Wednesday, Jan. 7
David Shields & Caleb Powell
Have you heard about that controversial James Franco movie? No, not The Interview. Apparently he filmed a version of the extended dialogue that is I Think You’re Totally Wrong (Knopf, $25.95) by these two Seattle writers (Shields the more prolific and renowned, Powell his former UW student). Their book, subtitled “An Argument,” is the result of a four-day marathon bullshit session spent together in a Skykomish cabin, with topics ranging from parenthood to art, Ron Paul to Cormac McCarthy. It’s essentially a long, edited transcript of their sparring—in which Shields naturally makes reference to My Dinner With Andre. How’d the movie come about? (No release date is currently set.) Franco was a student of Shields during a visiting stint at North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College, and he subsequently invited his prof (and Powell) down to L.A. to re-enact it. (He also appears in the film, natch.) Oh, and there’s still more Franco/Shields news to report: Esquire says Franco now hopes to direct a fictional treatment of Shields’ 1999 Black Planet, about race and sports, a book based partly on his ’90s reporting on the Sonics in these pages. Whether that movie happens or not remains to be seen, but let’s hope that Shields and Powell tonight have tales to tell from the Francosphere. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, bookstore.washington.edu. Free. 7 p.m. (Also: 7 p.m. Fri., Jan. 16 at Elliott Bay.)
Thursday, Jan. 8
Cinema Italian Style
2014 was a quiet year for new Italian movies; the well-reviewed Human Capital, which arrives here in February, didn’t even make the Oscar short list. So maybe it’s time for a repertory glance back at past peninsular glories with this nine-film series, running most Thursdays through March 19. In addition to proven classics like Luchino Visconti’s 1963 The Leopard, it includes new additions to the canon—notably last year’s Oscar winner, The Great Beauty. Beginning the retrospective tonight is Ossessione, Visconti’s 1943 adaptation of the James M. Cain novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, with its timeless themes of adultery and murder. That noir tale was filmed here in 1946 and ’81, and there’s even a French take from 1939, but Visconti’s version—his first feature—wasn’t seen for decades in the U.S. because he didn’t clear the copyright. (Whether he had Cain’s verbal permission is another matter.) Only in 1977 did it get a stateside release, when critics noted a far more class-conscious treatment than the 1946 Lana Turner/John Garfield version: neorealism layered atop the noir. And another fun fact: This 35 mm print belongs to Martin Scorsese, that champion of film preservation and Italian cinema. Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, seattleartmuseum.org. $63–$68 series, $8 individual. 7:30 p.m.
Alexandra Witze & Jeff Kanipe
Volcano! Sometimes it just feels good to shout the word, and it’s also a reminder of the large lurking presence to our city’s south. Sure, Mount Rainier appears a benign white snowy presence on a sunny January day, but the authors of Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World (Pegasus, $26.95) would like to remind you how we could all die at any moment in clouds of ash and supersonic rivers of hot mud. However, that’s not quite what happened in 1783—100 years before Krakatoa (and two centuries before Simon Winchester’s book on the same kaboom)—when an Icelandic volcano called Laki blew its top. There wasn’t much to ruin on Iceland, of course, but the eruption changed weather patterns worldwide—destroying crops, causing famine, and possibly even worsening the social conditions that led to the French Revolution! Witze and Kanipe, married science writers from Boulder, first heard about Laki while researching the much smaller 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (the one that canceled all those flights). Laki spewing sulfurous clouds east over Europe wasn’t a well-understood phenomenon in the 18th century, though Benjamin Franklin—then our ambassador to France—correctly guessed the Icelandic source of what he termed a “peculiar haze.” Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, townhall seattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m.