An Awkward but Incandescent Life – Greta Gerwig Lights Up the Fantastic ‘Frances Ha’

Greta Gerwig, left, as Frances and Mickey Sumner, as Sophie, play-fight in a scene from the film, "Frances Ha." Independent Film Channel photos
Greta Gerwig, left, as Frances and Mickey Sumner, as Sophie, play-fight in a scene from the film, “Frances Ha.”
Independent Film Channel photos

It’s not hard in the first minutes of Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” to feel we’ve popped up in some episode of “Girls” — if was directed by Francois Truffaut. Here we have the New York setting, the trust fundies living three to an apartment, the casual and blunt sexual talk from 20-something women, and even an appearance from Adam Driver. But as “Frances Ha” continues, we get something more idiosyncratic and charming.

Written in collaboration with its star, mumblecore doyen Greta Gerwig, “Frances Ha” charts its 27-year-old protagonist as she gets dumped by her best friend and has to figure out what to do with her life.

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Bright Lights, Gloomy Cities – Four Artists show together at MichaelKate

 "Amtrak Bath" 'THomas Van Stein Brad Nack

“Amtrak Bath” ‘THomas Van Stein
Brad Nack

Several months ago, Brad Nack brought four abstract artists to MichaelKate Interiors, each dealing in their own way with topography. After that, another quartet dealt with flight and birds. But this month’s exhibition, “Bright Lines and the Void” (through June 30), complicates matters further with a disparate selection of paintings from four vastly different artists. Thomas Van Stein’s nocturnal landscapes; John Carlander’s bold abstracts; Hilary Baker’s enigmatic yet representational work; and Norman Lundin’s witty realism — this is a conversation between four distinct personalities, and like a great dinner party, it’s worth sitting in and checking out what comes up.

Mr. Lundin comes from the grey climes of Seattle and you can see it in his paintings, as if somebody had told Edward Hopper to tone down the color and get the people out of the room. These are interiors and exteriors (sometimes both, seen through windows) honoring still moments on endless overcast and wet days. I say witty, because check out “Sun Break, Studio” which only shows its sun through a thin strip of light that defines the shadows on the window sill. The rest, from our perspective, is yet another gloomy, almost smoky day, looking out across the landscape in search of a horizon. These are the funereal rooms of Tarkovsky and Bergman, where time has slowed down, crawled, and given up. On the other hand, the entropy is so finely rendered that the paintings energize in a perverse way.

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Drink of the Week: The Bourbon Room’s Raspberry Mint Julep

NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS
NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS

Since we last checked out The Bourbon Room in Goleta, they’ve been taking in a steady stream of customers wanting to check out its Victorian drawing room vibe, its faithful recreation of Dean-o’s Pizzarama, its bitters club, and, of course, its cocktails. And they have a cool Instagram/Facebook thing going on if you can handle the intertubes. Mostly Anna Sacks and Al Rojas post pictures of their cocktail du jour; it took a full month of us getting all thirsty before we had to swing by and take a chance. Most drinks are bourbon by namesake, although the bartenders have been known to dip into tequila, vodka and the rest.

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Four legends of hip-hop light up the Bowl

LL Cool J performing at the Santa Barbara Bowl. NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS
LL Cool J performing at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS

Four of the greatest hip-hop acts of that genre’s golden age – roughly 1986-1989 – took the stage on Sunday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl for the Kings of the Mic tour stop.

In order of appearance, this would make a great mixtape back in the day: De La Soul, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and LL Cool J.

On stage it was mostly all positive, with sets chock full of hits and – for the latter two acts – enjoyable light and video shows. As for continued importance, only one of the acts still contributes worthwhile art to the culture.

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I Madonnari festival opens today at SB Mission

Featured artists at this year's I Madonnari are Wayne and Cheryl Renshaw. The artists have been preparing their chalk works for the opening of the festival today. MIKE ELIASON/NEWS-PRESS
Featured artists at this year’s I Madonnari are Wayne and Cheryl Renshaw. The artists have been preparing their chalk works for the opening of the festival today.
MIKE ELIASON/NEWS-PRESS

Lovers of street painting, the weekend you’ve been waiting for has arrived.

The 20,000-square-foot area in front of the Santa Barbara Mission will be turned into a walkable art gallery starting today when the I Madonnari chalk art festival returns for its 27th year.

The festival of the traditional Italian art form was the first in the U.S. and is an inspiration to others that have appeared since.

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Double the Myth, Double the Fun – Boxtales stages a tale from the Popol Vuh

Isaac Hernandez photos
Isaac Hernandez photos

Boxtales Theatre Company has taken one of the main sections of the Popol Vuh, the scripture of the Quiche Maya people of Central America, and turned it into “The Hero Twins.” The play is in both English and Spanish and contains many features found in other creation myths: a tree of knowledge, a journey into the underworld, a defeat and a triumphant return. But instead of a snake, there’s a talking skull in the tree. And instead of war and battle, there’s a ball game — one of the first mentions of sport in ancient texts. There’s an immaculate conception, achieved in a very peculiar way. The crossovers, echoes, and variations make this perfect for Boxtales: They dive in with their masks on.

This is the first myth-based performance for Boxtales since 2009’s “Om,” a version of the Ramayana. “The Hero Twins” originated during 2011. “We were gearing up for the end of the Mayan calendar,” says cast member Matt Tavianini. He’s referring to the supposed “end of the world” that worrywarts supposed would happen at the finish of 2012. (Note: the world is still here.)

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The Lydian Mode – No-wave firebrand Lydia Lunch hosts creative women’s retreat

At 53, Lydia Lunch shows no signs of smoothing out the edginess that made her one of the powerful forces in late-’70s New York and the No Wave scene. To talk to her is to jump into a fiery whirlwind of creativity, one that whips up everybody else. It makes sense, then, that her upcoming workshop in Ojai — dubbed the Post-Catastrophe Collaborative Ojai Artists’ Workshop by and for Women — is designed to do just that for all the attendees, creating an environment for women, whether veterans of the arts or new recruits, to express their artistic sides. But what is this catastrophe in the title?

“Did you wake up today? Did you watch the news?” Ms. Lunch laughs. “Do I have to itemize things here? It’s easy in California to forget the amount of catastrophe that’s out there. … The weather is terrifying. The 800 military bases that the U.S. has is terrifying. Wars continuing all over the world is terrifying. Man-made economic crisis is terrifying. … I don’t have fear, myself, but maybe that’s because I have so many vehicles to express my concern.”

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DRINK OF THE WEEK: Bo Henry’s The Gidget

NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS
NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS

A few months back, Palmieri’s quietly turned into Bo Henry’s Cocktail Lounge, keeping the only bar on the Westside open and creating many happy customers. The bartenders (lovingly called therapists on the bar’s Web page) have remained, including Phil Dybedal, who was ready to make us some cocktails of his own design. The decor inside, however, has changed. New owner Robert Eringer, Montecito resident, journalist (sometimes for this paper) and writer on all things international and skullduggery-like, has hung paintings around the bar, many by Thomas Van Stein, and decorated an alcove with a bust of Van Gogh. It’s a pretty idiosyncratic, writer-friendly, yet still pleasantly divey bar.

Mr. Dybedal’s drinks included the Tequila Mockingbird, a mix of Hornitos Tequila, Creme de Menthe and lime juice. He says the taste divides the bar 50-50, but we liked it — minty and not too sweet.

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Remorseless – Michael Shannon makes The Iceman worth watching

 Winona Ryder, left, and Michael Shannon play Richard Kuklinski and his wife, Deborah, in "The Iceman

Winona Ryder, left, and Michael Shannon play Richard Kuklinski and his wife, Deborah, in “The Iceman

In choosing the right kind of actor to play Richard Kuklinski, the notorious hitman of the ’60s and ’70s known as “The Iceman,” the producers couldn’t picked a better man than Michael Shannon. Long though his resume is, it’s only recently that Mr. Shannon has received the kind of attention he deserves, from his stirring lead in “Take Shelter” to his turn on Boardwalk Empire.

Ten years ago the role might have gone to Ray Liotta, who turns up here as Roy Demeo, a mob middleman who threatens Kuklinski in the face with a gun, then hires him on the spot because of his unflinching “iceman” qualities. Demeo has hired well, and he doesn’t really know it. We know that Kuklinski is the sort of man who will kill another man over a pool game. He’ll kill because he is told and paid to do so; he doesn’t enjoy it so much as he respects his own skills.

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DRINK OF THE WEEK: Toma Restaurant & Bar’s Tuscan pear

Tuscan pear NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS
Tuscan pear
NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS

When Emilio’s closed last year (at first for a rumored remodel) its fate seemed uncertain. But now it has reopened as Toma Restaurant & Bar, and regulars can breath easy: the restaurant has continued the Italian cuisine and widened out the restaurant a bit. This is all thanks to Tom Dolan, who spent many years working here and didn’t want to change too much. (Toma is Tom’s nickname.) The owners handed it off to Tom and his wife, Vicki, without too much of a fuss. And the nice thing? He kept Raul Alarcon as bartender, who has been making cocktails here for some time now.

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