I just contributed the following to Alex Hanson, arts editor/writer of the local newspaper The Valley News, for his year-end 'best arts in the Valley' wrap-up. And yes, I should have mentioned WRIF (White River Indy Film festival in April), but I wrote this in fifteen minutes and, well, OK, I forgot. With just 200 words to work with, verbose Bissette slipped his mickey on WRIF. Anyhoot, here's my two cents...
The high point of the year for me was the October 22 Center for Cartoon Studies fundraiser appearance of Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau at the Northern Stage, Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. Playing to a packed house, Trudeau saw to it the paying customers got their $50 worth -- plus. Trudeau’s highly entertaining 90 minute talk was spiced with video clips (from the 1977 Doonesbury TV special, a rousing tune from Rap Master Ronnie, clips from his Robert Altman collaborations Tanner '88 and Tanner on Tanner, and Duke's Motion-Capture animated interviews on Larry King and Today, with Garry's wife Jane Pauley). It was a night to remember; CCS students sold their work and Norwich Bookstore sold Garry's books in the lobby, and Garry signed everyone's purchases after stepping off stage.
The most fun my wife Marge and I had in area theaters: on stage, it was the Dartmouth revival of Hair, directed by Carol Dunne, charged by a high-octane young cast; at the movies, this summer’s fantasy sleeper Stardust (at the Nugget) scored. Special kudos to the down-and-dirty Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double-feature Grindhouse, resurrecting the 1970s heyday of fast-and-furious drive-in double-bills and dusk-to-dawn shows. Bad taste is timeless!
Best movies I saw this year: Gone, Baby, Gone (terrific ensemble cast, excellent script, and the most assured directorial debut of the year -- from Ben Affleck, no less); The Black Book (Paul Verhoeven return to form, a grand, audacious WW2 survival tale) and The Lives of Others (hands down, best film I saw anywhere, on any screen or media). In a year of great, genre-stretching crime films (Eastern Promises, American Gangster, The Brave One, No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton, etc.), Gone, Baby, Gone was the finest, in my mind.