December 24, 2008
One of the sleeper entertainment hits in Aspen last year was the Whats So Funny? series of events focused on stand-up comedy. The series featured a bunch of rising talents and one big name 70-something former Aspenite David Brenner, who hosted and, with the Wheeler Opera House, co-presented the evenings. Whats So Funny proved that stand-up is a viable and vibrant form, even without the blue-chip talent that attended the now-defunct U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, and that the Wheeler is an ideal place for the stand-up form. Brenner has moved on, but the laughs are back at least for one night. The Best of David Brenner Presents: Whats So Funny? on Sunday, Dec. 28, features four comedians returning from last year: Karen Rontoswki, Dana Goldberg, Billy D. Washington and Tom Simmons.
Even before hip-hop hit what seems to be a tired rut, Mos Def was into freshness and reinvention. The 1998 album Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star was a landmark in hip-hop, with the two rappers helping to launch alternative hip-hop a movement focused on artistry and issues rather than commercialism and thug posturing. While fans have craved a Black Star follow-up, Mos Def (born Dante Smith, in Brooklyn, in 1973) moved into the solo realm, and released such work as 2004s acclaimed The New Danger, nearly as much a rock and blues album as hip-hop. Meanwhile, the rapper was also making a reputation as an actor to contend with, earning roles in such high-profile films as The Italian Job, and the current Cadillac Records, in which he plays another groundbreaking musician, Chuck Berry. Mos Def makes his Aspen debut Tuesday, Dec. 30 at Belly Up Aspen.
Aspen Films Academy Screenings series opened last week with the uplifting Happy-Go-Lucky. It was a comforting way to ease into the series, but filmgoers should prepare for a drastic emotional change of pace with this weeks films. Wendy and Lucy is a study in sadness, the story of a young woman with virtually nothing who then loses her dog. Doubt pits a progressive priest against a traditionalist nun amidst allegations of abuse. Steven Soderberghs Che is not so much a portrait of Che Guevara or a political history of modern-day Latin America, but a lesson in the relentless, dreary work of a revolution. Also on the screen: stories of a doctor trying to adjust to post-prison life; an animated film about the personal fallout of war; and a tense love story that uncovers truths about World War II Germany. On the lighter side: Last Chance Harvey, a warm tale about unexpected, late-in-life romance. The series runs through Saturday, Jan. 3, with daily presentations at Harris Hall.