By Gene Mahoney
Here's some information about Cinequest, the annual film festival of Silicon Valley I was lucky enough to attend this year. Let's start with some information supplied by its publicist, Kyle Burt...
Cinequest after the festival: We spend half of the year building and working towards the festival everyone knows and love, but we don't let our impact end when the festival does. The festival occupies just one of our three divisions. The other two are Picture the Possibilities (PTP) by Cinequest and our Mavericks Studio. PTP is a global youth and leadership movement to empower creativity and innovation that improves lives and communities worldwide. PTP gives youth the powers to create what they picture from art to science. PTP culminates in Cinequest Connect where youth, from around the world converge in Silicon Valley to Connect with leaders, company employees and global luminaries to present their stories, their creations and their visions. Sessions and presentations will be filmed and distributed via social media. We are gearing up for our third season and working with more youth in existing and new locations.
We have a feature documentary in post production called Life is Love. Heroes lead with their heart. Experience an empowering journey with the inspirational Somaly Mam and some amazing young heroes. In the wake of important and highly entertaining feature docs like THE FOG OF WAR, MURDERBALL and AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, Cinequest Mavericks Studio presents LIFE IS LOVE, the highly uplifting feature film about a group of inspirational women who have triumphed over severe adversity to transform their world. Arguably the world's most impactful leader in the movement to free and transform girls from the ravages of human trafficking, Somaly Mam, a survivor and empowered inspiration, signs her books: "Life Is Love." Cinequest knew we must give voice to the young girls with whom Somaly is working to further heal and to help other young women around the globe. What we didn’t know is their stories would fuel a most inspiring movie about how any of us can meet a challenge and emerge living a life of love.
Cinequest History: Cinequest was founded in 1990 by Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen Powell. Having worked together on a film and with their passion for both art and innovation, the Silicon Valley was their ultimate destination and where they started the festival. The first festival had just 25 feature programs and had 3,000 people attend and 23 years later, it had grown and expanded into an organization that truly empowers others through the worlds of creativity and innovation.
CQFF23 Highlights: Some of our highlights, such as a record number of U.S. and world premieres (86), record attendance (over 100k), and being the first Sony 4K film festival. However, this year was continued our tradition of honoring the Maverick Spirit, to which we gave our award to some of the most iconic leaders in their realms: Harrison Ford, Salman Rushdie, Chuck Palanhiuk, Sony Executives Phil Molyneux and Chris Cookson, and Chef Dominique Crenn.
How did I get involved with Cinequest: Just like everyone who has worked with Cinequest, it started with a passion for film. I started as an intern before CQFF22 and am going on my third year. But the more interesting stories would be that of our co-founders, Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen Powell.
Oddly, the two movies I saw at the festival involved the Cuban Missile Crisis. The first one, Ginger and Rosa, played opening night and may be the most American-ized British production since the '80s TV show Max Headroom. Three of the four main characters are English but played by American actors (Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, and Allessandro Nivola). The film even has two American characters (played by Annette Bening and Oliver Platt).
Ginger and Rosa takes place in London in the years between the bombing of Hiroshima and the Soviet deployment of missiles just south of Miami. Ginger (Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota) and Rosa (played by Australian actress Alice Englert, the daughter of film directors Jame Campion and Colin David Englert) are teenage girls who have been friends since birth, now going their separate philosophical ways (activism versus hedonism – an allegory of the approaching late 1960s).
Englishwoman Sally Potter has written and directed an English movie where only 2 of the 8 cast members are actually English: Timothy Spall (whom I recall from Life is Sweet and Secrets and Lies, two Mike Leigh films from the '90's) and Luke Cloud (whose publicity website – in keeping with the spirit of this film - boasts that he can speak in an American accent).
It's hard to believe that a movie depicting people in dysfunctional relationships fretting about the end of the world - with a running time of only 90 minutes - could be tedious, but it was. Though thanks to the performances and photography, that was pretty much its only flaw. If Potter had chopped 30 minutes out of it she would have had something. Which is why it probably belongs on the BBC or PBS than in a theater.
The other film I saw, Cubamerican, a documentary following the lives of several Cuban immigrants to America, actually had less to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis than Ginger and Rosa did. It's mentioned in passing (I think), but doesn't play nearly as big a role in its plot as it does in the aforementioned British drama.
Cubamerican, states its writer/producer/director Jose Pardo on the film's website, was his gift to his late father for getting his family out of communist Cuba and into the United States. Pardo spent a year and half traveling across our republic interviewing successful Cuban immigrants, showing how their lives in business, the arts, and medicine would not have been possible in Fidel Castro's dictatorship. (I'll bet this thing will never play at Sundance – right, Bob?)
Though the film elicited warmth and good feelings, it also elicited me fidgeting in my chair. Cubamerican shared another element with Ginger and Rosa besides the Cuban Missile Crisis - it was too long. Once again, if 30 minutes (well, actually, 47 minutes) had been edited out, Jose would have had an Emmy-caliber, hour-long television special instead of an OK movie.
The best part of Cubeamerican is the beginning, complete with black and white newsreel footage of Batista's crackdown on Cuban citizens' rights along with Castro's bogus denials that he was a communist. (Little did his countrymen know that the cure they were getting was worse than the disease.)
After the movie I rudely interrupted an adoring fan talking to Jose and asked the director why Humberto Fontova wasn't in his film. Jose laughed and said he's a fan of Humberto's (whom some of you may remember from the Herald). Fontova is the author of two successful books on Cuba – Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant and Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him.
My last night at Cinequest 2013 was a Q & A session with “Hollywood Legend” (Legend? Well, actually, we know he lived) Harrison Ford. Known as the worst interview in Hollywood, it didn't help that the questions he was asked left a lot to be desired. They were supplied by independent filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom (the wife of California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom). Ford accepted his Cinequest Maverick Award and gave answers I had read years ago in magazine interviews with him. When he wasn't being dull he was being dryly amusing. But hey, who cares? As a former 12 year old kid who saw Star Wars 20 times, it was a thrill to be in the same room as Han Solo. At the end of the show Newsom announced that she had been waiting all night to ask him a certain question, she asked it, and he turned to the audience and mocked its banality as the crowd erupted in laughter. (Don't ask what the question was, I forgot. It was forgettable.)
To Ms. Newsom's credit, at least she kept the questions focused on Mr. Ford. She sure wasn't like “Screenwriting Legend” (whom I never heard of) Lew Hunter. Mr. Hunter interviewed Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody a few years ago but got booed by the audience because apparently he thought it was THE LEW HUNTER SHOW.
Thanks again to Kyle Burt for letting me into Cinequest this year. Please go to their website and check out what they have to offer. Here are some related links:
Lew Hunter interviews Diablo Cody
Trailer for Ginger and Rosa
Website for Cubamerican
Excerpt from Harrison Ford interview
Live Painting at Cinequest Phantom Galleries
Cinequest 2013 Top Ten Films as chosen by the Mercury News
Art Alive Gallery (who supplied the hand-painted models – svelte people with artwork painted on them - for opening night)
While we're talkin' movies, here's an excerpt from the Spring 2011 Society Page. And as you read it, marvel at how I introduce and then reprint pieces of work from other writers, then add links to the Internet. What talent. I really am a genius. Or should I say, a suivant. I mean savant...
WORTHLESS: For those of you who are still cringing from Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosting the Oscars, the Academy made an even worse decision a few months prior -- they gave a lifetime achievement award to a certain French art-film director. If you dislike this guy as much as I do, check out Jean-Luc Godard, a 2009 essay by Dan Schneider on his website, cinemension.com. It begins with quotes by Orson Welles, Werner Herzog, and Ingmar Bergman knocking Godard’s work. Then Schneider calls Godard’s heralded debut film, Breathless, “simply a bad film noir wannabe” that’s technically sloppy. He prefers Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Spaceto Godard’s Breathlessas Wood’s technically sloppy film is at least entertaining and doesn’t possess a smugly superior attitude.
Schneider calls ContemptOK, as it’s “technically magnificent” - but has dull characters the audience never cares about, and the only reasons to watch it are: “Fritz Lang, some gorgeous scenery, and Brigitte Bardot’s tush.”
Here’s an excerpt from Schneider’s essay:
Two or Three Things I Know About Her continues this unfortunate trend. Technically, it’s OK, but again it’s larded with naïve and preachy politics, and cardboard characters that the viewer simply cannot force him or herself to care about. It’s quite a bad film, although as an interesting side note, there is one particularly (unintentionally) funny scene where Godard has a voiceover pondering the meaning of the universe during a close-up of someone stirring coffee. Martin Scorsese claims that this scene influenced the scene in Taxi Driver where Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) looks into a cup after dropping a couple of Alka-Seltzer tablets into it. The difference is that Scorsese engaged his audience prior to that scene, and the shot illuminates Travis’s obsession with all sorts of minor things and details that most people wouldn’t even notice- a key point for this character. Godard’s shot serves no such purpose. In fact, I only remembered it because of the claimed influence on the later masterpiece.
In addition to calling Godard “the most egotistical blowhard to ever direct films”, Schneider also claims he’s “probably the most overrated director of all time.” Schneider muses this might be “that Academia is laden with Leftists who see Godard as some sort of hero, and worship him for his naïve politics (which later dismissed the atrocities committed by Stalin, Mao, and the later Khmer Rouge), rather than for his actual art”, which Schneider calls “mediocre at best.”
Schneider has also posted on his website an appreciation of my all-time favorite sitcom, The Odd Couple.
Hey, if you want to see great French cinema, forget all this depressing Godard crap and check out a 1970s comedy called A Pain in the Ass (or however you say “A Pain in the Ass” in French, I guess.) I didn’t see the recent remake but I’ll bet it doesn’t compare to the original. (By the way, Billy Wilder’s last film was an unsuccessful remake of it starring cinema’s odd couple, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.)
Trailer for Breathless
Trailer for Contempt
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her – Coffee Scene
Alka Seltzer Scene from Taxi Driver
Scene from A Pain in the Ass
Trailer for Plan 9 From Outer Space
If you want to see a groundbreaking, breathtaking, magnificent piece of web design, check out this New York Times story called Snow Fall...
It's similar to the redesign of an 80 year old print publication that recently went online only...
Looking good, guys! Actually, The New Republic has a similar design, too, but not quite as good as Newsweek's (which was created by a design firm called Huge).
Newsweek and The Daily Beast merged as one company a few years ago. So when it was announced late last year that Newsweek would be published online-only, I thought it was pointless and that they should just end it and carry on with the Beast. But this new approach to Newsweek.com has changed my mind. There are many websites out there like The Daily Beast, frantically updating themselves with pithy (and pointless) pieces about celebrities along with drive-by op-eds. A website that is designed like a magazine, updated weekly (not every day or every hour when something supposedly happens) with longer, more researched articles is unique, as well as useful. Newsweek would have more on-location reporting than The Daily Beast, but also less articles, so their budgets would probably be about the same. Since both sites are losing money, I'd say kill the Beast and give Newsweek one last shot at its former respectability.
Update: Newsweek has been put up for sale. So much for my opinion. As Peter Boyle said to Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver: “What do I know?”
A former writer for the San Francisco Herald makes the Drudge Report!
Bill Hanstock, in late March, wrote a “controversial” article for a sports website that was featured on Matt Drudge's famous website. Bill was a roommate of mine when I lived in San Francisco's Ingleside District. He's the guy that left the house in the middle of the night and never came back after “Tat”, the crazy Chinese guy with a mullet, went berserk and the cops showed up. Oddly, Bill is being criticized on a conservative website and when we lived together he was a proud conservative (and I was actually a proud, well, semi-proud liberal, if you can believe that). Here's the 411 on this Hanstock character...
Thanks to the guys at Grandstand Media for making my day with this press release...
Diarrhea Planet will be following up a highly buzz-about string of SXSW performances with an East Coast tour that starts tonight. Look for news on their Kevin McMahon-produced album soon!
Will Franken is in London now. He's... no, he's not a comedian. Performance artist? No. Not really. Whatever he is, he's in London now. From Missouri to San Francisco to New York to San Francisco again to London. I found out about it on his website and emailed him, asking how he ended up there. He wrote back that “The universe has decided to be very good to me.” I asked him to elaborate but he never did. I guess he's too good for me now. Yessiree, too good for old Geenie-Weenie now that he just publishes a website, not a newspaper anymore. Not that anyone reads newspapers anymore anyway. Here's a clip from Will Franken I found amusing. As I recall, upon viewing it I didn't utter any guffaws, but there were chuckles O' plenty.
Berkeley Sluts (warning: graphic language)...
An almost 20 year old copy of my Good Clean Fun 'zine (the genesis of the Silicon Valley Review, which was the genesis of the San Francisco Herald) for sale (under a buck – it actually depreciated a penny)...
If I had known the newspaper biz would tank right after I started the Herald in 1998, I would have just made it a 'zine (like Good Clean Fun and later, The Silicon Valley Review) as well as a website. That would have been good enough. Of course that would have eventually gone south, too, as Tower, Borders, and all those other book stores shut down.
What's Sharing?, the new children's book featuring Auntie P, written by Patricia Kearney and illustrated by San Francisco artist (and former Santa Clara artist) Dexter Santos is available at www.auntiep.com
Last year this column had a piece about Almost Live, which was the Saturday Night Live of Seattle in the 1990s. Shortly after that piece, John Keister announced he was starting a new Seattle-centric comedy show called The 206 (named after the city's area code). The 206 would feature him, former Almost Live cast member Pat Cashman, and Cashman's son Chris.
The 206 press conference
Actually, I'm not ready to write about The 206. There have only been a few episodes, and I don't want to bother John for an interview as he's been busy getting it together. Yeah, I know I promised to write about it, but hey, I'm afraid you've been the victim of false advertising. So here's a few more Almost Live clips from the '90s...
The Patty Dyke Show
The Cafe Crappe
The New PBS
John Stuck in the TV
It's the Arts
Write this down now!
The Low-Key Baseball Network
Here's a sign in front of the AVA Nob Hill apartment complex on Sutter Street...
Somebody keeps leaving interesting things at the Community Bulletin Board in downtown Los Gatos (in front of Walgreen’s on North Santa Cruz Avenue). Here's what was there the last time I stopped by...
Actually, the last picture was taken three years ago. Wow – whoever's been leaving funky things at the bulletin board of affluent Los Gatos has been doing it for a while now. I should have been taking pictures documenting it all along.
I, for some reason, was in Daly City today and noticed that the Westlake Coffee Shop had closed (according to their website, for the first time in 65 years). There are a lot of faux 1950s diners around – like Johnny Rockets – but this place was the real deal (some of the waitresses were probably working there when the place first opened). The mom and pop owners have declared online that they'll be back. Best of luck to them.
On a similar note, here is some interesting color film footage of New York City in the summer of 1939.
Wow. I always thought the world was just black and white before the 1960s. Well, in the 1950s it was color half the time and black and white the other half. I guess I was wrong.
I was walking in downtown San Carlos recently and saw (and heard) some guy playing an interesting looking guitar type instrument in front of Peet's Coffee. Showing my complete ignorance of music, I asked if it was the stick – or the Chapman Stick - an instrument that former King Crimson member Tony Levin invented in the 1980s. The guy playing the instrument said it wasn't a stick, but an 11 string bass guitar. He's a Redwood City based musician named Jean Baudin and here's a sample of his work...
This column's song is “Not An Addict”, a tune from the 1990s by Belgian band K's Choice...
Actually, let's have another '90's one hit wonder. This is New York's Nada Surf with “Popular”.
Some of you reading this may have gotten an email with this issue's San Francisco Herald Question, which was:
If you could see into the future (up to the first half of 2013) in 1995, what would you have done differently?
Well, as usual, the response was abysmal. And to add insult to injury, none of the answers were very interesting (sorry, but thanks for sending them in anyway). Just about all of the answers included, “I would have bought stock in Apple.” Regardless, I've decided not to run them. The best one was from Erik Eriksen of Ripton, Vermont who had a one word answer (“Nothing.”)
I have a one word answer, too (“Everything.”)
Congdon and Chrome, a Palo Alto office supply store that has been around since 1904, is going out of business.
On Palo Alto Online, the store's owner summed up today's office supply needs as the reason:
“They only need a chair, a laptop, and a cellphone.”
Congdon and Chrome is owned by Patrick & Company, which has 4 office supply stores in San Francisco.
Below is a picture of the tornado that ripped through Oklahoma recently. My ex-girlfriend from 1984, Lori Hill, sent it to me. It was taken by her youngest daughter's “significant other”, Phillip Davis...
More wreckage: Foster City's favorite convenience store since 1988, Mini Mart, bites the dust.
Above is Aline Dargie modeling some of her yoga wear, which you can find at Make Hang Gallery. She owns the gallery (along with Alan Robin) which is located at 450 Green Street in San Francisco's North Beach district. Here's some more info about it...
It's April 3, 2013 as I type this, and it's also the day that William Ginsburg, the attorney representing Monica Lewinsky, died.
Hard to believe that Bill Clinton's affair with the most famous White House intern in history is almost 17 years old (the initial fallout is about 15 years old).
As you probably know, Bill and Hillary didn't have the most harmonious marriage in the world. In the Eighties we had Ron and Nancy in the White House - in the Nineties we had Sid and Nancy in the White House.
You kids out there may remember Ron and Nancy, but I doubt you remember Sid and Nancy. They were before Ron and Nancy's time. Here they are (not exactly John and Yoko spending a week in bed on their Paris honeymoon). Actually, that was even dumber than this...
Speaking of Ron (from Ron and Nancy), I guess there was a bit of Sid Vicious in the Gipper...
Here's the end of the 1986 movie, Sid and Nancy, starring Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb. (Ironically, one half of another infamous couple, Courtney Love – Kurt Cobain's widow – appeared in this film, too.)
I was going to end this column with the above clip. But a REAL punk recently passed away...