If I had to name my favorite movie in 2010, I wouldn't hesitate. It was a nine-minute film named Banana Bread, made by two New Yorkers, Barton Landsman and Clayton Hemmert.
As it opens, a young man in his late 20s is having breakfast with his parents. His mother is one of those mothers who constantly, lovingly worries about her little boy: Is he eating too many unhealthy foods? Does he drive too fast? Is he sure to wear boxers instead of briefs so that she can someday have grandchildren? And what is this "freelance" job he has anyway?
She gives him some hot baked banana bread, and he leaves for work, driving along chatting with mom on his cell phone, with her giving advice, worrying some more, and giving more advice.
He arrives at work and continues to chat with mom as he goes about his freelance job … as a hit man. He strolls through a dark and dangerous-looking warehouse, methodically offing one scruffy-looking bad guy after another, all the while talking with mom on his cell phone.
(You realize it's a spoof when the dirty, grizzled bad guys are seen playing cards and one tells the other to "Go fish.")
When the young man runs out of bullets he tells his mom he'll call back later, then opens his knife and slits the throat of the meanest-looking guy of all. When next we see him, he's sitting sideways in the front seat of his car, calmly wiping off his bloody hands with the hand sanitizing lotion his mom put in the lunch sack with her homemade banana bread that morning —"It has moisturizers in it, too," she pointed out. Then he's back on the cell phone with mom, as he munches the bread.
That's it. But this Quentin Tarantino-inspired film had me doubled up with laughter, and you can see why. How many (other) mothers fret the small stuff as their kids face the daily dangers of life? How many kids calmly humor and reassure their moms, even as they live through those daily dangers?
I saw the film at Richey Suncoast Theatre during the local stop of the 29th annual tour of the Black Maria Film and Video Festival, a tribute to the first-ever moving picture studio built by Thomas Edison in West Orange, N.J., in 1893. The studio was called Black Maria (muh-RYE-uh) because the tar paper-covered, boxcar-shaped, movable contraption looked like the police wagons of the day that people called Black Maria. Edison and his cohorts made minute-long films of everything from Annabelle Whitford's famous "Butterfly Dance" to Annie Oakley and some American Indian dancers, boxing matches and cockfights.
Each year, the Department of Media Arts at New Jersey City University holds a contest for short film makers in commemoration of those first, flickering films. Hundreds and hundreds enter the prestigious competition, and 70 winners are chosen in several categories. From those, several are picked to go on tour throughout the United States. And thanks to Marchman Technical Education Center teacher Rob Mateja, a former student at NJCU, and Charlie Skelton, a board member at Richey Suncoast Theatre, the festival came to New Port Richey for one glorious night a year ago.
And because the directors and tour coordinators of Black Maria simply fell in love with the beautifully restored art deco theater — "It's perfect for this," one said after the presentation — and were delighted with the response from the local audience (the place was packed), the festival is coming back to Richey Suncoast at 7 p.m. April 8, with a pick of the pack of this year's short-film winners. Tickets are $5 and on sale now.
We'll probably see narrative films as creative as Banana Bread (though I doubt there will ever be one I enjoy more), as well as stop-motion and animated films, documentaries, experimental films, who knows what else?
Last year's audience got a taste of Black Maria films, and I think we all left wanting more, more, more.
Now, it seems, we're going to get them.
Summer is no longer time for hibernation
There was a time when entertainment shut down around here in the summer. Nowadays, it just revs up.
Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill has big plans for June, July and August, with offerings strongly geared to young people, both as participants and patrons.
First, young performers will work with veteran actors to present the nonmusical version of The Wizard of Oz on June 10-12 and 17-19.
In July, the theater will bring back one of its most popular productions for a third time, The Rocky Horror Show.
The theater did Rocky Horror the first time in July 2001 and had to turn away people who wanted to see it because every seat was filled. The theater brought it back in July 2002, with more costumes, dances and glittery gimmicks — and even more patrons.
This time, the quirky musical will have nine outings, four of them at midnight. The shows opens at 8 p.m. July 7, followed by shows at 8 p.m. and midnight on July 8, 9, 15 and 16.
I happened across the 1975 movie version of The Rocky Horror Show, appropriately called The Rocky Horror Picture Show, on television earlier this week (starring Susan Sarandon), and it was as outlandlishly hilarious as ever. Has there ever been a character as much freaky fun as the Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania, Dr. Frank-N-Furter?
Last but not least, in August, the youth wing of Stage West will present Alice in Wonderland Jr., with a cast of kids ages 7 through 17.
Show dates for Alice are Aug. 12-14 and 19-21.
Ticket prices and sale dates will be announced soon.