It looks as if the movie "Downtown Express," featuring violinist Philippe Quint, will be appearing soon. The trailer is out. That is it up above.
Philippe Quint is known around Buffalo. He was the recipient of one of the valuable violins lent out by Clement and Karen Arrison through the Stradivari Society. He has been a soloist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The movie has been called a documentary, set among Russian immigrants in New York. I am not sure why they call it a documentary. It seems from the trailer to be a fiction. Quint's name, in the movie, is Sasha. He becomes involved with a girl named Ramona who sings with a rock band. She is played by Nellie McKay. (The rock premise might not be as far-fetched as you think. Quint's mother, Laura Quint, has written rock operas and became known as "the Andrew Lloyd Webber of Russia.")
I have gotten to talk to Philippe Quint once or twice and have found him a lot of fun. Articulate, too. Are you still allowed to say people are articulate? I mean in the sense of being able to communicate things clearly.
For instance Quint -- who came to America in 1991 -- gave The News a good glimpse of what Russia was like when the Iron Curtain began to fall.
"When Gorbachev became president, everything sort of started to collapse," he remembered. "Even the school system. We all had to wear a special uniform, but after a year of his presidency, people started to relax in a strange sort of way. Everything that was forbidden became permitted. Small things ... it was as if, if there wasn't a sign not to do it, you do it. Everyone was enjoying the freedom. Everyone was anticipating something happening."
That must have been a thrill.
Let us wish Philippe Quint luck in his new career as a movie star!
Tod A. Kniazuk, the first executive director of the Arts Services Initiative. Photo by Robert Kirkham / The Buffalo News.
The Arts Servcies Initiative, a broadly based organization (with no website!) that hopes to bring the concerns of arts and culture to the forefront of the Buffalo-Niagara region's agenda, has elected its first full board of directors.
The new board, announced on Tuesday by the organization's executive director Tod A. Kniazuk, contains the usual suspects from Western New York's art world as well as serveral members whose presence on the board speaks to its wider regional ambitions.
First, the more or less usual suspects, who hail mostly from Erie County's active cultural world or from institutions with longstanding arts affiliations:
E. Frits Abell, the preservationist and arts advocate who founded the Buffalo Expat Network and the fledgling Echo art fair.
Laurie Dean Torrell, longtime director of Just Buffalo Literary Center.
Paulette Harris, the accomplished artistic director of the Paul Robeson Theatre.
Sarah JM Kolberg, a consultant and adjunct professor in the University at Buffalo's Media Study department who formerly served on the staff of former New York State assemblyman Sam Hoyt.
Kate Koperski, director of the Castellani Art Museum since 2007.
Randall Kramer, co-chair of the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance and artistic and executive director of MusicalFare Theatre.
Gerald Mead, local artist, collector, curator and Buffalo State College professor.
Theresa Quinn, attorney with Magavern Magavern Grimm and local pianist and musical director.
JoAnne Schwartz, a vice president of community reinvestment with M&T Bank.
And now for the slightly less expected members of the inaugural ASI board.
James Allen, director of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency.
Mark McGovern, project manager with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Irene Rykaszewski, director of the Lewiston Council on the Arts.
The inclusion of BNMC and AIDA officials speaks to the desire of the ASI's first director to spread the conversation about arts and culture beyond the echo chamber it sometimes inhabits. The inclusion of a Lewiston cultural figure is also a plus sign, in terms of casting a wider net that reaches beyond Erie County. This reads to me like good news, though in the future it would be good to see the balance tilt a little bit more to extra-cultural circles.
Robert Sherman is half of the songwriting team that produced the songs for "Mary Poppins." And "The Jungle Book," and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." His brother Richard Sherman is the other half of the team. As far as I know, Richard Sherman is still among us.
I have often thought longingly that it would be so much fun to meet and interview the Sherman brothers. Luckily other people have already done that. There are a few great videos on YouTube of the brothers explaining how they came up with the ideas they did.
They are marvelous at that. While all songwriters are all interesting people, not all of them are good at discussing their elusive craft. It is sometimes hard to put that art into words. The Sherman Brothers have a very good way of discussing what they do. You can follow their thought processes and it gives you a new appreciation of their songs. Also they seem to have no egos, unbelievable considering their accomplishments.
Here they are talking about "Mary Poppins."
"At one point Walt said..." Hahahahaa! Imagine knowing Walt Disney and calling him Walt.
In that video you get to hear them playing the piano and singing "Chim Chim Cheree" and other songs. Those melodies have good bones, you know? Coltrane played "Chim Chim Cheree."
And the words ... I always get a kick out of them because they are wasted on the kids.
I'm the lord of my castle, the sovereign, the liege/I treat my subjects ... servants, children, wife .../With a firm but gentle hand/Noblesse oblige.. That is from the song Mr. Banks sings, "The Life I Lead." It just popped into my head.
Fascinating to hear how they came up with "Chim, Chim, Cheree." How the word "chimney" was a mouthful, so one brother suggested breaking it down to "one chim-ney, two chim-ney," and the other brother thought that was a bad idea, but did it anyway -- and that was when the music came into his head.
Then they began exploring all the British lore surrounding chimney sweeps, and the whole movie changed.
"It's all me own work, from me own memory." And they laugh happily. Still proud of it. They talk about how the song sounded too "Russian" at some point and how they made it more universal.
We marvel anew at the great dance sequence "Step in Time."
That moment when they dance on top of the chimneys always kills me! Then when they teeter on the railing and finally get their footing and do that Rockettes kick line.
Those were great days, the days of the Sherman Brothers.
Larry, Curly and Moe bring the laughs to the big screen in the Riviera Theatre
After 20 years as a summer-only celebration, the Three Stooges Film Festival at the Riviera Theatre (67 Webster St., North Tonawanda) has branched out. The first winter version of the event will start at 7 p.m. today (Feb. 18) at the theater.
Organizer and chief stooge fan Lenny Potwora asked the crowd at last summer’s Stoogefest if they would be interested in a winter event. "The reaction was pretty strong from the crowd," says Potwora, so he and theater manager Frank J. Cannata agreed on a date.
The Stoogefest will include seven shorts from various phases of the Stooges’ long career. Potwora carefully selects films that feature different plots and even various Stooges. Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard were the mainstays, but after Curly’s health failed in 1946, Moe and Larry worked with Shemp Howard, Joe Besser and Curly Joe DeRita.
The Stoogefest will be preceded by a concert on the theater’s Mighty Wurlitzer organ. Door prize and raffle drawings for Stooges items will be held during intermission.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under and available at the box office (call 692-2413), online at www.rivieratheatre.org and at Hollywood Collectables in the McKinley Mall. For more information, call Potwora at 432-6827.
Snow White will be there. So will Cinderella. Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook, too. It’s not Disney, after all, without those familiar characters. But perhaps most exciting are the new friends arriving when "Disney on Ice Presents Treasure Trove" visits the First Niagara Center starting today (Jan. 18). Look for Rapunzel from "Tangled" to make her "Disney on Ice" debut. Tianna from "The Princess and the Frog" will skate as well.
"Treasure Trove," the newest addition to Disney on Ice tours, takes us through 50 years of Disney films, from the very first animated feature ("Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs") to its 50th ("Tangled") and the many films between including "Sleeping Beauty," "The Little Mermaid," "The Lion King" and "Alice in Wonderland."
Performances are at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 18), Thursday (Jan. 19) and Friday (Jan. 20), plus 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 21) and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 22) in the First Niagara Center. Tickets are $60 rinkside, $40 VIP, plus $26, $20 and $13 through the FNC box office, Tickets.com and by calling (888) 223-6000. Also visit www.disneyonice.com.
Buffalo Film Seminars opens with "The Phantom Carriage" Tuesday in the Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre.
You won’t hear this phrase much around here, but it’s a great time to be a fan of silent movies. For starters, the universally acclaimed modern silent movie "The Artist" finally opens here today (Jan. 13) in the Eastern Hills Cinema.
Then at 2 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 15), Shea’s Performing Arts Center (646 Main St.) hosts a free screening of "The Black Pirate," a 1926 swashbuckler starring the great Douglas Fairbanks. To really set the mood, house organist Bruce Woody will perform the film’s score on the Wurlitzer organ.
And when the Buffalo Film Seminars opens its new semester on Tuesday (Jan. 17), it will again be with a silent movie: Victor Sjorstom’s 1921 film, "The Phantom Carriage." BFS shows movies at 7 p.m. Tuesdays in the Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre (639 Main St.) starting with an intro by Diane Christian and Bruce Jackson; stick around afterward for a discussion. Here’s the rest of the BFS schedule: Jan. 24, "The Public Enemy" (1931); Jan. 31, "King Kong" (1933); Feb. 7, "To Be or Not to Be" (1942); Feb. 14, "Senso" (1954); Feb. 21, "Paths of Glory" (1957); Feb. 28, "12 Angry Men" (1957); March 6, "The Music Room" (1958); March 20, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976); March 27, "The Killer" (1989); April 3, "Red" (1994); April 10, "Thin Red Line" (1998); April 17, "City of God" (2003); and April 24, "The Dark Knight" (2008).
It is fascinating to read coverage of the cell phone that went off at the New York Philharmonic during Mahler's moving Ninth Symphony -- and stopped the show. (Here it is in the Wall Street Journal.)
The phone, set to the Marimba setting, just kept ringing and ringing and ringing. We all know that sound! I know it, that is for sure. That is the sound that wakes me up in the morning. And they are figuring that is what it was, an alarm, because it just kept marimba-ing, throughout the symphony's slow movement.
That is beautiful, sublime music, that Mahler. It is terrible to think of the audience being drawn out of its trance by this marimba noise. No wonder Music Director Alan Gilbert, on the podium, began looking over his shoulder in, well, alarm.
We have all witnessed electronic interruptions on some scale at concerts or at church or somewhere else where, at some moments, interruption is unthinkable. But this is the first time I have heard of it stopping the show. Gilbert reached the point where he just had to stop the orchestra.
The story has a happy ending -- they picked the symphony up again, got back to where they were, and all was well. But it is worrisome. You do not want to have to worry about interruptions like this, is the point. It stops you from freeing your mind to concentrate on the music.
Granted, I am a classical music nerd, but electronic devices in the concert hall have always worried me. Including my own. Especially my own!
Every time I go to any concert, first I put my iPhone on Airplane Mode, which is supposed to ensure that it will not ring. But my husband, Howard, says: "That only lessens the chances it will go off." So I go to Settings, and I turn the ring volume way down. So even if it did ring, which it is not supposed to, the ring would be so faint, and muffled by all the massive amount of other stuff in my purse, that with luck few people would hear it. After that I turn the phone off.
And then -- and then! -- I proceed to check the darn thing a half a dozen times before the concert starts, just to make sure.
Having taken these precautions I reserve the right to play the therapeutic game of listing the Worst Electronic Interruptions I Have Been Victimized By.
This is not a particular instance but at almost every Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concert, you do hear some kind of phone going off, maybe some tone that signals the hour or something. It is practically guaranteed that you will hear that at some point during every concert. That is annoying.
Even worse are the people who take out their iPhones, or whatever, on purpose and fuss with them, even when the devices are silent. I ran up against a terrible case of this at Slee Hall, during a tremendous two-piano recital by Robert Levin and his wife, Ya-Fei Chuang. That was, yikes, in 2008! I blogged about it then and reading back on it I get mad all over again.
But the worst instance -- the worst! -- I have ever experienced was -- Are you ready for this?
Ready or not, here goes. It was when I went the Regal Theatres to see the Metropolitan Opera's broadcast of Richard Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier." This opera has one of the most breathtaking endings of all time -- this very famous, incredibly beautiful trio. Listening to it is like going into a dream.
Isn't that beautiful? That clip is conducted by former BPO music director Semyon Bychkov.
Anyway, so there I am listening, just entranced.
And what happens is, a cell phone goes off right behind me. And the guy answers it! And he starts to talk. "I'm at the opera," he goes. "Yeah, it's almost over..." Etc.
Can you believe that?? It got to the point I was in absolute shock. I turned around and put my finger to my lips.
And the guy got mad at me! He talked louder!
The whole situation was just unbelievable and needless to say it ended badly. It completely ruined the experience for me, too. I have not been back to a Met broadcast after that, I have to say. I mean, how could I ever relax? I would always be worrying about something like this happening again. And unfortunately I think we will continue to have to worry about it happening. It is getting to the point that people cannot even walk down the street without horsing with their iPhones. So do not see this situation getting any better.
Well, at least we can gripe. Have you experienced any electronic disturbances at a concert? If so, by all means, speak up.
Jeff Miers and I are back from vacation and will be ready and willing to chat on camera today at 1 p.m. Right off the top of my head, I can think of a lot of subjects that beckon: our best of 2011 lists, the current brawl between Time Warner Cable and the MSG network and what it means to Sabres viewers, all manner of things.
We'll be happy to hear what you have to say about all of it 1 p.m.
So join us if you want to.
NOTE: The entire video must load before playback, so please be patient.
News Arts Editor Jeff Simon and Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers answered your questions about books, movies, television, music and more directly into the camera. Please allow extra time for the large video file to load.
You may not have noticed, but Buffalo is quietly becoming a showplace for Indian films -- that is, films made in India -- that play here in either a weekly run or as a special event.
At 1 p.m. today (Dec. 11) in the Eastern Hills Mall Cinema, the film "Panjaa," a "gangster movie with a mafia connection," will be shown. In attendance will be the movie’s screenwriter Rahul Koda, who makes Buffalo his home.
"Panjaa" was expressely written for Indian superstar Pawan Kalyan, a common occurrence in Indian filmmaking. "In Hollywood, you come up with a script and then cast," Koda says. "But when you’re dealing with a big star in India, you tailor-make the film for him. Stars are like superheroes in India. That’s something you have to tread very carefully around and not show the actor in a bad light."
When he was writing for Kalyan, Koda says, he played upon the actor’s strength -- his screen presence, especially in action and romance. "In the commercial mainstream Indian cinema the genres all overlap. You can’t call it action. There will be some romance, there will be music, there will be other things and that’s what the fans expect."
Also unlike Hollywood, the process is extremely fast. Koda began writing from Buffalo in August 2010, working remotely with director Vishnu Vardhan. He then went to India where they brainstormed off the basic plot. "The actors dates are very precious so you have to hit the dates he gives out for shooting. It’s a lot of pressure to finish a script and get it to a place where it’s good enough to shoot. It was very fast," Koda says. "It was a lot of fun, too."