It's now a matter of record that Hillary Clinton had an amazing comeback Tuesday night at the Democratic Primaries. It's funny saying "comeback" because I never counted her out of the Presidential race, but after 11 straight losses to Barack Obama, and more intense vying for delegate votes, it was, indeed, a comeback.
In a nutshell, Hillary took Ohio and Rhode Island, where she had been favored, and Obama comfortably captured Vermont, but Texas....Texas was a nail-biter even split until the wee hours of the morning, and only then by fractions: Hillary's 50% to Obama's 48%.
Despite that, Obama still leads in delegates if only slightly. But nobody's out of the race yet.
OK, not quite. The Republican race was decided Tuesday night as well, as John McCain cinched the Republican nomination (winning all four states). Mike Huckabee, who'd held on longer than anyone expected and was popular with religious conservatives, conceded around midnight and is out of the race.
Which leaves Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) and former Governor and Senator from Alaska, Mike Gravel (D),...who?....as the last holdouts for their respective parties, and, at least as of this writing, have not issued any reaction to this week's events.
THE WIZARD OF GORE VISITS TAMPA
Last weekend, Tampa cult fiilm fans were treated to a rare visit with the legendary Wizard of Gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, 2,000 Maniacs) and his long-time friend and producer, David F. Friedman, both of whom were in town to promote the Saturday-only showing of Blood Feast at the Gasparilla Film Festival where the two gentlemen were also appearing. This was all arranged by Clearwater-based filmmaker and PCR contributor, Andy Lalino and his company, Film Ranch.
1963's Blood Feast is regarded as the first horror film to show explicit "gore" by way of exploitation, thereby launching a thousand imitators.
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I took the first picture from the "head" of the table looking frontwards toward a ferocious backlight, but it couldn't be helped. Left to right, Cindy Tucker, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Andy Lalino, Chris Woods, Chris Polidoro (obscured, hands in the air), Paul Guzzo (obscured), Terence Nuzum, Mica (Friedman's niece), David F. Friedman (obscured, holding drink), ED Tucker.
I believe ED took this picture of us. L-to-R, Herschell G. Lewis, Nolan Canova, Andy Lalino, and Chris Woods. This would be the last picture where I try and fight a backlight.
More comfy as we finally really settle in at Carmine's, L-to-R, producer David F. Friedman, yours truly, and ED Tucker.
The "head" chair sits empty as I swing around to the other end and get a picture very similar to one of ED's Retrorama shots. L-to-R: Paul Guzzo, Terence Nuzum, David Friedman, ED Tucker, Cindy Tucker, H. G. Lewis, Chris Woods, and Chris Polidoro. Obscured are Mica and Andy.
Producer David F. Friedman, center, regales amazing adventures for his enraptured audience, Paul Guzzo, left, Terence Nuzum, right, and Chris Polidoro (back to camera, "Marshall" cap).
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A great shot of cult movie fan and PCR writer/moderator Terence Nuzum, left, together with cult idol and living legend, Herschell Gordon Lewis.
A great shot of cult movie fan and PCR editor Nolan B. Canova, left, together with the amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Cult film producer and legend in his own right, David Friedman, left, with Terence Nuzum. Many present had cameras and they were going off like mad. So, if I seem Terence/Nolan-centric in my choice of shots, that's why.
A terrific group shot, taken by, I believe, Cindy Tucker, finally exposes the entire PCR entourage. Left-to-Right: Chris Woods, Lisa Ciurro, Terence Nuzum, Paul Guzzo, ED Tucker, Nolan Canova, Lonnie Dohlen, Chris Polidoro (arms folded, olive shirt), and Andy Lalino (partially obscured).
Herschell and David outside of Carmine's wait for Andy to bring the car around. I remarked that they looked like a couple of idle street-walkers. Herschell said, "That's actually pretty close to what we do for a living!" HAHAHA! Paul Guzzo at extreme left waves goodbye with his injured hand (sports accident, you see).
Developing about the same time was the negotiation of another Crazed Fanboy Summit, featuring another rare visitor to these environs, cult film historian/collector, Creature Feature database contributor, and PC columnist for Retrorama, ED Tucker. ED was coming to town to see Herschell and David and attend the GFF, so pitched the idea of a Fanboy Summit to me a few weeks back. Of course, I jumped at the idea and sent out the alarm that there was to be another special fan gathering Saturday, March 1. We made a firmly tentative agreement to stage it at a Chili's Restaurant near the stadium. That's what I thought and that's what I told everybody. ED even put the invite in that week's Retrorama.
To Anyone Who Tried To Find Us At Chili's...
Ahem....then the proverbial, if notorious, "slight change of plans" happened at the 11th hour (pretty literally, that). The night before the Summit, Andy had received word from Herschell and David that they would be amenable to joining us for lunch, an absolutely dizzying development, but Chili's was out due to distance and time concerns. They suggested Carmine's in Ybor City which was closer to their hotel. Andy called ED, and ED tried to email me this update Friday night, but I'd already left for work. I didn't see it until I casually checked my emails Saturday morning, when I was planning on taking a nap for the long day ahead. Panicked, I called ED (who was already in transit to Tampa) who gave me the lowdown. Andy finally called me about an hour later (!!! I gave him monstrous sh*t about waiting that long). Despite some residual negative feelings at that point (pertaining to the jerked schedule and having been up all night), it was hard not to appreciate the incredible encounter I was about to be involved in. Nap time was out of the question as I had to call everyone to alert them to the change of location (also the time had been moved up a half hour to 12:30pm). I got ahold of no one, but left messages. Thankfully, they all took.
Terence Nuzum was my ride to Carmine's, a restaurant I'd never visited, but evidently, was familiar to David Friedman. Following directions hastily scrawled from MapQuest, we miraculously found a parking space, right on the street, close to the restaurant. Upon entering, I immediately spotted a long table packed with PCR VIPs, and of course, living legends Herschell G. Lewis and David Friedman. I introduced myself, then parked at the "head" of the table next to ED Tucker and his wife, Cindy. I was gratified to know Herschell already knew who I was ("So you're the Crazed Fanboy...well we're the Crazed Producers!" -- H.G.Lewis, quote, I swear.)
The turn-out of PCR vets was better than I expected considering the confusing directions. Chris Woods, Chris Polidoro (make-up FX wiz), ED & Cindy Tucker, and Andy Lalino were all there with Herschell and David when Terence and I arrived. Paul Guzzo arrived only minutes later. Lonnie Dohlen and Lisa Ciurro had actually headed to Chili's before discovering our panicky messages, but though late-arriving, they were still in plenty of time to enjoy the festivities.
The photos posted here will tell the rest of my story from Carmine's. But first, a few interesting tidbits I gleaned from our conversation:
The main ingredient in the blood from Blood Feast was Keopectate! (Yes, the over-the-counter diaharrea medication.) I always thought it looked ketchup-y. There was some coloring (not food coloring I don't think) and a third ingredient I don't remember.
I always had a feeling Herschell had actually played on the music soundtrack to Blood Feast. He was the composer, not the musician, however, he later admitted that he couldn't swear if he never played on it or not (he's versed in violin and keyboard). He did not play on Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, but he was the composer for the group who did.
Speaking of sequels, although he knew the director of Blood Diner (a barely-disguised attempt at a Blood Feast sequel, alternately called Blood Feast 2), he was not involved creatively in any way.
All U Can Eat was shot in Louisiana, not in Miami (site of the original), because the screen-writer lived there. He kept sending revised scripts until Herschell agreed to come on board and direct.
Herschell and David signed my lobby card graciously contributed by ED Tucker.
Mel Arnold, the actor who played the crazy caterer Fuad Ramses in the original film, still lives in Miami and still keeps in touch.
I believe it's common knowledge that 2000 Maniacs was shot in or around the area that would later become Disney World, but it was touched on -- at this point Herschell's attention was focused on Terence's end of the table and I couldn't hear much. (I got decently filled in later.)
I was already in sleep-deprivation mode, but high on excitement until we were ready to leave. I bade farewell to our celebrity guests, and to the PCR VIPs.
I got in Terence's car barely able to move. Although everyone was expecting me at The Gasparilla Film Festival later that night, deep down, I knew it was extremely unlikely. (My judging the Young Filmmakers Series at the GFF was a separate episode.) But I had an amazing time anyway, and I want to publicly thank Andy Lalino and ED Tucker for putting it together.
THE GASPARILLA FILM FESTIVAL: THE YOUNG FILMMAKERS SERIES.
Festival co-founder and director Eric Odum again honored me with an invitation to judge the Young Filmmakers Series as I did last year. Glad to help, I'm always excited by the prospect of helping put out the word on the talented young people around here.
Due to various problems suffered that weekend (some I noted previously), I was unable to get more involved in GFF this year than I would've liked. Hopefully next year, a better situation will present itself.
Anyway, here are the entries for the Young Filmmakers Series and what I thought of 'em.
SURFIN' SANTA by Darell Johnson & Mark Jaudon. Outline: Santa is on another Christmas Eve delivery, but this time he has to figure out what to do about errant reindeer and big waves. Never fear, though, Santa always has tricks up his sleeve so the island girls and boys won't be disappointed.
An adorable 3-D animated cartoon with spoken poetry over the action. Comes across a little like a cross between "'Twas the Night before Christmas" and Dr Suess. I got the feeling someone really young did this, and Eric Odum confirmed the primary filmmaker is 15 years old. It's got a youthful innocence and also fairly sophisticated graphics. The kid is definitely developing his 3-D chops and could be a monster when he gets older.
THE VAULT by Justin Owensby. Outline: The Vault illustrates one man's encounter with the unexplainable.
VERY impressive camerawork and lighting on the super-short shocker (about 3 minutes). We dolly in on a bar patron (Michael Miller) who begins to tell a story about an abandoned house he finally got around to exploring and the trippy experience he had therein, aided by strobe-like flashback scenes. It doesn't really go anywhere special story-wise after that, but the choreography between the director, cameraman and lighting grips are what's amazing. We don't even realize the lights have gone down until the end when, after the conclusion of his story (sort of a frustrating "who knows?" ending), the lights and background ambience come back up and he's back on his bar stool. Good performance by Michael Miller as our host.
TOO LATE FOR SELF DESTRUCTION by Jason Ambler. Outline: A terminally diagnosed young artist wastes away in seclusion. The time melts away and so does his vagrant and chaotic mind. Inspiration from self-medication is his only escape. Destroyed by his imminent fate, he paints his philosophy of existence in one final work. Will he finish or is he already too late?
Ron Johnson stars in this one-man show dealing with desperation and psychosis. This is a video with no pretensions of a filmlook, it's flat, unappealing lighting are, I think, integral to the way the artist is seeing himself and the world right now -- flat and ugly. The sudden splashes of different brightly-colored paints on his body and his environment break up the monotony as the desperation grows in his voice-over commentary. He's dying before his work is finished. Final scenes in a hospital bed suggest he either didn't finish what he set out to do, or the whole thing was in his head to start with.
THE NEXT LEBRON by Christopher Jarvis. Outline: A teenager is motivated to emulate the skills of basketball star LeBron James. In his efforts to duplicate LeBron's half-court shots, he is concentrating too intensely to realize he's being observed by a younger boy whom he inspires.
Pretty simple "pay it forward" screenplay, the outline says it all, pretty much. The main action happens on an urban basketball court with a young boy and an older friend shooting hoops. Finally, the kid scores a half-court shot in view of another young boy looking through the fence. What I liked best is when both boys connect at the fence, showing the sports feat transcends possible social barriers. What I didn't like is the obviously glaring lighting used on set that leaves the night-time background in total darkness. But what the hey, they got good performances and suggested a decent message.
REMEMBRANCE by Jason Morillo. Outline: A man is on the verge of self-destruction in the wake of 9/11. He recalls his troubled past when an unexpected visitor terrorizes him through a series of evetns in his dreams.
A rap/hip-hop music video centered around 9/11 themes. Well done as music videos go, no serious complaints, and I'm a sucker for 9/11 themes anyway.
COUNTY RD 42 by Ross Morin. Outline: Something has happened. A man is stuck on the side of the road. What keeps him there? What has he done? The grass blows quietly in the sun.
This was one that almost pissed me off by reminding me of possibly the worst film ever to play TFR, The Bench and The Lamp Post where we watched several minutes of nothing happening and got no payoff. Well there is a payoff here, but how much of one is up to the individual viewer. Here, we watch a guy basically sit on the side of the road in his car, thinking. Or waiting. Or watching, or expecting. Or all the above. He occasionally gets out to walk around in the tall grass and look at trees. About 10 minutes into this (and about the time you'd be giving up on this film), he looks down in the grass and spots the partially-revealed body of a woman, possibly dead. Well...OK, definitely dead. He doesn't seem moved. Wait, is that because...? He takes something out of his back pocket and throws it down. He leaves. I think I got it. And there you go. Funnily, I can't really say this is bad. The star (Ryan Wilson) is watchable and the director actually found some ways to make a guy standing around look interesting.
MURRAY'S LAW: A TRILOGY OF DISASTER by Garrett Brown. Outline: A riff on "Murphy's Law" where everything that can go wrong, will, done with claymation and stop-motion animation techniques. Three vignettes featured: Bad Day, Leave Me Alone, and Neighbors
At 20 minutes, this was the longest short presented and the most trying on my patience. Extremely crude stop-motion animation that must've been a lot of work, but the action is so uneven and the pacing so jarring, that outside of a few all-too-brief moments of inspiration, whatever the filmmaker was trying to say was lost on me and screams "home movie". The disc I saw had no audio, but I doubt it would've made much difference. I tip my cap to what might be someone's first attempt at stop-motion (especially on video), but it needs much more refining and many more inspired moments before it enters any more film festivals! The title of the movie itself is sadly appropriate here. My least favorite of the entries.
THE HORSEPOWER WITHIN by Caleb Rugg. Outline: Theodore "Meeks" Meeksley is trying desperately hard to pass his driving test, but he can't seem to stop making mistakes. He swerves into a parked car that just happens to be the getaway car for a gun-slinging bandit. The bandit mistakes Meek's car for the getaway car as Meeks and Owen learn a valuable lesson about taking their time.
A very funny short film produced by Florida State University with some really solid (if over-the-top) performances and a decent morality play. There are two stories that merge into one on the way to a bank roberry. Meeks (Tyler Jones as a sit-com style panicky stoner) is the jumpy charge of enbattled driving instructor, Mr. Jacobs (Bert Mitchell in a hilarious, slap-stick turn). Meanwhile, Owen and Jerry are two bank robbers (typcial "boss and dimbulb" setup) trying to coordinate their latest heist. All Jerry (Tony Bridges as the stoned driver) has to do is remember the simple instructions told to him. Owen (Owen Provencher in an effective turn as the boss) is going to holdup the bank and be right out. Well...damn the luck. As Jerry is waiting on Owen, he is rear-ended by Meeks and knocked unconscious. Owen, done with the robbery, jumps in Meeks' car and can't get him to stop screaming long enough to get a threat out. Finally, the incompetent Meeks lurches the car forward, knocking out the bandit. Calm for the first time, he pulls out of the space successfully. This film, along with The Vault, was a contender for best of show. That is, until the next film came up....
BEST OF SHOW:
ONEIRIC by Nadia Sarmova. Outline: Comprised of 6 mini-vignettes, ONEIRIC traverses a landscape of multi-cultural issues prevalent in America today, and ends with Jenny representing our innocent youth, becoming the teacher in one revelatory moment.
This actually played the Tampa Film Review, so I'd seen it before, but now stacked against the other entires, its true quality stood out even more. A little white girl decides she wants to play catch with a little black boy she spots on the playground, but the girl's mom objects and tries to separate the two. When the boy's mother sees this play out, you can feel the heartbreaking tension between mother and son as they must've gone through this many times before. Later, the boy is introduced into the girl's class at school and they hook up via passed notes. Several more scenes take us into the wider landscape of urban life where it seems social and racial barriers are the norm and civil rights never happened. While the film offers no solutions, it is beautifully shot and acted and defintely tugs at the heartstrings. Technically and artistically, everything about this film is excellent.