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Artsminded: What's not to love about seeing movies close to home?

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Last Sunday was Oscars night and I had to miss half of it. It was a BIG disappointment. I don't know how you react to the Academy Awards broadcast, but I love every minute of it. The best parts -- the main reason for watching for me anyway -- are the clips from movies new and old. I love the Lifetime Achievement Award because they use all those old clips to illustrate the achievement of the honoree. I love the clips that illustrate the skill of actor and director nominees. And last week, they had the granddaddy of clips: a retrospective look at Academy Award winning movies!! They had clips from nearly all the winners in history. And I had to miss it! Life just isn't fair!

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BUT I have been making up for it. Last night I watched a rented version of "12:08 East of Bucharest," the film that won for best new director in Cannes in 2006. And I have the Falls Theatre and the Hudson Cinema 9. I love both those theatres -- they are intimate, they are home, they are close to me and they show decent films much of the time -- sometimes even "art" films (Independent films that are the conception of a single mind -- or in the case of the Coen Brothers, a double mind).

The Falls Theatre has gotten national press because of its low prices, even better its inexpensive popcorn, its space in the middle of Main Street, and its place in the hearts of local moviegoers . People line up into the park to see a first run film for $3-- and they're seldom bored while they stand in line because there's always someone they know to talk to. Last week the Falls had Academy Award nominated "Juno" set right here in our own Twin Cities! In case you missed it a few years ago, in local venues such as Freeman's Drug and the Chamber of Commerce, you can still find copies of "Stan's Legacy." This little book, much of it archival photos, is a tribute to long time owner Stan McCulloch. Stan kept the tradition of the Main Street movie theatre alive long after it had disappeared in most communities.

And his daughter Michelle Maher still keeps our theater and its tradition going. Be thankful for that. Few towns the size of River Falls still have locally owned operating theatres that show first run movies -- and many residents can walk to the Falls -- no parking woes.

But if the Cineplex is your preference and if you'd rather have a choice of several first run movies and guaranteed parking, we in River Falls have access to the Hudson Cinema 9 just a few miles away. The Hudson theatres offer a fine middle road between the huge impersonal, assembly line theatres that ring the Twin Cities and the intimate Main Street venue. Several of Hudson's theaters have "stadium seating" (which delights me because I'm short and people in front of me don't block my sightlines). Others retain the traditional slightly raked seats that were installed in our area's first multiple movie venue.

What I love about the Hudson Cinema 9 is that there's always a fine variety of movies to choose from ranging from elegant, artistic and demanding films such as "Atonement," which I saw yesterday, to shoot 'em up, chase 'em down traditionals to fantasies like "The Spiderwick Chronicles." In fact, three of the Academy Award-nominated films (including the one that won!) are playing there right now. There's almost always at least one movie that a patron hungry for film will want to see. Besides that, the Hudson Cinemas has the best popcorn around, much better than the blockbuster cinemas in the metropolitan area to the west and north of us.

Rumor has it that one of those gargantuan cinema complexes is under construction near Hudson just beside the Interstate and in sight of Minnesota.

I'm not excited about that. Even if it opens and even if my friends go over there, those friendly waits in line with people you can discuss the films with won't be there. And we're unlikely to walk out of the theater in the company of new acquaintances we've just shared a movie experience with.

I hope you're not questioning the validity of popular movies in an arts column. Movies -- even the sequels put together by committees -- are art, not always good art, but art nevertheless.

And the ones that win Academy Awards, that attract the best reviews, that inspire us, are usually the product of a single vision of a single artist who manages to conceive of the venture, convince powerful people to finance it, and identify the technicians and actors who help him or her bring it to fruition.

Oops! Gotta go. I have a date to see "There Will Be Blood" in a few minutes at the Hudson Cinema 9. If movies are not the type of art you have in mind this week, below are plenty of other possibilities:

  • Second Saturday Barn Dance: March 15 (actually 3rd Saturday this month), River Falls Academy gym, Maple Street entrance, 7-10 p.m. (7-8 family dance), beverages and simple snacks for sale, Adults $5, children 12 and under $2.50.
  • Prayer for Peace: Mixed Media Paintings by local artist Maren R. Zabel. Co-sponsored by CAB and River Falls Restorative Justice. Opening Friday, March 7, 7-9 p.m. River Falls Restorative Justice.
  • "Witness to the Times" and "Time Bombs and Other Things." Art by Patrice Marvin and Lynn Jermal, Kramer Loft Gallery, upstairs at the Hammond Hotel; March 8, 6-9 p.m., March 9, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (after which show moves to Harriet Barry Gallery in the UW-RF Chalmer Davee Library).
  • The Good Person Of Setzuan: Play in the Blanche Davis Theatre in Kleinpell Fine Arts UW-RF on March 7, 8 and 9. For tickets and more information call 715-425-3114.
  • Tim Sparks and Michael Young: Acoustic Guitar Masters: UW-RF Wyman Series event in the Falcons' Nest Entertainment Center, University Center, Wednesday, March 5, 8 p.m. Ticket sales begin at 7 p.m. Adults, $5, ages 6-18, $3.
  • 3rd Annual Benefit for the Nepali Durga Educational Society: A Day of Traditional Food, Music and Dance from Nepal. Nepali art work for exhibit and sale; Lighthouse (Main Street, River Falls); March 8, 10:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. Call 715-222-8279.
  • Fire and Water: Water Color by Jeanette Richards and hand blown glass by Andy Gregorich; Second Saturday event at Stone Soup Gallery (1025 Davis St., Hammond);
  • Opening: Man You Can't Take it With You: Ellsworth High School, 7:30 p.m. March 7-8; Adults $7, students $3; Information at Ellsworthdrama.com.
  • The Fine Beauty of the Island: acclaimed harpist and storyteller Patrick Ball weaves Irish history with his own journey. Phipps Center for the Arts; March 15; 8 p.m. Adults $21, students with current ID $14.
  • Jerusalem: 3,000 Years of Holiness: presented by Steve Derfler, UW-RF Department of Art; River Falls Public Library, March 10, 7- 8:30 p.m.
  • A Gardening Symposium : Phipps Center for the Arts, speakers: Jim Lawton of Funkie Gardens, Martin Stern of Squire House Gardens, Candie Sinclair of Compose Hill Floral and Gardens; Saturday, March 8; 8 a.m.-1p.m. $15, proceeds go to benefit garden projects.
  • Susan Huppert, author of "The Perfect Gift" at River Falls Public Library , Tuesday, March 10, 6:45 pm.
  • Winged Migration: Season on the St. Croix First Friday; Original work of 35 artists interpreting the theme. Includes music and refreshments. March 7, 5-9 p.m.
  • Convocation Recital: Abbott Concert Hall, Kleinpell Fine Arts Building; UW-RF; Thursday, March 6, 3 p.m. Free
  • The Phipps Dance Company: Performance under artistic direction of Barb Zak and Stephanie Campbell; March 7-8, 7:30 p.m. General Admission tickets, $10.
  • It's for the Birds: gallery exhibit of photography and fine art with bird theme; River Falls Public Library lower level; March 16-April 20; opening reception Sunday, March 16, 2-4 p.m.
  • Birds of South Africa: digital photos from South Africa's National Park presented by Joe Conrad. River Falls Public Library; March 18; 7 p.m.
  • Young People's Orchestra Concert: Abbott Concert Hall, Kleinpell Fine Arts, UW-RF; Friday, March 7, 10:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Free (events subject to change; check 425-3183 or http://www.uwrf/edu/music events.html )
  • Dance, Dance, Dance: Orchestra Concert; Abbott Concert Hall, Kleinpell Fine Arts, UW-RF. March 8; 7:30 p.m. Adults $5, seniors $3, students with ID $2; events subject to change: check Music Department, 425-3183 or http://www.uwrf.edu/music/events.html
  • Senior Show 3: BFA students showcase their works; Gallery 101, Kleinpell Fine Arts, UW-RF; March 10-25. Gallery hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Monday - Friday and 2-4 p.m. Sunday.
  • The Phipps Oratorio Society Chorus and Orchestra: One of the supreme masterpieces of the choral repertoire features music of immense beauty and consolation in a masterly fusion of classical counterpoint and romantic lyricism, sung in English, Bethel Lutheran Church, 920 Third St., Hudson. Sunday, March 9, 2 p.m. Adults $22, students with current ID $15.
  • Jesse James and His Gang: author John Koblas, writer in the outlaw genre and foremost authority on the James-Younger Gang in Minnesota. River Falls Public Library; March 25, 7 p.m. Free.

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