Sunday, April 27, 2008


Evidently, film festivals are where dietary considerations and exercise regimens go to die. And they die a relatively happy death — because the Oxford International Film Festival was quite fun.

Do you want the travelogue replete with witty remarks about the preponderance of cows and scary highway rest areas?



We'll hit you with the relevant facts and let you get on with your life.

Lisa and I were stashed away in a primo room at the Marcum Conference Center — the de facto hub of the festival. We were directly across the hall from Donna D'Errico and her two kids, though we wouldn't actually see them until the next day at the Actors Panel.

The first thing we did was grab some food. Actually, the real first thing we did was grab some umbrellas because it was pouring rain. We'd been told to expect a bevy of dining alternatives within walking distance of the Marcum. We didn't realize that the "walking distance" frame of reference used by our host was of the college-kid-in-flip-flops-during-an-artic-blast-who-cares-if-we-get-
soaked-we're-friggin'-19 variety.

Being on the geezer side of the median age range — and hungry — and thirsty — we got umbrellas ... and beer.

The food was good at 45 East Bar and Grill in downtown Oxford, Ohio and they poured a respectable pint of Guinness.

A good harbinger — if you put stock in harbingers.

Our first cinematic experience was a block of documentary shorts — we hung in for one about the mysterious death and disappearance of honey bees in the U.S. The we got hit with one about stock-car-racing evangelical pastors. It was a bittersweet character study that ranged from fundamentalist shouters to borderline- clowns-at-a-kids-party-with-bad-intent. All champion perspirers.

One definite highlight of the festival was the first feature-length film we saw. My guess is that Kabluey will never make it into your multi-plex (or your single-plex, for that matter) and that sucks for you because this movie is funnier than most of the stuff currently on the docket.

Writer/Director/Star Scott Prendergast recruited the likes of Lisa Kudrow, Christine Taylor, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and an utterly ego-less and, frankly, very ballsy Teri Garr for a sweetly quirky and often hilarious tale of redemption.

Remember this movie. It'll be out on DVD soon, I bet. Its worth the time.

Lisa had to make a premature exit the next day — but not before a rigorous night of classic festival boozery with the gang from The Lodge. Our daughter was sick and Lisa — being a far more responsible parent than I — went home to take care of her.

Later that day, I had the pleasure of sitting on an Actors Panel that was moderated by the delightfully no-nonsense director John Putch, whose very funny Bachelorman was in the festival competition and racked up the largest audiences we saw all weekend. The other panelists included Ms. D'Errico, who was in the ensemble drama Intervention and was the target of my shameless pestering since Intervention was directed by Mary McGuckian, who is married to the estimable John Lynch. In addition, there was Rodney Lee Conover (whose stand-up act provided the basis for Bachelorman), Clyde Kusatsu, who's been in practically every movie and TV show made in the last twenty years and is a top-notch storyteller, and Mike Landry, star of the film Frost.

The panel was lively and most memorable for the story Clyde told about getting axed by his agency of 18 years right after doing The Interpreter, with some ne'er-do-wells named Kidman and Penn. It was bracing to be reminded that working more steadily than 98.7% of all the other actors out there means ... well ... nothing to
certain dull-witted agents who shall remain (Paradigm) nameless.

I mean, Clyde was on Ironside, for Chrissake!! And has not stopped to take a breather since. Seriously, what the fuck, Paradigm!? Your roster just too full of talented, gracious and genuinely nice actors who work non-stop?

The Lodge screened twice and pulled a Villanova-Namath-Eruzione-esque upset, sharing the Audience Award with hometown favorite Eastern College. I missed the jubilant celebration at the awards dinner and the (no doubt) witty, self-deprecatingly irreverent acceptance speech by directors Brad Helmink and John Rauschelbach.

I had left that morning — after a final night of free food and booze — a night that saw one supremely creepy, hapless, balding, middle-aged dude trolling the reception for teenage girls with an invite to the "After-After party", which coincidentally happened to be back at his place.

In the woods.

In a lodge, I think.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Game 7

In all of sports – is there any greater phrase than: “Game 7” ???
Well, as of last night, I’m saying ‘yes’ -
Game 7 – Overtime Stanley Cup Playoff Hockey!!!!

On a night when all the ‘experts’ were picking the Washington Capitals to knock out the Philadelphia Flyers from the Stanley Cup Playoffs – a funny thing happened on the way to The Cup: The Flyers dug deep down and performed the one act that truly makes sports great: The Upset!

Game 7, Sudden Death Overtime; on the Capitals home ice; I was on my feet, my wife had to leave the room for her own sanity, my son learned a few new words (I’m guessing that’s the reason that my wife left the room), and after the Caps third period domination of the The Flyers, Joffrey Lupul slipped an overtime rebound shot by Caps goalie, Cristobal Huet. (Note to Cristolbal: You played great – your defense didn’t clear the zone.)

As SI. com posted: Thanks to a wise pair of old-time referees, Don Koharski and Paul Devorski, the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals were allowed to play old-time hockey -- Hudson Bay rules, anything goes -- starting late in the second period of Game 7. Frankly, the post-lockout NHL never looked better. This was whatever-it-takes hockey, fully caffeinated, not the little-tug-on-the-arm-penalty hockey that has taken some of the oomph from the game since the 2004-05 lockout. If there is a degree of situational ethics to all of this -- often a penalty in the first period ceases to be a penalty in the third in a playoff game -- well, that was good enough for generations of NHL players. And it seemed to suit the teams Tuesday night.

Note to Alex Ovechkin: (for those who don’t follow the NHL: Ovechkin is the top goal scorer in the NHL for the last few years): I’ll raise a pint in your honor, sir. After a hard fought series, with your team coming out on the losing end, you skated to center ice and applauded your fans for all of their support. Classy move.

It was a game that folks will talk about for years. Congratulations to the Flyers for a great win. A tip of the hat to the Caps for a great series. Now … Philadelphia travels up to Montreal to take on the #1 seeded Canadians … yikes!!!

Go Flyers!!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Last Lecture

As it so often happens – I have been shown by someone else that this is a HUGE world – and that I am only beginning to understand the true power of that it contains.

I have tried to live my life (as moody as an Irishman can be) by always looking for something good in any situation that I encounter. Call it “The Patty Syndrome” if you will. Well, as I happily found out yesterday, I am just a student at this style of thinking. Last night I was schooled by the master.

If you have not yet heard about “The Last Lecture” – read on. I can not wait to read this man’s book – and I’ll be watching all of his video today.

The video (or at least his part, is an hour long) you can find it here:

Life … It Is A Gift To Be Celebrated Every Day,

And Feel Free To Hug A Stuffed Animal Today !!!
(That’ll make sense when you see this guy talk!)

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.

He motioned to them to sit down. "Make me earn it," he said.

In September 2007, Randy gave a final lecture to his students at Carnegie Mellon that has since been downloaded more than a million times on the Internet. "There's an academic tradition called the 'Last Lecture.' Hypothetically, if you knew you were going to die and you had one last lecture, what would you say to your students?"

Randy says. "Well, for me, it wasn't hypothetical. What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?”

It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O'Connor recently titled her lecture "Get Over Yourself." At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled "Desire," spoke about sex and technology.

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.

Clicking through photos of himself as a boy, he talked about his childhood dreams: to win giant stuffed animals at carnivals, to walk in zero gravity, to design Disney rides, to write a World Book entry. By adulthood, he had achieved each goal. As proof, he had students carry out all the huge stuffed animals he'd won in his life, which he gave to audience members. After all, he doesn't need them anymore.

He paid tribute to his techie background. "I've experienced a deathbed conversion," he said, smiling. "I just bought a Macintosh."

Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things."

He encouraged us to be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you."

After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he'd drawn on the walls, he said: "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it."

While displaying photos of his bosses and students over the years, he said that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own. He talked of requiring his students to create videogames without sex and violence. "You'd be surprised how many 19-year-old boys run out of ideas when you take those possibilities away," he said, but they all rose to the challenge.

He also saluted his parents, who let him make his childhood bedroom his domain, even if his wall etchings hurt the home's resale value. He knew his mom was proud of him when he got his Ph.D, he said, despite how she'd introduce him: "This is my son. He's a doctor, but not the kind who helps people."

He then spoke about his legacy. Considered one of the nation's foremost teachers of videogame and virtual-reality technology, he helped develop "Alice," a Carnegie Mellon software project that allows people to easily create 3-D animations. It had one million downloads in the past year, and usage is expected to soar.

"Like Moses, I get to see the Promised Land, but I don't get to step foot in it," Dr. Pausch said. "That's OK. I will live on in Alice."***

***Editor's Note: Most of this was taken from an article in the NY Times.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Do you know who Harold Lloyd is? He is the least known of the three silent-film-era comic geniuses.

There is Charlie Chaplin. There is Buster Keaton. And there is Harold Lloyd.

Chaplin and Keaton remain household names; brands even.

It is Harold Lloyd, though, who is the father of the romantic comedy. He pioneered the film image of the regular guy — a living, breathing person we recognize — who gets caught up in all kinds of wackiness as he tries to get the most basic things — the girl, friends, a decent job.

Harold Lloyd made roughly a gazillion films — shorts and feature length. Although routinely labeled a movie snob in this space — I had never actually seen a Harold Lloyd film until Wednesday night.

Oh, I had seen DVD cases in which Harold Lloyd's films were kept. The things are found in abundance around the home of Joe Furey and Alison Brown — two of the most generous and hospitable human beings on the planet, by the way.

Joe and Alison graciously board me at their wonderful residence anytime I am in Los Angeles — often at a moment's notice. They, in short, save my ass repeatedly and are great company besides. Alison is a recently minted Phd and a clinical psychologist. Joe is a writer/director/actor of much renown and one of only a handful of people who have made me injure myself through excessive laughter.

Joe's love of vintage comedy films is boundless and yet he'll never force it on you. Therefore, any time we watch movies together, its up to me. And I never pick Harold Lloyd — or anything silent. I didn't get it. I was convinced it wouldn't be all that funny.

I was wrong.

I was dead wrong.

I was as wrong as a Taco Bell/Sierra Nevada Pale Ale hangover fart in a crowded New Orleans greenhouse.

On April 2 Joe invited me to a screening of The Freshman at the AFI Institute up in the Hollywood Hills. The crowd was Joe and I and a flock of young filmmakers — plus Harold Lloyd's granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd, who is in charge of all her grandfather's films and has made it her life's work to bring his films to the public.

The Freshman is hilarious. It is the direct ancestor of — and way funnier than — Adam Sandler's The Waterboy. It also had to be an enormous influence on the current George Clooney effort Leatherheads.

The next day, Joe and I watched Safety Last! — it has the one Harold Lloyd image I was already familiar with:

And Safety Last! was as funny as The Freshman.

Maybe alot of you are already hip to Harold Lloyd but I'm going to assume that you are as pig-headed as I have been.

In The Freshman and Safety Last1, Harold Lloyd brings something recognizable to the screen. His comedy — often rigorously physical — always has the bite of reality. And subtlety. Lloyd was no ham. He was just funny, inventive and a great actor.

Take a break from Fool's Gold, Run, Fatboy, Run, and Drillbit Taylor and enjoy the genuine article.

Harold Lloyd — the funniest man ever to wear glasses.