Best Picture

What do Brad Pitt, Viola Davis, John Goodman and Jessica Chastain have in common? Each of them appears in two of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture of 2011 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Four of the films include French settings or characters, three of them use World Wars I or II as plot elements, and two of them feature a boy trying to strengthen ties to his late father by solving the mystery of a missing lock or key. Aside from all that and a pervading air of nostalgia, the field of nominees is most notable for its diversity. Good luck to the Academy trying to sort it all out, because these nine films are nearly incomparable.

The Artist may appear to casual moviegoers as the oddball of the bunch. After all, it’s a silent movie shot in black and white. This does not, however, signal pretentiousness. On the contrary, it’s a very accessible, entertaining film that’s bound to charm anyone who gives it a chance. Best Actor nominee Jean Dujardin and Best Supporting Actress nominee Berenice Bejo are magnetically charismatic as falling and rising stars at the dawn of the talkies. Those with a fondness for silent cinema will enjoy the evocation of that era, but it’s not necessary to be a film buff to like The Artist. It’s a lightweight yet engaging romance, a rare crowd-pleaser that does not pander to its audience. Read More

Night Of The Hunter

Welcome Back To My Nightmare: Alice Cooper introduces Steve Hunter in Columbus.

It’s a great time to be an Alice Cooper fan. Just last November, Alice wrapped up a 16-month world tour dubbed Theatre of Death, an over-the-top theatrical extravaganza propelled by his best band in years. In April, the original Alice Cooper Group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with a bombastic celebratory box set arriving in the summer. Next month will see the release of Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a conceptual sequel that reunites Alice with legendary producer Bob Ezrin and includes contributions from the ACG as well as veteran solo career collaborators. It would surely be permissible for the rock icon to take the summer off and relax.

But no. Not only has he been canvassing Europe and both North and South America since May, he is doing so under the banner of a new tour called No More Mr. Nice Guy. As the concert filler between Theatre of Death and the forthcoming Welcome 2 My Nightmare tour, it could easily have been a minimally produced affair in which Cooper & Co. make a few bucks off an assortment of greatest hits, and few would have complained. But Alice is firing on all cylinders right now, and his current show is no mere stopgap, as Wednesday’s date at the LC Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio proved. Read More

I Saw Him Standing There

Faster than a stolen base, more powerful than a grand slam, it’s…

If there are supermen among us, one of them showed his strengths last night in the ordinary metropolis of Cincinnati. Paul McCartney, age 69, demonstrated extraordinary endurance while plowing through a setlist that mere mortals would sell their souls to have written. While there is no question that the old Beatle is a living legend, Sir Paul surely put to rest any speculation that his talents have waned. He is as captivating as ever, delivering nearly three hours of flawlessly performed classics with as little apparent effort as that which you and I expend sitting on our talentless bums.

So influential is McCartney’s catalog that selections from it successfully comprised the entirety of the pre-show music. As concertgoers wandered the breezy concourse of Great American Ball Park and swarmed numerous swag stands, they were treated to a diverse array of cover tunes, from a Hammond organ instrumental of Eight Days A Week to a reggae version of Blackbird. For half an hour before the show began, a scrolling video collage of McCartney memorabilia was accompanied by an infectious remix mashup featuring Coming Up, Twist and Shout, Goodnight Tonight, With A Little Luck, Temporary Secretary, We Can Work It Out, Back in the USSR, and inevitably, The End. Then, with audience anticipation at its zenith and the video screens displaying a sparkling silhouette of the iconic Hofner violin bass, McCartney and his band opened with Hello Goodbye followed by Junior’s Farm. Read More

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