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

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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

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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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‘Tree of Life and Death’ at OMCA

October 10, 2013 1:13 PM
'The Cobbler,' by artist Wendeanne Ke'aka Stitt.

The Oakland Museum of California 19th annual Dia de los Muertos exhibition, “The Tree of Life and Death,” opened October 9, much to the enthusiasm of visitors and museum staff alike. The exhibition intertwines the Dias de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) theme with the museum’s Natural Sciences wing, which opened on May 31 after a four-year renovation. The arrangement of installations allows guests to wander back and forth between the Natural Sciences and Dias de los Muertos exhibitions. The focus of this interdisciplinary exhibit are the ofrendas, or altars, to the souls of the deceased. A multitude of […]

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‘The Butler’ – a generational look at racial bias

August 29, 2013 2:13 PM
‘The Butler’ – a generational look at racial bias

In “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” title character Cecil Gaines is told there is no room for politics at the White House.  The film, however, portrays a tumultuous journey of over 80 years, chronicling not only Gaines’ life as a White House butler, but the volatile politics of twentieth century America. The film begins with the steady rise of Gaines (Forest Whitaker), an African American, to the role of a White House butler.  He is motivated to leave the Deep South to find a better life for himself and abandon a life filled with turmoil. After finally finding a job, Gaines’ […]

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‘Black August’ — fiction masquerading as history

2:09 PM
‘Black August’ — fiction masquerading as history

“Black August” reveals itself not simply as fiction masquerading as history, but a poorly executed fiction at that. Ostensibly a docudrama, Samm Styles and TCinque Sampson attempt detailing the publication process of George Jackson’s seminal work “Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson.” Detailed are the difficulties in publishing the work.  Threats come in from nearly every direction. Pressure is put upon all parties involved in releasing the book, creating a taut pressure cooker of a situation. Throughout the film, Jackson himself is presented as a loquacious chain smoker. Those familiar with the film’s foundational text, from which many […]

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