By GERRY BARKER
The inaugural Donald M. Ephraim Palm Beach Film Festival, presented by MorseLife, kicked off in grand style Thursday night at the Kravis Center's Cohen Pavilion. On hand to welcome moviegoers were Ephraim, Festival Director Ellen Wedner and the director of the opening night film, "Two Tickets to Greece," Marc Fitoussi.
Now through Feb. 16, the festival will feature 37 films from 20 countries, screened at various cinema locations throughout the area, including CMX at the Gardens, CMX Wellington, Movies of Lake Worth, Paragon at Delray Marketplace and the Regal Royal Palm Beach. You can get more information about tickets and times HERE.
As part of the screening, opening night guests sipped cocktails and were given specially-prepared snack boxes, filled with Greek food, apropos for the movie we were about to see, which Fitoussi said was the first time shown outside France.
"Two Tickets to Greece" (also titled "Les Cyclades" -- the Greek islands that are holiday destinations) is a funny, engaging and sometimes bittersweet look at friendship and life. Even with subtitles, there are laugh-out-loud moments as stars Laure Calamy and Olivia Côte rediscover their best friend relationship from school on a vacation to Greece. The film also stars the incomparable Kristin Scott Thomas, who steps in when their best laid plans go awry.
The festival's slogan is "Experience the Magic of Cinema." Judging by the opening night movie, the magic has started.
Botti and Company Wow at the Kravis
By GERRY BARKER
Trumpet player extraordinaire Chris Botti's world tour made a stop Jan. 25 in West Palm Beach at the Kravis Center, which Botti praised as "Carnegie Hall South" before a near sellout audience.
The Grammy Award-winning musician (who told us he just turned 60), promised "an old-fashioned variety show," and for the next two hours, he, his band and special guests delivered just that.
Botti, as he always does, created musical magic on standards like "My Funny Valentine" and "I've Got You Under My Skin," as well as a selection of songs from an upcoming album. At the same time, you could tell he takes immense pleasure and pride showcasing the talents of the other musicians sharing the stage.
Band members Lee Pearson (drums), Reggie Hamilton (bass), Leonardo Amuedo (guitar) and Holger Marjamaa (piano) were able to spotlight their considerable expertise, including an extending jam session that had Marjamaa attacking the keys remindful of an early Elton John or Jerry Lee Lewis. At the conclusion, it was heartening to see the sometimes conservative Kravis crowd on their feet and clapping, as they did on several occasions.
Other highlights, and surprises, included:
-- Violinist Anastasiia Mazurok, with a pop and rock medley that included an electrifying version of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." We didn't see that coming.
-- Smooth jazz great Andy Snitzer, who joined Botti onstage with his saxophone.
-- Want variety? How about an appearance by tenor Rafael Moras, who mesmerized with a soul-stirring version of "Nessun dorma," from Puccini's opera "Turandot ."
-- Botti was also joined by fellow trumpet player and vocalist Benny Benack III, in town to perform at The Society for the Four Arts on Palm Beach Feb. 1. Botti noted it was the first time he's shared the stage with another trumpet player.
-- Vocalist Veronica Swift, described by Botti as an up and coming superstar, delivered an energetic set of songs that made us feel like we were in a posh, New York supper club.
Overall, it was two hours of incredible energy and fun, experiencing musicians performing at the top of their craft. Next year, Botti is headlining "Chris Botti at Sea." Feb. 8-15, he and a group of all-star performers will sail out of Miami on Celebrity Summit. Cocktails and smooth jazz? Count us in!
Yes, I know it's spelled like "Jerry." No, I don't know why it's pronounced "Gary."