The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Jun2Filed under: Downtown Arts Center, SummerFest, Theater; Tagged as: Charlie Sheen, Downtown Arts Center, Ellie Clark, Henry Layton, James Bond, Jesse Hungerford, Ke$ha, Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory, Nick Vannoy, Osama bin Laden, Oscar Wilde, Spencer Christensen, The Importance of Being Earnest, YouTube
It started with a fight.
Last summer at the Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory, fight director Henry Layton choreographed a fight to a scene from the Oscar Wilde classic The Importance of Being Earnest.
“It was really exciting to everyone involved, and they had some idea how they could mount that show and turn it into something else,” writer and director Spencer Christensen says
It turned into something else entirely. Exhausting action is at the center of The Impersonation of Being Ernest. But it is also a big pop culture commentary combining Wilde’s words with James Bond’s sensibility spiked with lyrics from Ke$ha, videos from YouTube, references to Osama bin Laden and Charlie Sheen, all set in Orange County, Calif. – identified here, of course, as The OC.
“We played on every sort of spoof that we can,” Christensen says. “We’re spoofing a lot. And because The Importance of Being Earnest is sort of a social commentary on Wilde’s time, that’s what we’re doing. So we’ve got YouTube videos here left and right. … It’s very up-to-date. And then we’ve got sword fighting in the show and dancing. I mean you watch these people do this for 83 minutes and wonder, ‘How do they survive it?’”
The show, which plays through Sunday at the Downtown Arts Center, is in part a recruitment tool for the conservatory, now renamed Kentucky Conservatory Theatre.
“Trish wanted to mount a show to really showcase the people who have worked in KCT, who have taught in it, who were in the program and have left it and are still working, and that was the idea,” Christensen said, referring to KCT director Trish Clark.
They include Christensen, who actually helped create an early education arm of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, the event that preceded KCT’s SummerFest as the July theater festival in The Arboretum. (He will also play Victor Frankenstein in SummerFest’s production of Frankenstein.)
Other distinguished faculty and alumni include Ellie Clark, who starred in last summer’s production of Pride and Prejudice and is alumna of the apprentice program at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Nick Vannoy, who played Collins in last summer’s production of Rent and will play the creature in this summer’s Frankenstein before heading off to the ATL apprentice program. Ernest also stars Layton, the event’s longtime fight coordinator, and Jesse Hungerford, who played Romeo in SummerFest’s age-appropriate production of Romeo & Juliet in 2007.
“It’s done to showcase whatever their talent is, whatever their strength is,” Christensen says. “As I started to know who was in this show, I started to write for them.”
If the show sets a goal of creating physical comedy, rehearsals demonstrate what a hard bar that is to reacg. Before the final dress rehearsal, Christensen and his actors run and rerun scenes trying to nail the timing on lines and actions for maximum comic effect.
“For a long time, I thought about writing sketch comedy, et cetera,” Christensen says, “so there’s a lot of that in here.
“When you create something like this, there are times that you ask, ‘Am I pushing it too far?’ But you have to trust your gut, and I feel like people will want to come because there’s so much in there.”
Played by Timothy Olyphant, the sexy lawman is never too far from danger, always has to contend with the beautiful women who cross his path and has a boss who doesn’t care much for his methods.
When that boss, Chief Deputy Art Mullen, played by Nick Searcy, dressed down Raylan at the beginning of last week’s episode, it was a reminder of many of M’s scoldings of 007, albeit with a different accent.
And like Bond, Raylan has had to contend with some formidable villains — although none has been seen stroking a fluffy white kitty.
This season, Raylan has stared down Mags Bennett (Actors Theatre of Louisville veteran and Secretariat co-star Margo Martindale) and her boys, whose enterprises start with harvesting marijuana and get more serious.
Mags ended this season’s opening episode with one of the creepiest scenes in recent memory: She and her son Dickey (Jeremy Davies) got together with this sad sack they’d been tormenting the whole episode, under the pretense of a peace offering. In fact, he drank their moonshine from a tainted glass, and as the poor soul quickly and painfully expired, Mags softly told him it was his comeuppance for going against the family but that she would take care of his 14-year-old daughter and that he would see his late wife soon. That probably didn’t make his final moment any better.
A few episodes later, frustrated with son Coover’s (Brad William Henke) latest bone-headed move, Mags took a hammer and pulverized his hand.
Martindale should get an Emmy nomination for the scene in which she gave a fiery denunciation of mountaintop-removal mining at a meeting held by a relatively minor-league bad gal this season, Carol (Rebecca Creskoff), the coal company spokesperson — a femme fatale who couldn’t get Raylan into bed. Then, in the very next episode, Mags sold out her community to the mining company when she got her price for her mountain property, a move that grossed out even the sleazy coal company rep.
Justified has had an interesting dance with mountaintop removal, initially putting the bad guys, the Bennetts, against it and the law in defense of the coal companies, although last week’s episode seemed to more firmly cast the practice as an evil.
Mags is now at the center of a revenge plot. Raylan shot and killed Coover, who had kidnapped the aforementioned 14-year-old after she discovered that the Bennetts killed her father.
As we steer into the final few episodes of this season, it looks as if we are building toward a finale that could rival last season’s final bow, which was energized by M.C. Gainey’s turn as nasty Bo Crowder, a … well, a word we can’t say in a family newspaper.
But we can say he was more than willing to sell out anyone, including his son, Boyd, for his own interests.
And Boyd has been the omnipresent wild card in Justified since we met him yelling “Fire in the hole!” as he aimed a rocket launcher at a Lexington church.
The lines started coming to mind:
“The question is not, ‘what are we going to do,’ it’s, ‘what aren’t we going to do?’”
“What’s happening, hot stuff?”
” . . . demented and sad, but social . . . ”
“It’s called a sense of humor – you should get one – they’re nice.”
“Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
It seems like life has gone pretty fast for those of us whose high school years coincided with John Hughes’ teen movies. When news of his death of a heart attack broke this afternoon, it almost felt like someone I graduated with died, even though Hughes was 18 years older than me and most of my friends in the Class of ’86.
But somehow, despite being a full-generation older, he got us.
Now, you have to understand the context of the time. In the 1980s, film was not catering to us. We mostly saw movies about adults, and if there were kids in them, they were children of the adults. Same goes for TV. And while it was the dawn of MTV, the music channel was still showing videos, not series. There was no outlet giving us a steady diet of our peers.
Then, along came this guy, this voice, who in a quick burst of movies put our very familiar world on the big screen. OK, like anything from Hollywood, it was a somewhat glorified version of our world. I had goofy-cool friends. I never had anyone quite as fabulous as John Cryer’s Duckie in Pretty in Pink. We never got away with quite as much as the Saturday detention dwellers in The Breakfast Club, and definitely, none of us got away with anything on the scale of Ferris Bueller. Matthew Broderick’s quintessential role was as much a fantasy as James Bond.
That was one of the things that made Huges’ teen auteur era — he did write, direct and/or produce many other films, including the Home Alones and Vacations — so strong: it was a variety of films. He didn’t make the same movie five, seven times. There were fairly serious films like Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. There were the crazy adventures like Weird Science and Sixteen Candles, and those total fantasies like Ferris Bueller.
But there were also common traits, like the central characters were always the average-to-outcast kids, ones who still had big dreams before graduation. There was a mass identity there because, hey, every class only has one homecoming queen, and she probably didn’t feel as secure as she looked. In Hughes’ films, the popular and shunned peeled away their social layers to find common ground. Even ultra-cool Ferris wasn’t the captain of the football team and ended up on the same level with goofy Cameron by the end of the movie.
It’s probably because of the precedent Hughes set that queen-of-the-prom shoo-ins like Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan were cast as outcasts in their teen movies.
Despite cinematic glorification, these were kids we knew, feelings we shared, and in many cases we thought they were all our own until we saw them in John Hughes movies.
Hughes’ parents actually live here in Lexington. If I could tell them anything, it would sound a lot more like a high school friend than a filmmaker appreciation.
John said things that needed to be said, that we needed to hear. He made us take a fresh look at ourselves and others, and he made us feel like we were not alone.
How appropriate The Breakfast Club, arguably his masterpiece, featured a Simple Minds song called Don’t You Forget About Me. Me and my fellow children of the ’80s — and future generations — will never forget John.
So, this was my most recent experience as a Star Trek consumer: Earlier this year, at the Presbyterian Women’s book sale at our church, I picked up a trio of old Star Trek episodes on VHS for something like 50 cents a pop.
When I got home and my 12-year-old daughter saw the tapes, she pointed at me and screamed, “Neeeeerrrrrd!”
And she hadn’t even seen the Saturday Night Live episode where William Shatner asks a Treekker played by Jon Lovitz, “Have you ever kissed a girl?” and tells the whole crowd at a Star Trek convention to, “Get a life.” (The video is above, and the Shatner portion starts at the 2:30 point.) Yes, Star Trek‘s reputation as the benchmark show for sci-fi obsessed geeks still residing in their parents’ basements has trickled all the way down to today’s tweens, which makes the impending opening of the Star Trek movie this week really interesting.
Yes, there is a Star Trek movie opening this week, the latest in the reboot trend that has touched franchises such as James Bond and Batman. Normally, it would be silly to say, “yes, there is a Star Trek movie opening this week,” for the latest installment of a franchise this iconic. And yes, the movie is getting a lot of ballyhoo.
But then again, some of the ads for Star Trek, like ones rolling during the NBA Playoffs, have almost been unrecognizable as Star Trek. There are lots of hot young actors, hard charging music and things blowing up real good. One of the headlines on the current issue of Entertainment Weekly touts Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana as “Sexy new Kirk & Uhura.” Sexy? Star Trek?
Well, that is one of the delicate lines this reboot is dancing, as do other reboots: recrafting the old show for a new audience with new sensibilities while leaving enough of the franchise in to make it recognizable and satisfying to the established fans.
How well director J.J. Abrams pulls that off will be the key to whether the Star Trek brand, now 43 years old, continues to live long and prosper.
The appeal of The Bird and the Bee can be seen in two tracks on the duo’s deliciously witty and retro new album, Ray Guns are not Just the Future.
Witch could be retitled — with apologies to Eddie Harris — Bond Theme (In Search of a Bond movie). We’re talking early 1960s, Sean Connery Bond here, with Greg Kurstin building a steady beat and dramatic, global score to back Inara George’s slightly breathy, seductive vocal. You can see the title sequence in your mind.
George is just as fetching in Diamond Dave, but the mood is so different in the most unusual tribute to David Lee Roth you’ll ever hear. It bounces along with this infectious chorus and verses that build the Gigilo up with a winking adoration.
George and Kurstin are building up a fantasy world here, with sounds that take you back to the days of black and white commercials and flying saucers, but with a keen awareness of the times in which we live. And they always keep it interesting, creating a wide range of experiences in a few minutes, from the dancehall beat of What’s in the Middle to the superficial Asian vibe of Love Letter to Japan. George and Kurstin are like a subtle B-52′s, and just as fun.
The results are in for our James Bond poll we conducted here at le blog. Here’s the big qualifier: This was not a scientific poll, just people who responded to a series of seven questions about the world’s favorite British superspy. Undoubtedly, Goldfinger was the big winner, with readers picking it for best picture, best villain in Auric Goldfinger and best gadget in the Aston Martin DB5 with many features that were not standard, to say the least. Technically, since it was a Sean Connery Bond, and the great Scot was our readers’ favorite Bond, you could also give the 1964 classic that category. Goldfinger was also a strong contender in best song and henchman.
But there was support for Bond’s new incarnation as well, with Daniel Craig coming in second in the best Bond race, and Casino Royale almost edging out Goldfinger for best picture — it actually did pull ahead for a while on Tuesday, the last day of voting.
Thanks to everyone who voted, and here are the results:
Best James Bond
Sean Connery, 58.6%
George Lazenby, 0%
Roger Moore, 4.5%
Timothy Dalton, 0.9%
Pierce Brosnan, 12.6%
Daniel Craig, 23.4%
Best Bond movie
From Russia with Love (1963), 10.3%
Goldfinger (1964), 35.9%
Thunderball (1965), 5.1%
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), 0%
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), 10.3%
Goldeneye (1995), 5.1%
Casino Royale (2006), 33.3%
Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), Dr. No, 31.6%
Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), From Russia with Love, 8.9%
Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Goldfinger, 19%
Tracy di Vicenzo Bond (Diana Rigg), OHMSS, 6.3%
Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), Diamonds are Forever, 5.1%
Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), The Spy Who Loved Me, 11.4%
Jacintha “Jinx” Jonselle (Halle Berry), Die Another Day, 17.7%
Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman), Dr. No, 3.9%
Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), Goldfinger, 35.5%
Ernst Stavro Blofeld (several actors), You Only Live Twice, OHMSS, Diamonds Are Forever, 31.6%
Dr. Kananga, aka Mr. Big (Yaphet Koto), Live and Let Die, 6.6%
Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), The Man with the Golden Gun, 14.5%
Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), A View to a Kill, 5.3%
Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), Tomorrow Never Dies, 2.6%
Goldfinger, Shirley Bassey, 25.8%
Diamonds are Forever, Shirley Bassey, 3.0%
Live and Let Die, Paul McCartney, 40.9%
Nobody Does it Better from The Spy Who Loved Me, Carly Simon, 9.1%
For Your Eyes Only, Sheena Easton, 4.5%
A View to a Kill, Duran Duran, 10.6%
The World is Not Enough, Garbage, 6.1%
Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), From Russia with Love, 11.6%
Oddjob (Harold Sakata), Goldfinger, 34.9%
Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint (Putter Smith and Bruce Glover), Diamonds are Forever, 2.3%
Tee Hee (Julis W. Harris), Live and Let Die, 0.0%
Nick Nack (Herve Villechize), The Man with the Golden Gun, 2.3%
Jaws (Richard Kiel), The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, 41.9%
May Day (Grace Jones), A View to a Kill, 7.0%
Briefcase with dagger, rifle, etc. – From Russia with Love, 6.7%
Aston Martin DB5 with oil slick, etc. – Goldfinger, 46.7%
Jet pack – Thunderball, 6.7%
Little Nellie, tricked out helicopter – You Only Live Twice, 3.3%
Rolex with high-powered magnet, circular saw, etc. – Live and Let Die, 6.7%
Submarine Lotus Esprit – The Spy Who Loved Me, 16.7%
Cellphone with stun gun, car controls, etc. – Tomorrow Never Dies, 13.3%
Gert Frobe as Goldfinger and Sean Connery as James Bond in Goldfinger, considered by many to be the best James Bond movie ever. Do we agree?
Since 1962, there have been 21 James Bond movies in the official EON Productions series. They started in relative simplicity with Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963), reached a gadgety zenith in the Roger Moore era of the late 1970s and ’80s, adopted a 1990s elegance with Pierce Brosnan and rebooted as gritty serious drama with Casino Royale in 2006.
So, what’s your pleasure?
The final question in our James Bond poll is what was the best Bond movie? I selected the final seven very e-style, Googling the terms “Best Bond Movie,” Best James Bond movie” and “Best 007 movie” and tallying the votes from the hits on the front pages. The Top seven are what’s in the pool, though again, feel free to write in your vote.
All seven polls will be open until midnight Tuesday, and we’ll wrap the results into our Bond package in her Weekender on Friday. The other polls are to the right, or you can click below to visit them.
Nov8Filed under: Film, James Bond, Oscars; Tagged as: Academy Awards, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood, Daniel Craig, Heath Ledger, James Bond, Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Shannon, Oscars, Quantum of Solace, Revolutionary Road, Robert Downey Jr., The Dark Knight, Titanic, Tony Awards, Tropic Thunder, Will Smith
After this year’s Academy Awards, the question was whether the Oscars were still relevant, or if they were going the way of art galleries and modern dance, perceived as too elite and avant garde to appeal to the masses.
Of last year’s best picture nominees, none of them had cracked the Top 10 or $100 million mark at the box office.
Numerous reasons were cited, including studios obsessed with movies calculated to open big, art be damned, and the presence of boutique subsidiaries such as Paramount Vantage and Warner Independent Pictures to release “specialty” and “prestige” fare.
Well, the buzz is Oscar night 2009 may look quite different.
Not that we will suddenly see Harold and Kumar contending for best picture or anything like that.
But you could have Batman.
The late Heath Ledger, a 2006 best actor nominee for his performance in Brokeback Mountain, is seriously being talked about as a best actor possibility for his consumed-by-evil turn as The Joker in Batman: The Dark Knight.
Think that’s funny?
A lot of people think that Robert Downey Jr. was brilliantly funny as a method actor who darkened his skin to play a black soldier in Ben Stiller’s Hollywood-bashing Tropic Thunder. Now, he’s a serious contender for a best supporting actor nomination for the box office hit that has made more than $110 million.
Dark Knight, also considered a best picture and director contender, as well as a shoe-in for numerous technical award nominations, now sits atop this year’s box office chart, and it’s likely to stay there. Why? For a while, during the summer, Dark Knight was threatening to overtake Titanic for the all-time box office record of $600 million, though with a home video release of the Batman movie set for Dec. 9, it appears that won’t happen.
Speaking of Titanic, the 1998 Oscar winner for best picture marked the last time the Oscars generated true mass hysteria, and its leading man and woman are back together this year. A Paramount Vantage offering with the downbeat plot of a crumbling 1950s marriage, Revolutionary Road isn’t likely to be all the rage with teenage girls like Titanic was. But it does have an intriguing A-list cast with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Other A-listers on short lists for Oscar contention include Brad Pitt, Clint Eastwood, Will Smith, Angelina Jolie and, seriously, Beyonce Knowles for her role in Cadillac Records. We should also mention that Lexington native Michael Shannon is getting buzz for Revolutionary Road.
This isn’t any concerted effort to help Oscar avoid going the way of the Tony Awards in terms of its national spotlight. But there are a few trends that may be boosting the awards’ star power and box office relevance this year and in years to come:
James Bond is a pretty tough athletic guy, well trained in things like marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat. But, sometimes he needs a little help, like a wrist watch with a circular saw to cut ropes from his wrists, or a car that can turn into a submarine when the bad guys have him cornered at the shore. Some seem quaint now, like a pager or a watch with a TV — put a strap on an iPod, eh?
But many Bond gadgets endure as staples of the series, most demonstrated by the eternally patient Q, played by Desmond Llewelyn in 17 Bond films from From Russia with Love (1963) to The World is Not Enough (1999). He died in December 1999, and John Cleese played the head of Q branch since, except in Casino Royale (2006).
So, today’s question is about Q’s creations: What’s your favorite Bond gadget? I selected seven for the poll to the right, or feel free to write one in the comment box. Also, make sure to vote in the other Bond polls:
Make sure to come back Sunday for the last poll.
Let’s face it. Despite their grand schemes for world domination, a lot of James Bond’s enemies were not exactly tough guys. In fact, rather than get their own hands messy, they often dispatched henchmen — or women — to do the dirty work. These were often colorful characters of exceptional stature, or lack thereof, and skills.
So, that is our question today. Get out your steel-brimmed thinking cap and contemplate the seven henchmen in our poll who took on 007 — a few turned out to not be so bad afterall — and pick your favorite. Or write one in the comments section below, and make sure to vote in the other polls to the right, or as follows:
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich