My friend Joe (can you tell that he’s a professional producer?) put together this collection of quotes from the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival. Look for me making a special appearance.
Last week, I had a table at a preview performance of Great Lakes Theater Festival’s new production of The Comedy of Errors (Which was very good, BTW - they didn’t double cast the twins and that made it even funnier. I don’t care if it’s kind of Shakespeare-light, Andrew May is a genius.). I was out in the lobby chatting with some of GLTF’s staff and trustees when a woman mentioned slicing herself with a mandolin (the kitchen tool, not what Sam Bush plays). Because I feel an unending need to contribute anecdotes in these kinds of situations, I chimed in with a story about cutting open fingers with razor blades while I was working in professional theatrical costume shops. Say hello to awkward silence.
I didn’t mean to be all, “I used to be part of the business, I was cool, I wore all black,” but it may have come off that way. I never know what to do with that part of my life. From the time I was 8 until I moved away from Florida in 1997, I was involved in theatre. As a kid, I acted and stage managed and built sets. Most of my friends were Youtheatre kids. Even my brother did plays. When I went to college - it was between Theatre and Math as a major and Theatre won out because I couldn’t give it up.
After graduation, I went into costumes because I thought I could always find a job. And, I was very good. But, noone wants to be an aging first hand. There’s all sorts of crazy stress. You’re lucky to work a nine month contract and not something shorter. Plus, after awhile, it was a little dull. There were only so many sets of pants I could alter. Even period corsets and panniers began to seem boring.
So I started over. I went back to school to get my masters in Arts Administration. I established myself as a writer and I left theatre for public radio. I haven’t been on stage in 26 years. But theatre was still a part of my life longer than it wasn’t.
That’s why I was surprised at my embarrassment over talking about my costume days. My shop days were a few years back, certainly, but I also worked at major LORT A companies for nearly a decade - it wasn’t just a couple of months in summer stock. It is now official that my perception of who I am and where I fit in the world has permanently changed. There is no going back.
I donated some money to GLTF’s building campaign and they gave me a lapel pin that said Re-Imagine. How appropriate. Choosing a new course for my life 15 years ago was not easy. There was a lot of backsliding at the beginning. I can look back at that part of my history, it will always be part of me. But, here I am now. And I’m so happy that I was brave enough to take the first step down that other fork in the road.
Ok, I’m going to come right out and say it. I’m 46. I was born during the Kennedy administration. I remember the first moon landing. I am a product of Apollo and TV and The Beatles. My first record purchase was The Beach Boys’ Endless Summer, not because I loved vintage music, but because it was just out. I graduated high school in 1981 and college in 1985. And, seriously, I’m glad I’m not in my early 30s anymore, because that was a pretty rocky time for me.
Why am I bringing this up? Because, when you discover people on-line, you come together in a very neutral space of shared interests and common sensibilities. The wonders of the Internet mean that you don’t have share a geographical location, or the same life timeline. And that’s great! We all have on-line buddies that we probably wouldn’t have found otherwise and these friends can enrich our lives.
It can, however, cause a disruption in The Force (that’s right, I saw Star Wars in a movie theatre the month it opened) when you actually meet your on-line friends in person for the first time. Having a two-dimensional figure take a human life form can be startling. It’s a little like having your childhood imaginary friend suddenly spring to life. You’re happy to see them, but real is real, for good or bad.
So, this is a shout-out to all of my friends - I am very pleased to interact with you. Your presence is a daily reminder that going through life is better when part of a team. But, I won’t stop being 46 (until, of course, I turn 47). And, I don’t want to. All of the moments that I have lived so far have added up to get me here, I wouldn’t be who I am if I lost even a single day. The 3-D me is much more fun than my avatar lets on (myth-making is the business of every good avatar) and the real world is a fine place to be.
When I pick out movies to attend each year at CIFF, my tastes seem to trend towards Eastern European and Chinese films. Well, this year it’s the year of the Japanese and the two movies I’ve seen so far could not have been more different.
On Wednesday, before the Social Media Club-Cleveland monthly get-together, Kelly and I went to see German + Rain. As we were going into the theatre, tickets in hand, I ran into Joe who said that April (I realize this syntax is a little high school girl, but stick with me) had called the movie weird. Yeah, that was an understatement. It was unfocused and had bad translations to boot. And, it’s the second movie I’ve seen this year that involved someone jumping into a hole filled with sewage. Seriously, I think I’m done with that image.
No matter what, it’s interesting seeing into another culture. But when I compare German + Rain to Cherry Blossoms, which was part of last week’s Sunday schedule, it disappears from view like a light fog when the sun emerges. The story of an older German couple, a death, a trip to Japan and an exploration into real lasting love was so powerful that most of the audience became a little weepy. Me, I cried as if I’d been set ablaze and my tears were the only way to put the fire out. The film is filled with true emotion - and it’s visually remarkable with scenes of Tokyo, the Alps and Mount Fuji. The CIFF has added an extra screening of Cherry Blossoms Sunday night at 7:10 (meaning you can go to the big awards ceremony right after) so there still a chance for you to see what has to be one of the real contenders for audience favorite this year.
Tomorrow, I go back into the ring for another few rounds of films. WKSU is sponsoring two screenings of The Wrecking Crew (Sat at 9:25 P and Sun at 4:25 P), so I’ll be standing politely next to the table. Come by, I’ll give you a magnet (but not a kleenex - if you’re going to Cherry Blossoms, be forewarned and prepared).
After a few years of attending movies at the CIFF, I’ve put together a handy list of tips. Take what you like and leave the rest - someone will pick them up later. At around 20 or so films each year, I’m an amateur compared to my friend Joe. He generally takes the entire festival as vacation time and lives at Tower City for 11 days. But, this list is still a valid chunk of advice.
10 Timely Tips for CIFF:
1. One is never enough. Why drive downtown and park the car for one movie? There are so many screenings - and they sell vouchers in multi-packs. Plan on seeing at least two a visit.
2. Crowdsource. The buzz term of the moment is the best way to pick what films to see. Before you buy your tickets, ask the people in line what they have already seen that’s good. If you’re in the theatre, ask people around you. Almost all movies screen more than once and on different days.
3. Meet new people. Those people sitting next to you? Guess what? They like movies as much as you do! Where better to connect with fellow cinephiles than at the CIFF? Get their Twitter name and you can meet at the Cedar Lee after the fest has wrapped.
4. Your guide is your best friend. Not only does the program guide offer a screening schedule, it also has helpful synopses and useful information. Want to stay over in a hotel? Check out the section for special room rates.
5. Drink lots of water. Dehydration is the festival’s devil. I know you don’t want to get up and pee in the middle of a movie, but you also don’t want my Sunday night headache that lasts through Monday (every year).
6. Work as a team. That doesn’t mean you need a date or a mate, it just means becoming chummy with someone so they can grab you a seat while you use the restroom (they keep that line moving, but it still takes time). Teaming up also helps with eating, getting tickets and standing in line.
7. Know your limits. Not everyone can sit through 7 movies in one day. Plan on seeing more than one film a visit, but if you need a break - take it! Don’t let your friends talk you into a third documentary if what you need to do is take a walk around the block. You’ll be happier and ultimately, so will your friends.
8. Pack for the journey. Everyone carries a little bag at the CIFF - even the guys. It’s good for your guide, water bottle, flashlight (for reading the guide before - not during - the movie), gum, a sandwich, and kleenex (don’t forget the tissues). There’s no shame in being prepared.
9. Popcorn is not a meal. I don’t care what my mother says, if you plan on eating popcorn all day, you will live to regret it. The food court is filled with better options. There’s even a salad bar.
10. Enjoy the experience. Every film you see can not be the best movie ever. It is an impossibility. But there’s going to be a moment each time that will capture your imagination. Look closely and you’ll take more away from your visit.
Do you have suggestions? Leave a comment or tweet them to @CIFF on Twitter.
Not that I’m keeping track or anything… but here are some interesting totals RE the films I saw on the first Saturday of the 33rd CIFF (mind you, I’m not complaining about any of these - it’s just an interesting factoid):
Number of films watched: 7 (beginning with the 9:15 a.m. screening of La Belle Personne and ending with Tokyo at Midnight)
Films showing men’s naked bums: 4 & men at the urinal: 3 (funny, I saw a lot more naked men than women this weekend - in the US it’s usually the other way around)
Movies with vomiting: 4
Times I saw marine life killed: 2 (of course, they were documentaries)
Features with big-time kissing scenes: 4
Movies in which at least one person smoked: 7 (that’s right, all of them - and it seems more remarkable somehow these days)
Sunday, Children of Invention scored nil on the above criteria (well, it is a family movie), as did Generation Rx. I’ll let you know how the rest of the week turns out…
Last night, I was lucky enough to score a ticket to the opening night gala of the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival (and here’s where I give a big shout out to Dollar Bank for sponsoring the event - I like to praise any financial corporation that is putting money back into the community). It’s one of the year’s hottest tickets. We got to see the special film (which is only shown opening night) and go to the party after, which includes food - and I really like free food.
This year’s opening film was “Lightbulb” about a young inventor looking for that one thing to really stick with the public - before his wife leaves him for good for gambling all of their money away. It was written and produced by Mike Cram (who was there, along with star Dallas Roberts and Exec Prod Gregory Goodall) and based on his life. It was good and had a happy ending, which was a relief, because this is not the year to start the fest off with a downer.
After the screening, the crowd was led on a crazy march through Tower City to the reception (two years in a row and I still only vaguely know where the party space is within the complex). Then there’s food, beer, a band and a lot of people dressed in black. People were supposed to dress inventively, but only a couple of folks actually did (come on, how many opportunities do grown-ups have to wear fancy clothes? I wasn’t going to waste the evening by wearing a dress made out of used juice packs).
Oh, and we got to see the new trailer (exciting now, but we’ll see how it holds up with repeat viewings). It’s starting!
Many people have asked me the origin of my Monkeegrrl (or Monkeygrrl if you’re on Twitter) screen name. I suspect some hope it involves adult gymnastics. Sadly, it does not. In my current regeneration, I am a writer. I don’t write fancy novels or brilliant essays. I write copy - press releases, promotional announcements, newsletters (E and paper), Twitters, awards entries, web blurbs - really, anything that needs to be assembled out of my pile of words. It’s a creative job, but it’s also a very utilitarian pursuit. There’s not a lot of time to rewrite and finesse the finished product.
So, I often think of myself as a monkey in a box. Give me a nickel and I’ll write something (like a characaturist at the state fair). My little office is both blessed and cursed by the fact that it has windows to the outside and the hallway, like an exhibit at Disney World, where I once rode a boat past botanists working with hydroponic vegetables in the “Farm of Tomorrow.”
It’s still better than my previous life where I sat at a table under fluorescent lights in a large room altering men’s pants that were 20 years old and had gathered a lifetime of experience. “Here’s a nickel, build me an 18th corset and petticoat. You have 2 days and $50.”
Like many monkeys, those caged in a semi-natural environment, I am very content most days - especially when there is cake.
Here we are, in a shiny new space. Like a creamy white apartment in a new construction unit, it’s pretty, but it’s not mine yet. Give me time. The cats will vomit a few dozen times, I will splatter the walls with cake batter, someone I love will trip over said cats and send a trail of red wine across the carpet. Lived in may be messier, but it’s also better.
So, what do I plan on saying? Think of this blog as an extension on my Twitter ramblings. I’ll take one thing a day and build on that thought. I promise not to be too verbose (check out Seth Godin and how much he can say in a couple of paragraphs) and you feel free to comment. If I don’t like it, I can always delete it (Just kidding! No, I’m not).
To start, I think y’all should ask me some questions. The Internet is a funny place. You “meet” people and develop a picture in your mind of who they are off-line. Sometimes it’s accurate, often it is not. To start you out, my favorite color is red, Beatles over the Rolling Stones, a Honda Civic and the Chicago White Sox (although, I really follow the Cleveland Indians).
Hello, happy to see you and welcome to my new place!