Posts Tagged ‘Andy Horbal’

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Talking Film with Andy Horbal

August 21, 2009

This week we’re doing something a little different with our profile. Instead of speaking to an artist or local organizational notable (not that Andy isn’t notable), we talked to a lifelong cinema lover, Andy Horbal. He shared with us a ton of tips and tricks for keeping up-to-date on the film world, deciding what to see, and told us what he was looking forward to. Return of the Jedi Poster

When we asked Andy how he first got into film, he somewhat sheepishly laughed and said two words. “Star Wars.” After we reassured him that this was a completely acceptable answer, he revealed that when he was 15, he saw the original trilogy rereleased in theaters and thought it was the “greatest thing in the world”, seeing it 15 times. Star Wars transitioned into Starship Troopers, and then he and his friends were hooked on seeing movies. After high school, he attended University of Pittsburgh, tried his hand at filmmaking at Filmmakers, and ended up with a degree in Film Studies.

He then shared with us his techniques for figuring out when films are screening in Pittsburgh, “knowing where and when to look.” “Movie showtimes come out on Wednesday or Thursday,” he said “so you can get a jump on what’s coming up.” He also credited his advance knowledge to working at the Stark Media Services Center at Pitt’s Hillman Library. More suggestions? Talk to the people who organize showings, and see what they’re doing next, and check out the Andy Warhol Museum calendar regularly.

However, showtimes and calenders aren’t useful unless you know what you want to see. True to his film studies background, Andy says he reads tons of criticism before seeing movies. Before films hit theaters, he checks out Beyond the Multiplex, Andrew O’Hehir’s indie film blog at Salon and Karina Longworth’s postings at Spoutblog, which provide occasionally caustic but hilarious remarks on films people are currently talking about. For recent DVD releases, he recommends Dave Kehr at the New York Times, who helps put films in historical context. For more academic criticism, he mentioned Cinema Scope, an indie film journal that helps him “think things through.”

redactedWith all that research, one would expect Andy had never seen a bad movie. But when we asked him, out of curiosity, about the worst movies he’s seen recently, two came to mind. Redacted, by director Brian De Palma and Diary of the Dead, the most recent Romero film. Both integrated new media style web-cam clips and mimicked an informal, indie documentary look, and Andy felt that they came off as insincere, “substituting novelty for substance”.

After getting off that depressing subject, we talked about theaters in Pittsburgh that are worth checking out. Andy said that Regent Square really is his favorite place to see movies (and no, we didn’t pay him at all), but also has a soft spot for the Squirrel Hill theaters. He recommended would-be-moviegoers check out South Side Works on Mondays, for their 5 dollar films, and the Maxisaver in West Mifflin, which offers dollar movies, packed with excited high school students. CMU AB Films and the University of Pittsburgh sponsored films also got an honorable mention, as they tend to attract an “enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd”. He also plugged Jefferson Presents, a series of abstract films played at different local venues.

Finally, we asked him the most important question on our list- what movies he was looking forward to. In terms of stuff that will be showing soon, he mentioned Alien, which he’s “been meaning to rewatch for a while”, Tulpan and Made in the USA (Showtimes). More long term, he gave a shout out to Jacques Audiard’s new film festival favorite, A Prophet and Alain Resnais’s Wild Grass. On the American/Hollywood side, he mentioned the new Sherlock Holmes, which he said “has got to be terrible, but I love Robert Downey Jr and the momentum of Guy Richie movies.” Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, as something he’ll see because “it will probably be a reflection on cinema.”

As our interview was coming to a close, we probed about one of his other interests expressed on his blog- food. He recommended we check out culinary scientist Harold McGee’s yogurt recipe, as an awesome kitchen project that cuts down food expenses and produces amazing greek style yogurt.

Want to know more about Andy? Follow him on twitter @andyhorbal or check out his blog here.

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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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A guest sees more in an hour than the host in a year.

November 3, 2008

That title is an old Polish proverb that I found online. In keeping with our Polish emphasis to the film festival, it seemed appropriate knowing that we will have such an accomplished guest (Jerzy Stuhr for those of you just tuning in) who will be subjecting himself to endless questions for the viewers’ pleasure and understanding. A new perspective on film should prove rather refreshing.

Speaking of guests, one will soon be writing a special entry for this blog, which will enlighten viewers further about Jerzy Stuhr and his upcoming films. Some of you may have heard of self-proclaimed “cinephile” Andy Horbal of Mirror/Stage fame. The following excerpt is taken from his blog’s About section:

About The Author: My name is Andy Horbal. I have a B.A. in Film Studies and the History of Art & Architecture (and a certificate in Children’s Literature) from the University of Pittsburgh. Presently I work at the Stark Media Services Center at the University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library. I’m also a student in the Masters of Library and Information Science program at Pitt’s School of Information Sciences. I watch a lot of movies in my free time. I’ve got poetry in me.

Andy has long been looked at as a very knowledgeable movie blogger, whose challenges to readers included such things as his 2006 question, “What’s the best American fiction film of the last 25 years?”. In that particular test, he invited readers to give the best movies in their opinions, all highly-esteemed criticism aside. Movies from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective to Goodfellas were thrown in for discussion.

He recently commented on the importance of Jerzy Stuhr’s 2001 visit to Pittsburgh as an important event in his life as a “cinephile” and will be blogging here briefly about the impact of that visit and the debut of Twists of Fate at the 3 Rivers Film Festival.

And on one last Polish side note, the PCC of Pittsburgh is having a membership drive at the moment. If you join now and pay $25 for individual or $30 for family, your membership will be extended all the way through December of 2009. Please call 412.871.3347 and help the PCC continue to support Polish culture!