Posts Tagged ‘Frameline Film Festival’

Happy Birthday, Castro Theatre!

Folks have been asking where I’ve disappeared to recently.  I’ve been at the Castro Theatre, which is celebrating it’s 90th birthday today.  It opened on June 22, 1922.  This week, it’s one of four Bay Area cinemas playing host to the 36th annual Frameline Film Festival.  I’m a volunteer captain for the festival, organizing ushers and ticket takers and generally making a nuisance of myself.  As soon as it’s over and I’ve recovered, perhaps I’ll have the energy to write a full report.  In the meantime, here’s to one of my favorite movie palaces.  Happy birthday!

Castro Theatre, San Francisco

Castro Theatre, San Francisco

 

My Year End Wrap Up 2011

Another year comes to a close, so now it’s time to reflect back over what entertained me in 2011.  I just looked at the wrap up from last year, to get an idea of how far I’ve come in twelve months.  It’s clear that my focus has shifted in two directions.   I spent a large part of this year with my head in London, after watching the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables in March.  I also headed back to the past in a big way, once I started watching RetroTV and MeTV during a summer of unbearable television on the big networks.   These two obsessions have a major influence on my best and worst list of 2011.

Best Books:  Most of the novels I liked this year were written for children and teens.  I particularly enjoyed Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (the 2011 Newbery Award winner) and Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.  Guitar Boy by MJ Auch and Countdown by Deborah Wiles weren’t perfect, but they each stayed with me long after reading.  My favorite non-fiction book was The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, which managed to make the periodic table interesting to someone who barely paid attention to science in high school.  The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan was a little book filled with some gems, and it goes into the “hard to categorize” category.  The funniest books were Demitri Martin’s This is A Book, and Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz & David Hayward.  The biggest disappointments were The Sherlockian by Graham Moore and The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz.  The lesson here is to give up on Sherlock Holmes in books and stick to the BBC.

Best Television:  The Big Bang Theory remains my favorite sitcom, just for being consistently funny.  The best line: “Let’s hurry up and watch this Star Wars blu-ray before George Lucas changes it again!” (Sorry for the paraphrase.)  NCIS consistently underwhelmed me, and I’m can’t help wondering if I’ll give up on it soon.  In spite of my declaration to boycott Masterpiece on PBS, I still watched and enjoyed Downton Abbey, Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen, Jason Isaac as Jackson Brodie, and the Inspector Lewis mysteries.  I spent my summer wrapped up in the old series Da Vinci’s Inquest, and my winter has been dominated by reruns of The Rifleman.  Overall, the television program with the biggest impact this year was the Les Mis concert on PBS.

Best Twitter:  Last year, Matthew Gray Gubler was my favorite tweeter.  He’s still whimsical and original, but now most of his tweets are links to his tumblr page.  I hate tumbr, so this is a big strike against him.  Sorry, Gube.  West End performer Hadley Fraser can be great on twitter, but he goes quiet for long stretches.  Ramin Karimloo tweets with sincerity, but all those tattoo photos freak me out!  Matt Lucas, Josh Groban and Yigit Pura have been consistently entertaining, and Shah Rukh Khan’s twitter feed has a good balance of the personal and professional.

Best Movies:  I did slightly better than last year getting out to see new films on the big screen.  I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class, The Descendants, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.   I’m not sure The Phantom of The Opera 25th Anniversary simulcast even counts in this category!  At the Frameline Film Festival, I enjoyed Kawa and Spork.  I have many more late 2011 films to see on DVD when they’re released in 2012.

Best DVDs:  I watched a lot of bad DVDs this year, just because they featured actors that I liked.  I really need to get over this habit!  While not necessarily bad, I endured a lot of fighting and CGI in movies like Thor, Captain America, and Centurion, just so I could see actors Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, JJ Feild, and Michael Fassbender.  I tried to watch all ten Best Picture Oscar nominees on DVD, but I faltered at 7½.  I did love The King’s Speech.  I hate to admit it, but I think my most entertaining DVD experience this year was re-watching JJ Abrams’ Star Trek with a friend.

Best StreamingDa Vinci’s Inquest and The Rifleman on hulu were great, even though I was also watching these series on broadcast television.  The worst: when Netflix split their charges for DVDs by mail versus streaming.  I tried a month of streaming only.  It was a disaster.  Nothing I wanted to watch would play without long pauses to reload.  Now that I’m getting DVDs only, the Netflix site doesn’t tell me what is available streaming only.  Netflix, you’ve got a long way to go before you win back my trust.  One free DVD rental for Christmas isn’t enough.

Best TheatreLes Mis and The Phantom of the Opera, obviously, even though I didn’t see either show live in an actual theatre.  I had some fun at San Francisco’s BATS Improv, especially seeing their Spontaneous Broadway.

Best Music:  I’ve spent most of my time listening to Josh Groban, Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons (Hadley Fraser and Ramin Karimloo), and Johnny Crawford.   Another favorite is the song Electricity from Billy Elliot (the stage musical).  Still, nothing beats Hadley Fraser singing Again.  The worst music this year?  Whatever was playing in the trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Gack.

Best Music Video:  It really doesn’t count, but I can’t help it.  I love Josh Groban Sings Kanye West Tweets.

Best Entertainment News:  Following the news from London about West End performers from the Les Mis concert has entertained me at least as much as the concert itself.  It brought me new friendships with fellow fans from all over, and it kicked off the practice of having guest bloggers here at The Ugly Bug Ball.  If I’m blogging less about the West End, it’s only because things are pretty quiet right now.  2012 promises some guest reviews of Ramin Karimloo as Valjean.

Entertainer of The Year:  Last year was easy.  This year, it’s difficult to choose.  Johnny Crawford is great, but he came along late, at the end of November.  I blogged the most often about Hadley Fraser.  He provided me with a rich variety of entertainment, between the Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera performances, the online news and tweets, the music recordings and the YouTube videos.  Still, Ian Tracey beats Fraser out for sheer volume.  Tracey has been working steadily since he was a teenager, and even without an online presence (no tweets, fansites, or facebook page) he provided me with the most hours of entertainment.  I’m going to have to declare a tie between Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey.  Congratulations, guys.  There’s no prize, but you get my sincere thanks.  I’m sorry I can’t promise you my exclusive loyalty, because there’s always going to be a Johnny-Come-Lately waiting in the wings!

Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey

Hadley Fraser as Grantaire in the Les Mis concert; Ian Tracey as Adam Worth in Sanctuary

Next: What I’m excited about in 2012.  Happy New Year, everyone!

Frameline Film Festival 2011

San Francisco’s Frameline35 Film Festival by the numbers: 35 years of history and eleven days of over two hundred LGBT feature films, documentaries and shorts shown at four different cinemas.  A dedicated staff plus over four hundred volunteers make it all happen.  This was my third year helping out.  It was my first time as a volunteer captain, which had me supervising ushers at the historic Castro Theatre.  I wasn’t sure I had the skills or the stamina to do the job well, but I survived all my shifts and made an appearance at the closing night party.  I even managed to see a couple of films!

Castro Theatre, San Francisco

Castro Theatre, San Francisco

It all began with the volunteer orientation meeting.   These meetings are really entertaining.  The first time you volunteer, all the information and staff are new to you.  After that, it’s interesting to see the changes from year to year.  What will the volunteer tee shirts look like this time?   Who’s doing the same job this year, and who is new?  Which volunteers will you see from before?  I always look forward to the new crop of interns, especially the ones who come from overseas.  The volunteer coordinator is Lares Feliciano, and she’s a lively, outgoing person who always makes us feel appreciated and important.  She leads the meetings, and her tutorial on composting is one of my favorite parts of the evening.

Volunteers at the guest services table

Volunteers John and David at the guest services table

My first year at Frameline, I tried a number of different volunteer positions.  The best fit for me was staffing the guest services table at the Castro Theatre.  The Castro is the largest of the four cinemas where the film festival takes place, with about 1400 seats.  It’s a real movie palace, built in 1922.  I love just being in the building.   At guest services, the hospitality team takes care of the visiting filmmakers and representatives from other film festivals.   It’s where guest welcome packets are picked up, questions are answered, and tickets to the screenings are handed out.   This year the team was led by Alexis Whitham, with interns Lianne and Clemence, who came over from France.  I guess I like hospitality the best because I get to meet the filmmakers.  This year, I was particularly charmed by the two young Brits who made the short We Once Were Tide.

We Once Were Tide filmmakers

We Once Were Tide writer Matthew Kyne Baskott and director Jason Bradbury

It was also a thrill to meet Witi Ihimaera, author of The Whale Rider and a producer of the film made from his novel.  He was there with the producer and director of Kawa, a movie based on his recent book Nights in the Gardens of Spain, about a married Maori man with two children who comes out to his family.  This was one of the films I got to see, and it was beautiful and very moving.  I especially liked the two young actors playing Kawa’s children.  One of the other actors, Dean O’Gorman, is playing a dwarf in the long-awaited movie The Hobbit.   Before and after the screening, Ihimaera and his filmmakers went onstage to sing in Maori and talk about their film.

JB Ghuman Jr and Des Buford discuss Spork

J.B. Ghuman Jr. and Des Buford discuss Spork

I also saw Spork, a film about a girl-identified 13 year old with an intersex condition.  She lives with her brother Spit in a trailer park and copes with the horrors of middle school.  The young cast was brilliant, and the script was funny and irreverent.  The writer and director J.B. Ghuman Jr. answered questions during the Q & A, and he was as delightful as his movie.

Volunteer Captains Kim and Coyote with House Manager Ed

Volunteer Captains Kim and Coyote with House Manager Ed

Along with my shifts at the guest services table, this year I tackled the job of volunteer captain.  After shadowing an experienced captain who showed me the ropes, I was put in charge of the volunteer ushers for six different screenings.   Wearing a very attractive radio headset that did wonders for my cowlick, I communicated with the house manager and other staff members.  Once my volunteers arrived, I assigned them duties and gave a brief orientation.  Then I supervised them before and after the screenings as they took tickets, did line control, passed out ballots, and cleaned the theatre.   The most important lesson I learned is that things that are supposed to happen often don’t,  and things that aren’t supposed to happen often do.  As a volunteer captain, you just have to stay calm and roll with the punches.  I mostly rolled, and I certainly learned a lot.  Will I do it again next year?  I don’t know, I guess if they let me!

Closing Night Party at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Closing Night Party at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

The closing night party was held at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, a cool modern structure with all sorts of interesting architectural details.  The special Gertrude Stein exhibit was open for the party.  I really enjoyed the old photographs and the portrait of Stein made from “pixels” that were colored spools of thread.  Another highlight of the party was chatting with Lisa Haas, who starred in the film Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same.  Tomorrow is the Volunteer Appreciation Party, which promises to be relaxing and fun.  I’m already missing the festival, so it will be nice to see everybody one more time.

A journalist for the Castro Courier, a small neighborhood monthly newspaper, interviewed me for an article about volunteering for the festival.  It’s coming out in a few days, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.  (Here’s the link!)

So, that was Frameline35, or at least my little corner of it.  I really enjoyed myself this year, and I learned so much from the staff, the interns, and the volunteers I encountered.   Now I just need to recover, and then I’ll start counting the days until next year!

My thanks to:

Frameline Staff:  Lares, Alexis, K.C., Des, Sarah, Daniel, Jenn, Frances, Alex, Jennifer, Trista, Richard, and Texas.

Interns: Clemence, Lianne, Sam and Nissa.

Volunteer Captains: Holly, Cheri, Kim, Coyote, Andy and Edric.

House Managers: Gyllian, Molly, Ed, Jill, and JC.

Volunteers:  The 2 Johns, Penni, David, Lambert, Joseph, Johan, Katie, Lori, Ralph, Scott, Deb, Maeve, Siofra, Jesse, Mandy, Dan, Donna, Paul, Ellen, Christine, Catherine, Renee, Carolyn, Nikki, Ezgi, Nan, Richard, Guy, LauraLee, Theo, Leigh, Madison, Heather, Roberto, Kurt, Noam, Kent, Derik, Kathleen, William, Steve, Mark, Allen, Ed, Chad, Drew, and Michael.

One Thing Leads to Another

The San Francisco Frameline Film Festival was held this year June 17-27th, showing LGBT films from around the world.  It’s the oldest LGBT film festival, and this year they had an Andy Warhol retrospective and many films from South America.  This was my second year as a volunteer.   I like to staff the hospitality table, where volunteers and staff greet the filmmakers.  It’s great fun, and as a volunteer you get a movie voucher for every shift you work.  Unfortunately, I’m still recovering from this malingering virus that’s been going around, so I had to cut back on my shifts and missed seeing most of the films on my personal list.  I did get to see the opening night film, a BBC production called The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, about a Yorkshire woman from the early 1800s who left coded diaries about her various romances with other women.  It was based on a true story, and it was sure different from Pride & Prejudice

I didn’t get to see the closing night feature, a film called Howl about Allen Ginsberg, starring James Franco.  Franco came to the screening, so I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to check him out.  I’m not obsessed with Franco like I am with a few dozen other actors, but he’s certainly on a roll right now.  The Film Festival showing came just before Franco’s return as a guest star on General Hospital.  Now, I can follow a couple of other soaps (I grew up with a mother obsessed with Days of Our Lives), but I’ve never watched General Hospital regularly enough to follow the storylines.  In spite of that, I started tuning into GH this last week to see Franco.  A few trips over to soapnet and wikipedia helped me to understand key plot points.  A friend who used to watch filled me in on more background character info.  This same friend loved Jonathan Jackson as Lucky Spencer (back in the 90s), so I started paying particular attention to him.  Next thing you know, we’re watching Jonathan Jackson in Tuck Everlasting and On The Edge, and I’m spending hours on YouTube watching GH clips of Lucky from 1993.  And this is how one of my obsessions begins. 

And it won’t end until I’ve watched every video, rented every DVD, checked out every website and fansite, linked up on twitter and facebook…it’s exhausting, but at least with the internet everything is faster.  Before the internet, DVDs, and even VCRs, it used to take me ages to work through one of my actor obsessions.  I would search through the TV guide looking for movies that were airing (yes, kids, there actually used to be movies shown on regular, non-cable TV!) and take endless trips to the library searching through periodical indexes and microfiche machines looking for information.  As a teenager I kept a card file of my favorite actors and all their roles—my very own low tech imdb.  Now with everything at my fingertips on the internet, I can zip through an actor’s entire body of work  in days and weeks instead of months, so then I have to move on to somebody else.

So at the moment it’s Jonathan Jackson.  He’s a musician as well as an actor, so a couple of his CDs should arrive in the mail this week.  His band is called Enation, and I like the brief clips I’ve listened to online.  I have no idea if I’ll actually like a whole song.  My taste in music is obscure, eclectic and weird.  Most people wouldn’t even call it taste.  It was a risk ordering the Enation CDs, but I love ordering music from CD Baby, and their summer sale is awesome (selected CDs, three or more, five dollars each).  The best part about ordering from CD Baby is the email you get when they ship your order.  I would describe it, but I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun.  Just order from them and see, if you haven’t already. 

Enation is doing a free online concert this Thursday, and here’s the poster:

Enation internet concert

I’ll be checking it out.  Hopefully my CDs will have arrived by then so I’ll already be familiar with some of the songs. 

Well, I’ve got to go back to YouTube now.  I’m up to early 1994, and little Lucky Spencer is in the hospital trying to avoid a mob hit.  Tomorrow I will tune into the current episode of GH to see who survived the car bomb.  It’s such a full life.

My Summer Vacation

I haven’t been writing very much lately, because I’ve actually been busy.  I almost forgot what that was like!  These last couple of weeks I’ve been getting ready for some of my summer volunteer work, so soon I will have plenty to write about.  First there’s the GLAAD Media Awards, then the Frameline Film Festival, and then July’s San Francisco Silent Film Festival. 

 I love the Silent Film Festival as an audience member, and each year I consider volunteering for it.  I think I actually did leave a message once about volunteering, but I never heard anything back.  I’ve already bought tickets for the newly restored Metropolis and Capra’s The Strong Man.  Kevin Brownlow is going to be attending The Strong Man and receiving an award.  I really want to meet him, since he’s one of the first and best silent film historians.  Leonard Maltin will also be back this year introducing several films.  I want to see more than just two films, and I wish I could set up a cot in the Mezzanine at the Castro Theatre and just sleep there for the weekend!

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