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The Tampa Film Review for February  by Nolan B. Canova
Loren Cass: A Florida Indie Film Review  by Nolan B. Canova
Weird Magic in Sanford, FL!  by ED Tucker
Ginnie Springs - - Skunk Ape Central?...Just What Happened on the Wacaser Farm in 1956?  by William Moriaty
"Breach"  by Mike Smith
Concerts....The British Oscars....Passing On....Movie Notes....Whatever Happened To...? Chapter 7: Josh Mostel  by Mike Smith
Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our eighth calendar year!
Number 360  (Vol. 8, No. 7). This edition is for the week of February 12--18, 2007.

The Tampa Film Review for February
By Nolan B. Canova

I never thought I'd see the day when long-time friend and walking encyclopedia of all things Florida, William Moriaty, would get lost, in, of all places, downtown Tampa. But that's precisely what happened last Friday night on our way to this month's Tampa Film Review (aka, "TFR") in Ybor City. A trip we've made dozens of times.

Somehow....somehow...the magic turn-off from 13th St. (aka, "Channelside Drive") that was supposed to take us to the west end of Ybor, instead took us onto the entrance ramp of the new, elevated portion of the Crosstown Expressway! The one with no turn-offs. So, with only 5 minutes till showtime, Will, actor Gus Perez, and yours truly found ourselves headed for Brandon.

Will gunned the engine of the "batmobile" and I'll tell you what: I don't think anyone has been to the Falkenberg Rd. exit in Brandon and back to Ybor in the time we made! Will dropped us off, and miraculously, we were only 5 minutes late. Still, I found Paul Guzzo at the door of the Int'l Bazaar (site of the TFR) who said they'd been waiting on us to start (when I got home, the Caller ID said there'd been a call from Paul at 8:03pm. I was and am humbled by that).

As we made our way back to the film area, Paul mentioned that the initial turn-out seemed much smaller than January's, but, like always, late arrivals always ramp those numbers up considerably.

As I found a seat among the intimate crowd assembled, I felt compelled to apologize aloud for my tardiness. These are special people and this is a special night for all of us.

Moving right along...

Neither Chris Woods nor Terence Nuzum, both of whom had been fellow reviewers of previous TFRs were available this night. So, all you've got for this month is li'l ol' me! NOTE: Chris and Terence are much better at remembering in what order films are shown, I never put that high a priority on it, so these are only very roughly in any kind of order. That said, on with the show.

The first three films are from the exchange program the TFR has with Toronto, Canada.

"Five Foot Ten" written and directed by Matthew Taylor. A tripped-out young man appears ready to rob a store when he's seized by flashbacks. The store owner seems to be reaching for his gun. The minute-long video ends at that point.
And speaking of point, I was left wondering what the point of this was, as, I predict, will you.

"Playtime", directed by Matthew Toffolo. If we could walk into a building where we could act and play like children, would we?
Beginning in black & white, several adults meet at an upstairs office called "Memory Lane Limited". They go into a (now full-color) playroom and become children, playing with the toys provided and coloring with crayons, but still retaining their adult bodies. No dialogue and backed by a rather melancholy music track, this goes on for the 5 minutes or so of this film until it's nap-time for everyone. The upshot, I guess, is that the inner child is more colorful than gloomy adulthood. Woah. Deep. Moving on...

"Speeders", produced by Jen Frankel and Matthew Toffolo. Former speeding motorists gather for a therapy session.
At nine minutes, this is a little steeper investment, but fortunately, a little better one. A room of nutty characters, evidently gathered as part of a therapy/12-step-like program, try and come to grips with their addiction to speed. No, not the drug, the kind you get driving a fast car. The kind that usually results in accidents. Good performances, decent script, funny at times, the payoff is basically the group leader/instructor winds up being just as whacked as her charges when given the chance.

OK, hosers, that's like, the Canada quotient....beauty, eh? We now return to our regular program, already in progress...

A Man in the Attic by Ali Imran Zaidi: An American Muslim ponders, discusses and ruminates on his position in America, and the decline of his people in western civilization.
The TFR had some strong films this night, but this one has my vote for movie of the night, and certainly, the most important. Scenes are shown in the day in the life of our subject, an American Muslim, while the voice-over (a narration that borders on poetry) struggles to define what friends are at the same time a terrifying lonliness is felt at being the currently stigmatized outsider. We feel his pain as he describes why his people are seen as the default villains of modern times due to our being exposed only to the "tiniest example of the very worst slices of dark humanity", i.e., they are not me. The "Man in the Attic" in the title refers to the traditional final place of escape before they bust down the door to find you. A compelling case is made that none of this is new: in every decade, a race of people is villified and hounded for one reason or another. The question is, sure, you feel safe now, but when will they come after you?
Some fancy camera and editing tricks lift the photography out of the merely pedestrian and into a more ethereal, stream-of-consciousness direction, echoing the narration. Director Ali Imran Zaidi himself is the narrator, which gives the film an even more autobiographical feel (no doubt the point) and I was fortunate enough to meet him after the show and conveyed my gratitude for the experience. It's seven minutes you won't soon forget.
Very highly recommended.

Near the End by Eli T. Peña: Since the early 1900's we've witnessed countless times of the villain chasing the damsel in distress. Journey with us as we time travel back to horror cinema.
This is a fun little film, perhaps unintentionally funny at times, where director Eli Peña shows off his filmlook chops. Several scenes of a damsel-in-distress pursued by a villain (Ezra Clark and Kristen Landers play the couple in all instances) portrayed how it would've looked in the '20s, '30's, '40s, '70s, '80s and today. Starting with themes similar to The Phantom of the Opera and Dracula, right up through zombies and Jason Vorhees and beyond. A lot happens in the short 5 minutes this is playing, and the ending is a cute wink-at-the-audience. The screenplay is solely meant to advance the effect so don't look for anything groundbreaking there, but the clever film simulations are among the best I've ever seen. Film students should get a kick out of this one.

Absent by Jeff Pesce, directed by Bryan Coward: A mother struggles with the loss of her husband and turns to drugs and alcohol for an escape.
The above synopsis is a tiny bit over-simplified, but essentially correct. This is a well-shot and well-acted if a bit depressing little screenplay dealing with a beautiful young mother (Debbie Arnott) whose flashbacks reveal a recent tragedy involving the man in her life (there's no guarantee that's her husband, actor Isreal Diaz looks a little young for that, but whatever), evidently having died young. Her teenage daughter (Kerri Deskins) has most of the dialogue in this film and only then to make a phone call to mom. Mom starts popping pills and drinking to cope with her loss. Daughter returns home to find mom unconscious---or maybe worse, we're never really sure. The upshot is the cascading effect of devastating personal loss. Bryan Coward gets some nice camera angles in the sparse screenplay and D.P. Ben Eytalis gets some eye-popping film-like sheen out of what looks to be the new Canon HD camera (shown during the closing credits). Shot in Ybor City as part of the 2006 National Film Challenge.

Second Chance by Kim Gilbert: A career woman finds little solace with her life when she returns home from a long day's work to an empty house, day after day. A recent Internet connection with a somewhat stranger sparks the light of life inside of her and leads her to a date with destiny.
This is the first film ever produced by this filmmaker who is, I believe, a USF film student (I met her briefly, but she couldn't stay to talk after the show, unfortunately.) A nice surprise in that it's quite a fetching little drama, decently shot and edited, good audio. The actors are likable (director Kim Gilbert plays our heroine). Only downside: I got a sense of deja vu when I recalled this same plot device, the I'm-finally-going-to-meet-the-total-stranger-I've-been-instant-messaging-for-weeks/months in the 1986 Penny Marshall film Jumpin' Jack Flash, starring Whoopi Goldberg. Upside: the surprise ending of Second Chance, seemingly obvious (the man she just met has to leave on a plane--but promises to return. Think you see it coming?), is instead turned upside down and caught me unprepared, which is a nice surprise. Seeing as this is Kim Gilbert's first effort, I think it's safe to say we can expect greater things as she hits her stride in filmmaking.

Altarpiece by Marita Contreras: A three-channel video installation that alludes to the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.
Long-time TFR fans may remember when a "multi-channel" set-up was attempted months ago by Chris Giuffre in a film showing 5 different timelines, displayed as 5 separate windows on the video frame that story-wise come together in the end. Altarpiece was introduced as being a reduced version of a 5-channel video, originally using (I believe) separate projectors. For this showing (and I presume, general distribution), here there are three discreet windows on the frame, all acting independently, but all unified in vision. Creepy religious iconography flashes continuously and choral backgrounds contain strange whispering while church music holds down the general beat. Initially, I wouldn't have thought this was about sexual abuse (the filmmaker was present to introduce the film), but the creepiest persistent image is that of a very small girl, hanging crucified. The whole thing is just a few minutes long, but the effect may stick with you for a long time. Of course, I'm a former Catholic, this sort of thing affects me in an almost primordial kind of way. Depending on your religious background, you may feel the same after viewing it.

Manstray by Mike Goedicke: A man adopts a “stray man” from the local homeless person pound.
I first saw this on the World of Indie website and couldn't even make it through a single viewing, I thought the idea was so dumb. Pity, because it's very well shot. The good news is it's only 4 minutes long, but the idea got old for me after the first minute. Wasn't there a Tim Allen movie that also attempted this man-who-thinks-he's-a-dog idea? I was shocked when this film was introduced as being from one of the cast or crew of The Wright Brothers (turned out to be actor Ford Austin), an original and hysterical send-up of early films starring actors playing the Wright Brothers and Teddy Roosevelt (I'm serious). While I could watch those episodes all day, I could only manage to make it through one complete viewing of Manstray.

Trailer for the feature "Apocalypse Near" by Eric Haase: A young woman's quiet reverie in a verdant field is shattered as she awakes into her reality: an apocalyptic world where the fight for survival involves skill and hi-tech weaponry.
An amazing tour-de-force of make-up, sound design, costumery, and special effects. The music starts with creepy mantra-moaning and ends with a familar-sounding Wagerian opera (same one used on the Dark Dimensions trailer, unfortunately). From relative newcomer to the TFR, Eric Haase, this promises to be a real mind-f*ck. Can't wait!

Promotion/Commercial for "The World of Indie" by Pete Guzzo and Mike Compton: Starting at a 99-like outdoor night party, swinging to a tennis court, through a hi-energy wedding video, and winding up in a bedroom where two lovers are considering taping their private romp, all roles in all scenes are played by the same actors. The association, presumably, is that with a little imagination a few people can create anything. (Several recognizable faces in the crowd for those familiar with 1Day Films). Beautifully shot, I believe Sean Michael Davis (Three Wishes) and Jon Wolding (The Libertines) were among the crew. This spot is meant to promote the "Are You Up For The Challenge?" film contest that is still being fine-tuned as of this writing.

Trailer for the feature "Angora" by Gus Perez: I was horrifed to see Gus had managed to "accidentally" sneak 15-year-old footage of his appearance on Thunder in Paradise (the old Hulk Hogan series) onto the beginning of this trailer to make sure everybody saw it. With his ego still not quite in check, we're further subjected to a pre-taped introduction to his film, Angora, where he's sitting in a lawn chair waxing nostalgic about the movie for about 5 minutes. Then we finally see the 3-minute trailer for Angora, a sci-fi/fantasy about a space vixen versus Joel D. Wynkoop. If I wasn't so sick with contempt for that ham-handed opening, it would be easier to give the trailer the high marks it deserves---it was really well done, so obviously Gus didn't do that part himself. After the TFR, Gus raced up to the projector to make sure nobody took his disc. Why? "I gotta make sure it doesn't get out," Gus says. I know, Gus, it's like gold. Whatever. The Angora trailer, by itself, looks cool. I saw the flick last November at the Doubletree Con/Indie Fest and while it's no prize-winner, the Joel Wynkoop tour-de-force of manic acting is great party-tape material.

A recreation of the Hopper-Walkin scene from True Romance by Charlie Ray, postponed from last month, was not shown this month either (the disc was not delivered).

After the TFR, we all went to our new post-show watering hole, the Rockin' Sports Bar on 15th St. Excellent ambience, I fully approve. No free food this time (awww), BUT I was given a shot or three of a delighful beverage that had me reeling in the aisles. Not sure what it was, some thought it was some Jagermeister concoction. Whatever, want some more of it, haha!

P.S. For those keeping track, I was finally able to meet Jon Wolding and Jen Persons of A Ground Up Films (in fact, Jon came to the Sports Bar afterwards). Also, I was reunited with Sean Michael Davis. In the audience tonight were Krystal Marie Badia (Hand Delivery, The Quiet Place) and Robert Elfstrom (The Dance, 99, Above, Advent). Good times.

"The Tampa Film Review for February" is ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.

All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.

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