Weekly Rochester Events #358: Another Bacon Begins
Thursday, November 17, 2005
I guess starting off, the votes are in and JayceLand wasn't voted "Best Blog" in The City Newspaper's Best of Greater Rochester survey. At least, anonymously, I "won" best answers for "a time machine" to cure a hangover and "City Newspaper thinks Chris Maj is insane but John Parinello is not" as evidence we're going to hell.
Anyway, the big to-do this week was The High Falls Film Festival and I hit it big. Wednesday night I saw Ceský sen (Czech Dream) at The Little (240 East Ave.). The movie — billed as a documentary — was pretty good but a bit rough around the edges. It's kind of like Super Size Me in that the documentarians are also the subject of the film and it's more of a social commentary. It's interesting to see how capitalism has taken hold in Czechoslovakia — gigantic "hyper markets" sell everything and provide a whole-day excursion. The filmmakers decided to create and market one of these hyper markets — only they didn't actually build it. As such, it's more about the process of advertising and how it works. It was uneasy to see because, being a jaded American who grew up with it all my life, I couldn't imagine how these hardball techniques would affect someone who was new to it.
I headed to The Inn On Broadway (26 Broadway St., across East from Scio) after that for the opening party. Although I recognized a few faces, I just ended up talking with this one woman all night — about my personal life almost entirely. I mused that our picture might appear somewhere as we were in intense conversation, but it had absolutely nothing to do with film.
Thursday I got out in the morning for the Coffee Talk at The Crowne Plaza Hotel (70 State St.) Mary Jo Godges and Renée Sotile who made Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars said that they met Susan Sarandon at a film festival and she offered to do the voiceover narration — it happened so recently that the upcoming screening would be their first chance to see it. Marcela Bazzano, art director for Cama adentro (Live-In Maid) was also there but barely got a chance to comment at all.
Unfortunately, a man named Gary (I think) hijacked the discussion. He was mentioned as being responsible for some public relations on the festival but I didn't find his name on the website, the program, nor on the website of the company credited for P.R. Anyway, he went on and on about how important making money in film was. He noted how one director refused to cut his movie so the studio could sell it, and in just about the same breath, was impressed that Ingmar Bergman could insist that Sony install digital projectors to show his movie — his priorities seemed to revolve around profit and popularity and didn't give any indication that he even comprehended what "art" means. I was there to discuss filmmaking with filmmakers, not cash flows with some product-pusher. It was vile.
That evening I got to see Temporada de patos (Duck Season) at The Little (240 East Ave.) which was amusing and slyly funny. I though of it like a very subtle Ferris Bueller's Day Off — rather dramatic changes in four peoples lives occur pretty much within the confines of a small apartment instead of the city of Chicago.
After that I went to the first short film program in the festival. I thought that In the Morning was a particulary disturbing: it's about "honor killings" in certain countries (Turkey in this case.) The "dishonor" is the rape of a woman, and "honor" is restored by killing her. Sleepwalking was pretty good — about a woman involved with a married man and how the situation makes her feel — although I found it so dispassionate that the realtionship itself almost didn't make sense. I was also saddened at my own cluelessness at times ... in El aire que respiro (The Air That I Breathe) I gathered that the protagonist found solace in her busy world through contact with water — perhaps as a fantasy escape or memories of a more primal life, but I wasn't finding other layers of meaning beyond that.
I hung out at Java's (16 Gibbs St.) for the filmmaker party for a while and got home pretty late. Friday morning I again went to the Coffee Talk at The Crowne Plaza Hotel (70 State St.) I met Web of Life Award honoree Jane Alexander just briefly: we ended up having conversations back-to-back. I got to speak with Renée Sotile and Mary Jo Godges a bit about how they had trouble getting people to open up and talk about Christ McAuliffe — in part, they blamed the nature of New Englanders to close off their emotions to painful things. I also talked for a while with choreography and body-kinesthetic expert Jean-Louis Rodrigue although mostly about experience and wisdom gained living in a variety of places as he has versus the roots you slowly grow living in one place as I have.
Afterward a friend of mine convinced me to sign up for the tour of Rochester so she wouldn't be the only non-filmmaker.
I stopped at Caterina's (89 State St., formerly Antonetti's Cocina Criolla) for a bite to eat. It was okay ... more of a Puerto Rican greasy spoon than anything else. I got back for the tour a little later ... unfortunately my coercer got delayed and couldn't make the tour. Nonetheless, a couple people from the Greater Rochester Visitor Association, Sydney Levine, Grace Lee (director/producer of The Grace Lee Project) and myself went along to check things out. We went to High Falls and I was astonished at the suggestion to not get out and see it. I acted as local tour guide for Grace — we got ahead of everyone to the middle of the Pont De Rennes Bridge over the gorge. Next we had a nice time touring Susan B. Anthony House (17 Madison St.) for a while ... she sure was an amazing woman and it's really worth it to stop by. Our final stop was Strong Museum (1 Manhattan Square Pk.) which — being Veterans Day — was packed with kids ... I wasn't all that excited about it.
That evening I went out to the Dryden at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Sketches of Frank Gehry. It was a beautiful film about a fascinating man, Frank O. Gehry (well, men — counting director Sydney Pollack.) It was comforting to know that even someone as successful as Gehry still worries that he won't know how to complete a project. I just wish that artists had a way to do something better than commiserate on the topic.
I ducked out to see Gaybot at The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) — they got started much later than I had hoped they would so I couldn't stay. I planned on coming back but ended up sticking around the party at Veneto Woodfired Pizza and Pasta (330 East Ave.) instead. I talked with a bunch of people but spent the most time with Virginia Abramovich and Peter Medeiros, the director-writer couple who made the short film Grace which is in the third shorts program. We talked a while about art — Peter's definition is that "art is excrement," although I prefer to say that "art is what you have to do — from in your head." Both get the point across — I think mine is a bit more affirming and his is a bit more accurate. They said that this is the second time they won't be able to attend the screening — the first because of the birth of their child and the second because of a wedding back in Toronto on Sunday.
Saturday was another long day. I got to Nextstage at Geva (75 Woodbury Blvd.) early to catch Screenplay Live!. The Break-In by Ryan David Jahn was very detailed for a script — at least I thought so — I wasn't sure that a director would be able to tell which details were pivotal and which were inconsequential. Anastasia Cerankosky directed the actors reading and Gordy Hoffman was there to moderate and give suggestions.
Not to give too much away, but it's about a guy who discovers and kills a man who looks just like him who is trying to kill him during a break-in. As things go on, there is ambiguity whether it's two people, whether it's in one man's head, or whether it's some kind of time-travel. Each envies the other's life for the merits and both want to take the place of the other.
During the discussion afterward, I thought that ambiguity was very important and encouraged Ryan to keep it in. I suggested that he let the universe he created live within the story and to not try and explain it in real-world terms. Others — including Gordy to some extent — made suggestions on how it could exist within the rules of the real world. Regardless, it'll make an interesting film.
Through some delays and a long lunch at O'Bagelo's (165 State Street) I managed to not go to a bunch of stuff. That afternoon I went to the Women Of SoFA: Short Films By RIT Students at The Little (240 East Ave.) I had seen Continuations at the November 2004 Emerging Filmmakers program and I still liked it as a view of growing up and breaking through the barriers of life. Lipstick was an interesting essay on feminism, make-up, self, and beauty — I'm pretty sure I've met the director and knew one of the interviewees: Suzanne Whitney of The Earl Cram Revue. Likewise in What Happened Thursday, I knew Brian Blatt of Gaybot playing a pre-operative transgendered woman — the film being a series of non-intertwining stories celebrating people's unique and varied lives.
Later that evening I talked with Grace Lee for a bit at the cafe at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) before the movie. I suggested a trip out to Betty Meyer's Bullwinkle Café (622 Lake Ave.) for the sing-a-long after the film. We got in a bit late but everything was running late. They gave the Susan B. Anthony "Failure is Impossible" Award to Angela Bassett — I was very moved by the standing ovation but she kept her composure and graciously thanked everyone.
As soon as the film, Caché (Hidden) started — holding on a stationary shot down a narrow street of a house for 3 minutes or so — I switched to "art film" mode. It's about Georges, a Frenchman, and the man who was once his adopted brother, an Algerian named Majid. As a child, Georges made false statements about Majid, causing him to be sent to a foster home. Majid grew up bitter that the great opportunities available to him as the child of a French native family were wrenched from him when he went to foster care.
The film slowly and steadily builds tension to a visceral climax. Its ending, though, is unrewarding — metaphorically as if the projector just ran out of film. I have a very cursory understanding of the divide between the French and the Algerians, but as a narrative social commentary, I think it rather bluntly gets its point across through the lack of resolution — that the viewer is left hanging as is the state of the real-life situation. I artificially drew similarities to America's divide between whites and blacks: although civil rights laws seemed to fix everything 40 years ago, we still have a big rift in society that's unresolved.
Afterward, Grace and I went to Betty Meyer's Bullwinkle Café (622 Lake Ave.) but only the owner Ray and the bartender were there. I felt bad that nobody showed up — I thought it got going earlier, but I guess it really gets started around 10:30. Us three old guys (representing a pretty uniform spectrum of ages I'd guess) compared notes on back pains and such. I mused that it's my very presence keeping people away and as we were leaving, pianist Roslyn showed up. Oh well.
We went to the closing party at Artisan Works (565 Blossom Rd.) after that. Not too much to report ... I got into a discussion that Grace, Diana Wilson (director of Being Caribou) and fellow-Rochestarian David were having about Canada and America. I tried to be less brash than usual so I wasn't stampeding over Grace's non-brash style. I encouraged Diana (a Canadian) to send people down here to vote instead of waiting for us to unfuck ourselves before visiting.
Anyway, on the way home (thankfully not during when I was driving any guest-of-the-city around) the throttle on my Civic stuck wide-open as I was crossing South Clinton on Goodman. I intended to briefly floor it to speed up before the light changed, but it stayed down. Since it was a Civic VX manual with its massive 1.5L engine, it puttered up to almost 40 miles an hour in a block or so before I got it under control.
The interesting thing is that with the throttle wide-open, there is no vacuum in the intake manifold, and without any vacuum, the power-assist brakes don't offer any assistance. It only took a couple seconds for me to cut the engine (leaving the key in so I could still steer) but the brakes were reminiscent of the old manual ones I had on the VW Beetle I had as a kid. I'm not sure what happened becuase once I popped the hood and freed the throttle, it wouldn't stick again. I guess I just have to floor it once in a while.
Sunday morning I was festivalling once more. I went to the cafe at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) and joined Renée Sotile, Mary Jo Godges, and a local friend of Rochester native Renée. We were there for the Documentary Filmmaking Panel in the Curtis Theatre.
Festival artistic director Catherine Wyler started a discussion about rights, copyrighting, and access to materials and Evangeline Griego, producer of Sir! No Sir! noted that nobody has ever been sued over fair use, but when you get an agreement to use something, make sure it's "all media worldwide for perpetuity." Catherine added that professors in Washington are working toward codifying fair-use rather than leaving it up to the interpretation of the courts.
Shelby Knox and director Rose Rosenblatt of The Education Of Shelby Knox were there too. Rose said she got funded first then searched for a character to flesh out the story. Shelby is now a junior at University of Texas at Austin (2613 Wichita St., Austin, TX). I asked if Shelby felt that by having cameras around her made her feel supported in her beliefs — she said that feeling was present, but it was more from the personal support of the people behind the cameras.
Evangeline Griego's next project is called God Willing about a nomadic Christian cult where children must disown their family — and the families often search for their kids. Julia Newman, director/producer of Into the Fire: American Women in the Spanish Civil War plans to do a film about Albert Einstein as a social and political activist. Diana Wilson, director/writer of Being Caribou is working on a project titled Future History: what are we moving toward? what did we used to think the future was like and how is it now? do we really build our future? Rebecca Dreyfus, director/co-producer of Stolen said her next film will be a fiction film about sexuality. Mary Jo Godges and Renée Sotile, directors and producers of Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars. plan to do smaller works and work on a narrative version of their film. Rose Rosenblatt and Shelby Knox are also working on a fictional version of their film.
A short time later I was back at the Curtis to see a discussion between film festival programming consultant Amy Taubin and Mania Akbari about Mania's "6 Video Arts" on display in the downstairs lobby at The Little (240 East Ave.) Earlier in the week I had a chance to see two of the works. "Self" is a non-narrative discussion of fear and life consisting of a male face on the left and a female face on the right, both obscured by water over images of a pool table: shots of a pool cue being moved back and forth, and balls going into pockets in quick succession. "Sin" is strangely perverse weirdness — a clown-like figure swings on a swing in the upper frame and TV static fills the lower. At the discussion they also showed "Devastation" which is a grid of faces in green make-up, some red lipstick or cigarettes — apparently Mania expected everything to be projected on a big screen and you're supposed to realize that the faces are quite hideous.
Mania, a native of Tehran, Iran (along with her sister, Roya, I believe, who acted as translator) fights with gender roles and censorship in her work. I asked her to clarify one of her comments and she said "Self" was censored in Iran for its billiards scenes being too erotic, even though it's not explicit — something I thought was a universal way to get past censrors. To show it in Iran, she had to set it up with an actual pool table and with the two figures above it (as set up in the video.) Further, she noted that standards are different between men and women — she felt that if she were a man that "Self" would probably not have been censored.
After a brief break, I went back to The Little (240 East Ave.) to see the third shorts program. I was relieved to mostly like Grace after meeting the filmmakers. It depicts a diner waitress pouring one hell of a sexually suggestive cup of coffee for a man who then takes great pleasure tasting it. However, it closes with the man applying make-up to what is apparently the body of the woman, leaving me confused whether she had died or that it was reciprocal affection and she wasn't dead, or if the body was really a mannequin ... again, I seem to be even worse than before at picking up artistic metaphor. I also liked In Time which was a narrative about a woman who's about to get married and how her traditions conflict her modern American life — particularly the genital mutilation she endured as a child. The Stork felt like a 1970's-style clip-art-based short film that cheerfully obliterated the natural world for consumerist needs.
I intended to come back and see Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars that night but when I returned to The Little (240 East Ave.) I was put off by the media circus around the whole thing. Heck, I just wanted to get a quiet plate of ravioli in the cafe. I was disgusted by FOX News' arrogance to park not only in a no-parking zone, but right at the spot allocated for the film festival's own shuttle. Further, FOX Rochester (WUHF, Channel 31) (360 East Ave.) is barely 1,000 feet away from the Little — fucking lazy non-journalists.
I called it a night.
Fortunately, Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars won as best documentary so I got to see it on Monday (I missed World's Fastest Indian which was the best narrative and showed earlier in the evening.) The film was wonderful. It was touching, well-constructed, and really highlighted Christa's wide-open, teaching/learning lifestyle. Afterward, Renée and Mary Jo were there to answer questions and it was apparent how their own unassuming, friendly spirit mirrored Christa's (and not just because they had NASA flight suits today either. By the way, if I'm ever playing Taboo and you need me to say, "hot," try "women in NASA flight suits" — assuming it's not already listed as one of the things you can't say.)
Although I was pretty movie'd out, I hit one more film on Wednesday (and not part of the festival): Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price at the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) The place was packed and some news media was out front interviewing people — obviously it would be a conflict of interest with their advertising-revenue buddies at Wal-Mart to show it. The documentary itself was pretty good. It pulled a lot of punches to elicit sympathy, but got its point across nonetheless: primarily that Wal-Mart causes local establishments to close, they underpay their workers, overwork their workers despite having plenty of applicants, give unaffordable benefits packages, swindle workers out of overtime, treat non-US workers poorly, fail to provide even basic parking-lot security, and get tax breaks even though local businesses that worked hard to establish themselves within the system don't, intimidate and fire people who try to set up unions.
In all, nothing that particularly surprised me (see also, last week's discussion about how corporations have no conscience)
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This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including Monroe County and occasionally the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
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