“Kubo and the Two Strings”

ArtsWatch Weekly: A Bartow gift; last licks of summer

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

And suddenly it’s fall. Not on the wall calendar, but on the school calendar, by which thousands of kids across Oregon went back to their classrooms on Monday, a week before Labor Day, depriving them cruelly of a final week of summer break and no doubt dealing a sharp financial slap to the economies of towns along the coast and other tourist-reliant parts of the state.

What’s done is done, and your task is to get in a few last hurrahs in spite of the school boards’ impulse to jump the gun. Think outdoors, think Labor Day weekend, think (at least) of these three things:

Oregon Symphony Waterfront Concert. And the tradition rolls on – a big, booming, free concert along the Willamette, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Thursday (rain date Friday) and pulling out the stops into the evening with an all-star lineup of music by, this year, Wagner, Mozart, Puccini, Dvorak, Bizet, Tchaikovsky and Offenbach, along with some of John Williams’ music from the movie E.T: The Extraterrestrial and a little bit of John Phillip Sousa to punch things up. Downtown in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, near the Hawthorne Bridge at the foot of Southwest Columbia Street.

Art in the Pearl. Another longstanding tradition – this is its 20th anniversary of art, craft, music, and food sprawling along the North Park Blocks on Labor Day weekend – Art in the Pearl combines street-fair festivities with a broad range of things to buy. You can also just look, of course, and admission is free. Work by more than 130 artists in all sorts of disciplines will be on hand, and there’ll be demonstrations of blacksmithing, woodturning, boat building, fiber arts, and other forms. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 10-5 Monday, between Northwest Davis and Flanders streets.

Love’s Labour’s Lost. The 47th season of Portland Actors Ensemble’s summer Shakespeare in the Parks winds up with performances of the comedy Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at Reed College, starting at 3 p.m. each day. It’s free; keep in mind that donations keep the ship floating.



"Rider with V," Rick Bartow, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 inches. Froelick Gallery.

“Rider with V,” Rick Bartow, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 inches. Froelick Gallery.

THURSDAY IS SEPTEMBER 1, which means it’s also First Thursday, which means it’s time to see the newest exhibitions opening for the monthly art walk at galleries across the city. This month we’re looking forward in particular to Froelick Gallery’s  Sparrow Song, which includes many of the final works of the great Northwest artist Rick Bartow, who died earlier this year at age 69. The work is astonishing, and the gallery’s statement puts it into perspective:


A biased (and glowing) review of ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’

Though LAIKA studio's new animated movie is related to past efforts, it reaches new visual and storytelling heights

Guys. Can I tell you how wonderful Kubo is?

You don’t have to believe me. The Kubo and the Two Strings screening I attended—for “Friends and Family”—is already a hint that I’m not quite impartial. I used to work at LAIKA, the Hillsboro-based animation company that produced this movie.

That said: I’d like to think that along with my potential for bias comes an at-least-above-average understanding of what it takes to create stop-motion animation. All the time I spent running errands through the wilds of the Coraline production floor, darting between miniature pink houses and knee-high orchards of hand-twisted apple trees, I picked up bits of insight from the charismatic and creatively dexterous people who’ve shaped the modern stop-mo craft worldwide, forming strong impressions of what works, what doesn’t, and why. I’m also in the unique position of being both a LAIKA alum and an arts reviewer, so I’m torn, as most arts writers are, by opposing impulses a) to uplift artists, not limited to but including those I know, and b) to uphold a lofty, impartial standard. Each time LAIKA puts out a title, I end up both writing about it and apologizing. Here’s my ParaNorman edition, and here’s my Boxtrolls installment.


So when I say Kubo carried me away, swept me up in its story, gave me chills and made me cry…you can believe that this happened despite my best efforts to analyze it, and to come out of that Tanasbourne screening with dry notes that would show my film-making friends how astutely I’d observed the finer points of their craft. No such luck. This film, which surpasses the previous excellence of LAIKA stop-motion and elevates the genre as a whole, left me and my nephew blubbering like idiots. So you probably have to see it to believe it. But here are my (albeit soggy) notes…