The Weekly Wire: The Week’s Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 4/3

Books: Loves the City, Hates Herself

A veteran comedy writer in Hollywood, Maria Semple had her first great success as a novelist soon after moving up to the Pacific Northwest. New in paperback this week, Where’d You Go, Bernadette ($14.99, Back Bay) is set among that smug class of Seattleites with too much money and self-regard. It’s satirical, but “it’s kind of a love letter to Seattle,” says Semple, who came here five years ago. Her protagonist, Bernadette, is a Queen Anne housewife whose life is falling apart. “And she blames an entire city for her failures,” says Semple. “It’s not like she hates the entire city—she hates the entire world. I wanted to write about someone like myself, who’d had a personal failure.” In Bernadette’s case, that means a failed architecture career, a struggling marriage, and a rebellious daughter. So naturally she rages against our torrential rain and mudslides, refuses to make allies at her daughter’s private school, and ridicules our ubiquitous Craftsman architecture. Written in comic, epistolary form, Where’d You Go, Bernadette earned rave reviews last year and was optioned as a movie in January, with Semple an executive producer. When will it be in theaters? “The screenwriters are about to turn in a screenplay,” says Semple. “These things can take forever—or they can come together immediately.” She knows the business and is lobbying that at least some of the film be shot here. “I did ask!” she insists. “I couldn’t get it in writing. No one would make that promise.” Tonight Semple will appear with über-librarian Nancy Pearl, read passages from her book, and take your questions. (Remember to ask about Curb Your Enthusiasm, for which she was a writer.) Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m.

THURSDAY 4/4

Film: Les Combattants

The nouvelle vague—or French New Wave to us Yanks—burst out of a culture of young Parisian cinephiles and critics who, unable to break into the closed film industry of the ’50s, made their own movies by any means possible. François Truffaut was the first to make a splash, but his friend and colleague Jean-Luc Godard delivered the nouvelle vague’s definitive expression. His 1960 Breathless, a tribute to our B-movies and French gangster films, was a blast across the bow of international cinema—a crime movie taken apart and rebuilt from the ground up. His free-spirited street shooting, jagged editing, audacious jump-cuts, and lighthearted comic asides created a revolutionary sense of self-awareness. Breathless is as much about its own movieness as it is about Jean-Paul Belmondo’s charming rogue of a street thug. (Spritely Jean Seberg plays his American girlfriend.) The movie begins SAM’s nine-film series contrasting Truffaut’s polished direction and loving genre exercises (e.g., Small Change, The Bride Wore Black) with Godard’s radical deconstruction of filmmaking conventions and increasingly political themes (see Pierrot le Fou, A Woman Is a Woman). The Truffaut selection, unfortunately, overlooks his best work of the ’60s, so Godard handily comes out on top in this showdown. (Thursdays through May 30.). Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3210, seattleartmuseum.org. $63–$68 (series ) , $8 individual. 7:30 p.m.

First Thursday: Turn the F-Stop Up to 11

Not usually a stop on downtown’s First Thursday artwalk, The Triple Door is this month hosting a group photography show called—get ready for it—Rocktographers. Down in the Musicquarium, during happy hour, you can mingle with the 20 local shooters who’ve documented bands like the Presidents of the United States of America, Jane’s Addiction, and Sleigh Bells. The photos are available for purchase, and your votes are being solicited for best in show. Among the lens artists are Greg Roth, Mat Hayward, and Suzi Pratt. Included in the event, along with food and drink specials, is a 7:30 show by My Goodness. Expect to see the flashing of many cameras. (Photos remain on view through April 30.) The Triple Door, 216 Union St., 838-4333, thetripledoor.net. $15 (21 and over). 5–9 p.m.

Stage: Seasons Change

Not every Broadway crowd-pleaser can claim inspiration from a movie that features Christopher Walken blowing out his brains. OK, there’s only one: the 2006 Tony winner Jersey Boy s, now back on tour after playing the 5th Avenue five years ago. Bob Gaudio, the Four Seasons singer/composer, realized his old quartet’s music could have a whole new life after watching his tune “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” lend a nostalgic glow to a scene in The Deer Hunter. The song gave Walken, Robert De Niro, and friends some final joy around a pool table before the hell of Vietnam. The 1978 film won the Best Picture Oscar, while Gaudio, by then producing hit records for Neil Diamond, spent decades mulling over how best to reimagine the Four Seasons’ enviable back catalogue. What finally resulted very nearly transcends the dubious jukebox musical genre. Thanks to a book co-written by Marshall Brickman (an Academy Award winner with Woody Allen for their Annie Hall screenplay), the hits of Jersey Boys propel the Four Seasons through their lives: “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” celebrates Gaudio losing his virginity; “My Eyes Adored You” mourns the demise of lead singer Frankie Valli’s marriage. Sondheim it ain’t, but neither is it careless fluff. By the time these blue-collar boys fall in and out of jail and love and debt, then saunter back out for one last rousing “Who Loves You,” you’ll be out of your seat in celebration. (Through May 4.) The 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., 625-1900, 5thavenue.org. $29-$123. 8 p.m.

FRIDAY 4/5

Film: When Stanley Met Stephen

With the new documentary Room 237 opening at SIFF today (see review, page 26), now’s the perfect time to revisit the movie it aims to deconstruct, The Shining. In the fright-flick canon, The Shining (1980) is an art-film anomaly, since director Stanley Kubrick emphasizes the long buildup so much more than Jack Nicholson’s final ax attack on his snowbound family. The swooping aerial shots, the Big Wheel pedaling down endless hallways, the dull talk of canned goods and Indian burial grounds, the thumping tennis ball—they lull you into a kind of dream state. There’s a primal, fairy-tale quality laced with Oedipal conflict as this household of three is fatally divided. It matters less if Nicholson’s blocked writer is demonically possessed (or Indian-cursed or evil reincarnated or whatever) than that he’s simply a bad father—rough and impatient with his young son, cruelly dismissive of his wife (Shelley Duvall), selfish in his writerly ambitions. (Stephen King is never kind to his fellow scribes.) A failure at the typewriter, his imagination turns inward, rotting inside its own topiary maze. If King’s book manifests more of that horror, Kubrick lingers upon its latency and origins. (The film runs through Tuesday; then on Wednesday, a dual projection will superimpose The Shining running in forward and reverse, in the same frame, just to blow your mind.) SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N., 324-9996, siff.net. $6-$11. Call for showtimes.

SUNDAY 4/7

Music: Dark and Seedy

That Nick Cave has employed a kids’ choir to record and support his latest Bad Seeds album, Push the Sky Away, has received a lot of attention. Apparently Cave, the elder statesman of post-punk, known for severe readings of the Old Testament and grotesque renderings of modern life, isn’t kid-friendly. But the kids sure are Cave-friendly, making his songs all the darker by simple contrast (via some lovely, subtle coos). The band is in fine, low-key form here—enough that multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis often steals the emotion with his maudlin and moving violin and flute solos. Cave plays the dark balladeer, rolling out poetry that goes for the jugular and often gets it, but sometimes just hits bone. Cave’s clumsy expressionism has always been a problem. For every entrancing line like “The trees will stand like pleading hands,” there is an equally distracting “I got a fetus on a leash” or “Hannah Montana does the African Savannah.” (That one was painful to type.) Without risk, though, there is no reward. This current Bad Seeds tour is rumored to be filled with carrots, many coming from the band’s back catalog. The ecstatic climax has been the title track from the band’s 1984 debut, From Her to Eternity. As the band plays tribal rhythms, Cave stalks the stage desperate and maniacal, darkly barking about drinking the tears and ravaging the diary of his upstairs neighbor before stopping to scream the chorus into the front row’s faces. All this as that chorus of children stands in the background watching silently. It’s perfectly wrong. The Paramount, 911 Pine St., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $35.75–$75.75.

MONDAY 4/8

Baseball: Cheap and Beatable

The Houston Astros may be the most wayward team in all professional sports. Their entire roster pulls in $25 million a year, which is less than Alex Rodriguez and a few other choice players are due this year. They’ve lost more than 100 games in two straight years, an exceptionally rare feat in the annals of baseball loserdom. And this year they find themselves shuffled from the National League Central to the American League West, which in turn brings them to face our Seattle Mariners for opening day at Safeco Field. (Two more games are played Tuesday and Wednesday nights.) That’s great news for the M’s, who hope that a reconfigured, more hitter-friendly ballpark will reinvigorate their weary fanbase. Like a college football team that’s lined up a stinker of an opponent for homecoming weekend, the Mariners should shine as Seattle welcomes baseball back to SoDo. Safeco Field, 1250 First Ave. S., mariners.mlb.com. $15-$90. 7:10 p.m.

TUESDAY 4/9

Books: Luncheonettes and Gray Flannel

Cartoonist Ben Katchor has a thing about cities. Or rather, he has a thing about the city, New York, whose streetscapes he’s been drawing for decades, creating minidramas about intrepid real-estate photographer Julius Knipl, who seems to roam among the ghosts of Old Manhattan. Katchor’s large-format, full-color new collection, Hand-Drying in America (Pantheon, $29.95), is sadly Knipl-free, but he introduces a new gallery of urban observers and chroniclers of the mundane. Peering at the reading of other subway straphangers is one of life’s pleasures, says one such gent. An interior decorator avidly studies the wallpaper and newly exposed rooms of a tenement building whose façade has collapsed and slid away. A health inspector investigates a morbid old banquet hall, concluding “The air of gaiety has been pumped from this windowless chamber.” It’s a place where parties go to die. Also dying are the newspapers that originally published Katchor’s art; newfangled technology figures in his recent work. “When the newspaper closed, a dozen luncheonettes and bars followed,” muses one character in a strip called “SayUSaw.com” about a teenaged aggregator-in-chief whose website put The Daily Hubris out of business. His father, an unemployed ad-sales rep, is reduced to working for his layabout millionaire son, eventually wearing holes in the knees of his gray flannel trousers on account of kneeling to manage his son’s power strips and digital devices. His time is past, and Katchor’s work always has that melancholy tone. The city he loves is built atop old graves and the rubble of demolished buildings. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, bookstore.washington.edu. Free. 7 p.m.

 
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