Now, Live from New York

For anyone who missed SRQ Daily today but cares about film, I had an exclusive interview with New York City film commissioner Katherine Oliver from her speech at Ringling College.

She spoke about the great free advertising for the community that New York enjoys from shows like David Letterman, Sex and the City and the Law and Order. We found her advice on cultivating film as an economic development engine especially exciting, and that is what we focused on in our piece.


Pageants, Mormons, Kidnappings… Typical Tabloid Fodder

When one imagines classic tabloid stories, they probably first think of celebrities, and maybe then of alien babies. But for time in the 1970s, Wyoming beauty queen Joyce McKinney provided huge fodder by allegedly kidnapping and raping her Mormon boyfriend. You can see why the tabs could get tantalized by a story with so many sensational facets, but it has seemed a bit more puzzling why historical documentarian Errol Morris would make a film about McKinney and market it as a “love story.”

Why make the film? That was actually the subject of an article in The Economist a few months ago. Morris said then that the film was “a meditation on how we are shaped by the media and even more powerfully, by ourselves.”

That article also said that when Morris screened the film for an NYU audience, McKinney showed up, heckling interview subjects during portions of the film and taking questions afterward. No word on whether we can expect such a visit to Sarasota, but we would sure love to be in the theater for that kind of live entertainment.

Whether she comes here or not, we did find a clip of McKinney at DOC NYC talking about the film. Based on the garb and geography, I think this may be from the same event described in the Economist article, but either way, enjoy this clip now and the screening of Tabloid on April 15 or 16 at the festival.

Recording Rock History

Who realized one of the great punk rock videographers had been living for years here in Sarasota. We were excited to hear about the Target Video exhibition at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival, but somewhat stunned to learn local notable Jill Hoffman-Kowal had been one of the founders of the revolutionary band of videographers.

It was just this year, after Target Video had already seen at such venues at the Getty in Los Angeles, that Hoffman approached the festival with some of the historic reels of film her old outlet had recorded of the Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, the Screamers and the Cramps.

“These films represent an archival treasure for an entire generation of music fans, capturing the fundamental spirit and energy of punk rock in America,” boasts SFF Artistic Director Tom Hall, clearly happy to screen this gems.

Target Video was founded in 1977 while Hoffman-Kowal, Joe Rees and Jackie Sharp were in art school in San Francisco. The audio-visual kids got in on the ground floor of punk and ended up becoming video historians for the exploding movement. In the beginning, the group recorded with black-and-white reel-to-reel cameras, splicing footage together in their loft. Eventually, the group had bicoastal offices, was following bands around Europe and recorded milestone performances by Iggy Pop.

Hoffman-Kowal eventually moved to Sarasota and settled down. But since an exhibit at the Getty Museum in L.A. featured the company’s footage, Target Video’s founders have been reunited. Hoffman-Kowal reached out to SFF about a program, and another reunion was quickly planned.

So what will we see here?

SFF officials are excited to screen three presentations from Target Video. An April 14 program will show footage of Los Angeles bands like Black Flag, an April 15 program includes New York and Europe bands like the Ramones and Bauhaus and an April 16 show will include footage of San Francisco groups like the Dead Kennedys and The Mutants.

“It’s snippets of music history,” says Hoffman-Kowal. “The pacing is fast and the color is saturated. It’s very exciting. A lot of it’s very funny and a lot of it is very emotional.”

Until it screens, enjoy this Target Video footage of the Dead Kennedys.

Sex, Life, Healing, Nature, Magic

When SFF announced that Mike Mills’ Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer and the absolutely angelic Melanie Laurent, would be the Festival’s closing film, many friends and colleagues read my ecstasy with a bit of skepticism.

“Who the hell is Mike Mills?” they asked.

Well, my friends, he is a simple genius, basically.

His film Thumbsucker won all types of awards and contains one of the most beautiful soundtracks of any movie, largely done by Elliot Smith, who stabbed himself in the heart twice while Mills was in post-production on the film. The soundtrack includes Smith’s cover of “Trouble” by Cat Stevens, one of the rare cover songs that are actually better than the original, up there with Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Here is the trailer for Beginners. I’ll be writing quite often about Mills’ work in the coming weeks and am anxiously awaiting the chance to speak with both him and Plummer.

“People like us, half of them believe things will never work out. The other half believe in magic.” Melanie Laurent, Beginners

Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times

David Carr. Photo: Patrick McMullan, from New York Magazine

Tom Hall announced yesterday that the opening night film would be Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times, a film about, well, I think you can figure that out. It is rumored to be quite a telling documentary, showing the struggle facing journalists and newspapers around the world, even ones as ingrained in the world of news gathering and dissemination as The Gray Lady. The film focuses on the Media Desk of the Times, following both David Carr and Brian Stelter as they “tackle their beat.” Both will be in attendance.

In a related Times note and an example of the lengths they go to and risks they take to do the caliper of work the Times is known for, our thoughts go out the the four missing NYT journalists in Lybia: Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Shadid, MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Lynsey Addorio, reporter Stephen Farrel and renowned photojournalist Tyler Hicks, a Boston University graduate like our photo editor, Cat Pennenga, who considers Hicks “her hero.” Let us hope they are returned to safety unharmed as soon as possible.

The last known photo of the journalists, taken by Reuters photographer Paul Conroy, on Friday, March 11. They were covering conflict between rebels and government loyalists in Lybia.
One of Tyler Hicks' photos that earned him Newspaper Photographer of the Year from Picture of the Year International.

Kerouac Slept Here

Efortless style, in his prose and in life, though perhaps for Kerouac they were more or less the same thing.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Gus Mollasis, whose feature documentary Kerouac Slept Here is included in this year’s fest. The 29-minute short explores Kerouac’s time in Florida. Kerouac wrote his seminal 1958 semi-autobiographical novel The Dharma Bums (a book which verbosely contrasts his life as a mountaineer, fire lookout and hitchhiker with that of his inner-city, Jazz-loving life boozing and chasing tail) in Orlando. Just 11 years later he passed away in St. Petersburg, from internal bleeding caused by years of heavy boozing. Mr. Mollasis said City Lights Books owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti makes an appearance in the film as well.


Maybe that’s what life is… a wink of the eye and the winking stars.” ~Kerouac