Deep in Red — CAF’s Valentine’s Auction one of the year’s biggest

All hail the Red, White and … Pink!

It’s time again for “La Vie en Rose,” Contemporary Arts Forum’s annual Valentine’s exhibition, benefit auction and fashion show. The exhibition side — featuring works from a slew of Santa Barbara artists like Stephanie Dotson, Warren Schultheis, Zacarias Paul, Mary Heebner and more — is already up, but Saturday night’s gala event is the time to really show the love.

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Unspoken Truths — A rarely seen masterpiece screens at UCSB

DVD. Netflix. Video on Demand. Thousands of cable and satellite channels. It’s hard to believe that in this current climate, when most movies are available to us, that some films of the last 30 years remain impossible to see. It’s even more incredible when it’s a film like “City of Sadness,” one of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s greatest films, an important part of Taiwanese history, a winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and a gorgeous work of art to boot.

So film buffs will rejoice to know that a special new print of “City of Sadness” — still not on DVD, and no hope of it being so — screens this Tuesday at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. The last time it played Santa Barbara was as part of a Hou retrospective at the SBIFF in 1998. I wouldn’t recommend waiting another 12 years.

“This is one of the great, great masterpieces of cinema,” says Michael Berry, the East Asian Studies professor who will be introducing Hou’s work on Tuesday. “It’s the kind of film that you can walk away from and the images haunt you.”

“City of Sadness” follows the Lin family through four years of life in Taiwan. The decade was tumultuous, and not well-known in the West. From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was colonized by the Japanese. But when Japan lost World War II, Taiwan was ceded back to Chinese rule, only to be colonized by the mainland Chinese, who were engaged in a civil war with what turned out to be Mao’s army. When Chang Kai-Shek fled the mainland, Taiwan became their domain and the Taiwanese felt betrayed. At the same time, America and the West recognized Taiwan as the “free” China, compared to “Red” China.

“This created a huge cultural tension for the Taiwanese people,” says Berry. “Some of the major political and cultural hurdles that have haunted Taiwan since that period have its roots then.”

The film’s emotional core is the 228 Incident — February 28, 1947 — a small, violent episode that exploded into riots, thousands dead, and then led to martial law and political oppression. The spark that started the fire — the beating death of a street vendor by authorities — features in “City of Sadness” and is witnessed by a member of the apolitical Lin family. By the end of the film, the once-close-knit family unit will be tragically changed forever.

One of Asia’s best-known leading men, Tony Leung (“In the Mood for Love,” “Hero”) plays one of the Lin’s four brothers, a deaf-mute photographer — possibly a stand-in for the director, and one of Hou’s main metaphors for the country’s inability to talk about the events up until his film. Hou’s mastery of space, light and shadow, and camera movement, assisted by his cinematographer Huai-en Chen, came into its own here, the film he’d been preparing to make for the first part of his career.

Despite being picked up by the same distributor as Zhang Yimou’s “Raise the Red Lantern,” the film lay neglected, and now rights issues, dissolved production companies and endless legalities mean that it’s rarely seen. With redone subtitles and a clean print, the film has a chance to find a new audience. For one night only.

“City of Sadness”
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Yi Fang Wou, Nakamura Ikuyo, and Jack Kao
Length: 157 minutes
Playing: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at UCSB’s Campbell Hall
Cost: $6 general, $5 UCSB students

Overlook Café’s Wild Turkey Cosmo

Nik Blaskovich/News-Press
Nik Blaskovich/News-Press
We were flying out to Vegas by way of L.A. when we took a quick trip up to Santa Barbara Airport’s Overlook Café for a coffee. And that’s when we spotted the bar. Of course! Why wouldn’t there be a bar at the airport … just keep the pilots away from it! So on our way back from Sin City (short review: weak cocktails, strong prices) we checked in our mixologist bags at the Overlook and met our bartender Joe Cruz, who’s been pouring 16 years here. If you have stopped in on your way out, Joe probably served you.

Yes, the bar is small (five seats) and has a tiny selection of bottles. Serving those who are just biding their time (the short-term parking prices don’t invite regulars), we were still pleased. The Overlook could just offer a standard selection of drinks, but there is a margarita here that won’t disappoint. But Cruz likes to fiddle about in the recipe department and offers specials for those who want to try his work.

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Time to Shine

Sandra Bullock may finally be having her time in the sun. After the critical and popular success of “Speed” and “While You Were Sleeping” in 1994 and 1995, the actress has never been off our marquees, from thrillers and romantic comedies. But the big awards have eluded her, until now.

11 Amazing Days, 10 Starry Nights.

This year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival almost throws down a gauntlet with that slogan: we’ve got so many must-see events, we dare you to get to them all! And we know. We’ve seen those people in line, heck sometimes we’ve been them, too: the hardened determination, the 1,000-yard stare of the film addict. More stories, more inspiration, more celluloid, more tributes, more buzz, more, more, more!

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Red’s Bloody Mary

Nik Blaskovich / News-Press
Nik Blaskovich / News-Press
Dana Walters keeps evolving her funk zone space, Reds Wine Bar, as the area evolves. For years, it was a well traversed coffee shop. Then, Walters changed it into a wine bar to sync with the Kalyra tasting room located behind Reds, and to fit in with the growth in tasting rooms nearby. Having managed that, Walters started the process of attaining a liquor license, putting herself down for the lottery. Now that she has that paper in hand, who should turn up but those boozy reprobates! That is, us.

Now, Reds is not slinging drinks like a Friday night at EOS. The atmosphere is more like a good friend making a drink for you in their kitchen. So we put Walters through her paces. Could she handle our demands?

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Paradise Café’s Greentini

Nik Blaskovich/News-Press
Nik Blaskovich/News-Press
“It’s about time you walked over here!”

Yes, the Paradise Café is literally a 30-second walk from the News-Press offices, but we mixologists have a habit of not seeing the nose in front of our face. After all, our noses are red and can be mistaken for neon signs and traffic lights.

For 27 years the Paradise Café has been a consistent eatery and watering hole, and its multi-leveled dining areas give off a slight M.C. Escher-esque aura. (I can’t think of many places where one must ascend to the gents’ room). However, the drinks don’t flow uphill, but in a more sensible fashion — into our glasses.

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It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, etc. World — ‘In the Loop’ introduces one of Britain’s best satirists

Armando Iannucci’s bitter and barbed satire “In the Loop” presents global politics — in particular Washington and some pokey little failed empire called Britain — as a continuation of high school culture. There are bullies, cliques, pranks, bad behavior, badder behavior and worse behavior. There are egos to be stroked and personalities to be torpedoed. By the end, we come to feel that while Iannucci’s vision may be jaded, he may be closest to the truth.

He’s also a deft and clever wordsmith, and “In the Loop” — which features some of the characters in his BBC series “The Thick of It” — is zipitty-spit 90 minutes of hilarious and profane dialogue. This film will probably be many Americans’ first exposure to the Scotsman’s writing, but since the early 1990s, Iannucci has penned some of the UK’s greatest television and radio comedy, starting with “On the Hour” and “The Day Today,” precursors in tone and style to the sharp satire of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” on this side of the pond.

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Pastavino’s Peach Mojito

Nik Blaskovich/News-Press
Nik Blaskovich/News-Press
Previously, on “Mixologists a GoGo”: Our intrepid explorers found themselves out at the Holdren’s Steak House outpost at the Camino Real Marketplace, aka Big Box Mall. Having finished their liqueur-filled ramblings, they set off to find a bathroom, took a left, took a right, walked past the kitchen, and … what the hey? There’s another restaurant and bar back here!

Indeed, Holdren’s shares a kitchen (and owners) with Pastavino, an Italian restaurant with dark maroon walls and a small, horseshoe-shaped bar, presided over by Reuben Soto, who manages both restaurants.

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Just Say Yes — ‘Yes Men’ asks if there can be profit in doing the right, moral thing

Andy Bechlbaum and Mike Bonanno take on big business and big politics in "Yes Men Fix the World."
Andy Bechlbaum and Mike Bonanno take on big business and big politics in “Yes Men Fix the World.”
Andy Bechlbaum has the eyes of a prankster. Although in his 40s, he still has the wide stare and ear-to-ear grin of a kid who has pulled off something naughty. So it’s a wonder how he and Mike Bonanno, collectively known as the Yes Men, can keep it together to fool a string of people, getting them into business conventions, conferences and televised interviews. Once at their destination — usually a podium — one or both of them present thinly veiled Swiftian satire that leads to befuddlement, and they’re usually tossed out for — and this is the scary part — the request for business cards and further information.

In the speedy film “The Yes Men Fix the World,” we see five situationist pranks from these artists, who have made corporation criticism their raison d”tre since 2000. At a conference for bankers, they discuss a way of profiting from tragedy, and, posing as Halliburton representatives, they unveil an absurd SurvivaBall, an inflatable suit in which one can ride out the apocalypse. At an energy conference, they pass out candles made from a former employee for a world where the dead can be used for fuel. There’s no real flesh in the candle, of course, but the real human hair inside smells foul.

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Bring the Funk — Tower of Power celebrates four decades of solid soul-dance tunes at Chumash

Tower of Power lead vocalist Larry Braggs sings at the Chumash Casino Resortin January of 2006. The group returns for a performance Thursday night. Dwight McCann photo
Tower of Power lead vocalist Larry Braggs sings at the Chumash Casino Resortin January of 2006. The group returns for a performance Thursday night.
Dwight McCann photo
“It’s been like a college around there,” says Emilio Castillo, creator, leader and sax player, about his four decades bringing the funk to audiences worldwide. With five original members still at the core, the group sees many others come and go. “Musicians join us, hang out and mature. They’re good when they get here and they’re great when they leave. Then they go on to do great things, and it looks good on the résumé.”

Castillo also has an impressive résumé. Born in Detroit, but an Oakland resident since his 11th birthday, he picked up the sax at 14 and has never stopped playing. At 16, he and the first incarnation of Tower of Power were sneaking into East Bay clubs and laying down an irresistible dance beat. This Thursday, the band stops by the Chumash Casino Resort to remind the fans that Power cannot be stopped.

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