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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Greater Cleveland Aquarium To Host Virtual World Premiere of Documentary Film About Coral Reef Restoration

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2021 at 4:34 PM

The documentary '100 Yards of Hope' will have its world premiere during NFL Draft Week. - COURTESY OF FORCE BLUE
  • Courtesy of FORCE BLUE
  • The documentary '100 Yards of Hope' will have its world premiere during NFL Draft Week.
The world premiere of 100 Yards of Hope, a documentary about the unique  restoration of a football field-sized coral reef, will make its world premiere virtually at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 27, at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium during NFL Draft Week.

The film features FORCE BLUE, a team of retired Special Operations military divers dedicated to saving America’s only barrier coral reef.

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Monday, March 29, 2021

Capitol Theatre to Launch Centennial Campaign April 8, Will Open for First Public Screening July 17

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2021 at 4:36 PM

Capitol! Capitol! - @CAPITOLW65TH
  • @CapitolW65th
  • Capitol! Capitol!
Cleveland Cinemas' Capitol Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District will celebrate its 100th birthday on April 8 by launching a $100,000 fundraising drive and a 100-day countdown to its first live screening in more than a year.

The $100,000 fundraising goal is to keep the lights on in both the short and long terms. It's being framed as a "centennial and sustainability" fund. The money raised will pay for operations after a year of virtually no income. The Capitol closed its doors in March, 2020 and has remain closed for the duration of the pandemic. 

“It’s been difficult having the Capitol go dark for so long, but this centennial milestone gives us hope for its future,” said Adam Stalder, Executive Director of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, in a press release. “We’re honored to reunite our community with our beloved theatre during these 100 days.”

In addition, the Capitol will partner with the Cleveland International Film Festival in the screening of the documentary Landfall. The film chronicles Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and the island's fraught history of colonialism under the United States. It will stream on April 8 at 11 a.m., and DSCDO will host a free, online gathering that evening to discuss the film and to "reflect on the Capitol’s many thought-provoking films."

The title for the July 17th screening has not yet been announced, but ticket sales will also go to support the centennial and sustainability fund. The Capitol says it will adhere to all safety protocols as established by the National Association of Theatre Owners.

As for April 8, centennial festivities will be outdoors, with a photographer and birthday paraphernalia on hand. Merchandise and limited-edition Capitol Theatre apparel will be for sale to support the fund.

Moviegoers on Cleveland's west side are all no doubt on the edge of their seat to sample the newly installed luxury recliners in the Capitol's two upstairs auditoriums. The comfier seats were a recurring request from patrons and were paid for with a "Cultural Facilities Grant" from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Drive-In Movie Season Returns to the Aut-O-Rama on March 19

Posted By on Tue, Mar 2, 2021 at 1:00 PM


After a record-setting year thanks to being one of the few pandemic-safe entertainment options available while most of the world shut down, the Aut-O-Rama twin drive-in movie theater in North Ridgeville is ready to emerge from a brief winter slumber come mid March.

The Aut-O-Rama, like other drive-ins, thrived in the summer and fall of social distancing, even as few new titles were released by Hollywood. With specials like a Harry Potter-themed week, they combined the utter uniqueness of getting out of the damn house to do something with some nostalgic pleasures and popular, rewatchable films of years past.

During one week in June last year, for example, the Aut-O-Rama was the fifth-highest grossing movie theater in the entire country, on the strength of a Jaws/Jurassic Park double feature.

Ohio boasts 24 drive-ins, trailing only New York and Pennsylvania for most in the nation.

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Friday, February 26, 2021

Russo Brothers' "Cherry" Is Bad! Enjoy the Shots of Coventry and Detroit Shoreway Though

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 7:00 AM

Tom Holland robs a bank in the Russo brothers "Cherry." - APPLETV+
  • AppleTV+
  • Tom Holland robs a bank in the Russo brothers "Cherry."

In the 2018 novel Cherry, a critically acclaimed bestselling debut by Nico Walker, the protagonist is a drug-addicted bank-robber. The fact that he is also the book's narrator doesn't preclude his portrayal as a really shitty guy: a skeezy, suburban Cleveland deadbeat. Misogynistic. Self-destructive. Stupid to an almost pious degree. Bad news all the way.

What made the book so compelling, in spite of its main character, was its hard-scrabble prose. Cherry was written by a non-traditional author, and its language was pared down to an almost Raymond Carver-esque brusqueness. Plus, there was the thrill of knowing that everything described was more or less real. Walker wrote the manuscript from prison, after all, where he was serving time for robbing banks to pay for his heroin habit, which he'd developed after Oxys no longer cut the mustard as treatment for his Iraq-induced PTSD. Walker's was a tragic, and tragically conventional, trajectory, rendered in the book without glamor or self-consciousness. 

In the film, which opens Friday at the Cedar Lee for an exclusive two-week run before it opens on the streaming platform AppleTV+, the nameless shithead is played by Marvel's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Tom Holland. It's no secret that Holland wants to be taken seriously as an A-lister and is using Cherry as a vehicle to showcase his dramatic range. And while Holland has moments of emotive depth in the film, the abiding impression is that of inauthenticity, an impression that unfortunately pervades just about every aspect of the film. You don't get the sense that you're watching a cohesive story with real characters. You get the sense that you're watching a Tom Holland highlight reel.

Here's Tom Holland as a nebbish collegian, crushing on the cute girl in his John Carroll English class. Here he is in basic training (!), having enlisted after getting dumped. Here he is amid the dust and dirt of Iraq, yanking his pud in a porta-John and then stuttering in disbelief after a Humvee full of his pals gets charred to a crisp when an IED explodes. Here he is throughout the film's grim final hour, pooping his pants, projectile vomiting all over the place, shooting up in the parking lot of the emergency room where his girlfriend Emily (Ciara Bravo) is being resuscitated after an overdose, stabbing his leg repeatedly with a syringe. He might as well be howling into the night, I AM AN ACTOR!

Through it all, though, Tom Holland remains an eminently likeable teenage dude. Unlike the heroin-addicted son in 2018's Beautiful Boy, (portrayed with remarkable texture and grace by Timothee Chalamet, despite the film's weaknesses), you're always on Tom Holland's side. Never mind the fact that he's often giggly and serene when high on drugs. Or that he's chatty and flirty with the female bank tellers whom he robs. Or, indeed, that he's kind and considerate to his friends, his girlfriend and the poor Iraqis. The bigger point is that he is in every sense the victim: both of an unjust war and of an epidemic perpetrated by the pharmaceutical industry. He is the good guy, who even tries gallantly to prevent Emily from going down the addiction wormhole with him. (This is all Tom Holland, in other words, not the nameless protagonist modeled after Nico Walker, who neither asks for nor merits much sympathy.)

Directed by Cleveland natives and Avengers alums Joe and Anthony Russo, the film was adapted for the screen by Jessica Goldberg and the Russos' sister, Angela Russo-Otstot. It's a fat two-and-a-half hours long, not a single minute of which breezes by, and it largely follows the contours of the novel.

As such, Cherry often feels like a series of distinct, sometimes incompatible, movies: a campus romance; a violent modern war epic; a gritty chronicle of life on hard drugs, a la Trainspotting; and then, almost as an afterthought, the bank-robbing stuff.

The internal chapters are marked by bright red title cards and punctuated by dramatic changes in visual style. The whole thing is extravagantly stylized. The Russos have brought their technical knowhow and mammoth studio resources to bear on, for example, drone shots that capture the streets of Cleveland, wacky color palettes and picture saturations that approximate the sensation of various drugs, blood effects and unlimited ammo that vivify the horrors of war. Furthermore, they constantly seem to be playing around, toying with camera angles, aspect ratios, sound effects and narrative gimmicks. Tom Holland bounces between breaking the fourth wall and offering Nickelodeon-style voiceover, for example. During the boot camp sequence — the novel's most acerbic section, for what it's worth — there's actually a POV shot of a rectal exam, from inside Tom Holland's butthole.

Rarely has there been such pronounced disjunctions between form and content. It's like the Russos mashed up their favorite moments from The Hurt Locker, Goodfellas and Requiem for a Dream, imposed them on a messy script, and expected the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts. These stylistic choices might have been distracting in other narrative contexts, but they're especially jarring when the source material would seem to lend itself to a more muted, low-budget look. This is a movie about drug use in Cleveland, when all is said and done.

Need we specify that it is an unpleasant ride? More than anything, Cherry suggests that the Russos' talent for action spectacle — which is undeniable — might be more effectively deployed within the narrative armature of existing TV shows or blockbuster franchises.

Cleveland audiences will be delighted, in any case, to recognize the local landmarks captured throughout. Important scenes were shot in Cleveland Heights, Little Italy and Detroit-Shoreway. And there is something genuinely touching about the Russos' affection for Cleveland and their desire to bring big productions home. One suspects, in fact, that they were lured to Cherry as a project chiefly, if not entirely, because it was set in their hometown.

One can only speculate what else drew them to this difficult project. But for the directors who were responsible for some of Community's most fun episodes, not to mention the enormously enjoyable Avengers finales, it's difficult to conceive of a more antithetical follow-up.   

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Annual Short. Sweet. Film Fest. To Be Available Online For First Time

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2021 at 9:52 AM

As Michael Suglio began to receive submissions for his annual Short. Sweet. Film Fest., he noticed the majority of the nearly 500 films he received fell into a couple of different categories.

“Either the films were clearly made before the pandemic and the filmmakers just finished editing them, or they were clearly made in isolation, and there are a few made during the pandemic,” he says in a recent phone call. The festival takes place from Feb. 24 to Feb. 28 at the Alex Theatre. For the first time in the annual film festival's history, movies will be available online too. “When you watch them, you can often see they took COVID safety protocols because there are only two actors at any given time.”

Now in its tenth year, the festival started when Suglio, who was watching a few bands play at the punk club Now That's Class, realized that hosting a film festival in an informal, club-like atmosphere would be a good idea.

In 2012, the first festival took place at Ohio City's Market Garden Brewery. It has since migrated to the Alex Theatre and expanded to five days. Because of the pandemic, the festival, which will feature very limited in-person attendance, will screen online for the first time this year.

“I had never put it online before but with our Launchpad sponsorship, we could hire the guy who builds our website,” says Suglio, who’ll screen just over 150 films (about half of which come from Northeast Ohio) at this year’s event. “We had to collect image thumbnails from all the filmmakers, and it’ll be very similar to any other streaming service you might be familiar with.”

Suglio says he especially likes Hobby, a locally made film about hobby horse competitions that he says is “really funny,” and Alive Day, a film about a paraplegic who can still swim.

“It shows the strength of the human spirit,” he says of Alive Day.

Both films screen on the festival's opening night.

To celebrate the festival's tenth anniversary, Suglio has also put together a special best of program he's calling 10 Years, 10 Films.

“We’ll show 10 of the best films from the last 10 years,” he says. “I did a Q&A with all of the directors. It was like a beautiful reunion. It was very emotional, and I almost started crying at the end. What’s a little sad is that one of the filmmakers, Rob Lucas, has passed, so [local filmmaker] Mike Wendt talks about his film, Stella.”

If you go to the Short. Sweet. Film Festival. website, you can register for free to watch all the films on-demand. If you want to extend the amount of time you have to watch the movies, you can add the whole month of March for $9.99.

“It’s not only the shorts but Q&As with many of the filmmakers and live table readings that will be on the website as well,” says Suglio. “I’m so thankful for our sponsor who was so generous to make it so we can offer it for free.”

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Grounded by the Pandemic, Dan Savage's HUMP! Film Festival Pivots to Virtual Format

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2021 at 1:36 PM

  • Courtesy of HUMP!
Nearly 20 years ago, syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage, the former editor of the alt-weekly The Stranger, conceived of HUMP!, a film festival designed to challenge his Pacific Northwest readers to "get their hands dirty" and create "good, old-fashioned homemade porn."

The results ran the gamut, representing straight, gay and transgender porn, all of it made by amateurs.

“The idea [for the festival] first occurred to me and a co-worker; we thought that it would be funny to do a call for submissions for amateur porn and have a film festival that could screen amateur porn in a theater,” Savage says via phone. Grounded by the pandemic, this year’s HUMP! festival has pivoted to a virtual format and will remain online until March 6. “There was a lot of resistance at [The Stranger] at the time. No one thought that anyone in Seattle would create an amateur porn video to be screened for an audience in Seattle. Finally, the publisher relented and at least let us do a call for submissions to see what we got. We got so much great stuff that we booked a theater. Then, the question became would people come and sit in the dark next to strangers like their grandparents used to and watch pornography. The screening sold out. The answer to both questions — would people make the movies and would people come to watch them — was yes.”

Initially, HUMP!'s annual screenings were limited to the Seattle area; it then expanded to Portland and Vancouver and San Francisco. Eventually, HUMP! turned into a traveling fest and regularly included a Cleveland stop at the Capitol Theatre when it went on tour.

“The problem is that when it was first touring, it was just Portland and Seattle filmmakers, and those are extremely white places,” says Savage. “We’re so delighted that, as HUMP! has toured year after year, we started to get submissions from all over the world, and it’s so much more diverse now than it was then. It’s a better reflection of the fact that it’s not just white people who enjoy having sex and enjoy showing off.”

Savage admits that the festival has “lost something” this year by going online only.

“There was a real energy when audiences would cheer and clap, and mostly straight audiences would even vote for best in show for a queer film,” he says. “Mostly vanilla audiences would lose their minds for a really kinky film. You kind of lost that. There are people around the world who have heard about [HUMP!], and it didn’t tour to their city, so those people can see it now. That’s been great, but we’re anxious to get back into theaters. There’s nothing like watching these films wash over you when you’re part of an audience.”

Another byproduct of this year’s virtual format is that the live action intro Savage usually records with the help of a film crew became animated for safety’s sake.

“I couldn’t get a film crew together to do live action,” he says. “The animator, Clyde Petersen, who made it is terrific and is working on an animated feature-length piece about gay sex culture. It was safe for me to go to a studio to do the voiceover and him to work on the animation.”

With the pandemic limiting social interaction, Savage received fewer entries this year. That said, he still looked at some 120 submissions before picking the 20 or so films that made the final cut.

“There’s a whole genre of HUMP! films that we call SFM, which stands for Solo Female Masturbation,” he says. “We get a lot of those every year and tend to favor the ones made by the woman who’s masturbating in it. Some of them are made by a couple, and the guy’s not brave enough to be in it and is just showing off his girlfriend. That can be good and some girlfriends want to be shown off. Because there were a lot of people at home, we got a lot of solo masturbation films. A lot more of them were made by the person who is in it. One of my favorite films from this year is Awaken. It’s a SFM made by the person who is in it, and it’s great.”

Savage doesn’t like to pick favorites, but he says there are many highlights to this year’s festival.

Mes Chéris, the film that’s about a transman talking about the top surgery he is about to have to remove his breasts,” he says. “It’s gorgeous and so moving. The film is an homage and a parting gift that he’s giving himself. He allows himself to love his breasts. It’s not typical for the experience of most trans men, who often have conflicted feelings about their breasts. To see someone who feels so differently is great. People were sobbing. I was sobbing when we watched it in the jury room. That one is really great. When it comes to the really DIY films, I thought Final eXXXams: A Quarantine Love Story is really great. Lengua, the one with the beef tongue, is really challenging. Mother’s Day with the breast milk is great. The 20 that make it in are all favorites. They’re all films that we loved.”

HUMP! features porn that takes people out of their comfort zones, but Savage clearly wants viewers to be respectful, even if a short movie exposes to them to a completely different lifestyle. “You can embrace the discomfort or close your eyes,” he says in the pre-recorded intro.

“There’s research that shows that people who watch pornography are more tolerant,” he says. “It’s hard to say whether people who come to porn are more open-minded or if it makes people more open-minded, but what you see in HUMP! isn’t typical pornography. HUMP! is curated for you. You’ll watch stuff that isn’t about your turn-ons and doesn’t feature the kind of gender suppression that you perform or think is hot. You just see what’s different. A few films in, you see what you have in common. That’s passion and desire and vulnerability. What you have in common is much greater, and I think that’s the secret message at the heart of HUMP! By the end of HUMP!, you can see the similarities and what of you is in every film.”

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Capitol Theatre in Detroit Shoreway Unveils Seating Upgrades

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2021 at 1:37 PM

Cleveland Cinemas' west side outpost, the Capitol Theatre, released photos Wednesday of new, enhanced reclining seating in its two upstairs theaters.

When the Capitol reopens to the public, the two intimate rooms will be able to accommodate 34 patrons each. The seats offer expanded leg room and the plush cushioning most audiences now prefer.

The Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, which owns the property and paid for the upgrades with grant dollars from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, said that the quality of the seating had long been a frequent complaint by Capitol customers.

In a letter to residents and supporters of the theatre, DSCDO soothed traditionalists with news that first floor's historic main auditorium has retained all 420 of its standard-issue seats. This preserves a high-attendance venue for blockbusters on opening weekends and special screenings.

"The new seats upstairs are also plush without being too large — you won't sink in so far that you lose the communal experience," DSCDO said, in a note that resonated with us. "In our kick-back-and-relax test, they felt like the best of both worlds."

The Capitol has been closed to the public for the majority of the pandemic. But it had battled persistent low attendance even before the virus forced its hand. Once it's safe to go back to the movies, the new seating options are likely to attract new, and reward returning, patrons to the neighborhood anchor and gem. 

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