Archive for April, 2016

FFF 2016 Day 7 Being Charlie, Shorts Program 4, Special Screening

April 23, 2016
Rob Reiner Teams Up With Son Nick

Rob Reiner Teams Up With Son Nick

Being Charlie
Rob Reiner is one of our favorite directors. Like many older Americans, we first encountered Rob playing Archie Bunker’s son-in-law, “Meathead” in Norman Lear’s hit TV sitcom All in the Family. But it was his brilliant direction of writer William Goldman’s The Princess Bride in 1987 where we fell in love with his movies. Other favorite movies he directed include: This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, When Harry Met Sally, Ghosts of Mississippi, The Bucket List, and, of course, two of our all time favorite movies written by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin: The American President and A Few Good Men.

When we heard Rob had directed a movie written by his son Nick Reiner (along with Matt Elisofon) we immediately put it on our list. NumberOneSon warned us that the movie did not get a lot of positive reviews. After watching the movie, we understood why. It’s not an easy movie to watch. The ending isn’t tied up in a neat little bow. There are a lot of unresolved issues. But it’s a very good movie. And, if you happen to suffer from an addiction, it’s a must see movie. Any addict will tell you the path to sobriety and fulfillment is long, difficult and littered with setbacks. This movie has it all.

As usual, Rob manages to find the humanity in each character. His direction is well paced. He gets good performances from his cast. Most importantly, he tells a compelling story. Nick Robinson gives a strong performance as Charlie, a young addict struggling to find sobriety while his father (played by Cary Elwes) runs for governor of California. Nick is surrounded by a competent supporting cast, including Morgan Saylor and Common. But it is Devon Bostick playing Charlie’s friend Adam who gives a standout performance.

Based on the real life experiences of Rob’s son, Nick, this was a touching and personal film by one of our great American directors.

Shorts Program 4: Modern Love
For the most part, the FFF is the highlight of our year. We enjoy great, independent film. We learn so much for the fabulous documentaries. And we meet some of the industries most celebrated stars. Yet there is one thing we about the FFF that can make it challenging for us. Since the films are not rated, we often find ourselves watching movies that are a bit too raunchy, particularly for Mrs. LanceAround. Such is the case for this group of shorts. The collection includes roommates with boundary issues, familial sex acts, childhood amputations, candid conversations about all aspects of sex and a zany, staged dinner party for a 40th anniversary.

Lost in the shuffle is a wonderful, sarcastic spoof called, Too Legit. It explores the absurd allegations by US Senator Todd Akin who stated on national TV that if a woman is “legitimately raped” the body has a way of “dealing with” that situation to prevent pregnancy. Although it was also disturbing to watch, the important social message was powerful resulting in this film receiving a Special Jury Award for Achievement in Political Satire.

Also of note was the entertaining short, Syrah, which explores the concept of a Siri-esque phone program deciding to take matters in her own hands as she guides a couple around the city.

Special Screening of “The Greasy Strangler”
A few years ago, the FFF featured a special midnight screening of an unnamed film. So confident are the FFF faithful, the theatre was packed and patrons were treated to a wonderful mockumentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. That movie was so enjoyable, Mrs. LanceAround, NumberOneSon and I were eager to see this year’s special midnight screening.

Although younger and more hip NumberOneSon mostly enjoyed The Greasy Strangler, Mrs. LanceAround and I found ourselves wishing we had skipped it and gone to bed early. For us, the thing that makes Ed Wood movies so special is that Ed Wood truly thought he was making great movies. I’ve never had a liking for movies that are intentionally made to be bad movies. In my opinion, all this movie did was succeed wildly at being bad!


FFF 2016 Day 5 Animated Shorts with Steve & Holly

April 20, 2016
Steve and Holly Join Mrs. LanceAround at For Their 1st Film Festival

Steve and Holly Join Mrs. LanceAround For Their First Film Festival

One of the our great pleasures is introducing someone new to the FFF. Our good friends, Steve and Holly, have lived in Central Florida since they were children. They’ve occasionally seen movies at the Enzian. But before tonight, they’ve never attended the FFF.

Mrs. LanceAround and I invited them to join us for the animated shorts. Frankly, we’re a little nervous. Sometimes the animated shorts can be a little raunchy. They can also be eclectic and esoteric. What would our friends think?

This year there are 17 animated shorts, the longest being 10 minutes and the shortest only 2 minutes. At least if there are a couple bad ones, they won’t last long. As usual for this popular program, the Enzian theatre is packed. Here’s a rundown of each short and The conversation Steve, Holly, Mrs. LanceAround and I had on the drive home from the Enzian:

All Your Favorite Shows!
A fascinating amalgamation of animation and live action intermingling emotional scenes from famous movies with the story of a young boy who can’t keep his eyes off his cell phone or his mind from wandering to places that images on the cell phone take him.

LA: I loved the creativity
Holly: I did too. I thought it was really good. I loved it. I loved how they cut in so many different film clips.
Steve: [Nods head in agreement with us]

Panic Attack!
What happens when you worry too much. This film explores possible images and emotions that go through a person’s mind when their deepest anxieties creates a slippery hold on their reality.

LA: I liked her a lot more than I liked her film.
Holly: Me too! You know, it could be since I’ve had panic attacks and I don’t find them funny. I find that mental illness is such a hard topic in our country. And not that you can’t be light hearted about it, but I think it’s not recognized enough to make jokes about it; in my mind. But that’s just me, because I’ve had panic attacks.
Mrs. LA: Oh, I have too. When I was 25 I was also having panic attacks. I thought there was something wrong with my heart. They took me to the hospital. They checked me out. They discovered it wasn’t physiological, it was psychological.
Holly: That one was hard for me to watch; only because of that. The visuals were kind of real to what you go through in that. But it was funny. If you’ve never had a panic attack, it would have been easier to watch.

After seeing this film, Holly commented, “What movie has ever gotten you rooting for toilet paper before?” A stop motion animation five years in the making, this clever film follows a brand new roll of toilet paper in a less than sanitary gas station rest room. Is escape possible?

Holly: What about T.P.?
LA: It took five years to film that.
Holly: Really? Did it say that?
LA: No, I just did some research before we came. It was stop motion…
Steve: …Which is really time consuming! It was really difficult…it came on right when we were served our food; so it was difficult to watch. I was impressed by it. I knew what it was…stop motion…very challenging to do.
Holly: I actually felt sorry for the toilet paper. A little short film that made me feel sorry for the toilet paper is definitely a good film. I felt real bad for it.

Meaning of Life?

Meaning of Life?

Tales of Mere Existence
FFF favorite, Levni Yilmaz returns with more simplistically drawn tales exploring such diverse topics as: What do pigeons think about their lives? What keeps me awake at night (besides my rude neighbors?)  and what do you do when you accidentally run into your ex in the supermarket?

Borrowed Time
In this sophisticated CGI short, an old west sheriff returns to the scene of a life-changing accident that he has spent a lifetime trying to forget.

Holly: You didn’t like this one, but it was the best shot. It made you cry?
Mrs. LA: Yes.
LA: I thought that of all the animators, this is the most talented.
Steve: Talented, yea!
Holly: It looked more like an animator from Pixar.

Perfect Houseguest
Most of the time, mice are seen as dirty rodents, best to be gotten rid of! This cute short attempts to turn the table on that perception.

Holly: I thought it was really cute. I thought it was sweet.
LA: My thought was that the filmmaker really identifies with the mouse. You know, this thing that everyone hates but is underappreciated and does all the hard work.
Holly: I could see it as a short they show before a kid’s movie.

A Monster Teenager

A Monster Teenager

Welcome to My Life
Steve, Holly, Mrs. LanceAround and I agree that this is the best animated short of the night. It’s an allegorical story of a day in the life of an atypical teenager. By having the protagonist be a monster, this creative short offers a fresh perspective as it explores issues of acceptance, relationships and coming of age in a non-threatening way that is sure to touch the hearts of anyone who is, or has been, a teenager!

Holly: That was really good.
Steve: It was really well done.
Holly: You wish they would show that in high school.
Steve: Yea. I liked the monotone voices too.
Holly: My favorite line was, “He goes to my church.”
LA: Exactly. That was my favorite line too.

The Loneliest Stoplight
Two time Oscar nominee Bill Plympton takes a look at a lonely stoplight in the middle of an intersection somewhere in the middle of nowhere. With characteristic Plympton finesse, this stoplight becomes a metaphor for the loneliness we all feel. When a congested freeway appears nearby, sharp eyed Holly recognizes the shape of the highway as similar to a shape Bill has drawn on the wall of the Eden bar in a nature scene!

Holly: I liked it.
Steve: It was pretty simple.
LA: The entire movie I’m thinking, “Why does he want to make a film about this?”
Steve: There was not much there.

The world is full of flaws. This beautifully rendered charcoal drawings present an allegory of life in the service industry. It utilizes an animation technique in which all frames are drawn on a single sheet of paper.

LA: That was fascinating
Steve: I didn’t like it.
Holly: Neither did I. What did you like about it?
LA: To me, it was the allegory. It started off with “life is full of laws.” Then they put an “F” in it to say, “Life is full of flaws.” Then it was all these people like another brick in the wall. It was basically like Pink Floyd. There are certain films where you get the impression that all the filmmaker is trying to do is to evoke emotion. That was one of them. I didn’t think VERY highly of it.

Pure Concentricity
A liberal dose of shaving cream in a natural environment occasionally encroached by a naked male body creates a stop motion feast for the eyes.

All of us have difficulty remembering what this film was about
LA: Was that the one with the shaving cream?
Steve and Holly [together]: YES!
LA: Oh my goodness, that was so fascinating!
Holly: Really?
LA: I knew it was shaving cream. So the whole time I’m watching it I’m like, “OK, we’re going to create this effect…”
Steve: …That was challenging…
LA: “…We’re going to put down some shaving cream, then film it, then put down some more shaving cream, then film it.” Meanwhile, the bottom part of the shaving cream would melt. It was just one of those things that was creating images–and I liked the images! It was just one of those, “Hey, this is a fun film experiment.”
Holly: I couldn’t figure it out!
LA: What’s there to figure out?
Holly: Yea!

Seedier Side of Life

Seedier Side of Life

The Lingerie Show
I’ve never been to an orgy. I’ve never taken drugs. I’ve never even been drunk. So I have no idea what that seedier side of life is like. But if it’s anything like this dark, mixed media animated short, then I’m just as happy not to know. The protagonist experiences her boyfriend ODing after a drug-fueled orgy.

Holly: After I heard her talk about it…I would have rather heard her talk about it before I watched it. Because when she said it was the writer’s sister…I don’t know…I thought some of it had been a dream. I’ve never experienced that side of life.
LA: Are you trying to convince your husband you’ve never had a lingerie sex orgy?
Holly: No, I haven’t. And I’ve never been attracted to a gay man.
LA: Now Mrs. LanceAround is always attracted to the gay men.
Holly: Oh, really?
LA: It’s one of the reasons I don’t have to worry 😉
Mrs. LA: Actually, I love gay men. There’s no “misunderstanding.” I feel very comfortable around them.

Bottom Feeders
I really don’t know what to say about this film. Some kind of surrealistic creatures live on top, another kind lives on bottom. Somehow they reproduce and/or kill one another in this Darwinian tale of adaptation and natural selection.

Holly: I didn’t like it.
LA: I was just trying to make sense of it.
Holly: It seemed like the animal had babies. But then, they were like down in the ground.
LA: I thought the message was, the people up there, when they die, become the people down there. That’s what I got out of it. You get to spray the sperm up to them. This is one of those that says more about the filmmaker than the film.

There’s Too Many of These Crows
Perhaps these crows were inspired by Hitchcock’s famous thriller, The Birds. No matter how much man-engineered fire power is produced, the birds always seem to win in the end–even during the closing credits.

LA: Yea, it was The Birds on steroids.
Holly: It was funny at the end. I don’t remember what made everyone laugh.
LA: Because the crows started coming through the credits.

Bob Dylan Hates Me
A paparazzi-esque young filmmaker has a couple of encounters with Bob Dylan only to discover that most famous people dislike paparazzi behavior. The filmmaker has a lot of talent but needs to realize that famous people are just as human as the rest of us if he is going to succeed in this industry.

LA: My reaction to that film is, “you’re in the film business. You want to be a professional filmmaker. And you can’t speak to a star without tripping over yourself.” He had such low self esteem they could basically just crush him. I thought, “You’re not going to make it in this business!”



Based on the true story of an astronaut who’s space glove goes flying off into space during a spacewalk. This short gives thoughtful (though technically inaccurate) musings on the future travels of his glove. poetic and thoughtful, Holly and Mrs. LanceAround loved this one.

Holly: This one your wife and I loved. You had technical issues with it.
LA: I loved it from a poetic standpoint. But there’s no way that glove reaches the edge of the solar system, let alone the galaxy, let alone the universe.
Holly: I loved the soundtrack. I loved the music.

Heila Omur
A filmmaker explores what life might be like for a bacteria that swims into the belly of a man and begins to take over his reality.

Holly: I didn’t like that one.

Our Crappy Town
Every teenager encounters that moment when everything seems right in a relationship–everything but one. For example, what happens if you really, really have to go to the bathroom but you don’t want to spoil the moment. This raunchy tale appeared to make some in the audience cringe while others howled in laughter.

Holly: I didn’t like it, but my husband did.
Steve: I gave it a three!
Holly: I gave it a one!

Animated Filmmakers

Animated Filmmakers

Q&A With the Filmmakers
There were four filmmakers representing three different movies: Laura Harrison the director of The Lingerie Show, Andrew Coats, Co-Writer & Co-Director and Amanda Jones, Producer of Borrowed Time and Eileen O’Meara of Panic Attack.

Q: What inspired Borrowed Time?

Andrew: Well, it all started when I killed my dad…[generous laughter from the audience.] There’s a long story for that. Overall it started with us trying to tell a story we hadn’t seen in animation as much. We generally treat it as a genre. As you’ve seen tonight there’s a lot of stories that can be told. We wanted to try to do something that was more straight and a western was something that we enjoyed. That’s where the genesis of that was. As far as the story goes, it was through the long process of trying to find what we were wanting to say. It used to be sort of about forgiveness. That was too difficult to tell in the amount of time we had. So we made a way to find a story about closure which is something a lot of people can relate to. It came from that and looking back at your life; mistakes you’ve made, and finding closure–even though they might be horrible, terrible or difficult to remember.

Q: The stopwatch was awesome. Did the film come from that or did that happen as you were writing it?

Andrew: The watch was always there; part of a memento of his life. Whenever I lost somebody in my life, the objects that came from them in some way always made me think of them when I picked them up. What it meant changed a few times.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your film?

Laura:  It wasn’t a planned thing. I met this writer. We liked each others work. She’s not super smooth, neither am I. I loved her writing, she loved my animation. I tend to be interested in fringe paint–people who are living outside mainstream culture. It was a character driven interest. I just liked the voice. The writer narrated it. It’s a fictionalization of her family’s life. This is her sister. It’s kind of a documentary.

Eileen: With Panic Attack I have so much anxiety I needed to find something useful to do with it. Every time I would come home I would think, “I need to remember this. Draw a picture about it; write it down.” My animation was doing it as all one shot where it was one thing transforming into the next in sort of a subjective human state.

Q [From LanceAround]: I have two questions, first for Eileen, tell us about the structure of the animation between trying to portray something as you see or feel it and just trying to convey the emotion and how you work those two things out.

Eileen: That’s a good question. I think I just tried to imagine how I saw it and draw it. I’d do a video test of it and sort of say the lines in my head as I watched the video. Sometimes I would just throw out the picture because it didn’t work with it. Sometime the picture and the voiceover would match and sometimes contradict each other. I guess it was a matter of trial and error.

[From LanceAround]: Laura, what was the photograph at the end of the two people in the laundromat?

Laura: It’s actually the author and her sister. I didn’t want to make a caricature of this person. I just wanted people to know these are real people, real life. They’re not pompous, you know?

Sheriff From Borrowed Time

The Sheriff

Q: The sheriff looked like the Marlboro man. Who did you model the character after?

Andrew: He’s a mix of a bunch of different characters. We looked at a lot of spaghetti westerns. There’s some Clint Eastwood in there. It wasn’t anyone in particular. It’s got a little of my dad in there. It’s got a little of me in there.

Q: What drew you to your animation style?

Laura:  That’s interesting. Some of it came out of limitations–I’m not that skilled as an animator. I’m more of a painter and more interested in texture. A lot to do with the material and my own limitations as an animator.

Andrew: I grew up watching Disney films and I was really interested in doing animation when it started becoming more popular. I always loved acting and drawing so it seemed like the perfect marriage of the two.

Eileen: I really like drawing, I find it very calming. I usually use a much finer line, but since this one the content was about panic I used a much bigger line and much more limited palette so it felt a little more agitated.

Q: [From LanceAround]: For all of you, is this your full time job? And what is your ultimate goal? In other words, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Eileen: I do freelance animation but I also do other stuff. I do research for TV shows. I like getting paid to do animation. But it’s more liberating when you’re your own boss.

Amanada: I’m a script supervisor in animation, that’s my day job. But I’m definitely going to go the producer route.

Andrew: She’s an awesome producer. I will vouch for her. I’m an animator by day. So this was made on weekends and after work for five years.

Laura: That question terrifies me, actually. I do book trailers for authors. This piece I did was supposed to be a book trailer and I turned it into a film. My next project is to work with yet another writer.

Q: What’s a book trailer?

Laura: A relatively new category. Authors are now using this marketing tool–a trailer. It’s kind of like a voiceover type deal and illustrate it.

The Long Drive Home
For the entire hour long car ride back home, we engage in a lively conversation inspired and fueled by the FFF. We go deeper as we share personal experiences with each other. As we hug and wave goodbye at the end of the night, we realize that, once again, the FFF has become more than just FILM and more than just FOOD. The third F stands for FRIENDS.

It’s the perfect place for friends to share both food and film and, most importantly, a deeper and more intimate relationship with one another.

That’s the thing that makes the FFF so special for us!

FFF 2016 Day 4 Lolo

April 13, 2016
This Son is Not Ready to Let Go of His Mama

This Son is Not Ready to Let Go of His Mama

Tres Bien!

Although I don’t speak much French, the filmgoers in the seats behind me were French and had come to enjoy this French film. They spent the entire movie laughing uproariously. Often, I would hear their laughter before I had a chance to read the subtitles and could then join them in the joke. One line of French I did recognize was the phrase, “Tres Bien,” which several of them said many times at the end of the film.

Very good!

Originally, based on the description, I was not planning to see this movie. But in my interview with Matthew Curtis, programming director for the FFF, he highly recommended it. He mentioned that the dialogue was particularly witty. He was right.

The story revolves around a middle age woman who is seeking companionship. Or, at the very least, a good one night romp. She meets a Frenchman when he accidentally dumps a tuna fish he had just caught into her lap. One thing leads to another and they are soon living together in her apartment.

However, her 19 year old son lives there as well and has not quite gotten over his Oedipal inclinations. Pretty soon, he is concocting elaborate and humorous ways to sabotage mom’s new love affair. Upon reflection, mom begins to realize why all her other affairs ended in disaster.

The little twist at the end of the movie is the perfect comedic conclusion.

The movie was written and directed by two time Oscar nominated writer Julie Delpy, who also plays the starring role. But it’s Vincent Lacoste who steals the show with his charming, impish portrayal of the mother’s son.

This is a great romantic comedy; perfect for a date night flick.

FFF 2016 Day 3 The Babushkas of Chernobyl

April 13, 2016
Would You Buy a Home Where Seven People Were Murdered? Of Course!

Would You Buy a Home Where Seven People Were Murdered? Of Course!

The House is Innocent
This is the film. Hysterical.

Every now and then at the FFF a movie is so good it becomes an instant “all time favorite.” At this festival, that film is The House is Innocent. Although, to be honest, it could also include another delightful short, Pickle.

In The House is Innocent a quirky couple named Tom and Barbara, with a love of the macabre and a delightfully whimsical sense of humor, are looking for a house to buy. During one tour, they happen to notice the home at 1426 F Street in Sacramento, California, right next to the home they were looking to buy, was also for sale. They didn’t know that in the 80’s a 71 year old woman killed seven tenants who were renting there, buried their bodies in the yard, then continued to cash their social security checks. As soon as they heard the story about the history of the house, they decided they had to buy it. And, it was cheap!

Tom and Barbara went about renovating the home with a spirited eye towards its dark history. In one shower, they put up a curtain decorated with yellow police crime scene tape. On the exterior, they put up a sign that said, “Don’t blame me, I’m innocent. The House.”

While the homeowners are the onscreen star of this brilliant short, the real stars are Nicholas Coles’ directing and Michael Madrid’s editing. While Tom and Barbara turned a house of horrors into a wacky tourist attraction, Nicholas and Michael turn a short film into a sharp, crisp documentary that you won’t soon forget.

This one is, surprisingly, a lot of fun and, definitely, a must see.


Are They Courageous or Just Crazy?

Are They Courageous or Just Crazy?

The Babushkas of Chernobyl
This is an incredible, unforgettable documentary about a group of a few hundred women who lived on the outskirts of Chernobyl when the nuclear reactor exploded in 1986. They were immediately and permanently evacuated. However, this was the only home they had ever known. So they snuck back in, having to crawl through a barb wire fence and walk over 70 kilometers to their homes.

30 years have elapsed and many of these women are still alive. They insist they are better and healthier than if they had chosen to remain in the evacuation zone. While the group consists almost entirely of women, they do point out that there are two “useless men.” These men are not shown in the film.

Every now and then, government workers come into the site, measure radiation, and check up on the residents. While the women fish and grow their own food, the entire area is teeming with high doses of radiation. The women offer the workers a taste of their food. Shockingly, they eat some. Afterwards they explain that it would be a huge insult to these women to refuse their food so they simply, “eat as little as they can get away with.”

Other trespassers into the exclusion zone are young video game players who are hooked on the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. They sneak into the zone, drink water from the contaminated river and approach the reactor itself. The movie does not identify them nor does it reveal whether there are any negative effects from these excursions.

Somehow, during the movie, the filmgoer may notice a subtle change. Undoubtedly, when one first hears about little old ladies choosing to live in a nuclear exclusion zone, one instantly thinks they must be crazy–or worse. The movie gradually dispels this notion. One comes to appreciate and even love these gentle spirits who have the determination and courage to continue to call this nuclear wilderness, “home.”


FFF 2016 Day 3 Left on Purpose

April 13, 2016
Would You Film Someone's Suicide?

Would You Film Someone’s Suicide?

Left on Purpose
Spoiler Alert–The protagonist of this documentary kills himself at the end. The filmmaker films the discovery of the body.

Normally, I try to not provide spoilers. However, with this film the filmmakers decision to not intervene once he obtained the knowledge that his subject had concrete plans to commit suicide completely overshadows any other aspect of this film. In our opinion, it crossed a line. It’s a shame because the subject of this film deserves to be celebrated. He also deserved to have someone intervene on his behalf. More about this later. For now, let’s look at the film.

If you grew up in the 60’s you knew the names Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Paul Krassner and other anti-war activists who created the Yippies. Not as well known was Mayer Vishner. Although 15 years younger than Hoffman, Mayer was brilliant and debonair. He didn’t seem to crave the spotlight like his more famous friends but he occasionally appeared behind the microphone and was always behind the scenes helping to develop strategies that cast a spotlight on this movement.

By the time of this documentary, Mayer is now an old man. Alcoholic. Clinically depressed. He lives in his same West Village apartment drinking gallons of beer, wearing a different T-shirt every day and seldom wearing a pair of pants. Afflicted with OCD, his small apartment is covered floor to ceiling with mementos from earlier days.

Early in the film it becomes obvious that the filmmaker is drawn into a dilemma when Mayer makes it clear he wants to end his life. They discuss the Heisenberg dichotomy of the filmmaker who now has become entrenched in his own film. From that moment, the movie weaves a tale that looks at Mayer’s history and contribution to society while at the same time wrestling with the moral dilemma of whether or not to sit back and allow the protagonist to follow through with his plans.

As I pondered this quandary at the end of the film, a sudden realization went off like a light bulb in my head. During the entire movie, the audience does not know whether or not the filmmaker will intervene and/or whether Mayer will actually kill himself. This directorial choice to keep the audience in the dark heightens the dramatic element of the film–and steps right over the line as far as I am concerned.

This was a mentally ill man who needed help. This man clearly stated he was going to kill himself. There was a responsibility to notify authorities and get him help. He was not dying from a disease. He was not making a political statement. He was depressed, alcoholic and OCD–All conditions that could be treated. He said he was lonely and didn’t see himself capable of having a relationship. Yet the film was filled with people who clearly loved and accepted him.

At the end of the film, Mrs. LanceAround stated she felt sick to her stomach. For the last two days she has done nothing but speak about how much this film upset her. If that’s what the documentarian was going for, he succeeded.

And shame on him.

A Response From The Audience

Curtis and Mary Muse on the Film

Curtis and Mary Muse on the Film

As I was pondering these thoughts, I overhear Curtis Murray speaking with his girlfriend Mary Gabucan. I ask if I can interview them for the blog. Mary excuses herself for a moment while Curtis gives me his feedback.

“I don’t know, I’m conflicted,” begins Curtis. “I understand mans wanting to make his own decision and I can respect that. There are other heroes from that era that I respect that have gone that same route. Hunter Thompson comes to mind. His was recent and that was very impactful for me.

“At the same time, it seems, watching the film, that it probably was because of his depression. It seemed to be, watching the film, that he refused to see that there were two women in his life that were interested in pursuing some sort of relationship with him. His depression kept him from seeing that.

“Instead of giving away the money, (this refers to a moment in the film where Mayer is paid $50,000 from the University of Michigan for his extensive collection of memorabilia mostly from the 60’s) he could have used the money to order his apartment, quit drinking and lose weight. He had a lot to give. He could have furthered the Occupy movement which now has faded and [he could have] furthered social justice now. That would have been something he could give. Instead of doing that, which would require lots of work…that’s why I’m conflicted. I condemn him for taking the road that he took. I understand it…but the only thing I know is what I saw in that film. That’s only a small snip of a man’s life. There’s no way I could really know everything about it just from that. But from seeing the film that’s my take away from it.

“It was very well done. I understand the filmmaker taking the position that he took…I mean…the brain behind Abbie Hoffman? That man had a lot to give. That’s something special. I don’t know if there’s any books written about him, but I’m certainly going to look him up.”

At this point, Mary rejoins us. She says, “There was a moment where I couldn’t watch, like towards the end. I couldn’t watch him do it so I turned away from the screen.”

Curtis jumps in, “I said I was conflicted cause I understand his choice is in keeping with the principles he stood for–Freedom of choice–and that was his choice. However, I think he had a lot more to offer.”

“There are a lot more choices he could have made,” agrees Mary.

“There are other guys who made that option,” bemoans Curtis. “When Hunter went out, I didn’t leave the house for a week. They could have given more. Granted, Hunter at the time was in a wheelchair. He waited as long as possible. But we all knew that was eventually going to be the route he took. Vishner didn’t seem to me he needed to go the way he did. It seemed that there were two options. He could have de-cluttered his apartment. He could have quit drinking He could have tried to organize activists in New York city. If you’re going to go out, go out with a bang. Maybe I understand the whisper because he wasn’t vocal. But Vishner could have given people direction. He had a lot to offer. He just didn’t see it.”

I ask Curtis how he wants me to identify him in the blog. There’s a long pause as he seems to consider the implications of that decision. Then, both he and Mary give me their full names.

“I really appreciate your comments,” Mrs. LanceAround says to them. “I’m really disturbed by the movie so I appreciated your even handed, intelligent response. I’m wanting to know why the hell someone didn’t have him committed and get him the medications he needed and get him off the alcohol so he could make a rational choice. I don’t feel like he was taken care of.”


FFF 2016 Day 3 Seed: The Untold Story

April 13, 2016
An Amazing Variety of Seeds Fill the Screen

An Amazing Variety of Seeds Fill the Screen

Seed: The Untold Story
It’s estimated that 94% of our seed varieties have vanished over the last 100 years.

This film features incredibly beautiful scenes of all kinds of seeds from all over the world. It’s filled with colorful characters who almost worship the life giving properties inherent in these small time capsules.

It also provides devastating moments where agriculture has become problematic. There’s a school in Hawaii where students are being poisoned by the agricultural test plots located adjacent to their school. Of course, the evil corporate conglomerate Monsanto also create darkness in their greedy attempts to control the agriculture business around the globe. There’s also a lengthy look at the potential problems of using GMO seeds.

It’s clear the filmmakers are passionate about seeds, about diversity in agriculture and about a healthier way to interact with Mother Earth. Unfortunately, they are a little too passionate. The result is a film that feels disjointed, frenetic, overly long and repetitious. Like seeds blown on the wind, this film skims the surface and hops from place to place while seeming to lose the thread of its narrative. It cries out for a good editor to pull it all together and make it work.

Being vegetarians, Mrs. LanceAround and I are also passionate about the human food supply. As a vegan, NumberTwoSon is even more attune to the subject of vegetative food. We appreciated the effort that went into presenting so many ways of looking at and interacting with the miracle that is life sustaining seeds.

The film was loaded with lots of seed barons. These are people who have created their own seed catalogues, seed banks and/or seed storage unit. They are trying everything they can to keep the purity of seeds for future generations. One of these seed keepers even talks about the difficult choice he’d have to make if his house were on fire. Would he save his wife or get out as many seeds as he could? His wife was not present to give her viewpoint on the matter!

And while the film is not perfect. It did provide many beautiful images, imaginative characters and bits of information that gave us all something to think about.

FFF 2016 Day 2 An Act of Love and Becoming Blair

April 13, 2016
This Movie Truly Was An Act of Love

This Movie Truly Was An Act of Love

The second day of the FFF came to a close with two very powerful, not to be missed films dealing with issues from the LGBT community. Both films take the conversation out of the impersonal and deep into the intimate. It becomes obvious that whatever your position is on LGBT rights, you have to acknowledge you are dealing with human beings.

Becoming Blair

Mother and Son. Where's Dad?

Mother and Son. Where’s Dad?

Somehow, Blair has always known he was male, despite what might be written on his birth certificate. Born to a conservative Catholic family, he suspects his parents find this difficult. His mother struggles to find acceptance, but what else can she do? The answer to that question is demonstrated by his father who obviously refuses to participate in this movie. At the very end he unintentionally provides a glimpse into how this issue affects him. It was the most powerful and distressing moment so far at the FFF. An utterly heart wrenching movie.

An Act of Love
Another incredible documentary takes a long, hard, deep look at a United Methodist minister defrocked after choosing to celebrate the wedding ceremony of his gay son. After winning the appeal with his church, he faces one more trial that could leave him unemployed for good.

If there’s one thing to criticize about this film, it’s that it does not do a very good job of portraying the other side of this story. Clearly, the filmmakers fully support the minister. But they do show enough people who don’t support him that it gives you a glimpse of the other side. However, the minister’s side is shown with compassion and depth. It’s obvious how the church’s decisions are affecting the people who support the gay community. On the other hand, the film’s presentation does not reveal the same personal emotions of those who feel their church is betraying them. Such a perspective would have made a very good film even better.

Reverend Frank Schaefer married his gay son almost six years ago–which is significant because six years is the statute of limitations for any complaint. However, when Frank attempts to fire another church leader, a relative of that leader suddenly files a complaint about the gay wedding. This leads to monumental decisions within the international church organization that tear at the very fabric of their belief system. Do they support their own book of discipline or do they follow what Frank’s supporters characterize as Jesus’ teachings on love?

The movie introduces a host of articulate, thoughtful members of the United Methodist church. They struggle to help the church accept the inevitability of opening their doors to the LGBT community while a small host of dissenters give brief insights into their disapproval.

In the end, a charismatic Frank Schaefer unwittingly becomes the lightning rod of this contentious issue. He handles the role with compassion, depth, wisdom and courage. The result is a powerful film. One of the best in this year’s festival.

FFF Day 2 Shorts Programs 1 and 2

April 12, 2016

Shorts Program 1: Changes

As a general rule, the LanceAround family enjoys the shorts programs at the FFF. This year, however, they were particularly good.

How to Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps
When this film was over, Mrs. LanceAround commented, “I didn’t get it.” Essentially, the essence of this film is that the easiest way to lose weight is to be dumped by a girl, get depressed, channel your energy into working out then struggle with your insecurities as you see your ex every day at work and you try to date new women. I thought it was humorous and touching.

This was a well acted and well paced short; a coming of age tale of two young girls getting to know one another during a couple of sleep overs. Not much dialogue, but plenty of emotion as the actors do an admirable job of portraying teenage insecurities. Nothing dramatic, nothing deep, just a well made short.

The Seamstress

Dealing With Aging

Dealing With Aging

An elderly Taiwanese seamstress struggles with how her aging limits her abilities as she and her daughter-in-law struggle to serve customers in New York. A well done short that tugs at your heart. You may even feel sympathetic the next time you encounter New York customer service!

Peacock Killer
Normally I admire the writing of Sam Shepard. But this story left me scratching my head. A man takes revenge on a bunch of peacocks. Really? Just didn’t work for me.

Cuddle Party
The laughter in the audience demonstrated that this was a popular film. A struggling couple attend a “cuddle party” complete with a new-age-esque leader, a talking stick and participants that like to say, “Namaste.” For some reason, the couple doesn’t fit in. However, in the end it turns out to be a healing experience for them but a tragic one for the rest of the party. Filmgoers howled with laughter at this short.

An emotional yet humorous film about a mother whose son is promised ice cream if he’ll just tell her which house is the right one. An edge of your seat little story with an O. Henry type twist made this short very enjoyable.

Sci-fi short about the advantages, and disadvantages, of cloning. Nice twist at the end. Interesting character study of societal norms and the struggle for women to meet all the expectations thrust upon them.

Verbatim: The Ferguson Case

The True Story

The True Story

A verbatim dramatic reading from part of the transcript of the grand jury investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Although the incident lasted less than a minute, this 17 minute film gives a factual, non-biased look at one of society’s most influential events this decade. Refreshing to see the testimony without any media hype or hyperbole. Very insightful.

Shorts Program 2 Ashes to Ashes

Several Filmmakers Speak with the Audience After the Shorts

Several Filmmakers Speak with the Audience After the Shorts Program

Prior to the beginning of the second shorts program, we noticed a black couple who had also been present at the first shorts program. They identified themselves as Old New Yorkers Who Moved Down to Florida Eight Years Ago. They went out to lunch next to the theatre at the Cheesecake Factory. Afterwards, they serendipitously noticed the line of people in front of the FFF table at the theatre and bought a ticket to the first shorts program. Being from Brooklyn, they mention that they “feel the Bern” as they are Bernie Sanders supporters.

I ask them what their first film festival experience was like.

“It’s better than TV and better than half the cinemas today. Cerebral. Very well done. Not like the garbage they have today.”

They enjoyed the program so much they immediately purchased tickets for the next shorts program. I ask if they’re going to get tickets to the movie after that. They didn’t think so. They’re getting a little older and think by then it might be time to go home and have a cuddle party of their own.

“Especially after the filmmaker revealed that they have cuddle parties where people get naked?” I ask.

The wife nudges the husband with her elbow and gives him a wink. I won’t print what she says next!

Other People’s People
Well written and well acted piece about the drama surrounding other people at the wedding of two young gay men. It gave just enough information to get a glimpse into their lives without revealing any details allowing you to fill in the picture with your own imagination. It was like each character was a blank canvas of various shapes and sizes upon which you could project your reality onto them. Somehow, the film just worked. Well done.

Los Ninos Sicarios
This dramatic short says it’s based on a true story. A young Arizona teenager seems to enjoy playing football in the park. Until his phone rings and he is compelled to do a very grown up job. A depiction of the immigration issue from a seldom seen perspective. Disturbing and unforgettable.

Psychedelic movie about a young teenage girl who appears to have a psychiatric issue requiring medication. Shown from her point of view and how the medication affects her, this film had some creative images. Overall, however, I did not find the story very compelling.

My Last Film
Short film about the experience of trying to become an actor in a movie. The first part was cute as an actor talked to her disinterested friend about her struggles with discovering her character. A sudden accident causes her friend to have to relive the very emotions the actor was lamenting. The second part featured Rosanna Arquette whose performance was not good enough to make the script work.

It seems that whenever a film features something about oral sex, the audience at the FFF finds it funny and enjoyable. This tale about an unexpected encounter at a yoga class followed by a disturbing discovery at home felt disjointed to me. But the filmgoers around me were obviously having a good time.


Great Ending

Great Ending

This one had the audience clapping enthusiastically at the end. Story of a sincere, slightly obese male who has a physical defect that makes it difficult to come out of his shell. A tender romantic comedy as his faithful barista helps him discover his worth. Beautiful ending. Excellent story.

Black Swell
Really exceptional acting and a great story made this dark comedy one of the better shorts. Sometimes, you know you’re at the FFF by how the audience reacts to a particular piece of dialogue or a creative shot. This film got so many appreciative gasps and scattered claps throughout the theatre. This is one of those treats you only seem to find at the FFF. It was one of the most memorable shorts from the program.

Thunder Road

An Incredible Acting Job

An Incredible Acting Job

This film won the Sundance Short Film Grand Jury Prize. During the first half of the movie, I kept wondering why. But as the film continued I found myself increasingly drawn to the incredible job of acting by the main protagonist. The last line of the film, “It’s important to remember that everyone grieves in their own way,” somehow neatly tied up this movie like the perfect ribbon on a gift. The credits say this movie was done in one take. A remarkable achievement.

FFF 2016 Day Two Pickle and Newman

April 12, 2016

How interesting can a fish be that lives standing up in a sponge because he can’t swim? Turns out, very interesting!

Mrs. LanceAround and NumberTwoSon had a busy day at the Florida Dream Homes office. That, along with unusually heavy traffic meant we arrived late to the Enzian Theatre. At first, I didn’t mind because I knew there was a short film called Pickle. Based on the description in the program and the photo of a chalk outline of a dead cat I was not at all interested.

I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

Even though we arrived halfway through the short it became obvious that Pickle was not only an excellent film–it ranks as one of the best movies we have ever seen at the Florida Film Festival.

This utterly charming movie by Amy Nicholson tells the story of a lovely, elderly couple who continually rescue (in every sense of the word) animals; many of whom cannot possibly care for themselves. This includes animals such as a fish that cannot swim and a opossum whose rear legs are pulled from his socket and is covered with bugs, among dozens and dozens of other animals. Each one is lovingly cared for.

The elderly man shapes a sponge for Pickle, the fish, so he can swim around. He also designs and builds a dolly for Pogo, the opossum, which allows him to use his front paws to scoot around the home, at least until he encounters the carpet which tends to cause him to fall off his scooter. No worries, the man then creates a seat belt to help hold him in place. He feeds Pogo watermelon and eggs cooked in butter–although he says he probably shouldn’t eat eggs, but Pogo seems to love them so he keeps getting them.

Interspersed with the interview of the protagonists and film of some of their pets are creative animations by The Brothers McLeod. This is one short you don’t want to miss.

Q&A with Amy Nicholson and the two Protagonists from Pickle

The Animal Savers

The Animal Lovers

“My wife rescues these animals. Then it becomes my duty to accommodate them in some way,” the man from Pickle bemoans in a gentle and loving way.

Q: Was it a choice not to show Pickle? I kept waiting to see Pickle in a sponge.

Amy: Well, Pickle had passed on by the time we made the film.

Q (From LanceAround): I’m not sure if this is a rude question to ask, but being in Orlando, I have to ask, do you have an opinion about Sea World?

Man: We used to raise fish; as a business…That’s how we came to acquire Pickle. He was one of the ones we hatched out. Sea World. Certainly entertaining. But I don’t feel that their treatment of the animals is probably correct. It’s not my kind of thing. We raised fish to sell. Obviously they went to a lot of people’s dinner table.  But I think that Sea World is more of an exploitation. (Scattered applause.)

Q: What are you planning on working on next?

Amy: More of the same. Because Muskrat Lovely (a previous film) was the same kind of humor. Then I did a very serious film. Not VERY serious. There was a lot of joking in it and I made fun of everyone. It was about rezoning of Coney Island in New York. It took me many, many years and it was really complicated. It was really hard to complete. I loved doing it. No one got the story the way I did. But I had so much more fun doing this (Pickle). Seven thousand times more fun. So I’m just gonna find things like this that I like. They don’t get funded. But I’ll find the money…I’ll find the money. No one’s gonna fund a film about animals. But that’s fine by me.



Could This Machine be Our Future?

Could This Machine be Our Future?

Thought provoking, even handed documentary about a man who created a machine that appeared to produce more energy than it uses; otherwise known as a perpetual motion machine.

Problem is, according to our current understanding of physics, such a machine is impossible.

At least, that is what the patent office appeared to believe when they deny Joseph Newman his patent. Despite his appearance on Johnny Carson, his interview with Dan Rather and the support of 11 different congressmen, this eccentric inventor from the backwoods town of Lucedale, Mississippi, could not convince the patent office to patent his machine. Without a patent, it’s almost impossible to attract the kind of funding necessary to develop such a machine on a wide scale.

Spoiler alert–this film does not present enough evidence as to how this machine works to give you any idea whether or not the machine is actually feasible or a just a hoax. The most that is revealed is that Newman claims to have tapped into electromagnetic energy. At one point, he states that for thousands of years mankind lived next to rivers. But it’s only been recently our society has learned to harness that energy through mills and electric generators. He claims that he is doing the same thing with electromagnetism.

While the earlier footage of the film shows Newman as a rationale, intelligent inventor, by the end of the film after 20 years of frustration, Newman’s uncontrollable rage spills out onto the documentarian in an emotionally powerful scene. Unfortunately, the documentarian is unable to separate the genius of Newman’s ability to invent from his obvious mental illness which appeared to became more pronounced later in his life. As a result, it would be easy for some people to interpret Newman’s actions as the raving of a madman rather than that of a creative genius. It’s easy to forget that early in his life, Newman, who was a boxer, invented the plastic dumbbells which were so prevalent in the 70’s and 80’s.

Despite this flaw in the film, the movie is very intriguing and worth a look. It’s well paced, informative and will give you and your friends a lot to discuss. It certainly provides a different perspective than the Wikipedia page about Newman’s machine which seems to only present the argument that the machine was a complete failure.

Florida Film Festival (FFF) Preview 2016

April 11, 2016
Matthew Curtis and Mrs. LanceAround

Matthew Curtis and Mrs. LanceAround

Florida Film Festival
8-17 April 2016
Enzian Theatre and Regal Cinemas Winter Park Village 20

We’re here once again with Matthew Curtis, Programming Director for the 2016 Florida Film Festival.

LA: Matthew, something happened this week that I’ve never seen before. I was in a local multiplex theatre and saw a trailer for the upcoming film, The Lobster. This was the opening film of the FFF on Friday night. I don’t recall ever seeing a FFF movie previewing in local theatres at the same time it was showing during the FFF.

MC: We’ve done that before. It’s just a matter of timing. The Lobster is coming out in May in major markets and then it’ll expand in late May/June. I had heard that AMC and Regal were starting to show the trailer. Although I do think the FFF audience will be the largest single audience that the film gets in Central Florida. It will be larger than any regular audience that film gets in its commercial run.

LA: Why is that? What is it about the FFF that seems to attract such a unique audience that you wouldn’t find at the regular cinemas?

MC: I think it’s an audience that is attracted to movies but they’re more attracted to originality. People may have even come to that movie because it’s the new film by Yorgos Lanthimos who was nominated for Dogtooth years ago and is this unbelievable director making his first English language film. Not everybody loved the movie either. But I thought it was a very good opening night film and very provocative. Tongues were wagging! People were talking about it. It’s not for everyone. It’s darkly funny. It’s bleak and grim. It’s ideas on love and companionship are brutal. But I thought it was a worthy opening night film.

LA: As we wrote our review of the movie, we had a hard time finding a way to describe it. In the end, we settled on, “surrealistic.”

MC: Yea, certainly, although the vision of the future that it’s proposing, I suppose some would find that surreal or absurd or just…

Mrs. LA: (Interrupting) Dystopian-Holy Smokes!

MC: That’s right, it’s a dystopian situation.

LA: Until you said that now, it never occurred to me that this was a futuristic world.

MC: Well, it didn’t have spaceships and floating cars. There’s nothing “futuristic” about it except that it’s an alternate reality of, possibly, the future of mankind and how things are going to go.

LA: What is it that the Programming Director does for the FFF?

MC: The Programming Director sits on as many selection committees as possible and oversees all the decision making as far as what gets into the final lineup; what direction the program is going to take and ensures that what we’re offering is as diverse as possible.

LA: So, you oversee the selection process, you oversee the scheduling process, you oversee all the cogs in motion…and then when the festival starts your job is pretty much over?

MC: (Laughing) No…I wish! No, once the festival starts my job is to make sure that every single screening is done with the utmost efficiency and professionalism and every film with a filmmaker is given special love and the utmost care and the filmmaker is happy with the way we present their movie.

LA: During the 10 days of the FFF do you get ANY time off?

MC: No! No!

LA: Not even a two hour break?

MC: No! During the festival I get here about 10 0’clock in the morning and I go home about 2 or 3 in the morning.

LA: All day long you’re doing things and no matter how tired you are or how long your day’s been, there’s always one more blogger wanting to interview you late at night (we’re having this interview after a late night movie).

MC: (Laughing) That’s not true, but I flow with it. I have a Program Coordinator, this year it’s Tim Anderson, and we make sure that one of us is always at Regal and one of us is at Enzian. We’re here to handle any situation.

LA: If you did get a break, if you had a two hour break at some point…

MC: (Interrupting) I’d take a nap!

LA: If you had a two hour break during the 10 days and you said to yourself, “Ok, I have a break now. I can see a film.” Which movie would you see?

MC: Well, I’ve seen all the films. (Starts to laugh as he understands what I’m trying to do…)

LA: Oh, Darn! I worked for 10 minutes to try and trick him into acknowledging what his favorite film is and, once again this year, Matthew Curtis refused to divulge his favorite FFF movie.

Mrs. LA: (To LanceAround) You could just ask him directly!

LA: I’ve tried that for the last three years! He refuses to acknowledge a favorite.

Mrs LA: (To Matthew) You don’t have a favorite that tugs at your heart?

MC: There’s a lot of films that tug at my heart–It would be hard to just pick out one movie. I love our Shorts Programs. I think our Docs are amazing. The Spotlight Docs. The Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You doc is phenomenal. Tickled…Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made…There’s a lot of great non-fiction stuff. And this is probably our strongest ever Narrative Competition. We have more comedy than we’ve had in previous years. We have more countries represented; more diversity, more women directors.

LA: Which films are really funny?

MC: depends on how you take funny…I think Donald Cried is hilarious. Some of the funniest films in the festival are My Big Night, a Spanish film by Alex De La Iglesia. I think the Taika Waititi film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, is hilarious. Morris From America, the new Chad Hartigan film with Craig Robinson–these are all not just straight ahead comedies. They’re all coming of age comedic dramas. They all have something else on their mind–an indictment of foster care–different things. But they all have an awful lot of humor. Lolo, the Julie Delpy film, is about a middle age woman trying to find love and her teenage son who lives with her, you know, has a major Oedipal complex, is trying to do everything he can to undermine her romantic entanglements. (Matthew chuckles as he reminisces about this film.) Lola has the best dialogue in the festival. Her conversations with her best friend are brilliant. She’s amazing.

LA: What is it about this year’s festival that you would like our readers to know?

MC: So far it’s shaping up to be pretty awesome. I’m very proud of the programming. As I mentioned before, this is our most diverse festival ever. We certainly have the most amount of films…the most amount of countries we’ve ever had represented. And we have countries that rarely ever get on screen here like Kyrgyzstan and Cyprus and Ethiopia. The family film Lamb is really beautiful. As always, we try to offer something for everybody and I think we definitely live up to that this year.

LA: To finish, give us a quick update on Enzian Forever, the effort to expand the Eznian to three screens.

MC: It’s about three quarters of the way as far as the fundraising goes. There’s a lot of complications with the city of Maitland–things that have to be cleared…decisions made…but we’re looking to break ground sometime in the fall.

LA: That is outstanding! There you have it fans of LanceAroundOrlando. Matthew Curtis, the inside scoop on what’s happening at The Enzian and, most importantly, the 2016 Florida Film Festival. Be sure to come down and see some of the fabulous movies that are appearing for the next eight days at the festival.