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PCR #222  (Vol. 5, No. 26)  This edition is for the week of June 21--27, 2004.

Will's Key West Adventure -- Part Two
 by William Moriaty
"Fahrenheit 9/11"
 by Mike Smith
KidFlix Florida International Children's Film Festival
 by Andy Lalino
This Guy's No "Starr"....The MOH website update
 by Matt Drinnenberg
Getting Better....Movie Music....Movie Notes....Meet The Beatles, Part 22
 by Mike Smith
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Andy Lalino
Oddservations by Andy Lalino

KidFlix Florida International Children's Film Festival

For well over a year I've been attending many film festivals geared toward the horror crowd. But here's one festival I recently attended that's the polar opposite of the gory, disturbing films I'm used to seeing on the circuit: the KidFlix Florida International Children's Film Festival. Sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, WTSP Channel 10, Centro Ybor, and the Coalition for Quality Children's Media, and held at Ybor City's Muvico Theaters, the 2nd Annual KidFlix festival ran from June 16th to June 20th, and included seminars and lectures along with the film screenings.

To be fair, I only experienced one film at the festival, that being the feature "The First of May" which I will write about shortly, however I did get a taste of what a film festival designed for children and family films was like. As to be expected, many children were in attendance. I wouldn't say it overwhelmed, and the kids themselves were exceptionally well-behaved while the movie played, which made for a pleasant viewing experience. Their parents of course were in tow, introducing the kids at a tender age to the filmmaking profession and exposing them to mostly non-Disney & Pixar films they might otherwise not get a chance to see, which is always a good thing.

Paul SirmonsThe main reason I was looking forward to the festival was "The First of May" screening on June 19th at 5:45pm. TFOM is an independent family film produced here in the state of Florida, specifically Central Florida, by filmmaker Paul Sirmons. Sirmons is a former Orlando-based Assistant Director who has worked on staple Central Florida-shot TV shows such as "Superboy", "SeaQuest DSV", and "The Cape". It was in 1996 that he made the decision to cross over to directing, which was a very good move.

With a budget of a little over one million dollars, Sirmons created a tender, heartfelt coming-of-age (in more ways than one!) "road movie" that has been a big hit on the film festival circuit, winning at least four major awards. "The First of May" is based on a story that Sirmons optioned early on, while seeking material for a family-friendly feature film that could make a difference. As it turns out, the story was perfect for the glorious Central Florida setting (I'd venture to guess most people would not think it's Florida due to the lack of beaches, theme parks, and palm trees), and champions the stunning cinematography by Florida lensman Stephen Campbell.

TFOS stars the renowned actress Julie Harris (who most Fanboys will recall starred in the original "The Haunting" and the pipe-smoking professor in George Romero's "The Dark Half") who plays Carlotta, a resident who's a handful at the local nursing home. Carlotta befriends Cory, excellently portrayed by young Dan Byrd. Cory is in a somewhat similar situation at his foster home, believing that his foster parents are about to send him away to yet another pair of strangers. Tired of both the foster and nursing homes, the two friends of extreme age groups team up and decide to hit the road in search of a better life, and who must depend on each other's love to see them through.

Dan Byrd and Julie HarrisDan Byrd, Mickey Rooney, and Julie Harris
Dan Byrd and Julie Harris L to R: Dan Byrd, Mickey Rooney, and Julie Harris in "The First of May"
Cory and Carlotta get entangled in some interesting and sometimes suspenseful dilemmas, and eventually end up, as they say, "running away and joining the circus". Carlotta once worked for the big top as a young woman, and has some tear-jerking moments reuniting with her long-lost friends (including one you won't believe!). Charles Nelson Reilly, who we all know and dig from "Match Game" and Sid & Marty Kroftt's "Lidsville" plays an aging circus clown who looks out for the runaway duo. The cast is rounded out by Mickey Rooney, who plays a cantankerous circus owner. It's interesting to note that that the role nearly went to Charles Durning (Brian dePalma's "Sisters" and "When a Stranger Calls" 1 & 2), who had to bow out literally days into production. It was Charles Nelson Reilly who came to the rescue, when he had his manager call and eventually secure Mickey Rooney, who I last saw interviewed during Ronald Reagan's funeral.

Cory's foster parents are effectively played by veteran Florida actors Robin O' Dell, who was in attendance at KidFlix, and Tom Nowicki. Both actors show an amazing range when confronted with scenarios that truly test an actor's range, which they perform effortlessly.

For true baseball fans, the legendary Joe DiMaggio makes a rare motion picture cameo, playing himself. DiMaggio turned down a million-dollar offer to be in this film, which was obviously a project he really liked and believed in. In the time period before he passed on, it was told that appearing in "The First of May" was an experience he truly cherished.

Forevermore FilmsIn the end, TFOM is a magical voyage through happiness and sadness, good times and bad times, and how love triumphs over all. It is truly an outstanding piece, which I think you'll agree is one of the best family films you'll ever see. It's the kind of movie you'd really go out of your way to tell others about, especially if you have children. If you're looking for a family viewing experience that's Best Picture quality, look no further than "The First of May".

"The First of May has been screening at various film festivals around the globe for the past five plus years. It has aired on HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax, and is soon to be released on DVD. Please try to track down the film on cable if you can, or order the DVD when released. For further details and updates, log on to the Forevermore Films Official Website: http://www.forevermorefilms.com/

"Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics (unless otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.