Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our eighth calendar year!
Number 382 (Vol. 8, No. 29). This edition is for the week of July 16--22, 2007.
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The Tampa Film Review for July
by Nolan B. Canova, Chris Woods, and Chris Passinault
Plus.....The Rockin' Sports Bar | Hooters Sunday
Nolan here. Chris Woods and Chris Passinault will be my co-reviewers for this outing of TFR. Three for the price of one! Fellow PCR staff writer William Moriaty was my ride to the event and movie-watching companion, but declined to write reviews for this issue. Terence Nuzum was unable to attend TFR this month at all.
We managed to make it to the International Bazaar, the site of the monthly fest, by about quarter to eight. Enough time to get in the proverbial quick cigarette and talk to the first few of the faithful to arrive. Those would include Gene May, Jay Hewlett, Chrises Woods and Passinault, Emerald Gowers & Tim Griffin, Jerry Alan, John Matheny, and, of course, the Brothers Guzzo, Paul & Pete.
The TFR review color code to help identify when a different reviewer "speaks" to the reader continues this issue.
All plot synopsises or general descriptions, usually written by Paul Guzzo (or myself if there's no description provided), will be in black.
Nolan Canova's reviews will be in Navy blue.
Chris Woods' reviews will be in Purple.
Chris Passinault's reviews will be in Teal
Our ratings sit at the end of our individual reviews and are in boldface.
Here we go...
IED (Instantaneous Ejaculation Disorder) by Che Broadway: An informative video by pharmaceutical giant Rhyzer on a new drug that can help prevent instantaneous ejaculation.
Nolan: Postponed twice over from previous TFRs, we finally saw this entry tonight. Amusing cross between a mockumentary and a training video. Obviously very low budget video with a good idea and OK acting. Our host and main character (John F. Riley as "Doctor Prematuro of the Hospital of Erectile Disfunction and other Genitalia Hindrances") is an old scientist who seemed uneasy on camera. He spoke with frequent long pauses like he was having trouble remembering his lines, but that may have been deliberate. Otherwise he was pretty well cast as the typical doctor type who hosts these things. Particularly amusing was his show-and-tell of a plastic model of male genitalia with the accompanying description of how ejaculation occurs and the debilitating disorder Ramencide. Good.
Chris Woods: It was a night for comedy at TFR
this month. Started off with a hilarious comedy. I thought that the skit
can be right up there with anything shown on SNL, Mad TV, and anything
played on Comedy Central. Love the doctor in beginning and through out the
film explaining the disorder and ways to treat it. It was a great spoof
of those infomercials and medical drug commercials. Very funny. Highly
Chris Passinault: I liked this one a lot, but the ejaculation theme was too similar to one of the Damage Control shorts and stole a lot of the thunder of that piece, which was shown after this. The doctor was cast well, and the dry delivery of the lines fit the character well. Some of the scenes had lighting issues and the gross-out humor was a bit over the top at times, but this was funny.
A Collection of Shorts by Damage Control: Tampa's funniest skit comedy crew returns to the Tampa Film Review!
Nolan: There a few, if any, bigger fans of the Tampa-based comedy troupe Damage Control, Inc. than yours truly. I've been following them for years, so I it was a satisfying experience for me to see last year's classic No Show and Santa vs Frosty put them on the map for a great number of people who'd previously never heard of them. I won't even get into cast member Jay Hewlett's devastating dramatic turn in Ken Collins' Mexican Sky.
Tonight's offering is a sketch sampler of some of their other work, and while it has its moments, I think the choices aren't quite as strong as they could've been, considering their repertoire. First off, the TV commercial spoof, "Mornin' Oh's", a cross between Cheerios and Lucky Charms, presents a green-screened leprechaun (well done!) talking a woman through an orgasmic breakfast. It is enthusiastically performed, and the effects are great, but the thin concept came dangerously close to a one-note home video. "Homeless History Month" is a spot from their classic No Show compilation, and only Damage Control can take a potentially depressing subject and inject levity into it (the off-color humor will surely offend some, but that comes with the territory). Next, the incomparable Jay Hewlett shills "Nexoriatin" a colorful pill that vaguely alludes to treating impotency, but by the end of the confusing description and mile-long disclaimers (a Hewlett specialty), we're not really sure what it does! But we want some. This was my favorite of the bunch. Finally, a Da Vinci Code spoof entitiled "The Da Vinci Commode" regurgitates the original trailer with the Damage Control touch by pointing out how confusing and silly the real thing was. It looks like quite a bit went into The Da Vinci Commode but only a few scenes truly stand out (particularly the "map" scene, which had me howling). Allen Berrebbi and Martin Brown co-star. Damage Control's newest late-afternoon TV spoof No Show 2 is right around the corner. I can't wait! Recommended.
Chris Woods: Another great comedy moment in
TFR. Damage Control always puts out very funny skits and short films,
either live action or animation. Just as in IED these skits can go head to
head with SNL and other comedy shows anyday. Awesome funny spoofs of cereal
commercials, with a crude take off of Lucky Charms that you have to see.
Another spoof of a medical drug commercial (just like IED) that was really
well done. Plus other hilarious spoofs of movies. Highly Recommended.
Chris Passinault: Ok, I will make this one short. This collection, for me, was a mixed bag, especially since I hold the work that Damage Control does in such high regard. These guys are simply brilliant, I enjoy their work, and many film makers and film fans speak highly of what they do. With the high bar set by their recent Santa VS Frosty, which I consider to be a local classic, I was, however, let down by this collection of mostly forgettable shorts.
The first short was about cereal which led to orgasms. At this point, I figured that the theme for tonight was sexual humor, but then realized that the TFR doesn't have a theme. This act of simple serendipity took the wind out of the sails from this short, especially after the IED film. I have been traumatized by seeing way too many "O" faces in one night, and hope that I never will again.
There were some other shorts which were parodies of commercials and films, and these were done well, although none stood up to the brilliant Santa VS Frosty.
The Bench and the Lamp Post by Joshua Livingston: a work of "textual video art", although it is far more textual than artistic. Like any text, it will remain helpless until it is read; and a close reading reveals a world rife with semiotic potential.
Nolan: Uhhh...."semiotic"? What's that? We're subjected to about 5 straight uninterrupted minutes (that felt longer) of a locked-off camera filming an old man (bum?) sleeping on a park bench. No music, no dialogue, no action. A lamp post is in the background. People walk around. The TFR audiences nervously starts to wonder what's happening, making jokes about the "brilliant script and editing" (haha). We wound up entertaining ourselves more than the movie did. Finally, it ends with the title "etc". Fade to black. This is pretentious, Andy Warhol-esque wannabe territory. I'm shocked my colleagues found so much to write about. Piece of Shit.
Chris Woods: This one is a strange one, a very strange one.
For about 10 minutes, all you see is a bum sleeping on a bench, just
sleeping. Nothing happens in this film. Same shot for the whole time,
which that's fine, but nothing happens in the background. You see a few
cars and a few people walk by but they don't really do anything special that
makes this short important. I think the film would of been worth wild if
there was some sort of punch line at the end. Maybe the bum getting run
over by a truck or something falling from the sky and hitting him. That
might of made it worth the wait. Or maybe they could of down some time
lapse, having the background change and the bum staying the same on the
bench. Not sure what the filmmaker was going for here. I give him some
credit for trying something total different but it needed that extra kick at
the end to make it work for me. I was also thinking the filmmaker was
trying to punk the viewer by making a film that made no sense at all and
made people keep on watching thinking something has to happen and never did
and at the end we just spent ten minutes watching a bum sleep on a bench
that did nothing. If that was his intention I'll have to say that was
pretty sneaky but clever on their part, but if it wasn't you leave it
wanting your ten minutes back. Not Recommended.
Chris Passinault: At first I thought that this would be a live action version of Bambi VS Godzilla (an animated film showing a long intro of a deer grazing to gentle music, only to be ended suddenly when the deer is smashed by Godzilla's foot, the tranquil music turning to doom music, and "The End" showing), except with a homeless person and a lamp post. I was wrong. We were all wrong. The first indication that something was very wrong was when conversations started to sprout up throughout the audience. This went on for ten minutes, or what seemed like longer. Spoiler alert: NOTHING HAPPENS.
This was not a film in the conventional sense. There was no expositional structure. No plot. No characterization. No nothing. I don't even think that the homeless person was an actor, either. It seems that the director locked a camera down on a tripod in front of a sleeping homeless person, taped for ten minutes, and called it a film. Who is this person? What happens after they wake up? Why do I feel like I am watching paint dry?
After seeing this, it did make me think. Not about the oblivious homeless man who appeared in the film or the problems of the homeless, but rather about the definition of a film. What is a film? Does it have to have a conventional structure? Well, the answer is no. Although I did not like this and I am sure that many others shared my feelings, the fact is that this is a film and that this is art because it expresses the vision that the film maker had. I would call this an abstract film, and will point out that it would be more appropriate to display this film as a film loop on a flat screen display in some museum than to present it as a film in a forum where the audience is expecting a narrative structure. I welcome debate on this subject, because this is only my definition and I am sure that I am not completely correct. The concept of what makes a film, and the idea that this would work in a museum display as a loop where the viewer could gaze at it as long as they like, is much more interesting than the actual film is.
As a professional photographer, I love looking at great photographs and could appreciate the subtext of looking at a well-composed video loop on a flat screen monitor, with variations in the image and sound playing out as the frames go through their motion. This would work very well. As a whole, however, this video is poorly composed and would not work well as a photograph, let alone a video loop. This idea is intriguing, however, and I wonder what a professionally composed project would be like. Perhaps I will explore that. This film is a great idea, even if it is not successful as intended.
As a film, I was not entertained. I felt that watching this in the context of a film festival was a waste of time. It was like being forced to look at a mediocre picture for ten minutes. If this was a sincere effort, I respect it for the attempt.
Worst Film of the Night, and Not Recommended.
Last Chance directed by Bryan Coward and Produced by Jeff Paul Pesce and Bryan Coward: Two friends sit at a bar discussing the girls they have been with as the end of the world nears.
Nolan: Now this is more like it! A funny and insighful comedy short about what happens when the TV News says the world will end by an asteroid impact in ten minutes. Our two friends hear this on the bar TV (the anchorwoman hears herself report the end of the world and quits on-air), then must decide how to spend their remaining living minutes. A trampy girl comes in and proposes wild sex and all agree. But before things get rolling, there's a change in predictions. Very good acting, script and execution. Recommended.
Chris Woods: Back again with a comedy short. It was made by the 48-Hour
film project. A very good film about two guys in a bar at the end of the
world fighting over a girl so they can get one last one in before the bitter
end. Good comedy from this short. Great acting. I liked the breaking news
segments on the news with the very calm news anchor reporting the world is
about to end. Recommended.
Chris Passinault: This one really hit home for me because, as a writer, my home genre is science and science fiction. I am a stickler for utilizing science fact and paying extreme attention to detail.
An entry for one of those 24 or 48-Hour film contests (not sure which one, and don't really care), this one suffers from the rush job, as most of these contest entries do. I am a firm believer that if it is worth doing then it is worth taking the time to do it well, but this is a review of a short film and if the film crew can pull it off in such a short time, that reflects well on their talent and skill. In this case, though, they didn't quite pull off the polished product that this could have been. I wonder if they sat down with a laptop and edited their film on the set seconds after wrapping with the actors peering over their shoulder. Strike the set? Why bother when we need it as a location to edit our film. Who has time to drive when the deadline is here and our food is already on location?
This said, this did turn out to be fairly entertaining in spite of the rushed effort, and the potential of the piece reflects well on the filmmakers. If they had taken their time with the material and with the execution, this would have been a great short film.
This film is about two friends in a Ybor City cafe talking about their ex-girlfriends while the world is minutes away from being wiped out by a meteor. It is a good thing that this is a comedy because it would not have worked well as a drama as it is, and I have serious issues with the science utilized in the script. A news reporter keeps popping up on the television keeping everyone up to date on the imminent meteor strike, which we learn is only a few MINUTES away. I didn't quite buy the lax attitude of the characters and the diner worker, and their chemistry was lacking during the exposition and the climax, which led to an overall lack of scene tension during the climax. The resident hottie who came in and wanted to go out with a bang? Both plausible and funny. The Ybor bum running in front of the building in panic? Also funny (although this merely highlighted a lack of an exterior shot during the exposition of the film needed to identify the location, which there may have been but I don't particularly recall). The girl turning the friends against each other was also believable, but only because their friendship wasn't well established to begin with. These mellowed out acquaintances had nothing to lose, and this undermined any tension that could have played well between two "friends" turning on each other. Also, the gore was no surprise and is an expected staple of indie filmmaking in Tampa. I just wish that they would have used the gore prep time to make a better film.
The reporter flaking out and leaving the set was a little unbelievable. If you found out that the world is about to end, would you bother reporting to work? If the reporter has a breakdown on camera, will she still have a job if disaster was averted (Knowing several professional reporters, I could not imagine any of them behaving this way at all)? Since this is a comedy, these observations are mere quibbles and not at all critical to the integrity of the piece, but worth noting all the same. These details may have been a distraction to some of the viewers, as the following points would be, as well.
The resolution was rather disappointing, finding out that "it was all a mistake" and the meteor wouldn't hit the earth after all and "might" hit the moon "instead". What is this? If a meteor was going to hit the earth, they would know for certain weeks before the event, providing it was detected. In this scenario, it was minutes away, and they would know for certain if it was was going to hit! Anyway, I am confused to what happened to the meteor. Did it skip off the atmosphere and head toward the moon on the other side of the earth? I could tell you that this lunar impact would be highly unlikely, and if it did occur, it could still lead to a catastrophe on the earth. The screen writers need to realize that, even with the comedic format, that the script needs to follow a certain logic. You cannot write a script just to write a script and make things happen the way that you want it to. You have to have a set of rules that define the universe that you are working with and not violate those rules. You have to address details. To do otherwise risks losing the audience and undermining the entertainment value of the film because the audience fails to be pulled in by the story. This, of course, is a comedy, and not a scientifically accurate drama. I can withhold disbelief and accept it for what it is.
I found it entertaining. It is fair for what it is, but it could have been better if they put more time into it.
Beneath the Surface by Jonathan Vazquez: The journey of a dollar bill.
Nolan: At first reminding me of the similar idea used in John Matheny's The Supply Curve, this film goes much farther with it, adding more detail and drama as we follow the path of a dollar bill (in some shots I could swear it's a twenty) from hand-to-hand in virtually all walks of life in the host city. Well-acted, good script, nice photography (by Jason Liquori of PCR's "Jason's Jungle" fame). I'm not sure if this was a 48-Hour film project or not, but here's the kicker: the director is either still in high school or just out! AND.... is a protegé of Steven Shea (Abyssmal Entertainment, Andre the Butcher), both of whom were in the audience and I was able to meet. This kid is going to go far. An amazing debut. Highly Recommended.
Chris Woods: A very interesting film where the film follows a
dollar bill and its owners. Different types of people in different types of
situations who come in contact with the dollar. The acting is top notch and
the story is very well written. Highly Recommended.
Chris Passinault: Am I to understand that this film was done by a high school student? A good film that, when seen in the light of this knowledge, is indicative of great things ahead for the film maker.
This said, I did have a few issues with the film. The plot reminded me of another short shown at the TFR some months back (The Supply Curve presented by John Matheny - November 2006 TFR ), making a monetary bill a character as it traces its path from person to person. The pacing was slow in some parts of the film, and in this one scene were a flower shop employee shoots a druggie thief and his girl friend behind a closed door the shots were too close together; he would not have had time to re-aim the gun between shots and would have had to discharge a full clip to kill them both shooting this fast.
Other than these issues, this is a really good film, and I am looking forward to see more good films from this talented director.
I think it was about here that Jennifer Steffen of Tampa Bay on Demand (TBOD) was introduced to the stage to remind area filmmakers that Bright House Cable is willing to put their movies on the air. Only a few rules need to be followed (basically regarding length and vulgarity) and their shows can be broadcast. Jennifer stuck around until after the show to meet with filmmakers and answer questions.
Ghosts of Ybor: The End is Blossoming, written by Paul Guzzo, directed by Peter Guzzo. A Sicilian mobster comes to Ybor City to take control of the illegal Bolita lottery. With him comes a beautiful young mother who is indentured to the Sicilian. A local bartender falls for the woman and vows to free her from the mobster's grasp. 40 minutes.
Nolan: This remains one of the best examples of local cinema ever produced, and repeated viewings only reveal more to appreciate. The Guzzo Bros sheepishly introduced the film this night with the caveat that they normally don't play their own films at TFR, which is true, and helps negate conflict-of-interest complaints. But since the film program ran short this month, we can forgive this comparatively rare indulgence. And speaking of indulgence, I hope you'll forgive the republishing of my original review from last year's premiere which appears below. I feel the same about the film now as I did then.
Downtown Tampa, more specifically, Ybor City, 1942. Classic still B&W photographs and period-sounding music set the tone of the era. The interior of the Cuban Club comes into view in a beautiful panning color shot that captures the flavor of not only the period but that noir feeling of gritty danger. We're at the main bar, everyone smoking and drinking and having a good time. But there is a disquieting forboding as personalites enter and cross the room.
Sicilian mobster Giuseppe Frederiano (Robert Elfstrom of The Dance and 99) pretty much owns Ybor City. His only rival in power is the legendary Bolita-runner, Charlie Wall. Bolita is the illegal gambling game that brings in the most consistent money to the mob. Guiseppe's brother Sonny (Al Sapienza of The Sopranos), in fact, observes that except for Bolita, Tampa's business is not much to brag about.
Meanwhile, local henchman Salvatore (Jereme Badger of 99, The Dance, Cellphone) tries to talk Charlie Wall loyalist Ernesto (character actor and musician Joe Lala, whose resumé could fill this page) into abandoning Wall and joining the Sicilians.
But Mr. Frederiano is into several rackets, not the least of which is prostitution. Enter Diana (Lynn Moore of 99 fame). Beautiful, but vulnerable, and "owned" by Frederiano. Her wiles are not lost on him as he jealously protects what he sees as his property and product.
The bartender, Alex (Justin Trombetto, also of 99, in an incredible performance), wishes to see the beautiful woman set free, but feels powerless to help. Enraged one evening by Frederiano's roughness with her, Alex lashes out to be a hero, but instead endangers himself and Diana. He learns that Diana is in debt to Frederiano, and her baby will stay with the mobster until that debt is paid off. Now that the assault on Frederiano has attracted the wrong kind of attention, his own life is in mortal danger.
Then, in one of the most chilling scenes ever filmed, Sonny Frederiano makes Diana an offer she can't refuse: she and her baby can be set free forever, but only after she agrees to carry out a "very big favor".
The production values on this film are top-notch. Cinematographer Chris Rish (an International Academy of Art & Design teacher whose documentary on Danny Rolling I reviewed) delivers beautiful pictures rich with color when appropriate, or de-saturated for a more period look. Close-ups, depth-of-field control, all amazing. (Some hand-held shots seemed extra jittery, but this could've been deliberate.) Naturally, this is using all Hi-Def video stuff, expensive and not for the squeamish.
The theme music is fantastic, provided by Lounge Cat, an area jazz ensemble.
The acting is the 1DayFilm troupe's best to date -- and as much as I want to credit director Peter Guzzo for bringing out these performances, apparently, by all accounts, Pete directs by...er...not directing. I'm left to conclude the actors simply want to do a good job. Of course, they'd have nothing inspiring to say if it wasn't included in the screenplay cleverly-crafted by writer Paul Guzzo.
Acting cameos by Matt Camero, Guz Perez, Jennifer Moore, and Ivan Ilarraza round out the cast. Very Highly Recommended and Film of the Night.
Chris Woods: An awesome film all around. There's great believable characters played by excellent actors. A great and
well-written story and a beautifully-shot film that captured the 1940s and
gives it a touch of classic Hollywood. The film has a who's who of Tampa
talent that features Rob Elfstrom, Jereme Badger, Lynn Moore, Rod L.
Griffin, Matt Camero, Gus Perez, Jennifer Moore, and newcomer Justin
Trombetto. Also featuring some famous faces such as Joe Lala and Al
Sapienza. This is a very classy film that tells a great story and it is one
of my favorites from the Guzzo Bros. collection. Very Highly Recommended
and Film of the Night.
Chris Passinault: Although I have been hearing great things about this film for a long time, nothing prepared me for the delightful experience of watching it. The production standards were outstanding, the acting great, and the story sucked you in despite the slow pace of the film. Watching this film was like curling up with a good book where the author knew their material and put a lot of effort into the characters and the story.
This film puts Paul and Pete Guzzo on the map as being some of Tampa's best film makers.
Hands down, the best Film of the night, and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Visit www.thetampafilmreview.com for more info on the Tampa Film Review.
The Rockin' Sports Bar
Decent turn-out at our current post-TFR Ybor watering hole this night. Will Moriaty, Lisa Ciurro, Emerald Gowers & Tim Griffin, Chris Passinault, Paul Guzzo, and yours truly made up the population of our table. Bummer: the club was out of Jagermeister! I settled for two very potent margaritas. Well done.
Hooters, Sunday, July 15, 2007.
|Wow! Quite an event that united not one but two out-of-towners...er....out-of-country-ers...to our humble South Tampa watering hole!! Words can scarcely do justice. Poland and New Zealand were represented here in a rare gathering not likely to be repeated anytime soon. Read on...|
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|Early arrivals Terence Nuzum, left, and Paul Guzzo joke about TFR memories and the recent Message Board wars.|
|My "little" brother, Ron Canova, left, reunites with our old friend Steve Beasley, center, who just moved back from Auckland, NZ, after 5 years away. Steve's younger brother, Adam, right, currently a resident of Dunedin, FL, we haven't seen in ages, either. Two Beasleys for the price of one, since Adam was Steve's ride!||We were especially delighted that Legion Studios partner, Derrek Carriveau, center, took us up on our invite to visit Hooters! Derrek's visiting the area while on vacation from his teaching position in Wroclaw (Raw-sloff), Poland. Terence Nuzum, right, and Derrek had an animated discussion on music fandom and their fond memories of record store Vinyl Fever.||First attempt at a group shot. Clockwise, from left front bottom: Steve Beasley, Adam Beasley (partially obscured), empty seat (that's where I was), Derrek Carriveau, Terence Nuzum, Paul Guzzo, Joel Wynkoop (Cathy's obscured behind Joel), Ron Canova.|
|Second group shot, other end of the table. Clockwise, starting at top left, our server (don't remember her name, sorry), Steve Beasley, Adam Beasley, Paul Guzzo (back of head), Cathy Wynkoop, Joel Wynkoop, Ron Canova.||Third and final group shot taken from nearer the front door (thanks, Joel!). Clockwise from bottom left: Steve Beasley, our server (standing), Adam Beasley, Nolan Canova, Derrek Carriveau, Terence Nuzum, Paul Guzzo (partially obscured), Ron Canova.||Yours truly, center, once again hangin' with the brothers Beasley, Steve (left) and Adam.|
"The Tampa Film Review for July" is ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova, Chris Woods, and Chris Passinault.
All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.