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Art in the Aughts



Zeroing in on the '00s, Oklahoma Gazette offers up an eclectic review of the decade's exhibits, stagings and screenings.


By Joe Wertz

Revisiting some of their most stirring, controversial and discussion-provoking moments, a handful of metro arts organizations look back at the exhibits and efforts that incited dialogue and helped define a decade on display.

Oklahoma Arts Council
State Capitol Dome, 2002
An art installation on a grand scale, the addition of a dome atop the State Capitol in 2002 required convincing, politically; funding, publicly; and a massive effort, structurally. Ann Dee Lee, public information director for the Oklahoma Arts Council, said her organization struggled with World War I-era budget and building constraints that left the Capitol without a proper foundation, and had to convince critics that adding a dome would serve as a symbol of public government. Formally dedicated on Statehood Day, Nov. 16 of that year, the dome was crowned with Enoch Kelly Haney's "The Guardian" sculpture, which Lee said pays tribute to the state's American Indian heritage. "Now most Oklahomans can't imagine the Capitol without it," she said. "It brings home the notion that all Oklahomans have a right to access the arts and their cultural heritage embodied in the works of art at our state Capitol."

City Arts Center
"Heroes and Outlaws: 100 Oklahomans by 100 Oklahomans," 2006-2007
An exhibit of portraits organized to coincide with the state's centennial celebration, "Heroes and Outlaws" was met with both praise and protest, said artistic director Clint Stone. The exhibit featured many recognizable faces that served as "entry points," making it among the center's highest-attended shows, but included often-controversial subjects. "We had to answer questions on a pretty regular basis, especially from those who thought we were romanticizing Oklahomans that were notorious and violent," Stone said. "There was tension, which caused discussion and almost everything that ultimately came out of it was positive."

Oklahoma City Museum of Art
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch," 2002
When audiences packed the museum in May 2002, most didn't attend to see the film " they came to witness its introduction by Robert Redford, said OKCMOA communications manager Leslie Spears. Some attendees " most notably its most noble, including Gov. Frank Keating and Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin " didn't realize they were in store for a transgendered rock opera centering around an East German "girlyboy" who seduces a U.S. soldier. "I think they just realized, 'I came to see Robert. I didn't sign up for this,'" Spears said, adding Keating and Fallin were among those who "politely excused themselves."

[Artspace] at Untitled
"Man the Creator," 2003
Questioning his Catholic upbringing, artist Ron Jackson assembled icons, symbols, sets and costumes for an exhibit that challenged religion and sparked a stirring discussion, said Untitled development coordinator Autumn Daves. The show brought visitors from around the stage, she said, and prompted a panel discussion with a priest, a rabbi and a Baptist minister. "Many visitors were horrified by the exhibit before they realized it was more a statement about social issues rather than religion," said Untitled founder Laura Warriner.


By Larry Laneer

No one can say theatergoers lacked things to do in the '00s. This reminiscence and call of best plays and musicals is based on my viewing of approximately 500 theatrical productions in the metro since 2000. Whew!


Musical: "West Side Story" by Lyric Theatre
Play: "Side Man"by the University of Oklahoma


Musical: "Into the Woods"by Pollard Theatre
Play: "The Beauty of Queene Leenane" by Carpenter Square Theatre


Musical: "Nine" by OU
Play: "This Is Our Youth"by the Chocolate Factory and Starving Shark Productions


Musical: "Cabaret" by OU
Play: "Side Man" by Carpenter Square Theatre


Musical: "Assassins"by OU
Play: "The Cripple of Inishmaan" by Carpenter Square Theatre


Musical: "Little Me"by Oklahoma City Repertory Theater
Play: "Enchanted April"by OU


Musical: "Cabaret" by Lyric Theatre
Play: "Noises Off"by OU


Musical: "Company"by OU
Play: "Amadeus" by Oklahoma City Theatre Company


Musical: "Chicago" by OU
Play: "The Laramie Project"by Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre and Pollard Theatre


Musical: "The Who's Tommy" by Lyric Theatre
Play: "Hamlet" by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park


By Greg Johnson
owner, The Blue Door

Why a song resonates is really hard to explain. It matters little what anyone thinks when a certain song falls on your ears " you either like it or you don't. From the first time I made a suggestion to a customer at Wilcox Records to my work now with The Blue Door, I have just been a fan trying to turn people on to cool music. I think our lives are much better with music all around us. These albums and artists, all with strong ties to Central Oklahoma, are some of the best from my little corner of the world.

"The Great Divide and Friends: Dirt & Spirit," various artists

Mike McClure's grand idea to gather fellow red-dirt musicians to sing new gospel songs may have seemed crazy at first, but this album and the subsequent live show proved otherwise. It was a brilliant idea. This is a gem from start to finish, worth scouting out. Take it from a hard, old agnostic: This will fill you with the spirit.

"Texoma," Jimmy LaFave
At once a roots rocker and a great ballad singer, LaFave put red-dirt music on the map. Heartfelt originals like "Bad Bad Girl" and "Never Is a Moment" showcase his soulful voice, which is as good as any in music today. Cuts by Bob Dylan, Jimmy Webb and JJ Cale prove LaFave is a first-rate interpreter and never afraid of covering other songwriters.

"Millionaire," Kevin Welch & The Danes

Welch started in garage bands in Midwest City and eventually became one of Nashville, Tenn.,'s most prolific, respected songwriters. Recorded with a band from Denmark, this is the opposite of anything that came out of Nashville at the time. It has blood all over the tracks and walks that fine line between smart country, rock and folk music. Essential listening for fans of great songs, with spirited playing that veers far from the Nashville nonsense.

"Starin' Down the Sun," Red Dirt Rangers

The Red Dirt Rangers began in Stillwater, grew up as a band in Oklahoma City, and now call Payne County home. This collection is the one Ranger record I return to over and over again. Featuring wonderful, Doug Sahm-influenced roots rock and a cool cover of Green on Red's "Time Ain't Nothing," this is essential Okie red-dirt music before that sound was co-opted and ruined by a host of lame Texas bands.

"Live II," Hosty

While the Mike Hosty Duo is best heard live (with his sturdy backbeat buddy, Mike Byars), this one-man-band collection is a great representation of this iconic musician. The song "Oklahoma Breakdown" was a hit on the Texas music charts by way of Stoney LaRue, and other Hosty classics such as "Fraidy Hole" and "Married Man" are included. If you haven't seen Hosty live, you're missing something.

"Oh Three," Mary Reynolds

Reynolds is the greatest singer in Oklahoma music history, period. Apologies to Wanda and Patti and Carrie, but it's true. From blues and folk to jazz and pop standards, she is a lyrical encyclopedia of American music. You owe it to yourself to check out this great American music master.

2004 and 2007
"Ridin' the Reverb Range" and "Reverb Confidential,"
Terry "Buffalo" Ware

Oklahomans have enjoyed Ware's guitar mastery for more than 40 years, from college rock bands to gigs with countless singer/songwriters. On these two discs, both masterpieces, he showcases his own compositions inspired by George Harrison, Frank Zappa, Charlie Christian and Don Rich. Great covers are a bonus, including Santo & Johnny's "Sleepwalk" and Harry Nilsson's "Remember (Christmas)."

"State Secrets," Robert Williams

Williams was once on a path to be a lifetime troubadour. Then he wised up. While the Oklahoma City native traded the nightlife for a professorial role in Egypt, he remains one of the best songwriters to ever come out of the metro. With just two songs, "The Quiet American" and "How Long (Till the End of the World)," he explains the past decade better than anyone.

"See You Around," Travis Linville

Although he has been in some great bands, including the never-to-be-forgotten Burtschi Brothers, Linville is best heard up close and personal, like on this solo acoustic gem. This is the perfect road-trip disc showcasing his folk/country songwriting style and guitar virtuosity. It flows seamlessly. Doc Watson and Merle Travis would be proud.

By Brian Hearn
film curator, Oklahoma city Museum of Art

We've come a long way in the last 10 as far as film culture goes in this state. From the eventful rise of deadCENTER Film Festival in 2001, to the opening of a year-round downtown art-house cinema in 2002, to the successful spearheading of legislation to support the film industry by the Oklahoma Film & Music Office, filmmaking has been growing by leaps and bounds throughout the decade. Building upon that, a slew of emerging filmmakers with big talent, small budgets and hardworking crews mean Oklahoma is no longer just a cinematic flyover zone.

2001: "Okie Noodling"
Bradley Beesley's down-and-dirty documentary look at one of our state's more obscure pastimes, "noodling" or barehanded fishing, has become something of an institution with its own annual festival in Pauls Valley, and even a 2008 sequel. It still doesn't make me want to try it.

2002: "Sam & Janet"
Local radio DJ Rick Walker produced his first feature film in Oklahoma City. While this syrupy romantic comedy didn't bring much new to the genre, it was slickly produced, with an attractive, mostly professional cast. It made OKC look sufficiently cool, plus, Gary Busey was in it.

2003: "Making Arrangements"

This indie ensemble comedy set in the wacky world of flower shops featured some of the top acting and crew talent in Central Oklahoma. Melissa Scaramucci's film opened the floodgates for other creative, motivated, no-budget indie filmmakers in the state to say, "Yes, we can!"

2005: "The Fearless Freaks"
Beesley is all over this list, so I guess we'll forgive him for living in Austin, Texas, now. A fascinating visual document of our local heroes, The Flaming Lips, the doc reveals an honest, moving portrait of a family, a band and the city that made them go from no-talent, noise-loving punks to Grammy-winning, experimental-rock gods.

2006: "The Hunt"

Although short-lived, Graymark Productions financed and produced a slate of low-budget genre films shot in Oklahoma with various directors, including two by horror maestro Fritz Kiersch. My favorite of the bunch was this creepy tale about three hunters who encounter an alien presence while making a deer-hunting video.

2007: "Four Sheets to the Wind"
Rarely had independent filmmaking seen and heard a voice like Sterlin Harjo, who broke out with his quiet, but effective indie drama shot in northeastern Oklahoma among contemporary American Indian people. The Sundance premiere didn't hurt, either.

2008: "Rainbow Around the Sun"

Based on a totally original idea and theme album by the multi-talented Matthew Alvin Brown, this contemporary rock musical raised the bar on cool movies shot in OKC. Its bouncy soundtrack, lively performances and punchy visual style made this a one-of-a-kind standout.

2008: "The Stanton Family Grave Robbery"

Mark Potts and partners Cole Selix and Kevin Costello made this frequently hilarious road movie on a shoestring budget, demonstrating a real gift for wry humor, as well as slapstick. Who knew you could have so much fun with a coffin? We'll see them next decade, for sure.

2009: "Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo"

This is Beesley's best film to date " a heart-wrenching, behind-the-scenes look at the McAlester prison rodeo. Through its convict cowgirls, the film raises burning issues about drug abuse, incarceration and the justice system. Catch it on HBO?

2009: "Barking Water"
See Sterlin write, see Sterlin direct, see Sterlin return to Sundance with a more mature second feature. It is notable for fine performances from Richard Ray Whitman and Casey Camp-Horinek, with beautiful cinematography of rural Eastern Oklahoma.

10 BY 4

2000: "Traffic"
Steven Soderbergh expertly weaved several story lines into an epic masterwork of politics and crime. Anyone who believes "Gladiator" deserved Best Picture over this is 12.

2001: "Mulholland Dr."

David Lynch is a genius. And possibly insane, but a genius nonetheless. This Hollywood-set mystery finds him as cryptic as ever, but at a creative height unseen since the "Twin Peaks" pilot.

2005: "A History of Violence"
A real departure for David Cronenberg, this low-key crime story may be his finest work. With a tense plot and fierce performances, it's one that has stuck with me and grown on me.

2005: "The 40-Year-Old Virgin"

Finally, a sex comedy that didn't make you feel dirty. It helped that Judd Apatow's directorial debut was riotously funny, yet filled with heart, embodied with everyman charm by Steve Carell.

2006: "The Prestige"
What can't Christopher Nolan do? A puzzle film rooted in the world of dueling magicians, this one's even more rewarding than his "Memento." Few films have been able to screw with your head with this much finesse.

2007: "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters"

The underdog in you will find the bully-vs.-bullied narrative of this documentary transcendent. So what if it's about "Donkey Kong" champions? I dare you to not feel awesome afterward.

2007: "Zodiac"
Criminally ignored by Oscar and audiences, David Fincher's thriller about San Francisco's greatest unsolved mystery makes a terrific companion to his other serial-killer masterpiece, "Seven."

2008: "The Dark Knight"
Paying tribute to the great crime films of the 1970s, Christopher Nolan not only bested "Batman Begins," but gave comic-book movies credibility, in the perfect marriage of art and commerce.

2009: "The Hurt Locker"

Of all the movies about our current war, Kathryn Bigelow's is the one that will be remembered. For one, it'll require you reapply antiperspirant. For another, it's awfully intelligent.

2009: "Up in the Air"
If there's a positive side to the recession, it's Jason Reitman's layoff dramedy, anchored by a career-best performance from George Clooney. A rare smart movie for adults about smart adults.


2000: "Memento"
Before Christopher Nolan soared with Batman, he proved his mettle with this indie about a man with no short-term memory trying to avenge his wife's murder.

2001: "Mulholland Dr."

The universe of David Lynch is tucked in the darkest recesses of the mind, a place where dreams and nightmares collide. I still don't know what the hell it means, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

2002: "Minority Report"

The last great Steven Spielberg movie, "Minority Report" is a stupendous hybrid of provocative sci-fi, Hitchcockian thriller and special-effects spectacular.

2004: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

In this mind-bending fable, director Michel Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman probe questions of love and fate. It's bittersweet, mesmerizing and singularly unique.

2004: "I Heart Huckabees"

Misunderstood and ignored, David O. Russell's loopy, existential gem is screwball comedy for people who spent too much time in college ingesting hallucinogens or pondering the meaning of life, or both.

2007: "No Country for Old Men"
The Coen brothers' lacerating masterpiece is bleak, nihilistic and utterly unforgettable. With standout performances by Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem, this is supreme filmmaking.

2007: "Zodiac"
Few movies match the tension of this thriller. In focusing on the efforts of two newspaper reporters and two homicide detectives, director David Fincher paints a searing portrait of obsession.

2008: "WALL-E"
Pixar has produced some wonderful animated movies over the decade, but "WALL-E" deserves special props for its blending of Chaplinesque lyricism and pointed social commentary.

2009: "Inglourious Basterds"
Quentin Tarantino's revisionist take on World War II is crazy madman poetry, a revenge fantasy at its most giddily irresistible. It's his best work since "Pulp Fiction."

2009: "Up in the Air"
Against the backdrop the nation's economic anxieties, writer/director Jason Reitman covers well-traveled territory about relationships without once retreating to cliché.


2001: "Mulholland Dr."

This odd, skewed and wonderful history of film genres made a star of Naomi Watts and continued David Lynch's reign as the filmmaker you love to think you understand, but probably don't.

2001: "The Devil's Backbone"

It was a decade rich in good ghost movies, but this low-key Spanish language chiller served up the most memorable image of them all: a drowned boy whose spectral appearances always come surrounded by drops of water.

2001: "Ghost World"
This bittersweet, coming-of-age story about a disillusioned teen was based on a comic book, and is just the thing for that cynical old bastard in your life.

2001: "Audition"
Simply the most terrifying film of the decade, this is the movie we know most romantic comedies would turn into if they honestly followed the road of truly aberrant romance. As if there were any other kind.

2004: "Shaun of the Dead"

Like a plague of zombies, this popped up out of nowhere. My gut feeling is that Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg will never be this funny again, so enjoy it often.

2005: "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance"

Most people would probably select director Park Chan-wook's "Oldboy," but his "Vengeance" is a beautiful movie in which to lose yourself, without quite as grotesque an ending.

2006: "Casino Royale"
My favorite action film of the decade, this is a brilliant renaissance of the James Bond franchise. Daniel Craig's Bond is easily the best since Sean Connery's, and may develop into the best one, period.

2007: "Zodiac"
A movie that terrifies us with the accumulation of details, smoke and shadows. You wish for a more satisfactory conclusion, but David Fincher has the nerve to take the idea of "unsolved mystery" seriously.

2008: "Iron Man"
This slot was intended for "Pirates of the Caribbean" until I came to my senses. I remember "Pirates" fondly, but this is the one I actually wouldn't mind watching again.

2009: "Zombieland"
This contains the funniest sequence since W.C. Fields tried to take a nap on his front porch in "It's a Gift," 75 years ago. Of course, that's an exaggeration, but not by much.


2000: "Jesus' Son"
Released at the beginning of 2000 most places, "Jesus' Son" has held up well as a hallucinatory portrait of a man trying to piece his mind back together in the wake of drug addiction.

2001: "The Royal Tenenbaums"
The pinnacle of Wes Anderson thus far, this featured a masterful soundtrack, cast and story. Seeing it makes one wonder if he'll ever be able to top it, or even match it.

2002: "Punch-Drunk Love"
The movie that proved Adam Sandler could do more than act stupid, under the correct circumstances. Emily Watson was pretty good, too.

2003: "American Splendor"
This biopic stood out for its meta storytelling style and a masterful performance from Paul Giamatti. It also introduced the phrase "Why's everybody have to be so stupid?" into this reviewer's lexicon.

2004: "Team America: World Police"
This stands out for the sheer absurdity of its premise: a Michael Bay-style action movie with puppets. In the process, it managed to nail the absurdity of America's Bush-era foreign policy.

2005: "Howl's Moving Castle"
"Howl" helped Disney see that Hayao Miyazaki's movies had true crossover appeal. A twist on "Beauty and the Beast," it featured a castle walking around on giant chicken legs and talking fire.

2006: "Idiocracy"
Mike Judge's take on mankind's future got short shrift when Fox canceled its release. Still, he created a sharp commentary on the devolution of civilization and the inherent stupidity of institutional thinking.

2007: "Sunshine"
While just as good as "Slumdog Millionaire" " maybe even better " Danny Boyle's inverted tale about how dependent we actually are on the natural world went largely unnoticed. That's a shame.

2008: "Hamlet 2"

Most people didn't see past this comedy's ridiculous premise to its warped vision of the obsession and self-absorption required to pull off any creative endeavor.

2009: "Moon"
High-concept and intelligent, this isn't the kind of movie that draws big box office in this age. We're lucky a Sam Rockwell vehicle about a lone miner on the lunar surface was made at all.

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