Archive for February, 2012

A Trip at Cinequest

I got my Cinequest experience started tonight with a gem from Slovenia. A Trip (Izlet) follows three young Slovenians, about a year out of school, who get back together for a summer camping trip. Gregor is on leave from his army assignment in Afghanistan, where he’ll return after a short break. Ziva is, so she says, preparing for an academic year abroad. Andrej has dropped out of school and isn’t going much of anywhere. All three are intent on recapturing their earlier days of hope and irresponsibility.

As required by World Indie Films Council bylaws, all of the characters are hiding secrets. What makes this film work is that those secrets create some powerful moments that explain these friends desperation to recapture earlier times.

A Trip will screen again March 3 at 4:45 pm and March 6 at 2:15 pm. Highly recommended.

One last thing: Hey Cinequest Webmasters, when I visit the Interactive Schedule, why not take me straight to today’s schedule instead of starting out on opening night every time?

The Opera Novice gives five reasons to see La Traviata

Five reasons not to miss La Traviata at Opera San Jose this weekend!

Cast A: Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste (Violetta) and Alexander Boyer (Alfredo) with the Opera San José chorus in Verdi’s La traviata. Photo by R. Shomler.

1.  It’s La Traviata!  You have a famous consumptive courtesan who loves drinking, dancing, and parties!  There are forbidden loves, celebrations and an extended death scene, AND it’s based on a real Parisian courtesan.  One of the best loved and most performed operas of all time, I think Guiseppe Verdi’s opera is the ultimately classic opera.  This is the kind of show that I used to think of when I thought “opera”.  The last two years attending Opera San Jose’s performances have shown that opera comes in all sorts of flavors: Comedy, Tragedy, Romance, familiar and unfamiliar, etc.  But La Traviata is all about beautiful arias and a tragic love story.  It’s romantic, it’s tragic, it will bring tears to your eyes at the end.  But until that moment it will also be a luscious feast for your eyes and your ears.

2. The music!  Played to perfection as always (how can you possibly review something that is always just… PERFECT?), you can just sit in the super comfortable California Theatre seats and doze to the beautiful sounds if you’re so inclined.  But the music of La Traviata is some of the most well known in opera, and don’t be surprised if it is very familiar to you.  Opera is so much more fun for the novice attendee when you watch the show and think, “Hey, I KNOW that song!”  And La Traviata is filled with familiar music.  This makes it easier to sit up and enjoy all that is going on around you.  Come to the California Theatre and hear some of the best musicians in the Bay Area!

Cast A: Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste as Violetta and Alexander Boyer as Alfredo in Opera San José’s La traviata. Photo courtesy of R. Shomler.

3.  Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste (Violetta) and Alexander Boyer (Alfredo).  I’ve seen Ms. Jean-Baptiste in several operas now and she is always a delight and a favorite.  As the star of La Traviata, I’m not going to bypass her with the compliments, but my guest and I were actually quite taken with Boyer’s voice in the show this time.  However, it is Violetta who we cry for in the end, and so it is Ms. Jean-Baptiste who you won’t want to miss.   [Referring to Cast A, who play Friday and Sunday. Cast 1 plays Saturday and is certainly just as awesome!]

4.  Face it, you need some culture in your life.  Not only that, you get to tell your friends, “I simply cahn’t go to your franks & beans party tonight, Gerald and I are going to the Opera!”  Be sure to use your hoity-toity accent and swirl your martini around as you say it.  Be the Jones’s your neighbors want to keep up with, and have a great reason to enjoy yourselves at the same time.  Try La Traviata and you will likely discover that you really ARE a hoity-toity, martini (or champagne) drinking, opera lover after all.

5.  That beautiful gown in the back of your closet is just going to collect more dust if you don’t take it out and wear it.  I’ve said it once, no, I’ve said it a thousand times, going to the opera is a dress to the nines affair, and it is so much FUN to dress like movie stars and go out on the town.  Get out your good jewelry, wear the prettiest, sparkle-iest dress you own (or your most manly, handsome suit!) and make reservations at a fancy restaurant downtown before the show Il Fornaio, Original Joe’s and Scott’s Seafood are all excellent places for a pre-opera meal, covering a variety of budgets.

As if there’s any further reason for you to get out and enjoy the amazing delights that our downtown and Opera San Jose have to offer, I wish I could have shown you the face on a little girl of about 10 who I saw at each intermission on opening night.  Dressed in a beautiful green velvet gown, she appeared to be attending with her father, and at each of the two intermissions I saw her in the lobby with the biggest smile on her face.  She was enjoying every moment of her experience at La Traviata, and I wished I could have shown the performers and musicians the joy and happiness they had brought to this child.

You don’t need to know anything about opera to enjoy it, and you might just discover a wonderful new way to enjoy downtown.  Opera San Jose is definitely one of those gifts we are able to enjoy by living here, so why let the chance go to waste?  Go see La Traviata before it ends on Sunday.

And then prepare for Charles Gounod’s Faust, opening April 21!  I have a feeling this is going to be the next opera that will be full of surprises for an opera novice!

La Traviata
Through Sunday, February 26
California Theatre
345 South First Street

Coming Up: Cinequest 22

Cinequest 22, the San Jose international film festival, opens next week and continues through March 11.

Tuesday, February 28, is opening night. The opening night film is The Lady, featuring Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Burmese political opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The screening, at the California Theater, will be attended by director Luc Besson, and there will be a post-screening party at the recently opened Hyatt Place San Jose.

For the next 11 days, the festival will present full programs of film at the Camera 12, the San Jose Rep, and the California Theater. Other special events interspersed with the regular program include silent film presentations, four Maverick Spirit awards to enterprising film-makers, a special presentation of youth-produced films from around the world, and more. Sixty of the films will be making their world, North American, or U.S. premiers at Cinequest.

I’m looking forward to seeing Let the Bullets Fly, a new comedy/action film featuring one of Hong Kong’s great actors, Chow Yun Fat. This “homage to Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa” looks to be a lot of fun. The film will be shown as a special event at the California Theater on March 6.

The festival closes on March 10 with a screening of Terence Davies’ film The Deep Blue Sea. It’s a World War II-era drama about a women who must choose between a dashing but self-centered RAF pilot and the secure, but less exciting, man she’s already married to. Finally, March 11 will be Encore Day, giving a second chance to see some of the films that lead the balloting for the festival’s viewer’s choice award.

Photo: The Good Son, playing Feb. 29, March 1, and March 4.

Milpitas Square

I love the variety of food you can get at Milpitas Square, but some things are just a bit too exotic for me:

Tonight at the BRUNI Gallery

Al Green - Cover by BRUNI

The Bruni Gallery is celebrating its One Year Anniversary tonight in downtown Willow Glen.

Bruni’s work on display along with the work of Mark Gray and Kristina Sablan.

Wine tasting offered by the Thomas Fogarty Winery

Live Jazz by Guitarist Tim Volpicella


1171 Lincoln Ave. San Jose, CA. 95125

Feb. 18th, 2012

NOW – 10pm


Admission is Free


Content launches print era

Content Magazine "Cultivator" Daniel Garcia at the print launch party.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign we reported on previously, San Jose’s local personality and fashion magazine Content has now printed its first issue. A launch party last night was attended by numerous recognizable local figures.

The printed magazine is dominated by interviews of local personalities somehow connected to the “Tech” theme of the issue, including politicians, artists, inventors, and even a blogger or two. I thought the most interesting story was an interview with Joel Slayton, director of the Zer01 art biennial. The interview covers Slayton’s history in art, starting at MIT, and future plans for Zer01. An interview with Slave Labor Graphics publisher Dan Vado brings together insights on the downtown San Jose business culture and the broader publishing business. Beyond those two interviews, there are 10 other stories filling out the issue.

The final few pages of the magazine switch over from interviews and profiles to fashion, with two multi-page photo spreads featuring dresses from The Usuals and men’s shirts from So What Industries. The photography is stylish, but some of the spreads don’t account for the fact that the binding of the magazine doesn’t let the pages lie open flat.

Content Magazine is attempting to finance their operations mainly through reader support rather than advertising. This keeps the “content” at the forefront and avoids the reader having to wade through ads to find the stories. A 6-issue annual subscription is now available for $42.

“Valor with Honor” and a Day of Remembrance Japantown San Jose

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team (第442連隊戦闘団) was a group of Japanese Americans who volunteered to fight along with the U.S. Army during WWII.

For it’s size, (3,500 men) the team was the most highly decorated American unit in WWII. Senator Daniel Inouye was a member of the 442nd.

The documentary, 442nd “Valor with Honor” will screen this Sunday at the Wesley Methodist Church

Note: Please use street parking to save spaces in the church/museum lots for seniors.

RSVP to or

Call (408) 294-3138 or (408) 867-4525

Sunday – February 19th, 2012
Wesley Methodist Church

566 North 5th Street San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 295-0367

2 pm – 4 pm

Free and open to the public.

Q&A after screening. DVDs for purchase.
442nd “Valor with Honor” Documentary Trailer

Executive Order 9066: On February 19 of 1942 President Roosevelt gave the military power which led to the internment of Japanese Americans.

The 32nd Annual San Jose Day of Remembrance “Civil Liberties Under Siege” is an event aimed at reflecting on the past and the importance of building trust between our diverse groups in San Jose.

Speakers include Karen Korematsu and Zahra Billoo, Also, enjoy a performance by San Jose Taiko. Join in with the candlelight procession through historic Japantown.

Sunday – February 19, 2012
San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin
640 N. Fifth Street
San Jose CA 95112

Free and open to the public. 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

“Becoming Britney” – The Retro Dome: Less snarky, more thoughtful than you’d think

At The Retro Dome in Campbell

Last Friday night I was lucky enough to be invited to see “Becoming Britney”, an award winning live show now playing at The Retro Dome.  Billed as “a snarky new musical”, that’s exactly what I expected:  Lots of snark, heavy on the snark, and more and more snark, plus some music and dancing. What I got instead was something much more: more touching, more thought-provoking, and a little, tiny little bit sad.  And yet also Fantastic and Fun!

This is a musical story that begins in rehab immediately after Britney Spears has infamously shaved her head.   From there we are taken back to several important points in Britney’s life which had an impact or led her in some way to the woman who most people just don’t understand any more.  Because seriously, what happened to her?  I remember being mesmerized the first time I saw her do that slow dip over the chair in the “Crazy” video and thinking “that girl knows exactly what she’s doing, and she’s going to be a star.”

I’m not a super fan of her music by any means, but you can’t deny she’s put out some amazing dance music and the girl had an incredible body when she was young (But didn’t we all?).   And so when she started going off the deep end I was fascinated.  OK, I’ll admit I was a tiny bit obsessed by her shenanigans.  Was she crazy? Drugged? Drunk? Insane? Or just a bad person and mother?  I didn’t know, and I still am not sure what happened to her.

And so while I know that the actual story has to be an incredibly sad one, one that shouldn’t be laughed at, comedy is often about the snark and laughing at pop culture, and there is no better current pop icon ready for snark than Ms. Spears.

Wow, what a great show.  The book, music and lyrics were written by Molly Bell and Daya Curley, and it is Ms. Bell who plays Britney in the show.  For a mid-level budget, the show is very entertaining, and Ms. Bell really stands out in the show.  She plays Britney as everything from a rising child star to an uncertain rehab patient, from a young girl eager to please her mother to a woman who realizes she’s being used and abused, chewed and spit out by everyone around her.

One of the most telling moments of Britney’s psyche was when she and Kevin sing “The Love of My Life (So Far)” and end the song with Brit jumping into Kevin’s arms with the biggest, happiest smile on her face.  And in that moment you could see that somehow this girl had stopped growing mentally and emotionally somewhere between age 12 and 14.  Who else but a very young teenage girl would think Mr. Federline was an amazing catch?  But the look on Molly Bell’s face said it all: This was something Britney had for herself, someone who she thought loved her back in return just for herself.

Molly Bell as Britney

And that’s when the show got sad for me, even as I laughed and laughed through the rest of it.  “Push It Out”, a song about Britney giving birth, was one of the outstanding highlights of the show and had us all in hysterics.  But “Cross That Line”, where Britney has to make a very important decision… a decision about her sanity, brought tears to my eyes even as I was still laughing.  The show called “Becoming Britney” is not about how to become a mega-rich, Cheeto and Red Bull loving, mentally incompetent former child star…  It’s about how one innocent girl with big dreams had to find a way to grow up on her own, claim a life for herself, and become… grown up Britney.  In whatever way she can find her own happiness.

The show is not high budget but it is filled with talent and promising young performers.  Leanne Borghesi, as both Mama Spears and the Rehab Monitor, has an outstanding voice and was a standout in the production.  Molly Bell, who arguably IS the show, is going to have a great career ahead of her.  There were some sound troubles on opening night, but the cast handled them well.  A glaring pink stage and set was perfect, and the costumes were overall adorable and/or hilarious.

I don’t think the show is meant to be completely accurate, as I believe in real life Mama Spears was more “flawed mother” than the Dina Lohan-esque stage-mother portrayed in the show, but overall they tell an outstanding story of a young girl who really did lose her entire childhood even if she may have once really wanted what she was working for.  A woman who was so chewed up by her profession that insanity was the best choice for her.  It’s not a depressing show, don’t get me wrong, and there is almost constant laughter.  But it gives you things to think about as you’re laughing like crazy, and loving and missing that sweet, talented young girl we all used to know.

I think the show is probably geared more to fans of Britney Spears, or fans of celebrity gossip or the industry.  I hope this gives them enough of an audience to fill the theater for the entire run.   The Retro Dome is a fantastic venue for small live shows like this, and it was filled on opening night.  If you’re a fan of Britney Spears, a lover of pop music, or in any way interested in the pop genre, this is a can’t miss show.

Becoming Britney
Through March 11
The Retro Dome
1694 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose
Plenty of free parking
90 minutes, no intermission
Rating: PG

San Jose Metblogs 5th Anniversary

San Jose Metblogs officially launched on Valentine’s Day 2007. Thus, we are celebrating our 5-year anniversary.

Thanks to all who have dropped by to visit.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Valentine’s Day reminder

San Jose’s local chocolatier, Schurra’s Fine Confections, is 100 years old this year. Also, there are only two days left until Saint Valentine’s Day. You make the connection.

From Schurra’s web page:

Schurra’s, creating a tradition of Fine Confections since 1912. Albert and Justin Schurra started their confectionery business with retail stores in Stockton and Modesto California. They soon expanded their candy business to include wholesale accounts throught Northern California. In the early 1930’s they closed their stores in Stockton and Modesto and moved to The Alameda in San Jose. The Alameda, also known as the beautiful way, was San Jose’s premier neighborhood. The mansions of successful doctors, lawyers and architects lined the street as they do today… A street car system ran down the center of the street carrying passengers from Alum Rock Park through downtown and out towards the town of Santa Clara. The Alameda was and is also known as Hwy 82. It was the most modern route to San Francisco at the time. In the mid 1930’s Albert Schurra purchased the building at 848 The Alameda. He designed a “Sunshine Candy Kitchen” where customers could watch candy being made through the windows. Skilled women would sit in the front windows that faced The Alameda and artistically dip chocolates by hand. Many of the chocolate dippers worked for Schurra’s well into their 90’s and two, Gladys Neisonger and Myrtle Bay, lived to be over 100 years old. While we have since located next door to the old Sunshine Candy Kitchen, we proudly carry on Albert and Justin’s time-honored traditions and adhere to their standards of quality by making everything from scratch everyday.

  • What: Schurra’s Chocolates
  • When: 10 am – 6:30 pm, Mon – Fri
    10 am – 5:30 Sat
    Special holiday hours today
  • Where: 840 The Alameda, San Jose
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