Travel

London diary

Cruising to the end of story, and Forced Entertainment's 'The Coming Storm'
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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Tom Cruise, clad in military drag, descended last week by RAF helicopter into Trafalgar Square in what is best described as forced entertainment but was in fact a time-wasting scene from his upcoming blockbuster All You Need Is Kill. Not quite simultaneously but with considerably more stealth, I advanced into South London's Battersea area, in a completely uncoordinated foray, to see the latest from famed Sheffield-based pomo theater artists Forced Entertainment.Read more »

Appetite: Latest in New Orleans dining

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Returning to my beloved New Orleans, a city I’ve explored extensively via a path laden with jazz, Dixieland, Zydeco, Ramos Gin Fizzes, Sazeracs, Cajun and Creole food, there were ever more finds, both new and classic. The sweltering humid heat of July during Tales of the Cocktail is not ideal weather to fill up on po boys and boudin, but I managed, and in so doing, savored more of the soul of this most soulful of places.

Though I returned to modern day favorites like Cochon (rabbit and dumplings, boudin and fried alligator, thank you) or ordered appetizers and drinks at the bar at brand new Criollo in the Hotel Monteleone, following are restaurants I’d add to my already long, Nola neighborhood lists – and only one real disappointment.

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Appetite: Portland cocktailing

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More than 50 places in one week…  I may not have covered all of Portland this May, but I certainly made a dent. So much so that my Portland reviews are broken up in a four part series. Soaking wet half the week, I biked out to neighborhoods East, West, and North with my usual (if grumpy, cold, and irritable) tenacity to dig in and taste the soul and breadth of a place rather than its veneer. Join me as I drink, and eat, my way through the rainy town up north.

As cocktail bars are required to serve food in Portland, cocktails and food are intertwined – and strong – at many a locale. Though I separate out cocktails and restaurants, there are numerous places where both are worth making your way to so you’ll see some restaurants listed here and in next issue’s Portland restaurant article.

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TIFF happens, part three! Plus top films of the fest

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Read Jesse Hawthorne Ficks' first and second reports from the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.

Dial M For Murder 3D Remastered (Alfred Hitchcock, US) The digitally remastered re-release of Alfred Hitchcock's only 3D production was introduced by none other than film historian David Bordwell, whose introductory textbooks Film Art (1979) and Film History (1994) have shaped countless film students. After an insightful Hitchcock introduction that left me feeling as if I had downloaded an entire book to my central nervous system in only 12 minutes, the 4K, 3D digital restoration began.

What was most exciting about this often-dismissed Hitchcock flick (aside from the highly effective 3D itself) was recognizing how incorrect critics in 1954 had been when they complained about how pathetic the 3D was utilized. Re-evaluating Dial M For Murder in the present 3D age, it is overwhelmingly clear that Hitchcock understood the complexity of his technique; instead of overusing the "in your face" gimmick he directed his attention toward utilizing the depth of the sets and perfectly placed props near the camera. Fifty-eight years later, even one of Hitchcock's "lesser" films (even according to himself) is still paving the road for future films and filmmakers.

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TIFF happens, part two!

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Read Jesse Hawthorne Ficks' first report from the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival here.

In Another Country (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea) This highly enjoyable Éric Rohmer-esque vehicle for Isabelle Huppert continues Hong's tradition as being the Korean Woody Allen by making a highly personal comedies. Huppert is masterful bouncing in and out of each random-yet-interconnected sequence, but Yu Jun-sang steals the show as the local lifeguard who hilariously channels Roberto Benigni (circa Jim Jarmusch's 1986 Down By Law). It's one of the funniest comic performances of 2012.

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Gimme shelter

Negotiating crisis and 'Turbulence' at Portland, Ore.'s TBA Festival

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER The word "challenging" gets thrown around a lot in the art world. Everyone wants to be considered challenging. So much so, it starts to sound like a byword for its opposite. A plea to "like" on Facebook. That sort of thing. In truth, few pieces of theater, dance, or performance actually live up to the meaning of this over-used phrase by unsettling basic assumptions about our relation to the work itself and its social and institutional contexts.Read more »

TIFF happens! Toronto fest picks, part one

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This year's Toronto International Film Festival showcased 289 films. I attended 32. Mark down any titles that sound interesting, because this upcoming year is gonna be one to remember.

Outrage Beyond (Takeshi Kitano, Japan) The sequel to Takeshi Kitano's return-to-gangster-form Outrage (2010) sports the same no-nonsense editing that matches extreme violence with perfectly primed pauses. Kitano's knack for offbeat crime films began almost 25 years ago with his nasty neo-noir classic Violent Cop (1989). Since then, he's found a perfect blend of humor and artistry over the years, with such masterpieces as Sonatine (1993) and Hana-Bi (1997). Even his more eccentric deliveries, such as the sentimental Kikujiro (1999) and Brother (2000) —  his American crossover, co-starring Omar Epps — have the power to make fans out of first-time Takeshi viewers. Outrage Beyond methodically introduces (then destroys) main characters, creates tons of twists and turns that mangle the melodrama, and will either hypnotize you to all its inverted genre glory or leave you completely cold, confused, and unaffected. Either way, Takeshi is his own boss and I will watch everything he touches.

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The Performant: PortlanD.I.Y.

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The Performant puts a bird on it

There’re a lot of ways to while away 72 hours in Portland, Oregon, so I shrewdly place myself in the hands of a capable buddy who knows the ropes and we embark on a whirlwind bicycling tour of the five quadrants, from Sellwood to St Johns (yes, there are five quadrants, not four, go figure). We don’t really have a focus, and you could easily spend 72 hours just crawling from coffeeshop to bookstore to food cart to brewpub. While there’s plenty of all of the above on our itinerary, the theme that soon reveals itself during our pedal-powered perambulations is Portland’s obvious fervor for the DIY life, extending even to their entertainment options. Here’re a few of my favorite examples.

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Appetite: Southern taste adventures in Louisville, KY

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Kentucky: land of bourbon, the Derby and Mint Juleps. I’m ever delighted to return to the South, although I’m connected to some areas more than others (ah, New Orleans, my love). I recently spent a week in Louisville, on the judging panel for ADI’s (American Distilling Institute) annual awards. It was an honor to judge with key spirits and cocktail industry folk, spending days tasting (blind, of course) through the latest in a broad range of small US craft spirits – winners here.

In my off time, I roamed Louisville, from downtown to Bardstown Road. Louisville is a small city, not exactly visually beautiful or dense like other US cities, but its distinctly Kentuckian treasures do unfold. The historic Brown Hotel was my home base, its player piano welcoming me with strains of Gershwin and old world elegance in the beautiful lobby.

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Appetite: Spring weekend in Los Angeles yields intriguing tastes

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I recently returned to my old SoCal stomping grounds for yet another long weekend. This time I stayed at funky, restored motel, The Farmer’s Daughter, gazing over a pool filled with giant rubber duckies, the hotel’s birds greeting me each morning in the lobby. Colorful and quirky, the hotel (with welcoming, engaging staff) is a worthwhile home base, ideally located across the street from the original LA Farmers Market. You won’t find farmers here, rather, it’s a permanent, open air mall of food purveyors.

Though not always gourmet, a few newcomers add foodie cred to the market. However, I hope to never see the demise of old school diners, pie shops and vendors selling unnaturally bright red popcorn and the like – it’s a charming slice of LA history.

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