Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hemlock Grove

Teens do some stuff in this werewolf-based television show, and they pretty much lost me at the word "teen". But then they suddenly got me again with the appearance of Lili Taylor, but they lost me again at the word "gypsy". Then they got me again with the inexplicable appearance of a gigantic girl with bandaged hands, but lost me again with Famke Janssen's transient and unconvincing British accent. Then they got me again with the entrails, and lost me again with the dialogue, the characters, and the storyline. Distractingly photographed to look like a spooky Hollister ad, Hemlock Grove comes off as Twilight meets Twin Peaks. I couldn't tell if Netflix was trying to scare me or sell me tank tops. They failed at both.

Portrait Of Wally

I had never heard of Expressionist painter Egon Schiele until I heard Rachel's album "Music For Egon Schiele".

 I love their music. It's very cinematic.

Anyway, Portrait Of Wally is a gripping, quickly-paced documentary about the legal issues surrounding the ownership of Egon Schiele's painting which was seized by Nazis during World War II. Very well-constructed and edited, it features many wonderful images of Schiele's vibrant, disturbing artwork.

Friday, April 26, 2013

How To Make A Book With Steidl

The maker of fine quality limited edition books is outlined in this dry, clinical documentary. Do you enjoy watching business meetings? Do you like watching people take important calls? Does watching someone fly from one city to the next rev your engines? Well, you'll get that in abundance watching How To Make A Book With Steidl. Don't get me wrong, it's fascinating getting an in-depth look at the publishing business. For people not accustomed to niche documentaries, How To Make A Book With Steidl might bore them to tears. I've built up my immunity to boredom in film, so I was just fine.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cleveland International Film Festival

Well, it's over for another year. The Cleveland International Film Festival was exciting and exhausting. Like I said before, I highly recommend having an all-access pass. While you will still run frantically from one screening to another, you don't have to worry about buying tickets or waiting in lines with the poor luckless people who don't have all-access passes. So try to get one next year if you can. No, I'm not going to tell you how to get one.

The main reason the CIFF is so exhausting is the Tower City Food Court. An all-access pass is no good to you here in this crowded, nonsensical chaos. A garish, cacophonous nightmare; lines queue willy-nilly in all directions. Seemingly omnipresent, food kiosk employees frantically shove soy-sauce dripping chunks of mystery meat on toothpicks in your face at every opportunity, so much so that I called going into the Food Court "Running The Chicken Gauntlet". Even though there are no fewer than 3 chinese restaurants in this cramped neon gastronomic disaster, good luck trying to get food at any of them. Sure, there's a McDonald's, a Subway, and a Sbarro, with endless lines filled with rambunctious teens, but why on earth would you want to eat there? I'm too cantankerous after 8 hours of watching depressing foreign films to tolerate eating a depressing Quarter Pounder With Cheese.

At the most, I only had approximately an hour between screenings if I was lucky. Usually it was far less than half an hour. I don't have time to wander around trying to find food. I don't think it's too much to ask to find something to eat that's delicious, somewhat healthful and easy to acquire. I'm not looking for haute cuisine, but I don't always want batter-dipped fat fried in fat either. The CIFF is a marathon of sorts, and you won't survive on 10 days of french fries.

Feeling a little light-headed from existing on popcorn, I decided to try the salad place inexplicably located in the center of the Food Court. After wandering around its four sides trying to sort out the menu, I finally decided on a panini. I attempted to order one, only to find I was on the wrong side for paninis. I was on the salad side. I had no idea there were multiple lines for different food items, as the kiosk was one of those overly-signed monstrosities telling you simultaneously everything and nothing in dry-erase. Sure, I saw a large sign that screamed the word "Soup!", but what kind? I never found out. I left in a huff, because I'm often in a huff right before passing out from malnutrition.

The only way to keep what little sanity I had left was to leave the Food Court and try my luck in the mall. There was a kiosk selling delightfully packaged cake slices in plastic containers, so I tried to buy one of those, because I'm a sucker for delightfully packaged cake slices and I think I was starting to hallucinate. The woman who ran the kiosk suddenly yelled at me, "Please don't touch the product, sir!". Not sure how I was to purchase a hermetically-sealed container of cake without touching it, I left in embarrassment. Starting in a 'Please' and ending with a 'Sir' does not cloak the fact I was yelled at, and I try not to give people money who yell at me, even if they have cake.

People have the right to run their businesses any way they'd like, but friendly, efficient customer service should be a top priority when people from all over the world are trying to order food from you. You just never know when you are selling food to someone with a really big mouth and readers from every country on earth.

I staggered from the culinary abyss that is Tower City onto the streets of downtown Cleveland, and lo and behold, just a block away was a delightful little restaurant called The Flaming Ice Cube Cafe. A peaceful, intimate cafe; they have the very best veggie burger I have ever had. It's remarkable. It's so good, I went back 3 times. If you think, "Eeew, veggie burgers aren't good.", you need to try this one. It completely redefines the concept. Moist, beefy, delicious, and most importantly, served quickly, I would eat one every day if that was possible.

That's the Western Burger, with a refreshing pasta salad. So next year, avoid the "Chicken Gauntlet" and hit Flaming Ice Cube. It's healthful and delicious.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Halima's Path

Death, heartbreak, tragedy, strife, genocide and deception abound in this Bosnian film. Two families are torn apart, and it's a bummer. Hamila's Path is a beautiful, powerfully acted film, but it's not light-hearted fare. This is the last review for my excursion to the Cleveland International Film Festival. I would like to say that I'm going to get back to my usual habit of watching bad movies and complaining about them, but I have a couple more documentaries to write about. I'll be back to my usual programming soon.

The Exquisite Corpse Project

Five comedians write a script together, however, each comedian only writes 15 minutes of script after seeing only the last five pages in this lighthearted and absurd comedy. Starting out as a loose, indie documentary/romance/heist film, it evolves into something else entirely, which is a bittersweet commentary on adult male friendships. I particularly liked when the screenplay is sabotaged. The Exquisite Corpse Project played at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

Oldies But Goldies

Two elderly troublemakers do some stuff in this comedic film. He needs cataract surgery, she's a former actress, and together they steal vans and hitchhike across the Czech Republic. Oldies But Goldies was humorous, but I couldn't help but see similarities to another classic road movie, It Happened One Night. Jirina Bohdalova is a riot as the former actress.

Flower Buds

People make bad decisions in this grimly comedic Czech film. OK, I told I lie. Flower Buds is grim, but hardly comedic. There's gambling, drugs, poverty, strippers, teen angst, and an endless winter. It's a bleak, blue-grey bummer. Krampus makes a brief appearance, but sadly, it ends in someone's life being ruined. I'm not really sure how I ended up watching 3 Czech films at the Cleveland International Film Festival, but there you go.

Casting By

The job of casting director is detailed in this well-made documentary. Featuring interviews with nearly every actor and director in Hollywood, Casting By sheds light on a little known but essential part of film-making. Marion Daugherty is one of the legendary casting directors who are applauded by Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, and honestly, it would be easier to list the A-list talent NOT interviewed for this film. Playing to a packed house at the Cleveland International Film Festival, it was quite thrilling to listen to the audience gasp at some of the early scenes from now-legendary actors.

Independent Shorts Program 10

The Cleveland International Film Festival ending like forever ago and I still haven't finished reviewing the films I watched. I'm afraid I'm going to grow tired of reviewing them (I have) and forget what they were about (It's happened). 

More Than Winning

Man and beast race to the death in this droll animated short. How could you not love a crudely drawn squid with a pistol?

Even Me

Even Me is a sobering short film about the growing HIV epidemic among minorities over 50. Thankfully, the people interviewed for this documentary were very funny, so it wasn't as dreary as it could have been. 

A woman switches bodies in an attempt to keep her job in this futuristic short film. Well acted and having some impressive special effects, Advantageous conveys the desperation of a corporate figurehead who could potentially lose her job to someone younger. It was a little on the sudsy side, though.

This Is Lipstick

A man attempts to keep his cross-dressing a secret in this corn-obsessed short film. It was humorous and had a slight twist at the end. Sorry, there doesn't seem to be a trailer.


A homeless entertainer tries to reconnect with a woman from his past in this animated short film. I liked it, but it seemed to run a little long.
David's Tour

A picturesque tour of Rome is derailed by a tour group leader's failed romance in this romantic short film. David's tour was sweet and funny, but the real star of the movie was Rome itself.

Would You Be Kind To Leave, Sir?

A homeless man eats at a fancy restaurant in this short French film. Well shot and acted, Would You Be Kind To Leave, Sir was my favorite of the Independent Shorts Program #10.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

From Nothing, Something

The concept of creativity is examined in this inspirational documentary. Honestly, I'm becoming bored with this whole 'watch a movie review a movie' thing I'm doing this afternoon, so let's get orthogonal, shall we? I have 7 more Cleveland International Film Festival movies to review, and they ain't going to review themselves. So yeah, orthogonal is a word, and it was used in this documentary. It means 'lying at right angles', and in this context it means 'to go off on a tangent'. That's something I know a lot about. My whole life is based on going off on various tangents. Tangent reminds me of Target, and comedienne Maria Bamford was the crazy sale lady for those X-mas commercials, and she's in this movie.

See, it's all connected.

I would totally go to a church called Sex Hole, but it probably wouldn't be as good as it sounds.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Foster Boy

Foster children are abused in this bleak drama from Switzerland. Amongst a landscape of lush mountains, a young accordionist is forced to live on a failing farm where he meets hardship after hardship. Beautifully shot and very well acted, The Foster Boy was a total drag. I mean seriously, it's foster children...being abused...on a farm. There's dirt, and beatings, and accordions on fire. The Foster Boy was a very good film, but there's no way I'd ever watch it again. The Foster Boy played at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and breathe a sigh of relief that you missed it.

La Demora

A family struggles with dementia in this gritty, bleak film from Uruguay. Crammed in a tiny apartment; a poverty-stricken woman sews sweatshop apparel, cares for her small children, and tries to get her father with dementia into a state-run nursing home. Filled with desperation and bureaucracy; La Demora is a brutal look at the lengths someone will go to when they've run out of options. La Demora played at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story

The life of the eccentric best-selling children's book author is examined in this funny and risque documentary. Illustrator of the children's book Flat Stanley, some electrifying anti-Vietnam War posters, and controversial erotica; Ungerer was blacklisted from libraries due to his adult-themed books and did not write another children's book for 23 years. Provocatively described as a 'madman', Ungerer seems to be witty, kinky, outspoken, talented, and often quite sensible. Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story played at the Cleveland International Film Festival.


A family prepares for their daughter's quinceanera in this meditative Argentinian film. Using the Wichi Lhamtes language in voiceover, the family's maid quietly comments on nature and her native culture amidst lingering shots of the Argentinian brush. Natural sound permeates the soundtrack which is occasionally cut by the sound of heavy logging equipment. The town nervously awaits a possible earthquake, and the camera begins to jostle ominously near the end of the film. Nosilatiaj.Beauty played at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


The career of photojournalist Don McCullin is examined in this sobering documentary. Filled with images of war, strife and poverty, McCullin is a beautiful and horrific film that's not for the faint of heart. In one of his more poignant and disturbing photographs, sunlight reflects in pools of blood after a family comes home to a gruesome scene, and it's difficult to turn away from the images. Don McCullin's gripping anecdotes of photographing some of the 1960's most turbulent events keep your eyes nailed to the screen. McCullin played at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and you probably missed it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Up There

Two recently deceased men in limbo attempt to find a lost soul in this dark comedy from England. Stuck in a bureaucratic dead-end job welcoming the dead to the afterlife, these two men accidentally lose a 'runner'. Unfortunately, death means they can't interact with their physical surroundings, so they have to wait for the living to open doors for them so they can continue on their search. I really found this plot device to be quite intriguing. It very conveniently explains why ghosts haunt some particular place. The spirits are just waiting for the right door to open. However, this line of reasoning would have to suggest that supermarkets or malls would just be chock full of spirits stuck waiting to use the revolving doors, escalators, or elevators. They'd be just crammed full of ghosts. I'm not really sure they are, and if so, that would just be awful. That would be a hellish experience, just standing around Claire's Boutique amidst the clutter of inexpensive jewelry, blaring pop tunes and squealing pre-teen girls waiting for your chance to escape. Yikes.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the grey drudgery of the afterlife in Up There, with its stark, dreary interiors in need of sprucing up and endless paperwork. Up There was playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival, but you probably missed it.

Artistic Touch Shorts Program

I'm way behind in everything. If I don't finish these reviews, I never will. I can't have that. 

Hot In The Zipper

A naive Wisconsinite singer moves in with two abrasive New Yorkers in this witty, coarse short film. Set in a mid-century atomic green apartment, Hot In The Zipper features some ribald, eyebrow-raising dialogue.

Beauty And The Beat

A female tour group leader dances uncontrollably whenever she hears music in this clever and funny short film. Colorful, well-shot, and expertly danced, Beauty And The Beat is awkward, lovely and filled with Northern Soul music. 

The Story Of M

A woman who emulates Marilyn Monroe meets a photographer in this grim short film. Comprising of several clips of Monroe's films and having a washed-out creepiness, it was probably my least favorite of the Artistic Touch Short Program. Sorry, there doesn't seem to be a trailer.


A young girl travels from her idyllic home to the big city for a dance audition in this darkly comic short film. Imaginatively art directed to the minute detail, this is what might happen if Tarantino directed Amelie. A sweetly gruesome fairy tale, Ephemeral was my favorite of the Artistic Touch Short Program.


There's some internal theft down at the lightbulb factory in this inventive short film. Shot in pixilated stop-motion animation, Luminaris features some jaw-dropping cinematography. Window shutters open like flowers and figures on their way to work race the rising sun in a particularly stunning moment. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dear Mr.Watterson

The reclusive creator of comic strip Calvin And Hobbes is examined in this well-made documentary. Consisting primarily of interviews with artists who were influenced by Bill Watterson, the film becomes somewhat tedious after all the fawning accolades. However, all of the artwork presented in the documentary makes one want to run home and read the funny pages. I was intrigued when the film-maker voyages to Chagrin Falls, Ohio to film Watterson's home-town, but the documentary never stoops to paparazzi levels, which would be easy to do. I also enjoyed shots of the original art stored in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library And Museum at Ohio State University. Dear Mr. Watterson was playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and you probably missed it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

24 hours...

It's been 24 hours since I sent my one and only literary agent query letter. Since it's been nearly almost forever since I sent it, I can only assume it has been read and enthusiastically received with the sound of one hand clapping.

Fine, literary world. Have it your way.

You might have noticed a few things about me.

  1. I have very limited patience.
  2. I'm used to getting my way.
  3. I don't do things in the traditional sense.
There's an old adage that goes, "If you want things done right, shove 'em down the elevator shaft and do it yourself." It's what I should have done from the get-go. I never once considered what I do "literature". Heck, it barely qualifies as writing. In fact, I never even said I was a writer, so to try to find validation of what I do by acquiring a literary agent was probably a bad idea.

'Act now, and apologize later.'

I am a very busy person. I have movies to watch. There's adventuring to be done. I have another book to write. I'm now 20 movie reviews behind. And these snacks aren't going to eat themselves.

I'm doing it myself, so get out of my way.

Unless a better offer comes along. Whatever.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cleveland International Film Fest Day 6 and other recent developments

It's Day 6 7 8 of the Cleveland International Film Festival, and I was unavoidably detained. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to make it to the CIFF in time, and by "circumstances beyond my control" I really mean that I had to fire Mechanic and Pilot because the windshield wiper on the Cessna needed to be replaced and there's no way I'm flying in that ramshackle death-trap. I'm not really sure what a windshield wiper on a plane does, but I'm certain it keeps the plane aloft and I'm not willing to risk careening to earth in a gentle April shower. Since I have to do everything myself because Mechanic and Pilot suffered an "unfortunate accident" and plummeted down the elevator shaft, I ran out to the Auto-Zone to see if they have a windshield wiper for a Cessna, and they don't. 

I'm astonished. How can the ordinary person replace parts on their private planes if they're not readily available at the store down the street? I honestly don't know, and there's no way I'm flying commercial, because commercial flights are full of ordinary people. I wholeheartedly support their need to purchase replacement parts for their private planes, but I don't want to sit next to them. Yes, I realize that I have to sit next to ordinary people at the film festival, but I have special passes that allow me to do stuff ordinary people can't and that's all that matters. I recommend having all-access passes that allow the ordinary person to just walk into any screening they'd like plus complimentary valet parking. Everyone should have some, but then the VIP area with the complimentary snacks will be filled with ordinary people and now that I think about it, that sounds like a living nightmare. I don't like sharing complimentary movie snacks or VIP area air with ordinary people.

So I gassed up the Alfa Romeo convertible to make the drive to Cleveland, but it began to overheat because apparently Alfa Romeos break down all the time. I need to have something called a "water pump" specially ordered, and Mechanic suffered the afore-mentioned "accident", so the repairs weren't done. I decided to take the 1966 Volvo 1800 instead, and got lost. I'm not sure why I'm telling you this, because it's all in my first novel I just finished writing. 

Yeah, I know! I just finished writing a book, and before you get all excited and start asking me stuff like, "When is it going to be published?" and "Can you actually read?"; I'm in the process of trying to acquire something called a "literary agent". I did a little research on the internet about these things, and I'm not pleased. Apparently, a "literary agent" is someone who represents writers and attempts to get their novels published for a cut of the writer's revenue. As a self-made billionaire industrialist, I generally don't need someone else acquiring chunks of my revenue. I like to keep it all to myself. It's the American way. However, I've been told by Administrative Assistant and Legal that I need to acquire an agent by writing something called a "query letter". A "query letter" sells your book to the agent, who then sells the book to a publisher. That seems like too many cooks in the kitchen for my liking, but I suppose it needs to be done. I wrote a query letter, and by "wrote" I mean I dictated it to Administrative Assistant, who forwarded it Legal, who both said, and I quote, 'There's no way you can send that to anyone.' So I shoved them both down the elevator shaft and now the elevator shaft is full. Here's my query letter for your perusal:

We'll see how that goes. I'm quite optimistic, so much so that I went to the hardware superstore and purchased a barrel in which I'll cram my piles and piles of book-cash. It's currently residing in the middle of Administrative Assistant's desk.

Anyway, I'm in Cleveland. It's a nice city, with plenty of rust and decay. Sure, I suppose there are swank suburbs with fancy shopping malls in Cleveland populated with ordinary upper middle class people. I hate those things and try to avoid them. Between screenings I took a brief ride over to the Franklin Castle, which is allegedly the most haunted house in Cleveland and I can't think of a better way to spend one's vacation. It's decrepit, eerie, and right up my alley.

After that I had lunch at Palookaville Chili. I had the Spicy Veggie over macaroni with all the toppings and a side of cornbread. Not overly spicy even with the addition of chopped jalapenos; it's a balanced, colorful chili with beans, corn, green peppers and a hint of quinoa. Chili purists will probably never notice such a healthful ingredient is there.

Before I left for my trip I had my daughter snap a photograph of me with her vintage Polaroid camera. Here I am, looking blurry and apocryphal yet again.

I'm now at least 9 movie reviews behind, so I'd better get to it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Room 237

Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining is exhaustively examined in this eccentric documentary. Using unrelated, plot-forwarding clips from other films such as Hitchcock's Spellbound, An American Werewolf In London, The Brain From Planet Arous, and All The President's Men; various obsessive theories are tossed about. Apparently, Kubrick's atmospheric, creepy horror film is crammed full of subtexts as varied as the Native American Genocide, the Holocaust, the Apollo Moon Landing, and minotaurs. Sorry, but none of these theories are especially believable. Ok, there is a labyrinth, but I didn't see a minotaur in the poster of a skier, I just saw a skier. Maybe I should have squinted.

Sure, there are lots of head-scratching enigmas in The Shining, and I love a conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but sometimes a continuity error is just that. Room 237 is dry and analytical, but I couldn't avoid looking down to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.