We had a chance to talk to noted chef and summer resident Mario Batali about the new Bijou by the Bay and the great film that changed him.
The 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival kicked off in a big way tonight with the opening night film, “Blue Jasmine.” Woody Allen’s dramedy will most assuredly earn star Cate Blanchett an Oscar nomination, if not the golden statuette itself.
She plays Jasmine, a Park Avenue socialite whose life takes a dramatic downturn after the deceptions of her Bernie Madoff-like husband Hal (Alec Baldwin). Forced to crash with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), a grocery store clerk in San Francisco, Jasmine self-medicates with a cocktail of vodka and Xanax, teetering on the brink of hysteria and panic as she attempts to put her life back together.
Her new world is a rude awakening after living a life of luxury in New York City, complete with a gorgeous pad on the East Side and all the jewelry she could ever want. It reminds me of another film that screened at the State Theatre – the real-life documentary “The Queen of Versailles.”
Adding insult to injury is Ginger’s Stanley Kowalski-like boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale) and ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), a construction worker who holds a grudge against Jasmine because her husband Hal swindled him out of his life’s savings of $200,000.
Attending the screening tonight was Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays a San Francisco dentist who employs Jasmine as his receptionist, and whose attempts at romancing her go badly.
A few highlights from the Q&A (in which Michael Moore revealed that the role of Jerry Lundegaard in “Fargo” came down to him and William H. Macy!):
On getting the “Blue Jasmine” job: Stuhlbarg knew nothing about any of the other characters or stories (apropos for Allen films). Woody Allen messenger’d a script to Stuhlbarg, who read it, then gave the script back to the messenger.
On working with Woody Allen: “He has a very strong idea of what he wants. I just tried to show up and do my job and not get fired.”
On his first foray into acting: In an act of serendipity, Stuhlbarg first acted when he was a senior in high school, in Woody Allen’s “Don’t Drink the Water.”
On being in Traverse City. “Everyone’s been so lovely and genuine … my grandfather was in love with Traverse City and wanted to retire here.”
On working with Steven Spielberg in “Lincoln” (Stuhlbarg played George Yeaman): “It was a remarkable time, and I felt honored to be a part of it.”
On working with great directors: “Mr. Scorsese (Stuhlbarg plays Arnold Rothstein on the HBO show “Boardwalk Empire”) loves to participate. Mr. Spielberg lets you do your thing. Mr. Allen knows what he wants and asks you to find your way within that. All of these directors are in love with the process … with a capital L.”
On working with the Coen Brothers in “A Serious Man”: “I would have been glad to do anything with them. Joel and Ethan are wonderful guys. They’re very zen about life, in general. And they’re very generous and let you do your thing.”
After the movie, folks crowded out into Front Street for the after-party, which featured dozens of food and beverage vendors, musicians and revelers.
The Bijou by the Bay Grand Opening was held tonight, and it was definitely what you’d call a spectacular affair – not only because “The Spectacular Now” was the film that screened, but also because it’s just so cool to see the historical Con Foster Museum transformed into a hidden gem of a movie theater, to be open year-round.
As folks filed into the building, you could hear the delight in their voices at seeing the new theater – which Thom Darga and his crew worked like crazy to finish in time – and settle into the plush blue seats. These are just like the State Theatre seats, only blue, to match the beach theme of the Bijou by the Bay.
The murals by Glenn Wolff and Rufus Snoddy are simply gorgeous, depicting the Traverse City landscape and seascape in all its glory. In fact, those in attendance tonight were witness to the “signing of the murals” by Glenn and Rufus. Very cool, and you just knew that this is something you’d look back on with reverence.
Billy Strings and Don Julin provided rousing music to get things started, and the Laurie Sears Quartet created a jazzy ambience at the afterparty, held on the beach next to the theater.
A highlight was the most adorable cupcake display I’ve ever seen, created by Cakes by Lori Kirk. Surrounding an amazingly detailed cake depicting the Bijou by the Bay was a table full of cupcakes dotted with “popcorn kernels” on the top.
The event was sponsored by celebrity chef Mario Batali and Susi Cahn, so you know that great care went into every culinary detail.
Before the movie screened, film festival executive director Deb Lake spoke, thanking everyone for their hard work in making it all come together at light-speed. Film fest founder Michael Moore also spoke, noting that this year’s 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival is dedicated to Michigan’s First Lady Helen Milliken, who passed away last year, and Bryan Crough, who died unexpectedly just a few weeks ago.
Both have been champions of the film festival and Traverse City area, and the audience cheered when Michael introduced Helen’s husband, Gov. William Milliken, in attendance tonight.
As for “The Spectacular Now,” it’s a film that has roots firmly planted in the garden of John Hughes and Cameron Crowe. The story follows high school senior Sutter Keely (Miles Teller; also look for him in the upcoming buzzed-about “Divergent”), a hard-partying high school senior who works at a men’s clothing store and has no particular plans for the future. That is, until he gets drunk one night and wakes up on a lawn with Aimee Finicky (the wonderful Shailene Woodley) hovering over him.
Aimee’s got her own family issues, but Sutter helps her build up the courage (in a very funny scene) to tell her mom she’s going to college, and she helps him build up the courage to ask his mom for his absentee-dad’s (Kyle Chandler) phone number – and then go along to meet him. It’s an eye-opening and life-changing experience for Sutter.
Directed by James Ponsoldt and adapted from a novel by Tim Tharp, “The Spectacular Now” opens wide in theaters Aug. 2, 2013. It has a “(500) Days of Summer” vibe, which is no surprise, since it was penned by the same writers.
Check it out. No one phones it in for this movie, and you’ll be glad you saw it.
I had the opportunity and great privilege to see “Kon-Tiki” at the State Theatre today. It screened for the Traverse City Film Festival founders, and prior to the movie, Michael Moore noted that the audience was probably familiar with the story because we’d no doubt read the book … “if you’re old…”
That got a laugh, and I have to admit, that book was on my shelf the entire time I was growing up, but I’ve never actually read it. Upon returning home, I went on an archaeological dig through my books and it’s now sitting on my desk. I intend to read it. Especially after seeing the movie.
“Kon-Tiki” is based on a true story that follows the incredible story of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who crossed the Pacific ocean in a balsa wood raft in 1947, together with five men, to prove that South Americans – specifically, Peruvians – back in pre-Colombian times could have crossed the sea and settled on Polynesian islands.
It’s an amazing story that had me weeping with joy at times, clutching my bag in terror at other times, and marveling at the wonder of the human spirit.
It’s one of those films that’s a true collaborative effort – great directing by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, writing by Petter Skavlan and Allan Scott (who served as script consultant), original music by Johan Söderqvist, cinematographers Geir Hartly Andreassen, editors Per-Erik Eriksen and Martin Stoltz, and a knockout cast led by Pål Sverre Hagen, who played Thor Heyerdahl.
It won a slew of awards and was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year by both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.
“Kon-Tiki” is not only the name of this film, it’s also the name of the book Michael Moore mentioned, written by Heyerdahl, as well as the raft itself. The name originates from the Inca sun god, Viracocha, for whom “Kon-Tiki” was said to be an old name.
Despite the fact that anthropologists – both in the 1940s and even modern day – do not believe that people from South America could have settled Polynesia, Heyerdahl’s faith in that concept never wavered. His goal in mounting the Kon-Tiki expedition was to show, by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so.
The expedition carried some modern equipment, such as a radio, watches, charts, sextant, and metal knives, but Heyerdahl argued they were incidental to the purpose of proving that the raft itself could make the journey. In one scene in the movie, he tosses some metal wire into the sea, after crew mate Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) warns that the raft will fall apart because it’s absorbing water.
The film shows how unpredictable the ocean is, as the crew deals with storms, whales, and sharks that nearly turn the journey tragic more than once. But it also shows what a little faith and positive thinking will do, despite the fact that this crew was somewhat ill-prepared for the journey. Heyerdahl didn’t even know how to swim.
If you have a chance to see “Kon-Tiki” either at the film festival or somewhere down the line, I highly recommend it. Runtime is 118 minutes; rated PG-13 for a disturbing violence sequence. Watch the trailer and check out when and where it’s screening here.
Here are a few photos from a press event at North Cove Marina in NYC’s Battery Park City in April. Harvey Weinstein and “Kon-Tiki” directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, along with lead actor Pal Hagen, producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Petter Skavlan, and Olav Heyerdahl, Thor Heyerdahl’s grandson who sailed on the 2006 Tangaroa expedition, were all at the event.
Sure, participating in a film festival is a glorious celebration of the cinema, but seeing a ton of films within a few short days can also be challenging!
Whether this year’s 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival is your first or your ninth, it’s good to remind ourselves of a few basic tips to help maintain our energy and sanity from the opening night film straight through to the closing night film.
1. See a variety of films. In your schedule, make room for films from each festival category, as well as both high-profile films and smaller hidden gems. Sometimes those smaller indie films are the ones that catch you completely off guard, the ones you’re still thinking about years later. I never would have guessed that 2006’s “The Lives of Others” would turn out to be one of my favorite films ever, but it always comes up when people ask about my favorite films (it won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film). And I saw it at the Traverse City Film Festival.
2. Mix up the film genres. Include a variety of genres, such as comedy, drama, foreign, and documentaries. That way, you’ll get a good mix of issue-oriented documentaries that make you want to go out and DO SOMETHING, and fun comedies you can just laugh at and be entertained. Check out the new TCFF app to help plan out your day and make things easier.
3. Leave space in your schedule to get from here to there. Sure, it’d be great if we could teleport ourselves from theater to theater, but since the “Star Trek” people haven’t quite figured that out yet, we still need to physically drive, bike, walk or take a shuttle to the next film. Leave buffer time in your schedule for traveling, standing in line, and extended Q&As.
4. Embrace the lines. After nine years, things run pretty smoothly at the film fest, but you’ll no doubt still stand in lines here and there. Use that time to re-group and connect with other filmgoers in line. Ask what films they’ve seen or are looking forward to. Are they from Traverse City or out of town? Is this their first film festival? There’s a whole subculture happening in the lines, so free yourself from line rage and make some new friends there.
5. Don’t abuse the buddy system. It’s ok to save a seat or two for friends who are running late, but try not to abuse it. There’s nothing more annoying for filmgoers than to be searching for a seat and see someone saving a whole row.
6. Don’t forget to eat. We’re fortunate that the film festival offers a good variety of healthy foods at the concessions – everything from tasty popcorn to sandwiches. Still, not a bad idea to toss a bottle of water and a protein bar or two into your bag at the beginning of the day, for those times when you haven’t followed Tip #3 and find yourself hurrying from film to film. We need that extra energy – both physical and brain energy – to absorb all those awesome films.
7. Know your limits. We want you getting to the end of the film festival without having to collapse for a week to recover. To thine own self be true – that is, know how many films each day are comfortable for you and try to stick within that, so you’re not completely burned out by the fest’s end. Then again, you might actually BE a superhero and able to see Every.Single.Film in this year’s fest. Then by all means, you go!
8. Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to be walking and standing a lot. Don’t wear those Jimmy Choos with the 4-inch heels (even if they are the most amazing shoes ever). Comfort, people! No one cares if you’re wearing sneakers.
9. Assemble a “Film Festival Survival Kit.” Carry the biggest shoulder bag you’re comfortable with (a small to medium sized backpack works, too), and assemble a little kit that includes your phone’s car charger (and camera charger, if you have one), sunblock, band-aids, bottled water, sunglasses, hair-ties if you have long hair, the aforementioned protein bars, a festival guide, and a light windbreaker that you can ball up and stash in your bag for breezy days and cool theaters. Designate a spot to keep your tickets, so you don’t have to search through your bag at every venue.
10. Breathe. Carve out a few minutes each day to just take it all in. You’re in one of the most gorgeous places on the planet watching fantastic movies in beautiful venues. Life is good.
The Traverse City Film Festival works its hardest to provide a fun and involving festival for everyone. With all of the panels, movies, venues, film school, parties, there is a lot to keep track of. To make things easier, we have partnered with Yo2Mo to create an app for your smartphone to put all this information in the palms of your hands!
The application has a “Now Showing” feature with a picture, description and location of all of the Panels, Parties, Shorts, Film School classes, and special screenings. This “Now Showing” feature provides an easy way to plan your day.
Lets face it, directions can be a challenge. This app provides all of the venues with a list of maps and pictures to find your next venue easily. The app has a clickable map of every venue , a link to the venue web site and gives you the chance to check in at the location, post comments and share your location with others.
It’s always fun to chat with other festivalgoers and this interactive app makes that possible. The app features a fan wall that allows for anyone logged in to the app using Facebook or Twitter, to chat amongst themselves about all the fun things that’s happening around them.
There’s no better way to stay engaged to all things TCFF then Twitter. Twitter is the best way for us to communicate with all of our TCFF movie lovers. The app will put all of the tweets, or choose only official tweets from TCFF, the TCFF mentions of other feeds will show up on this app feature. We have a Twitter guru on our hands and all of the best and fascinating events happening at that time will go through Twitter and in just 140 characters, you’ll get the full scoop!
The favorites feature is a great way to highlight the films you are seeing so you can easily access them and to revisit them.
The app also provides videos of the bumpers that are shown before the film. The credits portion of the app provides a list of all of our wonderful sponsors that make the festival happen.
Another great feature is the polls. Each day, the app will post a new poll that has questions about your experience at TCFF. It’s fun and interactive!
It’s so easy to download the app – all you have to do is type “Traverse City Film Festival” in the Google Play app account for Droid users or the app store for iPhone users. Or you can just scan the QR code below! It’s just that easy!
The app provides all of the information you need in one place and allows you to easily access the information.
Enjoy our new app, all thanks to Yo2Mo!
If you’ve never watched a classic silent film accompanied by live music, it’s an experience like no other. It’s like going back in time and heading into the future all at the same time. And it brings those great films to a whole new generation.
During the 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival, you have the opportunity to experience it for yourself with festival regulars the Alloy Orchestra, accompanying Rupert Julian’s silent classic “The Phantom of the Opera,” playing on Sunday, Aug. 4, 3:30 p.m. at the State Theatre.
Back when silent films first began, they almost always featured live music, starting with the pianist at the very first public projection of movies by the Lumière Brothers on Dec. 28, 1895 in Paris.
Small town and neighborhood movie theaters usually had a pianist, and beginning in the mid-1910s, large city theaters began featuring organists or ensembles of musicians. Massive theater organs, like the famous “Mighty Wurlitzer,” were designed to fill a gap between a simple piano soloist and a larger orchestra. Those organs had the capability of simulating a variety of sounds, from cymbals to rolling thunder to galloping horses.
The music for early silent films was either improvised or consisted of classical or theatrical repertory music. From there, it progressed to original music with cue sheets from the movie studios that included notes about effects and moods to watch for.
The first designated full blown score was composed by Camille Saint-Saëns, for 1908’s “The Assassination of the Duke of Guise,” and by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, for Stenka Razin. By 1915, when Joseph Carl Breil composed a mostly original score for D. W. Griffith’s groundbreaking epic “The Birth of a Nation,” it became somewhat common for big-budget films to arrive at the exhibiting theater with original scores.
Jump ahead to current day, and music is once again being composed specifically for those great classic films. Roger Ebert called Alloy Orchestra “the best in the world at accompanying silent films,” and we are very, very fortunate that they’re regulars at the Traverse City Film Festival.
The group is composed of Terry Donahue (junk, accordion, musical saw, vocals), Ken Winokur (director, junk percussion and clarinet), and Roger Miller (keyboards).
Their impressive career began more than two decades ago on a snow-swept pedestal in the middle of Boston Commons, where they gathered together tons of junk metal, found objects, and homemade instruments. The goal was to create original music and have fun.
Now almost 22 years later, Alloy has showcased their musical magic in more than a thousand performances, visiting a dozen countries and helping to revitalize the medium of live performance for silent film.
In 1991, they wrote their first original score, for 1926’s Fritz Lang-directed film “Metropolis.” Since then, they’ve written scores for 28 feature length film presentations, including 1927’s “The Eagle,” starring Rudolph Valentino; 1922’s “Manslaughter, directed by Cecil B. Demille; and 1927’s “Underworld,” directed by Josef von Sternberg.
The Alloy Orchestra’s unusual combination of found percussion and state-of-the-art electronics gives them the ability to create any sound imaginable, from a French symphony to a simple German bar band of the 1920’s. The group can make the audience think it’s being attacked by tigers, contacted by radio signals from Mars, or swept up in the Russian Revolution.
In addition to the Traverse City Film Festival, the Alloy Orchestra has performed at the Telluride Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, Lincoln Center in New York, the Louvre, the National Gallery of Art, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and many more.
Read more about the classic films playing at the 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hollywood Sneak Preview “We’re the Millers” Joins the Traverse City Film Festival’s 2013 Lineup
Michigan Native Paul Feig to Introduce “The Heat” in Person and Accept Michigan Filmmaker Award
Additional Screenings of Sold Out Films Announced
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (July 26, 2013) — The ninth annual Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF), founded by Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore, has added twelve screenings to an already packed lineup. Along with additional screenings of sold out films, TCFF will host a special Hollywood Sneak Peek of upcoming blockbuster comedy “We’re the Millers.” Director Paul Feig will be bringing his latest film “The Heat,” while accepting the TCFF Michigan Filmmaker Award and Elaine Stritch will be honored with a reception.
“Tickets are flying out the door fast and we wanted to make sure that – along with additional screenings of some of the sold out films – we had some very special movies lined up to offer to our loyal and growing audience of film lovers here in Traverse City,” said founder Michael Moore.
TCFF audiences will be the first audience to see raucous comedy “We’re the Millers,” starring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis and Emma Roberts, on Saturday, August 3. This very special Sneak Preview will be shown at TCFF anchor venue, the State Theatre, recently rated the number one movie theater in the world by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Joining this preview will be summer hit “The Heat,” directed by comedy genius Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids,” “Freaks and Geeks”), starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. Paul Feig, a Mount Clemens, Michigan native, will be at TCFF in person to accept the Michigan Filmmaker of the Year Award.
Also added to the lineup: two screenings of “Fruitvale Station,” one of the most discussed films of the summer. TCFF audiences will be the first in Northern Michigan to see and discuss this stunning, heartbreaking and timely film.
Due to the overwhelming popularity of TCFF Centerpiece Film “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” TCFF has added a reception to honor the Centerpiece film’s star, Elaine Stritch. Ms. Stritch will host a private party for special invited guests and 80 lucky TCFF patrons. Stritch, accompanied by her personal piano player and the film’s director Chiemi Karasawa, will entertain into the evening as guests enjoy gourmet cuisine and drinks provided by premiere Asian restaurant Red Ginger.
In response to record ticket sales – over 65 percent of tickets sold in ten days – eight of the year’s most popular films have been chosen for additional screenings. TCFF’s only film still to be announced will be the film chosen to break in TCFF’s brand new year-round venue during the Grand Debut of Bijou by the Bay. Stay tuned for that very exciting announcement.
Tickets for these newly announced films and events will go on sale today, Friday, July 26 at traversecityfilmfest.org, 231-929-FILM and at the TCFF Box Office at 128 Union St. above 7 Monks Taproom in downtown Traverse City, MI.
New screenings in the festival lineup are:
Wednesday, July 31 at 12 noon, Old Town Playhouse
Wednesday, July 31 at 3 pm, Bijou by the Bay
Wednesday, July 31 at 6 pm, Dutmers Theater
Sunday, August 4 at 9 pm, Dutmers Theater
Wednesday, July 31 at 9 pm, Dutmers Theater
Thursday, August 1 at 9 am, Milliken Auditorium
Saturday, August 3 at 9 pm, Lars Hockstad Auditorium
“The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology”
Thursday, August 1 at 3 pm, Dutmers Theater
“The Girl on the Train”
Thursday, August 1 at 9 pm, “Dutmers Theater”
Friday, August 2 at 6 pm, Lars Hockstad Auditorium
“We’re the Millers”
Saturday, August 3 at 9 pm, State Theatre
Saturday, August 3 at 9 pm, Dutmers Theater
“The English Teacher”
Sunday, August 4 at 9 am, Lars Hockstad Auditorium
Sunday, August 4 at 12 noon, Milliken Auditorium
TCFF will take place July 30 to August 4. For a full schedule please visit traversecityfilmfest.org.
Social: https://www.facebook.com/TCFilmFest or https://twitter.com/TCFF.
ABOUT THE TRAVERSE CITY FILM FESTIVAL
The Traverse City Film Festival is a charitable and educational non-profit organization founded by Academy Award-winning director and local resident Michael Moore, committed to showing “Just Great Movies” and to helping save one of America’s few indigenous art forms – the cinema. The festival brings films and filmmakers from around the world to northern Michigan for the annual film festival in late July to early August. The festival has grown to become one of the biggest film festivals in the Midwest and one of the most respected in the country. The Festival operates the State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay, as year-round, community-based, mission-driven and volunteer-staffed art house movie theaters. For more information, visit traversecityfilmfest.org.