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February 28, 2013

BLESS ME, ULTIMA - ANGEL OR WITCH?



Young man and his Grandmother (Miriam Colon) Courtesy Photo


BEYONDEXAMINER


BLESS ME, ULTIMA

RARE FILM BASED ON RODOLFO ANAYA’S BOOK

This touching movie is about persistence and about an Old Chicano Woman that can cure the sick. However, the people in the Barrio turn against the old Lady. They think that she is a Witch.

There are many emotional scenes between Antonio and his Grandmother. The relationship is full of Love between the young boy and his Grand Mom. I don’t believe that I have ever seen a young actor (Antonio) that brings such realism to the screen. Oh, and by the way – Miriam Colon (Grandma) as the Woman/Witch, is fantastic. I’ve got to get the Ingredients for myself.

Bless Me, is a tear jerker. The time and place is New Mexico, just after WWll – it’s a time that mixes faith, religion and priests in a baron land. Religion plays a huge role in the years of Antonio, the young boy who is wise beyond his years. Good and Evil is something that he is able to think things out at his young age. Meanwhile – Ultima (curandera)/Witch) cures people with her mystery herbs and magic. 

The compassion in “Bless Me, Ultima” is so magical that you will want to stay to read the Credits at the end. This film is expertly crafted. The Characters are poignant, searing and memorable.

RATING: Four Boxes of Popcorn!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked- 

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and he also produced and hosted a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED))) 



   

February 26, 2013


Seth MacFarlane 





BEYOND EXAMINER


ACADEMY AWARDS -
Outrageous and boring 

By Lee Hartgrave

CAPTAIN KIRK SEZ IT LIKE IT IS: “THIS SHOW IS A DISASTER!" - (OSCARS - 2013)

Well, it all starts off with a puff of smoke as Captain Kirk flys above the stage on wires. Kirk was painfully not funny. Outer Space is not what it used to be. MacFarlane tried to get some amusement going -- but this bit needed some toilet flushing. Felt sorry for them, but please get me some Smelling Salts. 

Sure, Seth MacFarlane as host at the Academy Awards has a few funny moments. Some of them however, are really off the chart. But then, it’s not all MacFarlane’s fault – the Awards show was dragging everyone into the gutter – boobs and all. What is it with the dresses half way down around their waist? I recommend that the next time around – show a little class.

And talk about unnecessary length at the show; was it really necessary to have Michelle Obama, and a small Army - as part of the show? No, it wasn’t! It really had nothing to do with an awards show that is supposed to show off the best of Hollywood. Leave the side show stuff to the politicals. I love M.O. – but not at a potty mouth awards show.

MacFarlane got some eyebrow rising from the audience as he sang about actresses’ breasts. We already have to cover our eyes - it was like a Porno movie. And then there was MacFarlane’s joke about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Not funny! MacFarlane has a charming way about his self – but I think he went a little too far. But then, a lot of jokes were written by someone else.

And what was a star like Kristin Chenoweth lowering herself to interview the Stars that wrap themselves into fake smiles and hugging the cameras. And yes, they did look down at their own twin peaks, to see that they are still there. Or at least the Silicon.

Someone said on the Red Carpet to her escort – “Are you on your Meds tonight?” Of course, we hope it was a joke. Now, here’s the deal. “The Golden Globes” are now way up in the classy side of Hollywood Awards – where they sit at tables with their friends and drink a little with dinner. Now, the Globes are way above the down scale Oscar Awards. 

Here’s a question: - why did Academy move the Orchestra away from the Dolby Theatre (three blocks away?”) Was that a Zen thing? You know, keep them away so that the Stars can concentrate on how clever they are, up on the stage.

This was a tortuous evening of the ‘Best and worst moments of the five hour evening.’ Mostly Worst! Actually, it was embarrassing. Someone who went backstage when they didn’t win said to someone else: “I’ll have another drink – I didn’t win!”

Oddly enough – Barbara Streisand came out of the dark. Her voice still charms everyone. Several people asked – “Did she have some work done?” I couldn’t tell, I wasn’t that close – but she did look great. Can’t deny that she is still at the top of her talents.

They should make a movie about the Awards show. It could be a comedy or a tragedy. In this case – until then – lets just say that Captain Kirk’s evening was indeed a disaster. Wry smiles, and all.

RATING: TWO BOXES OF POPCORN!!
(highest rating is four Boxes)

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook. And he produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))   




February 18, 2013

CLOUD ATLAS IS SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW


A CAST OF THOUSANDS - Courtesy Photo

*BEYOND EXAMINER


CLOUD ATLAS

WHEN YOU GO TO SEE ‘CLOUD ATLAS’ IN A MOVIE THEATER – be prepared for a trip to another world.

Yes, visually the movie is entrancing. What in the Hell is going on in the film is another thing. It’s ‘Star Wars’ on steroids. There are some comic moments and then there is the torture stuff. For that you may want to look away.

This is the strangest film that I have ever seen. There is romance that ends up in death and as flying jets crash into each other. All the Jets look alike, so we never know who is killing who.  On the ground level are men are dressed as business clothes, (like Mad Men in the T.V series) - others are dressed in very bizarre clothing (Space Cadets). The style and structure is beyond belief.

The Actors are all ‘top drawer’. There is no doubt about that. The audience applauded the screen a lot. That doesn’t happen very much in movie Theaters. It’s beyond ‘Avatar’. Personally, I would not like to be living in the clouds. But then, there is the visual extravaganza. No, it’s not ‘Masterpiece Theater' – or ‘Downton Abbey’ (a dirty Abbey) - but close. 

The age groups in the movie are quite interesting. What do they want? They all want to conquer the world. Just like the good old boys in all countries. Greed is what keeps them in the Clouds! Of course, the USA is also on the same track. Oh, and I forgot to mention sparks of “Blade Runners”, that seem to want to screw up everyone's life in the Clouds. 

The biggest problem is the editing. The film is way too long and confusing. But it is fun to watch all the different looks, as the actors play several different roles (prosthetics and makeup). Amazing!

The musical score is enormously tremendous – the visuals actually do send you out to the clouds. There also are tinges of “Wicked” and “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”

The principal cast is totally exciting: They are – Tom Hanks, Doona Bae, Jim Broadbent, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving. All the Actors play many different roles.

It sure is an experience. Some will love it – and some will hate it. But, they won’t forget it.

RATING: Four Boxes of Popcorn!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook Section and he produced and hosted a long-running Arts Segment on KQED PBS)))   






February 15, 2013

SILVER LININGS FILM IS LIKE 'GOLD'



JENNIFER LAWRENCE AND BRADLEY COOPER. Courtesy Photo



SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK MOVIE
*Beyond Examiner





FRESH AND PERKY ROMANTIC COMEDY IS ON SCREENS EVERYWHERE

Whether “Silver Linings” wins any Academy Awards – you still should see it. This movie  will make you smile.  On the other hand, you will be a little nervous. I do know for a fact, that you will not leave your seat. The story is truly quirky, hilarious and very complicated.

The movie takes us on a journey of family troubles. The dysfunctional family has a hard time putting their lives together. Maybe you have witnessed families that are out of synch before. If so, you will love the Pix even more.

Matthew Quick (writer) bases the film story on the novel. Pat (Bradley Cooper) moves back into his parent’s house after spending months in a mental hospital. One moment he is like a loving Angel, and the next moment he goes Zippity Do-Da Crackers. His father (Robert DeNiro) doesn’t know how to calm his Son when his Son joins the family again. De Niro looks like he might make it as supporting actor. Will his son make more violent outbursts? Of course he will – until he meets someone who knows how to quite him down. Bradley Cooper, has this to say: “I’m remaking myself.” – Pat.

Bradley meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and love calms the storm. This smart, slick movie is not about nudity, f**k bombs, or bashing Gays. So you can relax – it’s a fun time, and a very well made film story. The magnificent actors keep this movie truly “SILVER.” Pat and Tiffany (his girl friend) can be bi-polar and still love each other. But don’t mention Hemingway. Pat goes bonkers when he reads the last chapter of the book.

Here is one movie that you will think about over and over again. It's not just Silver -- this is pure GOLD!

Great soundtrack – Great story – Fun to watch – and fabulous music and dancing, along with the bi-polar. What we have here is one of the ‘Best Movies of the Year’.

RATING: FOUR BOXES OF POPCORN!!!! (highest rating) – trademarked-

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and he Produced and Hosted a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))




February 13, 2013

DEAR HARVEY AT NEW CONSERVATORY



HARVEY MILK IN THE EARLY DAYS. COURTESY PHOTO





DEAR HARVEY 



Playwright Patricia Loughrey conducted many interviews. Is this a play- or is it just a documentary? We all know about Harvey Milk and his achievements for the Gay community. After all—Milk did wakeup the enormous gap in the political world.

There have been many plays about Harvey Milk over the years. There was an extremely engrossing play (at Fort Mason) about his murder at City Hall. I’m sure that you all know about Dan White who lost his position at City Hall and how he shot Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

What we see on the NCTC stage is too dry. There is not great impact, although the actors did what they could. There are many tributes to Milk in the City - we all miss him, and it is very easy to find books and plays about Milk and his achievements. And of course there was the successful movie. 

On the stage the actors talk “AT” the patrons in the Theater. This kind of presentation is nothing more than looking at a Chess game (it’s your move). Each person on the stage pops up with something to say – rarely do they talk to each other. I’m sorry to say – this is not a play – it’s a dreary documentary.

I’m sure that Patricia Loughrey has tried to make this an exciting evening of Theatre – but that just didn’t happen. Yes, Harvey had a vision of what Supervisors should do. And he was extremely good at getting what he wanted. However, hearing other people (who are younger) talk about those days just doesn’t have “true heart and passion’.  It’s the excellent cast that carries the story through. They put everything into it. Here they are: Tierra Allen, David Bicha, Brian Patterson, Anna Smith, Courtney Walsh and Aaron Wimmer.

Directed by F. Allen Sawyer. Music by, Thomas Hodges. Playing thru Feb. 24 at The New Conservatory Theatre on Van Ness/Market. 

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and he produced and hosted a long running Arts Segment on PBS KQED))) 




February 11, 2013

THE CRITIC! - NEW MUSICAL THEATRE








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BEYOND EXAMINER

LEE HARTGRAVE TONIGHT

THE CRITIC!

IN THE HANDS OF THE RAVEN

In a way this new musical at the Alcove Theatre is part staged intrigue. The other part of the show is some magnificent singing. For the musical part, the actors did not need to look at the lyrics – they pretty much knew the songs.

Hey, the show is in the works as they say. And I don’t doubt that when everything is nice and tight we will see a new musical gem on its way.

This is a new unique experience for the shows producer. For many years 42nd Street Moon used scripts on the stage. They have now passed that time over. And I have no doubts that “Raven” will also be throwing the scripts away, as the cast memorizes every juicy word.

The Book Music and Lyrics are by Peter Alexander. He has gone through dozens of drafts and hours of lost sleep. Alexander also has taken on the chin critical observations from his dear colleagues.

It was over 10 years ago when he discovered ravens in Alaska. Alexander came across a t-shirt that read – In the Hands of the Raven. He also discovered a handmade silver pendant, which blends the heads of both a raven and an eagle. That is what you will see on the stage. Ravens will be mingling with live people on the stage. The costuming will bring out the true force of mythology to keep the ravens from stealing the sunlight.

HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS. I did not fall asleep. It kept me very intrigued. The cast does a marvelous job with voice and presence. Here they are: Jeremiah Wallace, Russell Johnson, Shelley Lynn Johnson, Chris Janssen, Rana Weber, Kathryn Sullivan, Juanita Harris, Melissa O’Keefe, Florinda Larkin and Will Giammona.

THE DIRECTORS: Jonathan F. Rosen – Grace Renaud, Musical Director - Rover Spotts, Tech Director.

SMALL ROOM – GREAT PLEASURES! Lets keep their hopes up.

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and he has produced and hosted a long-running Arts Segment on KQED PBS))) 

ALCOVE THEATRE (Corner of Mason & Geary) IS ON A ROLL WITH BRAND NEW MUSICALS. AS THE SAY: IT'S A NEW MONTH! NEW NAME! NEW SHOWS!  



February 6, 2013

THE MOTHER F**KER WITH THE HAT



THE MOTHER F**KER WITH THE HAT

This is foul-mouthed comedy that runs faster than a high speed Train. Oh – and the word SPEED also gives (Veronica) a good dose of whatever she is sniffing or doing something to her arm. It’s called a needle. Jackie comes back to see Veronica. He’s been in Jail, and he is trying to get his Sh#t together. Not easy for Jackie. His temper is enormous. He is trying to get his life together. He has a sponsor (Ralph). Jackie goes from hot to fierce, all in a comedic way. My belly still hurts from all the laughs.

Jackie is suspicious of his Girlfriend Veronica. Jackie is uneasy, as he looks around the room. He asks Veronica – what is that Hat doing there. She tries to tell Jackie that he must of left it there. He denies that he left a Hat in their small one room Apartment. Yes, Jackie is ready to punch some one – and it even could be his girlfriend. Ouch! But wait – she’s about to do some more drugs. Add that to Jackie’s Temper and you’ve got a bomb just waiting to explode. Or at least a gun that Jackie carries. 

The strongly written dialogue is written by Stephen Adly Guigis. The Actors deliver hilarious quips and delightful laugh-a-minute gags with underlying darkness.

The play is an explosion of passion with many surprising moments. Everyone on the stage begins to examine themselves and Jackie.

This is a sexy, seriously funny play. Finally – a fresh romantic comedy that is irresistible! And who could put together a better show, than Artistic Director - Bill English and Producing Director - Susi Damilano? That’s right! – No one! 

THE ACTORS OF THE YEAR: Rudy Guerrero (Hilarious!’ Margo Hall (Passion), Carl Lumbly (Amazing), Gabriel Marin (knocked me out!) and Isabelle Ortega (A Triumph!) - (All are Members of Actors’ Equity Association). Take a Friend – See it twice. It’s sure worth it! Hey nobody stays happy for long – but this show is Exhilarating!

NOW PLAYING AT THE SAN FRANCISCO PLAYHOUSE

(((Rating Four Glasses of Champagne!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-    




February 4, 2013

THE MOTHER F**KER WITH THE HAT

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THE MOTHER F**KER WITH THE HAT

This is foul-mouthed comedy that runs faster than a high speed Train. Oh – and the word SPEED also gives (Veronica) a good dose of whatever she is sniffing or doing something to her arm. It’s called a needle. Jackie comes back to see Veronica. He’s been in Jail, and he is trying to get his Sh#t together. Not easy for Jackie. His temper is enormous. He is trying to get his life together. He has a sponsor (Ralph). Jackie goes from hot to fierce, all in a comedic way. My belly still hurts from all the laughs.

Jackie is suspicious of his Girlfriend Veronica. Jackie is uneasy, as he looks around the room. He asks Veronica – what is that Hat doing there. She tries to tell Jackie that he must of left it there. He denies that he left a Hat in their small one room Apartment. Yes, Jackie is ready to punch some one – and it even could be his girlfriend. Ouch! But wait – she’s about to do some more drugs. Add that to Jackie’s Temper and you’ve got a bomb just waiting to explode. Or at least a gun that Jackie carries. 

The strongly written dialogue is written by Stephen Adly Guigis. The Actors deliver hilarious quips and delightful laugh-a-minute gags with underlying darkness.

The play is an explosion of passion with many surprising moments. Everyone on the stage begins to examine themselves and Jackie.

This is a sexy, seriously funny play. Finally – a fresh romantic comedy that is irresistible! And who could put together a better show, than Artistic Director - Bill English and Producing Director - Susi Damilano? That’s right! – No one! 

THE ACTORS OF THE YEAR: Rudy Guerrero (Hilarious!’ Margo Hall (Passion), Carl Lumbly (Amazing), Gabriel Marin (knocked me out!) and Isabelle Ortega (A Triumph!) - (All are Members of Actors’ Equity Association). Take a Friend – See it twice. It’s sure worth it! Hey nobody stays happy for long – but this show is Exhilarating!

NOW PLAYING AT THE SAN FRANCISCO PLAYHOUSE

(((Rating Four Glasses of Champagne!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-    




February 2, 2013

TWISTED AND TOUCHING 'Se Llama Cristina'

Sarah Nina Hayon and Sean San Jose. Photo: Jennifer Reiley







SE LLAMA CRISTINA –
 A NEW PLAY
By Octavio Solis

There is a man and a woman in a dingy looking one room Apartment. They both are worn out, sprawled across from each other on a cheap looking table. They do eventually wake up with an empty memory and they have drug paraphernalia in their arms. They have that wondering look. They are thinking – how did they get here, and who are they?

Through a series of dramatic flashbacks we learn that the Woman fled an abusive husband with the man who she met through a wrong number. She marries her rescuer and becomes pregnant. The husband catches up with them twice and claims the baby as his. They ponder about maybe moving to Daly City, the ultimate degradation. Happy Ending? Confused audience. 

This is a story that brings up memories to a past. There is a daughter that is in a crib. But, here is a puzzle. Is there really a baby in that Crib – or is it a hallucination? Don’t ask me. I’m as confused as they are. O.K. here is another puzzle – it’s hard to figure out. But wait – all of a sudden two more people storm through the door. A man breaks down the cheap door and claims that the still unseen baby is his baby. The turbulence gets more demanding.

Well, everyone in the story is angry. One minute they seem to love each other. And a few minutes later the room turns into a dangerous boiler room.

Oh, and by the way. The only thing you can see in the Crib is a chicken leg. Vespa (the Woman) doesn’t know what the hell is going on. She says: “We’re still trippin!” Well, hell yes you are. Vespa goes on to say: “My senses tell me that something crazy happened in the middle of our dope.” She says: “I don’t fucken know a damn thing!” Wow – talk about not knowing about a ‘fucken’ damn thing! Well, I’m with her here. I don’t know a 'f#c*en' thing either. Hey – I’m pulling out hair here. Maybe we should just be patient.

You may wonder – do they drink in this play? Of course they do. Drain that down your throat with the needles – and you’re on a high wire evening baby.

Her man Mike says to Vespa: “Shit, babe, maybe we are ghosts and the kid’s the only real one here.” I’ll check and see.

I don’t know myself – but so far – I don’t think I saw a real baby. Maybe I did – and got confused. However I do know this. This is the most entertaining, frightening play that I have come across. Solis is truly a great writer. Every word bounces off the page. What we get here is “Authentic Atmosphere!” It sure is powerful and absorbing. 

The miraculous Actors are: Man (Mike, Migel, Miki) ‘Sean San Jose’, Woman (in her early 30’s) Sarah Nina Hayon, Abel (Rod Knapp), Girl: (Karina Gutierrez). The Actors are unpredictable, and masterful. They are the most indelible images I’ve seen on a stage.

DIRECTED BY LORETTA GRECO.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Reiley

NOW PLAYING AT THE MAGIC THEATRE

(((Rating: Four Glasses of Champagne!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-