Bateman brings the unexpected to the stage at Yoshi’s Oakland

October 30, 2014 4:17 PM

Zack Bateman arrived promptly for our interview at Jack London Square. His relaxed demeanor and friendly welcome belied the fact that he has suffered from severe panic attacks since childhood. In fact, he discovered that performing in front of an audience always “cured” his anxiety, and he quickly warmed to appearing on stage. “Facing a group or crowd actually helped calm me and get me focused,” Bateman said. “I kind of had the opposite of stage fright!” Bateman comes from a long line of performance artists, so it didn’t surprise anyone that he was a natural on stage. He began […]

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First Friday in Oakland

September 18, 2014 12:26 AM

Oakland’s monthly First Friday Art Walk, also known as Art Murmur is an event for all to enjoy. It offers art, crafts, music, food, beverages, and entertainment for all ages. The festival is held on Telegraph Avenue between 27th street and West Grand, as well as on several of the adjacent streets. People can wander around freely since the streets are blocked off from traffic. Many of the local Art Galleries offer a wide variety of goods for sale and viewing. Visitors can find jewelry, pottery, woodwork, paintings and much more. At September’s First Friday event, food booths offered a […]

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Artists explore Oakland’s colorful past and bright future

12:21 AM

Two Oakland neighborhoods poised for rapid redevelopment are the focus of “Pieces of Oakland,” a multimedia exhibit currently on display at Warehouse 416. Hanging across the gallery’s brick walls are four large plywood panels, which comprise the exhibit’s main displays. At every panel’s center is an official planning map of either the Lake Merritt BART Station area or West Oakland, two neighborhoods that will be directly impacted by the City of Oakland’s redevelopment plans. A web of photographs depicting cityscapes and local residents surround the maps. In contrast to these contemporary photos is a small collection of archival images underscoring Oakland’s […]

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‘Noah’ struggles to flood big screen

12:14 AM

Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah is a giant leap from the cult director’s previous films, which include such dark independent dramas as “Pi”, “Requiem For A Dream” and “The Wrestler.” His newest creation is a big budget epic starring A-listers Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson. At the helm of the film’s retelling of the ancient narrative concerning God’s fateful destruction/renewal of earth and humankind by catastrophic flooding is Noah (Russell Crowe.) Noah is the one man spared, leaving him burdened with prophetic responsibility along with his duties as husband and father. How large scale should a director go […]

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Marvel’s ‘Guardians’ brings unlikely heroes to a galaxy near you

September 8, 2014 11:56 PM

Heroes come from the most unlikely places, and guardians rarely start out as such. It’s one of the oldest stories we can tell, but no matter how many times it is told it never loses its power. “I was only a kid when I left Earth, and I had no idea what the universe had in store for me,” states Peter Quill in Marvel’s latest blockbuster “The Guardians of the Galaxy,” setting the stage for an action-packed story chock full of improbable heroism. On the night of his mother’s death, young Quill was abducted and taken from earth, forever altering […]

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A personal take on Robin Williams

11:50 PM

We knew Robin Williams in many guises; the last one was hard to stomach. The finality of it – that so sweet a soul could be assaulted by unbearable pain is not for us to fathom. “Over and out,” as Mork might have delicately put it. Inevitably, social media lit up. Noted comics tweeted tributes, and one—Billy Crystal—said simply, “No words.” Some hold cherished memories of an actual encounter with Robin Williams. Mine came on April 6, 1983. I was the comedy critic for the now-defunct Berkeley Gazette. The headline left little doubt: “Berkeley gets a surprise Orkian treat” Following […]

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From action to indie, the summer movie roundup

May 15, 2014 1:46 PM

The grand age of digital streaming has brought blockbusters to our bedrooms, and for many of us it has replaced movie theaters altogether. But there is something about the theater experience that the convenience of streaming will never be able to rival. The cushy red seats, the smell of popcorn, the air-conditioning that’s always on a bit too high, and, best of all, the intangible camaraderie of sharing a couple hours of honest entertainment with a crowd of strangers. So, as the summer movie season approaches, take the time to visit your favorite theater. Take a date, take your best […]

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‘Only Lovers Left’ a new look at Vampires

1:44 PM

V ampire stories have been beaten to death by pop culture over the last few years. A rash of books, TV shows, and movies have tried to put a new spin on one of humankind’s oldest myths. For many the trope seems tired out, but when a director as visionary and unique as Jim Jarmusch decides to take it on, it’s enough to make you pay attention, and not without good reason. “Only Lovers Left Alive,” the 11th film by the prolific and celebrated director, is unlike any vampire story before it, largely ignoring the trend of dramatic mysticism so […]

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Free Comic Day celebrates alt artform

May 1, 2014 5:08 PM

On May 1st comic book stores across the globe will be participating in the annual Free Comic Book Day. Since 2002, shops worldwide have been opening their doors and offering free comics in celebration of artists, writers, and comic culture on a whole. As the Free Comic Book Day website states, “Comic books are an original American art form, created in the early days of the twentieth century. They are fun to read, featuring a wide range of diverse story lines that capture the imagination of the readers. That’s worth celebrating in our book.” Whether you are a longtime buff […]

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Classic hero takes on big controversies

5:06 PM

Captain America made his debut as a star-spangled, shield-slinging, Nazi-bashing patriot in the 1940s, a character whose sole purpose was to promote liberty and democracy while dealing solid uppercuts to Hitler and his cronies. Seventy years later, the beloved “Cap” has proved himself an enduring character in American entertainment, and one surprisingly capable of leaving behind outdated governmental chauvinism to tackle contemporary issues of politics and policy. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is another block-busting hit for entertainment mogul Marvel Comics that deals out vehicular mayhem and gratuitous roundhouse kicks en-masse. However, the film does not lack depth and is […]

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Bowens educates through art as part of Steingart Gallery exhibit

April 10, 2014 11:00 PM
Bowens educates through art as part of Steingart Gallery exhibit

Artist Milton Bowens of Oakland met with Mr. Conley, vice president, and Chardonnae Carter, secretary of the Black Student Union on April 3, at Laney College; June Steingart Gallery. Bowens is an Oakland native, and his portfolio states that he tactfully put a slim strip of brown paper bag on all his art to connect to his modest past as an artist. Bowens said, “The most important dimension of painting lives in the zones of silence, emotions, and mystery created by the forms, the lines, the colors, the materials, the brushstroke, and the frailties forged by chance. “No one would […]

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‘The Fifth Estate’ doesn’t assuage Assange

October 24, 2013 4:25 PM
(From left) Cumberbatch, Vikander, Brühl, and Beyer have a collective squint session.

In the apparent cloak and dagger world of online reporting, it is apparently difficult to know the truth. Evidently, equally difficult is turning such activities into a film that feels even half as compelling as the story upon which it is based. “The Fifth Estate,” directed by Bill Condon and R.J. Cutler, is the ethically ambivalent dramatization of the famous, or infamous depending on your perspective, Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Not that ethical ambivalence is necessarily a negative when it comes to cinema, but here it just falls flat. Instead of a compelling docudrama and thriller, 124 minutes […]

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‘Life is Living’ celebrates art and community

4:21 PM
Local artists compete in the Estria Graffiti battle during the 'Life is Living' festivities at DeFremery Park.

Thousands gathered at DeFremery Park to celebrate and contribute to Oakland’s annual “Life is Living” festival. The festival, held on Oct. 12, was meant to bring together Oakland residents and raise awareness for important issues in the Oakland community. The festival hosted a graffiti competition, local hip-hop artists, skateboard and BMX competitions, a freestyle rap battle, and renowned performers Dead Prez and The John Santos Sextet. “We wanted something that reflected the brown people of west Oakland, that reflected those of us working hard in schools and other institutions and our neighborhoods to create something that validated, reflected, and supported […]

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A birdwatcher’s life takes flight during Laney photo exhibition

October 14, 2013 1:10 PM

William Van Meter may never have begun taking photographs if it weren’t for a certain heron. “I was a birdwatcher in Florida and a great big blue heron came out of the slough,” he said, “He didn’t see me as he was climbing up out of the pond. When he came up on the bank and saw me he didn’t turn and show fear, he strutted off and I said to myself ‘I should have a camera.’” This experience stuck with Van Meter and upon returning to California he did get his camera and began taking photographs of the birds […]

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Shepard’s ‘Buried Child’ embodies unreality

1:08 PM
The inebriated Vince hurdles into the scene.

Magic Theatre’s revival of the 1979 Pulitzer prize winner is a revelation in three acts Pulitzer Prize winner Sam Shepard’s play “Buried Child” is, to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill, something of a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” It is the story of a family deteriorating mentally, physically, financially, and existentially. In the opening sequence of “Child,” central character Dodge, the physically broken patriarch skillfully played by Rod Gnapp, argues with wife Halie (Denise Balthrop Cassidy) over the apparently mundane. A comical series of white lies is exchanged between Dodge and Halie, but this is simple […]

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