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Loren Naji

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When the Loren Naji Gallery was shut down a month ago, Domain Cleveland was on the scene to see the events first hand. Then, just this past weekend, when the fire marshal shut down the gallery for a second time, we knew there was more to the story. Loren Naji was kind enough to break it down for us.

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Douglas: I was at your gallery for the opening that was shut down a few weeks ago. The night is still surreal when I think about how it was all handled and how rude the cops were. This past weekend, when you were shut down again, I was dumbfounded and curious as to the circumstances. How did it all play out?

Loren: Well, again, the police came in that day, looked around and I assured them we weren’t serving any alcohol. The event was to launch the new CAN Journal (Collective Arts Network), which is a great resource for the community, edited by Mike Gill, as well as a closing event for the three artists hanging on the walls. The police said everything was fine, that we wouldn’t see them the rest of the night, and then they left. The event started with no music or alcohol. About an hour into the event the fire marshal came in and said he needed to talk to me privately. He asked if I had an occupancy permit. I explained I am in the process of getting one and that I have been working with Joe Cimperman (Ward Three Councilman) who said everything was fine. The fire marshal said no that’s not true, you do not have the piece of paper that says you have an occupancy permit, so we have to shut you down. So we asked everyone to leave and closed the event.

Doug: Saturday you had another event scheduled at your gallery. Tell us about the event and the change of venue.

Loren: The event was called “Drawn and Quartered”. I reasonably said that if I was going to be shut down for no occupancy on Friday that I’d be shut down again on Saturday, so I suggested to everyone involved a change of venue. We held it at Great Lakes. There was beer and everything was fine, but unfortunately it wasn’t at my gallery.

Doug: So where do things stand now?

Loren: Well, I’m closed. I can’t do any events, right this minute. We have meetings coming up to discuss legalizing beer at galleries. We also have a meeting to change the use of the property. Steven Litt just wrote an excellent article (Cleveland.com) about the situation, have you read it yet?

Doug: No, but it seems every time I go on facebook, there is a bit of news, an article, a cartoon, or even the piece I saw today that said you had been flogged by nuns and branded public enemy number one. So, obviously, this is causing an uproar.

Loren: Yes, that was a good one. I’ll send you the article.

Doug: For those outside of the arts community that might not have heard about the 2 events at your gallery over the last month, tell us a bit about how it all got started. I had heard there was one man complaining about code violations on the first go round with the police. Is that true and do you feel it was a personal targeted attack?

Loren: Yes, the man you are speaking of is Henry Senyak. He is a local vigilante that likes to make sure that all ordinances are followed by everyone. He doesn’t like loud music or parties. He lives a mile away, so he’s not even in my neighborhood.

Doug: How did he even get put on your trail from so far away? Why would he care?

Loren: There used to be a bar next to me called Envy that he had taken down. It was sort of a troublesome bar. They even had a shooting there. Henry is very proud and many people like that he got it closed down. An analogy for this guy is he is a robot programmed to kill the bad guys, which he does, but he also kills the good guys in the process. He only sees in black and white. He can’t see that maybe this guy was trying to do something good in the area, all he sees is the guy didn’t have the proper permit, so we need to shut him down.

Doug: For people reading about this story that are as outraged as I am, what would you suggest they do to get involved and help out?

Loren: Letters to councilman are great, letters to the mayor, maybe even letters to the police. Let them know you support me and think maybe they could give me a break, I mean, I’m trying to do the right thing. If I have court dates, come out to the courtroom and support me.

Doug: How do you see this shaking out?

Loren: I don’t know. It depends on what kind of hoops they make me jump through. I do my gallery as a service to the city. I love art and I love artists. I think more art is what the community needs and I want to encourage that growth. That’s my real reason for doing this. I am not making money doing this. Artists go in to communities at their worst and help them grow. It’s happening over in Collinwood right now. My prediction is that in 3 or 4 years you’ll see Collinwood looking lively. It already is much safer than just 6 months ago. There’s lots to do. It looks lively. Art is my focus. I got a place in Collinwood. They gave me a grant to do it. They like my energy over there. A bus that I designed is going to be taking people to art galleries and shows. I’m just trying to create excitement in the community. If they want to shut me down for that it’s sort of like buying someone a gift and they try to punish me for it I’ll just take the gift back to the store. If they don’t want to play ball, I’ll take my ball and go home.

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The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines

About thirty minutes into The Place Beyond The Pines, my wife was perusing facebook on her phone and I was out of excuses to keep us engaged in watching the film. Not to say the plot was dull or that the acting was bad, in fact, both were interesting, but the pacing was so slow, it was hard not to drift.

Then, without warning, the movie throws a few curveballs and the plot kicks in to high gear.

Ryan Gosling plays Luke, a traveling stunt motorcyclist (I swear this isn’t Driver 2) who finds out a woman he had a fling with a few summers back has given birth to his child. Luke quits his job to stay local and become a father figure for the boy. Unfortunately, the child’s mother, played by Eva Mendes, has moved on with her life and now lives with her boyfriend, who has no interest in allowing Luke to come around. The down on his luck motorcyclist turns to robbing banks, using his riding skills, after meeting an unlikely partner in town.

Enter Avery, an ambitious cop looking to climb the ladder on the force and beyond, who sets his sights on chasing down the motorcycle-riding bank robber. The cop is played by Bradley Cooper who doesn’t appear until over 40 minutes into the film. His portrayal of a beat cop anxious to be out of his father’s far-reaching shadow helps glue the film together. Especially the way he handles a run-in with a powerful detective, played by Ray Liotta.

As the film played out, and we grew more invested, I wondered why the beginning had been dragged out so long when there was so much more story to tell. The film jumps ahead several years, as a second generation of characters continue to feel and live with the consequences of a single bank robbery gone wrong.

To no one’s surprise, I enjoyed the film’s soundtrack, provided by Mike Patton, but I felt the droning, ambience of the music exaggerated the tempo at the beginning of the film. The dark intensity serves the film much better as the action grows.

The Place Beyond The Pines has a few twists and turns in the second half of the film to keep you on the edge of your seat, and as a parent, I was left wondering just how far I would be willing to go to protect my children.

 

Thor: The Dark World

Thor 2: The Dark World

For all of the money and effort that went into making the sequel to the surprise hit of the Marvel universe, Thor, you would think they would have worked out some basic kinks before releasing the movie.

Marvel/Disney have done a bang up job over the past 6 years launching what they call Phase One of a series of connected films all based around the massive blockbuster, “The Avengers”. Now, as they launch Phase Two, the pressure is on to not only match the quality and ticket sales as the previous phase, but to also build upon those numbers to assure a third phase of the rapidly growing list of comics turning into movies. So why they allowed some easily corrected mistakes/plot points to slip through on “Thor 2: The Dark World” is a head scratcher.

Before I go into the errors, (as I see them) I want to mention what a great film, cast, plot, teaser this movie is. In my opinion, there has been no other character to emerge with more popularity and met with more enthusiasm than Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, who has appeared in “Thor”, “The Avengers”, and now, “Thor: The Dark World” after initially only being slated for one film. He, once again, steals just about every scene he is in, even when relegated for the first half of the film in a small cage with little to do. Most of the cast from the first film return, with one noticeable change being the recasting of Zachary Levi as Fandral. Apparently, Josh Dallas, was too busy with his tv show “Once” to reprise his role.

So, if I liked the movie, why did I begin the review with negativity? For a fast paced, action packed movie such as this, keeping the audience grounded and the timeline clear is important and this film lacks in both of those departments. At the beginning of the film, we are given a prologue with a lot of info, which while important is all repeated more than once throughout the rest of the movie. The prologue apparently was added just to introduce the villain sooner and give an established actor more screen time. Then, we see a bound Loki facing the closest thing he has had to a father, Odin the king of Asgard, and being banished to prison for his actions in The Avengers. Again, this is a good scene that gives Loki more screen time, but then the very next scene jumps two years in the future with no mention of the jump, making the timeline hard to follow. There are 2 other instances of scenes happening out of order or time, leaving the viewer thinking back on what happened when rather than getting lost in the multi-faceted story.

The action is well-paced, the soundtrack shines, and director Alan Taylor does a great job immersing us more into Asgard than the first film, allowing the viewer to get a feel for life in the distant land. As with the other Marvel films, the credits are peppered with additional scenes to preview other upcoming films, such as this year’s “Captain America” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”. DVD extras include a Marvel One-shot short film about the Mandarin, who was the “villain” in last year’s “Iron Man 3”, a goof reel, a look at the relationship between Thor and Loki and more.

My confidence is still high in the Marvel films, but I hope, as Phase Two continues, they clear up the small details that prevent a good film with some great twists from being remember as a great movie.

 

After Porn Ends

After Porn Ends poster

This documentary plays out just about as expected. Several stars from the porn industry’s past are interviewed in a “Where are they now” fashion. Some have thrived since the camera stopped rolling while others are a mess, most of whom were a mess before the glamour of taped sex entered their lives.

Asia Carerra details leaving the business and finding a small, far away town to blend in, but even there she is recognized from her dirty past. Crissy Moran is a young ex-porn star who left the business for the church in 2006. She has faced criticism from both sides.

Randy West, a male porn star, had some of the most interesting viewpoints on the industry both positive and negative, while also confirming he has slept on camera with over 3,000 women.

The sad and startling section of the film details just how much money can be made by the stars at the top and how unprepared most of them are to deal with it. Several stars, such as Mary Carey and Raylene, look back with vastly different viewpoints on their time in the industry and how it shaped their lives. Both end up back in porn not long after filming their spots for this film.

If you have seen a couple episodes of VH1 “Behind the Music”, you can predict how this film will play out, though most of the actors are easier to look at than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. After Porn Ends is an interesting concept and a well done film, but it ends without a climax.

 

ECO: New Works by Steve Ehret at Translations Art Gallery

ECO Exhibit

To explain how excited I was for the debut of ECO the new showing at Translations art gallery in Canton, someone had to point out that Steve Ehret’s art had been hung from the ceiling across the gallery, rather than plastered to the walls before it registered.

Indeed, from the first steps taken into the gallery, it was apparent that this was no ordinary show. Curator Craig Joseph explained that ECO has been in the works for about a year and that he and Steve had been in contact hammering out the details to make it a special event.

Though Steve may be best known for his colorful creatures that range from friendly and furry to fierce and frightening, this collection is almost completely devoid of any living beings at all. Instead, the focus is on where his creatures live, breath, eat, work, play, and from the looks of it, where they collect clouds.

Sure, the keen eye will detect something slithering from a cave here or peeking its bulbous eyes above swampy waters there, but the main focus is pear shaped dwellings, trunks jutting from the ground and expelling mysterious smoke, ladders leading into the abyss, exotic plant-life, observation towers thrusting upwards, and…the skies. Breathtaking and magical while simultaneously welcoming and foreboding, Steve Ehret’s skylines are a mixture of emotions that seem to attract the most attention from the growing crowd. ECO: new works by Steve Ehret is showing at Translations all month, and I strongly suggest you go in with an empty imagination because ECO is an enormous buffet of creativity.

ECO: New Works by Steve Ehret at Translations Art Gallery ECO: New Works by Steve Ehret at Translations Art Gallery ECO: New Works by Steve Ehret at Translations Art Gallery ECO: New Works by Steve Ehret at Translations Art Gallery

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