Florida Film Festival

Florida Film Festival 2000

Enzian Theater and various other locations, Maitland, FL

Oh, that summer feeling. Each year, the Florida Film Festival opens with a movie and a party, and I missed the movie, Love And Sex, featuring Jon Favreau (Swingers) and the lovely and talented Famke Janssen. I’ve no clue how to pronounce her name, but she’s tall. And was wandering about with some friends and wandering off with some friends by the time I made it to the party. So often folks pronounce the word “height” with a “th” sound on the end. Look for her work in the forthcoming X-Men film.

Q-Burns was spinning some classics and newer hits, and he so superceded the British oldies DJ from years gone by that I danced. Others danced too. Thank God for no serious heat. Some fella cussed at Q-Burn when informed no swing was gonna be spun. (Laughs all around). Much to my dismay, Seymour Cassel was not to be found. His absence was felt. You don’t know him? Max’s dad in Rushmore. The barber. You know him. He’s a regular at the film festival.

The Gold of Naples is a series of shorter films by the late Vitorrio De Sica. Man, those black and white Italian movies move me. The four featured an odd blend of irreverent takes on Catholicism and social order, honest interest in the female form and the subtext of chance. Naples in 1955 looked rough. Should brush up on my history, but apparently it’s not a joke that the Mafiosa had a firm hand in this town and thereabouts. “The Racketeer,” “The Gambler,” and “Theresa” aimed for funny, power struggles, and compassion in the midst of emotional distress, but Sophia Loren’s philandering wife who loses her wedding ring in a make-out session with a man other than her pizza-making hubby scored points with the audience.

“Pizza On Credit” gave Ms. Loren room to move from funny girl to goddess. A plot summary would be tedious, I assure you. She is not found out, rather manipulates her husband so resoundingly that she approaches multiple pizza patrons to see if the ring was dropped into their dough. It was not. Querying her lover with husband in tow, it seems she’ll surely reveal the infidelity. The lover produces the ring, and Ms. Loren, followed by her unobservant husband, makes a sultry walk through the rain that is said to have garnered the attention of Hollywood. I imagine.

Despite my enthusiasm for Ms. Loren and that ol’ black and white 1955 Italian cinema, twice the reel was restarted and the film was postponed nearly 15 minutes. It seemed the reel was in fact not a reprint, as the audio tended to be uneven, and the scratches on the film were most evident.

The Midnight Shorts program typically starts too late for me, but a Ben Stiller-produced TV pilot and Flaming Lips documentary kept me awake, fer sure. Heat Vision and Jack, the Stiller product, was perhaps the funniest 30 minutes of TV never shown on TV. Copping the feel of Knight Rider, Not of this Earth, The Six Million Dollar Man, Stephen J. Cannell spew, and a sense of irony well beyond West Coast creatives (sic), this treat starred Jack Austin (actually Jack Black), a former NASA astronaut who got too close to the sun! During the day, our hero has such superior intelligence that he is being stalked by actor Ron Silver. Good luck, Ron. NASA wants Austin apprehended – the reasoning is vague. Nonetheless, Austin has an adventure in the desert southwest and finds himself in jail. The jailkeeper had the charisma of Heather Locklear!

Our man has a talking motorcycle with a heart of gold, but it lacks the chutzpah of KITTT, the talking Pontiac from Knight Rider. But it all works out. Austin is not so sharp at night, but he’s jailed during the night, so it doesn’t matter. When the sun comes through the jail bars, our astronaut hero barks commands to the jailhouse German Shepherd, who delivers the passkeys with nary a moment’s hesitation. Freedom. Should this pilot ever make it to TV, you’ll want to buckle up. If ever a story was about everything and nothing, TV-culturally speaking, this would be it.

Flaming Lips Have Landed, directed by Bradley Beesley, might have been the reason the theater was packed. I’m a fan, full on, and have been since my 1980’s Oklahoma experience. I’d not imagined how resourceful, honest, and focused the Flaming Lips are. Wayne Coyne and Michael Ivins are visionary. That said, the founding vocalist/guitarist and bassist have never been afraid to praise the FM prowess of their youth, namely Pink Floyd and Zep. And if you already knew that from seeing them cover tunes by those bands (or perhaps the Who), watching Beesley’s film secures for the Lips a place in history as a punk band (I guess) rather unaffected by the expectations of the American underground. Footage of early shows with the lights all going crazy and the Bron-Y-Aur stomp and the cry of Coyne’s voice moved me. Video footage is shown, and interviews abound sans that ludicrous pretension that tends to overshadow the music. Hell, Brian Wilson and the whole pop consortium should thank these Okies for staying true to risk-taking.

Modest and open, the band members disclose feelings concerning art, loss, and fate, and guests add two cents, completing a most thoughtful and detailed look at a great American band. The band threw boom box concerts with audience participation, recorded a four-CD Tommy for our era, and did what they want, and are blessed. And Beesley made a movie of it. Cool.

The three other shorts, Sunday’s Game, Das Clown, and Black XXX-Mas were engaging thanks to their brevity. Gory, too. Guess the late-niters dig that.

Me & Isaac Newton, a documentary by Michael Apted, was compelling if for no other reason than it focused on science and I despise science. Yep, hate it. But a friend suggested I attend, so I did. Interviewing a cancer researcher, an environmental physicist, a neuroscientist, and more, Apted lets his learned troops share their early passions for science and what compels them to continue. The feel of the documentary was closer to Discovery Channel programming than I’d expected. The scientists were as humanitarian as I’d hoped, but with my goofy God-centric worldview, I was discouraged by the consistent themes of personal achievement. No props were given to a Creator. Sure, I made more sense of robotics. Water purification was never so intriguing. But these gifted minds doing great work seemed absorbed with what they could accomplish, and sometimes the “I” references outshined the work.

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