Monday, November 23, 2009

"American Faust - From Condi To Neo Condi" - A Review

As you all know, I've been attending the Starz Denver Film Festival for the past twelve days (or thereabouts) and have seen many great movies (of which I will write later). I've also been able to meet, photograph, and interview some of the filmmakers. Overall, it has been very fun. That's my overall generic review. More on that later. For now I'd like to get into the discussion of one film in particular.

American Faust - From Condi to Neo Condi

Condoleezza Rice is a war criminal. And she has gotten away with it, whether out of fear of her power by those who should be pressing charges, or by indifference to the atrocities she initiated/allowed/ordered. After seeing this documentary film, which I recommend you do, you cannot plead ignorance anymore of her involvement in torture, pardoning of the Blackwater killers, and starting a war and continuing said war under false pretenses.

The film, by director Sebastian Doggart, takes a more objective approach, tracking Condoleezza's life from her early days in segregated Alabama all the way to her time as US Secretary of State. Along the timeline, as the Faustian title suggests, Condoleezza makes decisions, takes opportunities, that increase her power while her ideals drop off one by one, seemingly without emotion.

There is no narration in this documentary. It relies solely on interviews, testimonials, news clips, and expert opinions of people in Rice's life, with both positive and negative impact. Condoleezza's life is such an interesting story about an intelligent and compelling woman, and if it was fiction I would love the twists it takes. The problem is that it is real and it is horrifying. Left unchecked, power leads to corruption, and in the name of protection, through pre-emptive strikes and enhanced torture techniques, to the demise of any moral standing our country could wish to have.

This is a well-made and compelling film which I would recommend everyone watch. But don't just watch it. Act upon it. Write to your Congressperson (find out who they are and how to contact them here (send an actual letter if you can)). Demand action be taken.

I welcome any feedback, either before or after you see the film. Commit to seeing this documentary. The decisions, past and present, the people in government make ripple through the world. The bad decisions, some made for personal gain, some for seemingly the right reasons but with the wrong tactics, can accumulate into a tidal wave of hatred which we may not be able to stop. We need to act now and hold accountable those who made the decisions, by using the laws we have established so these crimes should not have happened in the first place. Otherwise, what are we but complicit?

You can buy or download this film from starting December 2, 2009 or find out more at Also, you can become a fan of American Faust on Facebook to stay up to date with the film's developments.

I also conducted an interview with the director, Sebastian Doggart, which you can listen to here, or by going to my podcast page at

Next time, I will return to more jovial topics, including my interview with Matthew Bissonnette (director of the film "Passenger Side") and Joel Bissonnette (actor in the film "Passenger Side"), and my interview with actor Adam Scott ("Passenger Side", "The Vicious Kind", Starz TV comedy "Party Down", and "Step Brothers").

With Highest Regard,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Podcast and More 32SDFF!

I'm back from vacation and ready for more excitement regarding the 32nd Starz Denver Film Festival. While I was away (in Las Vegas), I took one new celebrity portroid. Click here to see who it is (Note: it's Jerry Springer (you were going to find out soon anyway)). He asked me, when he saw my Polaroid, if I also have a Model T (I do not).

Before I left for vacation, I had the chance to sit down with George Hardy and Michael Paul Stephenson from the movies "Troll 2" and "Best Worst Movie". We met for about an hour and had a great time. Those guys are very cool and down to earth. I will probably write something up for their combined portroid page, but for now, enjoy this podcast (Portroidcast) I made of our interview.

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If the player is not working, or if you just want to listen later, you can download it here. It will also be available on iTunes soon.

I also attended the red carpet for the Evening with Ed Harris. I took portroids of the co-writers/co-directors of his new film "Touching Home", Noah Miller and Logan Miller. It was a cold snowy evening, so the Polaroids came out a little purple-blue.

There are still five great days of festival activities for you to attend, so pick out some movies and buy tickets. Tonight, I'm going to see Official Rejection. Friday, I will see Please, Please Me. Saturday will start with either Tales from The Script, or Laila's Birthday, then Passenger Side (actor Adam Scott is expected to be in attendance this weekend, but it may only be Sunday), and then closing it out with the Closing Night film The Young Victoria. Sunday, I have conflicting tickets for the Michael Cera film Youth In Revolt and the film The Vicious Kind (where J.K. Simmons will be receiving the Cassavetes Award (which means it will likely be my choice to attend)), then I have tickets to see Buick Riveria, but may opt to see the sneak peek screening (which I am 99% sure is the new Jason Reitman film "Up In The Air") where a surprise guest actor will introduce the film (my guess is it is J.K. Simmons (but don't quote me on that (unless I get it right))), and finally the last film I will watch for the festival will be the new Terry Gilliam movie The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.

I hope to see you at some, or all of these films.

See you there (I hope)!

Friday, November 13, 2009

32nd Starz Denver Film Festival Opening Night Red Carpet Portroids

Last night was Opening Night for the 32nd Starz Denver Film Festival. The film was "Precious" and it was excellent. You'll probably see it when it is released, but if you hadn't planned to, change your plans and do.

Here are the portroids I took on the red (blue, actually, to support the cause to stop child abuse) carpet:

Director of the documentary film "Con Artist", Michael Sládek

Dentist/Actor from the films "Troll 2" and "Best Worst Movie", George Hardy

Actor from the films "Troll 2" and "Best Worst Movie" (director), Michael Paul Stephenson

Actress (and repeat portroid subject) AnnaSophia Robb

Director of the film "Precious", Lee Daniels

Look for more portroids from this festival coming soon.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Business As Usual and More on 32-SDFF

As you may already know from your avid following of my twitter feed, I tried and failed to get a portroid of one of my favorite authors, John Irving. He was doing a presentation at the great Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver (where I have taken many a portroid) for his new book "Last Night in Twisted River". Even though he is one of my favorite authors (previously stated), I didn't even know he had a new book until I saw he was coming here. Maybe you didn't know either, but now you do, and now you have no excuse to not buy his book. Anyway, I got there early and got a good seat. Mr. Irving's planning for quick entrance and quicker exit left no time for any fan interaction (before or after). He did spend about an hour answering questions (pre-written on note cards handed out before the event) and talking about his writing process and new book. His son and grandson were also in attendance (and I think his wife was there, too) and he told some stories about them. As I mentioned a few sentences ago, upon completion of his talk, he made a speedy departure through a back door (I did see Denver mayor John Hickenlooper waiting near that doorway for an equally speedy greeting). All in all I was pleased with the event, but learned that Irving's evasiveness may prove to make a future portroid equally as difficult, but I shall be ever-alert should he make a more welcoming appearance in the future.

Other note. I will be in Las Vegas this weekend, which means I will miss a few events happening right here in my own backyard (not my literal backyard). Hal Holbrook* will be in town for the Starz Denver Film Festival, and Harrison Ford will be here to receive an award at the Wings Over The Rockies museum. Both events I would love to attend. Sorry, guys, maybe you can get your portroid taken another time.

Speaking of the Starz Denver Film Festival, it begins tonight!! I'll be standing near the red carpet if you want to come say hello. I'm the guy who looks like me (for more on what I look like, look me up on

*I got the chance to watch the Hal Holbrook film which will be screening at the festival, "That Evening Sun". I don't really know how to classify it. I definitely liked it. It was a slow film with two main characters that are  both right and grossly in the wrong, which makes for an interesting study. Throughout, you want to side with Abner (excellently acted by Hal Holbrook), but his relentless antagonism (somewhat justified) keeps you from knowing what is the correct path (much like life). I'd recommend you see this film and attend Mr. Holbrook's Excellence in Acting award ceremony this Saturday (sold out, but if you already have tickets ...). Let me know how it is. I will be out of town. In Vegas. Doing things I can only tell you about if you meet me there (probably just walking around, playing penny slots, scoffing at the escort trading cards being flicked my direction on the strip, and whatever else happens there (likely going to bed early)).

Kindest regards,

Monday, November 09, 2009

32nd Starz Denver Film Festival - Pre-Festival Documentary Reviews


So far, I've seen three of the documentaries screening at this year's Starz Denver Film Festival (the 32nd one (beginning Nov 12, 2009 (this Thursday))). Each of them was well worth seeing. As is my wont, I will tell you that you should see each of them. And, yes, I am the boss of you, so go buy tickets now.

Garbage Dreams

I've written many times about my recommendation of the film "Garbage Dreams". I saw it this year at the Vail Film Festival and have sung its praise ever since. That praise shall not be quieted. You will watch this movie and realize how much more you can be doing, and how much every country should be doing to better recycle and reuse our garbage. This film from Egypt is an inspiration (and you shouldn't scoff at that). The Saturday screening is already sold out, so you'd be wise to buy tickets for Sunday so I don't have to shake my head, disappointed, at your laziness and indifference (I'm using guilt as a tool to market this film, because I'm willing to stoop so low to make sure you see it (you owe it to yourself (and to me (a stranger you're likely to never meet)))).

Con Artist

What I cannot figure out after watching the documentary Con Artist by director Michael Sládek is whether the subject, artist Mark Kostabi, is actually insane. So many of his antics, both present and past, are obviously those of a manufactured (and highly entertaining) persona. His eagerness for fame (which he defines as love) drove him to the heights of the art world, to an amassed fortune, and ultimately to ostracization. You will see, when watching this film, the innate talent and perspective in his works, and how he took that talent, coupled with his over-the-top character, and created a brand that is more about the name than the work. Kostabi World is his conglomerate of artists, all working to present new works of art in the Kostabi name and style, guided and approved by the man, though not actually painted by Kostabi himself. It is one of the many ways he has striven to turn the art world on it's head, mocking those who invest in his works and even producing a public access game show where his host of celebrity panelists vie to name his newest Kostabi brand painting. Sládek captures both the manic persona and the man behind, yet leaves the interpretation to us, the viewers. I am undecided. While I am in awe of the ambitious drive and fierce self-promotion, I am also slightly terrified of the man in his tortured quiet moments. I didn't want to look away, for fear of what I may miss.

Best Worst Movie

Best Worst Movie is a great movie, well-crafted with a compelling story and engaging characters, unlike the film its based on, "Troll 2", which has become a cult classic due to it's sincerity and, at the same time, ridiculousness. From the earnest and likable dentist turned actor returned to dentist, George Hardy, to the child star mortified and ashamed upon first viewing of his perfomance in Troll 2 yet fully embracing it in cult status, Michael Paul Stephenson (also the director of this documentary), to the Italian director, Claudio Fragasso, who refuses to understand the amusement audiences get from his film and aggressively derides his actors for lambasting it's production, to the one hold-out in participating in fan events, the mother in the film, Margo Prey, whose homelife must be seen to be believed, the cadre of actors and filmmakers involved in the original movie make up such a cast of interesting studies that at times, "Best Worst Movie" felt like a mockumentary (a la a Christopher Guest's film), with scenarios and reactions so seemingly staged, yet not. The documentary aspect makes this movie just that much better. Without giving too much away, the journey George and Michael go on together to follow the path the die hard fans of Troll 2 lay out for them 17 years after it's release is just incredible. See this movie. Even if you haven't seen the film it is based upon, you will enjoy Best Worst Movie. Both George Hardy and Michael Paul Stephenson will be present at the screenings, so take the opportunity to meet them. They seem like really great, fun, guys.

Don't forget, the festival starts this Thursday, November 12, 2009, with the Opening Night film "Precious".

More reviews to come.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Coming Soon - 32nd Starz Denver Film Festival (Nov 12 - 22, 2009)

Longtime readers will recall that every year I attend the Starz Denver Film Festival and take the opportunity to see many amazing films and meet and photograph (in portroid form) some very cool people participating in festival events. This year will be no different (well, a little different (I'll be out of town for the first big weekend of the festival)).

The festival starts next week (Thursday, November 12, 2009) with the opening night film 'Precious' at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. I'll be there. Will you? Only if you bought tickets before now, because, my friend, that event is sold out. If you waited until now, you waited too long. Didn't I warn you about this? What were you thinking? Sorry. But, all is not lost. You still have a chance to buy tickets for most of the other events (though they are selling out fast, so I wouldn't wait long).

That said, there are 200 or so movies to choose from over the 11 day festival. So, check out the schedule and start picking out what you want to watch. Even if you're not in Denver, you should totally fly or drive here and hang out and enjoy some films you may not otherwise get a chance to see. You won't be sorry (and you'll be helping the economy (double win!))!

The big events this year are the Opening Night film 'Precious' (as I already said), An Evening with Ed Harris (who you know I already met once, but am looking forward to seeing again), Excellence in Acting Award for Hal Holbrook, Women + Film panel with AnnaSophia Robb (who you also know I met a few years ago at the Starz Denver Film Festival), Big Night film 'The Last Station', and the Closing Night film 'The Young Victoria'.

Some of the other films I am looking forward to seeing (other than the ones I already mentioned) are:
Leaves of Grass (one screening already sold out)
Who's Afraid of the Wolf?
Happy Tears
Best Worst Movie
Memory (sold out!)
Son of the Sunshine
Official Rejection
Children of Invention
Tales from the Script
Everybody's Fine
Please, Please Me
The Vicious Kind
Passenger Side
Youth in Revolt
Buick Riviera
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus

Go online and choose some films that fit your taste (and some that don't (expand your view)) and come to the festival. I'll be happy to talk to you before or after the movie (as long as you're not super boring or overly talkative (how about maybe a five minute test conversation?)) about what you've seen or your thoughts on what we just saw. Sounds fun, right? Of course it is!! I apologize in advance if I am super boring or overly talkative.

Don't you dare think I forgot to mention the amazing lineup of directors, producers, actors, and other talent attending this year's festival. I haven't forgotten!! I just don't have time to list them now. I'll cover it next time (probably). (sneak preview: I'm excited to possibly meet Adam Scott and J.K. Simmons)

I'll be posting up some pre-festival film reviews in the next week to help you make your decisions. Look for it!

See you at the festival (Starz Denver Film),

P.S. Please go see Garbage Dreams. I saw it at the Vail Film Festival earlier this year and it was amazing.