Archive for April, 2013

Tick Tock – Day 6 FFF 2013

April 11, 2013
Audacity of Hope

Audacity of Hope

Audacity of Hope
What would you do for a pizza? For eight men on a train, that’s a no brainier . . . order a pizza. They have a couple seconds to exchange a pizza at a train stop, there’s no rehearsal and only one chance. Can it be done? In the words of eight happy men on a train, “No you did not order pizza at a stop.” Mission accomplished.

First Comes Love
With your biological clock ticking and a diminishing ovarian reserve, a sperm donor seems to be the right move. At least it was for actor and director, Nina Davenport. This biological compulsion to have a kid was all Nina could think about, especially after her mother died suddenly while in France from a stroke or heart attack. “I’m still learning what a great mother she is even while I learn to live without her,” said Nina. After a very long process Nina decided she was going to have a husband-free procreation at the age of 41. She decided she wasn’t going to spend anymore time in the past and to just focus on the present. Despite the lack of involvement from her family, she asked her gay best friend since college if she could have his sperm.

Pregnant Nina Davenport in First Comes Love

Pregnant Nina Davenport in First Comes Love

With no hesitation from him, she started the process of getting artificially inseminated by shooting up numerous hormones multiple times a day. Without further ado, the test came back positive! “I love kids because I’m ultimately not responsible for their well-being,” said sperm donor Eric, explaining why he was not interested in having children of his own.

Amy, a 10 year friend, soon became Nina’s childbirth partner and went through the whole pregnancy with her. After nine long months of waiting, Nina’s baby boy, Jasper Davenport, was born at 10:31 pm weighing 6 pounds and 19 ¼ inches long. “How this tiny little boy can create such colossal feelings, I’m in love,” said Nina.

Actor and Director, Nina Davenport

Actor and Director, Nina Davenport

Q&A with Actor/Director Nina Davenport
After the film, there was a very personal Q & A session with actor and director, Nina Davenport. She started off by saying “I can handle every question, nothing is too personal or embarrassing; especially after everything you’ve just seen.” During the film, Nina was completely open to everything she was going through, even the birth of her child which she filmed for us to view. She said there were “hundreds of hours, tons of things that got cut out including over 80 hours of family footage growing up. The birth alone was over 2.5 hours and what pregnancy isn’t boring.”

A member of the audience asked how her perception has changed on single motherhood. “It turned out to be easier than I thought it was going to be,” said Nina. “I pictured myself doing it alone and it’s not the case,” she continued to say. “Eric is still involved and my father is still difficult to deal with but if you would have told me at 30/35 I would have been a single mother, I would have been terrified,” said Nina.

How are dealing with your mother gone? “You don’t get over it, it’s always hard. She was so lovely and funny, everyone loved her. It hasn’t been the same since,” said Nina.

Overall, I was impressed at how great a documentary it was, It really captured my attention for the entire hour and forty five minutes. It’s nice to know people aren’t afraid to break the mold of today’s cultural norms. Nina said it best, “it’s not ideal, but what’s ideal anyway.”

Shorts 1 & Animated Shorts Day 6 FFF 2013

April 10, 2013
Backyard Jam is Our Selection as the Best Animated Short

Backyard Jam is Our Selection as the Best Animated Short

I must confess. I am biased toward the shorts programs at the FFF. As I examine this bias, I realize it’s a practical one. If you are watching a two hour narrative, and it’s boring or poorly rendered, you’re kind of stuck. But if you are watching a short, you just wait a few minutes, the film ends and it’s onto the next one. I also believe that the nature of the short forces more discipline onto a film. Whatever you want to convey, you have a very limited amount of time to say it. You don’t usually get long, drawn out scenes that plods along in a short film.

And, of course, the animated shorts have always been a FFF favorite. Today was no exception. The Enzian Theatre was packed.

Shorts Program 1: I Feel Love

The Irish Rovers
Culture shock. When Americans Tom and Patty tour the murals of Belfast, their cabbie gets confused by their questions. Kind of like Borat meets Luna from Harry Potter. Very funny.

Dog Eat Dog

Philip Baker Hall

Philip Baker Hall

Zachary Quinto (Spock in the new Star Trek movie) falls for a dog at the pound. But he has to wait four days before he can adopt it. Philip Baker Hall (Bruce Almighty) is in love with the same dog. When Zachary attempts to get his friends to help him snag the dog, Philip shows that two can play at that game. Great concept and enjoyable film that hits some rough spots with the script and editing.

The Test
When your marriage is falling apart, the last thing you need is to get pregnant. Or is it? Another great concept brought down by a weak script. Somewhat humorous. But Mrs. LanceAround felt that the ending was a bit of a cheat.

Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?
Remember those public service announcements back in the 60’s that warned you of the dangers of taking narcotics? What if someone had made one of those warning cats of the dangers of catnip. Another way to look at this: today videos go viral on YouTube when they have cute kittens. Would a 60’s film go viral if it showed cats on narcotics. Think about it. Or just watch this film. Funny and cute. Good combination

Shale
Elderly couple with marital discord confront each other over the shale pit and bulldozer that they co-own. Nice film technique in an otherwise weakly conceived short.

Asad

An Honest Boy

An Honest Boy

Story of a young Somalian boy who attempts to live an honest life amongst pirates and mercenaries. Cast consisted mostly of displaced Somalians who, according to the credits, lost their country but not their hope. This was a beautiful short. Well acted, well filmed, tender story that moved nicely across the screen. Top notch and worth a look. Very touching. This was a 2013 Academy Award nominee for Best Live Action Short and deserved it.

The Bicycle
You know how, as a woman ages, some unscrupulous men just cast them off like yesterday’s news? What if it was your bicycle that began to age and rust? How would the bike feel about being cast off? Could a makeover bring it back to life? Is there a hereafter for bicycles? While this short featured some great film techniques, the story, if you’ll pardon the pun, fell flat.

Peter at the End
A dying man (played by Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame) attends one last family holiday meal. He can’t quite bring himself to inform his family about his illness. This heartbreaking slice of life drama has the feel of the birthday scene from Our Town. Well acted, it was a very moving portrayal of family dynamics and impending loss.

Q & A After Shorts Program 1
After the shorts, the director of The Test was available for Q & A. When asked about the inspiration for the film, he replied, “vengeance.” Turns out the writer and star of this short is Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ sister. Apparently, Julia made a short and spent millions of dollars on it. Her sister joined her on the festival circuit, but kept thinking she could make a short just as good, if not better, for much less money. So for a pittance, she wrote and starred in this short. If this short is better, Julia’s short must have been pretty bad.

Shorts Program 5: Animated Shorts

Una Furtiva Lagrima

Fish Can Sing?!?

Fish Can Sing?!?

Rednecks from the South sometimes hang a singing bass on their wall. Press a button and the mounted fish sings a song. What do people of high society have? Well, in this short they had a fish singing opera all the way from the market to the frying pan. Hot oil really helps to hit those high notes!

Giraffe Danger
Giraffe wants a nice drink of water, but is annoyed with a rodent who invades his personal space. Sparsely animated, this one was completely script driven. Short and funny.

Daisy

Daisy Had Great Artwork

Daisy Had Great Artwork

A twisty fairytale about a girl who bewitches all men to her detriment. Beautifully drawn.

Solipsist
This beautiful dance combination of live action, animation, puppetry and underwater shots almost defies description. A surrealistic exploration somewhat marred by it’s pretentious title that took something very thought provoking and made it into something egotistical and dark. Stunningly original concept.

Facundo the Great
Immigrant children often have to contend with their names being changed in their new societies (i.e. Juan becomes John, Maria becomes Mary.) Facundo stands firm and becomes a hero in this narrated tale with animated accompaniment.  Of course, it helps that if you shorten his name, you get something that sounds like a dirty word. A very short, funny story that works well.

The Hungry Boy
Mostly black and white, pen and ink with minimalist color tells the surreal dream of a hungry man. The artwork is as impressive as the story is impoverished resulting in a disappointing film.

Marcel, King of Tervuren
Another narrated animation with beautifully creative drawings about a rooster’s attempt to remain cock of the walk. Short, compelling tale that is fun to watch.

Choreography for Plastic Army Men

These Soldiers Can Dance

These Soldiers Can Dance

You know those little, plastic army men toys that no child plays with today and can only be found in the movie Toy Story? Turns out that with a little stop motion filming and a catchy turn they can burn a hole in a carpet. John Travolta has nothing on them.

In Hanford
Nuclear arms manufacturing in Hanford, Washington is blamed for numerous cancers and deformities. This grotesquely animated film perfectly captures the haunting experiences of the citizens. Macabre in a very artistic and thought provoking way.

The Duke
This mixed media, very very short film shows a man eating a chicken Parmesan sub while another man asks what he’s eating. It’s The Duke, of course. Good editing, pacing and timing make this brief interchange funny.

Thank You

Touching Story!

Touching Story!

If you’ve ever seen Adventure Time on TV you’ll instantly recognize the style of animation and characterization in this film. The story, about a snow golem (whatever that means) and a firewolf cub (who apparently spurts real fire from time to time) is so well portrayed it will pull at your heart strings. One of the better shorts in this program.

The Event
This animation goes backwards in time as a couple enjoying the beach encounter a nuclear fallout kind of event that has them losing limbs and the world ending. Muddled and confusing, this is one of those shorts that makes me wonder what the selection committee saw in it.

Drunker Than a Skunk
FFF favorite, Bill Pympton, adapts a poem by Walt Curtis about a cowboy town that torments a local drunk. The audience laughed and applauded their favorite animator while Mrs. LanceAround and I just thought this wasn’t one of his better works.

Old Man
A reporter gets a phone interview with Charles Manson. Guess what? He’s still as crazy as ever. His incoherent ramblings are animated and just trying to figure out what he is thinking can make your head spin. This was a clever use of animation to provide a context for something that feels as though it doesn’t have a context. Well done.

Backyard Jam
Based on the audience reaction, and our own satisfaction, this little ditty was the best of the program. It’s the story of two skateboards that wind up on the wrong side of a fence in a yard protected by a vicious dog. Admiral Ackbar’s occasional appearance warning them about the trap is just one of the hilarious touches to this well scripted, well paced, well animated and well edited short.

Retrocognition

Retrocognition: A Nice Try

Retrocognition: A Nice Try

Why must the longest shorts also be the most boring. While the concept behind this short was fabulous–taking pieces of radio dramas and TV shows from the 50s and piecing them together with Picasso-esque characters from those shows who were pieced together from TV characters–after appreciating the concept for a few minutes, this 18 minute short then dragged on in a nonsensical storyline that attempted to create a film noir environment. This was a classic case of an artist too in love with their work to be able to effectively edit the results.

Q & A After Animated Shorts
Several animated shorts creators were present for the Q & A. George Plympton showed off his new wife and toddler, Randall Christopher bemoaned the cost and time involved in creating “cartoons” and his annoyance at not being able to make any money. Yet it is clear he can’t stop making films. (Hint: You need a manager!) Jonathan Campo from The Duke revealed that his inspiration was having had a conversation just like the one he portrayed.

Mrs. LanceAround is getting worried that I’m trying to see too many films. She thinks I’m getting grouchy and not giving the films their due. She might be right. I once had a college professor that remarked how having too many programs to enjoy can be like a kid in a candy store–the treats are great at first, then you become sick and bloated.

Is it possible that the FFF is too much of a good thing? Frankly, I don’t care. I know that there’s only four days left then I have to wait a whole year for it to return. In the meantime I’ll try to lighten up and enjoy myself more.

Hey, if you see me at the Enzian, buy me a drink. I could use one.

Ahhhh Zombies! – Day 5 FFF 2013

April 10, 2013
Preparing for a zombie apocalypse at ACE Hardware

Preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse at ACE Hardware

After an exciting weekend with my best friend in the entire world (additional post to come), I make it to:

When the Zombies Come
Have you ever wondered what you would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse? Well for an employee working at ACE Hardware, this was definitely something on his mind. He would walk around the store looking for stuff to kill zombies with. He even mentioned how ACE Hardware has such an ideal location because CVS Pharmacy is next door, Quick Trip gas station is across the street and they’re right by the Farmers Market. He explained that they had all the tools to kill the zombies in the hardware store, if they ran out of food they could go to the farmer’s market, gas for the generators or showers were available in the gas station and CVS would provide the necessary medical supplies. He was, pardon the pun, dead serious!

This comedy documentary is one of my favorites this year. It kept me laughing and entertained the whole ten minutes.

After the film, director Jon Hurst along with the ACE Hardware employee answered some questions. When asked how true the employee was about planning for such a zombie invasion he replied, “It was 100% true before the movie; however, ACE Hardware does not condone the film and fired me for filming it.” He then followed up by saying “I’m still going to ACE Hardware when the time comes.”

A member of the audience asked what was next for the two of them. Director, Jon Hurst said “I’m writing my own feature and looking for funding and what not.” The ACE Hardware employee merely stated, “I would like a job,” which sent the audience into laughter.

Year of the Living Dead

George Romero

Director of Night of the Living Dead, George Romero

Forty five years later and people are still talking about the low-budget, classic horror film shot in Pittsburgh, Night of the Living Dead. This documentary directed by Rob Kuhns talks about the race, violence and the need to scare the audience during the 60’s film directed by George Romero. “I lived, breathed and drank the stuff. I loved making movies,” said Romero. It’s believed they modeled and patterned the zombies from the hit TV series The Walking Dead  off of the Night of the Living Dead said Romero because “I invented these character ghouls. I remember the one time I tried to build a hollow hand and fill it with blood, it looked like shit,” said Romero. Unlike vampires and werewolves, Romero is responsible for the zombie.

Romero said although it’s a “tragic and iconic ending, it’s the perfect ending because there is no comfort for the audience.” The audience goes into shock when you play with the idea and expectations of the modern day film and it ends the way this movie ends. “We were never certain we’d get enough money to finish the film but the money just dribbled in over several months,” said Romero. The $114K black and white movie was released on October 2, 1968 in movie theatres and drive-ins. In New York they considered it a Grindhouse film that the critics mostly dismissed. The main purpose of the film was to scare the audience, but some people believe there’s a political message in every movie. Romero said it wasn’t his intention for Night of the Living Dead to come across as political, but it starred a strong, black male in the 60’s. It explored race and violence with historical messages and that wasn’t his intent. [SPOILER ALERT — DON’T READ THE NEXT SENTENCE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD] Some people compared the black actor dying at the end of the movie to a lynching–which wasn’t his intention at all. He went on to say that the script never identified the lead as a black man, so when he was cast, they simply ended the movie as written.

ACE Hardware employee, director Jon Hurst and Rob Kuhns

ACE Hardware Employee, Directors Jon Hurst and Rob Kuhns

After the film we had the opportunity to speak with director Rob Kuhns. “It was in 83 at a midnight screening when I first saw Night of the Living Dead,” said Kuhns. A member of the audience noticed that during his documentary there was animation throughout. “I couldn’t get the rights for the behind the scenes film so we’ll just have to create art for it,” said Kuhns. He was also asked why George Romero was the only cast/crew member interviewed. His reply was simply, “No one else wanted to be interviewed because they were making their own behind the scenes film at the time.”

What does Romero think about The Walking Dead? “I interviewed him before The Walking Dead at the end of 2006. But he said he doesn’t see new movies, only the old ones because they appreciate what he did. However, one of his favorite movies is the satirical Shaun of the Dead,” said Kuhns.

Right before the film I spoke with a volunteer of the FFF who said, “Night of the Living Dead is one of my favorites,” and I would have to agree with her. This well scripted, classic film truly fits my mold for horror films and has helped shaped the industry.

It was a successful night with more to come today.

3X Real Doc Shorts & This is Where We Live Day 5 FFF 2013

April 10, 2013
Described as a "Sleeper" at it's World Premier at SXSW this Year

This is Where We Live Premiered at SXSW Film Festival this Year

After enjoying the classic 8½ with Mrs. LanceAround last night, tonight we went back for the regular features and shorts that typify the FFF. It began with 3X Real Documentary Shorts:

Monday's at Racine

Mondays at Racine is so Much More

Mondays at Racine
This 2013 Academy Award Nominated short documentary says it about a beauty shop on Long Island that provides free haircuts one Monday a month to women undergoing chemotherapy. But it’s much, much more than that. It’s a comprehensive look at several women struggling with the grim realities of their cancer; how it affects them, their loved ones and the support they get from places like this beauty salon. Top quality production in every way. DO NOT FORGET YOUR HANDKERCHIEFS!

Quest for the Gold

Quest for the Gold Falls Short

Crooked Lines
Last year, Lucy Walker’s film The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom won the Audience Award for Best Short Film. It was a visually stunning work of art. So I was eager to see her submission for this year, Crooked Lines. The story is about a Brazilian rower who everyone thought would compete at the Olympics. But when the trials occurred, he failed to make weight and was not allowed to compete. In my opinion, there was no movie when this happened. But the director had obviously put in a lot of time and energy so she finished up what she had and that’s what was presented. She is clearly an incredibly talented documentarian whose subject matter just fell short.

Open Heart

Open Heart Will Open Your Heart

Open Heart
Another 2013 Academy Award Nominated short documentary, Open Heart, tells the heart wrenching story of several Rwandan children with rheumatic heart disease who must endure a perilous journey to a Sudan hospital for treatment. It’s the only hospital on the entire African continent where a patient can get free surgery for rheumatic heart disease–which is often caused by not having any antibiotics to treat strep throat. It was started by an Italian surgeon and gets 75% of its money from private donations and 25% from an agreement with the Sudanese government. The recent turmoil in Sudan and the devaluation of their currency has drastically reduced the amount they promised to provide the hospital, which is now struggling finacially. This movie chronicles several Rwandan children who had to travel 2500 miles without their parents for life or death surgery; including one unlucky child who had to have a second operation. Watching the parents engage in their first Skype call with the children after the operation is worth every moment you spend crying during this film. Seeing the children skip and run a month after the operation is as uplifting a moment as you will find in any Hollywood epic. Go out of your way to find and watch this short!

Responses From the Audience
Delores said, “It was really good.” “Which one?” “The first (Mondays at Racine) and the third (Open Heart.)”

Several filmgoers in a row declined to comment–most of them obviously emotional and teary after such heart wrenching films.

“I enjoyed the films, I’m looking forward to more. This was my first session at my first Florida Film Festival.” “So what do you think after attending your first session?” “I think I’m glad I finally found the theatre because I’m not familiar with this area and got lost a couple of times. I enjoyed it a great deal. I’ve been to film festivals before but they’re usually a much shorter amount of time at much smaller venues. I’m really impressed with the quality of the films that they’re showing.” “And how shall I identify you in the blog?” “The Georgia boy in Florida!” Georgia boy then asked for our help in how to use the tear-numbered ballot to rank each film for the competition.

After speaking with several people who watched 3X Real Documentary Shorts, we spoke to some people in line getting ready to watch the next movie, This is Where We Live.

“So far, so good,” says one moviegoer. “And how many films have you been to?” “Four, Unfinished Song, which was great. This is Martin Bonner, we loved the talkback after that with the director and the writer. And we just saw Renoir. I can’t remember the fourth movie.” “Have you been to the FFF before?” “One time we went to a lot of films.” “And how shall I identify you in the blog.” “Susan. Susan and Alan.” “And are you guys a couple?” “We are!” “Okay, so it’s Susan, the talkative one and Alan…” “The silent one,” chimes in her partner.

This is Where We Live
One of the most difficult aspects about writing film reviews occurs when you feel emotionally attracted to the subject matter or members of the cast & crew or to what the film is trying to accomplish; but then you have to write that the film fell a little short. That’s the bottom line for me when it comes to This is Where We Live.

This was a personal film for famous actor Marc Menchacha (best known for a recurring role in season two of the TV hit series Homeland) who wrote the script, co-directed and stars in the movie. For over twelve years he has been a friend with someone who has cerebral palsy so severe he can’t even speak. Marc pours his soul into this movie–and it’s obviously a sensitive and touching soul.

When Benjamin graduated from local Full Sail University, his first roommate in New York was Marc. Benjamin was chomping at the bit to produce a movie and Marc had a script. Marc’s concern that he couldn’t both star in a movie and direct at the same time encouraged him to bring Josh on board. The cast was loaded with old friends, like Marc’s acting teachers, and shot on location at a hunting home owned by a recently deceased football coach who meant a lot to Marc.

The story is a very moving account of the struggles of dealing with difficult circumstances, such as dementia, the death of a child and a brother as well as the challenges and stresses of such a cruel infliction as cerebral palsy.

Obviously, for many people in the audience, the movie hit home. Several praised the film and were clearly touched by it. For myself and Mrs. LanceAround, the movie fell a little flat. Perhaps I’m too jaded by the need for more structure–a beginning, middle and end. Perhaps I want more than just a rough “slice of life.” Maybe I need answers, not just questions.

Movies like this one are important. They help bring a broader awareness of issues to light. Certainly Mrs. LanceAround and I had a stimulating conversation on the ride home. We found a lot we really like about this film. We’re glad it was made. We only wish that it, somehow, was structured just a little better so that it can find the wider audience that films like this deserve.

In the meantime we’ll keep going to the Florida Film Festival where we find that even imperfect films provide us with a richness that’s hard to find at the regular cinema.

Marc Menchaca at Q&A

Marc Menchaca at Q&A

Q & A with Marc Menchacha, Josh Barrett and Benjamin Fuqua
After the film, the writer/co-director, Marc Menchacha, co-director, Josh Barrett and producer Benjamin Fuqua did a Q & A with the audience. Marc began by telling the story of a friend of his who has cerebral palsy and how the character in the movie was based on him. As usual, I asked the first question.

“Did your friend see the movie and what did he have to say about it.”

At first, Marc began to look at his phone, like he was texting. Then, unexpectedly, he lowered his head and started to cry. He handed the microphone to Josh, his co-director.

Josh explained that the film had its world premier at the SXSW (South by Southwest) film festival a few months ago and Marc’s friend attended the screening. They have been friends for about twelve years. The actor who had CP in this film spent four days with Marc’s friend to help develop his character in this movie. Afterwards, Marc’s friend (who cannot speak, like the character in the movie) sent him a text that he painstakingly typed out. the text read:

Knowing me was on the reel. Life is reading thoughts. You took the pain of no speech. You have my thoughts and sincere friendship. Thank you!

At this, the audience broke into applause.

Several members of the audience just wanted to express their congratulations for the movie. They complimented the “authenticity” of the film. Cerebral palsy has impacted a couple of members of the audience and they expressed their appreciation for how sensitively the film treated the subject matter. It was touching to see the interaction between the audience and the filmmakers. It is what the FFF is all about.

After the movie, Mrs. LanceAround and I drove to the Enzian to enjoy some snacks provided by Whole Foods Market and to pick up the online tickets we ordered for Sunday Morning’s brunch with Cary Elwes where we’re going to enjoy watching The Princess Bride. If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, you’re out of luck. It’s sold out. There might be a few tickets available on standby, but you’ll have to get to the Enzian early Sunday morning and wait in line. This is a hot ticket.

We hope to see you there.

8½ Day 4 FFF 2013

April 9, 2013
Marcello Mastianni Shines in the Title Role of 8 1/2

Marcello Mastianni Shines in the Title Role of 81/2

[Editor’s Note: Mrs. LanceAround is a vital part of this blog. She often reviews each post and gives insightful critiques and suggestions. Today, a special film from her past has encouraged her to submit her first blog post. I think we’ll all agree she’s a welcome addition to the front line team and we hope she writes many more!]

Tonight was a special FFF presentation celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 classic 8½ by famed Italian Film Director Fredrico Felliniat at the Enzian theatre. It was thrilling to see 8½ again. I first saw the black and white movie in a college film course oh so many years ago. The brilliance and depth of the newly re-mastered version is exquisite.

The title, , refers to the number of films Fellini had made up to that point. We learned in my film class that Fellini faithfully kept a notebook of life events and dreams which he drew upon for inspiration for his films. The dream-like and sometimes surreal feel of many of his films places his work among the best known avant-garde films of all time. earned the Best Foreign Film and Best Costume Design (Black and White) at the Academy Awards of 1963 and was also nominated for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Art Direction (Black and White).

The film depicts the struggle of a burned-out film director, perfectly played by Marcello Mastianni, in his attempt to begin a new film. To escape the constant urgings of his producer, he retreats into his dreams and fantasies dredging up encounters with priests from his childhood, erotic fascination with a strange older woman, time spent with a ditzy mistress and love for his solid, sensible wife. The film ends with a parade of characters from his life interacting with one another in a friendly way as they stroll together down a wide staircase.

Many film critics view the film as a portrayal of the internal process of a filmmaker drawing on his own life to tell a story. Each time I watch a Fellini film, I’m awed by and grateful for Fellini’s willingness to be so vulnerable for his art’s sake.

I suppose that is what all great artists do.

After the film, the Italian Restaurant Buca di Beppo, located right across the street from the Enzian Theatre, treated filmgoers to a sample of their bruschetta, pasta salad, meatballs and chocolate chip cannoli. The food was as delicious as the film was exquisite. It was the perfect way to end a classic evening.

FFFLogo2013

Shorts #2 & Chloe Domont & Far Out Isn’t Far Enough Day 3 FFF 2013

April 8, 2013
Number2Son Chats With Chloe Domont After Watching Her Fil

NumberTwoSon Chats With Chloe Domont After Watching Her Film

Today was one of those typical, beautiful Enzian Theatre days. NumberTwoSon, a professional illustrator, came up from Sarasota specifically to watch the Tomi Ungerer movie. We also enjoyed the Shorts #2 program. Best of all was the time we had between the movies when we sat under the Spanish Moss draped oak trees next to the fountain and had a delightful interview with the writer, director and co-producer of the short Joyful Girl while sipping on a delicious libation from the Eden Bar. To steal a phrase from an old advertisement; it just doesn’t get any better than this!

Shorts Program #2: “The Weight”

The Procession
Alas, once again the long ride from our home to the FFF made us too late to see this film. Based on the description alone, I’m really sorry I missed this one.

Chilly
An animated ice cube explains the wonders of refrigeration to a man who is too distracted to pay attention. This short kind of melts in your mouth–unfortunately for the cube!

Doubles with Slight Pepper

A Trinidad and Tobago delicacy

A Trinidad and Tobago delicacy

Executive Produced by Spike Lee, it tells the tale of a young man from Trinidad and Tobego attempting to eek out a living by selling Doubles out of a cooler anywhere he can find a crowd. (Doubles are a common street food in Trinidad and Tobago often eaten for either breakfast, lunch or even a late night snack. It’s made with two baras [flatbread] filled with channa [garbanzo beans] and topped with a variety of chutneys.) The unexpected return of his father, who taught him the business of selling Doubles, reopens old wounds. Poignant and gritty, this slice of life was a quality production and worthy of a look.

The River
NumberTwoSon’s favorite short film, it tells the story of a new age, pregnant worker at an un-air conditioned co-op in a very small town on a hot summer day just looking to take a break and have a swim in the cool river. Punchy script, good production values and fine acting made this film one of the best. As NumberTwoSon said after watching it, “I just wanted to jump into the river myself.” What a great review! Michael C. Hall from the TV series Dexter had a cameo as a spiritual guru on a recording.

Record/Play
This film was an attempt to use an old magnetic recording tape to control the past in a futuristic, supernatural time traveler kind of genre. Fascinating concept with some quality production values that didn’t quite seem to work; at least for me.

Altruistic Sex?

Altruistic Sex?

Cliff
A middle age man practices “sexual altruism” as he helps the ugly, overweight, disabled women with facial hair and other undesirable attributes attain sexual satisfaction–until his psychiatrist helps him to discover that he might be the one who needs saving. Funny script with great directing and editing help this movie reach some really great moments.

Joyful Girl
Enjoyable slice of life film about the ups and downs (and comings and goings) in a relationship. Good acting but it was the editing and pacing of the movie that made it work. Great moments of humor interspersed with touching moments of reality. You don’t know who to root for (if anyone.) One of the best shorts in the program.

Gun
After his family discovers a burglar in their home, a man buys a gun and learns how to shoot it. From then on, it’s not clear if he controls the gun or if the gun controls him. Both timely and a little unsettling. Good production values but a weak ending made this film a little disappointing.

Q&A
The only filmmaker in the audience was Chloe Domont from Joyful Girl. I knew it was a dicey question, but I couldn’t help asking to a lot of laughter and guffaws from the audience, “Now that you’ve completed this film and gotten it out of your system, was SHE right or was HE right and where is your relationship now?” After grousing about having to deal with questions that were more personal than she’s comfortable with, she admitted that she does not speak with him anymore but she truly wishes him well.

Interview with Chloe Domont, Writer, Director and Co-Producer of Joyful Girl

Chloe Domont

Chloe Domont

After the shorts program, NumberTwoSon and I invited Chloe Domont to have a seat with us at the outdoor Eden Bar for a brief interview.

I began by apologizing to her for asking a question that was too personal. She graciously laughed it off saying it was to be expected with such a personal film.

The first question I asked her was about the title, Joyful Girl, to me it seemed like a misnomer.

“Right, yea, well throughout my life I have this thing where people think I’m unhappy. This has been a thing looming over my life. They’re always, like, ‘smile. Why aren’t you smiling? Aren’t you happy?’ I’m like, ‘I am happy.’ I don’t know if it’s my cheekbones or what’s going on. So I wanted to make a kind of oxymoron for the title. Like a miserable girl who hates this person she’s with, hates herself, hates the person this guy has turned her into. You know, Joyful Girl, obviously she’s not.”

“In your opinion, was the female character in the movie you?”

“It was the worst version of myself.”

“That was intentional?”

“Yea, what I didn’t say in the Q&A is when you’re in these awful relationships, not ‘awful’ but ‘dysfunctional’ relationship, it turns you into someone you don’t want to be. I exaggerate it for drama and comedy.”

“Tell me about your history.”

“I graduated from NYU film/TV program. I started out at USC but I grew up in LA and I wanted to get out of LA so I applied to NYU and got in. I wanted to be a screenwriter/director. I prefer directing but I love to write with other people. I’m finding that more and more with my other projects. Writing can be a painful process so I like inflicting that on someone else. I made this other film, “Jack’s Not Sick Anymore.” It’s going around film festivals right now. It premiered at Montreal. I also started a production company. We do old fashioned commercials so that’s kind of my bread and butter and I’m now co-writing and producing my first feature that shoots in May. We’re excited about that. It’s another little relationship story.”

After our chat with Chloe, NumberTwoSon and I head back into the Enzian for our next films.

Animation Hotline 2012
Very cute animated short film that explores what would happen if someone animated all the calls that came into an animated hotline–regardless of how trivial or ridiculous. Very cute, very funny, very artistic and quite creative. This one was a gem to watch.

Tomi Ungerer

Tomi Ungerer

Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story
A really great documentary featuring fabulous animations of Tomi Ungerer’s work. While neither NumberTwoSon nor I had ever heard of him, it was obvious from the audience that this man holds a special place in the hearts of many people. Born in 1931, much of his life was shaped by the Nazi occupation of his French town located right on the border of Germany during his early childhood.

As an adult, Tomi immigrated to America where he became famous and won numerous awards for his writing and illustrations of children’s books. He was also well known for creating political posters during the era of Vietnam and segregation. But it was his dabbling in erotica art that made many critics of children’s books blackball his work. He moved to Nova Scotia and then to Ireland and disappeared from the art world until this documentary brought him out of his reclusion.

This was so much more than a documentary about a famous author. This was an historical figure whose life as well as his work spanned many of our history’s most tumultuous time periods and who, through his travels to several continents, was there to chronicle and react to the world around him. It also includes the second last interview ever recorded of Maurice Sendak, the famous author and illustrator of the classic children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are; as well as famed political cartoonist Jules Feiffer

Q&A with Director Brad Bernstein
After the movie Brad Bernstein the director had a Q & A with the audience. During this, he noted that Tomi had requested that he have final say over any of the animation that was done with his work. Brad replied that he would honor guidelines. For example, he would not change any of the lines of his illustrations. But Brad said he was happy that he did not allow Tomi to have final say on the animation.

I asked Brad about the ethics of such a decision. After all, an illustrator creates a piece of artwork specifically designed to appear on the piece of paper with the scope, proportions, color, composition and feel of the illustration and putting it into animation can profoundly change that. How do you reconcile that with the obvious respect you have for the auteur?

Brad thanked me for the excellent question. He noted that he assured Tomi that they would respect the intention of the artwork. For Brad, the validation of his decision came when he first showed Tomi the finished animations. Tomi was in tears and said that for the first time he saw his artwork come to life. Not only that, but for the first time he could watch himself on screen and feel like he was watching someone else’s story. “We took care and pains to hopefully treat him right.”

Shepard, Shorts #4 and The Forgotten Kingdom Day 2 FFF 2013

April 7, 2013
The Forgotten Kingdom was a Visual Delight

The Forgotten Kingdom was a Visual Delight

Like SunnyStefani, I found it hard to get out of bed after the fabulous opening night party at the Enzian. Interstate 4 was packed with cars as tourists hurried home from the Easter week break. Unfortunately the traffic was so slow I missed the opening short film Not For Sale. But Shepard & Dark was just beginning as I found my seat…

Shepard & Dark
Pulitzer prize winning playwright & Academy Award nominated actor Sam Shepard shares a life long friendship with the somewhat reclusive and hoarding Johnny Dark. Johnny’s penchant for saving everything–including all photos and letters–encourages a University in Texas to purchase all their correspondence for $500,000. The idea is to create a coffee table book of photos and letters between these two friends. They go to live in a Santa Fe think tank to work on the project together.

Knowing this description of the film, I found myself wandering what titillating tidbits we would find in these letters. Was the handsome movie star/playwright who was married to Jessica Lange for almost 30 years a closet homosexual? No, there was no such reveal. The powerful story was just as advertised: two very close friends who would communicate by letter during the long stretches when their lives kept them apart.

One of the more unusual elements of the film was watching Sam Shepard write. He continues to use an old typewriter complete with a manual return that he dutifully swipes at the end of every line. In some ways, this fact is a metaphor for the underlying theme of this documentary. Sam is Sam and Johnny is Johnny is Johnny. They are, essentially, the same as they have been during their 50 year relationship.

Matthew Meets Amy

Matthew Meets Amy

After the show, Matthew Levy the documentarian from Not For Sale and Amy Hobby the producer of Shepard & Dark were available for some Q&A. In an amazing coincidence, it was discovered that Matthew, when not doing his own short films, works an an editor on major narratives. Amy, as it turns out, just completed a new full length film shot in Washington state and she hired an editing company in New York. In complete serendipity, it turns out that Matthew is editing Amy’s film and both of their movies were selected by the FFF to be shown–both together!

I asked Amy what Sam had against word processors. “I don’t know, he has a way of doing stuff. He just likes the paper, likes the feel of it. He doesn’t have the internet, he doesn’t have a TV.” In a nutshell that also describes this documentary. Two people who are what they are and always have been just being with one another from time to time. In the end, Sam abandons the coffee table book idea and moves on with his life. Johnny goes home.

Shorts Program # 4: “Staying Alive”

The Captain
Amidst the wreckage of the aircraft, the captain wakes up with an empty booze bottle by his side. He is the only survivor and he decides to take evasive action. Very short, very humorous with eye-popping CGI effects.

Kirk And Spock???

Kirk And Spock???

Slash
“If it exists, someone has made porn of it.” Internet rule #34. When a loner geek fan writes on racy Harry Potter fan sites, even Captain Kirk and Spock show up for their titillating conventions. Wands and Vulcan salutes wind up in very interesting places. Clearly a fan favorite, this one got lots of laughs from the audience.

The Dark
Two macabre, disfigured youths go on a spree of unfortunate events in this short that’s just as it’s titled.

HOWARDCANTOUR.COM
This movie claims that a critic can work mostly inside his head. So does this movie. Good production values can’t help a self-aggrandizing mediocre script.

Are We Not Cats
Hot sex in a dilapidated, empty swimming pool comes to a climatic conclusion when the woman coughs up a hairball. Are we sure they’re not cats? I know I just ruined the ending for you. But, trust me, it’s not worth seeing anyway. Based on the questions from the Q&A, I’m not the only one who felt that way.

The Cub
In literature, when a young child is raised by wild animals, it normally happens out of necessity. But what if parents allowed a pack of wolves to raise their daughter to help teach her the useful skills of the wild? This humorous film attempts to answer that question with surprising results. Howl if you like it! Despite the stilted performances, this very short piece was a hoot–I mean a howl.

Caterwaul
An old widower harvests lobsters until one catches his eye and goes home to live with him. Amusing concept though not very well rendered.

What Happens Next Will Leave You in Stitches

What Happens Next Will Leave You in Stitches

Things You Don’t Joke About
Like the girlfriend in this film, Mrs. LanceAround was totally offended by the opening joke of this movie. What does it say about those who attend the film festival when you consider that she was in the vast minority. The uproarious laughter continued throughout this hysterical tale of a robbery gone awry. Well scripted, well acted, good production values made this film the best of the shorts program. They really did save the best for last and what a way to end the shorts! Don’t miss it.

The Forgotten Kingdom
Prior to this movie we are entertained with some drumming from the Flammable Babylon Percussion Ensemble. Their rhythms set just the right atmosphere for this feature narrative that Matthew Curtis, the programming director of the FFF, so highly recommended yesterday.

The movie opens with a slow reveal of a magnificent African vista. A solitary figure slowly enters on top of a large escarpment. This shot helped to establish the true star of this movie–not the actor, although his performance is magnificent particularly when one considers that he has never acted before. The star is the cinematography and art design which are as much a part of this story as the simple tale of a young man coming to terms with his father’s death through rediscovering his homeland.

Produce and Assistant Director T.R. Boyce, JR. Talks About His Film

Produce and First Assistant Director T.R. Boyce, JR. Talks About His Film

Shot on location in the landlocked mountainous region of the Kingdom of Lesotho as well as some scenes in South Africa, this thought provoking, beautiful film highlights the struggles of these African people dealing with poverty and disease. While on the surface it can be viewed as a simple coming of age movie, the more one contemplates it deeper themes of societal unrest, tradition and obligation to one’s family and one’s cultural provide a rich tapestry in which the coming of age tale is softly woven.

Before the movie began, an excited FFF aficionado yanked me aside to excitedly tell me I was in for a treat. While I was not as passionate about this film as she–and Matthew Curtis–were, I can see why they appreciated it so much. The scenery alone–particularly the shot of the Maletsunyane Falls–made for an enjoyable two hours of cinema, even if you’re not hooked by the accompanying story.

As the recently departed and dear member of the film community, Roger Ebert, would say:  “Thumbs Up.”

Love Shack & BBQ — Day 2 FFF 2013

April 6, 2013
Sugar Shack

Sugar Shack

After three hours of sleep from the opening night extravaganza I find myself back at the Enzian to view Sugar Shack and Pride & Joy for day two of the festival. Again, not something on my list, but I’m glad I got to view both of these films.

Of course before the film we bumped into the president of the FFF, Henry, who when asked what he thought of the opening night film said it’s the “top three opening nights, maybe even number one.”

Sugar Shack
What would I not put maple syrup on . . . It’s even good on peanut butter. That pretty much describes this 13 minute short based entirely on maple syrup at the Sugar Shack. Even though a normal season is only 6 – 8 weeks long, they produce 1,500 – 1,800 liters of maple water. At the Sugar Shack, they believe there’s a real power in the beautiful maple trees that give off strength.

Co-star Will Harris and Director Joe York

Co-star Will Harris and Director Joe York

Pride & Joy
A documentary that celebrates the traditional foods of the South. Food is a story, it talks and unities communities/people. After the film there was a Q & A session with director Joe York and co-star Will Harris. When a member of the audience asked Joe what was the best BBQ he said he used to not answer that question, but “screw it, Scott’s BBQ is the best.”

“There was a lot of places that didn’t make it into the film, tons of stuff, but I want you to be entertained and having fun and hopefully you learned something along the way. It was about the entertainment value every 5 minutes so you don’t fall asleep or walk away,” said Joe.

Overall, both films were very entertaining and humorous and the main thing to take away is that food is the lens through which you view the culture; it’s tied to identity.

Unfortunately if you missed this viewing, it’s not playing again at this year’s FFF so you’ll just have to take my word.

Have yourself a Merry Clayton — Day 1 FFF 2013

April 6, 2013
SunnyStefani Interviews Merry Clayton Opening Night of the FFF 2013

SunnyStefani Interviews Merry Clayton Opening Night of the FFF 2013

I’m exhausted

I normally have time to prep for staying up all night and getting no sleep during the Florida Film Festival. But this year with it being so close to the busy Easter holiday season where I’m the Office Administrator at Florida Dream Homes, it kind of just fell upon me. In previous years I’d look over the film guide and plan out all the movies I wanted to see. I didn’t do that this year, mainly because I’ve been so busy; but really because in the past two years I’d plan to see a film, get side tracked and end up at something else. So why not just wing it? Spending almost my four years in college focusing on production and editing, I’m always intrigued to see what each film festival I go to has to offer.

The opening night film of a festival really sets the tone for the whole thing, or at least it should. Since I wasn’t impressed with this years film, once again, I’m hoping that’s not the case.

combustion

Combustion

Tonight’s films started off promising with a memorizing short film entitled Combustion. I’ve always been one to enjoy the beauty of a fire so this short was perfect. What started off with a simple campfire turned into a fiery music harmony. It was abstract and difficult to describe, but the photo to the left gives a good feel for the movie.

That lead us to this year’s opening night film, Twenty Feet from Stardom, which is about the life and experiences of back-up singers during the past 50 years. Although I find myself a little young to be listening to all the music from a generation ago, I’m still captivated because music holds a place in my heart, like it does for most people. The audience seemed to really enjoy the film (except for the gentleman behind me who was snoring rather loudly though almost the whole film.)

I always find myself just as confused at the beginning of a documentary as I do at the end because I keep asking, “Exactly what was I supposed to take out of that?” So here’s what I have . . . you need to perfect the gift you’re given. Throughout the whole film, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Darlene Love and all the back-up singers expressed their passion and that there’s nothing more heavenly than a voice. People who sing together, come together.

IMG_20130405_205901_222

Director Morgan Neville with singer Merry Clayton

During the opening speech, the president of the Florida Film Festival, Henry Maldonado told the audience to make sure and stay for the Q & A session that was going to happen. Being the opening night film, it could have only been with a director or someone from the film. We lucked out to not only be able to speak with the director, Morgan Neville, but one of the stars, Merry Clayton, as well. She even sang us a 6 minute song which we’ve uploaded for you to view in the event you couldn’t make it to the opening film. Please Enjoy:

As always, following the opening night film is the opening night party at the Enzian Theatre. Usually after working 9+ hours and viewing the first film of the FFF, I’m not overly excited to party. However, this year seemed to offer more food which I could eat. (Unlike people who have dietary restrictions or are vegetarians–like LanceAround–I don’t eat a lot of foods simply because I’m super picky.)

IMG_20130405_215416_325

Yummy Cupcakes

This year, the FFF did not fail me. Ethos Vegan Kitchen based out of Orlando had amazing chocolate Oreo crème cupcakes that were to die for. Literally, with the whole tower they had, your arteries were just waiting to be clogged.

At the party, I was able to grab a quick interview with Merry. When I asked her if she was happy with the outcome of the film she replied, “Yes, it was wonderful.”

The Florida Film Festival has officially begun it’s 10 day course so make sure you don’t miss out on all the amazing films this year has to offer.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Opening Night Overview Florida Film Festival (FFF) 2013

April 6, 2013
LanceAround Interviews FFF Programming Director Matthew Curtis

LanceAround Interviews FFF Programming Director Matthew Curtis

We’re here at the Enzian Theatre’s opening night party for the Florida Film Festival and I’m interviewing the Program Director, Matthew Curtis.

LA: Matthew, did you read the blog post I wrote about you last year?

MC: Sorry, I don’t remember…

LA: That’s okay, I’ll summarize it for you…Last year I asked you for your top ten films of the festival, and you went on to pretty much list every film that was showing. I realized it was an unfair question to ask you, because you love every movie at the festival…

MC: That’s not true. That is actually not true. I actually LIKE every movie here, I don’t LOVE every movie here. There’s certain films I’m more passionate about than others. That’s why we have committees and that’s how we pick 170 films out of 1500 submissions.

LA: My readers aren’t going to be able to watch 170 films so if I say, “these are the five films that the programming director says ‘don’t miss’, what are they?”

MC: There’s a couple of really extraordinary dramas in the narrative feature competition

LA: And they are…

The Forgotten Kingdom

The Forgotten Kingdom

MC: The Forgotten Kingdom which was shot in Johannesburg and has a touch of magical realism to it. That’s a world premier. There’s a small Texas rural drama, This is Where we Live about the relationship between a troubled family and a handyman and the lead actor is Marc Menchaca whose been on the TV series Homeland. He wrote it and co directed it and stars in it…really powerful.

In the doc competiton category theres a world premier film called Magical Universe about a New York filmmaker who discovers an outsider artist living in Maine who’s got, literally, rooms and rooms of tableaus with Barbie Dolls. It’s just insane. His story is really interesting. There’s a doc by a Miami filmmaker called Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer story one of the greatest children’s artist of all time who was blackballed from the children’s industry because he got into erotica. I actually had this guy’s protest poster–his Village Voice poster–in my room when I was growing up in junior high school. I didn’t know who the artist was. Shepard & Dark–a great documentary about two friend Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark and their five decades of friendship so they make a coffee table book of their letters. It’s incredibly well done.

Shepard & Dark

Shepard & Dark

LA: My first professional acting gig was in a Sam Shepard play, True West.

MC: There you go.

We have a lot of very dark, twisted films this year. Sick comedies like Sightseers about a couple on vacation that are serial killers. And the shorts programs get progressively darker by the number 1-2-3-4. The shorts programs have great people.

LA: How bad are the midnight shorts this year?

MC: A couple of them the people are going to be screaming…maybe running for the exits. It’s a pretty wonderful collection. It’s really funny and it’s really sick. The midnight movies this year are amazing…

LA: Well, he did it again. I asked Matthew for his top five and we got about 20…and he still isn’t finished with his list!

MC: Sorry…I couldn’t do it…