Review: Kate DiCamillo packs the Downtown Library on Sunday


Kate DiCamillo brought some tales of despereaux-tion to the Downtown Library on Sunday.

Kate DiCamillo brought some tales of despereaux-tion to the Downtown Library on Sunday.

Bestselling, award-winning children’s author Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie, Flora & Ulysses, The Tale of Despereaux) drew a few hundred excited fans – clutching books as if they were treasures – to the Ann Arbor District Library's Downtown Library on Sunday afternoon; and she not only read from her new novel Raymie Nightingale, but self-deprecatingly shared the reason for her “late start” as a writer.

“When I was in college, I had a professor who said to me, in my senior year, … ‘You have a certain facility with words. You should consider graduate school,’” said DiCamillo, dressed in sneakers, black jeans, and a black V-neck T-shirt, with a pink long sleeved shirt wrapped around her waist. “That’s exactly what he said, but I was 20 years old, and so, I heard something entirely different. I thought he was speaking to me in code, and that he was saying, ‘Wow. You are super-talented. I think that you’re probably the next Flannery O’Connor.’ So I thought, ‘Why should I bother with graduate school if I’m really talented? I’m just going to go be a writer.’ So what I did was, I used my mother’s JC Penney credit card and I got a black turtleneck, and then I was set to go. I just sat around, wearing the black turtleneck, looking bored and disdainful and having people go, ‘Oh, that’s Kate. She writes.’ I did that for 10 years. … You can dream all you want and have great story ideas in your head, but eventually, you’re going to have to sit down and figure out a way to do the work. And I didn’t figure that out until I was 30.”

DiCamillo’s now established her regimen, obviously, having published about 20 books over the course of 20 years. The author spoke about how a novel now generally takes a year and a half – working through 7-8 complete drafts – for her to write, and she advised aspiring writers to read as much as they can. But the suggestions didn’t end there.

“Another thing you have to do is find out a way to make a deal with yourself about how you’re going to do the work of writing. For me, it’s two pages a day. I’m not offering that as a directive, but saying that’s what I have found works for me. So I make myself write two pages a day, whether I feel like it or not. And guess what? I never feel like it. So what I do is, I do it first thing in the morning. I come downstairs, I pour the coffee, I go right in there and write the two pages before I can talk myself out of it. And I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve got a voice in my head that goes, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing. You can’t write a book. This is never going to work.’ I have found that that voice sleeps in ’til about 9 o’clock. So I get up at 5:30, 6 o’clock, … and when that voice shows up to say, ‘You fraud, you don’t know what you’re doing,’ I’ve already done the important work.”

With an easy, approachable charm, DiCamillo – her hair a gently messy, white-blond cloud – answered kids’ and adults’ questions for nearly an hour on Sunday, addressing her characters’ often-odd names (“The only explanation I have is, I am a strange person, and I grew up in the South”); how she doesn’t write from an outline (“It’s a terrifying way to write, but I find that if I know what’s going to happen, I have no interest in writing the story”); how she struggled to write following the huge success of her first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie (“I knew I was going to have to go in a completely different direction, and so, enter the mouse with extremely large ears [Despereaux”); why authors and illustrators usually have no communication with each other until after a book’s publication (“It was long my suspicion that authors are crazy, and artists are even crazier, so why should we have them talking to each other? I ran that by the publisher, and they said, ‘Yeah, that’s it’”); and how the experience of her father’s abandonment when she was 6 shaped her and made Raymie Nightingale – in which a girl enters a pageant in hopes that a win would convince her father to come home – one of her most personal books (“(Raymie’s) the kind of kid that I was: worried and hopeful and watching all the time and flexing my toes. … That’s as close as I’ve ever come to putting myself in a book”).

One of the scores of kids seated on the floor asked what drove DiCamillo to write stories.

“Part of it is being a reader and living for books,” DiCamillo said. “And you get told those stories, and you feel like you want to tell a story back. And part of it is, as hard as writing is for me, when I’m writing a story, I’m connecting to the world and to myself, and it helps me understand things. It makes the world make more sense if I’m writing.”

Indeed, one of the most sad and funny moments of DiCamillo’s talk arose when a fan asked where Flora & Ulysses’ surreal plot – focusing on a squirrel that’s sucked up into a vacuum cleaner and gains super powers and writes poetry – came from.

“My mother passed away in 2009,” DiCamillo said. “She had a tank Electrolux vacuum cleaner that she loved. And in the last year of her life, she said to me many times, ‘What’s going to happen to the vacuum cleaner after I’m gone?’ I kept on saying, ‘I’ll take the vacuum cleaner. Don’t worry about the vacuum cleaner.’ … She passed away, and I did what I promised. I took the vacuum cleaner, but I had to put it in my garage, though, because I’m allergic to cats, and my mother had the world’s most evil cat named Mildew. … So I put the vacuum cleaner in the garage, and every time I pulled into the garage, it would make me feel really sad, and make me miss my mother. So that’s one place where the story started. And the second thing that happened is, the spring after my mother died, a squirrel was on my front steps, draped in this very dramatic fashion and clearly unwell.”

DiCamillo called a close friend who said she’d come over and “whack him over the head.”

“I’m on the cell phone, right next to the squirrel, as she’s saying this, so I start to back away, because I don’t want him to hear it,” DiCamillo continued. “So I go in the side door, and I look out the front door, and guess what? He did hear it. He was gone. He clearly thought, ‘There’s better ways to die. I’m going elsewhere.’ So it made me feel sad, and it made me remember a wonderful essay that E. B. White wrote called ‘The Death of a Pig.’ … Before Charlotte’s Web came out, he was thinking about how to save a pig’s life, so I started thinking about how to save a squirrel’s life … And I combined the squirrel with the vacuum cleaner in the garage, and that’s where the story came from.”

Finally, an adult in the crowd asked about DiCamillo’s recent reference (in an interview) to a White quote that goes: “All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” The fan asked DiCamillo to talk about the quote further in light of recent, tragic events.

“I think that we need stories more than we ever have needed stories, and we need to collect around stories and read stories out loud together,” said DiCamillo. “Stories teach empathy. You learn to think about what the other person is feeling, and it is so necessary to imagine yourself into somebody else’s shoes. And I think we need that so much right now.”

Jenn McKee is a former staff arts reporter for The Ann Arbor News, where she primarily covered theater and film events, and also wrote general features and occasional articles on books and music.

Review: Book + Paper Arts at WSG


Encrypted Alphabet : wooden cubes : 12”h x 10”w : by Alvey Jones.

Encrypted Alphabet by Alvey Jones [alphabet block book with wood box; 30 engraved wood blocks with color images, painted letters, assemblage]. Image courtesy of the WSG Gallery.

Barbara Brown’s WSG Book + Paper Arts finds her latest book art exhibit—with a few paper arts thrown—nestled, as usual, at the intriguing intersection of ubiquity and uniqueness.

On one hand, like Brown’s prior WSG book-oriented displays starting with 2006’s Beyond Words, this edition of Book + Paper Arts calls into question the nature and function of “the book” while deconstructing by illustration what books look like.

What Brown’s exhibit ultimately shows us is that any commonplace assumption is at best questionable—and often simply irrelevant. As she says in her gallery statement, the emphasis of this occasional theme has evolved: “In previous show statements, I have put forth the assertion that the term ‘artist’s book’ often triggers much discussion, even bickering and irresolution amongst book artists, and the point has sometimes been made that at the very instant one uses that term, one must then be ready to define the definition!”

A commonplace definition would be that a “book” is a number of sheets of blank or ruled paper bound together for communicating expression. But this description is obviously a bit too loose to clarify what a book can be because the communication of expression can be as much abstractly symbolic as it is literature—hence, art.

So perhaps a more precise definition would be that a “book” is a handwritten or printed work of narrative fiction or nonfiction usually arranged on sheets of paper, parchment, or some other material fastened or bound together by surface covers. Yet this definition is obviously too tight—hence also, art.

It’s really this paradoxical slackness and restrictiveness that Book + Paper Arts seeks to imaginatively address. As Brown adds in her statement, “There will probably never be a determination that everyone agrees on, but I like ‘book inspired art’ (or BSO—book shaped object), and for me, that is a good beginning.”

“Book” art requires uniqueness, for even the most ardent conceptual use of the term denotes an object whose stance apart from the norm is the result of declaring itself aesthetic—with or without proper surface.

This makes WSG organizer Barbara Brown (as much ringleader here as she is curator) an artful instigator falling on the side of creativity as opposed to the omnipresent presence of the “book” itself. Working from the base definition (as indeed only a few of the artworks on display at the WSG actually even resemble books), Brown’s want (as well as the impulse of the artists in this exhibit) is to take this commonplace idea and twist, fold, manipulate, and mangle it until the concept virtually says (and ultimately is) what the artist wants it to say—or be.

This is indeed a sweet surrender. Because what the artists do in Book +Paper Arts is ultimately quite creative—certainly endlessly fascinating—even if the concept of book gets left behind in some equations. And so much better for what hangs and sits in the WSG Gallery.

Regional artists participating in the exhibit are Ruth Bardenstein, Ian McLellan Davis, Meghan Forbes, Alvey Jones, Norma Penchansky-Glasser, Ted Ramsay, Susan Skarsgard, Jack O. Summers, and Howard White. As local gallery browsers well know, this is an exceedingly distinguished (as well as insightful) clutch of talent. Calling out four artworks will reflect various stands—and strands—of these artists' intent.

For example, University of Michigan Art Professor Emeritus Ted Ramsay initially seems the furthest afield from book art in the exhibit—working in paper art rather than book art. In particular, his cast handmade rag paper, wood, enamel Memorial to Thylacines and Our Slaughtered Michigan Wolves seems definitely farthest afield—that is, farthest afield until the implication of his work is taken into account.

Linking the fate of this extinct South Pacific carnivorous marsupial to Michigan’s wolf population, Ramsey is stretching the use of paper art to bookend these creatures’ fortunes. Using his career-long strategy of creating vivid oversized three-dimensional tableau coupled with a whimsical canine reference, Ramsey’s work requires a bit of familiarity to plume his intent. Afterwards, and given the decided bent of his humor, Ramsay comes to book with a readymade arsenal of creativity that’s part aesthetic and part polemic. His Memorial to Thylacines and Our Slaughtered Michigan Wolves fits the bill.

General Motors Design Archive and Special Collections manager Susan Skarsgard has long made the alphabet her chosen topic and her contribution to this show devoted to book and paper art is a return of her iconic Alphabet Pop Up, a handsome wall-mounted copper metallic paper sculpture that we last saw in WSG’s Beyond Words 2008 edition as well as 2009 in Washtenaw Community College’s At the Junction: Calligraphic Design exhibit. It’s good to see this masterwork again.

A tidy three inches wide by six foot in height, Alphabet Pop Up’s near-abstract rendering of the ABCs is both compact and nifty. Keying on the common Latin grapheme and rendering each letter in a handsome blockish type, while also paying attention to descending scale, Skarsgard’s Alphabet Pop Up is a welcome reminder that sculpture, too, can be conceptually dependable as well as commendable—you can, as it were, make book on it.

Mapaloopsa by Jack O. Summers [mixed-media].

Mapaloopsa by Jack O. Summers [mixed-media]. Image courtesy of the WSG Gallery.

Detroiter Jack O. Summer’s Mapaloosa is an imaginative reordering of the world’s geography through a series of colorful plates. As he says of this book art, “This clam shell of mixed up countries was created to illustrate how our world is changing and how we are impacting each other and losing some of identity as our planet becomes more crowded and disturbed.”

Fair enough. But the irony of Summer’s aesthetic is that even as these juxtapositions of differing architectural, national, and geographic boundaries are visually jarring slivers and chunks of familiar locales willy-nilly thrust upon each other, his mash-up of geopolitical boundaries and geographic landscapes in Mapaloosa also have an artful logic that meshes the unusual arrangements together.


Midsummer by Barbara Brown and Howard White [tunnel book; hand-painted canvas, board, acrylic cutouts, video]. Image courtesy of the WSG Gallery.

Finally, it would be unfair to conclude without a tip of the artistic hat to Brown and her video collaborator Howard White. Their 15”x15”x20” Midsummer theater book certainly fits the definition of book art if anything does. It’s a miniature rectangular bookish movie theater with short feature film squeezed together as one—and an intriguing nature-based documentary, at that.

What Midsummer best illustrates is Brown’s unyielding commitment to book art—however it’s defined—through her reworking this object in multiple medias to expand and enlarge the definition until the concept encompasses the entire range of neo-Dada assemblage.

And that’s ultimately a hefty handful of art.

John Carlos Cantú has written extensively on our community's visual arts in a number of different periodicals.

Book + Paper Arts will run through July 30, 2016. The WSG Gallery is located at 306 S. Main Street: Tuesday-Wednesday, noon–6 p.m.; Thursday, noon-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, noon-10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1–5 p.m. For information, call 734-761-2287.

Preview: DJs in the Garden at Mini-Moogfest


Synth you've been gone.

Synth you've been gone.

A good two-thirds of the time that I mention the garden at the downtown location of the AADL to friends, I get a “What? There’s a garden?! Where?" in response.

It can feel like a secret, even though it’s open to everyone. Tomorrow, that very garden so many people have yet to discover will be filled with music by some startlingly talented folks as AADL kicks off its second official Mini-Moogfest.

If you were lucky enough to swing through last year’s inaugural festival, you know that it was not only a chance to listen to some great DJs, but also an opportunity to play around with the breadth of music tools available for checkout at the library.

The ability for all ages to play with all sorts of goodies — from kid-friendly simple instruments to synths to effects pedals to beat-making little boxes — remains a key part of this year’s festivities, and talented, world-class DJs return to play music in the library’s garden.

Catch Mike Dykehouse 12-1:30 pm, Tadd Mullinix (fresh off a performance in Detroit the night before) 1:30-3:00 pm, and Mike Huckaby 3-4:30 pm.

Mariah Cherem is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library, and gets ridiculously happy hearing music in the library, from classic storytime songs on up.

Mini-Moog Fest takes place in the garden area of the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library on Saturday, June 9 from 11am-5pm. In the case of rain, the event will be held inside.

Review: Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers at the A2SF


Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers.

Bruce Hornsby and The Noisemakers.

Those of you who have followed Bruce Hornsby since the 80s and were prepared for something looser, more genre-bending: you weren’t disappointed. Those of you who remember Bruce from his 80s music and not much else: I hope you were ready for something other than studio album re-creations.

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers made beautiful noise for two hours on Thursday evening at the Power Center to an appreciative audience that filled about three quarters of the Power’s seats. The Noisemaker’s singular talent -- aside from stunning musicianship -- is to make old new again, and to the audience’s delight, that’s exactly what happened. They also happen to be really good at making entirely new music, and we heard some of that as well. All this, despite a less-than-excellent sound mix and several technical issues that had Mr. Hornsby gritting his teeth.

The Noisemakers are bassist J.V. Collier, a twenty-year veteran of the band, as well as keyboardist/organist John “JT” Thomas and drummer Sonny Emory, who have played with Hornsby twenty-four and twelve years respectively. Summer 2014 marks the arrival of two new Noisemakers — fiddle/mandolin player Ross Holmes and guitarist Gibb Droll — as well as the departures of longtime members Bobby Read and Doug Derryberry. Holmes currently fiddles for Mumford and Sons, has played with hosts of Nashville titans as diverse as Ricky Skaggs and the Dixie Chicks. Droll has played guitar on various projects involving Keller Williams, Kevin Kinney, and Brandi Carlile.

Picking and choosing from their just-released album Rehab Reunion, as well as other Hornsby discography highlights like "The Way It Is," BH&N demonstrated their individual musical prowess through improvisational solos that spanned and twisted jazz, pop, bluegrass, and Americana genres in a way you will never hear in any other band.

More evidence of Bruce’s live concert experience and expertise: the mid-set featuring acoustic duos and trios out front served to mix up the sound, feel, and intimacy of the event. The band’s working motto: “Look at Bruce!” Whatever the song, every band members’ eyes were locked on Bruce as he would often point to a soloist without warning for an impromptu 12 or 24 bars. The band is tight and loose at the same time, knowing their stuff but subject to Hornsby’s split-second diversions.

Above it all, Bruce’s piano skills wowed the crowd as he created improvisational dances on the keyboard. Bruce Hornsby is not a technical perfectionist on the Steinway, but the musical emotion he generates through his from-the-heart meanderings give new life to his classics. The audience would hold our heads to prevent musical whiplash as he’d take an iconic song like "Valley Road" in a unique and re-syncopated direction with dulcimer (Hornsby), mandolin (Holmes) and shoulder-mounted washboard and spoons (Emory).

The evening’s best moment: a wandering, jazz-infused take-off on the 1989 collaboration between Hornsby and Don Henley, "The End of the Innocence." I would need to have recorded the live track to tell you how many improvisational turns this song took as it raced through styles and genres. I can only tell you that Bruce’s emotional keyboard interlude had the crowd ooh-ing, ahhh-ing and hooting approval.

A brief encore followed the satisfying performance with a surprise appearance from Jeff Daniels, who complained, “you guys play all this stuff in E-flat diminished 9th chords” and finished the night with Bruce and band in a rousing 3-chords-and-the-truth rendition of his "Go Henry David Go."

Bruce is my age, and I have grown up with him as he has blessed my life with some of the best music I can remember. Thursday night did nothing but drive my appreciation for him that much deeper. Don’t stop for a while, Bruce. Keep improvising. You’re not finished.

Don Alles is a marketing consultant, journalist, house concert host and musical wannabee, living in and loving his adopted home, Ann Arbor.

Preview: The Suffers Play Sonic Lunch


Suffers with the best of them.

Suffers with the best of them.

Self-coined “gulf coast soul” band The Suffers are gracing Ann Arbor with their presence to play Sonic Lunch on Thursday, July 14 and boy oh boy, the city is in for a real treat. The band brings a fresh and unique approach to soul music, bringing rock and roll, hip hop and Latin tinges to a Motown-like base. The Suffers first visited Ann Arbor in 2015 when they played at The Ark after releasing their EP Make Some Room. Having attended the show, I can attest to the fact that people were truly dancing in the aisles for much of it and I expect nothing less of their performance at Sonic Lunch. Most recently, The Suffers were touring with Lake Street Dive, a near-perfect partnership that stopped by Royal Oak in March.

Hailing from Texas, the 10-member ensemble band is fronted by singer Kam Franklin and her extraordinarily powerful voice. Often clad in something shimmery or coated in glitter, it’s impossible for Franklin not to command the stage as she strides back and forth belting out tunes, flanked by her all-male bandmates who are equally energetic. Particularly fun to watch are the horns—Mike Razo on the trombone, Cory Wilson on the saxophone and John Durbin on the trumpet—who have managed to get most of their movements in sync along with their playing. Nick Zamora and Jose Luna comprise the percussion section of the band, while Adam Castenada plays bass and Kevin Bernier and Alex Zamora play guitar. Pat Kelly rounds out the crew on keyboard.

Needless to say, one of the most interesting early moments of The Suffers’ Sonic Lunch performance will be seeing how they manage to fit the entire band on the stage. What’s most touching about The Suffers is their down-to-earth attitude despite their ability to completely wow crowds with their command of the music they play. You get the impression that when they’re done performing they’re just going to go back to whatever hotel they’re staying in, have a beer and hang out with each other. Franklin typically chats with the crowd between songs asking quirky questions and talking about the band’s life in Texas and what they all did before coming together to play as The Suffers. These casual conversations and overall relaxed attitude of the band make it even more shocking when they launch right back into another hugely powerful song.

Along with being nearly constantly on tour this past year, The Suffers made time to perform an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, play The Late Show With David Letterman, and release their debut self-titled album on CD and vinyl.

Sonic Lunch on the 14th is certainly one of the only chances any of us will have to see the band for free, and although they’ve favored Michigan in the past with their tour dates, who knows when they’ll be back? This is definitely a show not to be missed.

Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library. She also likes to dress in things that are shimmery and coated in glitter.

The Suffers are playing Sonic Lunch in Liberty Square on Thursday, July 14 at 12:00. The concert is free and open to the public.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #604


Calling all bloggers!

"It washed over me for the first time in my life how much importance the world had ascribed to skin pigment..." -Sue Monk Kidd

With references to William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! (1936), Suzanne Feldman's debut (and a winner of the Missouri Review Editors' Prize) Absalom's Daughters* is a tale of sisterly adventure through the 1950s Jim Crow South.

Young Cassie helps run the family laundry with her mother and grandmother in the black part of Heron-Neck, Mississippi. She has no idea that Judith who is white, is her half-sister, though she knows that it is her grandmother's plan to orchestrate the births in her family so that her descendants can, one day, pass for white.

When their father Bill Forrest runs off leaving the family destitute, Judith finds a letter from a mysterious sender in Virginia explaining they are heirs to a rumored family fortune, surely enough money for her to run off to New York City to be a singer. Sensing that her grandmother's design on the jazz-playing Albino boy from New York City visiting one of the white families on the hill, Cassie realizes this may be her only opportunity to escape. The girls steal a car, and with a ham, a gun, and a map so old that state lines are blurred, they head north. While getting their first taste of freedom, courting danger at every turn, they are also reminded of the tyranny of skin color, and the heavy responsibility of being the master of your own fate.

"Feldman’s prose blisters and pops with sparks...In this novel, most things are not as they seem, and Feldman doesn’t hew too close to reality. The sisters encounter mules who were once men, discover towns that appear in one place on the map and another on the road, and Cassie even spends a few days as a white girl. Eventually she decides to return to the skin she was born with; as a mysterious woman tells her near the end: 'What’s important is the past.'" (Kirkus Reviews)

* = starred review

Arts Writers! UMS Seeking Candidates for a New Fellowship

Calling all bloggers!

Calling all bloggers!

The University Musical Society (UMS) is seeking applicants for their Wallace Blogging Fellowships. This recently-announced opportunity aims to promote cultural events taking place throughout southeast Michigan, and includes a stipend and special access to UMS events and guests.

So, know anyone in the area who is over 21 and loves the arts? Send the application their way! The deadline to apply is July 15, so get those writing samples ready!

Arts & Culture Events for Your Fourth of July

Fourth of July on Independence Blvd, 1959

Don’t miss the 26th annual Ann Arbor Jaycees 4th of July parade. Featuring musical groups, floats, and a bicycle-decorating contest, the parade starts at William and State St. at 10 am.

Cobblestone Farm is also celebrating Independence Day - 19th century style - with a reading of the Declaration of Independence, patriotic songs, kids games and farm activities, from noon - 4 pm at Cobblestone Farm, 2781 Packard Rd.

Veterans and active duty military members can enjoy a free screening of the classic World War II film The Dirty Dozen at the Michigan Theater at 1:30 pm. All others pay admission.

Capitol Steps, America’s premier satire group performing political parodies since 1981, is back in town this evening for two concerts at the Power Center, 4pm and 7pm. Tickets are $20 for students, $35, $40, $45.

And if you need an extra dose of patriotism, your local public library has a couple special Independence Day-related collections: First, a Star-Spangled Bannercast, featuring U-M Professor Mark Clague talking about the musical heritage and cultural history of our national anthem; and second, our OldNews local history site has a feature of past Tree Town 4th of July celebrations with photographs and articles from the Ann Arbor News.

Happy Fourth, Ann Arbor!

Preview: Summer Classic Movies at the Michigan Theater


The Good rides into the Michigan Theater on July 31 and August 2.

The Good rides into the Michigan Theater on July 31 and August 2.

The Michigan Theater is presenting the "Kerrytown Market & Shops Summer Classic Film series" – and it’s a great way to beat the summer heat with fresh popcorn, the theater’s classic Barton Organ pre-show serenade, as well as unarguable film classics in an equally classic historic auditorium. I’ve seen every one of these films (more than once) and they’re all worth seeing again—especially on the big screen. Here’s the list, and my take on the best reason to see them (again and again):

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Sunday July 3 at 1:30 pm; Tuesday July 5 at 7:00 pm)
Peter Sellers’ wonderfully weird three-part performance is reason enough. But nothing quite captures our country’s freewheeling Cold War paranoia—or ever ended a movie—like cowboy star Slim Pickens’ yahoo down memory lane: “We’ll meet again, don’t know how, don’t know when….”

The Dirty Dozen (Monday, July 4 at 1:30 pm; free admission for Veterans and Active Duty Military)
Hmm, Lee Marvin in one of his best tough guy roles? Donald Sutherland in his breakout role? John Cassavetes playing the godfather before becoming the Godfather of American Independent Cinema? Nah, see it because dirty rotten American psycho killer bad guys on a suicide mission to beat the real bad guys never grows old.

A Streetcar Named Desire (Sunday, July 10 at 1:30 pm; Tuesday, July 12 at 7:00 pm)
Marlon Brando’s tour de force performance volcanically transcends everything else already great about this movie, including its source material (Tennessee Williams), direction (Elia Kazan), and the tragically spot-on fate of Blanche DuBois (played by Vivien Leigh).

Monty Python & The Holy Grail (Sunday, July 17 at 1:30 pm; Tuesday, July 19 at 7:00 pm)
“Bring out your dead!” “Here’s one.” “I’m not dead.” “Er, he says he’s not dead.” “Yes he is.” Or “That’s no ordinary rabbit.” “That’s the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!” Or “Ni!” “We are no longer the Knights who say Ni.” (I could go on, but actually my favorite thing about this screening is that it’s sponsored by Knight’s Downtown restaurant.)

Funny Face (Sunday, July 24 at 1:30 pm; Tuesday, July 26 at 7:00 pm)
You can never go wrong watching Fred Astaire dance (as well as act and sing a little) or Audrey Hepburn in trademark pedal pushers. Not enough? Try direction by Stanley Donen with music by George and Ira Gershwin. That’s Entertainment!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sunday, July 31 at 1:30; Tuesday, August 2 at 7:00 pm)
A serious serial toss up: The score, Eli Wallach, the Mexican standoff in Cinemascope, or Clint Eastwood finally pulling out his trademark cheroot. Sergio Leone set the bar so high in making this one, the tumbleweed genre might as well be retired. They just don’t make westerns like this anymore.

Horse Feathers (Sunday, August 7 at 1:30 pm; Tuesday, August 9 at 7:00 pm)
Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo: The Marx Brothers + football. ‘Nuff said.

Fargo (Sunday, August 14 at 1:30 pm; Tuesday August 16 at 7:00 pm)
Arguably the Coen brothers’ best: A pregnant cop utterly unafraid of both killers and the harsh Minnesota landscape? You betcha! Oh…and you’ll never look at a wood chipper quite the same way again.

Sing-A-Long Sound of Music (Sunday, August 21 at 1:30 pm; Tuesday, August 23 at 7:00 pm)
Julie Andrews. Check. “Doe—a deer, a female deer.” Check. Christopher Plummer. Check. “Climb ev’ry mountain…” Check. Aw, what the heck, just go again because singing along with the Von Trapp Family to beat the real bad guys never grows old.

Metropolis (Sunday, August 28 at 1:30 pm; Tuesday, August 30 at 7:00 pm)
Fritz Lang’s pioneering sci-fi silent feature, with its Art Deco- and German Expressionist-inspired cityscapes is the only movie to out Blade Runner “Blade Runner”; and wow, is that she-bot still intense even after all these years.

To Catch A Thief (Sunday, September 4 at 1:30 pm; Tuesday, September 6 at 7:00 pm)
Easily one of the classiest of the master of suspense: Monte Carlo in the 1950s is divine. But go to watch Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in incandescent Technicolor. It’s a good movie, and it’s Hitchcock and all, but it’s really about Grant and Kelly’s unparalleled luminosity on screen.

Casablanca (Monday, September 5 at 7:00; free admission for students with valid ID)
Let’s not kid ourselves: “A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh….” but not when Bogie and Bergman smolder as time goes by. The Michigan Theater’s annual Fall kick-off (and for good reason), is ... er, reason enough. But see it because watching true love outwit really, really bad guys never, ever grows old. Strike up “La Marseillaise!”

Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library where she enthusiastically selects classic movies for the DVD and Blu-ray collections.

The Kerrytown Market & Shops Summer Classic Film Series runs all summer long, on Sundays at 1:30 pm and Tuesdays at 7 pm at the Michigan Theater.

Review: Fanfare Ciocărlia Lives Up to the Hype


Fanfare Ciocărlia rips it up at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.

Fanfare Ciocărlia rips it up at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.

While interviewing Ann Arbor Summer Festival director Amy Nesbitt a few weeks ago, this Pulp correspondent was a bit surprised that Nesbitt designated the Romanian brass band Fanfare Ciocărlia the number-one can't-miss event of this year's festival. In a lineup that included not only major stars like Bruce Hornsby and Bebel Gilberto, but also local powerhouses like Third Coast Kings and George Bedard, who were these Romanian guys exactly?

As it turns out, Fanfare Ciocărlia is known as one of the world's greatest modern purveyors of Balkan brass music, and the ensemble more than lived up to its hype in a blistering performance Thursday night. Seven of the band's 12 members took the stage alongside Canadian guitarist Adrian Raso (with whom Fanfare Ciocărlia collaborated on its most recent album) and Raso's own traditional three-piece rock band. Things got off to a slightly rocky start, as the entire 11-piece ensemble stood around onstage with positively dour expressions during a lengthy sound check.

But as soon as the sound crew finished setting up for the small musical army onstage, the ensemble wasted no time ripping into its first number. Uptempo, minor-key, and thoroughly danceable, the opening tune set the template for much of the repertoire Fanfare Ciocărlia tore through Thursday night–and the band scarcely even allowed the audience to applaud before leaping into its second number.

When the band finally paused for a moment's breath, Raso told the audience that the band would be journeying "deep into the Balkans" in a program entitled "Devil's Tale." But he promised tastes of other cultures as well, and Fanfare Ciocărlia delivered throughout a 70-minute set. The brass instruments left the stage at one point while Raso and his group performed a lively Italian tarantella. Later, the full band performed a Django Reinhardt-inspired gypsy jazz tune entitled "Eric the Baker" (named after a bakery in Raso's hometown of Guelph, Ontario). The most surprising diversion came when the band played "Devil's Tale," a stomping American country-inflected tune, which Raso dedicated to Elvis Presley's recently deceased guitarist Scotty Moore.

Fanfare Ciocărlia

Fanfare Ciocărlia

Raso led the audience through the night with gentle, humorous banter and astonishingly versatile guitar work, executing breathtaking solos on classical and electric guitars while leapfrogging from musical style to musical style. Fanfare Ciocărlia distinguished themselves beautifully throughout, playing with energy and a knowing collaborative instinct born of their 20 years on the road together. The band blasted through dizzyingly uptempo horn riffs song after song, often ending tunes with a long, slightly dissonant, unresolved chord as they grinned widely to each other. Saxophonist Oprică Ivancea, a noted performer in his own right outside of Fanfare Ciocărlia, was a standout in the band both for technical prowess and physical presence, leaning back dramatically for one breathtaking solo late in the show. Trumpeter Costică Trifan was also an engaging figure onstage, singing several tunes and frequently inciting the audience to dance and sing along.

Throughout the show, one got a sense that Fanfare Ciocărlia very literally fed off its audience's energy. Although the band started things off with a bang, the energy onstage only increased over the course of the performance, in tandem with the energy on the dance floor. The bustling crowd was often just as entertaining to watch as the performers onstage. Strangers of all ages repeatedly formed line dances of up to 15 people. One couple tangoed almost incessantly, intensely eyeing each other with a blend of goofy humor and genuine adoration. Fanfare Ciocărlia put on an incredible show for Ann Arbor, and its audience responded in kind.

It would be deeply unfair to end this review without also noting the contributions of Fanfare Ciocărlia's unofficial opener Thursday night: Ann Arbor's own Balkan brass band, Rhyta Musik. Frontwoman and Trombonist Bethanni Grecynski warmly interacted with the audience, explaining the historical background behind each song and singing into a bullhorn, while local man-of-many-bands Ross Huff provided particularly distinguished trumpet work. Rhyta Musik got the dance floor well warmed up for Fanfare Ciocărlia and proved that Ann Arbor can hold its own even against the Romanian kings of Balkan brass. Thursday's night of multicultural energy was indeed a standout for Summer Fest 2016, a night so beautiful as to prompt a pang of sadness that our community's go-to summer event has already nearly run its course for another year.

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer whose work appears regularly in Pulp, the Detroit News, the Ann Arbor Observer, and other local publications. He would like to join a line dance with strangers, but remains too much of a scaredy cat for the time being.