Sunday, June 10, 2007

The dawning of a new era

A couple takes cell-phone photographs before the “Shotgun Stories” screening on Thursday, June 7, at the Jane Pickens.

I love that great technology is so much more accessible now. Don't get jealous, get creative! Maybe your film is next on the roster of great festival films! Or maybe you're the next Dustin Diamond. Blech. Who knew playing Screech could actually be the pinnacle of one's career? Oh, I am a bitch. Just as bitchy as Dustin Diamond. Anyway...

A catch-all table at my bed & breakfast after a few nights in town. Nothing quite like a cigar.

Well, thanks again, Newport, for a wonderful time. I am always so inspired when I come to town for the film festival. I hope everyone had as great a time as I did!

There were myriad highlights this year and I tried to take in so many that I feel a need to sleep for a year to be able to process everything! One full night’s sleep will also probably do quite nicely.

And, hippy dippy as it sounds, and granted, I am sitting here with a much-needed glass of Chardonnay: All who have come to the film festival may be scattering to the four or fewer winds but I’m pretty sure, if we let them, the brave and ballsy filmmakers will effect some great changes in us. I’m just sayin’.

G-E-T-C-R-E-A-T-I-V-E! Get creative! Geh-et creative!

Cheers! It was great seeing you again, you sneaky scoundrel, you. (I gotta go watch the "Sopranos" finale! JERSEY!)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Don't wanna be all by myself: Restraint and audience participation

There are several films that I enjoy so much when I am able to review them before the festival that I plan on seeing again on the big screen, for the experience of watching them in the theater atmosphere, with other humans, as part of an audience. “This is England” and “Autism: The Musical” are two of those films.

(Left to right) Neal, Adam, Lexi, Henry and Wyatt: The rugged individuals of "Autism: The Musical."

There is a moment in “Autism: The Musical” where Wyatt – who looks to me like a little philosopher, autistic or not – sits on a swing talking passionately about kids who go into their own world. He says that he and Henry could be friends, but Henry would just as soon go into his own world and start talking about reptiles.

Wyatt goes on to wax about his own tendencies to end up in his own world, explaining that it feels so great to have a friend that “isn’t rude” (he says “rude” with his father’s British accent) who isn’t “a bully.” So sometimes his own world seems the best choice, even though he knows it is not always healthy.

Wyatt seems a tiny adult in this situation, full of fire and puissance. Then director Tricia Regan shows a shot of him from the side, in the sun, and we see Wyatt as the precious, little vulnerable boy he is. The film then goes on to show Wyatt’s parents at an advocate’s office where the attorney, leaning back in his chair, hands on head (read: unprofessionally) tells them they could retain him for four-hundred-some-odd dollars an hour, which could turn into $40,000 - $100,000. All because Wyatt has a very “low cognitive function" and cannot be easily mainstreamed. Jerk.

Oh, other humans

I put you in bold, other humans, because you love to be in bold! I put you in bold because I can practically see you, in the darkened theater, jazz-hands a-flutter, waiting to hear yourselves speak! But I quickly forget, the jazz-hands slip out of focus, as another individual’s (usually stunning) work appears on the screen and I get to see his or her vision, his or her triumph of creativity, craft and statement come to life.

Is that what is so threatening to the people who get a director down in front at the Jane Pickens or the Opera House or theaters nation-wide and feel the need to utter the sentence, “I’m a(n) insert creative career title or similar here in order to project one’s own personality because one is threatened by someone else’s artistic statement…”?

Anyway… There is always someone who is the star of the Q&A - who really takes the opportunity to shine. Do you think I mean the directors, the actors? Oh no, my friend. I mean the self-aggrandizing audience member. There is one woman who (well-meaning as she must be), when I see her in both a panel and a screening of “Autism: The Musical,” holds jobs that would be the most important, most impressive to the authority figure at hand – the panelists, the directors.

Now, she probably actually is a composer and a director of musical theater (and a butcher, baker and candlestick maker). But why does a person find it necessary to tell the director of her disappointment, “There is not enough of the musical” in “Autism: The Musical.”

Luckily, though, Tricia Regan has a really good reason. “The musical wasn’t that good,” she says. And the point of the film isn't the musical, she also explains. And they even thought of calling the film "It's Not About The Show." And they're trying to reach the widest audience possible to get people engaged and to start caring about the disease, which now affects one child in 166. "But I’m sorry you were disappointed,” Regan genuinely adds.

“Oh, no!” the woman backpedals. “I really enjoyed it!”

I understand the impulse to want to connect on a creative level with these people who are living the dream. It is one thing to ask a question that pertains to something you do in your life (like one woman asked Tricia Regan if she knew before taking on the project what it was like to be a mother with a special needs child). It is quite another thing to take the condescending approach with self-aggrandizing crap. It really just makes one look threatened by an artist who is putting it out there.

Sometimes one of my sister’s pugs will get more attention and treats than the other and then the one who feels neglected will start humping the one who gets the attention – but enough about psychology.

My humps: Gigi and Francie Trim enjoy beach life between power-struggles. (Thanks to Nancy Trim for the photo).

A similar thing happens at the screening of the spacious and beautifully crafted “Shotgun Stories,” by Jeff Nichols (whom, thanks to the lovely Ericka Tavares, I had the honor of interviewing yesterday. More on that later). One man goes on and on as if only he, Jeff Nichols and Mike Shannon are in the room together.

But I’ll leave it at that. I’m here for the movies – the real stars of the show.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Ain't we got fun?

Negotiating the public versus personal:

There is a film called “Evening.” I think that much I am allowed to say. It has been stated, in no uncertain terms, that, “There can be absolutely NO REVIEWS of Evening.” I think I am also allowed to say that I have seen “Evening.”

I am ABSOLUTELY not going to tell you what I think about this film.

Last year I was allowed to write about, but not allowed to review, the new version of “Lassie,” and in the same sentence was told that it was desired that people would be dying to see the movie. Well, I am not a marketer or advertiser (if anything, I practically subscribe to the Bill Hicks school of thought on advertising, which is almost too barbaric to print here, however satirical it may be). I am no jerk, though - I appreciate the work that needs to be done to get my beloved art up and out. (Thanks, peddlers!)

What is most loveable about these film festivals for me are not the red carpets or the celebrity sightings (though I am dazzled in a real way by the work of mostly independent actors such as Michael Shannon and am hoping he will be at my interview later today) or the control and eventual dissemination of information regarding a certain movie in order to hype and generate excitement. I am not an excitement generator (except in my personal life). What is loveable to me is sitting in a darkened theater and being moved by this powerful, still relatively new, medium of film. It’s really quite hippy dippy. And pretty personal.

So after watching the press screening of “Evening” yesterday morning, I had to get out of the theater without talking to anyone. I immediately called my sister and cried all the way back up Touro Street only to then turn around and meet my friend at the Gap by the water for some very needed retail therapy. My Americanness never ceases to amaze me.

Good, or bad, or different, I knew I was in for it, going to view “Evening,” since I think I’m allowed to say it is a film about a dying mother and her daughters (I mean, the postcard advertising the film that came with my last order states that). It is something I’ve lived through and still go back to, am still triggered (and don't get me started about otters). I think I’m allowed to say that without setting the buzz afire, without destroying the “purple dust of twilight time" wash that is meant to fall over a film about which no one must speak. The desire to see "Evening" is still stealing across the meadows of your heart, right?

I almost could not put a photo in here of “Evening” because the web has them on lock-down. But then I found one on the Newport International Film Festival site.

All of the buzz-control makes me think of a favorite quote from James Merrill’s “The Changing Light at Sandover.” Of course I can’t find the exact quotation right now, but it has something to do with the “erection of theories, dissemination of thought”… and the last line has something to do with choking on it.

See you at the red carpet! (Unless of course I'm in a darkened theater doing what I do).

bluhammock lounge has everything!

...not unlike "Forrest Gump."

I don't actually think that "Forrest Gump" has everything but my dad's friend who used to help us do all kinds of handy things around the house loved "Forrest Gump" and said "'Forrest Gump' has everything" so whenever I hear that something "has everything" I think of our favorite handyman and his love for Tom Hanks (who actually probably has just about everything). Anyway...

I attend a panel discussion about music and film colliding! Crash!

Discussing said collision is “Chops” director Bruce Broder, “Kurt Cobain: About a Son” director AJ Schnack, “Great World of Sound” director Craig Zobel, “Silver Jew” director Michael Tully and “The Killer Within” composer Roger Neill.

Don't be fooled by these upstanding-looking gents - their perceptions and ideas about film and music are colliding before your very eyes! Look closely or you might miss it.

Ironically, the men are hard to hear at first because humans shriek, etc., outside of the Colony House and behind us someone tries to get the all-important bar together by pouring a bunch of loud ice into some container.

Once I can hear them, though, the guys talk about some interesting tidbits. Craig Zobel explains how they got a lot of the local musicians' performances into his narrative feature “Great Wall of Sound.” Like the characters in the film, Zobel and cohorts placed a newspaper ad stating something to the effect of “Record producers in town one week only! Do you have what it takes? Come down and find out!”

So the people who showed up thought they were going to get famous. After their performances were filmed they were taken into another room and told the real story – that this was a fictional movie – and asked if they wanted to be in it. Most of them did.

My gal pal Becky Pineo hydrates in style thanks to Dasani and Mercury!

The lovely and comfortable bluhammock filmmakers lounge.

After the panel discussion is a welcome happy hour. It is amazing how different Colony House looks with ‘er new digs. I must commend whoever designed the clean, comfortable indoor space, rife with palm fronds and birds of paradise. And there are hammocks, if you haven't noticed. You can actually relax in a hammock and listen to a modestly-stocked MP3 player. They are also giving away cards that allow one to download twenty-five free songs. (Everything!)

I watch this watcher watch Philly’s Jim Boggia play some tunes and make some jokes. (Everything!)

Power to the people, behind the palm fronds.

Hungry but still beating that Atkins horse? Don’t worry – there’s antipasto nearby. But seriously, who doesn’t love a big bowl of bread? (Everything!)

The Newport "In The Buff" no-oak Chardonnay is very, very nice. It’s a touch sweet but not for a moment cloying. We go back for more. Good thing we hydrated! Thanks, Diet Coke Plus. (Everything!)

In the basement of the Colony House where the bathroom looms stand stacks and stacks of Diet Coke Plus fridge packs among other ingestible items. Suddenly soda hydrates, according to the text? “Whether it’s your first can of the day or an afternoon pick-me-up” it reads, paraphrased. First can of the day? That ought be le commode.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Stay classy, Newport!

All I want to say is never EVER forgo art for a party.

Cold fried fusion at H2O.

My gal pals and I would have been much happier viewing “Black Sheep” last night (as planned) but ended up, instead, drinking bad wine (though having good conversation) and getting elbowed out of line for the bar by men wearing an amount of cologne inversely proportionate to their civility. I know that stench. The stench of desperation.

No, I’m being too hard on the whole scene. Rachel Dratch and the Nuge were only footsteps away and I’m sure we could have had some fresh convo.

Is that a baby arm on your head or are you just… Oh. Oh no, it’s a baby arm. My bad.

While we are on the subject – I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but Rachel Dratch is so fantastic in part because she is not afraid to play characters that are ugly. Mostly women are relegated to fall down or be mad slutty (or both!) to get a laugh and make it onto television and the like, so a female comic really has to grab the whole thing by the huevos. (And just as an aside – you have probably noticed – she’s quite attractive! And don’t get me started about that rack. Sorry… I couldn’t resist. After a couple margaritas last night I planned on entitling this blog entry “Dratch Stacked!” but thought better of it. Go me. Always taking the high road. I'm like a damn high priestess of tact and gentility.)

Fresh ‘n lovely wins the race.

Dratch seems refreshingly sensitive too (not that I would wish a sensitive existence on anyone). I saw her on one of the late night talk shows a couple years ago talking about meeting Bill Murray, one of her heroes, for the first time. He was coming towards her down the hall, waving, I think the story goes.

“I love your work!” he exclaimed, or similar. Dratch was overjoyed, of course. The sad clown had turned his leathery gaze upon her and recognized the jewel in her lotus (or something less cheesy). She waved back, just as he kept walking all the way by her. Murray was talking to Maya Rudolph who stood behind her.

“I thought they were doing a bit!” Dratch explained. That is how much she loves (loved?) Murray. She thought he and Rudolph were in on a prank on her. But no. Every time I see her I think of that story and want to tell her how great she is. And one of my comedienne friends tells me Murray doesn’t think women are funny anyway. But that’s pure conjecture on my part.

Anyway… back to Newport. We left H2O for more comfortable environs and opted for a drink at the Star Bar. Not before fending off a toothless guy whom the bartender would not serve (“Don’t be that way, baby,” were the only words we could understand him muttering to my friend and photographer extraordinaire Jacqueline Marque) and explaining to another man again that, no, we do not have any marijuana, we hopped out into the cool night air. And there on the side of the building a guy was taking a piss.

“Don’t look!” he peeped. We were glad he stayed classy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Blister in the sun

Alexis dos Santos’ “Glue” is hot, sweaty, sticky – not unlike how the main character, Lucas, describes his waking state most mornings and why he needs, so desperately, “to get laid.”

Teenaged Lucas (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) listens to the Violent Femmes – “Add It Up,” appropriately – while rocking a sticky faux-hawk.

The audience breathes an audible sigh of relief upon learning Lucas’ locks defy gravity thanks to various product, and not, as the viewer suspects, from nature’s hair gel à la “There’s Something About Mary.” Lest you think this American coming of age cinema… oh, do not be fooled by my reference to “Mary.” The Farrelly brothers look like they are merely fumbling with their zippers next to dos Santos’ coming and coming and coming of age tale, "Glue."

This narrative feature is suitably filmed mostly in too-close-for-comfort shots and shaking handheld frames with lens flares a-plenty. Three Argentine teenagers ride, run, wrestle, wank, dance, smoke and sniff their way through an adolescent summer in all of its gritty and often uncomfortable glory (and I use “glory” somewhat loosely). And we get to watch, no matter how badly we might want to turn away at times.

American coming-of-age films tend to flinch at sexuality, “tastefully” having the “good sense” to pan over to the wall during coitus or similar. But not “Glue.” Oh no. Remember when you saw the diving board scene in “Y Tu Mama Tambien”? Yes. “Glue” has many unabashed, unfettered sexual moments like that, but with even more soul and well-written characters, dialogue and back-story.

Another dumb thing about many American coming-of-age films: Someone always has to pay when The Sex is had. The message that perhaps makes “Glue” uncomfortable for some viewers is that sometimes people (often young men) push the envelope as far as they can in order to then come back to a comfortable resting place, to figure out what actually is too far.

Since I’m supposed to be relatively mum on “Glue” – “capsule review only” and all that (at some point I’ll try to throw up a blog about that very subject) – let us talk about the audience.

Now, I think “Glue” is great, a “fresh voice,” is how I believe David Nugent (Program Director Eximius & Ubiquitous) describes dos Santos’ filmmaking. But as Nuge also says, the film is not always easy to watch. I find myself hot-eared and sweaty-palmed on several occasions throughout the screening at the well-appointed Newport Art Museum, glad I have a pad and pen to focus on (je suis très americaine). So I can only imagine how the lovely, silver-haired Ralph Lauren-clad couple seated in front of me (and similar peppering the audience) must feel as these teenagers grope in the sun and sniff glue.

After the pivotal reckless glue-sniffing scene the husband of said viewing couple gets up to leave, quiet as a church mouse, politely and discretely suggests his wife do the same. She wants to see what happens, though, and watches much of the rest of the film rapt, with her hand cupped over her mouth. I think for a moment that this couple has probably had at least one teenager of their own and I can’t imagine how it must feel to picture one’s own son in similar positions and predicaments.

Or maybe the pair just had bad crab cakes for lunch. (I know I didn’t – The Gas Lantern on Thames was quite dee-lish).

Who’s that thinkin’ those nasty thoughts?
Nasty boys!
Who’s that eatin’ that nasty food?
Nasty boys!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Everyone's Gone To The Moon

And it's a marvelous night for a moondance.

My horoscope (Virgo) for June 5th reads, “Take a long walk after dinner and watch the stars. You may find that there is something important that they have to say.”

I had not yet left for Newport when I read my horoscope but looked forward to viewing the opening night film at the Newport International Film Festival, “In The Shadow Of The Moon,” sure it would present all the star and space matter necessary to make me think, even if the walk from Yesterday's to the Jane Pickens consisted of less than a hop, skip and jump.

The film chronicles, through present-day interviews and breathtaking NASA footage, the American men who first walked on the moon. They are older now, obviously, reflective, and fascinating. Little did I know, cheesy as it sounds, that the brightest stars of which my horoscope spoke would be some of our greatest American heroes. They share for the first time in such glorious detail their lunar and terrestrial experiences and let viewers see what it means to live on this planet by leaving it behind however briefly.

I am tempted to write about the space shuttle as phallus – man’s desire to penetrate the great unknown with his big, er, rocket. But watching “In The Shadow Of The Moon” forces even me to take the high road. It is a beautiful, informative, evocative film that makes one feel an olden-days patriotic swelling in one’s chest where recent history may make one’s heart cave in on itself. The film encourages one, subtly, of course, to dust off that tiny American flag we all hold inside and yearn for a time when everyone, it seemed, regardless of home country, watched with bated breath and believed that shy, well-spoken American actually was taking one giant leap for mankind.

“In The Shadow Of The Moon” reminds me of one the greatest qualities possessed by our American men (and perhaps men everywhere – director David Sington is British, after all,): The desire and confidence to try something so seemingly ridiculous that it just might work (not that women aren't also capable of literal flights of fancy, we would just more often than not say, "Moon, schmoon. Take out the garbage"). And because of focus, ingenuity and support (and funding), men like Mike Collins (the audience and my favorite in the film), Buzz Aldrin, Edgar Mitchell and others have made history and can share the oft-religious experience of being somewhere that one can watch the earth rise.

The opening night film and party for the Newport International Film Festival are a great success. Do not get me started about the phallic centerpieces at the Colony House this evening, meant, no doubt, to represent, however loosely, an “In The Shadow Of The Moon” theme and the sexual imperialism I've decided not to write about. We are talking a huge white ball on top of a black cylinder on every table. But then maybe I read too much into things (or I am too Freudian). The additional white paper lanterns overhead, however, also suggest (more appropriately) a shadow-of-the-moon feel.

Colony House wants to put its moons over your hammy.

No matter, of course – Pravda Vodka keeps it flowing so that all who are left are willing to sing and dance along to the classic rock cover “band.”

Couple cuts nonexistent rug whilst Newport’s most popular columnist, Jim Gillis, looks on. That is you, Jim, right? Like I said, Pravda kept it flowing so I’m just not sure, though I think I recognize the dashing figure you cut.

On that note… I will write more tomorrow, lest I further break down the doubtlessly well-meaning decorations and what they suggest about guests going gently into that good night (nudge, nudge) but it's just too late in the evening (um, morning) for a girl to successfully quote Yeats.

I’m interested, though, to hear what other people think about “In The Shadow Of The Moon,” fresh, the next day, or days after. Who is your favorite astronaut? Why? Does the film make you feel patriotic again?

Don't tread on she: Becky Pineo of Zipcar is sure to be in orbit after tasting a tiny tomato and mozzarella rocketship of flavor, the color of seven stripes of the American flag.