Best Bets: Art films and a tour of the solar system

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2002

Riley Woodford is the Empire's Arts & Entertainment editor. He can be reached at

Music, movies and a short trip through the solar system are among the best bets this weekend.

Two new art films will show in Juneau this weekend: Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," directed by Oliver Parker, and writer-director Nicole Holofcener's "Lovely & Amazing."

The best bet for film this week is an "art house" independent film showing at Glacier Cinemas, "Lovely & Amazing." Although the screens at Gross-Alaska theaters are dominated generally by mainstream Hollywood movies, the management has shown a willingness over the years to bring less commercial films, such as the outstanding epic "The Fast Runner" earlier this month. Such films rarely last more than one week on the big screen in Juneau, so this is your chance.

"Lovely & Amazing" has been praised as a perceptive character study filled with sharp dialogue about how similar obsessions can dominate a family.

Set in Los Angeles, this comedy and drama follows the lives of a wealthy divorced woman named Jane (Brenda Blethyn) and her three daughters. Jane is having liposuction to lose a few pounds so she'll feel better about her appearance. The oldest daughter, Michelle, (Catherine Keener) is a struggling artist stuck in a boring marriage, while the middle sister, Elizabeth, (Emily Mortimer) is a promising actress who is afraid she is not attractive enough to get cast in good parts. Finally, there is 8-year-old Annie, an outspoken overweight African-American girl adopted into the family.

The men who complicate the women's lives include Jake Gyllenhaal as a teen-ager who develops a crush on Michelle, James LeGros as Elizabeth's partner, and Dermot Mulroney (Keener's real-life husband) as an actor with whom Elizabeth is auditioning.

The following is fairly typical of the reviews of the film: "Holofcener has assembled a terrific ensemble to play her believably quirky and conflicted characters, who are forced by an unexpected event to break out of their daily routine of worrying about themselves in order to help each other."

Keener was compelling as the femme fatale in "Being John Malkovich," and I'd go just to see her again.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" shows at the Gold Town Nickelodeon. The film has received mixed reviews, including this left-handed compliment: "Oscar Wilde's masterpiece, 'The Importance of Being Earnest,' may be the best play of the 19th century. It's so good that its relentless, polished wit can withstand not only inept school productions, but even Oliver Parker's movie adaptation."

Although reviewers were lukewarm to Parker's directing, the cast of this comedy of manners and fake identities was widely praised. It includes Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, Frances O'Connor and Tom Wilkinson.

Sunday at noon folks can get a tour of the solar system, starting at the sun and cruising to Pluto. Michael Orelove of the Friends of the Marie Drake Planetarium said that this Sunday will be the official unveiling of the Juneau Community Planet Walk at Twin Lakes.

The project has been underway all summer and a variety of people have pitched in to paint the planets of our solar system on the pathway beside Twin Lakes, starting with the 52-foot-diameter sun at the playground equipment near the parking lot at the south end. The distance between the sun and Pluto has been scaled down from 3,690 million miles to exactly one mile.

"We'll gather at the sun at the beginning of the trail and then take a tour of the solar system," Orelove said. "We're going to try to get a cannon to fire a big bang for the start. When we get to Pluto there will be refreshments."

On the music scene, Toolbox is wrapping up a month-long stint at the Hangar on the Wharf this weekend, playing straight-ahead rock, pop and dance tunes. Deering and Down play rock in the more Americana and blues vein at the Alaskan Bar. Rev. Down and Lahna Deering play as a duo up in Skagway and have been coming to Juneau once a month or so to perform. They rustle up a local drummer and bassist for a rhythm section here in Juneau.

Juneau singer and guitarist Teri Tibbett is celebrating her 26 years of living and playing music in Alaska with a concert Friday at the Back Room at the Silverbow. Tibbett will showcase her original songs as well as a program she's developed for her performances on cruise ships. The first half will be a retrospective of her original songs written over the past two and a half decades. The second half will combine a slide show of images she's taken of Alaska scenes with her live music.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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