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Author Archives: Joseph Hagen
Companies around the metro are putting away the mass-produced décor and furniture art purchased from box stores for something with some local flavor. ArtsKC – Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City’s program, Now Showing, which started in May 2005, unites businesses with local artists to fill their corporate space and offices with the creativity and artistic quality traditionally only available in galleries and private collections. And the
benefits aren’t reserved for the artists, who enjoy an opportunity to exposed new audiences to their work and potentially make sales. Businesses report the program enriches their corporate culture and excites the workplace for employees and visitors alike.
For Roger Hoadley, Vice President and Director of Communications at Waddell & Reed, Now Showing has been part of the main building on the campus at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Lamar since May 2010. Upgrades to their space made company leadership realize local artwork would perfectly complete their renovations. “We really do give the employees and guests a chance to see some of the best local art. It’s also another chance to get engaged in a variety of work,” he says. The art is rotated quarterly and promoted through the company intranet. Hoadley says internal communications often includes a brief story about the artist, allowing an opportunity for employees to connect more deeply with the pieces exhibited in their space. “We want our employees to spend time with the art. As a consequence, several have purchased individual pieces.” These first-time art buyers are one of the core program goals, according to the Arts Council, which hopes that area employees will realize they can have private collections of their own for a much lower cost than one might expect.
Waddell & Reed has been part of the Kansas City community since 1937. “We are a long-time community supporter and believe it is important to give back to a variety of organizations,”” he says. The company, an asset management and financial planning firm, may not seem like a place that encourages art, but art is found everywhere. “I suppose folks would see us as a seemingly more academic place, but we all have creative aspects to what we do.” The campus houses about 1,200 employees.
The Now Showing portfolio includes artists working in a variety of mediums. “We have featured photography, sketches, watercolors, oils, acrylics and more. The pieces are vibrant and really do appeal to everyone from the senior executives to the new employees. It simply livens up the work place.” While company coordinators are encouraged to review the portfolio and make artist selections of their own, Arts Council staff is also available to assist those first-time participants in choosing the right work for their workspace. “We have had traditional and impressionistic pieces, as well as those that are very contemporary. That variety has been fun.” For broker Mike Stolberg at Lawing Financial, the Now Showing program has gone hand in hand with the company’s participation in the Art@Work competition. And similar to Waddell & Reed, when the company made physical changes including a move to the College Boulevard location, Now Showing seemed to fit. “We are more than bricks and mortar; we are a great group of people. Kerry Lawing,
President and CEO of Lawing Financial, allows us to have those sparks of creative fun.”
Stolberg has a diverse background, thoroughly immersed in the arts, which includes musical theater and piano. He grew up with family members involved with The Western States Arts Federation, including a father who was a broker and returned to school to become a choral conductor. He sings lead for the
company band, Toxic Assets, which includes three guitarists, a bassist and drummer. They won last year’s Art@Work performance category. The success there turned into gigs at the company Christmas party and a few local venues.
The Lawing Financial team is another group, ensconced in giving to its community, while having fun in the process. The 60 employees have held their own sorts of corporate challenges and other creative events to generate interest in the arts.
“Creativity really does begat creativity. People may not see themselves as artists, but you never know what the person in the office next to you can do,” he says. “It helps the office and the power of the team approach. Now Showing just adds to that. Our clients can see what local artists do. The art has also started conversations about the art people like and don’t like. We even have clients who want to know what artists we are bringing in. With all these aspects, we are raising awareness of the local art scene.”
Review by Joseph Hagen & Jenny Memmott
As the lights went down and the opening strains of the film Les Misérables rumbled through the theater, my fiancée leaned over and whispered, “I have been waiting to see this movie my entire life.” She, as someone who has spent their life obsessively listening to the musical and attending every possible stage performance of the show, represents a good majority of rabid individuals who have waited years for a film version of the beloved musical to be released. However, creating a film version of a musical as hallowed as Les Misérables is tricky, as the expectations are incredibly high. Fortunately, Tom Hooper succeeds (for the most part) in translating this musical to the big screen and in the process, gives us a gritty, sweeping, challenging, emotional and fresh version of the musical that should leave all Les Misérables fans (and non-fans) satisfied.
Let’s start with the good. Firstly, Tom Hooper’s vision and conceptualization of the musical is incredible. The directing is absolutely inspired. The world Hooper creates in Les Misérables is all at once beautiful, gritty, and at times, challenging. The beautiful people in the film are certainly lovely, but Hooper does not shy away from showing the poor and downtrodden characters of the film as realistically as possible; they are dirty, diseased, emaciated and ugly. With frequent tight shots of the actors singing, it is impossible not to get sucked into the emotionalism of the film. Much has been made of Hooper’s decision to let the actors sing live in the film. I feel that this was a genius choice: the actors’ performances feel genuine and very much in the moment.
I cannot write this review without mentioning the performances of both Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway. Hugh Jackman IS Jean Valjean. Aside from singing the role capably, he absolutely embraces this role and makes Valjean’s journey in the film believable. You can see every emotion in Jackman’s tired eyes and vulnerable face. I have to admit that in his last scene, I was wiping away a tear. As for Anne Hathaway, there is no other word to describe her performance other than devastating. Believe all of the hype that you’ve heard about her performance. She is absolutely incredible and should be a lock for Best Supporting Actress. Although her time onscreen is short, it is absolutely heart breaking. Aside from Jackman and Hathaway, the other main actors in the film are exceptional and well-cast. Samantha Barks makes a terrific Eponine and both Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide much-needed comic relief as the Thénardiers. Although I have always thought that Amanda Seyfried’s vibrato sounds sort of like a goat caught in a propeller, she is (almost) tolerable in the less than substantial role of Cosette.
The biggest weakness in the film is Russell Crowe. It is an absolute shame that Crowe was cast as Javert. For those familiar with the story of Les Misérables, one could argue that the role of Javert is equal in importance to Jean Valjean. Javert is the yin to Valjean’s yang and much of the story’s plot is driven by the complex relationship between the two. Although Crowe is a powerful actor and could likely pull off this character in a non-singing role, alas, this is a musical. Crowe is vocally outmatched by virtually everyone in this film. He weakness as a singer is made even more evident in his one-on-one scenes with Jackman. Crowe sings as if he has a runny nose and despite his obvious eagerness to impress in this role, he falls flat. As much as I loved this film, I think about how much more spectacular this film could have been with someone else cast as Javert.
All in all, Les Misérables is a triumph. Fans of the stage show will be extremely pleased. As for those who come to the theater with no prior knowledge of the stage show, I believe they will come away from the film with a favorable opinion of the film and will likely have the song “Do You Hear the People Sing” stuck in their head for days after the film is over.
Ellen Darling | Zimmer Real Estate Services
Ellen Darling joined Zimmer Real Estate Services in 1982 as marketing manager, and since that time has been involved in every aspect of the company including sales, property and asset management and corporate operations. Her volunteerism and charitable organizations include serving on the executive committee and board at Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault; board of directors for the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce; corporate work study program board member for Cristo Rey; East Fund Grant Committee for Shawnee Mission East High School; and UMKC Board of Trustees executive committee.
She served last year as vice chair for development and this year, leads finance. “The Board of Trustees for the University of Missouri-Kansas City is a worthwhile organization and I believe in what we do. Chancellor Leo Morton used to be the head of the trustees and he asked me to join. It was hard to say no.”
Darling, like many of her peers, believes Kansas City’s business community is intrinsically linked to the arts and leisure in town. “To make Kansas City strong, we need to be strong in all facets. We have to be welcoming and receptive. It’s a community that must be supportive to all where people can raise their families and find cultural activities to attend. We have to attract and grow businesses. We have to offer a well-rounded community that develops people to be good corporate stewards which includes a focus on philanthropy.”
Zimmer Real Estate Services will receive the Best New Campaign Honoree at the 2013 Arts KC Fund Award recipient. The Arts Council recognizes businesses and their employees for their extraordinary leadership in workplace giving campaigns. Darling says the company identifies a cause or organization each year and the Arts Council was the selected this year. “We build employee morale and camaraderie.”
Darling says she extols the trustee scholar program at UMKC. Her father, Hugh Zimmer, was instrumental in creating the marquee program. “We really are trying to attract the best and brightest. These young people can find mentors, internships and potential employment. We want to show high-caliber students that a good education can be found in their own backyard.”
The commitment of the Board of Trustees humbles her. “These stewards commit their time, talents and financial support. You like to be associated with such leaders.” As far as the future of the university, Darling wants the best for the students and the university faculty and staff.
Review by Joseph Hagen
In a nation divided by war, our 16th President pursues a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country and abolish slavery in his tumultuous final months in office. This is the stage for the film Lincoln. This movie is more than just an exploration of pro-America propaganda; instead, this film reaches beyond the known stereotypes of Abraham Lincoln and delivers a complete view of this slice of American history.
Daniel Day-Lewis. DANIEL Day-Lewis. Daniel DAY-LEWIS. DANIEL DAY-LEWIS! Honestly, I could end this review with that much said, and I say that with ZERO sarcasm. Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest actor of our time (and possibly ever) has blessed us with yet another transformative and spellbinding performance in Lincoln. The genius of Day-Lewis brings the legend, the history and most importantly, the humanity to an American icon. Through this performance, Day-Lewis will likely win his third Academy Award for Best Actor. From the first moment that Day-Lewis appears on screen as Lincoln, it’s like going back in time. His performance is absolutely uncanny: it’s as if Lincoln himself is on the screen in front of you. It’s that good.
An all-star supporting cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, James Spader, David Strathairn and Hal Holbrook make Lincoln a who’s who of actors. Not simply filling space, these performers were almost necessary to balance the genius of Day-Lewis. Anything less than quality, professional actors would seem out of place in comparison.
Steven Spielberg’s straightforward and surprisingly non-frilly directing allows the story to be told without distraction from strange camera angles and special effects. With long, sweeping shots, soft-focus, and a wonderful usage of lighting, Spielberg does not rely on his old tricks in Lincoln. With a blueprint on war footage shots, he could have relied on the Saving Private Ryan playbook, but refrains from using his standard tools, instead showing his wisdom and experience with the art of storytelling.
Riveting from beginning to end, Lincoln is a fantastic film sure to not only be a new stable in American history classes across the country, but also be revisited during Oscar nomination time early next year.
We are giving away 50 pairs of FREE passes to the advanced screening of A LATE QUARTET starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener! The screening will take place on Wednesday, November 7th at 7:00PM at the Tivoli Theatre in Westport! USE THIS LINK TO RSVP and attend a great movie at a beautiful theatre FOR FREE! HURRY!
About the Film
When the beloved cellist of a world-renowned string quartet receives a life changing diagnosis, the group’s future suddenly hangs in the balance: suppressed emotions, competing egos, and uncontrollable passions threaten to derail years of friendship and collaboration. As they are about to play their 25th anniversary concert, quite possibly their last, only their intimate bond and the power of music can preserve their legacy. Inspired by and structured around Beethoven’s Opus 131 String Quartet in C-sharp minor, A LATE QUARTET pays homage to chamber music and the cultural world of New York.
RSVP for the FREE advance screening here!
Wednesday, November 7th at 7:00PM at the Tivoli Theatre in Westport. There are ONLY 50 pairs of passes available for download so ACT QUICKLY!
Opens: Oct. 12
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Review by Joe Hagen
Argo, the story of a CIA “exfiltration” agent tasked with getting American hostages out of the Iranian revolution, is a wonderfully paced, perfectly shot and fantastically acted film. An all-star cast spearheaded by actor/director Ben Affleck, Argo brings grit and honesty to a story that needed to be told.
With Academy Award caliber acting from talents such as Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, and a show-stealing Alan Arkin, each actor brings the perfect balance of intensity and humor. Most notable is the performance of Arkin, who plays an absolutely hysterical Hollywood producer recruited to provide an alibi for the CIA. With so many moments of tenseness, Arkin’s performance of Lester Siegel allows the audience a chance to breathe, reflect on the levity of the events unfolding, and possibly most importantly, laugh.
Showing directorial flashes of brilliance in The Town, Affleck brings a maturity and vision to Argo. Using the right combination of flecks on the screen, sepia tones, tight camera shots, props, and a spot-on soundtrack, Affleck shows that he appreciates the larger conceptual themes at play in his storytelling.
With a fantastic “don’t say more than needs to be said” screenplay by Chris Terrio, it allows Affleck the freedom to explore the visual richness of the Iranian culture and gives a subtlety to the depth of each character. By flipping your pre-conceived notions about the film, Terrio allows a wonderful story to be told in a simple, straight-forward way.
Argo is an intense, emotional, funny story told in a complete and satisfying way. Top-notch actors combined with spot-on technical film-making that ultimately delivers a compelling and important story that is worth watching.
Opens: Aug. 10
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review by Joe Hagen
When reviewing a movie like The Campaign, it is imperative to remember that you are reviewing a movie starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. Thus, the areas on which you might typically focus during a normal movie review do not apply. For example, if I were reviewing The King’s Speech, I might focus my review on the high-quality acting and directing, the beautiful cinematography, and the effective and touching script. Yet, let us not forget, this is a review for The Campaign. It would be more likely for this reviewer to focus on the number of times that Will Ferrell punches a baby, the number of times Ferrell displays his weird chest hair, and the quality and thickness of Zach Galifianakis’ mustache.
Although The Campaign lacks the depth and quality of a film like The King’s Speech, The Campaign succeeded in making me laugh. A lot. The Campaign is vulgar, pointless, and ridiculous. The plot is insanely flimsy: Cam Brady is a North Carolina Congressman up for re-election who gets into hot water after leaving a hilariously dirty message on what he thinks is his mistress’ answering machine. The Motch brothers (Dan Akyroyd and John Lithgow as an obvious play on the Koch brothers) then decide to fund inexperienced and quirky tourism director Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) as the candidate to unseat Ferrell’s character. Of course, the Motch brothers have their own agenda for picking Huggins as their candidate. And, of course, from there, the film is as predictable as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ divorce announcement.
The film is basically a “best-of” for both Ferrell and Galifianakis. Both men play variations on their best-known and most well-loved characters. Ferrell’s politician Cam Brady is basically a hybrid of his Saturday Night Live impression of George W. Bush meets Ron Burgundy, while Galifianakis’s Marty Huggins is basically his character from The Hangover with a fanny-pack, a weird Southern accent and a penchant for pugs. The characters are safe territory for these men, and they do not stray far from the path.
The Campaign succeeds the most in the moments where Ferrell and Galifianakis are actually playing off one another, either in a campaign debate or in a private conversation. These are two genuinely funny guys and although their characters are trite, they do have great comedic chemistry.
If you lower your expectations for The Campaign and expect nothing more than brain-numbing stupidity, you will like this film. This brand of “shock comedy” might be the only consistent element in a film that seems to be more concerned with setting up the next gag than producing any form of interesting plot line. Whether it’s inappropriate dinner table confessions, porta-potty “romance” or baby punching, The Campaign will likely prove to be the clear winner in this weekend’s box office election.
For viewers who love Antiques Roadshow, PBS is bringing a new program to primetime. MARKET WARRIORS premieres Monday, July 16 at 8pm. The show follows antiques pickers on a nationwide treasure hunt, scouring flea markets for vintage valuables with an eye toward selling their finds for profit at auction.
Fred Willard (Best in Show, Modern Family) is MARKET WARRIORS’ off-screen host, offering wry commentary throughout the show.
“Who better to guide viewers through the challenges our pickers face than Fred Willard, who brings to the series both his signature improvisational skills and the eye and know-how of a collector,” series executive producer Marsha Bemko said.
In each episode, four pickers travel to different market locations across the country with a set amount of money to purchase certain items. Viewers will learn not only about different objects and their history; they’ll also see the competitors apply their knowledge and skills to real financial transactions. Along the way, we will get to know our pickers, learn about what they bought and why through individual interviews, and discover the current value of the objects as only the marketplace can determine.
“With MARKET WARRIORS, we wanted to turn the lens on the antiques pickers themselves,” Bemko said. “Our pickers aren’t your amateur weekend-flea-market hobbyists. They are pros looking to turn a profit in a highly competitive setting where the element of chance and a little luck sometimes trump expertise.”
The sale of our pickers’ items takes place at an auction on a different day, in a different location. All four competitors will watch the auctioneer take charge of the bidding and the picker whose objects earn the highest total profit at auction is the winner of that episode.
MARKET WARRIORS will air directly after Antiques Roadshow, giving viewers a block of treasure-hunting programming on Wednesday nights.
“MARKET WARRIORS is a perfect complement to Antiques Roadshow, building on our audience’s passion for history and antiques,” John F. Wilson, Senior Vice President & Chief TV Programming Executive, said. “Together they offer an addictive two hours of flea markets, antiques and unique finds.” l
On Saturday, March 3rd, the much anticipated Ballet Ball, a fund-raising event presented by the Kansas City Ballet Guild, honored the Kansas City Ballet’s new home, the Todd Bolender Center of Dance & Creativity, at the InterContinental Hotel on the Plaza. Guests enjoyed a lively cocktail party with delicious cuisine by Chef Chris Hall, breathtaking decor by Chuck Matney and Randy Halsey, and crowd pleasing entertainment with KOKOMO and the Kansas City Ballet. Ballet Ball Chairmen Julia Irene Kauffman and Lauren Muriel-Marion LaPointe thanked guests for their support of the Kansas City Ballet and recognized dancer Kimberly Cowen’s retirement after her 20-year career with Kansas City Ballet. Before dancing the night away, Guild President Kimberlee Ried honored the late Mrs. Sally Kemper Wood with the 2012 Pirouette Award for her commitment to the performing arts.
Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Richard Lara, Kelly Cole, Doris Lippe, Amy Winterscheidt, John Rufenacht and Charles Shrout
Kansas City Artistic Director William Whitener, Ballet dancer Kimberly Cowen and Ball Co-Chair Lauren Muriel-Marion LaPointe
Ball Co-Chair Julia Irene Kauffman, Joe Brandmeyer and Dave Lady
Mary Watkins, Curt Watkins, Stephanie Bittner, Jane Chu, George Bittner, Megan Wyeth and Huston Wyeth
Opens: Mar. 9
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Review by Joseph Hagen
John Carter, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 11-volume Barsoom series is proof that great source material does not make a great movie. Riddled with plot holes, a terrible script, horrendous acting, spongy special effects, embarrassing 3D, generic music and pedestrian directing, John Carter is a mess of a film.
“A fish out of water” theme meshed with “learning to love again,” John Carter is 132 minutes of capture, escape, capture, escape, jump 30 times, capture, escape. Entire scenes of this film seem to be throw in so that the advertisers could have an “action packed” movie trailer… Meanwhile, the screenplay leaves characters feeling flat, with laughable dialogue and little motivation for the actions they are taking.
Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch, “jumps” from a monotone Southern accent, to a monotone John Wayne impression into a monotone James Franco after sucking on a bong. Kitsch seems to try to channel great action stars of the past, but does not have the presence, acting chops or charisma to pull it off effectively.
Dejah Thoris, played by actress Lynn Collins, is the princess of a Mars-town called Helium. Written to be the smart, strong, inventive and beautiful, Collins pulls off only the later. To be fair, a terrible screenplay positions her as an educated scientist one minute, a Mortal Combat style butt-kicker the next, and doe-eyed schoolgirl love interest the next with zero transition or motivation in between. I must have missed the part where they explained her split personality disorder… I also found it distracting that she was the only character that spoke with an accent on her planet.
Actor Mark Strong as Matai Shang, leader of the Therns, was a bright spot in the film. Mysterious and interesting, he is the character I found myself rooting for that the camera would dump John Carter and follow him around instead. One of the few actors in this film with REAL charisma, Strong seems to rise above the silliness happening around him and delivers an interesting and “deep” bad-guy character.
One other thing — I always find it funny that in a land where they have giant flying ships, hover bikes, guns, lasers and magic, but people still fight hand-to-hand with metal swords. Honestly, if this was a good idea don’t you think the U.S. Army would be placing billion dollar sword orders for our soldiers? I LOVE swords, but you need to add in some kind of plot device to explain it (George Lucas goes to great lengths in Star Wars to explain WHY the Jedi use lightsabers).
A disappointing mess, John Carter is proof that in some cases even a strong conceptual starting point is not enough to make a good movie. The three pillars of good movie making are wholly missing, being replaced with a terrible screenplay, bad acting and sloppy directing.
IN HER OWN WORDS: AMC Theatres Kansas City FilmFest Collaborates with Kansas City Women in Film and Television for Screenplay Contest
Just Google “female screenwriters” and some of the stories are not so positive about the struggles women writers face in Hollywood. To counter this, the AMC Theatres Kansas City FilmFest has united with Kansas City Women in Film and Television (KCWIFT) on a screenplay contest that is aimed at creating a short film that would be about 13 to 17 minutes in length. The film festival runs April 11 to 15.
Meagan Flynn Mesmer, a board member for KCWIFT and the screenplay contest chair, says film festivals can benefit from a screenwriter contest and many do such as the Austin and Las Vegas film festivals. However, the aspect of having a screenwriting contest for women’s works or works co-authored by women seemed overlooked. Hollywood still is male-dominated, but Mesmer says women are getting more attention and a few more opportunities. “It’s really perfect for the budding writer and those who also want to see that screenplay made into a short film.” The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize.
More than 40 screenplays came into the Women in Film and Television judging panel. Many have come in from the metropolitan area and a few from overseas including one from the United Arab Emirates. “It’s a great response for a first-year event,” says KCWIFT President Michelle Davidson-Bratcher. “We started promoting the event in November.” She says the group is thrilled to partner with the FilmFest and Executive Director Jeph Scanlon. “They have such a strong reputation in the film community in the area, even nationally and internationally.”
The semi-finalists for the screenplay contest will be announced at the Kansas City Cinema Showcase March 15. The five semi-finalists will then have their works performed in a staged reading at the April film festival. The professional actors will tackle the five works on April 14. Along with the winners of the AMC Theatres Kansas City FilmFest, the winner of this inaugural contest will be presented April 15. “We are hoping that the cash award will allow the screenwriter to see her words become that film,” Bratcher says. l