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Now in our seventh calendar year!
PCR #347  (Vol. 7, No. 46) This edition is for the week of November 13--19, 2006.

The Tampa Film Review for November  by Chris Woods and Nolan B. Canova
The Tampa Comic Con and Indie Film Fest VI  by Nolan B. Canova
"Casino Royale"  by Mike Smith
The Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival (M.I.F.F.) Returns to the East Coast....Holy Family Catholic School Celebrates 50 Years – A Reunion....The Florida Collectibles Show featuring Will Moriaty, Dennis LeBrun, and Charlie Carlson  by Andy Lalino
Passing On .... Thanks, Rush!... Do They Know It's Christmas? ... $60,000??? ... Juiced? ... Happy Birthday .... My Favorite Films, Part 46: "Goodfellas"  by Mike Smith
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Andy Lalino
Oddservations by Andy Lalino

The Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival (M.I.F.F.) Returns to the East Coast
My incredibly busy November weekend kicked off with a cinematic big bang, as my wife Sandy and I made our third annual pilgrimage to the Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival, organized by Terry Cronin, Pat Martin and Jeff Hall of 3 Boys Productions. MIFF has the deserved reputation as being one of the very finest festivals in the state (and probably the U.S.), largely due to the consistently excellent Premiere Theaters venue, the red carpet treatment given to filmmakers in attendance, and the gracious hosts. MIFF never fails to disappoint, proven again by the warm reception of this year.

Sandy and I arrived at 3pm, and checked into our hotel by the Melbourne airport. Seeking to catch some relief from a nagging migraine, Sandy caught a few winks as I went off to the Premiere Theaters to check us in. I soon found a busy Pat Martin in the lobby, who welcomed me to the event. For the second year in a row I was invited to judge the Friday night horror film competition, which I agreed to enthusiastically. A daunting task, as there are quite a few horror films in MIFF’s lineup worthy of the title of “Best Horror Film”.

The clock soon struck 9:30pm, which ushered in the slate of horror films. The festival was running a tad late, so we were treated to a few comedic shorts, the best of which was a horror-friendly campfire tale called “Pee Shy”. After the laughs came screams, as fright films began to rule the night. Here is a quick run-down of the films in no particular order:

“Entombed” Directed by Stephen Shea from an original story/comic by Terry Cronin and Bagger 43, “Entombed” is a clever voodoo tale of a Haitian man who wakes up in a coffin. After freeing himself, he must hunt down the voodoo priest who sent him there. The film is an adaptation of a piece from the popular comic book Students of the Unusual. www.abyssmal.com

“Broken” – This short horror/action film was screened on Saturday to an enthusiastic crowd. Looking like a mini-Hollywood production, “Broken” spins the tale of a woman who is rendered unconscious and wakes up in a basement of horrors, tormented by a rogues gallery of venomous baddies. Her only hope is a mysterious mercenary who’s committed to saving her. Or is he? The twist ending is effective and paralyzing. Directed by the talented team of Writer/Director Alex Ferrari and Producer/Writer/ Jorge F. Rodriguez. www.fortuityfilms.com Winner: Best Short Horror Film

“Death by Engagement” – Stay Single! Screams DBE’s movie poster tag line. Good advice, being that this neo-slasher’s premise is a cursed engagement ring bringing grisly death to the inseparable couples who cross its path. The killer is scary and there’s more scream queens you can shake a stick at, including the one and only P.J. Soles from “Halloween” and “Rock & Roll High School” playing an over-protective mother. Producer Pennie Orcutt flew in from Los Angeles to be in attendance, her second recent trip to Florida, the last being the Halloween Horror Picture Show in Ybor City. www.deathbyengagement.net Winner: Best Horror Feature (tie)

“Devil Bug” – This horror short’s reminiscent of the “Large Marge” scene in ‘Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”, for obvious reasons when you see it. A fun, Outer Limits-like tale of a boogeyman that hides in the unlikeliest of places.

“Behind the Undead Music” – Impressive, stylized animation and vocal acting bring life to Terry Cronin’s story of a rock group made up dead rock celebrities, such as Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Liberace and Janis Joplin. Hilarious horrors from the pages of Students of the Unusual.

“Hoodoo for Voodoo” – Directed by Stephen Shea and co-written by PCR’s own Brandon Jones. Louisiana bayou frights and laughs are conjured up in this fun horror thriller that’s destined to attain a cult following. A group of contest winners embark on an all expense paid (yeah, right!) trip to pre-Katrina Louisiana for a vacation packed with hedonism and voodoo thrills. Features a lovemaking scene with sultry Tiffany Shepis that’s sure to get the attention of horror fans and help in securing a distribution deal. Winner: Best Horror Feature (Tie)

“Possessed” – The mastermind behind the Sarasota Film Festival takes a moment to direct his own horror short. Neil McCurry teams with the lovely Debbie Rochon for this vampiric chiller. Rochon is very good in a tormented role.

“Tattoo Love Magic” – Another short based on a Students of the Unusual comic, and one of the fest’s best shorts. After breaking up with his girlfriend, a man is obsessed with the memories of her tattoo. Directed by Ricardo Porven.

“Strangler” –This time, Orlando filmmaker/actress and MIFF alumni Katherine Leis takes a turn adapting a Students… comic. More suggestive than literal, this quick little tale conveys plenty of atmosphere and a sense of impending danger.

“Rabbits Won’t Tell” – Directed by talented comedian/actor Patrick Gallo. A serial murderer reveals her motives in what may be a police interrogation…or possibly another layer of her deadly fantasy.

So ends the incredible horror line-up. The following day featured more blocks of films of all different genres, leading up to the big VIP reception at 6:30pm. A nice Saturday morning treat was a short film “closet classic” from 1988: “Shattered” by filmmaker James Dwight. When I watched it, I thought it was an incredible short, and only after credits rolled did I realize it was made nearly two decades ago! Just shows you how in touch I am with the great 1980’s – a great decade for filmmaking.

At 12:30pm, Andrew Allan, Bill Grefé, Pennie Orcutt, and myself, in addition to an army of other filmmakers, participated in a cinematic round table and Q&A session. I found filmmaker/comedian Paul Francis Sullivan to be quite a charismatic and hilarious personality as he promoted his brand new feature film comedy that made its big debut at the fest: “I’ll Believe You” (formerly “First Time Caller”) starring Patrick Gallo, Fred Willard, Mo Rocca, David Alan Basche, Patrick Warburton and Chris Elliott .

We weren’t able to stick around for Sullivan’s premiere, but heard great things about it. I wish them well! We said our goodbyes at around 6pm when Andrew and I headed back home, pumped up by the celebration of independent film.

Holy Family Catholic School Celebrates 50 Years – A Reunion
With precious little time to recover from yesterday’s MIFF festival, Sunday morning brought with it another commitment. I attended my elementary/middle school’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Along with my mom, we arrived at Holy Family at 10:30am, a little late for a dedication ceremony where a plaque was placed in the entranceway to the school. The crowd, made up of both older alumni and current school kids were giddy and excited. Post-dedication, everyone erupted in song, led by my 8th grade teacher Marty Brinsko (a brunette back in the late ‘70s, now a blonde!). Ms. Brinsko was quick with a comeback, being that my hair is now grey!

When the singing was done, everyone funneled into the school cafeteria for cake and coffee. I met up with Holy Family librarian Virginia Fair. She is a great lady who always made a trip to the library a lot of fun. I next ran into Robert Greenough, my math/science teacher. It was great reuniting with him after all these years. We used to visit him back when Pinellas Square Mall (once in Pinellas Park) was still in existence when he worked at a tobacco store (back then I used to think he looked like Groucho Marx). Mr. Greenough has been teaching for over 38 years(!). Next was catching up with Pam Ferguson, who I don’t think I ever had as a teacher, but was always a familiar presence at Holy Family. She used to teach the younger kids, and I was entered the school in third grade (1975) – a little too old to be taught by her. I remember Pam always loving Simon and Garfunkel.

That morning, the school was an open house, and you could peek into each classroom. Sure, everything seemed newer, but the memories came back in tidal waves, especially the familiar smells! It was funny to see the girls still wearing the same blue uniforms! Posted about the cavernous hallways were pictures from bygone years. It was so great seeing those old photographs from the ‘70s and early ‘80s and all the classmates I recognized. Upstairs, I ran into my favorite teacher – Kathy Kessler. She taught art and English, two of my favorite subjects. She still looked as youthful as 1979. I wish I could have spent more time chatting, but the reunion was quickly coming to a close.

The amazing thing is most of my teachers I had from 1975 to 1981 are still teaching at Holy Family!!! I find that truly amazing and a great testament to the quality of education at the school. I know I had a great experience there, and now my generation is sending their kids to Holy Family now. I hope to revisit the school soon to have more time to reminisce.

Just a quick hello to some of the teachers and nuns who were not present: Sister Francis Fitzpatrick, who is in Chicago, and Mrs. Pat Hosack. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to make contact with Abby Rudderham (her maiden name is Nold) who was in the graduating class of ’80 and has now become a teacher at Holy Family, and Ms. McKenzie.

The Florida Collectibles Show featuring Will Moriaty, Dennis LeBrun, and Charlie Carlson
Immediately after the Holy Family reunion, I dropped my mom off and dashed over to downtown St. Petersburg to attend the big Florida Show at the grand Coliseum. Now, ever since 1978 (I know you have me beat, Nole) I’ve been attending sci-fi, horror, and fantasy cons, but this was my first “kitsch” (I’m getting to hate that word) show. I found the experience pretty fascinating, being that I am a Florida buff, and enjoy seeing souvenirs, collectibles, and knick-knacks from bygone days. Vendors had everything from postcards to Kapok Tree hurricane glasses (I have one of those!) to Tiki statues. Didn’t see many rubber ‘gators, to my surprise.

I was glad to see the “Weird Florida” team well-represented, as I mainly visited the show to see my pal and PCR contributor Will Moriaty, who was there representing his incredible tome “Will Moriaty’s Florida”. I already had a copy, which is perpetually dwells on my nightstand (beside Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopedias), but I was there to purchase three additional copies as gifts. Will was gracious enough to sign all three copies along with famous Blondie artist and local folk hero Dennis LeBrun, who I met for the first time.

I hadn’t seen Will for some time, and it was nice to catch up. Dennis and I chatted a bit later, having much in common in terms of art. We were so busy talking Macs, PC’s and Wacom tablets that I neglected to mention that back in the early ‘90s I was an aspiring comic strip artist. Back then I was basically pitching two strips: a humor/fantasy called “Iknisnine” and a humor/paranormal work called “Hal” (about a clan of Bigfoot people). Dennis is one heck of a guy – we could have chatted for hours.

Wandering around, I ventured upstairs to where ancient Florida tourist filmstrips were being projected. They were really cool, but difficult to watch due to their age and muddy transfer. I should mention that I have an old 8mm film of Cypress Gardens from back in the day, in the box and everything – probably from their gift shop.

Another exciting meet up was with popular and oft-mentioned Florida folk hero Charlie Carlson. I mentioned that Will and I were friends, and we proceeded to chat it up for quite a while, talking things Florida, the paranormal, and horror movies in general. Charlie’s a fascinating guy, and well versed in everything Floriweird. He had some fun magical gags at his table that reminded me of Spook Show tricks and Dr. Paul Bearer puns, namely a convincing decapitated head, Florida “Bees” and a rubber chicken. I received a first-hand account of the Sanford Summit and magician Harry Wise from Charlie, and also learned of his involvement in the Blair Witch documentaries, which in my opinion were better than the actual movie.

Finally, while strolling down the aisles, I ran into local broadcasting legend Jack Harris, incognito in a T-shirt and shorts. I introduced myself and we talked briefly, with fellow legend and PCR fan Tedd Webb being a frequent topic. Turns out that Jack’s family and mine moved to Florida the same year (1970); the Harris’s from West Virginia and mine from New York. I also mentioned Dr. Paul Bearer/Dick Bennick, who Harris worked with many times both on air and at live events, such as our local Muscular Dystrophy Telethons. We’ve been watching and listening to Jack Harris for decades, and as kids even have a picture taken with him, I believe from a Jerry Lewis telethon. My father also has some ties to Jack Harris; he worked as a musician during the time when “The Jack Harris Show” was taped at Busch Gardens.

I learned the next day that both Jack and Tedd mentioned my name on 970 WFLA’s AM Tampa Bay as attending The Florida Show. I appreciate it, guys!

"Oddservations" is ©2006 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.