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Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2006!
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The Tampa Film Review for September  by Nolan B. Canova
The True Story of the Royal Guardsmen  by ED Tucker
"The Black Dahlia"  by Mike Smith
"Hollywoodland"  by Nolan B. Canova
The 20 Best Heavy Metal Albums of All Time  by Terence Nuzum
Crazed Fanboy Live! The Musical....Andy's Expedition to Tyrone Square Mall....VHS Grindhouse: "Midnight"  by Andy Lalino
Great Company....Set Phasers on Numb....Speaking of Star Trek....Musical History....Speaking of Music....My Favorite Films, Part 37: "Hoosiers"  by Mike Smith
Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our seventh calendar year!
Number 338  (Vol. 7, No. 37). This edition is for the week of September 11--17, 2006.

Tampa Film Review for September

By Nolan B. Canova

With our traveling arrangements a little more complex than usual, Terence Nuzum and I appeared to be first of our group into Ybor this night -- he dropped me off on 8th Avenue, then searched for a parking space. I found myself alone in front of the International Bazaar, so I took a seat, lit up a cigarette, and waited for some company. It was already 7:50pm, I was wondering where everybody was.

Within minutes, Paul Guzzo bounded out the door to greet me. A few more arrived, gathering on the sidewalk to chat. Will Moriaty and Gus Perez walked up, followed by the finally-parked Terence Nuzum. Was Damien Kincannon inside or outside? Can't remember now. One figure I didn't recognize turned out to be (I learned later) a representative from the Tampa-based comedy group, Damage Control, an outfit I have wanted to meet personally for years. Unfortunately, the gentlemen was very stand-offish and did not seem interested in socializing, nor did he stick around long. Too bad, because their entry was quite a hit! More on that in a bit...

With the core PCR group of William Moriaty, Terence Nuzum, frequent filmgoer Gus Perez, and, of course, myself in tow, I felt confident we were well-represented for a night on the town, starting at this month's Tampa Film Review.

We entered the sacred sanctuary close to 8:00pm and found our way back to the Review seating area. Emerald Gowers and Tim Griffin (Griffowers Productions) were already present and seated in the row just in front of St. Pete Times arts & entertainment wonder-reporter Rick Gershman. Always great to see Rick. Robert Elfstrom (The Dance, 99, The End is Blossoming) was also already there and I introduced him to Terence, who's considering him for a part (woohoo!). If memory serves, I believe Marivamax's Larry Buchovey & Sheri were also seated close by. Terence and I sat in this area, while Gus and Will stayed closer to the aisle's end. A few other filmmakers I'd see after the show.

And speaking of the show....let's rock!

Failure by Chris Suchorsky. Approx 30 minutes. A life-long dream of making a feature film turns into a comedic disaster for a New Jersey filmmaker. This out-of-state entry is a favorite of TFR ringmaster Paul Guzzo whose opinion I respect intensely (it did win multiple festival awards), and while I can't exactly fault the production or execution, I'm afraid I found the film to be a bit tedious. To be fair, I'm sure many filmmakers could identify with a first-timer's nightmare of trying to make a major motion picture working with a rented camera, little to no lighting, and your friends, none of whom have any more experience than you do. This is one of those stories.
    The opening minutes show a montage of "conversational" credits that are funny to read ("A film by Absolutely Nobody", "Me and only Me", "I held the Boom Pole", "I'm Chris By The Way"). The following scene basically tells the whole story in less than five minutes: I tried to make a movie in six days and failed. OK, good enough. When we faded out and then back in with the title "DAY 1", I thought, "uh oh, he's opening his diary and now we'll hear every little detail." Not evil in and of itself, where the tedium comes in is that each entry goes like, "Day 1, here are my two best friends, Ryan and Harry, drunk out of their minds, slouching on the sofa, too screwed up to remember their lines (show 20 takes of this). Day 2, my two drunk friends still can't get their act together, but they're having a blast (show another 20 takes of these). Day 3, the dog enters the room for more mayhem and tomfoolery with my two drunk best friends (show 15-20 takes of the dog humping a blanket near the sofa -- hilarity ensues), Day 4, my girlfriend, not drunk, thankfully, can't quite remember what she's supposed to do either (show maybe 5 takes of this). Days 5 & 6 involved more girl friends and some actual real actors whose takes are ruined by technical problems to the very end, where production is abandoned. To his credit, Chris Suchorsky did succeed by becoming a documentary filmmaker, largely from these humble beginnings. For those who can relate to these type of things, I'm sure this film makes compelling viewing. Everyone else may get bored.

Showdown at Billy Goat Tavern by Bryan Leighty: A short, action-figure animation where two worlds collide. Only one can be victorious. Approx 4 minutes. Entertaining and very brief experimental video featuring two action figures battling it out, high-noon style (except it's at night), downtown. I recognize one of the figures as The Max from MTV's early days. I would call this "animation" only in the loosest of terms as the figures are obviously hand-held. Action is executed by bouncing them up and down and rotating them in front of the camera, all to a heavy metal soundtrack. I believe I remember the filmmaker, who announced the short personally, said something about extensive use of greenscreen, which would explain the real-life exterior stills used as backgrounds. Close-ups are sharp and clear and he gets an amusing amount of "emotion" out of these toys (well, they're sculpted to look pissed off anyway, that's half the battle, haha). Recommended as 4-minute fun with action-figures.

Farewell, Frieda by Griffowers Productions (Emerald Gowers and Tim Griffin): Shot in non-conventional methods, a creepy silent film about a girl, her doll, and her unemployed uncle's plunge into alcohol-driven insanity. Approx 20 minutes. I'm greedily calling Em & Tim my discovery because their first appearance in our universe was via the Crazed Fanboy Message Board about 6 weeks or so ago. Emerald, going by the handle "raining_jade", posted some links to her You Tube videos there. She got instant support from fellow film fans, and was encouraged to participate in the TFR. They came out last month to check it all out, but tonight would be her and Tim's "maiden voyage" into actual exhibition.
   Emerald plays the protagonist herself, a hyper-active girl "with too much energy" who's always happy. Tim plays her down-on-his-luck uncle who just lost his dead-end job and is "at the end of his rope"--pretty much pissed off all the time. Em's dolly is played by, well, her dolly (at first I really thought the dolly was a stand-in for an actual child using artistic license in this nightmare-like screenplay....but evidently, dolly is just that--a dolly).
   All Frieda wants to do is keep things as light as possible under grim circumstances. All she wants from her uncle this day is a trip to the park to get away for a little while. The uncle, drunk and foul, reluctantly agrees, but only because, once alone in the park, he sees an opportunity to rid himself of Frieda and her dolly forever.
   The "unconventional methods" of filmmaking Paul described in the brief summary to Farewell, Frieda was in reference to the most amazing thing about all Griffowers films to date: They are captured using a Sony digital still camera on movie mode! That's right, they can only film for about a minute on a compressed format. So there can't be any dialogue, but it is made up for with occasional sub-titles where necessary and a very attractive musical soundtrack (including one cut from Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd). Although the film's location is described at the outset as "in the middle of nowhere", Tampa Bay area residents will likely recognize scenery looking suspiciously like Picnic Island and/or Weedon Island. Although Em spelled her character "Frieda" on the DVD and jacket, it is spelled "Freida" in the movie in case anyone gets confused. I'm sticking with "Frieda". All totaled, Farewell Frieda is a very trippy, surreal experience (the uncle's drunken hallucinations should stick with you for a while). Recommended.

No Show by the Damage Control Comedy Crew: Approx. 20 minutes. A TV comedy satire of TV done in the style of Groove Tube and Amazon Women on The Moon. Sketch, parody and shorts wrapped around a fake 1950's sci-fi movie. I might also add Kentucky Fried Movie. And like Amazon Women on the Moon the station announcer can't seem to remember if Space Balls From Outer Space (today's feature!) was released in 1931, 1937, or 1942! (Paul and I thought it looked more early '50s.) So the announcer alternates.
   This is an extremely well-done comedy, and quite likely, the hit of the night at this TFR. The well-deserved laughs came fast and furiously--obviously the Damage Control crew put a lot of time into this send-up.
   Like its noble predecessors, the main attraction of No Show/Space Balls From Outer Space isn't even the "main feature", but the ads, "please stand by" gags, local-origination cutaways, and, of course, central to this excursion, channel-surfing. Highlights:

  • The opening of the movie itself is a terrific montage introducing the players.
  • The "TV station" broadcasting this is WSUK. Haha.
  • The Homeless History Month PSA spots. Includes the first man to think of writing "Will Work For Food" on a cardboard sign.
  • Jay Hewlett's lawyer ads. "Fabrication is our business--we tip the scales of justice for you! The harder the case, the farther behind you we'll stand!"
  • "El Camino Jerry", a typical, cheesy cutaway featuring the "local color" guy from indie TV days. Kinda looks like a garage mechanic, standing in front of his pickup truck holding and strumming a guitar. It's he we touch base with as he tells us what we're watching and how much time is left. Umm...except he can't quite get the title of the movie right, either.
  • The "Ho-Jack" ad, featuring a device that let's you know when your significant other is being a 'ho!!
  • Arguably, the one that seems to stick the most is a bunch of good-ol' boys on the Country Channel, sitting on a front porch singing a song valled "Sack-lickin'". Stupid, yes, but hours later I was still humming it to myself. Sigh.
       It goes on like this, there are dozens of other super-quick funny spots that'll remind all of us who grew up with this kind of television how it was. The "movie" itself, Space Balls From Outer Space about two spacemen against an alien, is itself a minor gem, black & white homage to cheesy, badly-acted and edited sci-fi fare from a simpler time. Uses some genuine stock footage to great effect. No Show is Very Highly Recommended.

    The following three shorts are by experimental filmmaker Chris Giuffré. Chris is notorious for explaining to the audience in excruciating depth and detail what he's going for before his films start. This time, I believe he finally managed to talk longer than his films actually take to view. The following descriptions give some idea. The only repeat is Tokyo Shoes that I reviewed last month, take another gander if you want. These are all very short, no dialogue, and very technical.

    Palimpsest by Chris Giuffré, as its name suggests, is about a world within worlds. An alternate reality that exists among our own. Perhaps the denizens of this world would be aware of ours. Would they react? Ignore? Or would they only be aware of unknowable possibilities? A numinous presence that often feels close, but remains just out of reach.

    Tokyo Shoes by Chris Giuffré and Galileo Studios. 4 minutes. A fast-moving montage of images of Japanese commuters, workers, and the general population walking non-stop through the city, often through a fish-eye lens, all to the music of techno-industrial band Enotide. There's kind of a choreography to this and it basically functions as a music video, but it's probably classed more appropriately as experimental/avante-garde.

    Concrete Discussion by Chris Giuffré: presents an other-world of steel and glass. Concrete and asphalt. Nearly immovable constructs infused with energy by a frenetic society. Speed up the glacial life cycle of these objects and what might you see? Man-made structures chatting away; unwittingly brought to life by modern day Prometheans.

    About all I can say is I wish I had Chris's frequent flyer miles, he seems to get scenery from all over the world. Lots of time-dilation effects pepper the movies. I like the animation on Concrete Discussion -- the windows in the skyscrapers turn colors as they "talk to one another". It's worth noting that some or all of these projects were produced in conjunction with the Pinellas County Arts Council.

    The Magic Wand Series by Sean Michael Davis: Two independent shorts revolving around the concept of a magic wand and what normal people would really do once they have one. Both together not more than about 10 minutes. The first episode, "Three Wishes", follow three beach buddies who, upon finding a bottle washed up on the shoreline, discover a magic wand inside with a note attached saying they'll each get one wish granted! And it works....but what if one of the wishes was to defeat the other two? Stars Tom Ryan, Joey Reinert, and Todd Watson. Excellent, simple production, likable cast, single gag told vignette-style. Nice Guys Entertainment fans may remember these guys as the main players from Autographs for French Fries.
       The second episode, "Wishfool Thinking", again stars Tom Ryan, Joey Reinert, and Todd Watson, but this time they're office co-workers. On a lark, one of them wraps up what looks like a TV antennae and presents it to our boy, Jack (Tom Ryan), as a prank gift for his birthday: a magic wand. He accepts it gracefully, seemingly believing his buddy's story that the "guy at the mystical shop who sold it to me said all you have to do is wish on it and your wish will come true." Starting the next day, Jack's luck seems to change for the better. He's dating the boss's gorgeous daughter (Reanne Ferrell), and the boss (Michael Goodman in his acting debut) is OK with it, even promoting him!), and he got a great deal on a new car (Donald Trump gave it to him in gratitude for a "jump"). Well, Jack's two buddies, now not so sure the wand is phoney after all, steal it back, but can't quite seem to make it work for themselves. Until they give it to the boss!
       Again, likable cast, cool concise script, well pulled-off by the Nice Guys. Kind of makes me think this series could be a TV show on Comedy Central or something, like "Who's Line is it Anyway?"
       I had the pleasure of meeting director Sean Michael Davis after the show. PCR readers might remember he made quite a splash last month with the comedy Autographs for French Fries. I was finally able to congratulate him personally on his work.

    "The End is Blossoming" -- one-minute trailer. Peter Guzzo. Encore appearance of this trailer, likely because the actual premiere is less than a month away. Long-time readers may remember I attended an evening's shoot of this feature a few weeks back. The results are stunning, at least as far as the trailer goes! An extremely atmospheric harkening to 1940s Tampa, specifically Ybor City, when it was controlled by underworld elements. This should be great.

    Karaoke Kid 1 & 2 by Pete and Paul Guzzo, an older film announced as showing tonight was postponed over technical problems (wrong cable adapter -- woops!). It will be shown next month.

    Gaspar's Grotto
    It has become "tradition" over the past several months for the TFR gang to head out for pizza after the show. We'd been going to Roma's Pizza just down the street from the International Bazaar, but on 7th Ave, I think. This month, however, the Guzzos were able to snag a drink-and-snack special at Gaspar's Grotto further down on 7th Ave. After a thwarted attempt to crash The Improv, most of the "PCR gang" headed down there.

    By this time, actress Jennifer Moore (The End is Blossoming, Angora) and her date had joined us.

    Once at the Grotto, I had a delighful (if expensive) marguarita, then joined the TFR crowd out on the courtyard for free meatballs and chicken wings.

    At one point our "power-corner" sported Em & Tim, Robert Elfstrom, Damien Kincannon, Will Moriaty, Rick Gershman, Gus Perez (thanks for the extra beer), Jennifer Moore, The Guzzo Brothers, and yours truly. We didn't leave until after 1:00am. Good times!

    Visit www.thetampafilmreview.com for more information regarding the Tampa Film Review.

    All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.

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