Best Bets

Posted: Friday, July 14, 2000

It's a great time of year to be outdoors and there are some fine entertainment opportunities afoot indoors as well. Films, music and kids' activities complement the fishing, hiking and gardening of high summer in Juneau.

Too many of the movies that are supposedly appropriate for young children are overly violent, weirdly mean-spirited or simply vehicles to sell toys. ``Chicken Run,'' however, is a winner. I saw it with a 4-year-old who didn't understand any of the references to ``Stalag 17'' or ``The Great Escape.'' She was just entertained, and it didn't incite bad dreams or a clambering for action figures.

Safe movies for young children can also drive adults crazy because of their Pollyanna stupidity. ``Chicken Run'' is plenty entertaining for playful adults. The entire film is well-rendered claymation, eye-candy with imagination. It's not awesome, but it's fast and fun. It's showing at the Glacier Cinema.

Magician Jeff Brown performs from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Mendenhall Valley library. He's got some new tricks up his sleeve, as well as some of his old tricks, and it's free, good clean family fun.

This is ``Films About Food'' month at the Back Room Cinema, and there are a couple good ones coming up. ``Eat, Drink, Man, Woman,'' a 1994 film made in Taiwan, about a master chef in Taipei and his career and family. It's a good story. It shows at 9 p.m. Saturday.

Starting Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. is ``Eating.'' I haven't seen this - it's not available on video in Juneau, to my knowledge, but it's considered by reviewers and film buffs to be a low-budget Indie gem. Four women at a birthday party sit around talking about food and life. I hear it's insightful, and a good way for guys to get inside women's heads. After I see it I'll try to find a role-reversal equivalent.

For live music, I'd recommend Rory Stitt in concert at 8 p.m. tonight, also at the Back Room at the Silverbow. The pianist, actor, singer and songwriter is actually starting the music at 8:30, but there's enough commotion ordering food and drinks that he's giving folks time to get settled. Stitt is a strong, emotive singer and an excellent pianist, and the concert will feature mostly his original music.

His songs are personal, but without the sophomoric ``I'm-the-only-person-alive-ever-to-be-heartbroken'' angst that makes some songwriters' concerts seem like their personal public therapy sessions. There's pathos, to be sure, but Stitt reminds his audience this isn't so much about him as all of us. Alienation, doubt and heartbreak probably will happen to you, or has happened to you, and you'll live. His songs have enough drama, drive, poetry and fine piano playing to be entertaining as well as substantive. Admission is $10, and it will likely be a full house.

Nature lovers and writers will enjoy Juneau authors Robert Armstrong and Margie Hermans presentation about their new book, ``Alaska's Natural Wonders.'' The free program is 7 p.m. next Thursday, July 20, at the downtown library.

Armstrong's book, ``A Guide To The Birds of Alaska'' seems to be a veritable birder's Bible locally, and he really knows his stuff. ``Alaska's Natural Wonders'' is a pocket-sized guide that highlights the northern environment. He and Hermans will talk about writing the book and also show some slides and discuss natural phenomena.

Another opportunity for folks interested in writing is the free ``Improwriting'' workshop from 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, July 18, at the UAS Hendrickson Building. It's part of the Breadloaf Institute summer program at The University of Alaska Southeast. I attended a similar workshop last year also taught by Barry Press and it was valuable. Writers can always use new ideas and approaches. Improwriting is a series of exercises and activities that generate writing from theater-based improvisational techniques. To reserve a place, call Eileen at 465-6434. Last year it was possible to simply show up.

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