These Pirates, Not So Jolly – Danish film ‘A Hijacking’ a Taut anti-thriller

Fren Mailing in "A Hijacking" Magnolia Pictures photos
Fren Mailing in “A Hijacking”
Magnolia Pictures photos

Tobias Lindholm’s “A Hijacking” takes a procedural approach to a story that is usually handled as a backdrop to action-film hijinks. But instead of a Bruce Willis or a Steven Seagal rappelling down from a helicopter, both guns blazing, we have a series of negotiations. I would suggest that “A Hijacking,” by doing so, becomes a much tenser experience for it.

This is Mr. Lindholm’s second film after his prison drama “R” and he’s also an accomplished scriptwriter — his most recent being the Mads Mikkelson-led “The Hunt.” So he’s used to writing about men trapped in small spaces, either physically or mentally.

Continue reading These Pirates, Not So Jolly – Danish film ‘A Hijacking’ a Taut anti-thriller

DRINK OF THE WEEK: Finch & Fork’s Hawaiian Honey Creeper

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

Yes, the hotel on the corner of Chapala and Carrillo has changed hands over the last decade like Beyonce changes costumes during a concert. And we’ve been with them through every new incarnation. The interior of the bar has, however, remained pretty stable — serving up very good cocktails — and the combo of happy hour drinks and bites has been nicely affordable.

The new restaurant and bar is Finch & Fork. The focus is still on fresh ingredients and infusions. The cocktail menu is packed with goodness (the happy hour food is also great, and we suggest you order the deviled eggs). The Hawaiian Honey Creeper, named after the finch-like bird, is a variation on the mai tai: two kinds of rum, a mix of juices and orgeat syrup, but topped with green Chartreuse in a hollowed lime shell. Instead of the sweetie-sweetie tropical drink we expected, we got an almost bitter mix, and we loved it! The Figueroa uses fig-infused Buffalo Trace in this version of a simple whiskey cocktail, and anybody who likes a Manhattan should try it. And the Guava Jelly is spicy because of its mix of guava and habanero mixed with tequila.

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The Grey Suit Chronicles – Why North by Northwest is still so much fun today

Cary Grant in a scene from "North by Northwest" Margaret Herrick Library photo
Cary Grant in a scene from “North by Northwest”
Margaret Herrick Library photo

North by Northwest” screens tonight in the Sunken Gardens as part of UCSB Arts & Lectures free Hitchcock screenings, and even if you have seen this classic before, it’s always worth the revisit.

Just think: after Alfred Hitchcock delivered his finest, most psychologically dense film, “Vertigo,” he decided to return to the chase, the travelogue in essence, to go back to “The 39 Steps” with this film. “North by Northwest” features a lot of familiar themes from Hitchcock: the innocent man accused, a blonde femme fatale, and familiar landmarks like the United Nations building and Mount Rushmore. This is why video essayist Thom Anderson called Hitchcock a “high tourist” director, for his love of such.

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Name Changer is a Game Changer – CAF turns into MCA — what does it mean for art in SB?

'Seen (Detail),'Sanford Biggers Museum of Contemporary Art SB
‘Seen (Detail),’Sanford Biggers
Museum of Contemporary Art SB

Miki Garcia knew something was working when Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum (aka CAF, as most locals call it) changed its name to MCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art. She was standing outside and heard a couple walk past, on the way from the carpark to the steps leading to the ground floor of Paseo Nuevo. “Oh, there’s a museum here!” said one to the other. Maybe they had passed the Forum many times, maybe this was their first time here, but the point was taken: it’s a museum and everybody knows what that does.

For regular visitors to CAF, the switch may have seemed cosmetic and unheralded. But it’s that couple that Ms. Garcia keeps in mind.

Continue reading Name Changer is a Game Changer – CAF turns into MCA — what does it mean for art in SB?

DRINK OF THE WEEK: Sly’s The Queens Cocktail

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

Manhattan has its cocktail, although it may be named after a bar in New York, not the borough. The Bronx has a cocktail, and its infamy is tied to Bill Wilson, whose Bronx binge led to alcoholism and much later Alcoholics Anonymous. And then there’s the Long Island Iced Tea, one of the stronger drinks out there. The Brooklyn cocktail exists, but is as rare as finding a cheap place to rent there, and is like a Manhattan except for Maraschino liqueur used instead of vermouth. However, Staten Island … sorry dudes, you get nothing.

Which leaves us with Queens, which is probably where your hip friend is living now after the big dreams of living in Manhattan fell apart and Williamsburg was too trendy. We learned all about the Queens cocktail when we stopped by Sly’s in Carpinteria the other day. It had been a hot one, and we’d been stuck in traffic coming up from Ventura. It was time for some libations, and the Queens was just what we wanted.

Related to the Bronx, it uses gin. Bartender Jack Chinn, with advice from mixologist and history buff Mandy Huffaker-Chinn, set about making us this drink, using Gordon’s gin, an equal mix of vermouths, and muddled pineapple. It’s the fruit that gives the cocktail its smooth mouthfeel, frothy head and bright color. It’s our Drink of the Week — and our second favorite borough!

THE QUEENS COCKTAIL
1 (2-inch) chunk fresh pineapple
2 ounces Gordon’s gin
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth

Muddle pineapple in shaker. Add gin and vermouths, then ice. Shake and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry and an extra chunk of fresh pineapple.

Yield: 1 drink

Sly’s
686 Linden Ave., Carpinteria 684-6666 or www.slysonline.com

Things are the Thing – GROUP EXHIBITION ‘SPECIMEN’ FILLS THE ARTS FUND GALLERY WITH ‘CABINETS OF CURIOS,’ FOUND OBJECT ART, AND OTHER STRANGE, HERMETIC SIDESHOW DELIGHTS

'Homage to Innocents (detail),' Sue Van Horsen David J. Diamont photo
‘Homage to Innocents (detail),’ Sue Van Horsen
David J. Diamont photo

Greeting visitors to the current exhibition at Arts Fund Gallery, “Specimen,” is a kindly, smiley skeleton placed strategically and without explanation. It seems a combination greeter, sentry and memento mori, all at once, befitting a deliciously bizarre and strangely comforting show about pseudo-science, dead things, decontextualized memories, found objects redirected into the direction of art, and other cultural specimens.

Curator Ted Mills, himself an artist, filmmaker, and also journalist-critic (whose writing is oft-found in the pages of the News-Press) had the notion of collecting left-of-center collectors and assemblage artists. The end result, imposing a bit more weird atmosphere than the Arts Fund Gallery has yet known, is a gathering of radiant junk, artfully constructed “cabinets of curios” and general obsessive oddity, all under one roof.

Continue reading Things are the Thing – GROUP EXHIBITION ‘SPECIMEN’ FILLS THE ARTS FUND GALLERY WITH ‘CABINETS OF CURIOS,’ FOUND OBJECT ART, AND OTHER STRANGE, HERMETIC SIDESHOW DELIGHTS

Common Ground – Fourth Annual Fest explores Asian-American Experience in Film

Artist Jimmy Mirikitani is the subject of "The Cats of Mirikatani," being presented as part of "Sharing Our Common Ground:The Fourth Annual Asian-American Film Series Mongrel Media photo
Artist Jimmy Mirikitani is the subject of “The Cats of Mirikatani,” being presented as part of “Sharing Our Common Ground:The Fourth Annual Asian-American Film Series
Mongrel Media photo

Back in the early years of Santa Barbara, the Chinese community and Japanese community lived across the street from each other, a Chinatown and a Japantown, living in perfect harmony on the site where Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens looks out over the Presidio. Those days are long gone, with only a few remnants remaining, but the Asian-American experience continues. That’s the subject of “Sharing Our Common Ground: The Fourth Annual Asian-American Film Series” put on by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. The three-film series starts tonight and continues until July 26, with screenings at the Alhecama Theatre.

The three films are all documentaries on the Asian-American experience and take in adopted Chinese children, Bruce Lee (born in San Francisco), and a Japanese-American homeless man who has a painful history of the internment camps in sunny California.

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Strong Foundations – Tearjerking ‘Still Mine’ rests on James Cromwell

James Cromwell, left, and Genevieve Bujold play aging farmers Craig and Irene Morrison in thefilm "Still Mine." Samuel Goldwyn Films photo
James Cromwell, left, and Genevieve Bujold play aging farmers Craig and Irene Morrison in thefilm “Still Mine.”
Samuel Goldwyn Films photo

Here’s a movie about building code violations ruining the golden years of a farming couple, which will make this a go-to date for anyone who’s had to go through the Planning Commission. But even for those who haven’t, it’s a sweet drama about an aging couple still very much in love.

Even though the story and its execution are pretty corny, “Still Mine” has at its disposal James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold as the octogenarians having decide which is worse: old age or bureaucracy. Mr. Cromwell has always been a comforting presence in film. He’s many people’s idea of a farmer based on his role in “Babe” and his kindly face is one of the main reasons he makes such a good villain in films like “L.A. Confidential.”

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DRINK OF THE WEEK: The Arnoldi’s Cadillac Margarita

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

Here at Drink of the Week HQ downtown in our undisclosed location, it’s officially summer. It’s hot and sometimes humid, and the answer to a lot of our problems is another light and icy cocktail.

We have to pace ourselves, but the other day we got invited to stop by Arnoldi’s for a game of bocci and we realized that, yes, we should probably get some exercise other than lifting glasses to our mouths.

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DRINK OF THE WEEK: Longboard’s The Santa Barbara Sunset

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

Stearns Wharf is a great place to watch the sunset, but tonight it’s also a great place to watch the fireworks. Yes, it’s going to be crowded, but there’s a lot of great views and a different perspective than that afforded to the majority of landlocked viewers. And one of the best venues on the wharf to watch the rockets’ red glare is Longboard’s Grill. It’s upstairs, it looks right out onto the beach where the fireworks are set, and you can get a cocktail.

We’ve been to Longboard’s a few times over the years and we like that it’s one of the few places still serving tiki drinks. They have parrot-shaped glasses, shark-shaped glasses, scorpion bowls, volcano drinks, and drinks for a big group in one bowl. But for fireworks, we wanted something less flashy and more suited to the long sunset that preps us for the flares.

The Santa Barbara Sunset could be that drink. It comes in a large wine glass, and keeps it simple with orange juice and grenadine for color, and Hornitos and Grand Marnier for booze. Yes, there’s also a sunny drink called the Sunsplash – Stoli Ohranj, Cointreau, and cranberry, lemon and orange. It looks good, but it’s just a bit too sweet for the jaded tongues of DOTW. Instead, the Sunset is much more about the tequila, and hence when the sun goes down, this cocktail will be doing the same. Happy Fourth!

THE SANTA BARBARA SUNSET
2 ounces Hornitos bianco tequila
3 ounces orange juice
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier
Splash grenadine

Combine all ingredients over rocks, shake and pour into wine glass. Garnish with cherries and a flower.

Yield: 1 drink