T.J. Miller, Courtney B. Vance, and Rob Corddry in Office Christmas Party

Is any movie sight more incongruously dull than that of amped-to-11 crowds drinking and dancing and losing their minds at a raucous on-screen party? I ponder this every time I yawn during a teen-centric Project X or a “We’re still vital, damn it!” slapstick lament such as the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler Sisters; characters may be having an inhibition-busting ball, but watching them from the immobility of a cineplex seat is a strange and alienating affair. Exactly how are we supposed to react to all these happy lunatics enjoying the techno-thumping, strobe-flashing times of their lives? By punching our fists in the air and shouting, “F--- yeah!!!”? By whipping out our own Jell-O shots and Slip N Slides? By smiling politely, chuckling occasionally, and kind of wishing we were anywhere else instead?

Wild horse races at the Oglala Lakota Nation Pow Wow, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. (2010) -- photo by Danny Wilcox Frazier

A few years ago, while in the South Dakota Badlands, still photographer, photojournalist, filmmaker, LeClaire native, and current Iowa City resident Danny Wilcox Frazier met John and Julie – married ranchers whose daily lives he wanted to document in photographs. Frazier explained his intentions to the couple, and they agreed to take part. But as Frazier says during our recent phone interview, there was a caveat.

“I said, ‘There’s one thing you need to know before we start: How I work is I move in.’ And Julie was like, ‘Uh-h-h-h ... oka-a-a-ay ... . Are you saying you need somewhere to sleep tonight?’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah, that’d be great!’ Because at that point, I was sleeping in the back of my truck. I’d find a place, get a few hours sleep, wake up with the sun, and start shooting again.

“But more importantly,” he continues, “I wanted them to understand how I work – how I wanted to be there for everything.”

Music

Deana Carter

Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center

Friday, December 9, 7:30 p.m.

The chart-topping, multi-platinum-selling singer/songwriter/guitarist Deana Carter brings her national holiday tour to Bettendorf’s Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center on December 9. She’ll also bring two decades’ worth of alternative-country hits ranging back to her number-one singles “Strawberry Wine,” “We Danced Anyway,” and “How Do I Get There,” all from Carter’s 1996 breakthrough Did I Shave My Legs for This? A year after that album was released, the artist found herself on People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” list. So shaving apparently didn’t hurt matters.

Ryan O'Quinn in Believe

BELIEVE and INCARNATE

As the first weekend in December has traditionally been one of the sleepiest in terms of movie attendance, this used to be the period in which studios would debut one or two releases that presumably few would bother seeing. But for two years running, that hasn’t been the case. Nowadays, it seems, the first December weekend brings with it very specific releases that few will bother seeing: a faith-based drama to make us conscious of miracles, and an evil-spirits chiller to make us fear the unknown. In 2015, it was the deadening Mother Teresa bio-pic The Letters and the yuletide creep-out Krampus. This year, it’s Believe and Incarnate. Can someone please nip this trend in the bud before we’re saddled with the two-fer of God’s Really Most Sincerely Not Dead and Annabelle IV: Porcelain Revenge?

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied

ALLIED

Robert Zemeckis’ World War II thriller Allied is a movie teeming with pleasures, from Steven Knight’s deft and ingenious screenplay to the flawless production design to the visual effects that are employed so seamlessly they barely register as effects. Somehow, they all emerge as afterthoughts compared to the consistent, devastating pleasure that is Marion Cotillard. Over the years, the Oscar winner has had better roles and has delivered finer portrayals, although maybe no more than two or three of them. But Cotillard’s radiant charisma and performance gifts are employed so stunningly well in Allied that the film, quite early on, begins to feel unimaginable without her – at least barring a miraculous hole in the space-time continuum that would allow a 1940s Ingrid Bergman to take her place.

Moana

MOANA

There’s a throwaway joke in Disney’s Moana that comes right after the titular Polynesian is referred to as “Princess,” and the headstrong girl – soon to be her tribe’s first female chief – bristles at the chauvinistic comment. “If you wear a dress and you have an animal sidekick,” explains the chauvinist, “you’re a princess.” A bit later, this guy, a heavily tattooed demigod named Maui, notices Moana looking wistfully at the sea and grumbles, “If you start singing, I’m going to throw up.” These laugh lines are amusing and all, but have Disney’s animated musicals finally become so oppressively clichéd that even their own characters are tired of them?

Events

Adler Theatre

November through March

 

Granted, if you’re reading this hot off the electronic presses, we haven’t even entered the holiday season yet. But as your significant other may have already reminded you, it’s never too early to start thinking about Valentine’s Day gifts, and Davenport’s Adler Theatre will deliver a phenomenal one in 2017: a touring production of the musical smash 42nd Street.

Winner of the 1981 Tony Award for Best Musical and the 2001 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical, this glorious, tap-filled entertainment about a Broadway ingénue’s rise to stardom ran a collective, astounding 5,010 performances on the Great White Way, and its score boasts some of the most beloved songs of all time, among them “Lullaby of Broadway,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” and “We’re in the Money.” Yet while 42nd Street won’t arrive until February 13, don’t be surprised if you hear Adler employees whistling that latter tune all season long. Given its sensational wintertime lineup, how could the venue not be in the money?

MUSIC

Tuesday, November 22 – JJ Grey & Mofro. Concert with the Southern-rock and -soul musicians in the RME Presents: Blues & Roots series, featuring an opening set by Parker Millsap. The Redstone Room (129 Main Street, Davenport). 8 p.m. $40-43. For information, call (563)326-1333 or visit RiverMusicExperience.org.

Wednesday, November 23 – All Sweat Productions: The Last Waltz. Local musicians pay tribute to, and play the music from, the Thanksgiving 1976 concert by The Band as captured in the Martin Scorsese documentary. The Redstone Room (129 Main Street, Davenport). 8 p.m. $13.75-17. For information, call (563)326-1333 or visit RiverMusicExperience.org.

Friday, November 25 – An Evening with Lisa Loeb. Concert with the chart-topping, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter. The Redstone Room (129 Main Street, Davenport). 8 p.m. $27.25-27.50. For information, call (563)326-1333 or visit RiverMusicExperience.org.

Saturday, November 26 – Eddie Money. Multi-platinum-selling rock musician performs in his The Sound of Money tour. Rhythm City Casino Resort (7077 Elmore Avenue, Davenport). 8 p.m. $25-35. For information, call (563)328-8000 or visit RhythmCityCasino.com.

Alex Hibbert in Moonlight

MOONLIGHT

Writer/director Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age drama Moonlight feels so personal, so revealing, that it sometimes seems as though you shouldn’t even be watching it. Yet you might also find it impossible to look away; Jenkins’ cinematic triptych on the experiences of a young, gay, black male growing up in lower-middle-class Miami elicits the kind of empathetic fascination you occasionally derive from a first-rate memoir, and only rarely from a movie. Given how thrillingly, unusually specific its point-of-view is, Moonlight’s also being extraordinarily well-acted, -written, and -produced is practically a bonus.

Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

FANTASTIC BEASTS & WHERE TO FIND THEM

The best thing about Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them is that, as part one of screenwriter J.K. Rowling’s planned five-part movie series, it’ll likely be at least a half-dozen years before Hollywood begins rebooting the Harry Potter franchise. (And don’t give me that look; you know it’s gonna happen.)

But the second-best thing is that because this new tale of wizards and Muggles – called No-Majes here – isn’t based on a Rowling novel, instead taking its inspiration from the author’s 2001 tie-in “textbook,” director David Yates’ adventure doesn’t feel slavishly beholden to its source material the way the Harry Potters so often did. Both Rowling devotees and those of us who’ve never read her prose get to be surprised by the goings-on together, kind of like how George R.R. Martin fans and the Martin-ignorant alike could bond over this latest season of Game of Thrones. I just wish the surprises here were a bit more ... surprising. It’s not a Harry Potter, but in look and tone and narrative scheme, it’s exactly like one of Yates’ Harry Potters (he directed the final four of them), and so even if you’re enjoying yourself, the whole experience can feel a bit like yesterday’s news.

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