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by Nick Swartsell 10.20.2015 39 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Fairfield officer suspended after Taser accident involving student; Strickland paying no mind to Super PAC backing Sittenfeld; Westboro Baptist protests Kim Davis

Hey all. Let’s talk about news real quick.

A Fairfield Police officer stationed at Fairfield High School was suspended for three days without pay after he accidentally shocked a student with a Taser last month, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. An investigation into the incident found that the officer wasn’t acting with any malice toward the student, but concludes that it “should not have occurred.” No kidding. Reports from the department reveal officer Kevin Harrington has “displayed his Taser in the past to students without a valid law enforcement purpose.”

Harrington was speaking to a 17-year-old student in his office about her recent breakup with her boyfriend. The officer says he was trying to cheer her up. At one point the student reflected that she would probably get back with the boy and be in Harrington’s office again in a few weeks. At that point, Harrington joked, “if you were my daughter I would just tase you.” He pulled the Taser out, but thought it didn’t have its cartridge in it. The Taser, a newer model, had a second cartridge in the handle. It went off, and one of the barbs went into the student’s abdomen. According to officials, Harrington has admitted to pulling out his Taser around students 15 to 20 times during his three years of service at the school.

• As we told you recently, Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann will face a tough challenge from Democrat and current State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton in his quest for reelection next year. Hartmann was at the center of a fight last year over the county’s sales tax hike to fund renovations to Union Terminal, a tax which initially also included funds for Music Hall. Cutting the latter from that deal has made Hartmann and fellow Republican commish Chris Monzel unpopular in some circles. But Hartmann says he’s ready to fight for another term, and that his stance on Music Hall saved tax payers tons of money and will be seen as a positive by many voters. Hartmann discussed that and many other issues surrounding his reelection bid in an in-depth interview with the Business Courier. It’s worth a read.

• Speaking of elections next year, is former Ohio governor and U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Strickland worried about a recently announced super PAC backing Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld? Not at all, he says. Both Sittenfeld and Strickland were at Longworth Hall last night for the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s fall fundraiser last night. At the event, Strickland told reporters that he’s focused on incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman and that Sittenfeld isn’t his enemy. He also expressed confidence that opponents could spend millions against him and would still come out the winner of the 2016 race, a vital one for Democrats looking to take back control of the Senate. Sittenfeld also spoke at the event, challenging Strickland to a debate. But the former guv says that’s unlikely to happen, mostly because he’s more focused on Portman. Strickland has little incentive to debate Sittenfeld, as he’s the frontrunner with a huge lead against the councilman and statewide name recognition from his time as governor.

• I might be stepping over into our music department’s turf on this, but I think it’s pretty cool and worth a brief mention. Cincinnati is the setting of a new video by rap legend Talib Kweli. The video for Kweli’s “Every Ghetto” shows Kweli hanging around various Cincinnati locations with some Cincinnati notables, including local rapper Buggs Tha Rocka, who is sporting Cincinnati-based Floyd Johnson’s Ohio Against the World gear. There are shots of various downtown locations, the fountain on the corner of Clifton and Ludlow avenues and more. The song was also produced by long-time Kweli collaborator and Cincinnatian Hi-Tek. Pretty rad.

• Ohio has delayed scheduled executions again over the lack of proper drugs necessary for administering the death penalty, state officials announced yesterday. The announcement comes after the state said earlier this year that it would cease using a two-drug cocktail designed to replace thiopental sodium, the drug once used in administering the death penalty. Ohio has had trouble sourcing that drug, which American companies will no longer sell for execution use. The two-drug cocktail used to replace it has caused abnormally long, and some critics say painful, executions in Ohio and other states. But the state is finding it difficult to obtain more thiopental sodium, even from overseas suppliers, forcing officials to push back scheduled executions. Ohio has more than 25 executions scheduled between January 2017 and 2019.

• Finally, I assume you’re familiar with Westboro Baptist Church, the group of religious extremists known for protesting gay rights at funerals and many other incredibly charming and principled activism efforts. The kooky group of far-right warriors is at it again, focusing their ire and formidable protesting skills on… Kentucky’s most famous clerk of courts Kim Davis. That’s right. Even the clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same sex marriage can’t escape the hateful wrath of the Westboro folks. Wait. Aren't y'all supposed to be on the same side here? Apparently not. Davis is a hypocrite, Westboro members say, because she’s been divorced and remarried. A few members of the group picketed outside Davis’ office yesterday and called for Davis to divorce her current husband and return to her original husband… for some reason… and also said that Davis should do her job and issue marriage licenses and focus on protesting same-sex marriage in her own time, because “God hates oath breakers just like he hates adulterers and hates same-sex marriage.” Well then. It’s really hard to know who to root for here, folks.

by Nick Swartsell 10.19.2015 40 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Crews finish last section of streetcar track; sheriff suggests detox facility for Justice Center; Kasich flails in New Hampshire

Hello all. I hope your weekend was good. I spent part of my Saturday volunteering at the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative’s annual Youth Summit at Xavier University. The summit involved a number of sessions on topics youth in Cincinnati said they wanted to know more about. Hundreds of young folks crammed into sessions about goal setting, fitness, civic engagement and more.

There was also a two-way facilitated conversation between Cincinnati police officers and youth attendees as well as remarks from CPD Chief Eliot Isaacs, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson and others. Cincy’s young people face a lot of challenges, but it’s good to be reminded how smart and driven they are and that there are a lot of people out there doing good work to help empower them.

Anyway, here’s the news today. On Friday, city workers welded together the last bit of track for the streetcar, bringing the highly contested transit project one step closer to reality. So far, streetcar construction has been on time and on budget, though a revelation over the summer that the cars themselves will be somewhat delayed has raised concerns. The city itself did not hold any official ceremonies — officials say that will come when the streetcars themselves show up at the end of the month. But the grassroots group Believe in Cincinnati, which helped keep the project going after it was paused by Mayor John Cranley in 2013, held their own event as the final bits of track were placed. Front and center at that celebration was a look ahead toward a proposed next phase of the project, which advocates would like to see head Uptown toward the University of Cincinnati and the city’s hospitals. Cranley remains opposed to the so-called Phase 1b plans, at least until the initial phase, which is a 3.6-mile loop through downtown and Over-the-Rhine, can be evaluated.

• Speaking of Over-the-Rhine, one of its mainstay breweries is growing. Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. just finished a $5 million expansion, the center of which is 12 new fermenters that will increase its brewing capacity from 15,000 barrels a year to 50,000. It has also added new equipment that will allow it to produce more cans of beer in addition to bottles. Up to now, the brewery had been using a mobile canner. All this increased capacity means that Moerlein will be able to produce all of its historic Hudepohl brand beer right here in Cincy, an operation that had been contracted out to other breweries outside the city.

• Let’s head next door to Pendleton real quick, where the next phase in a large redevelopment project by Model Group is taking shape. Cincinnati City Council on Friday approved a 12-year property tax abatement worth nearly $90,000 a year on Model’s $6.4 million redevelopment plan, which will create 30 market-rate apartments and about 1,200 square feet of retail space in the three- and four-story rowhouses on East 12th and 13th streets. The project is expected to be completed by September of next year.

• Hamilton County Commissioners today will consider a proposal by Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil to create a heroin detox facility in the county’s Justice Center. The plan would use $500,000 to create an 18-bed treatment center to help inmates detox off the drug with medical help. That’s a big change from what happens now, and in most jails, where inmates are often left to detox cold turkey. Neil and project proponent Major Charmaine McGuffy, who runs the Justice Center, say detoxing without medical attention can be fatal for inmates. Neil says the current approach to dealing with inmates hooked on opiates isn’t working and that the county needs a new plan. It takes about a week of medical attention and a round of special drugs to undergo a chemical detox like the kind the proposed treatment facility would administer.

• Finally, as we’ve talked about before, Gov. John Kasich has identified New Hampshire as a make-or-break state for him in the GOP presidential primary election. If he doesn’t do well in the Granite State’s Feb. 9 primary, he says, he’s outtie. Sooooo… uh, how’s it going? Not so great so far, it would seem. Kasich’s still struggling to make a name for himself in the key state, according to news reports, with many potential GOP primary voters saying they don’t know enough about him. About 45 percent of the state’s potential GOP voters have a positive opinion of the Big Queso (this is my new nickname for Kasich). Hm. Perhaps our guv should make a few more ill-advised jokes or leak more Instagram videos of himself dancing to Walk the Moon.

I’m out. Twitter. Email. Hit me with news tips or suggestions on where to get some new rad sneakers. I’ve been told the bright blue Nike Dunks I’ve been wearing forever are annoying.

by Steven Rosen 10.16.2015 43 days ago
at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Local Vent Haven Ventriloquism Museum Is Subject of New Avant-Garde Play in Chicago

Vent Haven — Fort Mitchell’s ventriloquism museum that is the only one in the world devoted to the subject — continues to be of interest to the art world at large.

Photographers Laurie Simmons and Matthew Rolston have both previously done series based on its collection of dummies, and Simmons even used them in a 40-minute film, The Music of Regret, that also starred Meryl Streep.

Now Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art is hosting a new theater work, The Ventriloquists Convention, that is based on the annual event here that Vent Haven sponsors. According to the MCA, “the piece imagines meetings among the convention delegates and their dummies, who each maintain distinct voices and identities.”

European director/choreographer Gisèle Vienne is working with American novelist Dennis Cooper on this project, joined by German puppet-theater company Puppentheater Halle.

The MCA also says that Vienne and Cooper “developed their approach for this show from documentary and fictional sources, building it into a group of quirky portraits of ventriloquists celebrating their shared interests and friendship. The show explores why ventriloquists do what they do, and what lies behind the relationships that they have with their dummies.

“Performed by nine ventriloquists-puppeteers, the piece hinges on the use of multiple layered dialogues, including the ghostly, non-physical ventriloquists' voices. These portraits enable Gisèle Vienne to continue her ongoing research into the interplay between physical presence and dissociation that she had developed in prior projects.”

If you want to attend (no word yet on Cincinnati performances), The Ventriloquists Convention takes place Nov. 12-14 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $30 and available at the MCA Box Office at 312-397-4010 or mcachicago.org.

The Ventriloquists Convention is supported by the French-American Fund for Contemporary Theater, an initiative of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. and the Institut Français, It is also funded by the Florence Gould Foundation and the Catherine Popesco Foundation for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Goethe-Institut and the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.

by Rick Pender 10.16.2015 43 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
stage door 10-16 - bruce cromer as willie loman in death of a salesman @ cincy shakes - photo mikki schaffner

Stage Door: A Dying Salesman, Barbra Streisand and a Prince in Search of Meaning

There are almost too many good shows for you to enjoy this weekend, but depending on what you like, you’ll probably find it somewhere.

Cincy Shakes production of Death of a Salesman doesn’t open until tonight, but all sings point to a strong production, headlined by one of our region’s best actors, Bruce Cromer, as beaten-down Willie Loman, who I interviewed for my CityBeat column this week. He’s matched with another fine local stage performer Annie Fitzpatrick as Willie’s faithful but worried wife; two of the Shakespeare team’s excellent company of actors, Jared Joplin and Justin McCombs, play Willie’s sons who can’t quite bear up to the weight of his expectations. Arthur Miller’s play is one of the greatest, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award. So if it’s serious drama, get tickets for this one, onstage through Nov. 7: 513-381-2273.

Want something more frivolous and entertaining, but still a great performance? Show up at Ensemble Theatre for Buyer and Cellar, a one-man show about a guy pretending to be a shopkeeper in a vast basement treasure trove of acquisitions on Barbra Streisand’s Malibu estate. It’s 90 minutes of non-stop storytelling, rooted in a real place — but with a fantasized chain of events. Actor Nick Cearley is a comic gem, performing in a smartly written script that requires him to conjure up not just Alex, the actor hired to wait on Barbra, “the customer” (one and only), but the singer herself and a handful of others. Great fun to watch. Here’s my review. Through Nov. 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555.

If you love a good Broadway musical, you need to show up at the Aronoff and score a seat for the touring production of Pippin. (CityBeat review here.) It’s a show from 40 years ago (by Stephen Schwartz, the creator of Wicked more recently), but this version of an award-winning Broadway revival from two years ago is full of Cirque du Soleil-styled acrobatics, as well as some great songs and performers. It’s a sort of fairytale embroidered from a real historical character from the 9th century, the son of the monarch who launched the Holy Roman Empire. It’s about the young Pippin’s arduous search for a meaningful life. The “Leading Player,” a kind of emcee/storyteller, is Gabrielle McClinton, who handled the role on Broadway for part of its two-year run there, and Charlemagne, Pippin’s father, is played by veteran actor John Rubinstein — who originated the title role back in 1972. (He’s 68 now, but still an energetic, animated performer.) Tickets: 513-621-2787.

Shows previous opened that are also worth seeing include the very serious drama Extremities at the Incline Theater in E. Price Hill (tickets: 513-241-6550), onstage through Sunday; and Sex with Strangers, a very modern romance about writers who envy one another’s careers and lust after one another’s bodies, has another week and a half at the Cincinnati Playhouse (tickets: 513-421-3888).

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

by Nick Swartsell 10.16.2015 43 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

More developments in Issue 22 fight; block party planned Saturday to remember DuBose, Hicks, others; Kasich's campaign releases proposed tax plan

Morning all! Here’s a quick rundown of the news today.

Let’s talk about the latest in the ongoing debate over Issue 22, Mayor John Cranley’s proposed charter amendment to fund changes to the city’s parks via a 1 mill property tax levy. Yesterday, Parks Director Wille Carden said figures estimating the cost of 16 proposed projects that would be funded by that amendment were generated by the mayor’s office. Carden said that those estimates are at best rough guesses and that the amendment might not fund all of them. Overall, the mayor’s office says those projects will cost $85 million and that decisions about which will be funded will depend on public input, how shovel-ready each one is and other considerations. Issue 22 detractors used these revelations to further press their criticisms of the amendment, saying that the proposed property tax is ill-considered. Supporters are standing by the amendment, however, saying that even if all the projects aren’t funded, the city’s parks stand to benefit greatly from the measure.

• A majority of Cincinnati City Council now officially opposes that charter amendment, with council members Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach yesterday penning an editorial against Issue 22. Seelbach and Young cited lack of provisions for public input and better uses for the tax dollars at stake as among the reasons they’re joining council members Charlie Winburn, Amy Murray and Yvette Simpson in opposing the plan. Vice Mayor David Mann and Councilmen Kevin Flynn, P.G. Sittenfeld and Christopher Smitherman all support the amendment, citing the opportunity to provide vastly better funding for the city’s parks as the reason for their support.

• One of the projects on the Issue 22 list is a revamp of Ziegler Park, which sits on the Over-the-Rhine side of Sycamore Street right on the border with Pendleton. The Park Board yesterday voted to acquire the land necessary to begin that revamp, which will proceed with or without the Issue 22 funding. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation is a major partner on the $30 million project and has said it is assembling funding to make the renovation of the park a reality. 3CDC says a new pool and water attraction will be part of that overhaul, as well as a large green space across the street next to condos in the former SCPA building.

That green space will sit atop a large parking garage very similar to one built underneath Washington Park in OTR. The basketball courts currently next to Ziegler will be preserved, though new courts will be installed. The proposed revamp has caused some controversy in the community, which is predominantly low-income and black. Some activists have expressed concern that changes to the park could exclude current long-term residents of the area. 3CDC says it has held a number of public meetings and is striving to make the park accessible to all, but bitter memories of Washington Park’s renovation still linger. Activists point to the changes to that park, which removed basketball courts, sitting spaces along the perimeter of the park and other features popular with long-term users, as reasons for their concerns.

• Members of Cincinnati Black Lives Matter tomorrow are throwing a block party in Mount Auburn to honor the life of Sam DuBose and other unarmed people of color killed by police. The event, which is meant to rally support around the families of DuBose, Quandavier Hicks and others, kicks off tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Thill and Vine streets and will feature free music and food, and later a rally protesting police violence. Meanwhile, a push for greater accountability and justice continues at the University of Cincinnati, which employed officer Ray Tensing, who shot DuBose back in July. Tensing is currently facing murder charges for that shooting, but student activists at UC are asking for bigger changes, including a big increase in the enrollment of black students on UC’s main campus. Currently, only 5 percent of students at UC’s flagship Clifton campus are black. You can read the full list of steps the so-called Irate8 (named after the 8 percent of black students in the UC system as a whole) here.

• I’m a history nerd, so this is really, really cool. Yale University recently released thousands of never-before-seen pictures of Depression-era America taken by Works Progress Administration photographers. Among them are a bunch from Cincinnati, which you can see here. It’s always super-interesting to see these kinds of candid shots, which illustrate what every day life was like back then, taking away some of the mists and myths of history and making that time period seem very relatable and not-so-distant. Check ‘em out.

• Finally, what would Gov. John Kasich do if he won the Republican nomination for presidency and then the general election in 2016? Well, according to the guv, he’d basically dismantle the federal government’s funding for transportation and education, letting states decide through block grants how they’d like to handle those services. Kasich is putting forth a so-called “balanced budget” proposal that would do just that as a demonstration of what he’d do if he wins the White House. Oh yeah, that budget proposal also slashes taxes for large corporations and high earners, dropping the top tax rate from nearly 40 percent to 28 percent. It also gives a slight increase to the Earned Income Tax Credit, which goes to the country’s lowest earners.

Most of Kasich’s cuts, however, come on the top end of the earning spectrum, and would actually… get ready for this… create a budget deficit for the first eight years they were in effect, according to the man himself. Kasich says increased profits and economic activity from the lower taxes, along with big spending cuts, would then balance things out, however, filling revenue gaps created by the tax cuts. If all that sounds familiar, it’s because conservatives have been touting this approach since Ronald Regan was president. Has a similar plan worked in Ohio? Kinda-sorta-not really. Kasich has cut income taxes, but spending has also grown in Ohio. Kasich has raised other taxes, mostly sales taxes that put a higher proportional burden on low-earners, to make up the difference. The state does have a surplus, mostly because the economy has rebounded and Ohio, like most other states, has added jobs. How much of this was Kasich’s doing, however, is up for serious debate.

Annnnnd… I’m out. Twitter. Email. You know what’s up.

by Staff 10.16.2015 43 days ago

Your Weekend To Do List (10/16-10/18)

Haunted houses, Ubahn, Ladyfest, a wine festival, a food truck festival and more


The first Ladyfest Cincinnati festival (featured in CityBeat’s cover story last week) begins Thursday and runs through Saturday in various venues (mostly in Northside), showcasing women in activism as well as a vareity of artists. There will be workshops, visual art exhibitions, film screenings and poetry readings throughout Ladyfest, as well as lots of music from local and touring artists playing Punk, Hip Hop, Rock, Experimental music and much more.  Ladyfest Cincinnati begins Thursday at Ice Cream Factory (2133 Central Ave., Brighton). After the 7:30 p.m. film showcases, local Noise artist Nebulagirl kicks off an experimental music lineup that includes Dayton, Ohio’s DROMEZ and Chicago’s Forced Into Femininity. Read more about Ladyfest in this week's Spill It. Ladyfest takes place Oct. 15-17 in various locations, mostly in Northside. More information: ladyfestcincinnati2015.sched.org

Ubahn Music Festival
Photo: Agar
Cincinnati’s underground music festival returns: Ubahn, the two-day EDM and Hip Hop fest, takes over the Metro Transit Center underneath Second Street downtown with three stages of DJs and live music. The lineup includes Buggs Tha Rocka, A$AP Ferg, Keys N Krates, Trademark Aaron, DJ Apryl Reign, DJ Drowsy and more. On Saturday, the Heroes Rise all-ages street-style dance event takes place in the tunnel during the day (3-9 p.m.), with freestyle dance competitions, DJ showcases, art and more. Break out your glowsticks and rave-wear. See Spill It on page 34 for more. 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday; 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday. $30 one-day; $40 two-day; $100 VIP. Transit Center West, 220 Central Ave., Downtown, ubahnfest.com

'Buyer and Cellar'
Photo: Lynna Evana
Did you know that Barbra Streisand has a personal shopping mall filled with memorabilia in the basement of her lavish Malibu estate? It’s true — she’s even published a coffee-table book about it. That’s what inspired this very funny one-man show. An out-of-work actor is hired to be the shopkeeper, and he gets to hang out and play store with the legendary musical star. It’s a fantasy, of course, but with enough reality to make the show hilarious, especially in the hands of Nick Cearley, a veteran comic New York actor who has appeared several times at Ensemble Theatre. Through Nov. 1. $28-$44. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, ensemblecincinnati.org

Photo: Provided
Horn-driven instrumental Fusion ensemble Huntertones — who masterfully and progressively mix a wide range of Rock, Soul, Jazz and Funk influences — formed in Columbus, Ohio in 2010 and currently call Brooklyn, N.Y. home. The band also has a Cincinnati connection — trombonist/composer Chris Ott attended the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music for grad school and sat in with esteemed area acts like Tropicoso, The Cincy Brass and the Blue Wisp Big Band while he lived here. The group’s forthcoming EP showcases the Huntertones’ endearing style beautifully; the grooves are infectious and the horns bring to mind the ’70s Horn Rock boom (Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears, etc.), but the band’s Jazz elements — from the chops to the approach to the arrangements — are even more compelling. The group should be especially enjoyable live, offering something for easily susceptible dancers and deep listeners alike. 10 p.m. Friday. Free. MOTR Pub, 1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, motrpub.com.

The Mayhem Mansion
Photo: Kevin Doyle
Once upon a midnight dreary, haunted houses, ghoulish creatures and harrowing tales descended upon the Queen City, giving Cincinnatians plenty of eerie activities to keep them screaming throughout the season. Whether you’re looking for thrills, chills or something a little more family-friendly, this preview has you covered, including an intensity guide to help you find just the type of scare you’re looking for. Choose your haunt, grab some friends and enter at your own risk — you might just discover a real-life ghost or two along the way. Intensity guide out of three skulls. See reviews, hours and directions to local haunted houses here.

Joey Bada$$
Photo: David Daub
It’s one thing to call yourself a badass; it’s quite another to back that shit up. And it takes some serious stones to adopt the word as your surname and then switch out the “ss” with dollar signs. Joey Bada$$ has plenty of cred to back up that level of bravado. Born in East Flatbush, N.Y. to a first-generation Caribbean family, Jo-Vaughn Scott was raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant and began writing songs and poems when he was 11. He attended the prestigious Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, where he enrolled as a theater major but shifted to the music program with an emphasis on Rap in ninth grade. Shortly thereafter, Scott founded the Progressive Era (aka Pro Era) collective with friends and classmates. Read nire about Joey Bada$$ in this week's Sound Advice. See Joey Bada$$ with Nyck Caution, Denzel Curry and Bishop Nehru Saturday at Bogart's. More info/tickets: bogarts.com.

Emily Frank of C'est Cheese
Photo: Jesse Fox
Instead of settling for whatever food truck happens to be parked near you, why not take your pick from the best Cincinnati has to offer at the second-annual Cincinnati Food Truck Association Food Festival? Waffle masters, chili experts, burger bosses and pizza geniuses will roll on down to the heart of OTR, lining Washington Park in an effort to impress your taste buds. Once you’ve had your pick from the 20-plus food trucks — including C’est Cheese, Fireside Pizza, Marty’s Waffles, Red Sesame, SugarSnap!, Urban Grill and more — get your groove on with Brea Shay, Eric Coburn Band and DJ Nate the Great.  2-8 p.m. Saturday. Food prices vary. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatifoodtruckassociation.org.

Photo: Matt Schwartz
Vacationer emits a slinky World Music groove that blends elements of Tropicalia, Pop and Trip Hop with atmospheric Ambient music shades, giving the band a moodily bouncy sound that suggests Colorado altrockers The Samples collaborating with Morcheeba while Brian Eno obliquely strategizes their next studio maneuver.  Its unique brand of island music is self-described as “Nu-Hula,” and that seems like an appropriate tag to hang on Vacationer’s exotic sonic fingerprint. Vacationer’s beach-blanket bingo began with Kenny Vasoli, singer/bassist of Pop/Punk band The Starting Line (and the more experimental splinter project, Person L), who was reportedly so inspired by LCD Soundsystem’s 2010 set at Bonnaroo that he floated the idea of doing an Electronic project past his manager/Starting Line bandmate Matt Watts. Read more about Vacationer in this week's Sound Advice. See Vacationer with Great Good Fine Ok Saturday at The Drinkery. More info/tickets: drinkeryotr.com.

Bark Out Against Battering
Photo: Audrey Ann Photography 
The YWCA of Greater Cincinnati is teaming up with the SPCA to raise awareness about the connection between pet abuse and domestic violence. According to the YWCA, many women report staying in abusive relationships because they fear for the safety of their pets. The organization hopes to remove this concern by providing protective shelter for these animals at the SPCA. Canines and their humans can contribute to the cause at the sixth-annual Bark Out Against Battering, which fully benefits the YWCA’s work with the shelter. The day features dog trick-or-treating, raffles, pet portraits and the main event: a dog costume contest and parade, during which canines compete against dogs of similar sizes. 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday. Free. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-487-5421, ywca.org

The eighth-annual Northern Kentucky Wine Festival showcases the best wines of the bluegrass state. More than 15 wineries from around the region will be stationed along the Sixth Street Promenade in MainStrasse, while area restaurants provide food to complement wine tastings. A $10 admission provides a souvenir glass and tickets for four wine tastings; additional tastings, glasses and bottles are available for purchase. 3-10 p.m. Saturday. $10. MainStrasse Village, Sixth Street, Covington, Ky., mainstrasse.org

Coney Island is getting creepy for its family-friendly Fall-O-Ween Festival. In addition to the park’s 24 classic rides, the fest features pumpkin painting, magic shows, barnyard animals and a light show choreographed to Halloween music. Use a giant slingshot to smash a pumpkin against a target or opt to take the kids to make their very own apple pie. New this year is a trick-or-treat trail through Coney’s Creep County Fair, a town populated by kid-sized buildings and candy-wielding characters. Also make sure to catch the Monster Bash live show for a little eerie entertainment every hour between 2 and 6 p.m.  1-7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 25. $11; $5 parking. Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, 513-232-8230, coneyislandpark.com

Everyone who makes his or her way through charming Covington probably notices the ultra-modern Ascent, quaint MainStrasse Village and the beautiful Riverside Historic District. But most people may not know about the town’s spooky secrets. With guides from American Legacy Tours, the Covington is Haunted Tour reveals the sites and stories of the city’s ghastliest murders, most fatal feuds and haunted houses — including paranormal encounters in some of the Cov’s most stately mansions. 7 and 9 p.m. Saturdays in October. $20. Leaves from Molly Malone’s, 112 E. Fourth St., Covington, Ky., americanlegacytours.com.  

Maiden Radio
Photo: Amber Thieneman
Maiden Radio is a collaboration between Julia Purcell, Cheyenne Mize and Joan Shelley that began in 2009 as a means for the three accomplished Louisville, Ky. musicians to explore the old-time Folk and Appalachian sound they all loved.  Local fans may be familiar with some of the members’ individual efforts. Mize’s solo work has been widely praised, and she’s played Greater Cincinnati fairly frequently. Mize’s solo debut, the atmospheric, Indie-Folk-leaning Before Lately, paved the way for a deal with Yep Roc (her debut for the label, Among the Grey, came out in 2013). Read more about the group in this week's Sound Advice. See Maiden Radio with Daniel Martin Moore Saturday at Woodward Theater. More info/tickets: woodwardtheater.com.

'Antique Halloween'
Photo: Taft Museum of Art

Travel back in time this October at the Taft Museum of Art. Current exhibit Antique Halloween is a one-room display of spooky antiques ranging in date from the 1900s to 1950s. The items, obtained by local collectors, include decorations, toys and games, candy cups and more. A ghostly ambiance is created by candle shades and jack-o-lanterns dispersed throughout the room. Through Nov. 1. $10 adults; $5 ages 6-17; free Sunday. Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., Downtown, 513-241-0343, taftmuseum.org.

Photo: Kathy Newton 


Kids and animals alike are in for a special treat during the Cincinnati Zoo’s HallZOOween festival. This family-friendly Halloween celebration features trick-or-treat stations for the kids, costumed characters, a Hogwarts Express train ride and special pumpkin playtime for elephants, otters, meerkats and more. Bring your own treat bag to stuff with goodies and hunt for the Golden Frisch’s Big Boy. Two golden Big Boy statues will be hidden around the zoo each weekend; whoever finds them wins a special zoo/Frisch’s prize package (with tartar sauce). Follow clues on the zoo’s Twitter page: #BigBoyClue. Noon-5 p.m. Select Saturdays and Sundays in October. Free with zoo admission ($18 adult; $12 child/senior). Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org. 

Ohio Renaissance Festival
Photo: Will Thorpe Photography

The Ohio Renaissance Festival is back and bringing fall weekends filled with costumes, turkey legs, mulled mead, jousting, games, glass-blowing demonstrations, choirs, crafts and tarot readings inside a 30-acre, recreated 16th-century village. This weekend is opening weekend, so tickets for adults are buy-one-get-one, and kids under 12 get in free. Be sure to check the website for themed weekends and different deals. Nerds of all kinds welcome — just remember that any medieval weapons you might bring need to be tied in a sheath at all times. 10:30 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Oct. 25. $21.95 adult; $9.95 child; $119.95 season pass. 10542 E. State Route 73, Waynesville, renfestival.com



If you have a pair of cowboy boots laying around that you’ve been meaning to break out, you’re in luck — Old West Fest is back for its eighth year, featuring an authentic recreated Old West Dodge-City-style town, with gold panning, covered-wagon rides, kids activities, live entertainment (including trick riding and a saloon show) and more. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Oct. 18. $12 adults; $6 ages 6-12; free under 12. 1449 Greenbush Cobb Road, Williamsburg, oldwestfestival.com.


Set just after Columbus’ discovery of the New World, Charise Castro Smith’s satirical and often anachronistic historical play covers a lot of territory. In 1504, Spain’s Queen Isabella is fretting about her empire and dying of some horrible plague, and she’s likely to be succeeded by her bratty daughter. Meanwhile, Isabella’s brilliant sister — a reclusive, atheist hunchback — is stuck in her bedroom thinking about cats, math and a Muslim lover. It’s a wild tale — just what you expect to see at Know Theatre — but this production comes to Over-the-Rhine from the drama program at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. Through Oct. 24. $20; $10 rush seats. Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-300-5669, knowtheatre.com

Mark Mothersbaugh
Photo: Jesse Fox


“Cincinnati, in some ways, was the start of me being an artist,” says Mark Mothersbaugh, relaxing as best he can, given his constantly enthused, exuberant state, in a meeting room at downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center. “So there’s something about coming back here that is this completion of a cycle.” In the building on this day, much is going on that is about him. The CAC is preparing to open (at 8 p.m. Friday to the general public) its much-anticipated exhibit, Myopia. The show, curated by Adam Lerner of Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art, looks at the Akron, Ohio native’s career as a visual artist/designer, as well as his accomplishments as a co-founder and lead singer of the Post-Punk/Art-Rock band Devo and subsequently as an in-demand composer for film and television, creating music for such Wes Anderson movies as The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and Rushmore, as well as The Lego Movie, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Rugrats. Read the full feature on Mothersbaugh and Myopia here. Through Jan. 9. Visit contemporaryartscenter.org for more information.

by Nick Swartsell 10.15.2015 44 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Park Board votes to ask for return of pro-Issue 22 contribution; city manager gets raise; what happens if pro and anti-pot legalization amendments pass?

Hey all! I’m still struggling out of a food coma after attending last night’s Iron Fork event, but copious amounts of black coffee help me persevere. Anyway, let’s talk about news really quick.

I told you yesterday about the controversy swirling around a $200,000 contribution the Cincinnati Parks Board made to a group supporting Issue 22, the mayor’s proposed charter amendment funding the city’s parks. That controversy reached such a fever pitch that this morning, the Parks Board voted to ask for the money back. Though critics of that contribution say it is improper and illegal, the board stands by the appropriateness of its contribution, which it says came from a private endowment, not from tax dollars. However, board members said the money had become “a distraction” and that they’ve voted to ask for it back to keep from clouding the parks levy issue. Welp. There you go.

• Cincinnati City Council yesterday voted 5-4 to give City Manager Harry Black a 3-percent raise. There was controversy over the size of that raise, however, and debate about the process by which it was awarded. Black already received a 1.5-percent cost of living increase on his one-year anniversary over the summer, a fact Mayor John Cranley said he was unaware of. Some on Council, including Vice Mayor David Mann, thought another 3 percent on top of that cost of living bump was too much.

“It sends an improper message,” Mann said, citing the city’s high poverty rates and attention to income inequality over the past year. “I just can’t bring myself to support this large an increase.”

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld expressed similar hesitancy with the size of Black’s raise, which will increase his salary to more than $256,000 a year. Sittenfeld said the overall 4.5-percent raise could present a tough position when the city negotiates wages with other city employees.

“Our society is upside down right now,” he said. “When you say 4.5 percent is right for those at the top, but not for you, that sends the wrong message.”

Councilman Chris Seelbach opposed any raise for the manager, saying his salary is already high enough. Though council members praised Black’s performance, some said there were areas for improvement. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson listed off a number of critiques, including a suggestion Black work harder at engaging the community. Simpson, Seelbach, Sittenfeld and Mann all voted against the 4.5-percent increase, though Sittenfeld and Mann said they were open to a smaller raise. Councilman Charlie Winburn voted for the raise, and generally praised Black, but had harsh words about his handling of the dismissal of former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, which he said the city had “botched up so bad.”

Some council members pointed out that the ordinance passed to hire Black last year stipulated a performance review for the city manager. That review, which was supposed to be performed by a committee and include input from all council members, was never completed. Instead, Mayor John Cranley says he’s gone over Black’s performance verbally with the city manager. Councilwoman Amy Murray also said yesterday that she sat down with Black to review his performance. Though council members Yvette Simpson and Chris Seelbach balked at providing Black with the raise without the stipulated committee review, other council members, including Kevin Flynn, pinned that responsibility on Council itself, not the mayor or the city manager. Flynn said that if Council wanted to review the city manager, it should have taken initiative and done so, and that it wasn’t fair to hold the city manager’s raise because it hadn’t.

• The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation swung through the area yesterday to talk about inner-city violence. And what better place to give such a talk than the mean streets of… Kenwood? Yeah. To be fair, that’s where the FBI’s local field office is, so that’s where FBI Executive Director James B. Comey gave remarks about the bureau’s increased efforts to deal with violent crime in inner-city neighborhoods. Though there isn’t any one over-arching initiative the bureau is launching, Comey said, it is definitely putting more of its top agents on the issue. Comey blamed the heroin crisis gripping many areas of the country for some of the violence, as well as short-handed law enforcement departments in many municipalities. Interestingly, however, there is some disagreement as to whether a big spike in crime actually exists. While some cities have seen a spike in murders and shootings, some of those increases come over rock-bottom lows in previous years, and the overall picture is more complex. Here’s a pretty fascinating exploration of that dynamic.

• It goes without saying that national politics, including the election of U.S. representatives, is like a kinda shady game of chess. And it looks like outgoing House Speaker John Boehner is moving a few pieces around before he splits. Some sources say Boehner’s been active in pushing for Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds to take his District 8 seat in Congress. So far, a half-dozen GOP candidates have expressed interest in the seat, which will go to the winner of an as yet to be scheduled special election. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Boehner has been making calls on Reynolds’ behalf and helping introduce the 46-year-old to big wigs in the party. Boehner is set to leave his perch Oct. 30, but has also promised not to leave until Republicans have found someone to replace him as house speaker, which, umm… could take a while.

• So here’s an awkward situation that could happen. What if Ohioans pass both Issue 3, ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization effort, and Issue 2, lawmakers’ attempt to do an end-run around the legalization effort by outlawing monopolies like the one ResponsibleOhio is proposing? Statewide polling says that could happen. A poll out of Kent State University found that 54 percent of adults are planning to vote yes on Issue 2, and 56 percent are planning on voting yes for Issue 3. Obviously, this is just one poll, and it’s likely that some people are just a little confused at this point, but it brings up an interesting and thus far unanswered question: What happens if voters approve to conflicting amendments to the state’s constitution? The short version of that answer is that no one really knows, and it would likely trigger a long court battle. Proponents for both sides take issue with the poll, of course, saying their particular effort will prevail and the opposition will not, citing their own polling. With just weeks before the election, this one’s going to be interesting.

by Mike Breen 10.15.2015 44 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, King Records, Music History at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
del more

Delmore Brothers Honored at Herzog

Local musicians gather at site of historic 1946 recording session to pay tribute to pioneering duo

In the fall of 1946, sibling Country (or “Hillbilly,” as it was dubbed) singing duo The Delmore Brothers came to downtown Cincinnati to record a session at E. T. Herzog’s studios (where famed sides by Hank Williams, Patti Page, Ernest Tubbs, Flatt and Scruggs and numerous other legends also recorded) on Race Street. Beginning their career in the ’30s, the Alabama-bred brothers had become well known for their stunning harmonies, incorporating Gospel, Blues and Folk traditions into their Country stylings. 

In the mid-to-late-’40s, Rabon and Alton Delmore’s sound began to shift towards something more innovative and modern. The duo was recording for King Records, the legendary Cincinnati institution that made (and, many say, changed) music history when it began releasing R&B records alongside its Country ones. The Delmores were a part of the bridge to this open blending of styles, something that ultimately helped lay the groundwork for the creation of Rock & Roll. 

Many consider The Delmore Brothers’ indispensable contributions to the genre dubbed “Hillbilly Boogie,” which blended bluesy rhythms and chord structures into the Country aesthetic, a crucial building block that helped pave the way for Rockabilly and Rock & Roll. 

Former Rock and Roll Hall of Fame curator Jim Henke is quoted as saying, “‘Hillbilly Boogie’ by the Delmore Brothers directly anticipated the development of Rockabilly and, later, Rock & Roll. With their close-knit harmonies and their guitar playing, the Delmores influenced the Everly Brothers and countless other Country, Rockabilly and Rock & Roll artists.”

During the Cincinnati sessions at Herzog, the Delmores cut tracks like “Boogie Woogie Baby” and the seminal “Freight Train Boogie,” one of the most distinct precursors to Rockabilly (some even call it the first Rock & Roll record).

This Saturday at 7 p.m., several area musicians will gather at the site of those early recordings (811 Race St., second floor, now the downtown headquarters of the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation) to celebrate their 69th anniversary and the Delmore’s huge contributions to music. The local musicians who will gather for "Delmore Day" to talk about and perform songs by The Delmore Brothers include Edwin P. Vardiman with Kelly Thomas, J. Dorsey, Big Bob Burns with Jeff Wilson, Margaret Darling, Joe Mitchell, Joe Prewitt and Don Miller, Elliott Ruther, Tim Combs, Mark Dunbar, Travis Frazier, David Rhodes Brown with Jared Schaedle and Ally Hurt. 

The event is open to the public (fans of all ages are welcome) and free. Here is the Facebook event page for more info.

by Nick Swartsell 10.14.2015 45 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Harry Black

Morning News and Stuff

Parks fight intensifies; should Black get a raise?; women's clinics stay open, but new restrictions loom

Good morning all. Here’s the news today. And no, I didn’t watch the Democratic presidential primary debate last night, the same way I didn’t watch the Republican one the night it aired. I get paid to think, read and write about politics from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or later) Monday through Friday. The last thing I want to do when I’m done is go home, pop the top off a beer and listen to some drab older folks who have dedicated their drab lives to drab electoral and policy chicanery talk about said drab chicanery. Bor-ing. I sat around and watched skate videos on Thrasher’s Instagram account instead. Milton Martinez for prez what up. That said, I’ve been watching the debate this morning while I’m on the clock. I’ll tell you about it at the bottom.

• But first, let’s talk local drama. There’s an enormous fan somewhere in the city, and yesterday some stuff definitely hit it. The fight over Issue 22, Mayor John Cranley’s proposed charter amendment to raise money for 16 big parks projects, got real, with opponents of the plan coming out of the woodwork.

Cincinnati attorney and anti-Issue 22 Save Our Parks member Timothy Mara put a letter in Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden’s mailbox yesterday calling the parks board out for a contribution to the Issue 22 booster campaign that Mara says is illegal and inappropriate. The Parks Board has pushed back against that assertion, saying that the funds came from an endowment, not tax dollars, and that the donation was perfectly legal. Mara is asking the parks board to take back the $200,000 donation, which was used to help fund a pro-amendment ad that features Cranley basically playing all the sports and passing a number of different balls to himself. Which is kind of an odd choice for the ad as far as narrative devices go, since opponents of the mayor’s proposal are basically accusing him of fiscal ball-hogging with the amendment.

Meanwhile, former Cincinnati vice mayor, longtime civil rights leader and former Issue 22 supporter Marian Spencer was on the radio talking about how she hung up on Cranley after a phone call from the mayor she says was rather discourteous. Key quote here: “I told him I’m 95 and no one tells me how to vote.” Dang. The mayor remembers the conversation differently, according to quotes posted by an Enquirer reporter on social media. He says that he was merely reminding Spencer that she would be the most prominent opponent of the parks plan if she came out against it. Phew. You can read all about the multiple back and forths, plus my reporting from the pretty informative and evenly matched Issue 22 debate held by The Cincinnati Enquirer Monday, in our story yesterday.

• Cincinnati City Council is set to vote today on whether or not to give City Manager Harry Black a $10,000 raise. This could be somewhat controversial, however, as the city hasn’t completed a required performance review on Black. The ordinance hiring Black set forth that requirement. Cranley, who recommends the raise, says he’s evaluated Black and found he deserves the extra money, but a review committee is supposed to undertake the performance evaluation with input from every member of Council. We’ll see if that proves a roadblock to Black’s pay bump, which would bring his salary up to about $256,000. I would like to add a friendly amendment to the mayor’s motion which gives me a $10,000 raise as well. I promise to spend it all on coneys or Rhinegeist or something else that boosts the local economy.

• Oh yeah. Some other big local stuff happened yesterday: A federal judge ruled that Cincinnati’s last women’s clinic performing abortions, the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, can stay open as it fights Ohio’s new abortion regulations. An earlier stay in orders to close the clinic, which was denied a license renewal by the Ohio Department of Health, expired yesterday. The new federal injunction will keep the clinic, and another in Dayton, open until Planned Parenthood’s federal court case challenging Ohio’s new abortion laws goes to trial next year. Here’s the full story, which per usual we reported first. Not that we’re keeping track or anything, because we don’t care about scoops or whatever real journalists call that stuff.

• While it’s really big news that the Mount Auburn and Dayton clinics have a temporary reprieve from the state breathing down their necks, there are more restrictions potentially on the way. The Ohio General Assembly is mulling three bills expected to pass by the end of the year that would further restrict abortion access in Ohio. One would strip all state funds from Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions here. Another would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. A third would outlaw all abortions due to a diagnosis of Down syndrome in a fetus. Ohio would be the first in the nation to pass such a law.

Conservative lawmakers behind the bills, which are currently in the Ohio Senate, acknowledge that they are attempting to eliminate abortion in the state. The effort mirrors a national move to defund Planned Parenthood: A showdown in Congress over taxpayer funding for abortion nearly shut down the federal government last month. All the hubbub stems from a series of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue for profit. Though a number of government investigations have found no wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part, and though the videos in question and others used against the organization have been somewhat debunked, lawmakers say they want to make sure taxpayers aren’t contributing to organizations that provide abortions.

• Let’s go to the other end of the life spectrum, shall we? Here’s an interesting op-ed from a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who opposes the death penalty. It discusses several Ohio and Kentucky Republican lawmakers who are pushing to end capital punishment for a lot of reasons both practical and moral. Very interesting stuff, and worth a read. Surprised? You must have missed our feature on conservatives pushing to end Ohio’s death penalty, which is also worth perusing.

• We all need to lighten up. At least, that’s what Gov. John “Party Time” Kasich says. Kasich got some blowback last week after he told a young woman trying to ask a question at a University of Richmond campaign appearance that he didn’t have any Taylor Swift tickets for her. Kayla Solsbak then wrote an op-ed for the university paper about Kasich’s comment to her, which went viral. Note to Kasich: not how you win the youth vote. Anyway, at another campaign stop in New Hampshire yesterday, Kasich said he was tired of getting hassled for his jokes.

“Let’s also get a sense of humor back in America, OK,” he said to the crowd, which applauded. I mean, I don’t think it’s that America doesn’t have a sense of humor, though. I think it was just that Kasich’s jokes are pretty sexist and reductive of women, which isn’t anywhere near as funny as, say, making fun of yourself for being out of touch, which Kasich could also easily do. Anyway, Kasich says the negative attention is good and that he’s just, like, trying to be his authentic self. To paraphrase: haters gonna hate, I’ma do me. Which is a pretty hipster thing to say, so maybe he is in touch with us Millenials after all.

• So back to the Democratic presidential primary debate last night. What can you say, really? Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t mess up, keeping her frontrunner status. And she raised debate around Planned Parenthood and other women’s issues that sorely need to be talked about. But she also didn’t put any nails in the coffin of her nearest contender U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, either, and he’ll likely see a surge in interest, even though he didn’t outright win this round.

Meanwhile, Sanders, the independent running as a Democrat who says he’s a socialist (got that?) pretty much ran over Clinton when it came to his signature issues of income inequality, financial industry regulation and campaign finance reform. But he didn’t really branch out from those and lay claim to any new ground, which has some pundits wondering if he can really make himself look presidential before next November. He also came across as kind of hawkish, saying he would take the U.S. into war if necessary, and was wishy-washy on gun control, both of which could hobble him with the progressives he’s supposed to be rallying. Clinton, who has about the most hawkish record a Democrat can have, didn’t best him here, but she didn’t really need to.

Oh, and there were other candidates, too. Jim Webb mostly complained about how long he’d been waiting to answer questions (10 minutes is an eternity, right?) and divulged that he killed an enemy soldier in battle. The prime takeaway from Lincoln Chafee’s 10 minutes total of speaking time during the two-hour debate was that he’s managed to not be involved in any scandals (good job, Chaf!) and Martin O’Malley said little that would give him a breakthrough moment. So that’s that.

I’m out. See you later. In the meantime, get at me via email or Twitter.

by Tony Johnson 10.14.2015 45 days ago
at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spoonful of Cinema: 99 Homes

Andrew Garfield, the actor most famous for his portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the not-so-amazing The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, has a lot going for him. He first came onto the scene when he brought Eduardo Saverin to life and put a tasteful pulse of humanity into David Fincher’s sublimely cold-blooded The Social Network back in 2010, for which he picked up a Golden Globe supporting actor nomination. As if that wasn’t enough, he also makes up a half of a very formidable Hollywood power couple with Emma Stone. So, with the world at his fingertips, on the brink of bona fide stardom, Andrew Garfield decided to star in a relatively small-budget limited release directed by Ramin Bahrani, 99 Homes.

The picture is a small-time crime flick with a modern angle pitted around Garfield’s lead character, Dennis Nash. When Nash’s work as a roofer runs out, he and his mother and his son are evicted from their longtime family home. They are forced to move into a hotel, and their funds are running out when Nash goes to the office of the real estate agent that evicted his family to recover stolen tools. But when his allegations are denied, Nash instead finds himself carrying out repair jobs for the local real estate operator, Rick Carver — the very man who evicted Nash and his family. By the end of the day, Nash agrees to continue his work with Carver, and before you can say, “Here we go,” things begin to spiral out of control.

Carver is not an honest real estate mogul, and he isn’t personable in even the simplest of ways. “Don’t get personal about real estate,” he repeats throughout the film. It contradicts the very reason that Nash is so desperate to make more money working for Carver. For Nash, having a house isn’t a financial opportunity to flip for profit later on. It is an opportunity to keep his son from living in a run-down motel, and to keep his mother in a space where she can run her personal hairstyling business. It is an opportunity to keep from being woken at night by screaming motel-stayers. An opportunity to live somewhere that your son is not constantly barraged with the smell of cigarette smoke. To keep your son in the same school with his friends. To give your family a future.

The socio-economic and values-based chasm between the two characters is extreme. While Nash is a down-on-his-luck blue-collar type with a conscious and a family he so desperately wants to provide for, Carver uses the county map as a board for what he describes as “a rigged game. By the winners, of the winners, for the winners.” Carver also could give a damn about his family — he cheats, and treats his daughters like dogs who prefer ice cream to Beggin’ Strips. Rather than spend quality time with his kids, he spends quality cash on them to cover up any wounds.

Nash’s somewhat reluctant assistantship to Carver grows into a prominent role for the former roofer, who spends his days stealing appliances from government-owned homes, evicting squatters and re-selling the previously stolen appliances. The story serves to propose a series of unasked questions regarding the morality of such eviction processes. When Carver removes personal desires and factors from home owning, he tilts into the realm of the sociopath, treating unfortunate eviction subjects as hindrances to monetary gain rather than victims of monetary gain gone wild. Carver is a one-dimensional, single-minded dickhead of a boss, sharply played by veteran actor Michael Shannon. Shannon astutely narrows in on what makes Rick Carver tick. Cold, pragmatic and impatient, Carver seems practically impervious to psychological analysis. He is a monster much at home in a world where money is lord and people are only peasants whose purpose is to serve the royalty.

But where does 99 Homes bring Andrew Garfield’s career? Does it give him the opportunity to truly dominate a lead dramatic role? I’m not so sure. He is on point, and feels authentic as the poor working-class hero Dennis Nash, which is surprising considering Garfield’s background playing a multi-millionaire venture capitalist in The Social Network and Spider-Man. I understand that Nash is desperate to restore some sort of dignity to his family’s life. I believe him when he briefly grieves over his son changing schools. But I wasn’t clinging to him. I didn’t feel any sense of desperation at the prospect of his losing out to the system rigged against him. I felt compelled to care, but I didn’t feel I would be crushed by a horrific outcome. There is still something else to explore with Nash, and I don’t think we saw it ourselves. Andrew Garfield gets a good role in 99 Homes, but it might not be the role that he’s been searching for. He gets a ton of screen time and a winner’s share of the script. He pulls off a subtle Floridian accent that is noticeable but non-invasive, and he really knows how to get us to panic every once in a while. But I couldn’t bring myself to declare Garfield an absolute winner for his job-well-done in 99 Homes.

99 Homes is pretty solid. The film, the lead role and its lead actor have something in common. They are all only a few steps from greatness. But I can’t tell you that I’m sure how they might get there. For now, and for Andrew Garfield, hopefully good enough will just have to do. Grade: B-