Saturday, May 05, 2007

Opening of the Redfordplex will make more indie films available faster in Madison

The Rob Thomas story in the Capital Times about next Friday's opening of Sundance 608 has more information about what the Redfordplex will mean for the availability of first-run independent films in Madison.
The impact of Sundance selecting Madison, already seen as a strong third-tier market for independent film, as its first theater site should only enhance the city's reputation in the film industry.

That could mean independent films arriving in Madison much faster than the weeks or months it usually takes. And the opening of Sundance essentially doubles the number of screens in Madison devoted to independent film from six (the four-screen Westgate and two-screen Orpheum) to 12, which means the city should get more films.

"It gives it a much higher profile," says Steven Rothenberg, president of domestic distribution for Lionsgate Films, which releases both commercial films such as "The Condemned" and specialized fare like the indie drama "Away With Her."

"With Madison being the home of the first fully branded, built-from-the-ground-up theater for the Sundance Group, there's cause for great excitement," Rothenberg says. "It portends the arrival of some really good specialized films, probably quicker than they would have normally arrived."
I've tended to see Sundance 608 as just one more part of the Freed Hilldale real estate gold rush, but they may make a believer of me yet.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Photoshop Blogging: Stars and Sunbursts in the Great Green Firmament

It's that time of year. A lot of folks hate dandelions and see them as noxious weeds, but -- what can I say? -- I think they're beautiful. (Posted with other photographic collages in my Assemblages set at Flickr.)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Where in the world Is Matt Lauer? Who cares? (Or if you do, just follow the petrodollars.) Make it stop. Please.

With every passing year, TODAY's annual "Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?" traveling roadshow grows more and more irritating, especially that noisy, grating jingle that takes over the airwaves way too early in the morning. They really outdid themselves this morning by showcasing Dubai, the petrodollar playground and future home of Halliburton corporate headquarters and their Chief Executive Dave Lesar. They're certainly excited about it at NBC. "Live from Studio 1A: Do Buy Me That Flight to Dubai..." was the breathless title of Elizabeth Neumann's giddy post in AllDAY, "the official TODAY blog, your virtual window to Studio 1A and the people who make America's favorite morning show come alive."
This morning I can only think of one thing to write about: the future trip to Dubai I started planning around 7:05 a.m. this morning with some people in the control room. Matt is in Dubai for Day 4 of Where in the World is Matt Lauer, and it looks absolutely magnificent. WATCH VIDEO. Part of the grandeur of the reveal today was Matt's specific location at the Burj Al Arab Hotel helipad of course, but Eric Jackson, our overnight researcher, quickly pulled up some airline websites so we could start budgeting our own trip.

Between Lauren Kapp - our public relations guru - saying she could leave her new baby for the sake of the trip and Phil Griffin - Senior Vice President of NBC News - calling his two kids at home this morning to ask if they want to go with him to Dubai, this show has clearly given us all travel fever.
You have to wonder, at a time of rising gas prices, who's supposed to be the audience for this loving portrait of the magic kingdom our gas dollars helped build? People who can afford to stand on top of the Burj Al Arab Hotel helipad and hit golf balls into the wild blue yonder and watch them plummet into the sea 1,000 feet below? Matt did just that, providing a memorable visual metaphor for the American presence in this corner of the world -- rich, oblivious and so far above it all they can't see what's happening on the street.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Condos after Dark: Weston Place revisited

Weston Place reaches for the sky in lonely splendor on Segoe Road behind Hilldale, but it won't be lonely much longer -- more high rises are coming to keep it company. An earlier post showed Weston Place as seen from the west. This is a view from the east, from the Hilldale parking lot next to Sentry Foods. Several lights were on the other night. Perhaps residents were enjoying their unparalleled view of the entire, sprawling Hilldale complex, lights twinkling below them in the dark. Or, as their website so eloquently puts it:
Weston Place embodies luxury, convenience, tranquility and elegance. Weston Place is exemplified by the 12th floor residents' terrace, magnificent views, extravagant windows, 10 ft. ceilings, exquisite master baths, and spacious balconies designed for entertaining.
If the 12th floor terrace exemplifies Weston Place, I'm not sure what the lower floors exemplify -- but never mind.

The lonely West Side condo pioneer will soon have company. Next month developers start tearing down the Humana building as well as the Hilldale Theater, shown on the right, to make way for the Whole Foods grocery and high-rise condo project. And by this time next year, you should see another high rise looming on the left, above Sentry. That would be the new 12-story "boutique" hotel on Sawyer Terrace behind Macy's that the Hilldale owners are planning to build.
The Chicago-based owners of the Hilldale Shopping Center have turned their attention to developing a $17 million, 12-story "boutique" hotel to be sited at the back of the shopping center facing Sawyer Terrace.

Representatives of Joseph Freed & Associates are before the city Urban Design Commission today with plans for a 145-room hotel aimed mainly at business travelers. Rooms would include hardwood floors and flat screen TVs.
The hotel should add even more upscale sizzle and convenience to the emerging suburban luxe ambience of Freed's shopping nirvana. Shop till you drop and then get a room for the night. Cool.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Out here, you hardly know you're in the city

Gardner Marsh is a UW Arboretum jewel that's easy to overlook, perhaps because the access points are just inside the Mills Street entrance to the Arboretum, and most passers-by -- whether in cars, on foot or on bicycle -- have their minds on where they are going and head right on by without stopping. The first access point is this unassuming path into the woods, and there's also a boardwalk entrance about 100 yards to the west, just across from the Mills parking lot (click on map to enlarge).

Once inside, the city disappears and seems far away -- even though you are literally only two blocks from the urban hustle and bustle and traffic on Park Street. As you approach the actual marsh, a boardwalk makes a picturesque path throught the woods and leads to several observation decks.

The view from the observation decks seems to go on forever, and on a breezy day the marsh seems to soak up all the sounds from the surrounding, unseen traffic. It's possible to imagine you are all alone, a unique moment of solitude in the heart of a major city.

Gardner Marsh is also one of the best spots in the Arboretum for photographing birds.
For bird photography, the best places are the Gardner Marsh boardwalks and Curtis Prairie. Birds in the arboretum are often wary, so a slow approach is best. In the marshes you’ll likely find Redwing Blackbirds, Yellow Warblers, Catbirds, Sandhill Cranes, and Marsh Wrens. The more open waterways have many species of migrating ducks including Northern Shovelers and Blue-Winged Teals.
The warbler migration is going on right now and continues through the early part of May.

Art installation at Owen Park

Every year about this time, they have an exhibit of installation art in the parking lot at Owen Park. Last year it was colored pails. This year, it's this artful assemblage of concrete blocks with the ends (signficantly? symbolically?) broken off. Once again, park officials don't identify the artist, but whoever it was, they certainly made a strong and profound statement about contemporary American life. I'm just not sure what it is, exactly.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sundance 608 opening in two weeks

Yes, Sundance 608 is finally about to open. I went out to Hilldale to poke around at the periphery of the Redfordplex Saturday afternoon, to see what I could see, but I couldn't even get into the shopping center itself. The traffic was all one-way -- out. There had been a fire alarm. No smoke, no fire, no big deal -- nothing but a fire engine photo op, and the firemen soon left. Kids seemed to enjoy themselves, however.

Wondering what independent films they have lined up for their six screens when they open? Here's the list, linked to the movies' sites:
TV Set
Black Book
Air Guitar Nation
After the Wedding
Away from Her
The list is from Jason Joyce's article at the Isthmus TDP. He explains how the Sundance 608 reserve seating will work: Patrons will be able to purchase reserve tickets (with a service charge) until one hour before showtime, at which time general seating takes over. (In other words, nothing much changes for the average last-minute purchaser at the box office.) Purchase options include online, kiosks in the lobby and the box office. Check out Jason's story for more information, as well as a slide show of the interior. As part of a press tour, he had better access than my thwarted attempt. There were no fire engines, either.