Arts & Entertainment

Lost & Found

The Long Beach Shakespeare Company (LBSC) announced its 2024 season – Lost and Found – a theme that’s as varied as it is universal. Shakespeare and playwrights throughout time remind us that everything that finds its way into our hands can, in a quick twist of fate, slip through our fingers. No one escapes the pangs of loss. But it’s the joy of finding – whether hope, love, friendship, family, or anything in between – that truly inspired the season.

Whatever you seek, you’ll find reason to find yourself at the Helen Borgers Theatre in 2024.

Four fully staged productions lay the foundation for the exploration: “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” “Antigone,” “The Comedy of Errors” and a selection of shorts adapted from Anton Chekhov stories.

Radio Shows carry the theme forward starting with “The Wizard of Oz” in the spring. Fall shows include “Dial M for Murder,” a Ray Bradbury double feature, and, of course, our classic “War of the Worlds” at Halloween. The year wraps with a deluxe radio-style production of Charles Dickens’

heart-wrenching holiday parable, “The Christmas Carol.”

LBSC’s wildly popular New Works Festival and Poetry Series will return in 2024, bringing fresh voices to our shared lost-and-found narrative. Finally, save the date for LBSC’s Holiday Gala coming on Dec. 1. It’ll be your chance to support your local theatre – and get an insider’s sneak peek at upcoming productions.

LBSC is the only full-time classical theater company in Long Beach, dedicated to bringing classic literature to life with quality performances, live music and lively spectacles.

Their mission is both pro-literacy and pro-community, with professional actors, musicians, designers, choreographers and technicians working alongside eager students and talented neighbors. Watch for new theater arts opportunities in the months ahead.

 

Jewish Film Festival

Screening five great Jewish-themed films with genres including romantic comedies, dramas, and even animation, in-person at the Alpert Jewish Community Center (Alpert JCC), the Long Beach Jewish Film Festival kicks off with Premiere Night, 6-9 pm, on Wednesday, January 17, 2024. The festival runs through Sunday, January 21, Throughout the festival, attendees will gain a deeper appreciation of the films with prescreening receptions, and guest speakers. Before the Film Festival begins, they are screening two free movies for teens and families.

The Premiere Night Reception features a stroll on the red carpet, gourmet popcorn, live music, drinks, and more followed by the first film of the festival, “Marrying Myself.”

Tickets are on sale now. Buy a ticket to an individual film or save with a pass and get access to all films, VIP skip-the-line, unlimited drinks at receptions, a souvenir popcorn container, and more.

Admission for Premiere Night is $25 ($20 Alpert JCC members). Admission for individual films are $20 ($15 AJCC members). A Festival Pass is available for $118 ($85 AJCC members).

All Long Beach Jewish Film Festival events are held at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Jewish Long Beach Campus (3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach). Please buy tickets in advance by visiting https://alpertjcc.org/filmfestival/

Jewish Long Beach & Alpert JCC provide programming for all ages and stages of life. Known as “Your Center for Life,” The Alpert JCC provides a gathering space in which all are welcome to pursue early childhood education, after-school programs, fitness programs, aquatics activities, and summer camp, as well as to engage in Jewish life, culture, and education.

 

Venice Film Festival

By John Thomas

[Editor Note: Movie reviewer John Thomas regularly attends the annual Venice Film Festival and following are his comments for the 2023 films. An asterisk [*]  denotes an award winner.]

Film makers as with other artists most often use their art to tell a story or make a statement. Good directors do it easily and clearly, poor directors leave viewers confused.

Of the films I attended in August, only one had a vague message, the others left me wondering what the minutes-long film was about – or why it was initially made.

Almost all of the images on the screen were dark and blurred and with little action or dialogue. The subtitles were small and quickly scurried across the tiny blurry translation screen. Too frequently the outcome of the story was left to the viewer’s imagination. “The Meat Seller” (121 minutes) was the most interesting of the collection because of the creative animation used to tell the story. I didn’t like it, however, because there was too much red and blood for my taste. Some films were a tiny step above home movies while most were far worse than that.

*City of Wind (Mongolia). The spirit grandfather is conducting a healing  intervention for a troubled family member. The spirit is a 17-year-old high school student about to graduatAEe. His shaman abilities begin to fade as he begins to explore the world of a teenager – finding love, alcohol and rebellion. (103 min.).

Upon Open Sky (Mexico). A creatively told story about forgiveness, the fragility of humans and the development of self-awareness. To the surviving family members, the accident that took their father’s life was murder – intentional not accidental. The family needs closure that they at first feel can only come from retaliation. (117 min.)

*Explanation for Everything (Slovakia). The “national pin” worn by a graduating senior at his final oral exams causes trouble for all the characters portrayed in this film. At the concluding segment of his orals, his brain freezes causing him to fail to graduate, even after his third attempt at the exams he fails. A moving story of the struggles and problems in achieving freedom. (152 min.)

*An Endless Sunday (Italy). Present-day teens texting mindless messages using “how R U?” abbreviations and sending seconds-long meaningless selfies will love this film. The movie is bright, flashy and loud seemingly directed towards young inexperienced moviegoers who have spent most of their lives staring at mobile phones. Images are quick, often unrelated and bounce from place to place and time to time. The film does have artistic merit, however. (110 min.)

Tatami (Israel). Who could have imagined that a film about a women’s judo competition in Georgia would be as compelling, exciting and emotional as Tatami? What risks would you take to maintain your principles, life values and dignity are issues examined in this most unusual setting. This film received a long-standing ovation. (105 min.)

Yurt Dormitory (Turkey). The conflicting political and religious beliefs rampant in Turkey are subtly woven into this story concerning life in a school dormitory. Two students, one older from an impoverished background and the other from wealth, form a bond that transcends these issues. As their friendship blossoms and the film turns from black and white to color, so does their life with each other. (158 min.)

The Featherweight (USA). I should have guessed from the title that this is a movie about boxing. The story centers around the later career of the famed US champion featherweight boxer Willie Pep. I was surprised again in thinking the film was created by real-time archival footage – it wasn’t. The director intricately and convincingly recreated the 60s in and around Connecticut and New York where the  action originally took place. A job well done. (99 min.)

*El Paraiso (Italy). An unusual  story of the bizarre relationship between mother and son. They’re both involved in drug trafficking in a ramshackle neighborhood just outside of Rome. They enjoy dancing and drinking together. Their happy routine is disrupted by the arrival of a young attractive “mule” from Colombia who has trouble “delivering” her stash of drugs. She has to stay with them for a few days before returning home. Mom is also from Colombia and will return there one day – one way or another. (106 min.)

Hesitation Wound (Turkey +3). The counselor is torn between appearing in her courtroom and being at her mother’s hospice bedside. She is defending an “innocent” man of murder and grappling with signing a form that will put an end to her mother’s life. This is a gripping, tense, spellbinding story with a beautifully perfect ending. (84 min.)

Behind the Mountains (Tunisia). Dad has the theory that man first walked on all fours, then rose to walk on two feet and then could eventually fly. To prove this belief he kidnaps his third-grade son from his prestigious school in Tunis and drives him to a remote location behind a stunning range of mountains. Along the way, they meet a sheepherder who becomes part of their adventure. A sort-of “Two and a Half Men” meets Brokeback Mountain story. (98 min.)

Opus (USA). The entire film is a contemporary/classical piano concert. Thirty minutes into the film, the first words are spoken – 20 minutes later the last ones are said. If viewers could keep from nodding off they could observe the inner workings of a piano, count the liver spots on the pianist’s face or watch his whiskers grow. Those who couldn’t, left the theater refreshed after having dozed during a beautiful concert. I wonder if the director would have chosen a bald pianist? The whole experience could have been worse, though, the musician could have been playing bagpipes. (103 min.)

*Green Border (Polish). Poland’s borders are one of the first refugees use to enter the EU. Once inside the country, they are safe and able to move around Europe and beyond. Conflicts between the borders of Belarus and Poland are the subject of this film. Details of the atrocities performed by both countries military personnel, rescue volunteer efforts to help the refugees and the asylum seekers unsuccess and multiple failures are graphically depicted in this film. It received a long-standing ovation. (147 min.)

For Night Will Come (France). Blood trickles down the breast of the mother feeding her newborn baby. That evening the baby is kidnapped from the hospital. Seventeen years later a family of four moves into a house in a new neighborhood to begin a new life. Mom finds work at a blood donation center, dad sells insurance, little sister goes to school and teenage son cowers in the shade from the sun. Because of their curious behaviors, they don’t fit into the neighborhood. The neighbor’s harassment of the family finally reaches a point where something must be done. The parents and daughter pack their belongings into their car. The son on the other hand decides to wait for the sunrise. The story is based on true events – hard to believe. (105 min.) 

Housekeeping for Beginners (7 countries). Somewhere in Eastern Europe is a house filled with chaotic misfits eking out a crazed existence. They’re old and young, gay and straight, violent and peaceful all scrambling about the cavernous home trying to find purpose. Gypsies are part of the mix and the cause of many problems everyone else faces. As puzzling as the storyline is, it’s more curious to know why Focus Features purchased the distribution rights to this film in the first place. (107 min.)

*Paradise is Burning (Finland). No mention of a dad. The mother disappeared. The parents leave behind three rebellious girls running rampant while doing naughty things. The oldest is of age and guides her younger siblings in the art of stealing, lying and burglary. The three are joined by other girls who are also desperately trying to be butch, macho, bullying, bad boys. Mindless negative acts throughout this plotless film make one wonder why it was made in the first place; but more importantly, why is it being presented here? (108 min.)

Gasoline Rainbow (USA). Having lived their lives together in a small, remote boring town in rural Oregon, five high school graduates make a plan to see the ocean when school is out. The five pile into a van and head West. All is fun until the van’s wheels are stolen – they continue west anyway. They hop on a train heading toward Portland where they hook up with a cousin and his freewheeling friends. More fun. A new skateboarding buddy introduces them to someone with a boat who offers to take them to the coast. More fun and partying. Reaching their objective, the five now grapple with the question of what’s next and what they want for their future. (110 min.)

Enzo Jannacci Vengo Anch’lo (Italy). Enzo was one of Italy’s all- time most popular singers, writers, comedians and actors. His personal life and career are amusingly described in this movie using archival and real-time film clips. His son and one of his colleagues were not only shown in the movie but were also in attendance for the premiere screening. Wild applause followed the screening. (97 min.)

Woman Of (Poland). The Polish military won’t enlist a young man with red- painted toenails. This film takes a very long time to tell the dull story of a male who wants to be a woman. Suicide is an option, but over the years of his life, it remains just that, an option. Marriage and the birth of children don’t change his longing for lipstick and high heels. There is help out there for him with persons of similar persuasion, but nothing helps the anguish of his life. After serving a lengthy prison sentence, more persons come to his aid. The film is dedicated to the LBGT community in Poland. (132 min.)

Menus Plaisirs - Les Troisgros (France.) The film opens with shoppers browsing the open-air market in Roanne, France. The shoppers then move into their kitchen and finally the dining room with their purchases. No, it’s not a home, but a famed ***Michelin restaurant overseen by master chef Michel Troisgros. In the next four hours, the history of the Troisgros family is told through the behind-the-scenes working of a three-star restaurant. This story could easily be shown in half the time and been better. It might have lured more viewers into the near-empty theater at its premiere. But for those of us who like dining out and remained to the end found it interesting and informative. The French can be a tad pretentious at times and four hours to tell such a simple story is pretentious. (240 min.)

This is not the first international film festival I have attended, but it is the first one lacking the thrilling excitement of an “opening night feeling.” There is much talk of the industry strikes in the US and how they have and will affect the film industry for, perhaps, years to come. Could this have influenced the gloomy cloud hovering over this 80th VFF?

With respect to the strikers, many US celebrities elected not to attend this ceremony. Yahoo! didn’t even list the winners after the awards ceremony as they normally do. Knowing that the big features presented here would soon be released in the US, I opted to see films from other countries by lesser- known directors.

Without much knowledge of what I was to see, I randomly bought tickets for convenient times and comfortable theaters. Some films were a treat, others not so. That happens in the US too. As I’m willing to “take a chance” on movie-going it was no disappointment/surprise that it happens here as well. The one delightful constant this year was my between-screening spritz Cynar at the Leon D’Oro bar at the center of festival activities.

 

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