Friday, March 28, 2008

All in One Go

New at Since Last Week:
Run Fat Boy Run

(For my weekly Cheap Seats report, as well as other entertainment-related stuff, check out the new N& Blog)

This week, we got all of our screenings done in one go—or at least I did.

This week, I only had two screenings—and they were both on Tuesday. We started Tuesday morning, with a screening of 21. I got to the theater at the usual 10:45 and made myself at home. I grabbed myself a cookie and filled my coffee mug, and I mingled. Lately, our screenings have been rather few and far between—and it was only the fourth morning screening of the month—so it was nice to have the time to catch up.

And, as it turned out, we had plenty of time to do our catching up. After we’d been standing around for a while, we found out that the print had shown up at the last minute—actually, just before I got there. It also showed up all in the wrong order. So they were scrambling to get everything set up for us. Ten minutes, we were told. Maybe 15. Actually, how about 30? But, for once, we didn’t really mind. We just kept on chatting and drinking our coffee.

Once we finally got into the theater and the movie started, things were still a bit…off. There were some blinky things over on one side, and the image seemed a bit messed up. I was a bit worried that we’d get a few minutes in and find that we needed to stop again and wait for them to try again. But, fortunately, that didn’t happen. And it was lucky for us, too—since the movie was a whole lot longer than we’d expected.

The best thing about 21: the “rewind” scene—when Laurence Fishburne goes into the casino security room and has the security guy rewind the recording from the casino floor. That means that our Year of the Rewind count is now up to three:
Funny Games
Vantage Point
(Honorable Mention: Be Kind, Rewind)

In fact, our favorite quote of the year is now, “STOP! Rewind that!”

By the time we got out of the screening, it was nearly 2. John and I had planned to have lunch at our favorite little place down the street—and by the time we got there, we pretty much had the place all to ourselves.

After lunch, I headed back to the office. I got settled back in at about 3:30—which meant that I had a whole three hours to finish some work before I had to leave again for the evening screening. Fortunately, I managed to get a few things done—including most of my 21 review—before hitting the road once again.

At about 6:45, I arrived at the theater for our Run Fat Boy Run screening. Since most of us absolutely adore Simon Pegg, Fat Boy was one of those movies that we’d been eagerly anticipating for ages. So you can imagine our anger and frustration last fall when we were so close to seeing it and then the studio decided to bump the release date back a bit. But at least they screened it for us. Despite the fact that David Schwimmer (who, let’s face it, hasn’t had the best of luck when it comes to movies) had directed it, we were having a hard time pretending not to be excited. And, fortunately, we weren’t disappointed. Thank you, Mr. Pegg.

So there you have it—one big, long, crazy day of screenings, and I was done for the week. Of course, that’s not to say that I couldn’t have done more. There was actually a screening of Stop-Loss on Wednesday night, but there was just no dragging me to another war movie. Seriously, people, can’t you think of anything else? Haven’t we seen enough war movies already? The fact that it starred Ryan Phillippe didn’t help. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt couldn’t talk me into it. Instead, I stayed home and caught up on my pile of DVDs.

Next week, however, won’t be so easy. Next week, we’ve got screenings on Tuesday morning and evening, Thursday morning and night (by night, I mean 10 p.m.—blech!), and Friday morning. Only time will tell if I manage to get up for that Friday morning screening—but, right now, my guess is no.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Back to the Grind

New at Since Last Time:
Drillbit Taylor
Funny Games
The Bank Job
10,000 B.C.

It’s never easy to settle back into the everyday grind after a crazy film festival weekend. First of all, I always come back dead tired. With all that excitement—and all that running around—it’s not until I get back that I really realize how worn out I am. Mostly, I just want to go home and sleep. But, at the same time, there’s so much to do to catch up that I feel like I have to work even more (after all, I was gone for four days—and now I have 15 extra reviews to write).

So when I got home, there wasn’t a lot of time to hang out and get caught up on sleep. In fact, when I got home on Sunday, I dove back into my DVDs—so I’d have stuff to publish on the site this week. And though I didn’t have any screenings on Monday (thank goodness), I still had DVDs to watch.

My first screening back was on Tuesday morning. Since it was a limited-release documentary (The Rape of Europa), there wasn’t a big crowd of critics. John was there with his friend, Laura, and a few others wandered in, too—but not many. So we were spread out throughout the theater. I was on my own in the dark, clinging to my cup of coffee—and despite the fact that the movie was really interesting (and I plan on taking my husband to see it—because I know he’ll find it absolutely fascinating), it was pretty long. And it was sometimes subtitled. And it was just one of those days. So I had to fight to stay conscious. But (other than a few subtitles that I may have missed when my eyes closed for a couple of seconds), I managed to make it through without curling up and falling asleep. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I was pretty determined.

The big screening of the week, though, was on Wednesday night. Though I felt like I hadn’t been to an evening screening in ages (actually, it had been two weeks—since I missed last week’s screenings), I fell right back in step. You might say I went into autopilot: make dinner, get ready, eat, run out the door, drive to the theater.

The band of regulars had already started to gather by the time I got there, and it felt like a reunion. Since last week’s screenings were pretty last-minute, people were all over the place, so it felt like we hadn’t seen each other in ages—especially since we usually see each other at least a couple of times a week. But we had plenty of time to catch up—because, shortly after we got there, we found out that, even though the screening was scheduled to begin at 7, the previous movie wasn’t ending until 6:55.

Fortunately, though, that was the only glitch of the night. As soon as the credits started rolling, they let the press in, and the rest of the crowd (who had lined up calmly and quietly down the hall) came in shortly thereafter. We got settled in as quickly as possible, and they started the movie only 15 minutes later than scheduled. Not bad at all.

This week’s screening was Drillbit Taylor—the new Owen Wilson movie. Though I was a bit concerned that it would be just another Superbad, it was actually cute—and not as obnoxious as it could have been. Nothing brilliant—just fun. And perhaps I was just laughing because I was tired, but the rest of the audience was laughing with me, so that must be a good thing, right? Then again, people laughed at Norbit, too—so who knows.

There was actually one more screening this week. Shutter was screening at 9:00 on Thursday night, but I decided it just wasn’t worth the late night. After all, I’d already had to get up a little earlier on Thursday morning—because I had to get some work done before heading downtown to engineer this week’s radio show. I’m not on it this week (but I’ll give the old guys credit—it’s still a great show), but I did the computer stuff. Normally, that’s John’s job, but since he’s going on vacation for a couple of weeks next month, leaving Clay and me to fend for ourselves, he figured I should probably know how to do all that stuff. So I’ve spent the last two weeks learning how to record and edit the show. Fortunately, their recording this week was so clean that I had very little to edit. Hopefully, Clay and I manage to do the same when John’s gone next month.

And now it’s Friday again. I seem to have made it through the week in a semi-comatose state—but, according to my planner, I seem to have gotten a few things done. So that’s a good thing. I’ve even finished a couple of my film festival reviews (13 to go!).

Next week, though, it the screening we’ve all been waiting for: Run, Fat Boy, Run. It was on the grid for a couple of weeks in the fall, but then the studio pushed the release date. Since we all love Simon Pegg, we can’t wait for the screening. And, in the meantime, I plan to get caught up on some sleep. Just wake me when it’s Monday, okay?

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Monday, March 17, 2008

CIFF Report: Day 4

There are some people who take the entire film festival week off and see 30-some movies. I overheard someone yesterday saying it was his 36th. In 11 days. For those of you who aren’t all that good at math, that means going to three or four movies every day for a week and a half. And that, my friends, is insane. Of course, my husband did point out yesterday that these people aren’t actually writing about these movies later. They’re not frantically taking copious notes between movies, trying to keep track of details and form intelligent opinions of each one. And, well, three movies a day isn’t all that bad. And even if you see four, you get to take a break in the middle. But, if you ask me, it’s still insane.

I, for instance, had pretty much had it by Sunday morning. I’d been through 13 movies in three days. I’d been running from 8:00 or so in the morning until midnight. And I’d been fighting off the record-breaking crowds. And I was beat. I was tired and cranky. But I had a few more movies to go—so I got up, ate a nice, big breakfast, packed my bags, checked out of the hotel, and hit the road again.

The whole valet thing made it a whole lot easier—and we arrived at the festival in no time flat. In fact, we even took a few minutes to sit around in the food court to rest up before we needed to get in line for Movie #1.

At 11:10 or so, we made our way over to the theater, picked up our dailies, and found some seats. Pass-holders were already settling into their seats throughout the theater, and as I geared up for another day, I did some eavesdropping.

Across the theater, two women were talking about all the records that the festival had broken. They had had the biggest Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and (we found out later) Saturday ever. Just during the 7:00 slot on Saturday alone, they’d had 2800 people. As one of the women pointed out, “That’s great for them…but it’s not so great for the rest of us.” And she’s right. The festival was absolutely wonderful. The movies were great. And it was actually pretty well-organized. But the crowds were insane. The theater—and the area around it—isn’t really big enough to accommodate 3,000 people at once. It’s exhausting to fight the crowds. And as more people started showing up over the weekends, it got tougher and tougher to make it into each movie I’d planned. Even though I was a pass-holder—which meant that I could get into whatever I wanted—I still had to show up extra-early just to get a seat. Most of the time, I couldn’t take breaks between movies. As soon as I got out of one, I’d have to rush through the crowded hallways to get in line for the next one. And while I still enjoyed the whole thing immensely, I did kinda wish that some of those other people would just go home. And while I’m thrilled that CIFF keeps growing every year, it’s definitely exhausting to try to battle those extra attendees.

I also overheard a couple of guys talking. One asked the other how he was doing, and he replied, “I’m sad it’s the last day.”

“Sad,” the other one agreed, “…and glad.”

I agreed with him. I was sad that it was ending—because it had been such a wonderful weekend of movies. But I was also looking forward to going home. To sleeping in my own bed. To rejoining normal society.

That, and I was getting cranky. When I heard people singing that horribly catchy festival trailer song as they walked down the hallway, I had to force myself not to get up, run out into the hallway, and punch them in the face. It’s a great song and all (Really, it is. You can listen to it at, but I just don’t want to hear it again for a while. I also don’t want to hear people singing it in the hallway. It could actually make my head explode.

At the last minute, Jing came running in and took the seat that we’d saved for him. We talked a bit about The Art of Negative Thinking, which he’d seen instead of going to Deficit with us. And then the movie began.

Movie #1 was Ben X, a Dutch/Belgian movie that was Belgium’s entry to this year’s Oscars. It’s about an autistic teenager and the teasing he endures in the real world—so he ends up retreating to an online video game, where he’s a conquering hero. It wasn’t an easy movie to watch—really, it was like a kick in the face—but it was a wonderful film.

When it was over, the three of us rushed out of the theater to the next theater over, where we got in line for Movie #2. As we waited patiently for the previous movie to finish letting out, a couple of women tried to cut through the line to get into the theater. They were stopped by festival staff, but then they pointed out that a couple of other pass-holders had just been let in. A little old lady volunteer (who clearly didn’t know the way things worked around here) said, “Oh, they’re just going in to put down their coats.”

The other women thew a fit, saying that that wasn’t allowed—that “these people [pointing at us] have been patiently waiting, and you can’t just let them [pointing to the theater] walk in and put down their coats.” She got one of the other volunteers and explained the whole situation again, obviously irate. The poor volunteer tried to calm her down for a while, admitting that it shouldn’t have been done that way. And then she opened up the theater for pass-holders—and instead of getting in line behind those of us who had been waiting patiently, the complaining women cut in front of us and went right in. So much for fairness.

The funny thing about it, though, was that I knew one of the women who had gone in to put down their coats. I mean, I don’t know them personally, but it was—no surprise—the obnoxious woman who acts like she owns the place. The one I ran into already during my second movie on the very first day—the one I’d remembered (with not the fondest of memories) from last year. She definitely knows exactly how things work. She knows that you have to get in line. And, obviously, she’d taken advantage of the poor little old lady, who didn’t know any better—and who obviously got an earful for it. Shame on you, Nancy.

Despite all that, though, we still managed to get in and get seats. Pretty good ones, actually. But we knew that we had to rush over—because it was one of those movies that was already on stand-by. And it was definitely crowded. And since there were so many people to get in, the movie started late—which made all kinds of people all kinds of angry. I heard one woman complaining about the delay to the very same volunteer who’d had to hear about the seat-reserving fiasco. I just heard her say, “I know. I’ll take care of it,” as she rolled her eyes and walked away. I really did feel bad for the staff—because there were some pretty irate people walking around those last few days, and the staff did a really good job of not killing any of them. Considering the thousands of people crowding the halls, things actually ran incredibly smoothly.

So Movie #2 was Mongol, the Oscar-nominated epic. It was one of the longer movies of the festival, and I knew that there were all kinds of movies starting quite shortly after Mongol let out. As the movie ran on, I could see people start to fidget. I saw them pulling out their dailies and checking their schedule. And I watched many of them walk out before the movie ended—all so they could catch the next movie. I, however, stuck around—and I was glad I did. Mongol is an incredible movie. Not flawless, mind you, but it was pretty darn stunning.

When we left Mongol, we still had one more movie on the schedule for the day. I was planning on a comedy, and Paul wanted to see the World’s Greatest Commercials. But it was already after 4:00, and we were both beat. I knew I could sit through another movie—but I wasn’t sure if I could sit through another movie and then drive all the way home. That, and after seeing two more great movies, I didn’t want to jinx it. Last year, the last movie I saw was one of the worst ones of the week—and I didn’t want that to happen again. I wanted to leave it on a good note—and I wanted to leave with a good record. So we decided to call it a day. Jing, too, was heading home, so we said our good-byes as he went to get his parking validated and we went to get some lunch. Then we geared up for the two-hour drive back home, eager to unpack and collapse on the couch.

But wow…what an experience! Despite all the crowds and the severe exhaustion (and despite the fact that I wore myself out to the point of illness), I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. After 10 weeks or so of heading to the theater every week to see mostly bad movies, I spent four days watching some really good movies. Of the 15 that I saw, there was only one that I’d contemplated walking out of. Everything else was good—or even excellent.

So thanks, CIFF, for a great weekend—and thanks for giving me hope for the future of movies. See you next March!


Sunday, March 16, 2008

CIFF Report: Day 3

When I got back to the hotel on Friday night, my husband, Paul, was already here—so there were two of us to get ready and out the door on Saturday morning. Fortunately, we also had an extra hour to catch breakfast, so I figured we could get up at 8 and still make it to the festival in time to park and meet up with John and Jing before our 11:45 movie.

While I was in the shower, John called to say that the valet parking was the way to go—and since I had both my media pass and a corporate pass from WCBE, that meant that the valet parking was free. So we decided to check it out. We left the hotel by 10:15, and we were out of the car and headed inside by 10:30. No standing outside, and no waiting for shuttles. It was wonderful.

Jing and John were both on their way when we got there, so we waited in the mall’s beautiful (but not necessarily comfy) atrium. Before we headed to the movie (and since we had all kinds of time), Jing got himself some Chinese food for, um, breakfast while I ran to get the dailies.

John had read a great review of Movie #1 in the local paper that morning, so we decided to get there early to get our seats. So we wandered over at 11:15 and found that there were already people in line. Apparently, there had been an early movie added to that theater, and it was getting out a little later than planned, so we’d have to hang out for a while. John doesn’t wait in lines, so he was a bit miffed by the whole thing, but I figured at least we were at the beginning of the line, so we’d get decent seats.

We ended up sitting in front of a woman with her own cushion. Clearly, she was one of the crazy regulars—because she also sang along with the festival trailer at the top of her lungs…totally off-key.

Movie #1 was Kidz in da Hood, a Swedish drama/musical. It wasn’t quite up to the level of stuff we saw on Friday, but I liked it anyway. In fact, my track record was pretty good. That was my 10th movie of the festival, and I’d only seen one that I didn’t really like. Not bad.

After the movie got out, John announced that he was going up to the VIP suite. Our corporate passes entitled us to get into the mysterious suite in the Ritz, where they had some snacks and (more importantly) some nice chairs—and (according to Clay) some great bathrooms. The problem was that, a few years ago, John and Clay got thrown out of the VIP suite because they only had media passes—and only two of the four of us had corporate passes. So we’d have to sneak the other two in. Paul seems to have a talent for sneaking into places and not getting caught, so he slipped his pass inside his jacket and followed. We told Jing to do the same. And then we went though the secret process of getting to the suite. You have to get to the Ritz and take one elevator up to the sixth floor—and then you have to take another elevator up to the seventh floor. I have no idea how John found the place, but there it was—a tiny room with a few tables and chairs and some tables of food. We didn’t have a lot of time before the next movie, so we quickly grabbed some munchies and a Coke and sat down for a few minutes. I downed mine in record time and went off to check out the infamous bathrooms (which, just for the record, were very nice). As I was walking back in from the bathroom, I noticed a sign that showed all of the passes that were allowed in the suite—and the media pass was one of them. Apparently, we didn’t need to sneak in after all. But it was fun anyway. But then it was time to leave again. We went back through all the secret passages, back to the crowds, which seemed to have grown exponentially since we’d left. The hallways were crowded with ticket-holders and stand-by moviegoers who were waiting in their lines, and we had to fight our way to get inside.

Since we’d only gotten in 15 minutes before Movie #2, the theater was already filling up. We tried to take some seats near the back, but some guy told us that media passes weren’t allowed in the passholders-only seats (which is totally not true, from what I’ve been told before), but we moved anyway. We ended up in the front of the theater, where we had to split up to get seats (unless we wanted to sit in the front row). It was only 2:00, but already, it was insane. I started to dread the evening movies.

Movie #2 was Battle in Seattle, Stuart Townsend’s movie about the 1999 World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle and the protests that got out of control. The whole thing was pretty well done, but, as I explained later, that’s why I don’t usually put dramas on my list. It was only the second movie of the day, but it was so heavy that I just wanted to leave and take a nap. If you’re seeing four movies in a day, you can’t watch a bunch of heavy dramas—because it’ll kill you.

So after a heavy drama, we all needed a drink—so we headed back to Tower 230, our restaurant from Friday, for more martinis. Jing was excited about getting another round of pickles—and we once again ordered a ton of food. I definitely needed it—since we hadn’t gotten lunch, and it was already 4. Time flies at these things.

We didn’t have three hours to hang out at the restaurant and drink martinis this time, though (though John still managed to down another three) because we knew the next round would be a busy one. So after a quick stop at the mall’s fabulous dollar store (where John buys a year’s supply of spices), we headed back to the theater. We were 45 minutes early, but we were still in line behind a handful of people. If we’d gotten there 30 minutes early, we probably would have been out the door.

Again, John, fueled by three martinis, was totally livid about having to wait in line, but we managed to keep him relatively calm. Then one of the festival staff members came up to make an announcement, and I was a bit worried that all hell would break loose. The announcement, however, wasn’t a bad one. They had gotten permission to run the movie in another theater—but only for pass-holders—so we were led to another theater across the hall. That, of course, was insane, but at least we made it in, and we got seats that weren’t in the front row, so we were completely happy.

Once we got inside, Jing decided that he wanted ice cream, so he wandered off. We wished him luck, figuring we’d never see him again—because I figured one could easily get trampled to death in the 7:00 crowds. He did, however, make it back in one piece.

Movie #3 was Priceless, a French romantic comedy that I’m not allowed to review, so I’ll just say that I liked it and move on.

After the movie, John headed back to his hotel to call it a night before getting up at the crack of dawn and heading home—so we said our good-byes in the crowded hallway. Jing wandered off to a movie I’d already seen. And Paul and I made our way through the crowd to see if we could get into Movie #4. We weren’t sure we’d be able to get in, but we did. We quickly took our seats and settled in. Then, as I was taking some notes, Paul wandered off to buy me a festival T-shirt. I got one of five remaining T-shirts.

As the festival staff got up to announce the movie, they also announced that the last time slot had been the biggest ever—and that 2800 people had been there watching movies. Pretty impressive for a little Midwestern festival, don’t you think?

Movie #4 was Gael Garcia Bernal’s Deficit. To be honest, I would have been okay if we hadn’t gotten in—because I was exhausted. The crowds and the heavy dramas and the crappy weather had worn me down—but I made it through one more movie, and then I was happy to head back to the valet stand and head back to the hotel. Then I slept like a rock.

Now it’s time for one last day—three last movies before I get to go home and sleep.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

CIFF Report: Day 2

Okay…now that the hotel Internet seems to be working again, I’m good to go for my report on yesterday’s film festival happenings.

I made my way down to the festival at about 10:15 on Friday morning, hoping to get in there early enough to take the shuttle in and meet John before our 11:30 movie. John had been in town since 8:30, since he can’t seem to sleep past 4 a.m., and he claimed to have gotten about the last parking space in the lot at that point, so I pretty much figured I’d be hopping on the shuttle from the overflow lot again—and I was right. By the time I finally got inside, it was 11 or so, and we had just enough time to make our way into the theater, check the dailies, and get to our first movie of the day.

The first movie was Gone with the Woman, a Norwegian romantic comedy of sorts. Did I mention that I love Norwegian movies? Because I do. Anyway, Gone was cute and funny and smart and painfully perceptive. It was a good pick if I do say so myself.

After the Movie #1, we had some time to hang out. Carla, one of the former reps in Columbus, was in the area, and she stopped in to say hi to John. We ended up grabbing a quick mini-lunch at KFC before running off to Movie #2.

At this point, John was pretty impressed with my first choice of the day, so I was a bit nervous about the second pick. Movie #2 was Otis, an American horror farce that could go either way. Fortunately, it was another good pick.

After we got out, we met up with Jing, one of John’s former students. Jing had shown up for some of the festival fun—and he was just in time for the biggest fun—because after Movie #2, we had scheduled some time for Happy Hour.

Our original plan of attack was to head to Houlihans for their Mini Tini Happy Hour. We stopped by and ended up chatting with a few women who were on their way to the festival to check out the shorts. But then John discovered that there were no specials on real martinis, so we headed next door to a bar that did. So we ordered up a round of martinis (gin for John, vodka for Jing, and apple for me), and then we ordered more food than three people should probably consume. The bar was loud and crazy, but we ended up sitting there for a couple of hours. I introduced Jing to his new favorite food: fried pickles. He looked at me like I was on crack when I suggested them. He also called me “very white” (Jing, you see, is from China). But, in the end, I won him over. Or perhaps it’s just that he didn’t really care so much after his first martini.

A couple of hours and three martinis later, I was ready to take on the world—and another movie. So we headed back to the theater for Movie #3. This time, we were headed to see The Substitute, a Danish sci-fi thriller. Since John had also had three martinis, he made all kinds of friends as we were waiting for the movie to begin. And then the trailer started. You see, John, as a general rule, hates the annual film festival trailer that plays before every movie. This year, it’s actually not that bad, but it’s ridiculously long. It follows some kid as he goes through his day—and then his life is changed for the better by his first independent film. The most irritating thing about it, though, is that it has this really catchy song playing in the background, and all the biggest festival geeks (the ones who like to talk really loudly before movies, to let everyone know how many movies they’ve been to and which great movies they’ve seen) all start singing along. To me, this is the most painful thing about the trailer. But, for John, everything about this trailer is painful. So as usual, John complained through the whole thing (which, actually, makes it all the more entertaining). And when it was done, I told him that three martinis actually made the whole thing easier for me to handle. We were chatting about it (John at his three-martini volume level) when the guy in front of us turned around to tell John, “It’s quiet time now.” John patted him on the shoulder and said it wasn’t quite yet—but he promised that the man wouldn’t hear a word out of him once the movie began. And he kept his promise. The women behind us, however, didn’t. I’m guessing they must have had even more martinis than we did—because they were hilarious.

After yet another hit pick with Movie #3, we rushed to get our seats for Movie #4. Then we ran out to the bathrooms. Since it was 9ish, the other bathrooms in the mall were no longer open—which meant that the line to the women’s room in the theater was ridiculously long. Also, there was no toilet paper left in any of the stalls, turning the theater women’s room into a war zone. I was happy to get out with my life.

Movie #4 was Entry Level, an American comedy. I figured it would be a nice light way to end the day. As we were waiting for the whole hoo-hah to begin, I caught a sight in the crowd. I nudged John and nodded toward it. It took a while, but then he caught sight of it, too—the woman with the headlamp. We’d heard about these people—the ones who bring real headlamps so they can read their programs in the theater before the movie starts. These people are seriously hard-core. And totally ridiculous. It was probably the funniest thing we’d seen all day.

For Movie #4, the director was there. I felt bad for the guy—because the screening didn’t go very well. The sound was bad, and the picture was slightly out of focus. But at least the movie was cute. Nothing brilliant, but I was right—a nice, light way to end the day. Afterwards, the director stuck around for a Q&A, which would have been great to attend, but it was 11:00, and we were all pretty beat. So John and Jing headed to their hotel, and I headed to my shuttle. As I waited, I chatted with a couple of women who told me which movies to avoid and which ones they’d liked. That’s one of my favorite things about the festival—comparing notes with strangers. You meet some pretty cool people at Cleveland—and it gives the whole thing a great community feel. We’re all in this thing together.

Once again, I crashed by about 1—and the alarm went off again at 8. And now it’s time to head back into the trenches for another day…


CIFF Report: Day 1

I had all kinds of problems with my hotel Internet connection this morning, so I finally gave up, wrote up my post of the day, and left. But now that I’m back to the hotel for the night, it looks like things are finally up and running. So let’s talk about Thursday, shall we?

I finally made it out the door by about 8:30. It’s a long and boring drive to Cleveland—just 100 miles or so of nothing. So I spent my time singing along with the B52s and talking to my GPS. At 10:30, I finally arrived at the hotel. I’d called earlier to warn them that I was coming—and to ask if I could drop off my bags. But they did me one better—they let me check in. So I dropped my stuff off at my room and hit the road. My GPS said I’d arrive at the festival at 11, and since my first movie wasn’t starting until 11:45, that would give me time to park and settle in before rushing off—or so I thought.

When I got to the lot, there was a sign that said the lot was full. Uh-oh. So I got a ticket, drove through to the other side of the lot, gave my ticket back, and was directed to the overflow lot. Even that was packed. I’m pretty sure I got one of the last possible spots—and I was just about as far away as I could get. Fortunately, there was a shuttle, and it was right outside my car when I got out. Lucky for me.

Since it was a pretty nice, warm day, I had planned to leave my coat in the car—one less thing to drag around with me. Of course, I wasn’t planning on parking my car 20 miles away. So as the shuttle drove off, I started realizing that that had probably been a stupid move. In fact, all kinds of thoughts hit me at that point—like How late is this shuttle actually running? Will I have to walk alone in the freezing cold at 11:30, when my last movie gets out? Unlike most of these people, I didn’t have a buddy to walk with me. I was on my own. So there’s one thing that stayed in the back of my mind all day.

As we were (finally) getting off the shuttle, I struck up a conversation with one of my shuttle-mates about my bright blue media pass. We chatted about the festival—and about other festivals—and we compared notes on the day’s movies. It was wonderful to have someone to chat with, since I was there by myself. And, in fact, we were headed to the same movie at 11:45—he to the line in the hall, and me right through the doors and to my seat (ah, the joys of the bright blue media pass). We had a few of the same movies planned for the day, so I had a feeling I’d run into him again.

On my way in the door, I grabbed the Dailies, the sheet of information on the day’s happenings. I also grabbed the info package on discounts in the area—as well as the events schedule (which would help me plan Friday’s Happy Hour with John). Then I rushed into the theater at about 11:30—just as they were starting to let non-passholders in. I sat down and took a few minutes to catch my breath.

The first movie of the day was Travelling with Pets, a Russian movie about a young woman who suddenly finds herself free after her husband dies. It was an interesting movie—but since it was my first movie of the day, and I’d been rushing around all morning, a rather slow Russian movie made me a bit jittery. I’d been hoping for something thrilling, and this wasn’t it. Beautiful lead actress, though. She said very little, but she was just delightful.

A few minutes into the movie, I was relieved to find that I still had my “buffer seat” between me and the next person—but then someone showed up late and decided to climb over me. This was no small feat—as the woman was quite large. Also, she squeaked when she breathed. Great way to start the festival.

Toward the end of the movie, my stomach started growling. It’s a good thing I’d thought to eat a granola bar on the shuttle, or I’d be starving. But when the movie got out at 1:15, I rushed to McDonald’s, ordered whatever came to mind, and inhaled it as I filled in my notes from the movie. I didn’t have a lot of time to think, since my new movie started at 2:15. An hour may sound like a long time, but I needed to eat, take my notes, stop by the bathroom, and make it into the theater by at least 15 minutes before the movie. It was a rush, but I made it. And as I sat and waited for Movie #2, I pulled out my knitting and tried to relax.

As I relaxed with my knitting, I was amused to see that one of the regulars from last year was already making loud pronouncements on the other side of the theater. And she was wearing the same crazy outfit as last year. Apparently, she’d had a run-in with some guy who had taken one of the seats that she’d been saving for a friend, and the two of them exchanged some unpleasant words. Personally, I wouldn’t want to mess with her. In fact, I try to stay as far away as possible.

Just minutes before the movie started, another rather large and somewhat dopey-looking moviegoer stopped in the aisle next to me, looking around in confusion.

Please don’t sit next to me…please don’t sit next to me… I quietly chanted in my head.

“Can I climb over you there?” he asked. I groaned and let him through. He made some lighthearted comments about something-or-other and took his seat.

Movie #2 was The Art of Negative Thinking, a dark Norwegian comedy about a support group for handicapped people. I enjoyed it, but the guy next to me promptly fell asleep. The loud breathing was bad enough—but the snoring made me (and everyone around us) want to kill him. But, really, what do you do when someone’s snoring two seats down? Do you hit him? We all wanted to, but I guess we all figured that wasn’t acceptable—because no one did.

After Movie #2 got out at 3:30ish, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do much of anything before Movie #3. Mostly, I stopped by a window in the hallway and took some notes. That’s when I realized that the tunnel vision had begun. It’s a strange phenomenon—one that, I assume, is caused by spending several hours in a dark room, staring at a bright little screen. But it’s a weird feeling. And I knew it would only get worse as the day went on.

On my way back to the theater, I ran into my friend from the shuttle and chatted with him and his friends. Then I made my way into Movie #3.

The crazy lady from last year was once again in Movie #3—loudly commenting on Movie #2 and recapping her run-in story. Once again, I pulled out my knitting and waited for someone with bronchitis or something to decide to sit down next to me.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen—and I was on my own for Japan’s Big Man Japan. I’m not really allowed to run a full review of this one, but I’ll just say that it was…odd. But fun. But really odd. It’s like reality TV meets a Japanese monster movie. Quirky and fun.

BMJ was a longer movie, so I didn’t get out until about 6:10. Again, I had just over an hour until the next movie—just enough time to get a sub from Subway, take my notes, and check my messages. Then it was off to Movie #4.

Movie #4 was Roman de Gare from France. It’s another one where I had to check in before taking my seat—another one that I’m not allowed to write about. So I’ll just say that I liked it and leave it at that. In fact, it was my favorite movie of the day.

When it got out, it was a little before 9, and I had another hour. I took the time to wander into the mall area (as far as I’d been into the mall all day—about 15 feet from the food court) and took a seat for a few minutes to call my husband. Then I headed back to the theater once again to take my seat for Movie #5 and take some notes.

I was the second person inside the theater for Movie #5. Five movies in one day. Now, it may not sound like a big deal, but it’s exhausting. I’d gone from sitting in a theater to rushing around to sitting in another theater all day. And the fact that I was doing it for work as much as for pleasure made it even more hectic. If I didn’t need to write up stuff on the movies and make assessments and take notes, it would have been less insane. And considering that it was almost 10, and I’d been there all day—after driving for two hours and dealing with that whole parking thing—it was starting to get to me. I actually thought about just giving in and going back to the room to sleep, but I’m too stubborn to give up like that. So I settled in for One Man in the Band, a British documentary on one-man bands. There were several times throughout the short movie that I wished I’d skipped it. It was decent—but not all that thrilling. So when the credits rolled, I was the first one of our small crowd out the door. Then I made my way out of the theater, praying for the shuttle to be waiting for me at the door.

And, fortunately, it was. I boarded the little bus and waited for it to take me to my car—which, I was relieved to find, was still in one piece. It was all alone in the back corner of the lot. Apparently, all those people who parked around me weren’t as hard-core as I am. I rushed to my car, plugged in my GPS, and made my way back to the hotel. By the time I got here, it was nearly midnight. So I got ready for bed, and, since I was still wide awake from all the craziness of getting back here, I got everything ready for the morning. I set out my clothes and plugged in my laptop. Then I took my notes and called it a night by about 1.

The alarm went off this morning at 7:50—and then I hit snooze. I couldn’t keep sleeping, though, because breakfast only went until 9. So I got up and jumped in the shower, feeling a bit like I’d been hit by a bus. I was relieved that John would be showing up today—because it’ll be nice to have someone in the trenches with me. That, and I’m looking forward to martini night.

It’s now 10:00, though, and I’ve got to head back to the festival. John has probably been sitting there since 8, and I’m sure he has a wonderful parking space. So now it’s time for me to hit the road and get caught up with him (and fill him in on all the things I overheard about the various movies) before our first one starts at 11:30.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CIFF Report: Day 0

Okay, so I haven’t left for Cleveland yet, but today is still a big day. Today is Last-Minute Preparation Day. It’s the day to finish up some work while doing my final planning. For instance, I spent much of today looking for a new bag to take with me. You see, a bag is an important thing when you’re headed to a film festival. You need just the right bag to carry all the stuff you’ll need during the day. I, for example, need a bag that will carry my planner and my notebook, a bottle of water and some emergency snacks, my folder of festival info, my digital recorder (for interviews), my MP3 player, a book to read in my spare time, and some knitting to keep me busy while I’m waiting for the movies to begin. Yesterday, I realized that I didn’t own that bag — so I went all over town today to look for it. Alas, I didn’t find it. Really — how hard is it to find a decent messenger bag? Apparently, it’s impossible (unless, of course, you think ahead and order one online).

Then there’s the other stuff — the packing, the hotel confirmations, the checking and re-checking of directions and addresses, and, most importantly, the scheduling.

So here’s the plan for tomorrow:

The plan is to leave as early as possible (I’m going to say by 8:30 at the latest). That gets me to the hotel by 10:30ish to check in (if possible) or (more likely) drop off my bags. That’ll get me to the festival in time to wander around, pick up some more info (meaning: figure out where all the parties are taking place over the weekend), and catch my first movie at 11:45. Since I’m flying solo tomorrow, I’m planning on heading to five movies (believe me…that may sound like no big deal, but try it once and let me know what you think of that tunnel-vision feeling). Once my partner in crime (and radio) shows up on Friday, I’ll probably cut back to four. After all, John’s kinda old, and he needs to take his breaks and drink his martinis. And I have to make sure that he stays out of trouble.

Tomorrow’s schedule:

11:45: Travelling with Pets

2:15: The Art of Negative Thinking

4:15: Big Man Japan (or possibly Savior’s Square)

7:15: Roman de Gare

10:00: One Man in the Band

Somewhere in between all those movies, I’ll eat (I’m guessing McDonald’s). I’ll write down my notes. I’ll run to the other side of the mall to go to the bathroom. Maybe I’ll even run upstairs to the special VIP lounge and hang out with my fellow VIPs. Or maybe I’ll just hang in the food court with the rest of the riff-raff. And when it’s all over, I’ll go back to my room and crash. And somewhere between the end of that last movie and the beginning of my first movie at 11:30 on Friday morning, I’ll fill you all in on the day’s happenings.

If you happen to be at the film festival, keep your eyes peeled for me. I’m planning to bring some fun goodies to give away (that is, if I can find a bag that will accommodate them all).

Until then, as Clay always says, "See you at the movies!"


Friday, March 07, 2008

Burnt. Out.

New at Since Last Time:
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
The Other Boleyn Girl
Be Kind, Rewind
In Bruges
Vantage Point

This is a really difficult time of year for film critics. For the last two months, we’ve been sitting through all kinds of mediocre movies. Every once in a while, we walk into the theater with a slight sense of hope (sometimes even eagerness), only to walk out two hours later feeling horribly disappointed. Then we walk out of the theater into the cold, gray Midwestern afternoon. Fortunately, though, there have been a few pleasant surprises (like Penelope) and a few movies that have lived up to our expectations (like In Bruges). Sometimes, we get to really, really hate a movie, which spices things up a bit. But, mostly, when we’re asked what we thought about a movie, we tend to shrug just a little bit and say, “Eh.” The movies have been about as dull as the weather. I can imagine that the film critic suicide rate must be pretty high this time of year.

This week has actually been a busy week for screenings. It started out on Monday morning again, with the American remake of Funny Games. But it wasn’t funny at all. Or at least the movie wasn’t funny—but my fellow critics’ reactions to it were. On one side of me, David groaned. On the other, Jason heckled. In front of me, Kevin threw up his hands in frustration. And, elsewhere in the theater, John giggled. David was so angry that he almost threw the remainders of his morning soda at the screen (and I’m looking forward to reading his review—since I believe he may have threatened the director with bodily harm).

While we were standing at the theater on Monday morning, waiting for the screening to begin, we got an email about a screening of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day that had been scheduled for Tuesday morning. But as I was getting ready to leave on Tuesday morning, I got a call from David, telling me that he’d gotten a call that the screening had been postponed. The print hadn’t arrived at the theater yet, and they’d let us know when it showed up. I quickly called John, who had just gotten into his car.

Considering that I was scheduled to appear on It’s Movie Time this week—and the Tuesday morning screening of Miss Pettigrew was the only screening of this week’s movies that was early enough to make it onto this week’s show—I was pretty disappointed that the screening had been postponed. But, on the other hand, I was thrilled that they’d called to let us know. That’s never happened before. Usually, if the print doesn’t show up, one or two people get a call, and the rest of us end up driving out to the theater anyway. So, in the grand scheme of things, I really didn’t care about the whole print-not-showing-up thing. I was just relieved that I found out about it before I ended up going on a very long and pointless roadtrip.

After a series of phone calls and emails on Tuesday, we ended up having the screening rescheduled for both Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. I chose to go for the Tuesday afternoon screening, even though it meant I’d have to drive home in rush-hour traffic like all those people who work in all those office buildings in the city. I didn’t really mind—I just wanted to get it over with. And besides, we already had a screening scheduled for Wednesday night—and if I can avoid having to go to two screenings in one day, you can bet I will.

On Wednesday morning, I spent the entire morning agonizing over this week’s It’s Movie Time reviews. You see, another one of the frustrating things about this “movie wasteland” part of the year is that, after a couple of months, you run out of things to say. You become numb. You can no longer come up with words for “eh.” So it took longer than usual. But it had to be done, so I hunkered down and put something together.

At night, we had two screenings to choose from: 10,000 B.C. or College Road Trip. Ever since I’d seen the first trailer for College Road Trip, I’d been dreading it just a little bit. And ever since I’d seen the first trailer for 10,000 B.C., I’d been morbidly curious. And though Kevin really kinda wanted me to see College Road Trip, since I was also doing Fat Guys at the Movies this week, and since he was seeing 10,000 B.C., I left the decision up to my husband. Since he goes to one movie a week—and he had Wednesday night free—I figured I’d like him choose. So when I asked if he wanted to see College Road Trip or 10,000 B.C., he responded with, “Well, I could see 10,000 B.C., or I could just stay home.” So 10,000 B.C. it was. And, to be honest, I was relieved.

Now that I’ve seen 10,000 B.C., though, I kinda wish I’d gone with College Road Trip. At least I knew what to expect. With 10,000 B.C., I was thinking that it could actually be good—despite the whole cavemen-speaking-English thing. But it was low on action and high on [unintentional] comedy. Sure, it was entertaining—but not necessarily in a good way. But at least the two infants in the front of the theater who spent the entire movie babbling loudly seemed to have enjoyed it. So there’s that.

After the screening on Wednesday night, I rushed home to try to get to bed early—because Thursday promised to be the longest day of my life. Let’s break it down minute-by-minute, shall we?

6:45: Alarm goes off. I stumble off to the shower.

7:45: Husband leaves for work. I try to squeeze in a few minutes of work while printing off It’s Movie Time stuff.

8:00: Leave for WCBE. Get stuck in traffic, due to accident on highway.

8:40: Arrive at station (10 minutes late). John, of course, is already there. Rehearse the show, only to find that we’re way under our time allotment for the week. Scramble to beef things up a bit.

9:00: Head into the studio. Try one take, which is much too short, followed by a second take that we forget to record. Manage to record the third take, which I’m not thrilled with, but I figure it’ll do. Begin producing show.

10:30: Realize that, in order to produce the full five-minute show, we’ll end up using 20 seconds of music. It’s acceptable and all, but John and I are pretty picky. So we decide to save what we’ve got and try one more take.

11:50: Take four actually turns out really well, and John and I produce the show, agreeing that we totally lucked out. As we’re leaving the station, we start talking about the 30-second N& promo that Kevin wanted me to do for Fat Guys. John starts making up a great script, and we run back into the studio to record again.

12:20: Finally head out of the studio again—with a finished show and a saved N& promo.

1:00: Get back to the office and eat lunch while checking email. Try to decide between taking a nap and getting coffee. Decide that there’s no time for a nap. Choose coffee.

2:15: Head to Tim Horton’s, where I order a medium iced coffee and sit down at the sunny table by the window to try to write up my review of 10,000 B.C. End up writing, “Holy crap, I’m burnt out. I can’t seem to write a coherent thought. This week, I hate movies, and I don’t feel like writing about them, but I have to anyway.” Put review aside and decide to work on something else instead. Do some editing. Flip through film festival guide.

3:30: Head back to the office to work on 10,000 B.C. review (for real this time). Actually get something written.

5:15: Make myself some dinner and sit down in front of the TV to watch last night’s episode of America’s Next Top Model. Get through the makeover part and the photoshoot and have to turn it off to get ready for screening.

6:30: Leave for The Bank Job screening. Meet up with the gang. Shake our heads while talking about the movies we’ve seen this week.

9:45: Get out of screening and head home for a few minutes to caffeinate.

10:30: Get the call that Kevin’s on his way to the Magical Studio in the Sky. Say good-night to husband and head out the door again.

10:45: Arrive at studio and try to set up for the show. Discover that Neil’s the one who knows where everything is. Neil is in Austin for SXSW, and he’s not answering his phone. Crawl around on the floor, trying to find cables and things.

11:59: Finally ready to start recording show. I’ve been drinking Diet Coke for about two hours straight, and I now feel a terrible urge to belch. Probably, that would be okay on Fat Guys at the Movies, but I refrain anyway. After all, I’m a girl, and my mom told me that girls don’t burp. I’m also fighting the urge to slip into a coma.

1-something: Finally finish recording the show. Have been up for what feels like three days. No longer coherent. Not entirely sure of what I said on the show. Am hoping that Kevin will just edit me out. Play back part of the show on chipmunk speed. Start clearing up the studio. Or at least Kevin does. I mostly just stare blankly into nowhere.

2:30: Head home from the studio. By the time I get there, I’m shaking like a strung-out junkie. Am exhausted and over-caffeinated but strangely wide awake.

3:00ish: Climb into bed, consider sleeping through Friday.

Clearly, after all this movie-wasteland burnout, I’m desperately in need of a film festival. Fortunately, the Cleveland Film Festival is under way (Clay’s there right now, in fact). I’ve already printed out copies of the schedule, which I’ve been agonizing over for weeks. The choices are phenomenal this year—which is a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, it means that I should be seeing all kinds of great movies next week. On the other hand, during some time slots, there are as many as three or four great movies playing at the same time—and, since I still haven’t figured out how to be in more than one place at a time, I’m going to have to make some tough decisions.

Since I’m on my own on Thursday, I’m thinking I’ll just fill up my schedule. I figure I’ll make it two five of the six possible movies, grabbing some grub from the food court whenever I have a break between shows. On Friday, John shows up, which means there will be martinis. And on Saturday, my husband shows up—and we’ve already figured out our schedule for Saturday and Sunday.

Though I’m still not entirely sure which movies I’ll be seeing next week, I know that I’ll be just what the doctor ordered: a few days away from the usual grind, a hotel with a maid and free waffles for breakfast, a martini or two, some movie-loving friends, and a whole bunch of great independent films. I can’t wait!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I'm Not Dead Yet.

I know, I know...I haven't posted recently. But let me assure you that my recent sabbatical does not mean that I've quit my job and run off to Costa Rica to live a quiet, movie-free existence. Not that I haven't considered it, of course, but I haven't actually done it. On the contrary, I've been so busy with movies and things (as well as preparing for what has now become the weekly weekend road trip) that, while I've started posts recently, I just haven't had the time to finish them. And who wants to read a partial post?

Don't worry, though. You haven't been missing out on a whole lot. Mostly, we've just spent the last couple of weeks drinking coffee, eating cookies, and grumbling a lot.

I promise to get back to posting again soon. But, in the meantime, don't forget that the Cleveland Film Festival starts this week! I'll be missing opening weekend, but I'm packing my bags and heading north next Thursday (the 13th) to squeeze in as many movies as possible (as well as a martini or two).

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