero persona he’s adopted of late, the actor becomes a ball of nervous energy, his body constantly in motion and his mouth spitting out words as quickly as Micky throws punches. It’s a live-wire, attention-grabbing and likely award-winning performance that regularly approaches the edge of caricature but never tips over. The same can’t entirely be said of Leo’s outsized portrayal of Alice, who, at times, resembles a Kristen Wiig character from “Saturday Night Live.” Still, Leo is too skilled an actress to not locate and draw out the sadness and regret that lurk behind the steely face that Alice presents to the world. As for Adams, she strikes a lower key than Bale and Leo, but gets to show off a rough-and-tumble sensuality that separates Charlene from the goody-two-shoes girls she’s been typecast as to date, not to mention Talia Shire’s shy, sexless Adrian.

While The Fighter entertains throughout, those hoping for a provocative genre-bending exercise like Three Kings may come away from the film somewhat disappointed. The script, which is credited to Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, follows the standard boxing-movie formula, with the usual training montages, expressions of self-doubt and pre-fight locker-room rituals, and the director doesn’t attempt to land any surprise haymakers from a storytelling perspective. Even the climactic title bout plays out in the usual fashion, with Micky’s opponent battering him around for the first few rounds until the underdog makes a roaring comeback right when it counts. (Like all the fights, this match is very well-staged, though, with Russell directing the action to resemble an actual televised sporting event rather than the superhuman slugfests of the later Rocky films or the impressionistic brawls seen in Raging Bull.) The conventional narrative makes the film’s offbeat comic tone and the supporting cast’s aggressive performances all the more crucial to its success. This may be Russell’s most “normal” movie to date, but it demonstrates its own distinct fighting style.


By Ethan Alter

category: Film Reviews

Film Review: Tangled

     

Tangled comes with plenty of pedigree: It is Walt Disney Pictures’ 50th full-length animated feature and also boasts some seasoned big Disney guns on the creative side, including composer Alan Menken and multi-Oscar-winning John Lasseter as executive producer. No surprise, then, that this retelling of the classic tale of Rapunzel is another top-quality entry in the Disney canon and those proverbial kids of all ages will have a good time.

Respecting its venerable origin and setting, the Disney team only mildly tweaks the original tale. Thus we have lovely teen heroine Rapunzel (the voice of Mandy Moore) imprisoned by cruel “mother” Gothel (Broadway’s Tony-winning Donna Murphy) in a tall stone tower in order to protect the girl’s magic mane that protects the evil Disney she-dragon from aging.

Of course, the teen, like so many of her generation, longs for liberation into the adult world, an urge that gives rise to one of the film’s many catchy songs. Her adventures in the real world of romance and discovery of who’s really who begin when the dashing bandit Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), freelancing with his beefy honchos, the Stabbington Brothers, executes a robbery that gains them a valuable satchel of loot. But Flynn does a double cross and escapes with the booty, landing in Rapunzel’s tower room, where he’s soon held captive by the girl and her all-powerful mane of hair.

Rapunzel seizes the moment. She schemes with Flynn for their escape together from the tower where she has been held for years. But once on terra firma, the real trouble begins. Gothel, who discovers Rapunzel gone but the satchel hidden, is desperate to regain control of the girl. Promising the satchel, she schemes with the Stabbington Brothers to bring the pair back.

Others either abetting but mostly hindering Rapunzel’s great escape include some tavern thugs who, hilariously, turn out to be not so thuggish; the royal guard led by the big-chested Captain; and the King and Queen, still grieving for their “lost” daughter.

Clearly in Rapunzel’s corner, but not voiced, are several Disney animation staples, those adorable and prickly animals. There’s Rapunzel’s cute-as-can-be, loyal chameleon Pascal (a Jiminy Cricket variation) and Maximus, the Captain of the Guard’s ornery horse, given to mischief and impressive leaps and determined to catch Flynn.

Rapunzel, expertly wielding her multi-purpose 70-foot mane, and Flynn (along with audiences) have the good fortune to “tangle” for liberation, justice, wealth, power, truth and the de rigueur happiness in a glorious, merrie olde kingdom of yore and to the beat of an appealing original score.

With its eye-pleasing 3D-enhanced visuals and rich backdrop, array of colorful characters, a plot that speeds along as determinedly as the horse Maximus, smart dialogue and lyrics, Tangled is perfect holiday entertainment, for families especially who will laugh and maybe even cry together. And, oh that golden mane of hair, mightily manipulated by Disney’s animation and special-effects geniuses!


By Doris Toumarkine

category: Film Reviews

Film Review: Hereafter

     

Clint Eastwood continues to broaden his range of interests as a storyteller even as he refines his skills as a filmmaker. Hereafter, the latest example of his focused, succinct style, tackles a potentially controversial subject with little ado but considerable entertainment. A first-rate showcase for actor Matt Damon, the film is less successful at making sense of the topics it raises. Audience reaction will be muted, but fans will still appreciate Eastwood's talent.

Hereafter offers up three storylines, ranging from Indonesia to Europe and the United States. In the first, Marie (Cécile de France), a French television personality, has difficulty adjusting to work after a near-death experience. In London, young twins Marcus and Jason (Frankie McLaren and George McLaren) cover for their drug-addicted mother to thwart social workers intent on sending them to foster homes. An accident still threatens to destroy the family. And in San Francisco, psychic George Lonegan retreats to a factory job to escape the demands of bereaved clients desperate to contact the dead.

Peter Morgan's script fills in the characters with quick, decisive strokes. George's grasping brother Billy (Jay Mohr) registers in a few brief scenes as he tries to turn a profit on his brother's gift. Even more impressive is Bryce Dallas Howard, riveting as a woman trying to hide how needy she is. And Damon delivers an outstanding performance, exploring all of his character's conflicts and contradictions in an unforced, confident manner.

Eastwood's direction is equally assured and supple. One bravura sequence early in the film combines stunts and CGI to take viewers directly into the cascading calamities of a natural disaster. An extended seduction during a cooking class plays out at a perfect pitch, capturing the hesitations and impulsive gestures of lonely but cautious people.

Not all of the film unfolds so smoothly. Although the director is a famously fast worker, parts of Hereafter seem uncharacteristically rushed. The establishing shots of Big Ben and the Golden Gate Bridge, exposition delivered by phone machine, even a jet taking off are too clearly shortcuts. And Eastwood's version of the afterlife is a distinct disappointment: Don't viewers deserve a little more than bright lights and distorted silhouettes?

More troubling are the moral choices in the script. It's one thing to place children in peril if it leads to a scene like George's harrowing encounter with a grieving twin late in the film. But when Morgan uses a tsunami or a terrorist bombing as a plot device, is he examining grief or merely exploiting it? Flaws like this keep Hereafter out of the top tier of Eastwood's films, but then few directors have worked at such a consistently high level.


By Daniel Eagan

category: Film Reviews

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Film Review: The Dilemma

     

Not that Ron Howard’s The Dilemma is any kind of sophisticated Noel Coward comedy, but it’s an often smart and downright funny take on issues that aging moviegoers might find familiar.

The fact that Howard, no slouch when it comes to easily accessible films but with such high-minded fare as The Da Vinci Code, Frost/Nixon, Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind on his resume, is plowing less challenging, audience-pleasing fields says something about the mainstream industry and its priorities. But The Dilemma delivers a zippy journey into late yuppiedom and wholly appealing performances from the leads, especially Vince Vaughn at his most magnetic and Kevin James at his most cuddly/fumbling.

Ronny (Vaughn), a hotshot sales ace who has beaten a gambling addiction, is partnered with technology whiz Nick (James) in a boutique auto-engine design firm in Chicago. The twosome, best friends since college, are on the verge of developing an electric engine that mimics the muscular roar of so many beloved collectible cars from the ’60s and early ’70s, including Ronny’s prized vintage four-wheeler. Helping in this most difficult effort is Susan (Queen Latifah), a brassy consultant from Chrysler’s Dodge division.

The pair also have significant others. Ronny is in a loving relationship with restaurateur Beth (Jennifer Connelly) and is getting the courage to actually propose marriage—an about-time gesture, insists Nick, considering his 40 years.

Nick appears happily married to former college sweetheart Geneva (Winona Ryder, currently on view in Oscar bait Black Swan), the most louche of the tight quartet who, as later revealed, had a boozy, secret one-night stand in college with Ronny, even before she and Nick ever met.

As Nick toils in the shop on the breakthrough engine, Ronny literally falls into what will become the film’s precipitating dilemma. While visiting a lush botanical garden that will serve as the hugely romantic place where he’ll finally propose to Beth, he spots Geneva in heavy make-out with beefy, tattooed Zip (Channing Tatum). Ronny’s determination to be loyal to his best buddy and inform him of the infidelity leads to a hilariously dramatic chain of events that include acute side effects from exposure to highly poisonous plants, near destruction of a trophy car and a trophy apartment, the collapse of several long-term relationships and friendships, the exposure of at least one other cheating spouse, a major intervention triggered by a suspected serious relapse in addiction, and many physical fights.

But The Dilemma is so blatantly and effectively feel-good that things get resolved. Much of the film’s pleasure come from Ronny’s motor-mouth rationalization of the chaos, and brief fantasy cutaways depicting the many lies concocted to hide so much bad behavior.

The strong star turns aside, Chicago serves as a most appealing urban dreamland where good things ultimately happen. Sure, The Dilemma is loaded with guy stuff (car talk, sports talk, hockey aplenty, etc.), but the appeal will surely be cross-gender.


By Doris Toumarkine

category: Film Reviews

Film Review: Morning Glory

     

Fired from her job at a local television station in New Jersey, plucky Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) quickly lands a plum position as executive producer of “Daybreak,” the morning news show of the fictional IBS network in New York. The opportunity seems like a dream come true for our irrepressible 28-year-old, but in reality, “Daybreak” is dead last in the ratings and its future looks bleaker: The staff is dispirited, the facilities are decrepit and the on-air talent despondent, dumb or depraved. Not a problem for our spunky heroine, who shakes up the status quo by hiring legendary news anchor Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), recipient of innumerable Peabodys, Pulitzers and Emmys, to co-anchor the show with veteran host and former beauty-queen Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton).

If you think you know where this story’s going, you’d be as right as Regis and Ripa. Morning Glory is a competent but predictable screwball-ish comedy benefiting from a cast much better than the material they are obliged to work with, not unlike the breakfast programs the filmmakers mean to spoof. Everything about this determinedly upbeat and decidedly sentimental movie goes by the book: Becky’s obligatory romance with office-mate Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), for example, heats up like a bran muffin in the microwave—it’s warm but dry. None of the characters fare better, all of them poorly imagined or undeveloped, although watching them run through their set-pieces provokes enough chuckles to keep us in our seats until the final telegraphed plot twist sends us off into the sunrise.

Writer Aline Brosh McKenna has scripted successful romantic comedies, notably 27 Dresses and The Devil Wears Prada, with Meryl Streep in the role that Harrison Ford plays here; she’s got the chick flick figured out, and Morning Glory will do reasonably well at the box office. Director Roger Michell, who helmed Persuasion, Notting Hill and Venus, comes to film from the London theatre, where he spent six yeas as resident director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which may explain his penchant for the broad gesture. Michell likes his actors to project to the back rows, so that the lovely and likeable McAdams is made to turn up her cuteness until she becomes cloying. Ford, on the other hand, remains fixedly dour throughout the entire film save for the last five minutes, speaking his lines in a fiercely phlegmatic voice or simply scowling at colleagues with mouth open, a choice that suggests incipient senility. Diane Keaton fares best, her character ranging from bitter and cynical to giddy and hopeful, as the situation demands. She’s the only cast member who doesn’t insist on mugging her way through every scene.

Alwin Küchler (Solitary Man) and Mark Friedberg (a regular collaborator with Julie Taymor and Wes Anderson) earn high praise for cinematography and production design, respectively; Morning Glory looks great and feels right, with postcard shots of New York City that require the characters to conduct their business while jogging around the Central Park reservoir or scurrying across Bryant Park. A couple of surprise cameos enliven the action when the movie seems to get lost in these Manhattan moments, and a reasonable running time keep us from growing exasperated with these two-dimensional media types who, come to think of it, may be true to life after all


By Rex Roberts

category: Film Reviews

Black Swan—Film Review

     

First there was the Phantom of the Opera. Now, in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," you get the Terror of the Ballet.

The movie combines horror-movie tropes with The Red Shoes, All About Eve and every movie about show business that insists you don't have to be crazy to become a star but it doesn't hurt either. The movie is so damn out-there in every way that you can't help admiring Aronofsky for daring to be so very, very absurd.

Swan is an instant guilty pleasure, a gorgeously shot, visually complex film whose badness is what's so good about it. You might howl at the sheer audacity of mixing mental illness with the body-fatiguing, mind-numbing rigors of ballet, but its lurid imagery and a hellcat competition between two rival dancers is pretty irresistible. Certain to divide audiences, Swan won't lack for controversy, but will any of this build an audience? Don't bet against it.

Swan bears a resemblance to Aronofsky's most recent film, The Wrestler. Its battered, lonely protagonist was a pro wrestler who drags his weary body into the ring night after night because that's what he is - a wrestler. Same with Natalie Portman's Nina, a sinewy, thin slip of a ballerina whose body actually cracks loudly while getting out of bed. But she heads into the dance studio every day to pirouette on bloody toes and strain every muscle in her body. Because that's what she does.

Only Aronofsky suggests, right from an opening dream sequence, that Nina might be cracking up. He keeps the camera close to his heroine, not just so objects and people can suddenly loom next to her as in all horror flicks, but to suggest a certain amount of paranoia and claustrophobia.

Nina lives with an emotionally smothering mother, played by Barbara Hershey in as unflattering makeup, hairstyle and lighting as possible. Mom hovers obsessively over her daughter, watching everything from her diet to nervous habits, like scratching her skin until it bleeds. However, as with any of the lurid visions in this movie - bloody nails, breaking bones, puncture wounds, nasty sutures - you're never quite sure how real they are. They could be figments of Nina's fervid imagination.

A New York ballet company's artistic director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel, the only unambiguous character in the film), selects Nina for the double role of the White Swan and Black Swan in his provocative new take on that old war horse "Swan Lake." He knows Nina can nail the White Swan, but he's not so sure she can embody the dark side of the Swan Queen. So he imports from the West Coast another dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), whose cunning, deviousness and rampant Id make her an ideal Black Swan. Lily becomes Nina's alternate for the Swan Queen - and her rival.

Nina got the role in the first place when Thomas cavalierly tossed aside the company's previous prima ballerina, Beth (Winona Ryder). Beth slinks around the film's periphery, hissing obscenities and accusations until she winds up in a hospital after walking in front of a car. Like the mother character, Beth exists to up the ante of paranoia and tension as mental chaos relentlessly assails Nina.

Nina's drive for perfection runs roughshod over her health and friendships. Nothing else matters. Thomas eggs her on, using sexual abuse and intimidation to get her to "lose yourself" in darkness. If he only knew how truly lost Nina is in that darkness. What she really is losing is her sense of reality.

All this psycho drama builds to a fever pitch braced by the woozy lyricism of Tchaikovsky's music, sumptuous choreography by New York City Ballet star Benjamin Millepied and Matthew Libatique's darting, weaving camera. By "Swan Lake's" opening night, the film surrenders to the surreal when Nina's body grows feathers and horrific backstage mayhem vanishes on cue.

Aronofsky, working with an original script by Andres Heinz that later was rewritten by Mark Heyman and John McLaughlin, never succeeds in wedding genre elements to the world of ballet. The film takes its cues from "Swan Lake" itself as demons, doubles and death dance in Nina's head. She can only approach perfection by becoming the dual character she plays - the innocent and the evil.

Portman, who has danced but is no ballerina, does a more than credible job in the big dance numbers and the tough rehearsals that are so essential to the film. In her acting, too, you sense she has bravely ventured out of her comfort zone to play a character slowly losing sight of herself. It's a bravura performance.

Kunis makes a perfect alternate to Portman, equally as lithe and dark but a smirk of self-assurance in place of Portman's wide-eyed fearfulness. Indeed, White Swan/Black Swan dynamics almost work, but the horror-movie nonsense drags everything down the rabbit hole of preposterousness.


by Kirk Honeycutt

category: Film Reviews

Showcasing the unique and fascinating history of Oxford Covered Market

     

The Museum of Oxford is to host a major exhibition focusing on the characters and the craft of the city’s famous Covered Market.

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Called ‘Who is Oxford’s Covered Market?’, the exhibition will mix photographs, written portraits, archive material, a short “behind the scenes” documentary, and an interactive education section for children. It’s a highlight of the innovative Heritage Lottery-funded project between the not-for-profit limited company which drives countywide business network, OTCN, and Oxford Civic Society.

Museum of Oxford Education Officer, Kate Toomey, says: “The Museum of Oxford is delighted to be hosting this new exhibition and children's workshops that explore the long and wonderful history of the Covered Market, its traders, and its customers in such an accessible way. As Oxford's local museum, this exhibition is a great way for us to show a unique and fascinating history through the eyes of community that created it.”

The exhibition will run at The Museum from late January until early April 2011 featuring images take by professional photographer, David Fisher, alongside a set taken in the Market by 11 year-old children from West Oxford Primary School. David Fisher says: “I felt very lucky to have been chosen as the photographer for this project as it was a rare chance to produce such a collection of character portraits. Working so closely with the traders made me really appreciate the sense of pride, customer service and job satisfaction that they hold, and it was a great feeling being able to express this through the photography.” Excerpts of written portraits compiled by volunteers working with pioneering academic charity, The Oxford Muse Foundation will also be showcased.

Made possible by a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the project has four key elements: an oral history study of the people behind the Covered Market, the creation of a set of photographic portraits of those involved, development of tourism material to help tell the stories uncovered to shoppers and visitors, and the building of a legacy exhibition, including The Covered Market online and printed material.


category: Interesting Articles

Monday, 17 January 2011

A Brand New Cultural Hub for East Oxford

     

imageA warehouse that was once the home of a Book binders is soon to become a new cultural hub for East Oxford. Usually forgotten by the powers that be, OX4 has long been to home of the creative-types who reside in our beautiful city. It's open from January 16th, through to March 31st – when the building is currently scheduled for demolition and then development into flats. The space will play host to a wide range of events, from fashion fairs, to talks, gigs and concerts as well as ongoing art installations and the Insight sharing festival.

The Old Book Binders is the type of warehouse-space only normally encountered in Brooklyn or East London, but now there's one a little closer to home. Having hosted a couple of events before Christmas this new space is already the talk of the town.

Inspired by their travels InEvents and TRUCK festival (two companies whose ethos is to create positive change) have teamed up to open a guerilla style arts centre set within the urban warehouse right in the heart of East Oxford. You could be in New York, Paris, berlin, or now humble old Oxford.

“The Old Book Binders seeks to become not only an arts hub, but also a centre for the community where friends meet, ideas are exchanged and a community can come together – think of it as a village hall for OX4. People of all ages are welcome to come and sit on our sofas, use the internet and make it a home from home!” - Says Ian Nolan of INEVENTS

The OBB will play host to The TRUCK Stop Cafe - Every Friday, Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday serving up fair-trade teas and coffee, delicious home-made cakes and tasty organic food. Including Robin Bennett's world famous Beans on Toast. All reasonably priced with profits going back into the space. All the kitchen Equipment has been kindly donated by Oxford Event Hire – so big thanks must go to Kieran Lynch and the gang.

The Old BookBinders also plans to lead the community on issues surrounding the environment, and the current problems facing local residents. Working directly with the community, traders as well as those that represent the area.

For more information please visit the website www.theoldbookbinders.org
If you wish to organise an event at the OBB or volunteer your time please get in touch with .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The Old BookBinders can be found at No.9 Green Street.

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category: Interesting Articles

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Oxford’s talented film-makers explore life in shorts

     

Pegasus plays host to OFVM Film Oxford in January to screen the latest work by local film makers. There is no lack of entertaining subject matter in the 19 short films being shown, all of which have been made as a result of courses run at the East Oxford organisation.

Many of the films look at local institutions: A Tour of Guides features the Oxford Tour Guides who are such a feature of the visitor experience; Cycle Workshop is a documentary about the small enterprise that sprang up in East Oxford to promote the use and recycling of bikes in the City; Ale explores the role of beer and pubs as a centre of social life.

Some of the pieces look at individuals and their impact on their community: David Cameron’s Little Society looks at community life in the Prime Minister’s home constituency; Girl Song is a tribute to the late and lamented singer/songwriter Kate Garrett; Giovanni’s is a profile of one of the most well-known family-run barber’s in the area.

The film genres run from documentary through comedy to visual art and movement, all made in the local area with support from OFVM Film Oxford who run regular courses and classes in animation, film and video making for the large and small screen with professionals and experts from TV, web and film industries.

OFVM Film Oxford Screen Night
Featuring 19 new films and digital shorts
At Pegasus, Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RE
On Sunday 30th January at 7.30pm

Tickets £3
Box office 01865 812 150
Online http://www.tickets.pegasustheatre.org.uk
Pegasus website http://www.pegasustheatre.org.uk
OFVM Film Oxford website http://www.ofvm.org/


category: Interesting Articles

Film Review: Conviction

     

When is a true story too good to be true?

Probably when it involves a woman who spends years putting herself through high school, college and law school just so she can fight for the release of her incarcerated brother.

The woman in question was Betty Anne Waters, a single mother whose remarkable 18-year quest has now been brought to the screen by director tony Goldwyn. In doing so, though, he’s left out a significant nugget of information that would have put quite a different complexion on this heartfelt tale of determination and devotion.

To say more would violate our no-spoiler rule. Suffice to say there’s something more than a touch disingenuous about a fact-based yarn that revolves around a man convicted of murder on unreliable evidence.

It’s not enough to spoil your enjoyment of a polished legal melodrama that elicits a typically forthright turn from Hilary Swank as Betty Anne and an intriguingly mercurial one from Sam Rockwell as her far from angelic sibling.

Yet it does make you wonder how many other details were omitted in order to facilitate the desired emotional uplift.

It would be easy to dismiss Goldwyn’s pic as a TV movie of the week with ideas above its station. But that would downplay the contributions of Minnie Driver, on top form as swank’s loyal compadre, and Juliette Lewis, making the most of her two scenes as the woman whose testimony sent Rockwell down.

OK, so Melissa Leo is a tad two-dimensional as the vindictive officer certain of his guilt. But Peter Gallagher levels the scales as the DNA pioneer to whom swank turns, not least by bringing a sprinkling of testosterone to a film that hardly wants for oestrogen.


By Neil Smith

category: Film Reviews

Blue Valentine—Film Review

     

"Blue Valentine" is a black-sympathy card to a marriage on the rocks. Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, this Sundance Film Festival U.S. dramatic competition entrant will stir initial interest based on that pairing, but the grinding regurgitation of the dissolution - we're sick of this couple long before the film is over - will stimulate viewers to file(out) for an annulment midway through.

Blue Valentine's best prospects may be on DVD, targeting Cassavetes' admirers, and Europeans who are stimulated by the aesthetics of hand-held cinema over-punctuated with close-ups.

In this done-love story of Dean (Gosling) and Cindy, director/co-writer Derek Cianfrance intercuts the relationship: He shows it in is flat last days, while flashing back to its puppy-love beginnings. In essence, Dean and Cindy now hardly recognize the person they once married: Dean is balding, lazy and combative, while Cindy is frustrated that she gave up on her intellectual potential by getting pregnant.

Cianfrance further counterpoints the drastic differences by the production aesthetics. The flirty-early days are enlivened by the bounce of a hand-held camera and a vibrant visual pallet, while the death-gurgle days are hardened by a unrelenting succession of close-ups and dim lighting. Ultimately, the heavy-handed and annoyingly obvious aesthetic wears thin.

Further enervating the story's potency is the narrative redundancy. Several scenes could be cut without sacrificing the film's acute, clinical depictions.
Fortunately, the performances are fleshed out and telling. Gosling layers his character's charm with an eruptive and credible anger. In his down-spiraling antics and tantrums, he is understandable and sympathetic. Williams stirs her performance splendidly: Her contained actions powerfully reveal the despair and hopelessness of a woman who was once a vibrant bride.


by Duane Byrge

category: Film Reviews

‘The Green Hornet’ Film Review

     

Leaving behind a long list of previously attached talent from stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Jake Gyllenhaal to filmmaker Kevin Smith, the Black Beauty finally roars into theaters this weekend with Seth Rogen and Jay Chou behind the wheel and director Michel Gondry in charge of its course.

While the slick vehicle in question - a seriously pimped-out Chrysler Imperial - delivers the awe-inspiring goods, The Green Hornet itselfnever achieves sufficient traction to go the blockbuster distance.

Credit Rogen, who co-wrote the script with Evan Goldberg, and Gondry for attempting to take the 75-year-old radio serial (and mid-'60s TV series) in some fresh, irreverent directions. But the stop/start end result fails to sustain any satisfying momentum.

Rogen's fan base as well as the fanboys who were teased with footage in July at Comic-Con should ensure the picture has a decent opening, but it could fall short of generating sufficient buzz to spawn repeat business.

Originally debuting Jan. 31, 1936, on Detroit's WXYZ, The Green Hornet radio serial was the brainchild of Lone Ranger creator George W. Trendle, with the masked avenger's alter ego, Britt Reid, said to be the great nephew of the Lone Ranger.

Unsurprisingly, Britt, the playboy son of crusading Daily Sentinel publisher James Reid, has been retailored as a wide-eyed slacker to fit the Rogen persona. When his harshly judgmental dad (Tom Wilkinson) dies after what appears to be a fatal bee sting, Britt inherits his media empire, but he'd rather tool around with his father's trusted mechanic, Kato (Chou), in one of his tricked-out luxury cars.

Of course, it would be even cooler to pose as vigilantes who make like bad guys so they can infiltrate the actual evildoers' inner circle and blast 'em with Kato's gas gun.

Enter the Green Hornet.

It isn't that Gondry's direction and the languid Rogen-Goldberg script (the pair previously collaborated on Pineapple Express and Superbad) don't have their inspired moments -- like a sequence in which a Rogen discourse on the traditional balance of power between a superhero and his sidekick explodes into a volatile fight to the finish.

Too often, though, the dialogue has a habit of commenting on what has just happened in the previous scene, effectively stopping the action cold every time.

While definitely not cast in the classic comic book hero mold, the trimmed-down Rogen still brings a pleasantly goofy, everyman likability to the role. As Kato, Taiwanese pop star Chou proves equally charismatic, although his struggle with the English language makes some of his line readings tricky to decipher.

Proving tougher to get a grip on is the villainous Chudnofsky (Oscar-winning Inglourious Basterds scene-stealer Christoph Waltz) and Britt and Kato's chipper research assistant Lenore (a squandered Cameron Diaz), both of whom do their best with their underwritten characters.

Visually, with the exception of Gondry's dynamic "Kato-Vision" fight sequences (shot by John Schwartzman), the only other time the 3D conversion really comes to life is during the closing-credit pop art sequence.


by Michael Rechstshaffen

category: Film Reviews

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Science Oxford Live Hosts the Wildlife Photographer of the Year

     

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the world’s most prestigious wildlife photography competition, will be stopping at Science Oxford Live, one of the first destinations into its successful international touring.

More than 100 visually-stunning, sometimes humorous and often thought-provoking photographs – winners, runners-up or commended in the competition’s 18 categories – will be on show at Science Oxford Live from 22 January to 13 March.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine. Last year, the exhibition at Science Oxford Live attracted nearly 2,000 people.

Dominic McDonald, Head of Public Engagement, said ‘We are delighted to be hosting the exhibition again this year and engage with local residents about the wonders of the natural world and the issues of conservation. Some evening events for adults and february half term events for families will run alongside the exhibition.’

Exhibition information for visitors:
Venue: Science Oxford Live
Dates: 22 January to 13 March 2011
Opening times: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm
Visitor enquiries: 01865 810000

Admission: £3.50, £11 family ticket (up to 5)
Free for SO Live Friends and children under four years old.
Website: http://www.scienceoxfordlive.com


category: Interesting Articles

DANCERS CREATE THEIR OWN CHOREOGRAPHY IN RESPONSE TO EXHIBITION AT MODERN ART OXFORD

     

Modern Art Oxford hosts a residency for artists and dancers to exchange their physical and visual vocabularies in response to the current sculptural exhibition, Thomas Houseago: What Went Down.

Led by Susan Norwood, Artistic Director of Project Volume, this residency from Monday 31 January to Friday 4 February will culminate in dancers creating their own choreography. The resulting work, Intonation, will be performed at the Gallery on Friday 4 February.

Intonation takes its title from the promotion of the voice of artists and dancers with learning disabilities by Project Volume as central to its core. Funded by Arts Council England, this project aims to nurture emerging and professional artists and dancers with learning disabilities.

The performances of Intonation will give a unique insight into the perceptions of the exhibition by dancers and a visual artist, who will articulate their ideas through dance. Non-disabled dancer Haley Arundel will also perform to illustrate the potential that artists with learning disabilities have in contributing to our cultural landscape.

Those being profiled are visual artist Danny Smith and dancers Frances Weir, Ruth Williams, affiliated with Anjali Dance Company and Chris Pavia from StopGAP Dance Company. Innovative filmmaker Riccardo Iacono will capture the exchange between artist and dancers, revealing the interaction of ideas.

StopGAP Dance Company says – “Chris Pavia is proud to be chosen by Mencap’s as someone with Downs Syndrome achieving excellence in their career, and is currently developing his teaching and choreographic skills.”

A further commission from Modern Art Oxford will fund an outreach education project for a local school, to inspire and provide access to this exhibition for children with learning difficulties. Children will gain the opportunity to be choreographed by professional dancer Frances Weir to promote aspiration.

Intonation will be performed at Modern Art Oxford on Friday 4 February at 1.30pm, 3pm, 5.30pm and 6.30pm. An after show talk will follow the last performance. Admission is free.


Project Volume:
Project Volume's objective is that all dancers, disabled and non-disabled-contribute fully to artistic practice and that perceptions of intelligence and/or ability are continually challenged. For background information on the charity Project Volume please visit http://www.projectvolume.org

Local author Philip Pullman is patron to Project Volume. Susan Norwood was fortunate to be taught by his inspirational creative teaching as a child.

Modern Art Oxford has previous experience of collaborating with Susan Norwood on workshops for dancers with learning disabilities leading to dance interpretations of contemporary art within the Gallery. Performances have included the response to Monica Bonvicini (2003) and Daniel Buren (2006). The work of Thomas Houseago lends itself to this approach.

category: Interesting Articles

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Help save a little girl in Oxford who urgently needs a bone marrow transplant

     

image“WE HAVE just weeks to save baby Amber’s life and we need your help.”

That’s the emotional plea from the parents of 15-month-old Amber Phillpott, whose leukaemia returned aggressively just as she looked set to make a recovery.

Now there are just weeks to find a bone marrow donor to try to save the young girl’s life.

Amber was diagnosed with leukaemia in October and had looked set to make a recovery after treatment at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

But on New Year’s Day, after a peaceful Christmas spent with her family, the toddler’s condition took a turn for the worse and doctors discovered the illness had returned aggressively.

They told her parents that a bone marrow transplant would be her last chance of a full recovery.

The family featured in the Oxford Mail last month when Amber’s father James Phillpott told about his fundraising exploits for the Children’s Hospital before finding out about his own daughter’s condition.

Now Mr Phillpott and partner Fleur Tinson, of Abingdon, have just weeks to find a donor.

The couple are urging people in Oxfordshire to sign up to the transplant register in the hope of saving their little girl’s life.

There are currently 7,337 donors on the Anthony Nolan register in the county.

Father-of-two Mr Phillpott said he had been told the most likely match for Amber would be her four-year-old sister Daisy.

But even this only holds out just a 25 per cent chance of Daisy being a match.

Mr Phillpott said: “To be honest, it’s a bit of a moving target at the moment.

“It depends on the next eight weeks and on the doctors getting Amber’s leuk-aemia into remission. And then we need to find a donor.

“We have been told because we live here and have roots here it’s more likely that we will find a match who already lives in Oxfordshire.

“We just want as many people as possible to sign up.

“If it can’t help Amber, then at least someone, somewhere will benefit from it.”

Keyboard player Mr Phillpott is the founder of Abingdon’s annual Yeah Baby! festival, which has raised more than £6,000 for the Oxford Children’s Hospital.

He came up with the idea for the event, which has been held in the town for the past two years, when a friend’s son was given life-saving treatment at the hospital, on the John Radcliffe site.

But in a cruel twist of fate, months later he was forced to call on the hospital’s expertise to help his seriously-ill daughter.

Leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow, which leads to an abnormal number of white blood cells in the blood. If left untreated, it causes fatal blood problems.

Mr Phillpott and Ms Tinson have pleaded for people to sign up to the Anthony Nolan register as soon as possible, not just for their own daughter, but others like her.

He said: “The more people that sign up, the more chance we have of finding a donor.

“And not just for Amber, but for hundreds of other people in her situation.”

-----------------------------------------

A new website called Challenge Oxfordshire launched this week with a campaign called 'Save Amber Week'. The website encourages people to join the donation registry to help save people like Amber.

In order to do so, they have set up a 3-step challenge:

1. Go to the Anthony Nolan website to see if you are able donate bone marrow.
2. Join the register to donate.
3. Get everyone you know involved in this challenge. Send them an email with a link to this page.

We have a very short time frame, but I believe that Oxfordshire will pull together and do everything that it can to help little Amber.


For more information about Challenge Oxfordshire, visit the official website or follow them on twitter

Oxford mail article source

category: Interesting Articles

Monday, 10 January 2011

Top young artists put work on show

     

image“Home, Again” is the third exhibition curated by Oxford based Creative Collective, showcasing work by 27 up-and-coming young artists from across the county, taking over the whole of the Jam Factory restaurant, Oxford between the 5th and 31st January 2011.

All 27 artists are aged between 18 and 25 and are either from Oxfordshire originally or currently studying here, with many of the artists undertaking art-based courses at some of the leading universities in the country.

The exhibition stretches across all mediums and included in the exhibition are paintings by fine artists Henry Byrne, Matthew Smith, and Alicia Tennant, illustrations by James Chen-Wishart, Joe Davis, Will Elsom, and David Whitehead, 3D sculptural work by Matthew Copson, Adam Wozniak, and Theo Welch-King, portraits by Olivia Stoddart, photographs by Lisa Grigsby, Sammy Jay, Tom Johnson, and Robbie Neil, and other work from street artist Kleiner Shames, interdisciplinary artist Cally Gatehouse, fine artists Charlie Floyd, and Phoebe Shakespeare, and designer Greg Swan. Creative Collective is delighted to welcome back fine artists Joe Carter, and James Lomax, photographers Jamie Clark, Kensington Leverne, and Rishi Mullett-Sadones, as well as illustrator Lara Hawthorne, whom were all part of Creative Collective’s first exhibition at the Jam Factory, “Eleven”, February 2010.

“Home, Again” opens to the public on Wednesday 5th January 2011 at 7.30pm, where guests are invited to join the artists for an evening of art, drinks, and live music from Oxford’s own Glass Animals. The dub-enthused ambient musicians have been tipped for big things in the New Year, having gained interest and support from a large number of industry professionals. Glass Animals will be performing from 9pm onwards.

Creative Collective is keen to support Oxforshire-based artists of all caliber – be it a hobby, lifelong dream or future career. Offering invaluable professional experience and great exposure to those involved, those that submit must show a high level of skill, passion and commitment to the work they produce.

Set up by Rishi Mullett-Sadones in 2009, the aim of the not-for-profit company is to offer a platform for young artists to exhibit in professional gallery spaces; giving an incredible opportunity and an insight to the art world at a very early stage in the artist’s career – but still allowing complete freedom to express themselves both artistically and individually.

Former Cherwell School student and graduate of the renowned BA (Hons) Art Practice degree at Goldsmith College in London James Chen-Wishart comments, “Creative Collective is fulfilling a service by providing young people with places to exhibit, I believe it’s not just contributing to Oxford’s art scene but helping to establish it. They could have set up in London where exhibiting is routine practice for young artists, but the fact they have returned to Oxford for a second year shows real devotion to the cultural development of this City and its people. I’m really looking forward to the show and getting know some new artists.”


For more information visit the Jam Factory website

category: Interesting Articles

Thursday, 06 January 2011

The Face of 2011 - Oxford Fashion Week 2011

     

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Over the past two months the Face of 2011 Selection Committee has considered 152 candidates, 49 call backs, 3,612 votes, 19 interviews and nine key criteria. The Committee is now delighted to reveal the Face of Oxford Fashion Week 2011.

The Face of Oxford Fashion Week is a unique and flexible look; vivacity, and someone who takes enjoyment and has conviction in modelling. An ambassador for Oxford Fashion Week 2011. The calibre of all candidates was high, the character displayed was impressive and the competition was fierce. Deciding on one candidate to be Face was exceptionally difficult and was taken after thorough consideration.

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We are delighted to announce that the Face of Oxford Fashion Week 2011 is Emma Appleton from Witney. Emma is a spectacular model who exhibits not only enormous potential but also the commitment and determination needed to develop her potential. She impressed by combining a passion for modelling and a genuine interest in fashion with a sparkling personality, a professional attitude and a serious determination to build a modelling career. Emma ranked 6th out of 49 in the online public vote. She was a sterling model in the Malmaison Lingerie Show 2010 and has continued to build her modelling career.

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Image credits:
Image 1 Credits: Model - Emma Appleton, Photographer - Claire Huish, Designer - Ara Jo
Image 2 Credits: Model - Emma Appleton, Photographer - Tom Johnson, Designer - Fred & Ginger Lingerie
Image 3 Credits: Model - Emma Appleton, Photographer - Tom Johnson, Designer - Ahyoung Choi

All candidates are still being considered for modelling opportunities during Oxford Fashion Week.

Key Oxford Fashion Week Dates
Saturday 22nd January: Official list of OFW Models released, OFW Ticket Launch
Saturday 29th January: OFW London Press Launch
Tuesday 15th February: OFW2011 Detailed Programme Released
Friday 18th February: OFW 2009 & 2010 Exhibition opens at the O3 Gallery
Monday 28th February: Oxford Fashion’s Night Out, OFW Press Launch, OFW Opening Night Party
Tuesday 1st March: OFW Arts Discussion, OFW Concept Show
Wednesday 2nd March: OFW Body Image Discussion, OFW Lingerie Show
Thursday 3rd March: OFW - Fashionable Lives
Friday 4th March: OFW Ethical Discussion, O3 Ethical Show (Helen & Douglas)
Saturday 5th March: OFW Couture Show
Saturday 5th March: Ethical Fashion Market, Oxford Castle
Saturday 19th March: Oxford Style Show
Saturday 7th May: OFW2011 Exhibition Opening Night

Couture show confirmed designers Matthew Williamson, Alice Temperley, Ellie Saab, Slava Zaitsev and Valentin Yudashkin

category: Interesting Articles

Wednesday, 05 January 2011

Film Review: The Next Three Days

     

Credibility is stretched to the breaking point in The Next Three Days, a remake of the well-regarded French film Pour Elle. But this version is so carefully written and produced that it flattens an intriguing premise into the equivalent of middle-of-the-road television. The project's main selling points - star Russell Crowe and Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis ( Crash) - may help draw older viewers, but word of mouth for a film so slow and implausible will be dire.

The film opens with a blood-spattered Crowe speeding down a Pittsburgh street at night, the first of many red herrings viewers will have to endure. Haggis then backtracks to show the star, playing community college teacher John Brennan, enjoying a night out with his wife, working mom Lara (Elizabeth Banks). Lara is arrested for murder the next morning, leaving it up to Brennan to mount her defense and care for their son Luke (Ty Simpkins). When appeals fail and Lara attempts suicide, Brennan realizes that he has to get her out of prison, even if it means abandoning their identities.

After consulting with a prison-break specialist (Liam Neeson), Brennan works out an elaborate plan involving stolen keys, forged medical papers, counterfeit passports, and several trips to a crime-riddled Pittsburgh ghetto. Maps and reconnaissance photos soon cover the walls of his home, while his parents (Brian Dennehy and Helen Carey) start to wonder about his prolonged absences. An emergency throws Brennan into action, with a tighter deadline for solving his problems.

The Next Three Days aims for those who favor twisty plotting over slam-bang action. Haggis adopts a docudrama approach to the material, at times delivering step-by-step explanations of the stratagems Brennan undertakes. To that end, viewers receive useful tips about breaking into locked vans and negotiating with the criminal underclass. But Haggis hides just as much as he shows, so it's impossible to tell if Brennan is making progress, pursuing a false lead, or simply improvising.

As screenwriter, Haggis seems to lose sight of the big picture, focusing on subplots and characters that often turn out to be irrelevant. Perhaps to disguise the ending, he's also stripped almost all the personal details from the lead roles, giving the film the feel of an abstract exercise. On the basis of his work here, Haggis is a cautious director without much feel for the suspense genre. His action scenes are awkward and confusing, and one extended chase through a hospital manages to be clichéd and unfathomable at the same time.

The largely unfamiliar cast is hard to warm up to (apart from Liam Neeson, assured and appealing in his one short scene). But Crowe is at fault as well, playing so furtive and tamped-down that he elicits very little sympathy. On an intellectual level, the actor's choices make sense, they're just not very fun to watch.

Like another recent remake, the Mel Gibson vehicle Edge of Darkness, The Next Three Days is built around its star, with all the compromises and shifts in emphases that entails. Watching Crowe as Brennan try to solve a problem whose variables keep shifting is never less than entertaining. You're still left wondering how a lesser-known star and a more seasoned director would have handled the story.


By Daniel Eagan

category: Film Reviews

Film Review: The Next Three Days

     

Credibility is stretched to the breaking point in The Next Three Days, a remake of the well-regarded French film Pour Elle. But this version is so carefully written and produced that it flattens an intriguing premise into the equivalent of middle-of-the-road television. The project's main selling points - star Russell Crowe and Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis ( Crash) - may help draw older viewers, but word of mouth for a film so slow and implausible will be dire.

The film opens with a blood-spattered Crowe speeding down a Pittsburgh street at night, the first of many red herrings viewers will have to endure. Haggis then backtracks to show the star, playing community college teacher John Brennan, enjoying a night out with his wife, working mom Lara (Elizabeth Banks). Lara is arrested for murder the next morning, leaving it up to Brennan to mount her defense and care for their son Luke (Ty Simpkins). When appeals fail and Lara attempts suicide, Brennan realizes that he has to get her out of prison, even if it means abandoning their identities.

After consulting with a prison-break specialist (Liam Neeson), Brennan works out an elaborate plan involving stolen keys, forged medical papers, counterfeit passports, and several trips to a crime-riddled Pittsburgh ghetto. Maps and reconnaissance photos soon cover the walls of his home, while his parents (Brian Dennehy and Helen Carey) start to wonder about his prolonged absences. An emergency throws Brennan into action, with a tighter deadline for solving his problems.

The Next Three Days aims for those who favor twisty plotting over slam-bang action. Haggis adopts a docudrama approach to the material, at times delivering step-by-step explanations of the stratagems Brennan undertakes. To that end, viewers receive useful tips about breaking into locked vans and negotiating with the criminal underclass. But Haggis hides just as much as he shows, so it's impossible to tell if Brennan is making progress, pursuing a false lead, or simply improvising.

As screenwriter, Haggis seems to lose sight of the big picture, focusing on subplots and characters that often turn out to be irrelevant. Perhaps to disguise the ending, he's also stripped almost all the personal details from the lead roles, giving the film the feel of an abstract exercise. On the basis of his work here, Haggis is a cautious director without much feel for the suspense genre. His action scenes are awkward and confusing, and one extended chase through a hospital manages to be clichéd and unfathomable at the same time.

The largely unfamiliar cast is hard to warm up to (apart from Liam Neeson, assured and appealing in his one short scene). But Crowe is at fault as well, playing so furtive and tamped-down that he elicits very little sympathy. On an intellectual level, the actor's choices make sense, they're just not very fun to watch.

Like another recent remake, the Mel Gibson vehicle Edge of Darkness, The Next Three Days is built around its star, with all the compromises and shifts in emphases that entails. Watching Crowe as Brennan try to solve a problem whose variables keep shifting is never less than entertaining. You're still left wondering how a lesser-known star and a more seasoned director would have handled the story.


By Daniel Eagan

category: Film Reviews

Film Review: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

     

Near the beginning of It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Craig (Keir Gilchrist), our teenage protagonist who has grown disturbed by his own recurring thoughts of suicide, walks into a mental health clinic. “I want to kill myself,” he says to the person behind the counter. She hands him a clipboard and says “Fill this out.”

That barbed little joke at the Kafkaesque absurdity of the state of our health care system sets the tone for the movie: mental health issues happen, and we would do well to put them in the context of other aspects of our lives, and this means not pretending they do not exist, not speaking of them only in hushed tones, and not excepting them from the humor by which we often navigate the rest of life’s difficulties.

And It’s Kind of a Funny Story actually is kind of funny. Directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, as discussed in our interview last week, were struck by the humor of Ned Vizzini's source novel and sought foremost to preserve that in their adaptation.

Some smart casting helped in this cause. Zach Galifianakis does not quite steal the show, but his turn as the patient Craig bonds with is the most enjoyable in the film, with a blend of pathos, impertinent wit and brotherly affection hold the narrative together. Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan also show up as a punchline of a pair of parents, and Gilchrist’s portrayal of teenage vulnerability is at all times believable.

The action takes place over the five days that Craig must spend in the clinic once he has committed himself. Some of the more severe cases make for a bad first impression, and he feels he does not belong among the schizophrenics, much less sleeping next to a roommate straight out of a Beckett novel. “A lot of people feel that way at first,” the doctor tells him. “Give it a little time.”

Craig uses the time to explore a relationship with a teenage girl (also residing in the clinic) and discovering outlets of self-expression. One of the film’s highlights is a Gilchrist and Galifianakis’ imitation of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie in a funny rendition of “Under Pressure.”

The circumstances that have driven Craig to calling a suicide hot-line turn out to be real enough, such as pressure to excel at a highly competitive high school and confusion over his relationships to his friends and love interest and parents who are out of touch. Filmmakers Boden and Fleck manage to dramatize Craig’s putting of these issues into perspective without trivializing them, and the result is a (only) kind of funny, if somewhat slight, feel-good coming of age comedy. Some will want this movie to be more than it is, but as a teen movie told from the perspective of a teen and a positive portrayal of mental health issues, it is worth a look.


By Steven Pate

category: Film Reviews

Film Review: The King’s Speech

     

The King’s Speech is a textbook Oscar Best Picture contender: a fascinating but largely unknown true story set within the private realm of the British royal family; a droll and spirited comedy of clashing cultures; an inspirational drama of overcoming a handicap; and a movie with art-house credentials that’s also a genuine crowd-pleaser. With this captivating feature, Tom Hooper makes the leap from ambitious HBO projects like Elizabeth I and the “John Adams” miniseries to major feature-film director, guiding award-caliber performances from Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and an impressive supporting cast.

The success of The King’s Speech begins with the intriguing historical record. Who knew that England’s Prince Albert (Bertie to his family), eventually to take the name King George VI, struggled with a severe speech impediment all his life? David Seidler’s screenplay begins with the cringe-inducing sight of Bertie (Firth) struggling in vain to overcome his stammer for a radio address at the opening of the 1925 British Empire Exhibition.

Doubly mortified by the supremely confident example of his stern father, King George V (Michael Gambon), Bertie tries various forms of speech therapy, all for naught. Then his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) discovers a most unusual expert, a onetime actor from Australia named Lionel Logue (Rush), who insists on working out of his modest, eccentrically decorated home office. As a non-native, Lionel refuses to bend to the usual formalities expected when in the presence of a royal personage; he addresses Bertie by his first name, brings a startling physicality to his sessions, and is downright blunt and irreverent with his very important patient. Much to Bertie’s discomfort, he also plumbs the psychological traumas that may be the root cause of his terrible stutter. Early on, the prince exits in a fury, but a creative exercise involving headphones and a vinyl recording proves that Lionel’s methods actually work.

Bertie’s plight becomes more urgent when his father dies and his older brother Edward’s dalliance with American divorcee Wallis Simpson threatens the stability of the crown. Elevated to king, the newly titled George VI must face the challenge of a radio address to the nation when Britain declares war on Germany in 1939. The now-indispensable Lionel Logue is there at his side for this watershed moment.

That climactic speech is a tour de force for all concerned, a suspenseful, hold-your-breath sequence as gripping as any action movie, as Lionel “conducts” Bertie through the most consequential minutes of his life. It’s also the culmination of two great performances: Firth, who deftly modulates his character’s vocal affliction and reveals the mixture of anger, pride and self-effacing humor of a human being struggling to fulfill an idealized role, and Rush, who brings tremendous wit, élan and compassion to the irresistible Lionel. Bonham Carter is warm and winning as Elizabeth, Guy Pearce makes a dashingly reckless Edward, and Timothy Spall is a surprisingly persuasive Winston Churchill.

Abetted by cinematographer Danny Cohen, production designer Eve Stewart, Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan and editor Tariq Anwar, Hooper has fashioned a sumptuous, crisply paced period film with just the right balance of literacy and directorial flair. This is one royal-family tale any commoner can love.


By Kevin Lally

category: Film Reviews

Tuesday, 04 January 2011

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

     

Have a green Christmas this year and recycle your Christmas tree at one of 17 recycling points across the city after the festive season.

Old Christmas trees will be turned into wood chips and used in the city's parks and open spaces.

Councillor John Tanner, Executive Board Member for a Cleaner, Greener Oxford, says: "Please join me in a New Year's resolution to do even more to help the environment. We can all start by recycling our Christmas tree at one of the City Council centres across Oxford.

"Don't bung your fir tree in the bin. Take it to a collection point near you."

Christmas Tree collection points are open from Tuesday 4 January to Sunday 16 January 2011.

The collection points are:

  • Hinksey Park
  • Meadow Lane Recreation Ground (Jackdaw Lane)
  • Alexandra Courts
  • Green Road, (Risinghurst)
  • Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre
  • Blackbird Leys Park (Car Park)
  • Bury Knowle Park (Car Park)
  • Manzil Way Gardens
  • Cutteslowe Park (Harbord Road Car Park)
  • Florence Park
  • Long Lane (Littlemore)
  • Elizabeth Green (Northway)
  • Oatlands Recreation Ground (Car Park)
  • Margaret Road Recreation Ground
  • South Park (Morrell Avenue Gate)
  • Sunnymead Recreation Ground (by Play Area)
  • Atkyns Road, Wood Farm


category: Interesting Articles

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