Beer and Pavement

My True/False Preview: Events

Posted in Film by SM on March 2, 2011

Some people actually attend True/False for the parties. I typically don’t, but an upgrade in passes and a request to blog this thing has me scheduling in some non-cinematic events. Here’s a rundown…

The Jubilee
This is a new event that coincides with Benda Bilili!. Columbia’s best bartenders will be serving drinks, which just means they’ll be pouring me beer. We have a tight window to make this one, but I think we can sneak in a drink. I’m mostly looking forward to seeing folks spiffed up for the event (more on my own attire later).

March March
The current plan is to run from our first Friday film to our kids’ daycare and back to the March March location. Basically, it’s a parade where everyone marches and they all dress for the occasion. Hopefully, the rain their calling for doesn’t fall.

Reality Bites
Directly following the March March, there will be refreshments in the Missouri Theater, the endpoint for the parade. We used to be able to attend this party with a Simple pass. This year, we’ll return with the necessary Lux pass. Various local restaurants serve up some of their finest appetizers to washed down by some Schlafly Beer.

@ction Party
My first T/F featured my stint as a volunteer, getting the opportunity to clean up what’s supposed to be Columbia’s best party of the year. I’ll come late as a I have a late film to catch, but it will be fun to check out for the first time from the party-goer side.

True Life Run
OK. We’re not doing this. We talked about it, but it never happened. Besides, I haven’t worked out in two weeks. I’m not ready for such an event. We may have to make time to cheer on those brave enough to party all night and run all morning.

Filmmaker Fete
It was suggested that I get into this. I don’t know that there’s room in my schedule, but the food comes from my favorite restaurant in town (Sycamore) and it’s loaded with filmmakers. We’ll see if I get the call or just stick to my film schedule.

Mojo’s A-Go-Go
After a film, I’ll sprint over to Mojo’s for a rock show of the highest order. It’s maybe the hottest ticket in town and I have one. Kings Go Forth, Netherfriends and Hai Usagi make up one of the most interesting lineups of the last year. It should be a good way to end my Saturday night.

Some Party
I’m not at liberty to really say anything about it, but I’ll be partying into early Sunday morning. I’ve already said too much.

Closing Night Reception
I once chose a film that was not the closing night film and sort of felt like the fest didn’t really have any closure. This riot in the Missouri Theater lobby is a good time to recap the weekend and stuff our faces.

Plus, bands, lots of them.
Besides the Mojo’s gig and possibly that party you know nothing about, I will see lots of bands. It’s basically the reason I have a press pass. The bios and a few tracks can be found at the T/F site, but I look forward to hopefully catching some of these bands busking as we wait for films. Among those who have me most intrigued are Believers, Bramble, Malone, Run On Sentence, and probably another band whose blurb and mp3 don’t do their busking justice. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-16 films and the events listed above, I’m sure to hear something I haven’t heard before and I’ll like it.

Oh, and friends
I have lived here for five and half years. That has not always been an easy time. It’s felt like five years of transitioning. That is, until recently when I started to feel a part of this community. I will see a lot of friends this weekend. It sort of boggles my mind how many people I know in this town. I never knew this many people in any town or city I’ve lived. It’s kinda cool and makes me appreciate living here that much more.

I’ll have one more post for Friday that will accompany these in creating a BICTBAP Guide to True/False. Then, after the weekend is over, look for posts featuring the events, bands, and films of the 2011 True/False Film Festival.

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Posted in Film by SM on March 2, 2011

I was working on a post for today in order to keep up with my three-a-week goal. However, things got busy. So, to hold you over, I’m posting the following pic and will continue my T/F preview later this evening. I’m posting on Wednesday, just later on Wednesday.

I'm legit, I guess.

My True/False Preview: Films

Posted in Film by SM on February 28, 2011

It’s True/False week here in Middle Missouri. T/F is a documentary film festival that makes life worth living in these parts. This year, I have upgraded passes and will see even more nonfiction films than ever before. I have more to say about this in coming days, but here is my rundown of the films on my itinerary. These are not reviews. They are just preliminary thoughts on each film, sort of my first impressions based on short descriptions and trailers. It will be interesting to see how close or far off I am in my assessments before even seeing one film. Anyways, here it goes…

9a. Blood in the Mobile; Thu, Mar 3 5:30PM; Big Ragtag
Electronics are made out of precious metals that have to come from somewhere. At some point, all of us mobile phone lovers have to recognize this. This film will probably make me sick that I’ve ever made a cellular phone call.

7a. The Jubilee (w/ Benda Bilili!); Thu, Mar 3 7:30PM; Missouri Theatre
We’ll hit the MO just in time for a drinky-drink, but  Benda Bilili! is on our list. There’s nothing that says “True/False” like a film about paraplegic musicians from Kinshasa. Even if the film sucks, the environment will be electric, thanks to the booze served at the Jubilee.

34a. Secret Screening Purple; Thu, Mar 3 9:30PM; Forrest Theater
Any film about punks piques our interests. This will be our third film and third theater of the night and we usually don’t start seeing films until Friday. It should be a fun year.

8a. The Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975; Fri, Mar 4 3:00PM; Big Ragtag
This was the must-see on our lists this year. I feel the Black Panther movement has  received a bum rap in recent years. It’s time to hear their story. I have high hopes for this film, but I suspect it will just let me down. Either way, I will be on the road right before this screening. I’m hoping to make it back to town in time to make it. If now, we reserved Sunday tickets as well.

42a. The Woman With Five Elephants; Fri, Mar 4 5:00PM; Forrest Theater
This was a filler. I suspect it will be boring and we’ll skip it so that we can eat. That means it will be the film of the festival and I’ll regret it as the filmmakers collect their Oscars a year from now.

26a. North From Calabria; Fri, Mar 4 6:30PM; The Chapel
We reserved this one because my wife has Polish roots and spent some time there. As is usual for this sort of film, I suspect it will be interesting and intimate, a worthwhile watch.

39a. To Be Heard; Fri, Mar 4 7:30PM; Little Ragtag
This was a priority on the feminist watch list. It’s about some female slam poetry from the Bronx. That alone should be a nice pairing with The Black Power Mix Tape.

36a. Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure; Fri, Mar 4 10:00PM; Little Ragtag
This one looks like it could be ridiculously funny…or mental masturbation. Still, I’m interested in hearing the story behind this DIY, punk enterprise of cassette tape recordings of two drunk neighbors. That late on a Friday will either encourage me to wait it out or skip out for the @ction Party.

20a. Hula & Natan; Sat, Mar 5 10:30AM; Windsor Cinema
No 5k fun run for us. All I read about this one is that it’s a comedy set on the Gaza Strip. Let the hilarity reign over the most fucked up region in the world!

19b. Habana Muda; Sat, Mar 5 12:30PM; Little Ragtag
This was not my pick. I read it as being about a threesome, but others read something more sinister and troubling than that. So, I’m in.

13b. The Burger and the King; Sat, Mar 5 3:30PM; Blue Note
Who doesn’t want to see a film about Elvis’ diet?

29b. The Redemption of General Butt Naked; Sat, Mar 5 5:30PM; The Hive
The title alone should interest you, but I can’t figure out what it has to do with anything. Basically, it’s about a Liberian warlord who turns his life over to God. That sounds fishy to me, which typically means T/F gold.

4c. The Arbor; Sat, Mar 5 8:00PM; Little Ragtag
In the description, this one sounds like a snooze-fest, but the trailer presents a lot of mystery and intrigue.  The combination of archival interviews and dramatic interpretations of actual events provides something I can get behind. I’m really interested to hear this story.

31c. Secret Screening Black; Sun, Mar 6 10:00AM; Little Ragtag
I’m certain this one was featured in a This American Life a while back, but that’s a secret of course. It features anarchists (with the assistance of the FBI) setting each other up to throw molotov cocktails at George Bush or something. Sounds like a party.

8c. The Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975; Sun, Mar 6 12:30PM; Forrest Theater
See above. I’ll see it here, if I don’t see it Friday. If I see it Friday, some lucky person in the Q will get my seat.

28c. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth; Sun, Mar 6 3:00PM; Forrest Theater
From a regional standpoint, this looks to be an interesting take on the failed public housing experiment in St Louis. It’s also timely when investigating the failed American dream in these times of economic desperation.  I suspect the film will either be enormously intriguing or a bore. I predict the former.

25. Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story; Sun, Mar 6 5:30PM; Little Ragtag
A friend dragged her feat and didn’t score any tickets. I might give up my ticket and pass for one screening so that she can get away for 90 minutes.

23b. Life in a Day; Sun, Mar 6 8:00PM; Missouri Theatre
The closing film is an experiment in crowd sourcing. It should be a fun way to end the weekend.

That was a brief rundown of what I will see this coming Thursday through Sunday. On Wednesday, I’ll tell you what else I’ll be doing over the weekend. If you’re attending, tell me what you plan to see. What do you know about any of these films? If you want to know more, check out the T/F site.

(Sorry. There are no footnotes. I was lucky enough to find time for this post let alone numbered ramblings.)

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Free Association Blog Post

Posted in Beer, Film, Intersections, Jock Straps, Life, Records by SM on February 21, 2011

I have some things in the works and some other things I wanted to mention, but none of that is ready nor does it interest me at the moment[1]. So, for your reading pleasure, I will do a little free association blog post that will hopefully hit on some of the things not quite worthy of their own blog posts.

Looking for a new way to label my homebrew, I designed and ordered the following rubber stamp.

The plan is to stamp some big mailing labels, write in which beer is in the bottle, and slap those mothers on. It will save me from having to print out extravagant labels at Kinkos while providing me a uniform way to mark my own brews. A good point was made regarding the new name of my fictitious brewery: It’s better than naming it “Watery Domestic,” a name I never considered. For those of you not in the know, Treble Kicker was Pavement’s made-up label for their first few singles. They later just put it on every release, sort of for publishing purposes or something. I’m using it as the ideal moniker to connect my two loves into my homebrews[2].

Speaking of homebrewing, I did this collaboration with a friend. He used leftover malt to brew a pale ale and I supplied leftover hops[3]. We split the beer to see what we each could do with dry-hopping. I had several mishaps with bottling, making me label the caps “FML” or fuck my life[4].  The first bottle was opened seven days in at a homebrew tasting last weekend. It was awful, but the veteran homebrewers in the room assured me that waiting it out might result in a better beer. Well, I opened one last night and it is getting better. Hopefully it will continue to improve.

I’m also hoping that the new Bright Eyes’ album will get better. It’s supposedly the last album to be released under “Bright Eyes” and that might be for good reason. Conor Oberst appears to be all out of ideas at the moment. When he did that pre-emo, cathartic thing he did in his late-teens/early-twenties, he was supposed to be the next Dylan[5]. Really, it was some good stuff. Then, he released maybe his best folk album alongside a semi-electronica record[6]. Okay. Then, after a live album and a rarities collection, he went down the alt.country[7] rabbit hole, seemingly never to return. This would have been acceptable as so many artists do the same. Plus, he typically aligned himself with some excellent musicians. Alas, alt.country Conor was not meant to be. He released the regrettable People’s Key last week. I’m holding off judgement to see if it will grow on me, but I’m not hopeful[8]. At least the artwork and design of the record sleeve is interesting.

Speaking of “interesting” album artwork, I finally unwrapped Tennis’ Cape Dory. This album is everything that Bright Eyes’ “effort” is not. It’s fresh, moving, interesting, enjoyable, etc. Of course, one has to get over the awful, awful artwork on the cover[9]. It’s low-fi with that echoey, Phil Spector-ish doo-wop feel and retro vocals[10]. It reminds me a ton of Camera Obscura if they recorded from bedrooms instead of studios. Still, this will be a nice record to enjoy as the weather turns.

And as the weather turns, March approaches. I try not to write too much about the sports-ball in these parts, but I have to address this at least one time before March Madness descends upon us. My boys at Ohio State are the best college basketball team in the nation[11] and early favorites to win it all in March/early-April. They are lead by a core of experienced players that seem to have played in Columbus for 15 years as well as three freshman stars. One of those freshman is Jared Sullinger whose ass[12] keeps defenders off as he puts up 18 and 10 on a nightly basis. Look for Ohio State to make a deep run this year in the tournament.

Something else happens in March…

The first weekend of March in these parts is dedicated to the True/False Film Festival. It’s our very own documentary film festival and it’s the best thing that happens here every year. We have reservations to see somewhere between 16 and 17 films[13] over the weekend (starting Thursday), plus a few parties and live music in between. There will be a full report here and possibly more somewhere else[14]. It’s going to be an incredible weekend this year. I can just feel it.

… feeling it, I feel as though I’m about to have my mind blown. I’ll be imbedded in said festival like never before[15], there are some interesting records coming my way, and there’s a ton of beer on the horizon. So, there will be a lot to discuss here. Come back, even if you noticed the lack of footnotes in previous posts. They’ll be back. Don’t worry[16]. Sorry for the filler. I’ll wrap up the Archers of Loaf oeuvre on Wednesday, plug in something interesting about either beer, indie rock, or both on Friday, an preview the film fest next week.

Notes:
1In other words, I have several barely-started posts sitting there in the dashboard and another dozen or so ideas I just don’t feel like posting. This three posts a week thing is getting tough. Still, dear reader, I feel you deserve better than filler. However, that’s what you’re getting.
2Plus, the design and name scream punk/lo-fi indie rock. There’s no way that there’s a better (fake) brewery out there, anywhere.
3Using leftovers should have been my first clue that the beer would be questionable, but we carried on the experiment anyway.
4I’m worried that there was too much oxygen pumped into the beer, which is not a good thing. Consider that there is a reason beer is sealed in kegs, firkins, casks, bottle, or cans and not just sitting out in the open. There could have also been some unwanted bacteria, but I hope not.
5This never made much sense to me. Dylan’s the superior songwriter; Oberst is the better performer, musician. Still, I hold Oberst in high regard as a songwriter. For me, they are two very, very different kinds of rock stars/folk singers. Any comparison is silly, even lazy.
6The songs were okay, but the musical direction was a mistake.
7I realize it is 2011, but I think I have a statement to make on alt.country in an upcoming blog post. Oberst’s turn to the cow punk is not surprising, nor is the demise of Bright Eyes. I will explain once I piece together an argument with examples.
8Honestly, I hate writing bad things about musicians I like. They work too hard at what they do to be ridiculed by a hack with a blog like myself. That said, I feel it disingenuous not to be honest. I just try to make it a practice not to go on and on about bands I like letting me down.
9Just look at it. It’s awful. AWFUL!
10Actually, everything about this release is retro. The cover looks like it’s out of the early 80’s. The music is 60’s pop and the aesthetic is 90’s lo-fi.
11Some would argue that this is not the case as they have dropped two of their last three games. However, both of those games were on the road to the 2nd and 3rd placed teams in the conference. This was the meat of the schedule where everyone knew they’d lose some games. All I know is the next four teams on the schedule better look out as Ohio State will be on a mission.
12It’s big.
13I suspect we’ll fall short of this goal. That’s a lot of documentary film to watch.
14I’ve taken on a project to help another local blogger get a Columbia blog thing going. I’ve written a post and am formulating the next. I only have to post twice a month, so that shouldn’t be too hard. There’s one in the can on The Foundry Field Recordings, another in the works on a seminal album by locals Bald Eagle, and another will happen covering the music of True/False. It should be interesting.
15There’s the Lux pass upgrade, my name on a guest list for an exclusive party, and a Twitter account that’s not mine. It’s not as exciting as it might sound, but it makes me feel like I’m on the inside of this thing.
16Man, I haven’t had sixteen footnotes in forever. This feels good!

Celebrating Voyeurs

Posted in Film, Live by SM on March 4, 2010

There’s a documentary film festival in this town. The people here love it. Folks either attend or they volunteer1.

True/False is that festival. It’s an eclectic gathering of filmmakers, musicians2, and film-lovers for one weekend near the end of February. Featured are some of the best and brightest of independent, nonfiction film3. Despite the global essence of the films, the feel of the festival is completely local as the citizens of Columbia, Missouri come out and do their part to make a pretty spectacular festival happen.

Documentary/nonfiction films are stories which reveal some truths about the subjects they cover, but what do they reveal about the audience who flock to central Missouri every year? What’s the motivation to see ten or so films historically reserved for PBS or the classroom over the course of a weekend? Why all the fuss?

Nonfiction films take the audience to places they’ve never been, in the company of people they may never know. Not only do they take us to another place, but these films connect us through commonalities only apparent after 90 minutes of film4. Plus, the artistic expression from the filmmakers can be breathtaking5, humorous6, or horrifically disturbing7; all touching our inner-most emotions.

Nonfiction film does all of that and it satisfies the voyeur8 in all of us. The filmmaker is the lead voyeur who takes us in with her camera. We willingly follow just to gain a peak into an existence we might not otherwise witness. Documentaries are a vehicle for voyeurism to flourish.

True/False celebrates the voyeur in all of us. The filmmakers are our vehicles and they receive heroes’ welcomes in the form of parades9 and standing ovations. Bravo! You widened that keyhole and took a snap shot so that my voyeuristic needs could be met! Thank you, filmmakers and festival organizers. I needed to know about that man and his inventions or those boys at their snooty private school.

Whenever truth is revealed through voyeuristic or other means, various perspectives of a subject or argument are revealed. Nonfiction films are rarely all good or all bad. There is a little of both spread throughout the films at T/F. Just like the festival itself.

After living in Columbia for a few years and getting to know how the community conducts itself, I have learned of some of the ugliness associated with the fest not usually apparent to many festival goers10. There are grudges and political maneuvers. A select few opinions are considered in piecing together the festival lineup, limiting the scope of films represented. Folks scream and yell and quit over passes, perks, etc. Of course, the organizers put on a pretty amazing event despite these bruises and black eyes. The festival represents both the best and worst of our Midwestern college town, much the same way the films do for their subjects.

And what do we voyeurs see in these films?

We see the odd11, the strange12, the unimaginable13. We also see a mirror. Nonfiction films reveal the connections we have with people in completely different circumstances. These films are real. They have heart14.

Speaking of mirrors, The Mirror was the first film I saw over the weekend. It told the story of an ambitious mayor of an Italian village located between mountain ranges in the Alps. Viganella goes without sunlight for 83 days a year until an architect comes up with an idea to construct a giant mirror on the face of a mountain overlooking the village15. As mentioned before, there is the mayor who is the optimist, trying to improve life in his town and its residents. Through conversations in taverns, following local hermits through mountainous trails, and sitting with local clergy, the viewer is exposed to the doubt and beliefs of the town’s people. Is man-made progress always good? What does it mean to live in isolation? Can one ever enjoy peace with the ever-encroaching modern world? What are the consequences of man playing God?

The festival’s opening night film was Smash His Camera. The doc follows one Ron Galella, the godfather of modern paparazzi, and his never-ending quest to take the most revealing photos of celebrities at their most vulnerable16. If ever there was an example of our obsession with the lives of others, it can be found in the pages of the tabloids who pay handsomely for Galella’s photographs. Ethical or not, the fruits of voyeurism fills some sort of void in our lives. If we can’t be rich and famous, we can at least know how the rich and famous live. Galella’s photos and the legacy he’s shaped allows us to do that.

Colony gave the festival audience an insider’s perspective of beekeeping, including the disappearance of bees all over the country. Of course, as voyeurs, we the audience focused on the characters featured, not so much the issues surrounding disappearing bee colonies. One particular family of small-time beekeepers drew additional attention. They were a conservative Christian family, trying to get by in tough economic times as their colony of bees suffered17.

The dark side of voyeurism happens when we judge our subjects. One audience member not only judged this family rather harshly, but she threw the filmmaker under the bus as well. The audience member, who may or may not be an art history professor at the University of Missouri, caused the audience to groan as she berated the filmmaker for including the Christian conservatives and even caused one Twitter user to proclaim her “question” to be the worst in True/False history18.

That is not good voyeurism, Ma’am. A good voyeur simply watches19. She never participates or interferes.

I sort of think the audience member was taken aback by the things one of the “characters” had said. She was then nervous to stand in front of so many people and proceeded to spew way more verbal diarrhea than originally intended. It’s OK, she’s gathered her thoughts and has responded to her critics.

Of course, the weekend was primarily filled with the good kind of voyeurism. We were all lost in the moment as we sat in dark theaters while winter finally relented to the oncoming spring outside20. I saw mostly good-to-great films and heard mostly thoughtful commentary from festival audiences.

For a weekend, 10,000 or so folks got to catch a glimpse into the lives of others while safely sitting in theaters, chapels, and rock clubs of their Midwestern college town.

Were we really voyeurs21? Well, technically no. Voyeurism has more to do with watching sexual acts or naked bodies or even everyday things and gaining some sort of arousal from the act. Most of the films don’t exactly titillate on the levels of true voyeurism, but we do arrive at some level of excitement due to the reality and heart these films demonstrate. For some of us, this is the best thing that happens in Middle Missouri every year. So, that alone causes some excitement.

Even if it’s not voyeurism that I’m describing, it’s still rather enthralling to be a part of such an event. There’s a community built around this festival. Intellectual discussions over difficult issues is commonplace for three or four days. There’s an energy in the air. Is it as much a turn-on to watch a good documentary film as it is for a voyeur to watch a woman change her clothes through a peephole? Doubtful, but it’s close.

(Forgot to mention that my review of The Red Chapel is up at MyMissourian’s T/F blog.)

Notes:
1Well, not everyone. There are those that don’t even know there’s a film festival going on, which is hard to believe considering that Columbia, MO has more journalists per capita than any other city in the country. Others who do not attend do not like the pretentiousness of documentary film nor hipsters.
2Although, I have never really gotten into the music aspect. Sure, I love the acts serenading us between films and that Brody Douglas comes back every year, but I’m not shelling out money for a pass to see bands. I come for the stories.
3Sans my friends over at Carnivalesque Films who have done some amazing work since their last T/F appearances. Seriously, check out their docs.
4Which was more the rule, not the exception this year. The one thing I hate about the film festival is the number of unedited, 250-minute documentaries about some dude (usually the filmmaker himself) on heroin while he tries to save his dying father’s pig farm from bankruptcy despite a long history of incest and veganism.
5See Manufactured Landscapes.
6See The Third Monday in October.
7See Food, Inc.
8Don’t worry. I will address this misuse of the word later.
9Seriously. There’s a March March held every year to open the fest.
10None of which I will go into here. I am not interested in spreading rumors. I’m just making a point that no matter how wonderful I or others think the festival is, it still has its faults. While bothersome, these problems won’t keep me from attending.
11See The Devil and Daniel Johnston.
12See I Think We’re Alone Now.
13See Forbidden Lies.
14See Heart of the Game.
15An idea I thought I would work on the buildings running along Ninth Street that would have kept me warm while walking in the shade. No one else thought this was a good idea.
16He was famously or infamously sued by Jaquelin Onassis for getting a bit too close to his subject. She was the one who suggested the secret service smash his camera.
17They rank somewhere in my top-5 characters at True/Fasle ever.
18And that’s saying something. Right before that, at the screening for Kick in Iran, an audience member asked why there was English written below the Arabic on the uniforms and street signs. Really? Are a you third grader on a field trip to an exhibit on Iran? Nope. You’re an old white guy who asks dumb questions of a really phenomenal filmmaker.
19Well, a good voyeur does a lot of things not worth mentioning here. I realize this, but bear with me. I’ll get to that.
20Really. Spring comes to Middle Missouri around the end of February. It was chilly, but the sun made it almost spring-like.
21Here it is.

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