"Semi Pro" by Mike Smith
FANGRRL Goes to the Gasparilla Film Festival by Lisa Ciurro
Blood Bash by ED Tucker
6th Annual Rondo Awards -- Voting Closes Saturday....Hillary Scores Bigtime....Bush-Cheney Indicted by Matt Drinnenberg
The Storm .... Passing On .... Road House Troubles .... .... .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1985 Should Have Gone To... h by Mike Smith
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FANGRRL Goes to the Gasparilla Film Festival Congratulations to the Gasparilla Film Festival staff and volunteers on a second successful year. There weren’t any films in the 2008 festival (that I watched) that I loved as much as 2007 GFF selections Purgatory House and The Host (although Kabluey came close), but at least there weren’t any GFF films this year that made me want to blind myself, like last year’s Fay Grim and The Dark Place.
Movies, movies, movies: that’s all you really need for a film festival. Throw in some filmmaker Q&A sessions, parties here and there, opportunities to meet famous film folks – not to mention the chance to watch the cult classic Blood Feast on the big screen and then to have Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman there in person to talk about it – and you get the 2008 Gasparilla Film Festival. Here’s a summary of my festival-going experience this year:
Wednesday, February 27:
*Opening night party at the Tampa Theatre – Absolutely packed with people, but thankfully not too warm (like other Tampa Theatre events I’ve attended) because it was so cool outside. Great energy and enthusiasm; everyone was eager to see the first film and get the festival started.
*Kabluey – A memorable, original, hilarious film about a sad-sack regular guy -- not quite a loser, but with strong loser tendencies -- Salman (Scott Prendergast,) who moves in with his frazzled, stressed sister-in-law (Lisa Kudrow) to help take care of his bratty nephews while his brother is in Iraq. To help make ends meet, he gets the humiliating job of passing out flyers on a remote stretch of road while wearing a large, cumbersome blue corporate mascot suit that he can’t get in and out of by himself. Kabluey is about being stuck: in a relationship, in a job or in a big blue plushy costume.
*Q&A – Writer/director/lead actor Scott Prendergast and producer (and Tampa native) Jeff Balis talked about filming in Austin, Texas in the middle of summer (it was unbearable and the mascot-suite-wearing extras kept quitting), getting Lisa Kudrow to star (they still can’t believe she actually agreed to be in their movie), and story ideas (Prendergast moved in with his sister-in-law while his brother was in the Gulf; his nephews were bratty but his sister-in-law was completely faithful (unlike Kudrow’s character) and made him promise to announce that at every Q&A he attended).
*Party at Spain in downtown Tampa – Even more jam-packed than the first party; great jazz-meets-flamenco guitar music. I had a chance to talk to Prendergast (charming, outgoing, funny) and Balis (quiet but nice).
Thursday, February 28:
My day started off with a dentist’s appointment and went downhill from there, so I didn’t make it to the festival. I’ve heard good things, however, about the Cuban film Dream Havana that screened Thursday night.
Friday, February 29:
*Short film The Good Samaritan – A 16-year-old (Rachael Lee) makes a most interesting confession to her priest (Robert Elfstrom). I was more impressed with the actors than I was with the story, but because of glitches with the sound, I need to see it again to fully absorb it.
*American Fork – An overweight, lonely grocery store clerk (Hubbel Palmer) writes poetry and takes acting classes when he’s not busy sneaking food, being berated by his bitter mother (Kathleen Quinlan) or walking to church with his goofball spinster sister (Mary Lynn Rajskub). While the film attempts a few comedic moments, the meanness of Quinlan’s character sucked all the fun out of this dysfunctional family for me.
*Short film There’s Always Hope – A newly-retired cop talks to a troubled teen and tries to convince him to straighten his life out. What’s unusual about this discussion is that it occurs while the teen has a gun pointed at the cop during a home robbery. I missed a couple of minutes of this 13-minute movie, so I need to see it again.
*Big Rig – A very interesting, if slightly long, documentary about truckers. Good interviews, nice soundtrack, diverse mix of interviewees to provide different perspectives, great opening scene of a quiet, deserted road overcome with hectic CB chatter and darkening storm clouds. It lacked cohesiveness, however; I missed the traditional narration that often opens and/or ends a documentary. I left the theater with a lot of unanswered questions. (And unfortunately I couldn't stick around for the filmmaker Q&A.)
*Short film The Job – Very short, very funny. To say more would spoil the fun.
*Preview of documentary Strip Club King:The Joe Redner Story – Exceptionally well-done. Local filmmakers Shelby McIntyre and Chris Woods have tracked down some very memorable footage and put it to good use. I’m looking forward to seeing the entire film.
*Documentary Judy Toll:The Funniest Woman You’ve Never Heard Of – Toll co-wrote Casual Sex, wrote for Sex and the City, created the hilarious Andrew Dice Clay parody character "Andrea Dice Clay" and performed in comedy clubs across the country before dying in her 40s of skin cancer. Judy’s brother made this film to preserve his sister’s memory and her mother attended the GFF screening.
*After-party – I popped in only long enough to ask Shane West (ER, GFF film What We Do Is Secret) to pose for a picture.
*After-after-party – I got into a fairly passionate, slightly heated argument about film festivals and filmmaking with some guy I had only just met at the party. (I’ll spare you the gory details; all you really need to know is that I was right and he was wrong.) Oh, and Rachael Lee’s mom is a good cook.
Saturday, March 1:
*The Fanboy Summit – Wow. Finally meeting PCR columnist ED Tucker would have been memorable enough, but a chance to talk to Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman?? Wow. I was blown away by their graciousness and enthusiasm. I didn't get a chance to talk to them much, but that was ok because I didn't really have anything to ask hem. Just having the opportunity to meet them in person was enough for me. Wow.
*Short film Ten at the Top in Tampa Bay – A solid and moving documentary by first-time local filmmaker Renee Warmack about ten trailblazing women currently heading governmental institutions in the Tampa Bay area.
*Short film In Between – Vignettes about a couple’s mid-life crises that seemed flat and disconnected, despite the clever “in”-word segways (“independent,” “indirect”).
Short film Loose Ends – A story about the troubles of a newly-single woman, Loose Ends started out silly and funny, then turned more serious and ended in a confused puddle.
Short film Driving Lessons – A busy career woman takes her teenage daughter out for a driving lessons that will change their lives forever. Part comedy, part drama, this peculiar little movie kept me intrigued and wanting more.
*Reception/Party – I saw the Blood Feast nurse, but missed the barf bag giveaway. There was a long line of people waiting to talk to Lewis and Friedman, get their autographs or snap a photo. I resisted the evil urge to yell “I had lunch with them today so I don’t have to wait in line!” and went back inside.
*Campus MovieFest short films (06-07 winners) – Managed to catch 14 of the 16 films, several of which I had seen before because they were from Florida. As always, I’m amazed at the inventiveness of these student films. They’re better than some of the Hollywood drivel I’ve overspent to watch on Pay Per View. And at least one CMF film makes the audience wonder “What in the hell is this nonsense?” Funnily enough, the DVD froze during one of these lesser CMF films. We were a pretty creative audience, though, and able to entertain ourselves (and improve that one particular film a bit) with some MST3000-style commentary and creative shadow puppets until the DVD started working again.
*Blood Feast – I’m so glad that I had never seen this movie before. How wonderful is it that the first time I saw Blood Feast was on the big screen, at the 45th anniversary screening at the Gasparilla Film Festival, with Lewis and Friedman in attendance for a Q&A? Pretty damn wonderful.
Do I think Blood Feast is one of the best films ever made? Of course not. Do I have a burning desire to watch it on a regular basis? Not really. But I can appreciate and celebrate Blood Feast in all its campy, ridiculous, bloody glory as the important, historic, cult classic landmark that it is. Kudos to the Gasparilla Film Festival for having the guts (attempted pun intended) to include this movie in the fest. Thanks also go to Andy Lalino, the other Andy whose last name I don’t know, Steve Persall from the St. Pete Times and everyone else involved in making this happen.
*Q&A -- "You understood the whole thing is a big gag!" If that opening line from Lewis didn't endear him to the audience, then his 2001 Maniacs (I think that's the one) theme song sing-a-long sure did. Yee-haw! I'll try to condense six pages of notes:
"We wanted to make a film that the studios weren't making." -- Friedman, who added that Blood Feast was edited by Gary Sinise's father
"Trepidations? If we had any trepidations, we wouldn't have made this movie." -- Lewis, responding to host Steve Persall's question about possible trepidations about movie theater restrictions because of the movie's gore
"There were two reactions to the movie. Oh my God! and OH MY GOD!!!!" -- Friedman
"It's like a Walt Whitman poem...not good, but the first of its kind." -- Friedman, quoting Lewis
"It was cold in Chicago." -- Lewis, on why they filmed in Florida
"It's in the hands of God." -- Lewis, on whether or not there will be a Blood Feast 3
"We can't call them actors. We'll call them cast." -- Lewis
Blood Feast tidbits:
##Persall's father, a drive-in movie theater owner, planted a man who staged a fake heart attack at the movie's premiere; the movie was sold out for two straight weeks
##It premiered at the Bellair Drive-In in Peoria, Illinois
##The movie was called Flesh Feast to get around the rule of no movies being allowed to have "blood" in the title
##The Tampa Tribune had a front page article about the movie that stated that children had to have a note from their parents to see it
The Q&A session ended with Persall reading Friedman and Lewis some of the negative reviews Blood Feast has received over the years. Lewis stood up, walked over to Persall, said "Critics have been killing us for years" and something along the lines of "It's time to get revenge." He pulled out a knife and slit Persall's throat! Persall was squirming and kicking and frantically pumping his right arm...WHOOSH! Blood splatters 10 feet in the air, right on the blank movie screen. The audience cheered and clapped. Persall -- not seeing the screen -- stood up, sheepishly apologized to the audience for the special effects gag not working, then turned around, saw the blood-spattered screen and said "Whoa!" The audience cheered and clapped even harder. It would have been memorable no matter how it panned out, but it seemed fitting somehow (given the Fanboy Summit scramble earlier) that the fake blood gag didn't work as planned but turned out being even better.
*100 Tears – Blood Feast started the explicit gore carnival. 100 Tears has continued the tradition, with blood, guts, more blood, a marathon-ready midget and a killer clown named Gurdy. I’ve seen 100 Tears twice now, both times at Channelside Cinemas, both screenings at around 11 p.m. There are few things as creepy as having to walk late at night by myself into the dark, eerie parking garage after having just seen 100 Tears. (Just because Gurdy didn’t kill anyone in a parking garage in the movie doesn’t mean that he’s not waiting to kill ME in the parking garage, thank you very much. Plus, have you seen the opening sequence of Death Wish 4?)
Since I didn’t make it to the Gasparilla Film Festival’s closing night awards ceremony on Sunday, I’ll make up for it here, with a few of my own awards:
BEST FILM OF THE FESTIVAL (FEATURE): Kabluey
BEST FILM OF THE FESTIVAL (SHORT): The Job
FILM I WANTED TO SEE BUT WASN’T ABLE TO (FEATURE): The Flock
FILM I WANTED TO SEE BUT WASN’T ABLE TO (SHORT): From Fire:An Odyssey of Glass
BEST PART OF THE FESTIVAL: The Blood Feast screening, reception and Q&A
BEST NON-BLOOD FEAST PART OF THE FESTIVAL: Opening night: Looking forward to seeing a great movie, watching the great movie (Kabluey) and then afterwards talking about how great the movie was -- and being able to tell the filmmakers themselves in person
PART OF THE FESTIVAL MOST IN NEED OF RE-EVALUATION NEXT YEAR: (1) The schedule. You couldn’t tell at all from the festival program guide and you couldn’t tell easily on the festival website that short films would be screened before the feature-length films. I loved the idea of exposing more people to short films, but to not have short films’ screening times/dates easily accessible made it difficult for those patrons who wanted to watch a particular short film. Also, I would love to have a little more time between screenings to allow for the filmmaker Q&As and normal entry/exit theater traffic without being rushed. (2) Tickets for local filmmakers to the screenings of their own movies. I heard various stories from various people on this issue, but it seems that the festival didn’t automatically give tickets to filmmakers to the screenings of their films. I would hope that the GFF would re-consider their policy on this (or the clerical error or miscommunication behind it) for next year.
FUNNIEST INTRODUCTION AT THE FESTIVAL (FOR ME): (1) When Nolan introduced me to David Friedman, he said “This is Lisa Ciurro, a local blogger and writer who also writes for my site. Her column is called FANGRRL. That’s G-R-R-L as in GRRRR!!” (2) When I met a GFF volunteer at one of the parties on opening night, I said my usual bit “My name is Lisa. I have a website called Tampa Film Fan…” The woman interrupted me and said “Oh, you mean BobRossMovies.com? I like his site.”
BEST SOURCE OF INFORMATION FOR ME AT THE FESTIVAL: Eric Odum, festival president and founder, who always took the time to answer my questions, show me the screening schedule and introduce me to people, even though he had better things to do.
SECOND BEST SOURCE OF INFORMATION FOR ME AT THE FESTIVAL: The women’s restroom. Seriously. (We’re in there all the time, right? Might as well talk to each other while we’re there.) That’s how I learned that The Flock had sold out. That’s where I talked to Blood Feast nurse Krista Grotte, who joked that it was a good thing that no one really needed medical assistance while she was wearing the nurse outfit. That’s where I had a chance to chat with filmmaker Renee Warmack and publishing company owner Marcia Freespirit before the Women’s Power Hour. It’s where I had one-sentence exchanges with complete strangers, comparing notes on the movies we’d just seen. Which brings me to…
MOST UNUSUAL MOVIE REVIEW I GAVE AT THE FESTIVAL: At the opening night party, festival director John Rosser asked me what I thought of Kabluey. I told him that I loved it and I wasn’t the only one, because “All the women in the bathroom just now loved it too!” (It sounded better in my head.)
BEST REASON TO ALMOST GET RUN OVER BY A TROLLEY: Having lunch with Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman. Have you heard about that? Funny story, really…
"FANGRRL" is ©2008 by Lisa Ciurro. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.
Congratulations to the Gasparilla Film Festival staff and volunteers on a second successful year. There weren’t any films in the 2008 festival (that I watched) that I loved as much as 2007 GFF selections Purgatory House and The Host (although Kabluey came close), but at least there weren’t any GFF films this year that made me want to blind myself, like last year’s Fay Grim and The Dark Place.