Wild At Heart
I was hoping to break this up into smaller posts over the weekend but circumstances beyond my control have led me to do this all today. Part of this will be a pet peeve. I was hoping to use the computers down at the Detroit Public Library to report from DWIFF but their servers were down for maintenance so they had no service. This wasn’t so bad because I knew Wayne State’s library was supposed to be open until 9PM. However, at 5:15PM they were closed with no notation on the door and about 5 other students standing outside wondering why they were closed. If you are supposed to be open, then be open or at least have the courtesy of telling us why.
Before I get into talking about DWIFF (Detroit Windsor International Film Festival), I said last week I would talk about video games and so I shall. Basically, I am not a fan of video games beyond mahjong, various word games and Tetris. During the Movement Festival, Playstation had a van where I played a great game called Pain where the idea is to catapult your character through an urban landscape and cause as much damage to yourself as possible. I esp liked the section where you can hit an old lady and then bounce down some stairs into a moving subway. If lucky, you might go through the back door and into the air vent which throws you up into the air towards a construction site where you can bounce off steel beams and boxes of dynamite. I am also a media junkie which has seem numerous pop culture mediums (such as Dungeons & Dragons, heavy metal music, video games) attacked by idiots claiming that they cause violence among children.
That is why I was happy to read this book = ‘Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do’ by Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D. (psychologist)and Cheryl K. Olson, Sc.D. (public health researcher). The book looks at the myths behind most of the studies that have been done in the field and see video games not as the cause but most likely a symptom (i.e. – kids with violent tendencies might search out violent games). Having done research in this area (being a comic book fan, I did a paper in college tearing down the shoddy research Dr Frederic Wertham did with his book ‘Seduction Of The Innocent’ that caused major censorship of the industry), I have always been skeptical of any politicians or “experts” who attack things like gangster movies, rap music, dime novels instead of looking at real issues like poverty and poor living conditions as causing problems with our youth. Take for example, Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, which some people blamed his playing video games as one of the reasons he went on the rampage but neglected the fact that most of the people he knew thought he was weird because he didn't like playing video games (which the majority of his peers did) except maybe Mario Bros as a kid. Think about that! Cho hated video games and didn’t play them but when his rampage was done; video games were listed as causing him to do it. Read this book and think for yourself, so when idiots crawl out of the woodwork, we can better defend ourselves from misinformation.
Now on Friday, I had the pleasure of going to the second day of action at the Buick Open at the beautiful Warwick Hills golf course. I missed most of the first wave of golfers but I did have a good time following John Daly for a few holes. John is known as much for his long drives as he is for his substance abuse and poor diet. ("There are probably some things I could do to keep my flexibility up, but I'd rather smoke, drink Diet Cokes and eat.") Most of the golfers look to be in great shape and Daly is basically a “shape” but he has tremendous fan loyalty and you got to respect him for that. During the celebrity portion of the event, he teamed with Kid Rock which seems to be a perfect duo (esp since Daly does some backup vocals on the song “Half Your Age” off Rock’s ‘Rock N Roll Jesus’). I also got to see Stephen Leaney get his hole-in-one on hole 8 and just missed getting hit by Patrick Sheehan’s errant tee off shot on the same hole (the guy in front of me got hit by it in the thigh). I also was there when local boys Tom Gillis (Oxford) and Doug LaBelle II (Mt Pleasant) missed the cut.
The one thing that impressed me that I never thought about watching it on TV is exactly how close fans are to some of the greens, esp on 17 (the rowdiest whole in golf). I was surprised that is a whole day of golf, only one spectator got hit. When you really see how close they are, you wonder that they don’t have an ambulance stationed at the hole. If I was teeing off this course, I would definitely have hit somebody (probably multiple somebody’s) so my hat goes off to their skill to prevent that from happening. Oh yeah, congrats to Kenny Perry for winning the 2008 Buick Open, though I was wishing for my homeboy Dudley Hart from Buffalo (2nd place on day 2 but ended up tied for 9th).
Skipping ahead to Sunday, I went to the Stars & Stripes Festival in Mount Clemens for the second year (I guess that means it is now annual). I finally got to see The Hummingbirds perform (they are a local country band). I also stuck around for Candlebox, LA Guns and Jonny Lang who all gave wonderful performances. I was also impressed by the organization from the bottle bums at the festival. Hardly did an empty can or bottle get tossed in the trash or on the ground before someone with a big bag would walk by picking it up. Also, if you have young kids getting the bottles, tell them not to try to open the bottles they get from the trash with their teeth. Have an adult open the bottle and pour the excess liquid out. Luckily the weather held out after some morning rain.
I also had the pleasure of checking out the new floor of the Mount Clemens Art Gallery, watched Bobo beat Bert in the 2nd performance of the Banana Derby (little monkeys riding dogs around a track) and the Fearless Flores Stunt Show (a combination of motorcycle stunts, a spacewheel and Olympic rings) which puts on a good family show ( www.ffthrill.com )
Speaking of the Fearless Flora show, that ties in with DWIFF and the first film I saw. It was the documentary “Helldrivers” by Dale Sheldrakel which follows Paul Riddell and his family as they are reaching the end of a legacy with their helldriving show in which they crash cars and put on driving feats you wouldn’t want your kids trying. Reaching it’s peak in the 1930’s-50’s, helldriving has gotten very expensive (with rising gas prices and insurance) and it is hard to make a living at it anymore. This movie looks at this show trying to hold out as long as it can with little bits a helldriving history thrown in between. I though the movie was very nostalgic and shows how some things change, and not always for the better. I wonder if motorcycle shows are the new helldrivers since they are easier to transport and run on less gas. If you are a car buff, you should check this out. Grade: B.
At DWIFF, I also had the pleasure of seeing the short documentary by Gary Glaser which looks at the video company D-PAN (Deaf Performing Arts Network). Yes, you read correctly, a company that makes music videos for deaf people. Being a strong musical person and knowing some deaf people, I was wondering at how somebody gets the idea to do this since deaf people can’t hear!! Well, Sean Forbes, the co-founder of D-PAN comes from a musical family and does have some hearing. We talked about going to concerts and that when he hears music, it is mostly the bass sounds that he hears like the drums while guitar and piano can get lost in the experience. This can also cause him to not recognize a song that he hears on an album but is played differently live. He has a strong affinity to George Clinton who has a very visual show (and will be at Citifest on the 6th with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band opening). Also, for his audience, the videos can be challenging.
“Waiting For The World To Change” had multiple shows on the screen which can be a challenge for a deaf person to follow and “Beautiful” is shot from the waist up to the nose of the signers (ASL – American Sign Language usually uses the space from the knees to the top of the head for it’s language) so the videos are both inventive and experimental and can be enjoyed by the non-deaf community. They showed the companies first four videos at the event and I currently have 2 of the on my myspace page (www.myspace.com/wildatheart_13) or you can go to www.d-pan.com for the others and to learn more about how they want to bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf communities. This is a unique company for the Detroit area and I wish them the best of luck in their quest.
I also talked with Tom Dow, FX artist for Prince Caspian and the new Harry Potter film. He put on a brief lecture on how his work as a layout artist on Prince Caspian was affected by the advent of computer technology and the challenges he faced. He told me that it was ‘War Of The Worlds’ where computers were used to create multiple effects over a short period of time and how movie studios expect these complicated scenes to be done quickly, much to the chagrin of the artists who want the time to really do the job correctly. He also showed us the differences in some scenes for the trailers and the finished product. One scenes has a creature jumping from a roof ledge in the trailer where the final scene has different legs and added characters in the background. I find this cool and it is nice seeing this. However, I felt they shorted him on his time by moving some things around, but that happens in a first time festival. Tom was nice
enough to talk to anyone afterwards and go over what he talked about in his presentations. A truly nice guy! For those looking into getting into special effects work, he suggests getting your work online, move to a industry center (California, London, etc) and get your face known and make sure to stay in touch with your contacts.
I also saw the film “Minotauro” by first time director Alejandro Cano. The film is about Flora, a Mayan girl in Mexico, who can see the future in her dreams (but not her own). As she grows up, she becomes obsessed with seeing her own future, an urge that only gets stronger when she becomes pregnant with twins. Finally, she sees something in a dream, and awakes with the conviction that one of the twins in her womb will betray her. By trying to prevent that from happening of course causes it to happen. Not overly original in plot but the film moves along nicely with some really fine moments. It is subtitled but don’t let that scare you. The child Sara and Judas are very appealing and their relationship is what makes this film worth seeing. Grade: B.
That was a lot to cover this weekend and while I enjoyed the first DWIFF, I have a few observations.
1) The festival seemed more concerned with getting the principal players for building the film industry in Detroit together than actual promotion. While that is important and everyone I met seemed excited about bringing more filmmaking to Detroit, this left the attendance for the US side rather sparse for some movies. However, with everyone of the same page this year, they will have more time to actually promote the festival. Hopefully, the major news stations and papers will get behind promotion for the event. Most of the publicity was through the Metrotimes, Detroit Weekly, WXOU 88.3FM and Motorcity Blog. A lot of the people I talked to ended up just randomly seeing a flyer and this type of event need to be hyped big time. Some screens had good crowds though I was the only person at “Helldrivers”.
2) The volunteers were mostly
nice and informative, esp the crew at “Helldrivers” who let me watch the short “Harley Ranger and the Trial of Life” (a Harry Potter parody short) which I would’ve missed if they didn’t play it for me. Thanks!
3) It would be nice if they could get a big name to come in which would make the event more newsworthy. If Jonathan Winters had come for the screening of his film, it would’ve been nice (the Travers City Film Fest benefited from Madonna showing up for her film). No offense to Mr Dow, Star Wars illustrator Matt Busch, Critter Quest host Peter Schriemer, actor Christopher Bondy or Simpsons animator Greg Checketts, but a big name gets more notice which is a shame that a festival seems to need that “look over there, is that…” type of factor. What about local actor Jeff Daniels? 4) There is a need for a little more organization. Maybe a place for reporters to go to file stories even if it just means keeping a computer lab open a little longer.
A few of the events got moved and Tom Dow’s lecture was shortened (some people seemed annoyed by that) but that is the growing pains of an inaugural year and should be fixed in the future. Overall, I really enjoyed the festival and I like seeing a push to bring more business to the area which is part of the reason the festival expanded into Detroit. Hopefully, DWIFF will learn from their mistakes and put forth a more organized product with more promotion and larger crowds.
Festival Grade: B+. Thanks for the invite this year and I look forward to next year.
I hope everyone has a good week and don’t forget some of the fun stuff going on this week. The 2008 Comerica Cityfest starts Wednesday and will feature numerous national acts like De La Soul (Wed), Broken Social Scene (Fri), Calexico (Sat) and George Clinton (Sun). I am looking forward to seeing the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on Sunday (a fun jazz-funk outfit from New Orleans which must be seen). There are also a lot of cool local bands, such as Tally Hall, Silent Years, Great Lakes Myth Society, The Muggs, the Amino Acids and the Martin Luther King High School Symphonic and Marching Band (one of 5 US marching bands invited to the Olympics). This is also the weekend for Rothbury is you are one of the lucky ones going. I might be their Friday but that is still up in the air. So everyone have a good week and a safe 4th of July. I will also be at the Less Than Jake/Goldfinger show at Royal Oak Music Theatre tomorrow so I’ll see you around.