Sunday, July 27, 2008

10 Reasons to Go to Your Local Film Festival

The 9th Annual Real to Reel Film Festival just closed in my chosen hometown and it's worthy of an entry. Turnout for this event is always far lower than I think it should be - all too often, we don't pay attention to the goings-on in our own backyard. Further, since I live in such a small town, I think there's a certain amount of "well, if the films were any good, they'd be entered in bigger festivals, so these must be pretty lousy." Not so, cynics. Here are ten reasons to mark your calendar for next year.

1. Not-quite-discovered gems like CRAZY and THE FLYBOYS. The first was a biopic of Hank Garland (yeah, I'd never heard of him, either. More's the pity.) and the second was a fun family romp involving airplanes, the Mob, and two new friends who bond over a stowaway adventure. (By the way, if you're a Browncoat I defy you to see FLYBOYS and not note that the two boys are Li'l Mal and Li'l Wash.) And the technology is changing - nine years ago, films were on VHS. Now we're on DVD, and FLYBOYS was actually the first hi-def film shown.
2. Four straight nights that give you an excuse to dress up. You don't have to; I saw plenty of flip-flops and shorts, but I like dressing up and this is a great chance to pull out the little black dress and see if I remember how to walk in high heels. (Lead with the toe, ladies, not the heel!)
3. Documentaries about people, places, and events you knew nothing about. I now have a new favorite saint and did you know there was an all Puerto Rican infantry regiment? Me neither.
4. Silent auctions. Every year, this is used as a fundraiser for the Arts Council and the packages all somehow tie in to movies. (I donated a copy of SERENITY and a copy of my book - called it the "Serenity Prayer Pack.") My favorite was probably the white water rafting trip that came with a copy of DELIVERANCE. Seriously.
5. Eating popcorn while in a cocktail dress. Out of the red and white striped box. While humming the "let's go out to the lobby" jingle.
6. Snarking at the mongrels that made it through the screening process. There are always one or two absolute travesties of films that get into the festival; usually due to some local connection. Even those can be fun, especially if you're a fan of the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 school of film criticism. One of these actually won for best amateur feature (I honestly think it was the only one in that category) and I'm sure it was accepted only because it was filmed in North Carolina. Dear God in heaven, it was awful. No, I won't provide the link. These people ought not to be encouraged.
7. Gala closing receptions. Nothing says "red carpet" like food served with toothpicks. I jest, but it is nice to have a chance to circulate and chat with other film-goers and some of the filmmakers.
8. The deal! Ticket prices are extremely low and one price will get you in all five sessions. (Four nights and a Saturday matinee.)
9. Freebies! There's always a "swag" table with promotional material and you never know - you might win a raffle prize. As proof, my "Space Chimps" T-shirt is whirling away in the dryer right now. Yeah, I know - what do I need a "Space Chimps" T-shirt for? But that's not really the point, is it?
10. Realizing that you're seeing things that commercial ticket-holders are going to miss. I wish more people would turn out for this event, but until then, I'm going to enjoy being one of the ones "in the know."

Mark your calendars now for next year! It'll be the 10th Annual, so there are bound to be some big surprises!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Something to Sing About!

A highlight of this past week had to be the broadcast of Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog. Briefly, this was a 45-minute musical that came about during the dark days of the writers' strike that began last November. My hypothesis is that Joss Whedon has a touch of hamster in him - if he's not busy doing something creative, his teeth grow to a worrisome length. (Mind you, I have absolutely no proof for my hypothesis, but when's that ever stopped me? Exactly.) The show is a collaboration between Joss Whedon, his younger brother Jed, and Jed's partner, Maurissa Tancharoen. Each of the show's three parts was launched separately and the entire shebang was available only through July 20 (well, for free, anyway). Demand was incredible and the experience even led your intrepid blogger to finally puzzle out how to buy and download video from iTunes - and pay full retail, to boot! (Whether or not that newly-acquired skill turns out to be a positive thing is something that has yet to be determined.)

I'm not going to recap the show here, other than to say: Catchy tunes, strong voices (who knew that Nathan Fillion could work the power ballad?), quirky characters, interesting twists on costuming, and the mix of guffaw-funny and sudden heartstrings-tug that I've come to expect from Whedon, yet find myself surprised by all the same. I'm now a convert to the fanbase of Neil Patrick Harris and I challenge you to find either (a) a cuter bug's ear than Felicia Day or (b) a better villain nickname than that of "Bad Horse" who is known as the "thoroughbred of sin." For more, by all means check out the main site.

As is typical of Whedon's work, there are too many good lines to attempt to include them all, but I particularly like one of Penny's more plaintive lines as she reminds her "laundry buddy" that everything really isn't as grim as it may appear, so I'll close with that.

"Even in the darkness, every color can be found."

Seriously - buy this show.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Whaddya Mean "Back to School"?

Insofar as I am concerned, this "back to school" stuff has gotten seriously out of hand. I begin another two-week round of pre-registration for the fall semester on July 14; I can understand that. Students either hadn't made up their minds to start/return to school during our earlier registration offerings or (equally likely) what I shall refer to delicately as "outside forces" have converged to make registering for classes an exceedingly good idea. All of that is fine by me.

It's the other stuff.

Why, oh why, am I deluged with advertisements and fliers and perky on-air personalities exhorting me to take advantage of back-to-school bargains when August is weeks away? Let's look at this logically - in my part of the country, public schools can't begin before August 25. (That's by state statute - long story involving resort areas who need the cheap labor.) For the love of Heaven, rehearsals for high church (that's two-a-day high school football practices for those of you who benefit from translation) don't even traditionally begin until August 1. On that day (and not one sunbeam before) will I entertain the idea of the back-to-school season commencing.

Yes, yes, I'm being snarky. I'm also swamped in work for the fall semester that I'd enjoy putting off until August 1st, which very well may have something to do with the tone of this post.

But I'd enjoy the ice cream truck chimes not having to compete with the class-change bell.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Challenge for the Holiday

I like the Fourth of July. Really, I do. To me, it's not about the hot dog cookouts and ice-cold watermelon. Heck, it's not even about the bottle rockets and Roman candles. And, although I am a fully-spurred Discount Knight, it's not about the sales. In fact, I make a firm vow to never, ever shop at any establishment that advertises "Freedom from high prices!" No, thank you. The Fourth is about much, much more than 20% off electronics.

To me, the Fourth is about taking a stand when you have absolutely no guarantee of a favorable outcome. The Declaration of Independence was (and is, for that matter) a completely radical and subversive document. Signing this was not the same as adding your name to an Internet petition - publicly supporting this idea could get you killed, in pretty nasty ways. And that was after your property had been confiscated to serve as a lesson to any others in the neighborhood who might harbor sympathies towards this independence thing.

Which brings me to my question: What do you think is worth taking a stand for? As that great philosopher Wolverine once put it, "There ain't no shortage of windmills to tilt at." So what's worth sticking your neck out to support? Ending child abuse? Fighting human trafficking? Encouraging people to "go green"? Whatever it may be, the Fourth is a great time to rededicate yourself to your chosen cause; to renew your pledge of your "life, your fortune, and your sacred honor."

Go for it!