Big museum shows vs. intimate gallery exhibits
There might not be any lines-around-the-building art exhibits scheduled this summer, but that doesn't mean there aren't any must-see offerings. On July 11, the San Diego Museum of Art opens Toulouse-Lautrec's Paris: The Baldwin M. Baldwin Collection, 100 pieces by the late-19th-century painter who got his start creating posters that advertised nightlife goings-on (like the Moulin Rouge) in the Paris neighborhood of Monmartre. That's not to say Toulouse-Lautrec was strictly a pop-culture artist. He also created rather sophisticated woodblock prints and portraits, which are also included in this exhibit, on display through Dec. 12. www.sdmart.org. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego opens Viva la Revolucion: A Dialogue with the Urban Landscape on July 18. This exhibit explores how urban settings not only influence art, but often provide the canvas on which it's created. The 20 participating artists and collectives represent eight countries and include big names like Banksy, Date Farmers, Shepard Fairey and Ryan McGinness. Works will be on display at MCASD's Downtown location, as well as well as at public sites throughout Downtown San Diego. www.mcasd.org.
But if that isn't your thing…
Prefer to view (and possibly purchase) works by up-and-coming artists? On June 18, Subtex
t (www.subtextgallery.com) opens a one-month show of new works by John Antoski, called Each to Their Own. Antoski describes his work as “an attempt to bridge the gap between the high road and low road.” Indeed it does—on one hand, his art has a contemporary edge; on the other, much of it has a J.D. Salinger short-story feel with subdued colors and characters who look like they've got a tale to tell (his 'Strange or Beware' shown here). Another spot that consistently puts on good shows is Distinction in Escondido (www.distinctionart.com). Opening June 12 and running through July 3 (with an opening reception from 6 to 11 p.m. June 12) is the simply titled Distinction Studio Artists. Distinction is an art colony of sorts, its 7,000-square-foot building housing multiple gallery spaces and artists studios. This particular show includes work by more than two-dozen local artists who rent studio space from Distinction. Some folks to put on your must-see list: Kelly Vivanco, Linda and James Ivey, David Tyrone Villa and Melissa Inez Walker.
Proper Shakespeare vs. ‘reduced' Shakespeare
The renowned Old Globe Theatre is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, but the group's upcoming Summer Shakespeare Festival (its seventh under executive producer Lou Spisto) will also mark two pretty serious firsts. For one thing, Globe founding director R. Craig Noel won't be there—the so-called father of San Diego theater, who helped lead the outfit to national prominence, died April 3 at 94 after several years of failing health. And the festival has a new artistic director in Adrian Noble, whose credits in his native Great Britain include the artistic directorship of London's famed Royal Shakespeare Company from 1991 to 2003. The award-winning Noble, 59, turned his A Midsummer Night's Dream into a film and has directed several successful London musicals. Credentials like that should translate into the usual lush and upscale fare at the roofless, 660-seat Lowell Davies Festival Theater June 12 through Sept. 26. The schedule includes King Lear, the classic tale of family, royalty and mortality; The Taming of the Shrew, an Elizabethan battle of the sexes; and a non-Bill entry, The Madness of King George, which chronicles the monarch's slide into insanity after the Revolutionary War. Visit www.oldglobe.org.
But if that isn't your thing…
One of my 712 regular theater dates has never been to a Shakespeare play with me, complaining that Bill's stuff is too long and complicated. She's wrong, of course, if only because I'm invariably right about all things theatrical—but this summer, those of you who feel like she does don't have to wade through all those big, bad brambles. In fact, you can “see” all 37 Shakespeare plays in a little more than an hour-and-a-half. All you have to do is check out The Reduced Shakespeare Company, a comedy trio that reduces big, fat, serious topics to short, sharp sketches. The group has been at it since 1981, when they passed the hat during a 20-minute Hamlet at various Southern California Renaissance faires. Six stage shows, two TV specials and a billion radio spots later, they're one of the toasts of shtickdom, having performed all over the world. Get the dish on William Shakespeare, a rather average actor and part-time prop master who wrote a few decent plays, in one fell swoop at Downtown's The Lyceum from June 11 to 20. If she plays her cards right, I just might take my friend (or maybe not). Visit www.sdrep.org.
—Martin Jones Westlin
Blockbusters vs. little movies
So, Iron Man 2 has already slaughtered the summer box office, behind its Robert Downy Jr. superpower. You've probably seen it twice. But there are other movies desperately hoping to part you from your hard-earned cash—and some of them might actually be good. Here are five big ones I'm actually kind of excited about:
Toy Story 3: Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toys end up in a daycare center after their kid goes to college. I'm wary of threepeats, but it's Pixar, so I'll probably cry. (Release date: June 18)
Predators: Fingers crossed that Robert Rodriguez, who produced, was the right man for this reboot. Sure, it sounds awful—a bunch of highly trained humans are sent to a remote planet as prey for, well, the predators. But the cast includes Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne and Topher Grace. Sadly, Jesse Ventura is MIA. (July 9)
Inception: Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the new one from The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan along with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page as corporate crooks who steal other people's ideas from their subconscious minds while they're asleep. Remember, Nolan's the dude who messed with your mind in Memento. (July 16)
Dinner for Schmucks: I don't dig Steve Carell's recent movies, but teaming him with Paul Rudd just might work. Rudd's character, corporate schmo Tim, is offered a huge promotion if he can win a contest. He and his cohorts are all bringing guests to a dinner party, and the dude who brings the stupidest guest wins. His pick is Carell's IRS man, Barry. (July 23)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Hipster hero Michael Cera is the titular Scott in Edgar Wright's (Shaun of the Dead) adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel. Scott's an indie-rock bassist who falls for Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), which means he must defeat all seven of her exes to survive. Oh, right, it all takes place in a world with ubiquitous martial-arts skills and superpowers. (Aug. 13)
But if that isn't your thing...
Maybe you're more of an art-house-attending, latté-swilling elitist who, on occasion, will even deign to read the subtitles that come with your anti-American foreign films. You know—CityBeat's kind of people. It's cool—we've got you covered, too.
Casino Jack and the United States of Money: Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney turns his lens on Jack Abramoff and the crooked politicians he paid off. Just writing that last sentence gets me riled up. (May 21)
Micmacs: After Delicatessen and Amelie, I always want to see what Jean-Pierre Jeunot does. He's French and his film is about a guy who wants to destroy large-weapons manufacturers. You can't get more un-Ame
rican. (June 11)
The Kids are Alright: Julianne Moore and Annette Bening are a lesbian couple whose teenage kids track down sperm donor Mark Ruffalo. Director Lisa Cholodenko last made Laurel Canyon. (July 16)
Cyrus: John C. Reilly starts dating Marisa Tomei, only to learn that she has a jealous, fully grown son in the form of Jonah Hill. Made by mumblecore honchos Jay and Mark Duplass, who appear to be creeping closer to the mainstream. (July 23)
Life During Wartime: You'd never call Todd Solodnz's work traditional. This is a sort-of sequel to Happiness, which came out a decade ago, using different actors to play the same characters, none of whom have aged the same number of years in the interim. (No San Diego date yet, but it'll get here.)
Indoor movies vs. outdoor movies
Summer's here, and while there are plenty of blockbusters invading multiplexes near you, there's also no shortage of one-offs and weirdness about town. But, hey, it's San Diego, so it's up to you to decide whether you prefer your viewing pleasure indoors or out. So far, the coolest outdoor summer film planned is Jason and the Argonauts, which plays Screen on the Green in Balboa Park on July 23. Those stop-action skeletons are cooler than anything that appeared in the recent CGI disaster, Clash of the Titans. They'll also show the original Moulin Rouge and The King of Masks before kicking off a new regular (indoor) series in September. www.sdmart.org. In Mission Hills, Cinema Under the Stars (4040 Goldfinch St.) started in April. The offerings this year include Rear Window, Thunderball, Rebel Without a Cause and the oft-overlooked The Third Man, which you should see if you haven't. There are some more recent flicks there, too, like The Blues Brothers, Chocolat and the most frequently screened movie in town, The Big Lebowski. www.topspresents.com. Point Loma's The Pearl Hotel's poolside Dive-In Theater (1410 Rosecrans St.) actually goes on year-round. Most of the summer season has yet to be announced, but upcoming highlights include the first Sex and the City, Cocktail, The Hangover and Top Gun. Once the rest of the flicks have been scheduled, they'll appear at www.thepearlsd.com. Stone Brewery World Bistro and Gardens (1999 Citracado Parkway in Escondido) is running its late-night movie series once again. At press time, the final order hadn't been sorted out, but they sent over some titles they're looking at, like Office Space, Army of Darkness and, of course, The Big Lebowski. Hopefully, they'll re-team with Rifftrax this year, and they always do something funky around Comic-Con. www.stonebrew.com. San Diego's parks also provide free, family-friendly movies all summer long, meaning there's no shortage of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and How to Train Your Dragon. Visit www.sdmoviesinthepark.com for the where and when, and don't forget your local drive-ins, Santee and South Bay, which offer up the first-run stuff in the great outdoors. They reserve the right, of course, to check your trunk for friends or small animals.
But if that isn't your thing…
Maybe indoors, pale skin and alcohol is more your style. It's cool. We're with you. The Downtown Central Library (820 E St.) has a solid film series that's always free and usually includes a strong showing of American indies that never made their way to San Diego. Their partnership with Independent Television Service also gives them access to PBS' POV, often before the provocative documentaries hit your small screen. The Birch North Park Theatre (2891 University Ave.) has started to run a semi-regular Monday-night film series. Tickets are $7, and you get a half-priced drink, too. Details for future screenings are being worked out, but swing by www.westcoasttavern.com to find out more. Just down the street, U-31 (3112 University Ave.) is running a culty Sunday-evening film series on their gazillion screens—it'll probably include The Big Lebowski. And speaking of movies in bars, the Gaslamp's Tipsy Crow (770 Fifth Ave.) is apparently showing movies in their lounge on Saturdays, but it's like pulling teeth to find out what's on. The Ken Cinema's annual Midnight Movies (4061 Adams Ave. in Kensington) has already kicked off, and it'll run through the end of July. They've already scheduled the original Evil Dead (no, not Evil Dead 2), Repo: The Genetic Opera (which will include a special performance from San Diego's own Elective Surgery) and The City of Lost Children. And of course, there's Comic-Con. No, we don't know how much longer the ginormous geek fest will dominate Downtown, but it's definitely here this summer. There's usually plenty of special screenings that accompany it. Hey, last year they showed District 9 weeks before it actually came out.
Big concerts vs. little shows
Summer is littered with big-name touring acts and festivals, and with no Street Scene this year, you can afford to spring for more than one pair of tickets. The highlights coming to Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre include The Eagles on May 23, Kings of Leon on July 9, Dave Matthews Band on Aug. 20, Green Day on Sept. 2 and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers on Sept. 28. Slightly Stoopid may be the biggest band to come out of San Diego in recent years, with proof being that they're headlining over Cypress Hill at Cricket on July 17. If you're still in the festival spirit, and you're under the age of, say, 24, then Vans Warped Tour and The Bamboozle Roadshow will be at Cricket on June 6 and Aug. 7, respectively. Switchfoot will headline their eponymous charity fest, the Bro-Am, on June 26 at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Sorry, Lilith Fair, but I liked it more when you were gone. Humphrey's Concerts by the Bay has a more diverse—one might even say younger—lineup this year. Sure, you can still catch Air Supply and Chicago, but we'd opt for Broken Bells (May 21), Imogen Heap (June 20), Erykah Badu (June 22) and Rodrigo y Gabriela (Aug. 16). Harrah's Rincon Casino has some good shows, including NAS (May 30), Ray Lamontagne (Sept. 4) and Willie Nelson (Sept. 26). And we're still waiting for Del Mar Race Track to announce its summer concert series, but if it's as good as last year's, then you'll want to mark your calendar.
But if that isn't your thing...
There's a ton of indie, under-the-radar, only-cool-people-know-about-it shows at clubs and dives around town. Two back-to-back hip-hop shows will get things started right with Talib Kweli and producer Hi-Tek playing House of Blues on May 25 and North Carolina crew Little Brother at 4th & B the next night. If you're into punk, big names like The Buzzcocks (June 7 at House of Blues), The Melvins (June 1 at The Casbah) and G.B.H. (June 23 at The Casbah) will be coming through town. And speaking of punk, you gotta hit up the Johnny Rad Fest (July 22-25) at the Ken Club. Four straight days of three-chord anthems and singers screaming in your face while you spill beer on yourself. Awesome. Some of '09's most-acclaimed names like The xx (June 8 at House of Blues), Neon Indian (pictured, right. June 2 at The Casbah) and Cage the Elephant (June 9 at House of Blues) are coming back for more. Semi-local names of note include Delta Spirit at Belly Up on June 8, Greg Laswell at Anthology on June 11 and Dum Dum Girls playing with Crocodiles at The Casbah on July 2. Oh, and in case you're not into any of this, muthafuckin' Wang Chung is playing the Belly Up on June 17. I'm not sure who's thing that would be.
Star-gazing vs. star-spotting
In 1610, Galileo Galilei published Sidereus Nuncius, the first major astronomical work based on observations using a telescope. Four hundred years later, telescopes are still the best way to view the stars—the difference is, now you don't have to worry about the Inquisition. The San Diego Astronomy Association offers a variety of events, including monthly stargazing parties in Balboa Park and a monthly open night at the group's 10-acre observatory compound at Tierra del Sol (the calendar is available at www.sdaa.org). The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center will offer tours this summer of the Palomar Observatory: For $75, visitors get picked up by bus and spend about nine hours touring the facility, which includes the 200-inch Hale telescope. (Call 619-238-1233 x806 for dates and tickets.) Throughout the summer, the Cleveland National Forest hosts “Explore the Stars” on the new moon of each month at the Palomar Observatory Campground (dates and directions can be found at http://bit.ly/azEHvg). Jupiter, Saturn and the Milky Way will be “well placed” in the heavens this summer, says Paul Etzel, director of the Mount Laguna Observatory, which is run by San Diego State University. The Perseid meteor shower will pass over on the night of Aug. 12, but Etzel says that's best viewed with naked eye and after midnight.
But if that isn't your thing…
Maybe rather than seeing stars in the night sky, you'd prefer to see them in the night clubs. “Celebrities really like San Diego because it is very star-hungry, for lack of a better term,” says Lauren Clifford, account supervisor at J Public Relations. “When celebrities are here, San Diego goes crazy.” Clifford keeps a tally of celebrity sightings, in part
because her firm represents some of the city's hottest night spots: Lindsay Lohan's ex-lover Samantha Ronson and musician John Legend have each been spotted at Stingaree (454 Sixth Ave., Downtown); singer Frankie J celebrated at Side Bar (536 Market St., Downtown) after his wedding, and footballer Reggie Bush “made it rain” at the opening of Fluxx (500 Fourth Ave., Downtown) in March. “He ordered $1,000 in $1 bills and threw it up in the air,” Clifford says. Hard Rock Hotel San Diego is another hot spot, especially since the Black Eyed Peas maintain a suite there. The hotel also housed the cast of Twilight during Comic-Con. “Comic-Con is absolutely, without a doubt, the best time to spot celebrities at Hard Rock,” Hard Rock's Director of Public Relations Rana Kay says. “You never know who you're going to see in our lobby walking around.” Other celebrity haunts include Eclipse at Harrah's Rincon Casino (777 Harrah's Rincon Way in Valley Center) and the Ivy Night Club at the Andaz Hotel (600 F St., Downtown). Though, the term “celebrity” is relative these days. “You look at places Downtown that are regularly getting The Hills cast and the Kardashians and those people are really only famous because of reality-TV shows,” Clifford says. “We had ‘The Situation' from Jersey Shore earlier this year [at Stingaree] and I have never seen people geek out so much over a reality star as they did over him.”
High-brow culture vs. sweaty club nights
Whoever thinks San Diego is a cultural wasteland obviously isn't getting out enough. Along with myriad awesome art openings and theater happenings, there's also some splendid must go-events in the world of dance and music. First on the agenda should be the Blurred Borders International Dance Festival (www.rincondance.org) on May 28 and 29 at the Lyman Saville Theater at City College. In its 11th year, the fest is a nationally recognized show of contemporary dance with themes that deal with border crossings, gender and age. A week earlier, May 21 and 22, Malashock Dance School (www.malashockdance.org) will put on its First Shock dance showcase, which is a great place to see up-and-coming talent. People were raving about Chinese performing-arts collective Shen Yun (www.shenyunperformingarts.org) when they were at Balboa Park a couple years ago, and it should be just as good when they dance at the Civic Theatre on July 13 through 15. As for music, the Mainly Mozart Festival (www.mainlymozart.org) will kick off on June 8 at the Balboa Theatre and continue through June 19. The fest always has head-spinning performances, and this year's lineup includes respected guest conductors and solo recitals from big names like violinist Sarah Chang. Same could be said for the Athenaeum Summer Festival (www.ljathenaeum.org) in late July, which will be celebrating the music of Chopin, and the La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest in early August (www.ljms.org), which focuses on chamber music.
But if that isn't your thing...
There's always the option of skipping the tux shop and heading to the clubs for some serious debauchery. There are some great DJs and events coming into town, starting with oonce-oonce O.G. On Broadway (www.obec.tv) booking house-music master Fedde LeGrand on May 28. The Hard Rock Hotel (www.hardrockhotelsd.com) continues with its weekly pool party, Intervention Sundays, and they really stepped up the talent this year by booking big names like Cedric Gervais, Sander Kleeinenberg, Deadmau5 and Scooter & Lavelle. Arguably the best Downtown club, Voyeur (www.voyeursd.com) has some great national and international talent coming through, like Markus Schulz, DJ Heidi, Joris Voorn and Riva Starr. Electro shows are all over the House of Blues (www.hob.com) schedule, including M.I.A. producer extraordinaire Diplo on June 11 and vaudeville electro weirdoes Fischerspooner a couple days later. And the one definitely not-to-be-missed show is the super-catchy and sexy co-ed duo La Roux when they hit 4th & B on July 14 (www.4thandbevemts.com).