Archive for November, 2008

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Extreme exhaustion.

November 25, 2008

I have checked with the bosses and was given the OK to post the Repo! vid that I took, so I will as soon as I can get it uploaded. Meanwhile, the festival is over and it’s time to relax and deal with the aftermath. Nothing is slated for this week since everyone’s looking forward to overeating, overdrinking, and oversleeping.

Starting this weekend (on Friday) is A Girl Cut in Two at the Regent, and Patti Smith: Dream of Life at the Harris. Since we’re no longer running advance purchasing like we did at the festival, be prepared to show up 30 minutes before the show to get tickets at the box office.

We’ll be back next week, setting up Film Kitchen for December and preparing our holiday film series. Stay tuned!

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Repo! The Genetic Opera

November 20, 2008

I realize this entry is almost a week in the making, and my apologies for running so behind on the updates.

I went to see Repo! The Genetic Opera on Friday, and was not greatly surprised to see the line stretched around the block. I was, however, astonished to see that the line curved around the block in BOTH directions. TWO. Count ’em.

One line was for people holding guaranteed seats (aka will call), and the other was for people hoping to get in after the will call people got in. I don’t even really need to state it, but the show was definitely a sell-out, as predicted. People started lining up for the show starting at 7 pm, from what the theater staff tells me, and it was slated to start at 10 pm.

It was pure luck that I even managed to get in (despite the fact that, hey, I WORK here!). I imagine half the people waiting to get in after will call were turned away because we were at capacity. Almost the entire staff was outside, doing crowd control. I definitely appreciated the effort they had taken. Dealing with a crowd that large with that much efficiency is no easy task!

The show was delayed by about 45 minutes. The staff wanted to ensure that every seat had a behind in it, and the director (Darren Lynn Bousman of Saw II fame) and screenwriter (Terrance Zdunich, who also played Graverobber in the movie) were present. They gave a speech beforehand, which definitely had the crowd engaged.

I have to admit that a few weeks ago when I started researching this movie, I had a moment of horror when I was sent a link to reviews from GreenCine, most of which stated how absolutely terrible the movie was. When I received the link, I opted to find more neutral and/or positive reviews of the movie so that I could promote it effectively. However, after having seen Darren Lynn Bousman get up on his proverbial soapbox and praise the negative criticism as well as the positive reviews, I couldn’t help myself: I joined in the with the crowd in having a “let’s stick it to the man!” moment.

I actually took a video of the speech beforehand, but as it’s not exactly kid-friendly, I’d need to check with my bosses before actually posting it here. Of course, I’ll be glad to send it to anyone interested. As Bousman and Zdunich said, anyone talking at all helps the movie out promotion-wise.

And as if being present weren’t enough….the terrible two stayed until after 2 am to talk with everyone who wanted to ask questions/get things autographed. Check me out in all my blogging glory!

Bousman, blogging enthusiast, Zdunich

L to R: Bousman, blogging enthusiast, Zdunich

Comparison-wise, it really was like my first night at Rocky Horror Picture Show. I had seen RHPS on late-night cable once upon a time, and was wondering to myself how the hell it was as popular as it was. Realization came the night I stepped into a theater with people in full costume and became part of the interactive show…it’s about the audience experience. And I have to say, Repo! is much the same. It was definitely all about the audience experience. There was a goth fabulous mood to the theater Friday night, complete with people who had traveled 14 hours, people in costume, roller derby girls, and a plethora of goth-chic girls in corsets and 6-inch heels.

Now, I’m completely anti-gore. Ask anyone that knows me. I cringe as if I were the one being hurt. There were definitely points in the movie where my hands flew to cover my eyes so fast that I wound up nearly punching myself out…yet, I was drawn to watch. The story itself was fascinating and reminiscent of Shakespearean tragedy meets Greek tragedy (hopefully I didn’t give TOO much away with that analysis) with random comedic points (and an even more random cameo by Joan Jett). I really enjoyed the graphics and visuals used in the movie. I was also astonished to see a GOOD performance by Paris Hilton (she played a spoiled brat…imagine that!), and that the singing was spectacular. As far as the rest of the movie goes, it’s definitely something I’d see again (with an audience) so that I can pick up on the nuances I missed last time around.

I have to say that I’m in agreement with Bousman about the movie being something different from what you’re used to seeing, which is what they struggled to bring to the table…something different from typical Hollywood fare; something that would be appealing to movie-goers who are hungry for variety. I enjoyed it, but it definitely seems to have a polarizing effect. Have you seen it? What are your thoughts?

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Symposium–The Short Film: A Genre Unto Itself?

November 18, 2008

As stated before, I made it to the symposium. I was that girl that showed up late and looked lost until lunch arrived. Lunch always makes me think straight again when I’m confused.

At any rate, my impression of the symposium was fantastic. I got to see Ernie Gehr speaking about time as it affects his art. His speech went through the first optical coin tricks to the first animations and later, moving pictures as first explored by the Lumière brothers. We saw two of his short films, one by the name of Greene Street, where objects and shadows floated surrealistically until you realized it was a time-stop filming of the sun’s movement and the lights and shadows it caused on the buildings of Greene Street.

After the speech was finished, we moved into concurrent afternoon sessions. I could not stay until the very end of the symposium, but what I saw was definitely interesting. The panel discussion I chose was about short film and audiences in the era of YouTube. With the explosion of user-created content, especially short movies and videos, the short film has more exposure than ever, but is it its own market? We first explored the topic by watching this, which got the panel discussion off to a hilarious start:

YouTube Contest Challenges Users To Make A ‘Good’ Video

Unfortunately, as most know, YouTube is a catch-all (a term used in discussion by panelist Ralph Vituccio) where not every video is of great artistic merit. With this flood of content, what is a viewer to do? Panelist Kim Ann Pfau (who organizes the Sandy Valley Independent Short Film Series) advocated seeing short films as an audience experience, as the reactions of the crowd around you can greatly affect your perception and enjoyment of the film. All expressed concern over wide exposure via sites like YouTube or Atom Films, or the traditional film festival circuit.

It’s definitely an experience I would recommend if film and the visual arts are your passion in life.

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Tomorrow’s film symposium

November 13, 2008

Meet the blogger!

No, don’t go for me (even though I’ll be there for at least a portion of the festivities)…go for the chance to talk with several industry professionals and independent filmmakers. I have briefly mentioned the event before, but I also don’t mind repeating myself!

Plus–lunch. Need I say more? Talking and eating are definitely my fortes. In fact, I believe talking and eating are my DREAMS in life, my raisons d’être.

Details about pricing as well as the ticket-purchasing link to proarts.org can be found here. See you tomorrow!

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Tonight’s Special Event

November 13, 2008

Tonight at the Melwood Screening Room at the Filmmakers’ facility, artist Ernie Gehr will be presenting his short films. For two whole hours, you will have the chance to grill him and the Pittsburgh Technology Council (who have been enormously helpful in bringing these films–and the artist–to Pittsburgh) before seeing some of Gehr’s most influential works. In addition to his past films, two world premieres are slated to be shown tonight.

There will be a few hours’ worth of cocktails starting at 5 pm, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Technology Council…the caveat is that they’re the only ones selling tickets to this schmooze-fest. We are selling tickets to the 8 pm screening of his movies. As always, you can get them at the receptionist’s desk at the Melwood office, buy online, or purchase 30 minutes in advance of the showing.

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Andy Horbal Post

November 13, 2008

From my very esteemed colleague, Andy Horbal of Mirror/Stage:

I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for more than eight years now, which is long enough to have settled into quite a few routines. I walk to work along the same route every day (down Ellsworth Avenue), read the City Paper in the same order every week (Food-On Screen-Savage Love, etc.), and every year I acquaint myself with the lineup of the Three Rivers Film Festival in exactly the same manner. As ruts go, this last one isn’t so bad. The first thing I do is scan the list of titles for movies I’ve been waiting for because I heard good things about them when they played festivals like Cannes, Sundance, or Berlin earlier in the year, like Waltz with Bashir [2008] and Ballast [2008] on this year’s slate. These films take priority when I’m deciding what to see.

Next I look up the showtimes for the special events I’m interested in and the “classic”-type films I’ve never seen on the big screen, like Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1960) at this year’s fest. Whichever screenings I can make it to get added to my list.

Now I have a tentative schedule to work with, which allows me to move on to the last, arguably most important, step: I identify one or two open dates, see what’s playing on them, and pick films I’ve never heard of to see on those days based solely on how compelling their descriptions are. I intentionally avoid reading about these films before I see them and I go into them with an empty, open mind.

Film savvy types have, I think, a tendency to regard anything they haven’t already heard of with suspicion: if it was any good, they would know about it, right? In my experience, though, this argument doesn’t hold up, especially not when we’re dealing with a festival like the 3RFF that uses its strong relationships with talented but unsung filmmakers across the state, country, and even the globe to bring in excellent films that, for whatever reason, aren’t on the critical community’s radar yet.

All year long I look forward to having the opportunity to see the latest work by prominent auteurs like Nuri Bilge Ceylon and Andrzej Wajda before most of my friends; the most memorable screenings I attend each year, though, are invariably the ones where I discover something completely new to me. Last year I was impressed by the potential of Azazel Jacobs, whose newest film Momma’s Man (2008) is at this year’s fest, months before my critic friends were in on the secret; in 2007 I was stunned by the quality of homegrown products like Dodo (2006) and An Independent Portrait (2006); in 2004 I was stymied by a film called Bazaar Bizarre (2004) that was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

These experiences are all special to me because they’re properly mine. My reaction to each of these films wasn’t influenced by either the response of the critics or by expectations based on their directors’ oeuvres: it was just me and the movies together in those theaters, allowed to meet as strangers for once.

So, from one moderately old hand at 3RFF attending (I have been to a third of them), a little advice: don’t be afraid to let the good people at Pittsburgh Filmmakers do a little bit of the work of deciding what to see for you this year. These films were all chosen for a reason: take a chance on one of them. The potential reward of an unforgettable cinematic experience far outweighs the minimal risks involved.

One film ripe for discovery that you might want to take a flyer on is Twists of Fate (2008). Director Jerzy Stuhr is best known in this country as an actor in Krzysztof Kieslowski films like Three Colors: White (1994) and Camera Buff (1979), but his work behind the camera deserves recognition, too. I first discovered his film Big Animal (2000) (which went on to play the 2004 3RFF) at a 2001 CMA Cinema (RIP) series called “Through Polish Eyes” that made such an impression on me that I registered for an Introduction to Polish class the day after it ended.

All three of his films that I’ve seen (all of which are available on Netflix, including my favorite, A Week in the Life of a Man [1999]) star Stuhr himself as a sort of Everyman character faced with a series of moral questions that challenge us, the audience, to ask ourselves what we would do in his situation. They’re “difficult” in a refreshingly different sort of way.

Jerzy Stuhr, who was here in Pittsburgh at that series in 2001, was at Wednesday’s 8pm screening at Melwood to field questions after the film.

As for me, I’m going to take a chance on either Cherry Blossoms (2007) or Mock Up On Mu (2008), or possibly both. If you know anything about them, don’t tell me!

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This just in…

November 12, 2008

This was just forwarded to me by the PF/PCA:

Last Command/Alloy Orchestra event
Just announced: if you have a festival Six-Pack Pass, you can use two
punches instead of paying the $15.

Alloy Orchestra has come to Pittsburgh several years in a row for
shows with Filmmakers or within the festival. They are always
excellent. Yes, one of the guys in Alloy, Roger Miller, is from
Mission of Burma.

Tix are $15

Sun Nov 16 — 8:00 — Regent Square

This restored print of legendary director Josef von Sternberg’s
acclaimed melodrama was nominated for Best Picture in 1928, and won
its lead actor, Emil Jannings, the first-ever Best Actor Oscar. It
tells the story of a Hollywood extra (Jannings) called upon to play a
general in a movie about the Russian Revolution. But he’s no ordinary
extra. He is Sergeus Alexander — former commanding general of the
Russia army! And in a cruel twist of fate, the director of the movie
happens to be an old adversary (William Powell), who delights in
humiliating the general. Even the costume department bullies him.
When Alexander is directed to give a speech to a group of actors
playing soldiers, he loses his grip on reality. The Last Command is
one powerful movie with brilliant acting all-around, and is enhanced
by Alloy Orchestra’s live music — a stirring combination of found
percussion and state of the art electronic synthesizers. For years
Alloy has captivated Pittsburgh audiences performing with Blackmail,
Phantom of the Opera and other silent classics. (Josef von Sternberg;
1928; USA; 85 min)

Alloy’s homepage

A Film Review