Nathan Thomas
Death By Ice Cream

In the unseasonable (yet seasonable for us natives) heat of very early Fall, the Bay Area and San Francisco were languid & fearful; (since the Fire, we seem always to hold our breaths when October comes into sight.) However, folks have to get out & about in that rarity of Bay Area outfits, the shorts & halter-top—else why purchase them to begin with?  So, for those who could bear the heat, we sometimes host such outdoor events as the Lafayette Art & Wine Festival, after which, for a few dollars, one could top off the day with a performance at the local Town Hall Theater of Lafayette.  This year THTC presented Rupert Holmes' musical mayhem The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Audience booing & hissing was required, this being a so-called Musicale with Dramatic Interludes. The Chairman presided over his troupe from the Music Hall Royale and all were encouraged to 'kick off your boots, loosen your corsets' and get wicked. Bawdy jokes supposedly circa 1892 were thrown about like confetti. At the conclusion, a Detective was been selected, a Murderer chosen and an Audience exhausted. The event was heavily supported by the crackerjack backstage band led by 'Mr. Thomas Purcell', which curiously is never seen, but certainly heard. Scenery & costumes--a delight to the eye & many fine bits of comic timing in evidence, especially when cast members were called upon to improvise with the audience.

Through the tunnel into the no-there there of Oakland, a film festival has sprung up.  The Second Annual Oakland International Film Festival, under the auspices of the Oakland Film Society and held at the Grand Lake Theatre on Lake Merritt, ran September 18-25 and screened Leopolde Laborde's Un Secreto de Esperanza, Best Feature-Length Narrative, Gay Block's Bertha Alyce, Best Short Documentary, as well as Richard Hall's Death of a Shaman, Best Feature-Length Documentary, amongst dozens of films.  The final segment was generously reserved for Oakland filmmakers.

Fresh from his triumph as sperm-donor Tim in Teknolust, Josh Kornbluth extended his run of the latest in a series of his one-man shows. Moving to Berkeley Rep's Thrust Stage, after its initial outing at Fort Mason, Love & Taxes gives a personalized look at one of the most feared of pastimes:  figuring out how much you owe Uncle Sam.  As he revealed his gruesome story in myriad detail, the financial quagmire through which Mr. Kornbluth made his way seemed especially tailored to make us feel better about our own situations.  We are all in the same swamp, he seemed to say, yet he nearly sank. He lived to tell the tale, although--funny as it is--how an adult with most of his faculties intact could look at the words 'Franchise Tax Board' and attribute them to an Italian family is a wee bit over the line. Kornbluth is so fluid and rapid a speaker that the evening probably contained twice the material of any average show, yet it never seemed hurried. The specially arranged after-show talk with real live tax attorneys was, a least the time I attended, quite an eye-opener: a whole hour of opportunity to speak up about our dark apprehensions as April approaches and vent some much pent-up anxiety with couple of experts sharing their frank opinions of our tax system and with no chance of IRS agents bursting in at the door...

When a writer/actor is actually in a production, time becomes unaccountably shrunken—seems you only turn around and you're back at the theater.  The following compendium represents stolen hours out to the multiplex and, like fine sauce, the most fervent reductions into which those hours on the screen could be transformed.

Winged Migrations If you can leave this film without wanting to flap your arms, you slept through it.

Teknolust  Totally the coolest mouse you've ever seen and Tilda Swinton fingers it with a completely straight face.

Thirteen This is what American culture wants for middle school girls? However, I do want Holly Hunter for a mom, even with her faults.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico Always do a teensy bit of research before you say 'Selma Hayek is in it (she isn't really), but if Johnny Depp's your guy, this will float your boat. Also, don't take your spouse whose motto is 'No sex, no guns, no car chases and no cute kids.'

Whale Rider  By strangest long-distance synchronicity and containing hands down the most impossibly honest work from a young actor, Keisha Castle-Hughes, the ideal companion piece for 1996 French film Ponette with Victoire Thivisol.

American Splendor  The trailer, even while it bludgeons us to death with certain taglines, does not give away the truly bizarre nature of Harvey Pekar's life story on film. 

Dirty Pretty Things You know what's going to happen, Audrey is very pretty, but do you want to bother to watch?

Le Divorce Oh, stop flaunting the damn handbag, please! Film belongs to Leslie Caron & the gigantic period divan at her estate.

Capturing the Friedmans Take the camera away from the boys, or at least take the tape out of it. Also, read up on what happened to Nixon.

The Magdalene Sisters Flee, girls, by all means, flee for your lives, but first take off yer darn shoes if you are going to run down three flights of stairs in the middle of the night.

Open Range Annette, I totally am there with you on the thousand kisses from Kevin, but girl, you have got to do something with that mane before it gets in the soup & everything. Not exactly hygienic for a doctor's assistant either, even if they didn't know everything about germs yet, they prolly knew that sewing up a guy with a bunch of hair in his wounds wouldn't be a good idea.

Seabiscuit (See 'Winged Migrations' above)  Horses apparently really do love to run;  for the visceral feel of rippling horse flesh, this is pretty neat.  Only upon more research is it not quite as satisfying as the real story untarted-up by Hollywood.

The Secret Lives of Dentists Oh, the hours spent staring at the faint stubble upon Dr. Shimada's chin as he worked away in my mouth!

Swimming Pool Hah! Didn't see it coming, but of course there were no clever Red Bits & thingies everywhere to Clue Us In.

Taking Sides Stellan Skarsgard as Nazi-collaborator/conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, is a Class Act, while Harvey Keitel's elevator only comes up one floor from the sub-basement of Bad Lieutenant.

Lost in Translation  inside a Technicolor Kaleidoscope! If you've no idea of the scale of downtown Tokyo, this will give it to you & thank you, Sofia, for letting your story take its time.

©2003 Claudine Jones

For more commentary and articles by Claudine Jones, check the Archives.

Like an orthopedic soprano, Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has
worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades.  With her
co-conspirator Jaz Bonhooley, she also has developed unique sound designs
for local venues.  As a filmmaker, she is doing the final cut of YOUR EAR IS
IN YOUR NOSE, destined for release next year or whenever her long time
technical task wizard Animator Sam Worf gets his head out of his latest



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