‘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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‘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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