‘Obamatry’ gets standing O

We’ve heard President Barack Obama sing “Call Me Maybe” thanks to autotune, editing and YouTube. Actor and poet Darian Dauchan takes that one step further using the assets of technology.

Armed with a slideshow projection screen, a MacBook Pro laptop, a looper/phrase sampler, headphones and microphone, Dauchan performed “Obamatry” — the 90-minute spoken-word multimedia show he wrote on Obama’s first term as president — last evening on the intimate thrust stage at the Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca, N.Y.

He launched into “Damn You Barack Obama, You Pretty Motherfucker,” which he’d originally performed at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City more than five years ago. As the colorful language implies, the poem both praises and criticizes America’s first black president — displaying Dauchan’s way with words.

His love letter to America, “She’s Just Not That Into” — a play on Al Green’s song “Let’s Stay Together” — editorializes Obama’s thoughts using the same pallet of language as “Damn You Barack Obama, You Pretty Motherfucker”: “I don’t need to remind you that half the shit I’m dealing with is from you fucking around with your old boyfriend for the last eight years,” he says.

Dauchan is funny and satirical as he argues with himself, embodying both the liberal and conservative point of views, or parodying Shakespeare’s Hamlet, arguing “To Vote or Not to Vote?”

He’s sharp and poignant as he deals with racism and the war in Afghanistan, making you laugh, cry, question and think, “Damn you, Darian Dauchan, you eloquent and charismatic motherfucker. Why you got to be so talented? I’m so in love with you.”

“Obamatry” is written and performed by Darian Dauchan, and directed by Jennifer McGrath.


Unveiling the women under the veil

"The Women" by Yassi Golshani is one of the works in "The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces" exhibit at the Handwerker Gallery at Ithaca College.

“The Women” by Yassi Golshani is one of the works in “The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces” exhibit at the Handwerker Gallery at Ithaca College.

While the events of 9/11 may have changed how Americans perceive Muslim women who wear hijabs, the traveling art exhibition, “The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces,” the newest exhibit at Ithaca College’s Handwerker Gallery, tackles the controversial issue head on.

The exhibit, curated by Jennifer Heath, an arts journalist and critic, and the founder of “The Arts Paper: A Cultural Journal of the Boulder Arts Commission,” is a collection of 32 works and artists in an assortment of media forms — ranging from short film and documentary to sculpture and inkjet prints.

Iranian artist Yassi Golshani’s “The Women” features a wall of more than 180 papier-mâché mummies wrapped from Iranian French newsprint. Each figurine is uniquely designed, but the collection of women, dressed in similar black garbs with white palms signaling the universal hand stop sign, present a sense of sadness and foreboding. The stiffness of the papier-mâché coffins and the women’s range of peaceful and pained expressions further Golshani’s agenda to open social dialogue about the religious and sexual persecution of these Iranian women wearing chadors.

Other works follow a similar narrative arch. Helen Zughab’s six 26-by-21 inch inkjet prints titled “Secrets Under the ‘Abaya’” portray a woman under the veil. The works contain strong influences from Picasso and Mondrian, artists known for respectively launching the cubism and De Stijl movements. The abstract prints are arranged on the wall like a comic strip with the last one revealing a woman with long-flowing blond hair and pink eyes welling up in tears while delivering the punch line in a comment bubble: “I am not what you think I am!”

Despite presidential candidate Mitt Romney infamously misogynistic comment on possessing a “binder full of women” during one of the 2012 presidential debates, the works in the Handwerker Gallery exhibit reclaim female power. “Yad Chava,” Jo-Ann Brody’s clay tablets bound by steel rings, is a literal “binder full of women,” but these women rise up beyond the tablet’s clay pages that contain them. “Yad Chava,” a fitting name for Brody’s piece, translates to both “hand” and “memorial” in Hebrew. Her autobiographical work is a memorial of powerful women in her family rising up. Meanwhile, Aphrodite Desiree Navab’s seven 21-by-16 inch inkjet prints, “Super East-West Woman,” champion the power of the veil, which also acts as a surrogate Superwoman cape. The series of prints depict a woman wearing Clark Kent’s signature “S” symbol under a long, blue veil.

Either by providing awareness or empowering women, “The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces” lifts the veil masking the Muslim-American identity.

“The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces” exhibit is open in the Handwerker Gallery from January 24, 2013 to March 8, 2013.

Hirsch’s ‘Bully’ is a fist to your heart

Adults don’t get it. Kids are mean. And parents who do get it are powerless in their roles as protectors. That seems to be the central message in Lee Hirsch’s documentary “Bully.”

Following the stories of five families, “Bully” is an 94-minute documentary about the persistent problem of bullying. Twelve-year-old Alex Libby’s “friends” sit on him and strangle him and poke him with pencils every day on bus rides to and back from school. Eleven-year-old Ty Smalley and 17-year-old Tyler Long committed suicide because they couldn’t take it anymore. Fourteen-year-old Ja’Meya Jackson brought a  hand gun on a bus to ward off the bullies — which leads to her charges of felony. And 16-year-old Kelby Johnson was picked on because she was a lesbian.

While balancing the multiple narratives helps the documentary’s pacing, it’s hard to keep track of all the stories — and sometimes the film loses focus as it bounces between one story to the next. Names and stories are weaved into one collective message: bullying sucks. But while Hirsch argues that bullying is a hopeless epidemic, the many case studies are overwhelming to watch.

With the recent shootings and suicides, “Bully” might explain the Adam Lanza’s or the Dylan Klebold’s. The stories are immensely raw and personal — more than making up for some of the fuzzy focus, shaky shots and convoluted narratives. You can’t watch this film without your heart clenching in painful knots as you empathize with the kids and parents. Your chest boils with anger at the school administration’s apathy. And while the sentiments of “adults don’t get it” and “kids are mean” are universally-known — it doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

“Bully” was filmed, directed, written and produced by Lee Hirsch. It was co-produced and co-written with Cynthia Lowen.

Watching the ‘Skyfall’

A dead body slumped in a chair. A car windshield smashed in. A motorcycle chase on the rooftops of a grand bazaar. Gunshots. Car crashes. A bulldozer flattens cars like ants. Two men fight on top of a moving train. A man falls.

And that non-stop action is all within the first 10 minutes of the latest James Bond film, “Skyfall.” Following Bond’s “death” — when Agent Eve (Naomie Harris) accidently shoots Bond after M (Judi Dench) orders her to shoot a moving target on top of a train, Bond (Daniel Craig) returns when a new threat hacks into the MI6 headquarters: Silva (Javier Bardem) is a former MI6 agent seeking vengeance from M for her failure to rescue him from captivity.

Airing 50 years after the first Bond film, “Dr. No,” “Skyfall” is the 23rd Bond film and the third to star Daniel Craig as James Bond. While like the previous Bond films, “Skyfall” also features beautiful women, elaborate stunts, and fancy cars and new gadgets, “Skyfall” also deals with Bond’s mortality.

As the movie begins, Bond is bleeding with his white collared shirt drenched in blood from a growing bullet wound on his upper torso. After Bond returns from death, we see him sweating as he is performing pulls ups. We see him gasping for breath after swimming laps in a pool in Shanghai. And we realize that James Bond is an old dinosaur — with a grayish-white stubble on his chin.

Meanwhile the new MI6 headquarters for the newest spies resemble an Apple store — a brightly lit room with tables lined with computers.

If physical appearance wasn’t enough to contrast the different generations, screenplay writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan make sure to emphasize this point with dialogue. “It’s a young man’s game,” Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) reminds Bond.

“A great old war ship, being ignominiously hauled away for scrap. The inevitability of time, don’t you think?” a young technology-savvy Quartermaster (Ben Whishaw) tells Bond.

Whereas the Quartermaster claims he can “do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field,” cyber warfare doesn’t look as epic as exploding houses or narrow escapes from death. As someone criticizes M and her MI6 agents, “It’s as if you insist on pretending we still live in a golden age of espionage.”

The writers and producers would do well to heed the words of their own script. While director Sam Mendes’ James Bond film resembles the action-spy films of the past, it’s only a matter of time before the audience will grow bored of exploding pens or transmitter radios. Although the film does lay out dynamite like a game of dominos — and it is entertaining to watch the spectacular explosions — the fireworks fizzle out with time and you find that you’re still unsatisfied and sitting in the dark.

“Skyfall” was directed by Sam Mendes and written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, based on Ian Fleming’s books.   

‘Sleepwalk With Me’: Living Your Dreams Not How They’re Cracked Up

Comedian Mike Birbiglia has a secret: he has REM behavior disorder, a sleep disorder where you act out your dreams in real life.

As one can imagine, this can become dangerous when you wake up to find yourself standing on a heater, or jumping out of a closed second-story motel window. As Dr. William C. Dement writes in his book, “The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night’s Sleep,” in extreme cases of REM behavior disorders, one might murder their loved ones while they sleep.

While Birbiglia has shared his secret in his book, “Sleepwalk With Me: And Other Painfully True Stories”; on the NPR’s documentary radio show “This American Life”; and on his stand-up comedy tours, his new film, “Sleepwalk With Me” — written by himself, his brother Joe Birbiglia, “This American Life” host Ira Glass, and the film’s co-director Seth Barrish — also retells his real life experiences.

Birbiglia acts himself, or Matt Pandamiglio, a butchering of his name, while he contemplates marriage with his longtime girlfriend, Abby (Lauren Ambrose), while simultaneously working as a bartender and a comedian. With the pressure to get married and have children, Birbiglia’s REM behavior disorder and sleepwalking gets worse — to the point where he can be found raiding the fridge at night or talking a shower while asleep.

Birbiglia is hardly the first person to get cold feet before marriage or to worry about hitting his thirties. Sondheim’s musical “Company” also features a bachelor in his thirties contemplating settling down while he watches all his friends’ relationships. After all, who can forget Raul Esparza‘s or Neil Patrick Harris’ performance as Bobby, singing “Being Alive,” a song with lines such as, “Someone to hold you too close/Someone to hurt you too deep/ Someone to sit in your chair/ To ruin your sleep.”

As Birbiglia says in his comedic act, “I don’t want to get married until I’m sure there’s nothing else good that can happen in my life.”

Well, as one can imagine, Birbiglia’s unique story, combined with its comedic potential, is poised for cheap laughs; however, it also provides commentary for a sad reality. His film resembles a cross between an extended 90-minute sitcom and an extended “This American Life” episode. Birbiglia resembles Jason Segel from “How I Met Your Mother” and “Freaks and Geeks” fame. Meanwhile, the segments about what it’s like to fall in love with his girlfriend and his sleep disorder are structured like different acts in a “This American Life” episode. As Birbiglia narrates his story while driving in the car, inviting the audience to “sleepwalk with him,” Birbiglia reveals honesty and tenderness, which the audience will remember even more than the film’s comedy.

“Sleepwalk With Me” is directed by Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish.