John Hughes, the writer and/or director of such 1980s staples as Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club, died of a heart attack yesterday at age 59. That sucks for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that few filmmakers made popular entertainments with as much heart, authenticity and wit as Hughes, and fewer still did it in the largely vapid genre of teen comedy.
Did anyone else see baby-faced Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes the other night? The 26-year-old multi-billionaire told interviewer Leslie Stahl that, after initially vowing that he would never see David Fincher's Facebook origin story, The Social Network, he took the entire company to check out the film the day it opened in theaters.
How many times have you found yourself with an idea that could change your community for the better? If you had an opportunity to make your idea a reality, would you take it?
These are two of the questions at the heart of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Big Idea Challenge. The Foundation asked Cincinnati locals to submit ideas for improving their communities.
After receiving more than 200 entries, the foundation narrowed the contest down to 21 finalists in all, each with dreams of bringing education, culture, green living, wellness and thriving local business to the community.
CityBeat film critic tt stern-enzi is one such finalist. He hopes to launch WatchWriteNow, an after-school film club devoted to the development of critical thinking and creative writing skills.
“WatchWriteNow started thanks to my work as an independent contractor with Lighthouse Youth Crisis Center and a few Cincinnati Public School after-school programs,” stern-enzi writes in an email interview. “The impetus was to bring filmed content in to high school students, to let them critically discuss works that might be accessible to them in ways that subjects in the classroom might not be.”
stern-enzi hopes to improve education within the community by teaching film appreciation and the critical skills to express it in writing to local high school students. The concept is similar to an overseas program called Film Club UK, which was started by critics and filmmakers in order to bring film and critical discussion into classrooms — not just as an after-school activity but as part of the curriculum.
stern-enzi was inspired by his own high school AP English teacher, Cleve Latham, at the McCallie School for Boys in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“Mr. Latham let me talk about Blue Velvet after I saw it multiple times during its opening weekend back in 1986. To see a teacher grant that degree of respect and authority to a film, to allow an AP class to crack that ‘text’ open for analysis was the trigger for what has become not just a career path for me, but a real life's passion. And I want to be able to pay that forward for at least one of the students I encounter now.”
Now through Sept. 27, the foundation is asking the public to vote for their favorite Big Idea finalist. One winner in each category — Strong Communities, Cultural Vibrancy, Job Creation, Environmental Stewardship, Educational Success, Health & Wellness and Economic Opportunity — will be chosen based on the number of votes received.
“This can't be accomplished without community involvement,” stern-enzi writes, “which is why the voting format for the challenge is so exciting. If we want projects like this as part of the Greater Cincinnati landscape, we must be prepared to support the foundational efforts to get them off the ground.”
The winners of The Big Idea Challenge have plenty of resources to make their dreams a reality.
In addition to cash prizes of $500 to $1,000, the foundation will also find a nonprofit organization to implement the seven winning ideas and provide grants of $5,000 to $50,000 to spring the ideas into action.
One of the finalists will also be selected to receive a grand prize, contributed by the members of the Foundation's governing board.
Voting for The Big Idea Challenge wraps up Friday, and winners will be announced in October.
There is a giant leap being planned for one of Cincinnati's film festivals — one that could make it the city's pre-eminent such event and an impactful cultural occurrence.
The Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival, which presents films that explore the lives of people with disabilities, will be announcing its 2015 schedule at an event next Thursday, Sept. 4, from 7-9 p.m. at Obscura Cincinnati, 645 Walnut St., Downtown. It's free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested at cincyra.org/event/obscura. The event is hosted by actor/performer John Lawson and Q102’s Jenn Jordan. After the announcement, the schedule will be posted at cincyra.org.
For its third installment in Cincinnati, which will occur Feb. 27 to March 7, 2015, the ReelAbilities Film Festival plans to significantly increase its scope and draw more than 7,500 people. Among the planned events are an awards luncheon, a gala and 30 film and speaking events throughout Greater Cincinnati.
While ReelAbilities has been around with festivals in 13 cities nationally, this will be the first since Cincinnati's Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD) contracted with the JCC of Manhattan to oversee the film fest nationally — making it a division of LADD's non-profit operations. The Cincinnati ReelAbilities Festival will be one of the largest. A jury in New York selects films deemed appropriate for ReelAbilities' regional festivals — there currently are about 100. Local juries then make their selections from that library.
All of the film screenings benefit local nonprofit organizations that serve people with disabilities. For more information about LADD, visit laddinc.org.
The Greater Cincinnati Film Commission continues to bring film shoots to the Queen City — next up is Andy Goddard's The Blunderer, starring Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson. The film, based on the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name, begins filming on Nov. 17 and will be shot entirely in Cincinnati.
Director Andy Goddard, who's worked on various TV shows and directed the upcoming Elijah Wood drama Set Fire to the Stars, will take on the 1954 psychological thriller by Highsmith. Another adaptation from the author, Carol, was filmed locally this past spring — it starred Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler and was directed by Todd Haynes. It will debut sometime in 2015.
Producers from Carol are returning for the second time this year, giving major kudos to the city.
"We had a great experience in Cincinnati on our film Carol," said Christine Vachon of Killer Films in a press release. “The Film Commission, the rebate, locations, infrastructure and welcoming people of Cincinnati brought us back a second time within one year."
It also sounds like this will be another production that takes advantage of Cincinnati's historic architecture and temporarily puts the city in a retro time warp — filmmakers are looking for period cars from 1960 or earlier. To get involved with that, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, they're looking for extras (send a headshot and email to email@example.com) and qualified crew (send resume to firstname.lastname@example.org). The Blunderer is set to film here Nov. 17-Dec. 21.
Nowhere has that sentiment been more obvious than at the multiplex, where a smattering of offerings have been pretty solid (Bridesmaids, Fast Five, Kung Fu Panda 2, Super 8, X-Men: First Class) and a smorgasbord have been solidly (if not heinously) flawed (Bad Teacher, Cars 2, Green Lantern, The Hangover Part II, Larry Crowne, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Thor and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, to the pinpoint the most obvious culprits).
Spike Jonze is a curious case.
Born into the Spiegel mail-order catalog fortune (his given name is Adam Spiegel), the teenage Jonze found solace in the skateboard/BMX bike culture of the 1980s. A DIY-bred autodidact with an oddball sense of humor, Jonze’s filmmaking “career” kick-started with a series of crafty skateboard videos that caught the attention of the Beastie Boys, who eventually recruited him to direct their playful, refreshingly lo-fi video for 1994’s “Sabotage.”
A series of inventive music videos followed, all of which were informed by Jonze’s boundless imagination and complete indifference to the flashy, jump-cut-laden techniques that flooded other MTV fare.
The 2009 Independent Spirit Awards were unveiled yesterday. And while the Academy Awards' more adventurous little brother has been leaning toward higher-profile specialty films in recent years (like Juno and Little Miss Sunshine), the ’09 batch hearkens back to the awards’ early days when ultra-low-budget indies ruled the scene.
Has there been a movie this year that even comes close to generating the drama and suspense that marked the 2008 presidential campaign?