Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival - 2009 - Preview

They've done it again! The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has graciously sent me a HUGE ENVELOPE of screeners of nearly the ENTIRE festival! One must be careful for what one asks for! So, I'll be pouring through these during the next couple of weeks and will hopefully begin postings the week before each screening!
In the meantime, here is their official release:


Tickets on sale now for 12 days of funny, provocative, informative and uplifting features and shorts

ATLANTA, GA. (December 9, 2008) – The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF) today announced its film selections and schedule for the ninth annual celebration of Jewish life and culture through film. The festival, running from January 14-25, 2009 features 48 visually-stunning and evocative Jewish films that would otherwise not be available on the big screen in Atlanta. The films represent 20 nations and deliver the broad human relations mission of the American Jewish Committee, presenter of the AJFF.

From Argentina to Spain, from Israel to Switzerland, the selected films in the 2009 festival lineup represent a diverse array of cultures, yet tackle issues familiar to us all. This year’s featured films include Hello Goodbye, a French romantic comedy co-starring Fanny Ardant and Gérard Depardieu about a married Jewish couple living in Paris who flee to Israel during a midlife crisis, screening on Opening Night, and Strangers, the Young Professionals Night film selection, a narrative feature that traces the unlikely romance between an Israeli kibbutznik and a Palestinian woman who meet serendipitously on their way to the World Cup finals in Berlin.

“This year’s lineup touches on a wide array of subject matter, from thought-provoking to heart-wrenching to just plain funny,” said Executive Director Kenny Blank. “The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival features something for every kind of movie-lover, Jewish or non-Jewish.”

Tickets and a full film schedule for the 2009 festival are available on www.ajff.org. Films in the 2009 festival will be screened at Lefont Sandy Springs, Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station Stadium 16 and at the Regal Medlock Crossing Stadium 18, the festival’s North Metro venue in Duluth.

Founded in 2000, the AJFF has quickly grown in size and reputation, with an estimated attendance in 2009 expected to top 18,000 moviegoers. Screenings are supplemented by guest speakers, providing a dynamic forum for audience dialogue with actors, filmmakers, academics, authors and other expert panelists.

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF) is presented by the Atlanta Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, the country’s oldest human relations organization, to support its mission of “building bridges of understanding” across community lines. Since its founding in 2000, the AJFF has enjoyed robust growth across all fronts, including attendance, audience diversity, community visibility, depth and quality of programming, and sponsor participation. The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival is a non-profit event, and made possible with the generous support of corporate, foundation, government and individual sponsors.

The Ninth Annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival will be held January 14-25, 2009. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, December 9, 2008. For more information, go to www.ajff.org or call 404-806-9913.

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Maxxxxx says

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THREE DECEMBERS, followed by Three Courses!

My Christmas gift from Gretchen this year was attending THREE DECEMBERS and then dinner at Bay Wolf!!

San Francisco Opera presented THREE DECEMBERS (Last Acts) (composer: Jake Heggie; libretto: Gene Scheer, based on a play by Terrence McNally; conductor: Patrick Summers; director: Leonard Foglia), a new piece by Jake Heggie (DEAD MAN WALKING), which premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in March of this year, featuring its world premiere cast: Frederica von Stade, Keith Phares and Kristin Clayton. Yes, it is only a cast of three in this chamber opera which would probably work better on an Off-Broadway stage than it does in a place as cavernous as Zellerbach Hall, in Berkeley. However, since Heggie is considered a "modern operatic composer", his sentimental, little piece is relegated to the massive halls, voices and expectations of the opera houses around the country.

The drama is about the relationship between a Broadway musical star (Frederica von Stade) and her two adult children. Essentially, if you took "Glamorous Life" from Stephen Sondheim's "A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC" and extended it for two hours, you would have this opera. In other words, the plotting is slight, so there is an increased pressure for characterization. However, the libretto tends to focus on a lot of off-stage events and exposition, in which the three characters literally narrate via the device of the mother's Christmas letters. The opening duet in which brother and sister are on the phone with each other, singing the first letter, straight out, is an exceptionally ineffective way to launch what should be an intensive three-part character study. It insists that the performers infuse the words of their mother with their attitudes about her and musically mocks someone we have not met or heard from yet. In other words, the audience must begin to make assumptions during the opening moments, instead of concentrating on the characterizations and the musical structure. The piece does not really begin to take life until late in the first act, in which the brother and sister have a beautiful duet about their father on the Golden Gate Bridge.

The second act, comprised of two scenes, each ten years apart, work much more effectively, as Heggie is no longer bound to the family's emotional exposition. The "shoe duet" (for lack of a better description), in which the children mock their mother's shoe-shopping-as-therapy habit, is delightful and oddly reminiscent of another Sondheim piece ("A Little Priest"), and von Stade is given a gorgeous lullaby to perform. There is much to like in the score. However, it never crosses that line of "ecstasy" that feels necessary in opera, or musical theater in general. In other words, to perhaps over simplify the case, the mother never has the "Momma Rose Moment"! Though there is emotional resolution, which is sentimentally well done, the cathartic climax (when the truth about the father is revealed) comes as yet another piece of exposition. The mother is only given the opportunity to encapsulate why she did what she did, so her eventual capitulation seems unsatisfactory, since she is not allowed to fully express the emotional toll it took on her and her relationship with her children. Regardless of the many beautiful moments within the work, it just can not withstand the scrutiny of the particular arena it has been placed and the dramatic demands that are required of it.

However, the requirements of our dinner at Bay Wolf Cafe' and Restaurant were successfully met! The avocado, pink grapefruit and roasted beet salad with arugula and creamy anise dressing, which both Gretchen and I had, was incredible! I could have stopped there! However, I moved on to potato gnocchi with butternut squash, and Gretchen had the crusted salmon and risotto cakes (which I had an extra side of!). The gnocchi was rich and, for lack of another term, beefy! The desert featured eggnog ice cream sandwiches! Gretchen had the chocolate bouche. She also ordered a half bottle of Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc), which topped things off, nicely! I LOVE Bay Wolf!!

Maxxxxx says
re THREE DECEMBERS: "Dooby dooby doo-oooo"
re BAY WOLF: "Breakfast?!"

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cioa and yawn... (er, CIAO and Yawn!! I typo'ed...)

Opening this week is a film that received a pair of screenings at this past year's Frameline Film Festival. I can't help but to repost what I felt about it, since just the title pushed my annoying button! There are just so many other high quality gay-related, SMALL budget films, that seem to be going straight to video (but thank you, TLA Video!), that I am just trying to get the word out there to insist on a more selective theatrical distributions! Anyway...

CIAO (dir. Yen Tan, US, 2007, 87 mins.). Oh dear. Well, I can appreciate the "quiet camerawork" and director Yen Tan's near zen-like pacing and palette. It is a "serious drama", and Tan has cast the entire production in a gray fog. Even the performances are underplayed and dour. However, the script is ludicrous and completely unbelievable. At least for me. A man discovers some email between his newly deceased partner and a man from Italy, who were planning to finally consummate their internet affair. Now, WHY the widower goes ahead and invites the Italian (who had never met his partner) to visit anyway, was beyond me. Even in the dialogue, the email relationship is merely regarded as internet-flirting, so the widower does not feel betrayed. There is no basis to invite the dead boyfriend's chat buddy to stay! I just couldn't get past that point. And THEN, as if it weren't enough (spoiler here!), THEY fall in love! OH PLEASE! That was cliche' and annoying, even if the production style was incredibly deft.

Maxxxxx says
re CIAO: "Is it bedtime?"

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I found it surprising that after the moderate success of it's predecessor, that ANOTHER GAY SEQUEL: Gays Gone Wild (dir. Todd Stephens, US, 2008, 97 mins.) wasn't as ably produced, if not more so. However, I enjoyed it, in spite of its clunkiness. Most of the credit for keeping me involved in the little farce goes to returning cast member (and executive producer) Jonah Blechman, with no small effort from the film's beleaguered director, Todd Stephens. Though a little bit of Blechman's character can go a long way, there is a comedic void that definitely needs to be filled.

The other three co-stars, though adorable, do seem a bit lost (all of which is fairly explained in the commentary). Supporting roles by gay porn figures work actually smoother than some of the co-stars. Brent Corrigan, in particular, displays an unexpected charm and innocence as Stan, the Merman and Colton Ford and Michael Lucas fill their roles with the requisite gags. However, Perez Hilton seems to be last-minute stunt-casting (replacing the character meant to be Muffler, played by Ashlie Atkinson, who was unavailable, except for an all too brief appearance), and he doesn't have the chops to justify the irrelevant subplot. It is a shame, too, that Stephens did not replace nearly the only female character in the film with a woman! What happens is that as the episodes continue to spool away, I got a bit weary of watching another gay male character act out! It needed some balance, or grounding in a not-so-gay-testosterone world. Ironically, though RuPaul and "Lady Bunny" are in the cast in full drag, it is Blechman's Nico that carries the burden of giving us an escape from "the boys", and he is more than able to do it. His fantasy musical number (featuring a terrific dance solo by Blechman!), which is literally the climax, is worth the price of a rental! It is the one sequence in which all the production values and Stephens visuals come together successfully!

And it is the commentary track by director Todd Stephens and producer Derek Curl that makes the DVD worth the price of purchase! Stephens and Curl don't hold back about the near catastrophy the production faced in its first couple of weeks. They are generally kind and gracious about the participants and more forgiving of the "stumbling blocks" in casting than the film is itself. (The opening dream sequence in which the original cast is "replaced" is fabulous!) There are also three "making of" videos about the BIG Musical Number, "Stan, the Merman" and the appropriately named, "Puke Fest". There is the complete end-credits music video by Perez Hilton, where he displays more energy than he did in the film. Deleted scenes are included, which are exceptionally minimal, seeing as this is the "Uncut Theatrical Release". (Oh! Speaking of... Be aware that if you rent this from Blockbuster, you will see a censored release, according to the commentary!)

The transfer is in anamorphic widescreen and the colors pop more than they probably did on screen! The sound design is clear and not a syllable is lost, though at one point, dialog sounded overly looped.

Overall, as hesitant as I might be to recommend the film itself, the complete DVD package is worth the $24.99 MSRP. It releases from TLA Video on December 9.

Maxxxxx says
re ANOTHER GAY SEQUEL: GAYS GONE WILD!: "Dooby dooby doo-ooo!"

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TLA Releasing: DOG TAGS

The best thing to be said about DOG TAGS (dir. Damion Dietz, US, 2008, 90 mins.), one of TLA Releasing's latest DVDs, is that the cast is gorgeous! Distractingly good looking. In fact the two leads, model Paul Preiss and actor Bart Fletcher, have such adorable screen presences that it magnified the script's shortcomings. Perhaps I am jaded from a couple decades of gay and lesbian film festivals, but this was a typical, if not less than standard gay soap opera about a pair of sexually questioning guys crossing paths in order to have "that one moment", before they party and move on in their self discoveries. The pair in this story features one marine and one West Hollywood party boy. The screenplay has an inconsistent timeline. Though it is bookended as a memory of the marine, the inclusion of an amount of backstory of the party boy convolutes the storyline. One is left to assume that their pre-meeting episodes are occurring simultaneously. However, there appears to be an unacknowledged passage of time between the characters' introductions and the time that they meet, in which even more "stuff happened". For instance, why has the WeHo party boy gone goth? How long has the marine been away before this buddy-road-movie begins with his return home? And what about the baby?

The film is edited in a manner in which I don't think we are to care. Every time I came to a point of "What?", someone would disrobe and we would be sent into beefcake heaven. After about a half hour or so of these distractions, I must admit that I came to appreciate the little film for what it was to me: a pretty, little soap opera that I didn't have to pay too much attention to until the big make out scene!

The DVD features a director's commentary in which Damion Dietz goes to lengths in describing the internal monologues of the characters on screen, interspersed with some production trivia. He also entertains the viewers apparent questions of some of the mysteries, or what I felt were inconsistencies, with a remark that he doesn't want to make it easy for his audience to know what he was thinking in writing this exceptionally personal work. That is an attitude I would argue is only valid if you're creating a "Mona Lisa" but not a beefcake soap opera.

The only other special feature on the disc is a photo gallery, which has interesting fading transitions.

In conclusion, I can't recommend the disc at its MSRP of $19.99, though it might make a nice rental diversion. The dvd is available at TLA Video.

Maxxxxx says
re DOG TAGS: "Such a pretty bird!"

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(404) 522-0655

ATLANTA, GA - ASIFA-Atlanta, in association with Eyedrum, is proud to present its first annual ASIFA-Atlanta Art Show. In keeping with the spirit of ASIFA, the collection of work by its members is inspired by the Golden Age of Comics and Cartoons. There promises to be an exceptional display of character driven and humorous pieces that is indicative of the work being produced by Atlanta's animation community. The collection will feature contributions from over three dozen artists. (A partial list of artists is attached below.) The majority of pieces displayed will also be available for sale.

The show will be on display at Eyedrum Gallery with the following schedule:

Opening, Saturday, December 6th, 8pm - 11pm; ($7 admission; Free for Eyedrum Members, ASIFA Members and Participating Artists)

Regular gallery hours are:
Fridays (3:00pm - 8:00pm)
Saturdays and Sundays (1:00pm - 6:00pm), through December 28th.

Additionally, the Opening Night of the Gallery Show will feature food, drinks and live music performances by Omelet, The Back Pockets, Floating Coats, and The Falcon Lords. (Music contacts and further info is attached below.)

Partial list of artists:

Paige Adair, Deirdre Aims, Alex App, Joel Ball, Jonathan Bass, Andrew Bellury, Ryan Bousquet, Bianca Butler, John Cason, Aubrey Longley-Cook, Almon Ray Crosby, Chris Diamond, Jason Desilva, eggtooth, Lindsey Elcessor, Thom Foolery, Jerry Fuchs, jert, Amanda Goodbread, Kat Hagan, Merill Hagan, Chris Hamer, Ambrose Hoilman, Em Kempf, Josh Latta, Laurence Laufer, April Leigh, Solomon Mars, Oscar D. Mejia, Savannah Murphy, Ted Murphy, Anthony Owsley, Robert Paraguassu, Joe Peery , Claire Reeve, Brandon Ross, John Ryan, Rebecca Salcedo, Rebecca Scott, San Smith, Allen Spetnagel, Alena Spragg, Jacqueline Stringham, Stephen Sweny, Brett W. Thompson, Rich Tommaso

Featured music on Opening Night:
Omelet (Contact: Brian Harris http://www.myspace.com/chalkrope)
The Back Pockets (Contact: Em Kempf http://www.myspace.com/thebackpockets)
Floating Coats (Contact: Joe Peery http://floatingcoats.com)
Falcon Lords (Contact: Matt Greenia http://myspace.com/thefalconlords)

ASIFA-Atlanta is quickly becoming the foremost animation community builder in the Southeast. "ASIFA" stands for Association Internationale du Film d'Animation and was founded in France in 1960 as a membership organization devoted to encouraging animation. Our goal is to bring together people who are interested in animation and to give them a forum to share ideas, experiences, knowledge and, most importantly, animation! For more information, please visit: www.asifa-atlanta.com

Established in 1998, Eyedrum is a non-profit organization developing an interdisciplinary approach to the arts by incorporating a wide range of contemporary art, music and new media in its gallery space.


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Monday, November 24, 2008


BOYSTOWN (Chuecatown) (dir. Juan Flahn, Spain, 2007, 93 mins.) is one of TLA Releasing's latest and most entertaining DVD acquisitions! The film throws a farcical pie in the face of "gay gentrification" of a neighborhood, in which a gay real estate agent (played by Pablo Puyol), who self describes himself as an "Apollo", will murder to create vacancies for his ideal neighborhood. He is pursued by one of the most compelling and fascinating detectives I can remember, played by Rosa Maria Sarda, in a performance that goes beyond derivatives! She is "Jane Tennison" meets "Monk" as her unbridled drive to solve the crime is aided and hampered by her unending list of phobias, as well as her sidekick, who happens to be her son, too. Sarda walks an amazing line between caricature and realism, which allows the rest of the cast freedom to explore the madcap domestic comedy that their subplots involve. The central relationship in the comedy is between a gay couple, who would be most typically described as "bears" and a mother, who is so vilely and profanely played with utter joy by Concha Velasco, that the horrid gay epitaphs that she spews at her "son in law" are so shocking to be forgivable in the context of the farce! She is an incredible force! So much so, that the inevitable confrontation with the killer would seem to be unfair. The pair of boyfriends around which this situation revolves are played with a sincere warmth and honesty that is rarely seen in U.S. cinema. Carlos Fuentes and Pepón Nieto have a real chemistry on screen and display no physical reluctance in displaying their characters' affection for each other.

Director Juan Flahn has staged and paced the film at a breakneck speed! In fact, since it is subtitled, I would suggest that this is NOT a casual viewing! I found that I needed to be exceptionally alert and attentive in order to get into his rhythm in dialogue and editing, without missing the comic inflections and actions of the performers. It almost requires viewer participation in order to move past the subtitling and become part of the comedy. However, by the time the film moves into its outrageous climatic chase, dialogue is nearly unnecessary.

The video transfer is remarkably clear and the sound design is adequate for this "parlor farce". It is in anamorphic widescreen and there are no visible artifacts. The soundtrack only "pops" during the credits, with a remarkably suitable theme.

Unfortunately, for what a blast I had with the film, the disc lacks the extra features one might hope for. In fact, the "Photo Gallery" is almost a TEASE, as there are stills from scenes that were obviously deleted from the final cut. There are "making of" credits in the endroll, and I am tempted to find a Region 2 release of the DVD in case there are Deleted Scenes in its original release in Spain.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by BOYSTOWN! The cover art hardly hints at the joys awaiting in the film! The dvd is available at TLA Video, and the MSRP is $19.99.

Maxxxxx says
re BOYSTOWN: [Cackles!!]

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

REPO! The Genetic Opera (with some Phantom residue!)

REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (dir. Darren Lynn Bousman, US, 2008, 98 mins.) is making a slow, though thorough release around the country this month. (A complete release schedule is HERE!) It may have already come and gone off your local indie-plex as of the date of this posting, but what a short and wild ride you may have missed! Where else could you see Sarah Brightman on the same screen with Paris Hilton, in an opera, and both playing organ transplant addicts?! That only scratches the surface of the oddity, if not nearly forced cultish appeal, of the piece. Anthony Head plays the organ-repossessor in a future where organ transplants are financed like auto loans. The lead is actually played by Alexa Vega. She is the Repo's daughter and suffers from an incurable blood disease, which her father has literally imprisoned her from the outside world to protect her. The actual plot involves her escape and exploration of this weird world.

Now, why exactly this craze of transplants began has something to do with an epidemic which necessitated these surgeries, that in part created a hypo-analgesic with such addictive properties that the addicts submit to continued transplants just to get the injections. Or so it seems. Paul Sorvino plays the corporate owner of GeneCo, which is involved in all this organ transplant/repossession. He is also the father of two sons and a daughter, who are in a struggle with each other to take over the corporation. This is where Paris Hilton enters, as Sorvino's daughter, in a performance that is NOT distracting, which sounds like faint praise, but she actually stands her ground in the surrealism that surrounds her.

In the midst of this madness, there is a blind opera star, played with aplomb by Sarah Brightman. Her character, Blind Mag, is something of a Deus Ex Machina for the climax. However, Brightman's performance is near, classic silent film in its operatic grandiosity! She is comparable to "Maria" from METROPOLIS. The makeup design/cgi work on her eyes is creepily stunning!

The music itself is hard to grasp on a single hearing, as is the plot on a single viewing. The result is expressionistic, where there are no real details or melody to grab onto, but the totality of the experience is what hung with me at the end. The production design is post-industrial enough to allow for a relatively low budget. The make-up design is thoroughly enjoyable, as a organ transplant plot would require it to be. The sound design is nearly overwhelming instrumentally. However, the vocals do not suffer from over syncing, and appear to be the performers actual voices. (I was surprised to find out that Sorvino did his own singing!)

So, with that, I am actually looking forward to its DVD release early next year, and I may try to see it again at the Landmark Opera Plaza here in San Francisco the week of November 21st!

Maxxxxx says
re REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA: "Dooby doobie doo-ooo!"

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Her name was Lola! Lola Montès!

The Castro Theatre is currently hosting the restored LOLA MONTES (dir. Max Ophuls, France, 1955, 110 mins.) in all it's super-wide-screen (fka Cinerama!) and technicolor glory! It is a VISUAL feast, though a bit of a famine in emotional catharsis. Director Max Ophuls has filled the frame with color, music and allegory in presenting the life of the 19th century femme fatale of several culturally significant figures, like Ludwig I, King of Bavaria and Franz Liszt, as she is forced to play out her life in a circus, with Peter Ustinov at the helm as the Ringmaster! Sounds sort of like a nightmare! Martine Carol plays Lola with enough detachment and laissez faire that I was never personally caught up in her rise and fall, however well defined Carol is at placing her character in the specific period of her life.

The dramatic conceit of having her observe her life as it is played out is not capitulated with a personal catharsis, but is observed with resignation, which may be more French than I am able to assimilate. I prefer my circuses to be like Fellini! Screaming, yelling, TEARS!!

With that said, the film has an exceptionally dedicated audience, if nearly a cult. The film has been reviewed frame by frame in some publications. Perhaps it is the period in which it was produced, that was before Fellini's zenith and nearly two decades before the lavishments of Ken Russell, that it's visual audacity is revered as groundbreaking and stunning. I just wanted more "oomph!" behind my visual bang. It is not unlike an emotionally cold Powell and Pressburger production, whose films were also subjects of much cult-like affection. For the colors and restoration alone, it could be well worth a visit. But it is not spectacle in the vein of David Lean, which The Castro just wrapped up a couple of weeks ago.

Maxxxxx says
re LOLA MONTES: "Such a pretty bird!"

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TLA Releasing has released on DVD, WRANGLER: ANATOMY OF AN ICON (dir. Jeffrey Schwarz, US, 2008, 82 mins.), which was one of the hits of the past year's GLBT film festival circuits, as well as a pleasant little romp down my memory lane! Twenty-odd years ago, I saw KANSAS CITY TRUCKING COMPANY, and I was "in love"! It was at the end of the "film era" of pornography, before "video" took over, so the graininess of the image only added to the mystique and fantasy of the situations of the film. Not to mention the unique contribution that Jack Wrangler brought to the medium, in which he was actually performing, more than prostituting himself. He was a much more accessible erotic performer than Peter Berlin, in that the persona he created was an "everyman" more than a "fantasy man", while playing against any prevailing cinematic stereotypes. He magnified "butch appeal", and was as gritty as the situations in which he was filmed. What makes Wrangler such a compelling documentary subject, however, has to do with his life before and after his success as a porn star.

The film is divided into three sections: his boyhood, his stardom, and his atypical career and marriage to Margaret Whiting. I resist to detail any of his life story here, as it would spoil the film and the surprises that he has to tell. However, I will say it is the way he tells his story, the charm and wit which has served him so well, that elevates the film. He interviews with such joy as he looks back at his sometimes notorious life, both in front and behind the camera, for the opposite of reasons (he received a great deal of 'gay backlash' for appearing in straight films, as well as his marriage to Margaret Whiting), that the film becomes infectious! In fact, in the "Extras" there are out-takes, which are just as entertaining (if not MORE so!) than the interviews that are in the final cut! I was glued to the extra half hour of interviews after the actual film had ended.

Interviews include various figures from his life, i.e. Margaret Whiting, her daughter Debbie, theatrical stars and designers with whom he has worked with as a writer and director, as well as some social commentary (i.e. Bruce Vilanche and Michael Musto). There is a plethora of video and stills that illustrate his life and career, and it is noted within the accompanying commentary track (featuring the director, Jeffrey Schwartz, the editor, Jaime Meyers) about how difficult the decision it was to maintain a modicum of taste, without denying his pornographic past. After all, the sex is what he is and will probably always be known for, though he has moved so far beyond that.

The transfer includes film and video elements, and though some of those elements have obviously worn a bit with age, there is a fairly decent balance in color and brightness, though there is minimal correction and perhaps nearly no restoration of historical elements. The sound features an unusual soundtrack, which is almost overly analyzed in the commentary by composer, Michael Cudahy. The commentary is a bit repetitive, since it is talking about the subject talking about itself, so it is fairly unnecessary. It continues to refer to outtakes that are included in the Extras, anyway, so I would skip the commentary and go straight to the outtakes. Also, there is a picture gallery that will save you from having to hit the pause button during playback of the film.

The film is available from TLA Releasing and retails for $19.99.

Maxxxxx says

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3rd-i at the Castro: Bollywood and Beyond!

The 3rd-i South Asian Film Festival continued at the Castro theatre on Saturday, November 15, with a fabulous blend of "Bollywood and Beyond"! (Plus, the introducing Sue Jean Halverson at her first time at the podium at the fests!)

OM SHANTI OM (dir. Farah Khan, India, 2007, 164 mins.) Oh. My. GAWD!! I LOVED THIS!! As intimidating as the nearly three hour running time may seem (including an intermission), this beautifully crafted two act musical just explodes with wit, color, energy and more buckets of charisma than any recent "Hollywood" musical! The entire cast dives into the project with such joy and talent, that any loopiness in characterization is all forgiven.

It is a near mythical story of love, reincarnation and revenge, films within films and ghost stories within ghost stories, and costume changes that happen with an editor's swipe! The music plays as well at a disco as it does on the screen. There is an obvious "dance mix" that opens the second act. However, as repetitive as it might sound, the visuals, as well as the parade of cameos (think of the final party scene in DIE FLEDERMAUS) that takes over a stanza or two each, continue to keep the extended scene fresh. I'm not that much of an authority on Bollywood stars, but the audience at the Castro was going wild with every entrance!

Of the leads, the recognizable Shahrukh Khan gives a remarkable performance in a surprising dual role! Even his physical transformation between acts is nearly unrecognizable except for his obvious charm and glint in the eye. In other words, those amazing abs just sort of popped out of nowhere! His humor, style and attractiveness reminded me of Ben Stiller. He has a special gift of elevating the madcap of the situation, without crossing the line of winking at the audience. And his chemistry with his co-stars are obvious, particularly with his leading lady.

Deepika Padukone plays the starlet-heroine with whom Khan is hopelessly in love with and will bend the powers of the universe in which to fulfill their fates. This is Padukone's debut, and she handles it with a surprising amount of poise and characterization. Her dual roles are subtly defined from each other. And she is simply gorgeous! (She seems to be a "type" as during the aforementioned party scene, I got confused between all the similar looking starlets, which are not as clearly physically defined as the men are.) Padukone and Khan play a surprisingly handsome couple, considering that it begins as a "ugly duckling" story and will resolve as a pair of star-crossed lovers.

There are also gems of supporting performances from Kiron Kher as his freaking out mother and Bindu, as his best friend, or brother, a relationship that was a bit lost in translation. (Speaking of, the first half hour was unintentionally dominated by the translating conversation a couple seated behind Jimmy and I were having, but who eventually left after Mr. Jimmy gave them the "stink eye" a few times! Thank you!!)

I might not have left humming the songs by Vishal Dadlani, Shekhar Ravjiani and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma, but as I visited the official website, the songs came flooding back into my memory! The bounce and joy of the score is infectious! I have found the film and score available online and at certain Amazon.com stores! GO GET IT for yourselves!!

After a break between films, Sue Jean Halverson made her presentation debut in introducing HELL'S GROUND (dir. Omar Khan, Pakistan, 2007, 77 mins.) on the Castro's BIG Screen, which "Life With Movies and Maxxxxx" was flattered and thrilled to be a "co-presenter" along with "Dead Channels", "Oddball Film and Video" and "Midnight For Maniacs", which was represented by it's producer, Jesse Hawthorne Fickes, who spoke after Ms. Halverson. Now, I have spoken repeatedly about my fondness for the film, so I will just add a couple of notes about Ms. Halverson's debut, as it were. She was QUITE prepared, if not overly so, especially for the "midnight crowd". Not to be too harsh, but we are all tired or wired, so next time, just leave the script behind and toss those one-liners at us! ;) The film was then received with an appreciative amount of "eeew"s and "ughs" to delight the hearts of any zombie fan, as it unspooled in all it's video glory on the Castro's screen!

Maxxxxx says
re OM SHANTI OM: "Doobie doobie doo-ooo!"

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

SF Intl. Animation Festival - Day 3, Seminar and Short Subjects

The Third Annual San Francisco International Animation Festival continued at Landmark's Embarcadero Center Cinema on Saturday, November 15, with a seminar on animated title sequences and a shorts program. I am especially grateful to the SF Film Society for bringing PLAY: THE ART OF THE ANIMATED FILM TITLE (A project of David Peters, Dav Rauch and Kai Christmann, Design Films, US, 2008, appox. 65 mins.)to the animation festival! The program played at the Mill Valley Film Festival, but I missed it there. (Thank you, too, to Bill Proctor, who caught me CHARGING into the theatre just as lights went down!) David Peters and Dav Rauch were present to speak to the abridged history of the animated title design, starting with the minor masterpieces of Saul Bass (MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, sadly unable to present IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, though), Richard Williams (CHARADE, 007 films), and Fritz Freleng (THE PINK PANTHER) amongst the dozen or so artists presented. The sections were broken up into the abstract, narrative, and then the return to what could best be called "psychedlic abstract" (think ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER and it's boxes). Of the most recent examples, film title seems to have returned to narrative, i.e. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, JUNO, etc. I would guess that screening the clips in such an "educational setting" released the presenters from too much of a licensing issue. Otherwise, I could have easily sat through a solid 90 minutes of titles! It was a kick to go down "memory lane" as it were, not to mention some of the great work they screened!

CONTROL FREAKS was a collection of eight short subjects, which began with the twisted and delightful FANTAISIE IN BUBBLEWRAP (Arthur Metcalf, USA, 4 min), in which the loves, lives and lifespans of a community of bubblewrap-beings are exposed!

A CHILD'S METAPHYSICS (Koji Yamamura, Japan, 9 min) is almost as unsettling as his international breakthrough with MT. HEAD. The anatomy and world of children are transfigured in a surreal passage of physical identities. Yet, what makes this easier to take than MT. HEAD is that it is obviously the imaginations of the characters that are creating the creations and not some sort of freakish and upsetting act of nature. That is, unless you think about it too much... LOVED IT! And I hope that Yamamura will eventually produce a disk of a compilation of his work!

TEAT BEAT OF SEX: Episodes 8-11 (dir. Signe Baumane, USA/Italy, 7 min) This was a near hilarious, though at times disturbing, "sex education series" as presented by a specifically woman's point of view. They seem to be based on a series of monologues, though I can not be sure. Regardless, it got me to laugh out loud, which is always a good thing!

PROCRASTINATION (dir. Johnny Kelly, England, 5 min.) In which a stream of conscience is artistically presented in a nearly mind bending blend of animation techniques. Visually and aurally overwhelming at points. And even at the short run time of only 5 minutes, there are moments that the frustration of "procrastination" becomes almost as annoying for the viewer as the creator. However, seen by itself and not in a program of other shorts, the film would be a kaleidoscope of imagery.

THE CONTROL MASTER (dir. Run Wrake, England, 7 min) This is a pop-art/comic book/animation of pulp and advertising images is a cartoon spectacle, not unlike his previous work, the disturbing RABBIT, in which Run Wake takes exceptionally acceptable images and splices-and-dices them into his own little nightmares! Another compilation dvd to wait for!!

FOUR (dir. Ivana Sebestová, Slovak Republic, 16 min) Perhaps the most accomplished screenplay of the group is gorgeously realized by Ivana Sebestova. She is able to dissect and interweave the stories of four women, as their passions cross each others' lives. Perhaps almost too dreamily paced, but gorgeous and fascinating, none the less!

I am afraid that two of the offerings passed by without my memory: CABLE CAR (dirs. Claudius Gentinetta, Frank Braun, Switzerland, 7 min); CHAINSAW (dir. Dennis Tupicoff, Australia, 24 min). As the rest of the program was of such high quality, these two may have been lost in the bustle in my brain, with no slight on their work.

Maxxxxx says
re Titles and Shorts: "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"

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