Prom Night

If you’ve just clicked over from our review of Jason X, you might be wondering if this is another piece of film criticism. But, no – this is indeed the new editorial, inspired by stepson Robert’s departure earlier this evening for his school prom. This is his first effort at such things – the junior version is really a dress-rehearsal, since he’ll get another in 2003, his senior year, allowing him to make all the screw-ups now, without them really mattering. This is why he is going to the prom with two girls…neither of whom are his actual girlfriend (it’s a long story), and is also why Chris was frantically driving round town at 4pm this afternoon, trying to find flowers.

There was a certain amusement value to be had from assisting Robert – a guy whose idea of dressing up is closer to “clean T-shirt” than “tux ‘n’ tails” – as he struggled with the intricacies of cufflinks, bow-tie and buttonhole. Not that I was much help, having worn a tie of any sort precisely once, I think, since coming out here, and cufflinks are solely part of some obscure genetic memory. I possess a lovely pair of TC cufflinks which Chris had made for me, but unfortunately, possess precisely no shirts with which I can use them. Still, we made it in the end, sending him out into the world looking the picture of elegance – albeit somewhat uncomfortable elegance, running a finger round his collar in an effort to breathe more easily.

The whole prom night thing is terribly un-British, much like the concept of ‘graduating’ from high school – we just tend to walk out and not look back, usually with a thought best summarised as “thank god that’s all over”. I’m a little concerned about Robert, as both graduation day and prom night tend to be associated in my media-influenced mind with some kind of disaster. For example, we have the local mayor turning into a giant snake and eating the pupils (Buffy), a peeved telekinetic wreaking havoc (Carrie) or an upset student coming back to her old school for revenge (Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2). In light of events yesterday in Germany, the last plotline seems particularly ominous…

I’m sure no such misadventures will befall Robert, however. Chris would be very upset – not least since we went out and bought a new closet organiser for him this evening. If he gets eaten by a giant snake, she’ll have wasted her time and energy (not to mention a wide selection of colourful expletives) in making it. I hope he appreciates her effort. I confess to feeling guilt at not being in there with her, assisting in the assembly. But her repertoire of curses is far superior to mine, since she possesses an entire second language-worth. So I can see it all going horribly wrong, and even causing a temporary-but-severe fracture in our relationship, which is not something you want when there are power tools about.

Besides, it’s not called “do it yourself” for nothing… 🙂

One Angry Man

Until the weekend, I was under the impression that I’d largely managed to sneak under the radar as far as American officialdom was concerned. Sure, I’d had a million and one hoops to jump through to GET here, but now they’d finally let me in, I intended to live a quiet, monastic life. I wouldn’t bother the government, and the government wouldn’t bother me. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the court system in Maricopa County, which is why I received a summons for jury service on Saturday morning.

They were clearly keen to have me, and even included a bus-ticket – one-way! – so that not even mechanical failure could prevent me attending. And they were prepared to pay me too: the princely sum of $12 for each day, an entirely appropriate sum given the extent of my legal knowledge is two years spent sharing a flat with a law student.

I have to say, though – my first reaction was “Cool!”. I guess I’d always harboured secret dreams of being involved in a pivotal trial that would change the very fabric of life forever. Of course, the reality would probably involve something very mundane and tedious, involving the theft of a bicycle. But even so, you still hold someone’s reputation in your grasp; would I have the moral fibre to weigh the evidence, make up my mind regardless of external pressures, and live with myself afterwards?

Unfortunately, we’ll never know. Reading the small print, to my disappointment, it stated that all jurors had to be citizens of the United States. Dammit. What about the right to be judged by your peers? Shouldn’t we immigrants be able to face our fellow newcomers, who can understand the pressures and struggle of life in a foreign land? Admittedly, here in Phoenix, this would probably mean a jury composed of six Marias and five Joses, trying to communicate with a very confused Scotsman whose knowledge of Spanish is limited to “dos cervezas, por favor”, but there you go.

Suspect it’s probably a good thing; the risk of getting lumbered with a long trial, at $12/day, was just too much, and I can see why Chris was pleased it was me rather than her that got the call-up. Little wonder the justice system in America is universally regarded as broken; you pay peanuts to jurors, you’ll get a bunch of monkeys. Though it would probably prove quite easy to limit your tour of duty to a single day. Simply adopt the sort of mannerisms which would bring any defence attorney to their feet in an instant, objecting to your very presence in the court building on the grounds it would prejudice things against their client.

Subtlety is not necessary here; indeed, the more you act like a total loony (preferably from the “Kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out” brigade), the better your chances. Talking fervently into space is probably good, maybe with the odd half-heard profanity. Acquire a nervous tic. Address everyone as “your honour”. Carry a Bible. Hey, just use your imagination here – you’ll be home in plenty of time for tea, bus-ticket or no bus-ticket.

2nd Phoenix Film Festival: AMC Arizona Center, April 5th-7th, 2002

It’s spring, and a young man’s thoughts inevitably turn to…spending all day in the dark. Yep, it’s film fest time again, with Arizona’s own Phoenix Film Festival, back for its second year. For some reason, they invited us back too. Guess we’re not trying hard enough. 🙂

Things were slightly different from last year; fewer films, I think, but more chances to see them, which works fine for us harried acolytes who are making (inevitably futile) attempts to see everything. The staggered start times were a bit of a mixed blessing – while it does reduce the crush to get in when you don’t have three films beginning simultaneously, it occasionally led to perilous rushing between screens. Still, some things were the same as last year. The venue for one, though the Arizona Center seemed a good deal more…well, vacant than last year, exemplified by a food court where two-thirds of the units are unoccupied.

Not much better luck in the cinema, where the concession stands seemed wildly unprepared for people actually wanting snacks at 11am in the morning. We felt particularly bad about forcing the director of Jane White is Sick and Twisted to chase after us, waving a press-pack, as we sprinted off in search of something edible. Hopefully, he’ll understand that man cannot live by popcorn alone.

Sarah Graham Hayes from Dead Dogs Lie
Pic by Dennis Yeandle

Was delighted to see the punctuality of the festival remained as eccentric as ever – this is not an event for the fastidious clock-watcher, shall we say. Some of this was self-inflicted by the organisers: if you schedule a 100 minute film for noon, it’s a bit optimistic to have the next begin at 1:30pm! As a result, events started anywhere up to 45 minutes late, but the great thing is…no-one minded – all the more time to chat. And, as last year, without exception, people were more than happy to hang round and talk, a delightful change from bigger events where guests get bussed in, and escorted out. Mind you, could have done without the house lights coming up four separate times in the middle of one poor movie – it’s not like we were having sex or anything.

We crammed in seven films in a day and a half. It would have been eight, but an accident on Highway 51 delayed our arrival – just one of several oddities that weekend, including my receipt of a summons for jury service (dammit, you have to be a U.S. citizen, so no Twelve Angry Men role for me). Also caught the high-school short film program, which was a wide mix between the unexpected – Taken Away featured martial arts choreography worthy of a Hong Kong movie – and the…well, let’s just say a couple of the makers probably took time out from writing bad poetry in their bedrooms.

The regular features were, almost without exception, impressive. It’s immensely sad to realise the hard part is no longer making a movie, it’s giving anyone else the chance to see it. I have no doubt at all that if films like Drop Dead Roses or Dead Dogs Lie got to open in 3,000 screens across the continent, they would royally kick the arse of Van Wilder. That they get no such opportunity is unutterably sad – check out last year’s report, and see how few of 2001’s movies got any distribution. The organisers did get one foreign language film into this year’s festival, something I’d like to see more of – if chances to see low-budget English-language movies are thin on the ground, for overseas ones they’re effectively zero.

Maybe next year they’ll even expand it out beyond a weekend – with 300 submissions this year, there’s clearly a demand for a festival like this, and personally, I’m perhaps better equipped for stamina than a sprint (I always seem to end up wanting to lie down in a well-lit room for a while, having had quite enough of darkened ones). This is probably just me being greedy though; why have a weekend of fun when you can get a whole week?

[Thanks once again to Golan and everyone else at the PFF for their help and assistance, the film-makers for unfailing friendliness, even in the face of…er, us, and co-editor Chris Fata for dealing with ACT tests, suffering through another bout of shaky-cam nausea, and being everything one could want. And she’s all mine, hahaha!]

Phoenix 2003? Hell, yeah! Can’t wait!
Visit the Phoenix Film Festival website.

Festival Reviews

TC Awards

  • Best Film: Dead Dogs Lie and Jane White is Sick and Twisted – tie
  • Best Actor: Eddie McGee, Drop Dead Roses
  • Best Actress: Kris Carr, Five Years
  • Best Ensemble: Tommy Flanagan, Gary Stretch, Sarah Graham Hayes, Dead Dogs Lie
  • Best Director: David Michael Latt, Jane White is Sick and Twisted
  • Best Supporting Actor: Chris Hardwick, Jane White is Sick and Twisted
  • Best Supporting Actress: Barbi Castelvi, Drop Dead Roses
  • Best Script: David Warfield, Ocean Park

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

The temperature here in Phoenix is rising – 34C yesterday again. The swamp-cooler is going full blast. An ice-cream truck has just gone past, chimes blaring – or maybe these mobile phone rings are really getting out of control. The shorts have been broken out, and all black T-shirts will shortly be put at the back of the closet. What better time to start growing a beard?

Er, or perhaps not. The experiment with facial hair has officially ended, and I have returned to my usual, moderately clean-shaven self. It all began out of sheer laziness, really, simply by not bothering to shave at all. I’ve done this before, but never for long enough to make much of a difference. Most of my facial hair is blond, so it took about a week’s concerted razor avoidance before anyone at all noticed, usually with a quizzical “Didn’t you shave this morning?”.

The sole exception to this is my top lip which, for some reason or other, is dark. So, to actually reach proper bearded status, I had to go through the “slug lurking above my mouth” phase, which was so horrific I never managed it before. But now, being self-employed and working from home, I no longer have to bear the sarcastic slings and arrows of outrageous co-workers – just the stepkids Robert and Emily, and as usual, I just ignore them…

The only person whose opinion really mattered was Chris, my beloved. She was unconcerned by it all, despite her own relentless pursuit of smoothness which goes far beyond mine – need I say any more than “wax” here? – and stood by me through the aforementioned slug stage, till my actual beard became visible to the naked eye. Despite commenting that the photo at left looks like Tom Green, she thought it made me look “mature”, which I felt kinda ambivalent about, since this might be a polite way of saying “old”. Besides, I revel in my immaturity…

There were also more practical problems to be faced. The basic point of not shaving was to save time and effort, but short of letting it all go, I still had to tame the fiddly bits on my cheeks and neck. Given I shave in the shower, without the benefit of my contact lenses or a mirror, it was really one of those disasters waiting to happen. It was surely only a matter of time before a careless slice destroyed the work in progress, and forced me to begin again from scratch.

There was also the problem of food. I really don’t know how bearded people manage to avoid leaving half their portion entangled below their mouths. Maybe this is why there are so many bearded real ale enthusiasts – it’s the only form of nourishment they are physically able to consume. Curry, pasta, virtually all my favourite foods seemed to pose insufferable difficulties, and we’ll draw a veil over the whole Cinnamon Bun Incident, if you don’t mind.

In the end, it was all too much of a cross to bear, and though she professed neutrality, if the truth be told, I think Chris secretly preferred the smoother me. So it came off, and I’m now back to my normal range, between clean-shaven and medium stubbly. And me, I’m looking forward to a LARGE bowl of pasta.