You might think Zach Braff is a destitute hobo, the way he was begging for money on the internet last week. But no! Zach Braff is in fact a very famous and wealthy actor, screenwriter, producer and director, and Zach Braff is also the donor who just pitched in enough money to save the Rio Theater in Monte Rio.
That's right: the star of Scrubs and Garden State put the Rio's fundraising efforts over their $60,000 goal just today—meaning that the cutest little Quonset hut theater in Sonoma County will be able to buy a digital projector, thereby appeasing the big-movie-studio ogres and staying open to bring life and love and entertainment to the deep reaches of West County.
On Facebook, Braff testified about the Rio Theater that he "Can't wait to see a movie there!"
Congratulations to the Rio Theater, which opened in 1950 and has become a favorite of ours here at the Bohemian. The quaint one-screen is a true small-town gem, refreshingly removed from the moviegoing experience at huge megaplexes. With its hand-picked music, personalized slides, and fabric from Christo's fence hanging from the ceiling, it's a beloved staple of the West County community. (For the full story of the Rio Theater, see Stephen Gross' history of the place, here.)
May the Rio last another 63 years or more—and you can bet that sometime soon, they'll be showing Braff's upcoming film, Wish I Was Here.
I know this is now old news, but the movie really was terrible. I like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I like fantasy fiction. This movie took the shortest book of the series, chopped it into three movies, and added too many special effects to keep track of. It was too much for the editors, apparently, because there were unfinished portions in battle scenes. Repeated motions of computer-generated creatures were obvious and at times a sword would appear to go directly through an enemy with no reaction, like someone forgot to animate that part.
To boot, the movie was almost three hours long and there were several unnecessary musical numbers. Musical numbers! In a Tolkein film! Dwarves were cleaning up a hobbit’s house by tossing around the plates and singing. What is this, Sword in the Stone? And the physics of the battle scenes were too outrageous to ignore. A 50-pound log used as a shield repeatedly stops a giant, sharp sword swung by a giant beast? It was annoyingly impossible.
So the movie sucked, and so did one of the people in our row, we suspect. After discussing the possible sexual behavior that could be accomplished in the theater, a couple two seats over from us pulled the ol’ jacket-over-the-lap routine. I’m no prude, but this wasn’t in the back row or anything. It was loud and the film’s volume was too quiet, so everyone could hear the “coming attractions” playing smack dab in the middle of the theater. It was so quiet that when the daring duo was finished I could hear the guy next to me biting his nails—or, nubs of nails, rather—loudly and repeatedly starting and stopping, making it impossible to tune out. The guy in front of us dropped a large bottle—it sounded like a wine bottle—several times. Dude, put it in a padded bag or just leave it on the ground.
We finished the movie, astonished at our accomplishment. Both of us, it turns out, had wanted secretly for the other to lean in and whisper, “Let’s go get fro-yo.” But whether pride or just bad timing, neither caught on. By the time the marathon of unnecessary soliloquies was over, fro-yo was closed and we were annoyed. Moral of the story? Listen to your ticket booth attendant. She knows her stuff.
'Oz the Great and Powerful' has built quite the big hype. For the past month, movie trailers have been playing nonstop on Hulu, and ads for the movie have been everywhere. The movie is a prequel of sorts to The Wizard of Oz—helllooooo, Wicked—and it gives Oz fans the chance to see the imagined back story of their favorite characters, before Dorothy’s visit to the yellow brick road.
The film stars James Franco as the heartbreaker circus magician with a hidden agenda, and follows his journey into the Land of Oz. In this movie's telling, prophecy has arrived to the citizens of Oz that a great wizard bearing their land's name will come restore peace. This wizard is meant to live a luxurious life in the great emerald palace—and of course, this sounds like a dream come true for a slightly selfish magician with nothing to lose.
Mila Kunis steals the show in the role of Theodora, who later becomes the wicked witch of the west. Kunis starts off as a good witch, the sister to the evil witch Evanora, who loves to leave large paths of destruction. Theodora is a kind woman who wants nothing more than to restore peace to the land. She's the first person Oz meets on his journey, and falls for him instantly.
When push comes to shove, will Oz be the Wizard this magical land needs? What made the good witch go bad? Not that I can give away those sorts of spoilers, but I can answer one question: does this film live up to the buzz? Yes.
One other thing: the 3D experience is recommended for Oz fanatics who want to get up close with the colorful scenery.
I love documentaries almost as much as I love free stuff, almost as much as I love getting two things I love at once. When all three come together, it's a miracle I don't explode. The Emmy-winning PBS Independent Lens series is showing every second Tuesday of the month through June 2013 at Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol. Free movie night is awesome enough, but also: what else are you gonna do on a Tuesday? The series begins tonight at 7pm with Half the Sky: Turning Opression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. For more, see Rialto Cinemas.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2012 — Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
A landmark series based on the book by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky follows celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, and Olivia Wilde as they travel through six countries to meet inspiring, courageous individuals confronting oppression and developing real, meaningful solutions for women and girls through health care, education, and economic empowerment.
OCTOBER 9, 2012 — As Goes Janesville by Brad Lichtenstein
America’s middle class is dwindling, and the debate over how to save it is nowhere fiercer than in the normally tranquil state of Wisconsin. In Janesville, as jobs disappear and families are stretched to their breaking point, citizens and politicians are embroiled in an ideological battle about how to turn things around.
NOVEMBER 13, 2012 — Solar Mamas
Rafea — a 30-year-old Jordanian mother of four — is traveling outside of her village for the first time to attend a solar engineering program at India’s Barefoot College. She will join other poor women from Guatemala, Kenya, Burkina Faso, and Colombia in learning concrete skills to create change in their communities.
JANUARY 8, 2013 — Soul Food Junkies
Soul food lies at the heart of African American cultural identity. The black community’s love affair with soul food is deep-rooted, complex, and in some cases, deadly. Soul Food Junkies puts this culinary tradition under the microscope to examine both its significance and its consequences.
FEBRUARY 12, 2013 — The Powerbroker
Whitney M. Young, Jr. was one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders of the civil rights era. As executive director of the National Urban League, he took the struggle for equality directly to the powerful white elite, gaining allies in business and government, including three presidents.
MARCH 12, 2013 — Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines
Trace the fascinating evolution and legacy of the original comic book Amazon, Wonder Woman. From her creation in the 1940s to the superhero blockbusters of today, pop culture’s representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation.
APRIL 9, 2013 — The Island President
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed is confronting a problem greater than any world leader has ever faced — the literal survival of his country and everyone in it. His is the most low-lying country inthe world; a minor rise in sea level would literally erase it from the map.
MAY 14, 2013 — The Revolutionary Optimists
Amlan Ganguly teaches the children of Kolkata’s slums to become leaders in improving their own community’s health and sanitation. Using street theater, dance, and data as their weapons, the children have cut malaria and diarrhea rates in half, increased polio vaccination rates, and turned garbage dumps into playing fields.
JUNE 11, 2013 — Love Free or Die
Love Free or Die is about a man who has two defining passions that the world cannot reconcile: his love for God and for his partner Mark. The film is about church and state, love and marriage, faith and identity — and openly gay Bishop Eugene Robinson’s struggle to dispel the notion that God’s love has limits.
Allen's looking for actors both union (probably not you) and non-SAG (this means you!). But take note—cutoff-wearin' schlubs need not apply. Allen's looking for "clean cut, sophisticated, conservative looking Marin types 30s-40s . . . Must have upscale attire options, suits, dresses etc."
Why he doesn't just go to Corte Madera and ask customers at Anthropologie is beyond me, but anyway, the job actually pays eight bucks an hour. You'll need to be available all day on Monday, August 6. Are you in? Read up, log in, and sign up here.
Tonight marks the debut of the new audio magazine, Arts I.D., that the Bohemian is producing in conjunction with NPR affilliate KRCB 91.1-FM and the Arts Council Sonoma County.
We've been working on this since October and I'm quite excited about its debut.
Arts I.D. is a new monthly audio magazine devoted to the North Bay arts in all genres. The idea is to smash 'This American Life' together with 'Radio Lab' in order to birth something new and unique to the North Bay; the segments are both about the arts and pieces of art in and of themselves (ideally). I co-host the program with Boho 'Media' columnist Daedalus Howell. Longtime Boho contributor and current stage reviewer David Templeton is also a major contributor and has quite a delicious slice-of-life piece drawn from his own tortured adolescence in tonight's show.
Each "issue" -- I don't know what to call the program editions in language outside of print -- has a theme. The debut issue reflects the program's name and is therefore about identity. July's issue is themed 'Lost & Found.'
I'd be honored if you could give a listen. The program airs at 7pm tonight on 91.1-FM or streams online live at www.krcb.org. Henceforward it will be aired on the last Wednesday of each month at 7pm. The majority of the individual segments—without Daedalus' and my oh-so-witty interstitial commentary—are available now on www.artsid.org.
We are avid for new contributors, ideas and voices for the program, so please don't hesitate to make suggestions or decide you want to a part of this exciting new project. Please tell your friends, colleagues and clients about it. We strongly feel that this is an excellent new way for the Bohemian to continue our quest to better serve the North Bay.
Peter Schneider, left, with Roy Disney. When did you start at Disney?
I started in 1985. I got there just after The Black Cauldron was released.And trounced at the box office by The Care Bears Movie.
Yeah, that’s correct!What was the atmosphere when you came on? Was it a depressed environment?
When Roy Disney engineered the takeover, and brought in Frank Wells and Michael Eisner, there was no real support for animation. And there was a feeling it was going to be closed down. Without Roy, it would have been—Michael Eisner disagrees with me every time we talk about it, but never mind that. There was a sense that it was not important. All the animators had been moved off the lot, out of the very fancy building it had been in for years, and into warehouses in Glendale. So everybody was both depressed, and free, and ready to prove themselves but didn’t know how. We have a great scene in the movie where they feel it’s the end of Disney animation, and they re-stage Apocalypse Now. We have it on film; somebody taped it. And it’s one of those great moments, where you realize these are nutty, wonderful, fabulous people. And I think they truly felt their job was over.So there’s a little bit of we’ve-got-nothing-left-to-lose, and a little bit of let’s-be-as-rabidly-creative-as-we-can.
I think that’s correct. And I think that’s why it all happened. For me, it all happened because this extraordinary group of people got together and said, ‘Let’s do it.’Historically, those who work on Disney movies don’t get credited. With this documentary, did you want to put a human face on the animators?
I wanted to put a human face not just on the animators, but on the crew of people that worked at Disney—people like Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy Disney, Michael Eisner. And the artists. It was an extraordinary period of time, as you well know. The Disney company is extraordinary as it is. But an extraordinary group of people came together, and did something quite wonderful. Our goal was to capture that in a way that’s never been captured before.You certainly got a lot of exclusive footage. No one else would have been able to make this film.
I think you’re right. I mean, we had a really good time doing it.Of the stable of animators from that era, one of them’s John Lasseter. What do we get from him in this film?
John, of course, was there at the beginning of the process. And then he left. And then he came back when we did Toy Story together. What’s extraordinary is there’s a home movie in this movie, of Randy Cartwright, shot walking around the studio with a Super 8 camera. And the cameraman happened to be John Lasseter. So we have John Lasseter throughout the whole thing, in some sense.Cameras were not allowed on the lot, I presume?
That’s right. It was all forbidden footage.After putting it in your film, was Disney angry with the footage?
No, no. Disney was extremely supportive of what we did. I mean, I would love to say that gosh, no they weren’t supportive. But they really, really were champions with us. They gave us a lot of resources and access. I would say that Jeffrey, Michael and Roy—the three principal players—were all extremely generous with their time. And I’m so glad Roy saw it before he died. We got the last interviews with Roy. That’s the exciting part for me; that we got the support, and that everybody felt we’d portrayed the situation honestly and forthrightly. I think they were all extremely pleased by it.It seems like this documentary could have been a lot nastier. What made you keep it civil?
Well, for me, being there, there were no good guys or bad guys. There were no villains in our piece. This really was an opportunity to find the joy—and the frustration, and human foibles in all of us—in the process of what we did. I would say there was no reason to be nasty. No one set out to be a villain. There are no villains. You know what I mean?From that era, some of the greatest songs are from The Little Mermaid. Tell me a little about Howard Ashman.
I think Howard was one of the central and key figures that transformed this period of time. He was… as Roy Disney says, ‘I don’t want to compare him to Walt Disney,’ but he certainly had that same feeling, When I examine Roy’s statement, what Walt was was an extraordinary storyteller. His ability to communicate an idea, to inspire people, to make their ideas better. Howard had all those characters of Walt’s. He wasn’t just a lyricist, he wasn’t just a song guy. He was a storyteller, fundamentally. Howard prematurely died from AIDS, as we were finishing Beauty and the Beast, and I think it’s a huge loss. Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid are some of the best works that he ever did in his life.With Howard Ashman gone, with other key people like John Lasseter and Tim Burton gone, do you think the Disney company can ever replicate the spirit or the success of this second golden era?
Certainly there are great movies coming out. But I think there was a specialness about animation back then that was unique, and caught the audience by surprise. Animated movies, as you said, were relegated to the Care Bears, way back then. Here we had a group of people coming together who changed the face of animation. And now animation’s just a darn good part of the movie business.It’s a huge part of the movie business.
A huge part! It’s no longer special. It doesn’t mean it’s bad—in fact, it’s pretty damn good. But it no longer is that special, oh-my-God. Of course you go to animated movies. I can’t wait to see Shrek Forever After and Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon and Dumbo 7 or whatever else is coming out this summer.When you say it’s no longer special, is that at all due to the influence of computer technology?
No. Because what we want in moviemaking, whether it’s live action or animation, we want to be taken someplace we’ve never been to before. To worlds we never imagined. To stories that are beyond our emotional scope. No one thought animation could do that. And then along came Howard Ashman, John Lasseter, etc., and they took you to places you’d never been before, and you felt it was real. Now, with the advance of computers, and with people understanding the value of it—Avatar, Alice, etc.—the line between what’s animated and live action are blurred. And animation no longer is one company with one group of artists. It’s an industry-wide phenomenon, where people are doing darn good work, but which makes it less special.Do you ever finding yourself tracing the current animation explosion to The Black Caulron, and The Care Bears, and the animators getting kicked out of their building? If that hadn’t happened, maybe The Little Mermaid wouldn’t have been made, and maybe animation wouldn’t be as huge an industry as it is today?
I have to think you’re right. And I think that’s what the documentary tries to explore, which is all these factors that serendipitously came together—there was no design, or plan—it just was over a period of time, these things came together.When did you leave Disney?
I left in 2001. I’d been there for 18 years, it was time to do something different, and the company was changing. But I left on great terms. My goal was to leave and have lunch and dinner with Michael, and to continue to fly on Roy’s plane. And I’ve done all those things. So it’s been great.Peter Schneider appears for a Q&A after the 4:30 and 7pm screenings of Waking Sleeping Beauty on Thursday, May 20, at Rialto Cinemas Lakeside. 551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa. 707.525.4840.
This week's cover story is on the amazing restoration of Napa's Uptown Theatre, and it's truly awe-inspiring to see—when people walk inside, they won't believe their eyes. Pictures can't possibly do it justice. Let's try anyway!
The view from the back row:
Love that seat detail:
Behold, the ceiling mural! When originally completed in 1937, the outlines of the figures were raised just 1/16 of an inch. 72 years later, the restoration crew noticed those raised lines beneath the latex paint and eventually re-created this:
I couldn't help but take a photo of the underbelly of the theater, beneath the orchestra floor. Such a stark contrast to the beauty above:
Painting the lobby:
View from the old projection booth:
And one more glimpse of that ceiling. Amazing!
The Uptown's doors swing wide on May 14 with a grand opening party featuring Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Read the full story of the restoration and reopening in this week's Bohemian, and check out the full lineup of acts over at the Uptown's official site.
The Noir City Film Festival opened this past weekend at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, and how else to kick things off but by showing a short compilation on the historic theater's screen of classic noir scenes edited by 20-year-old SRJC student Serena Bramble from Santa Rosa?
Yes, that's Massive Attack's "Angel," juxtaposing nicely with scenes of murder, double-crossings and larceny. The crowd at the Castro loved it. Big ups, Serena!
Noir City is an incredible festival, and I'm not just saying that because last year's theme was newspapers (read about it here). It's because it does what any great film festival should do: inspire. After renting nothing but pre-1965 movies for a solid ten years, I still wasn't sold on film noir. One-note and blasé, I surmised. The festival changed my stance, and especially the passionate, smart and wry introductions to each movie by festival founder Eddie Muller. Consider that all proceeds go directly to the restoration of lost films, it's truly a labor of love for the guy. And the love is contagious.
I went to last Sunday's Marilyn Monroe double feature for two Monroe pictures I'd never seen: Niagara and The Asphalt Jungle. Coincidentally, I'd re-watched the ho-hum How to Marry a Millionaire just last week, and the difference was immeasurable. Monroe's performance in Niagara is everything her legend is built on—sex, guile and manipulation—aided by the thundering, ominous falls themselves and a compelling script cobbled from the Double Indemnity workbook. Throw in some Hitchcockian camera angles at the top of a bell tower and a swell performance by Joseph Cotten, and you've got a film that blows away Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by miles.
There's still time to catch some true gems the festival has to offer this year. Might I recommend Pickup on South Street, an evocative Samuel Fuller vehicle for the usually typecast Thelma Ritter to shine in an outstanding role. Other well-knowns include A Place in the Sun and Odds Against Tomorrow, with a slew of other treasures never released on DVD. Do yourself a favor and check the festival schedule. Pick a double feature, drive down to one of the country's most beautiful theaters, and experience the thrill of film noir with a crowd of smart, savvy film fans. You won't regret it.