Texas Vodka and Candles Lit for Santo Cthulhu

Cafe Cinema is back at the Radius Center, downtown San Antonio. The good folks of NALIP, San Antonio (the local chapter of the National Association of Latino Producers, an organization of which I am one of the executive officers) sponsors this screening event. We’d placed it on hiatus while the Radius was working to bring in a new tenant to run their cafe. The place can seat about a hundred people. Friday night it was nice to see some dear friends who I hadn’t been around much for a couple of months. What with the holidays and a stint working in Dallas, I’d fallen out of touch with my fellow NALIPsters. The evening began with a block of Mexican short films which I believe Drew Mayer-Oakes, the San Antonio Film Commissioner, brought back from the Monterrey Film Festival. I arrived a bit late, so I only got to see one and a half. What I saw looked good.

After a slight intermission–when some Texas brand of Vodka was passed around to the unfortunately small crowd–we turned to the feature. “Yveete” (that’s right, not Yvette). I’d seen this wonderful film at last year’s CineFestival. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if I saw it projected on a screen, or at home on TV–I was one of the judges, and I was given screener DVDs as well as opportunities to view the pieces at the venue, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.

The film holds up well to multiple viewings. It’s sweet and bursting with chingos of heart. It starts out slow. The fact that it was shot on DV is a bit off-putting. But once the action shifts from Oklahoma to Mexico, it really kicks into high gear. I think this is because of two reasons. First, low budget films shot on digital video usually look like shit…but if they’re intelligently constructed and have a strong script you eventually move beyond the initial format prejudice, and it becomes just another time-based visual narrative. But there’s the added bump that once we get to Mexico, we’re given this richer visual pallet (because Mexico is a beautiful country); and, also, the protagonist has to deal with a culture alien to her See, we, the audience, now have sudden conflict: and we always respond well to conflict.

The production standers are pretty low; few if any of the actors are professionals; and, though I love the story, the writing isn’t really that strong. But, for a budget ot 10 grand, it’s an impressive piece. Yveete has an emotional honestly that gets under your skin and clutches at your heart no matter how cynical you might be. It was produced by a young couple from Oklahoma. Rogelio Almeida Marquez and Nora Contreras-Almeid. According to IMDB, he’s the director, she’s the writer and main actress (Yveete).

Track it down and give it a watch. If it seems slow at first, wait. You’ll be glad you did. There are two wonderful low budget films I saw in 2009 I want every one to see. “Yveete,” and “Happy Birthday Harry Malden.”

Take a stroll, at times, outside of the mainstream. There’s great stuff out there.

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Before heading off to Cafe Cinema, I met Russ at C4 Workspace (where I had been holding down the fort–Todd and Debbie had headed to Austin to attend some sort of co-working summit). Russ and I walked over to Tito’s for some of their renowned enchiladas. Russ brought me up to speed about what’s been going on at the Film School of San Antonio (AKA, the media department at Harlandale high school) since the legendary George Ozuna left. Just another simple San Antonio session of chisme. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. San Antonio doesn’t run on money, political influence, insider pandering, nepotism, or the good ol’ boy network–nope. (Well, there is some of that.) This city’s white-hot inner engine is fueled by good ol’ fashioned grade “A” chisme–and to translate, I’m talking about balloon juice, chin music, you know, the gossip grapevine. Within the San Antonio arts and cultural community I feel confident in boasting that I have a solid 7 rating (out of 10) of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. And though I don’t always share the particulars of this info, I can say quite freely, most everyone with pull and power in the San Antonio arts world is fucking nuts.

I was at an art opening the other week. My good friend Ramon Vasquez y Sanchez was showing several of his paintings at a group show at the SAVA gallery downtown. I was sipping a fine vintage of boxed wine and standing there with Ramon and Deborah (we three being the core of Proyecto Locos, a sort of ad hoc art collective) when a certain local art curator walked in with his entourage. One of his sycophants, a man of about 50 with wire-frame glasses, a goatee, and turtleneck (he’s what Mel Brooks would get if he requested from Central Casting a “Middle-Aged Sensitive Bohemian circa Beatnik, USA”). This fellow walked up to Ramon and made some comment about how he loved the art scene in San Antonio, because, “all the artists are supportive of one another.” Even though he had not acknowledged me, I thought I’d weigh in. “You gotta be kidding,” I said. “Us artists in San Antonio all hate each other.” The guy shot me a nasty glance, and decided to continue ignoring me. He kept talking with Ramon about this and that. I have to assume Ramon heard my comment, because I saw that sneaky little smile he lets out when a grumpy troublemaker mutters something true.

Many of us do indeed hate one another, but we all still work together. Within the San Antonio creative community there are no real enemies. We’re a family. And in families, one usually tolerates the occasionally hateful relationship. Because you’re all tied together, you do your best to work together for a greater good. Truth be told, I’d say that in the San Antonio art scene it’s not that bad to be hated. Yes, it’s better to be loved. But if folks are hating on you, they’re at least still talking about you. It’s the fucking kiss of death to be ignored…to be seen as inconsequential. Brrr….

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When I was very young I used to suffer fairly dramatically from asthma. For the most part, I grew out of it by middle school. There were inhalers, pills, and even, for a while, injections, which my mother would give me. I say it’s over, but actually the asthma still creeps back at times, very mildly. Almost always in the colder winter weather. Add strenuous activity to a cold day, and that’s when it’s most likely to pop up. This is one of the reasons I don’t usually go for long bike rides unless it’s over at least 70 degrees. Early last week I was out biking on the Mission Trail, enjoying a sunny day of maybe 65. There was a strong wind at my back, and even though I was pretty far out of shape, I was moving at a giddy clip; and that’s when this hard-ass on a touring bike zoomed past me. I took the bait (unintended, I’m sure) and shifted up to top gear and matched his speed for maybe two miles. That’s when I felt my bronchial tubes clenching up, and so I fell back.

That feeling’s returned tonight. Nothing strenuous. But it’s getting cold again, and I remembered that the fumes off a burning gas heater can also trigger this damn shortness of breath. I’m burning candles to Ganesha, Santo Niño de Atocha, several Orishas, Quetzalcoatl, and Cthulhu–whatever it takes to speed up the appearance of those sweet 100 degree days of summer.

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I basically frittered away an unproductive weekend. Well, I did do laundry. Mostly I was watching bad movies from the NetFlix view now selection. It’d been decades since I’d seen the 1964 film First Men in the Moon. Of course I’d seen it before–it featured stop-motion creatures by Ray Harryhausen. Like most of the sci-fi films from this period it’s a real travesty. I mean, the science in the films of the fifties and sixties is just appalling. At least H. G. Wells was long dead by the time this come out. The Harryhausen effects and the art design in general are fairly groovy. Lionel Jeffries, the eccentric scientist, is a joy to watch. There’s this wonderful scene where’s he’s explaining his plans to the man-of-action character (played fairly flatly by Edward Judd), and the scientist falls back against his space ship, like he’s receiving a lover’s embrace, and he snuggles there, rubbing against his grand machine as he explains the “science” of his anti-gravity paint. There’s also this tiny scene with Peter Finch, who was not credited. According to Wikipedia, he was in the vicinity–perhaps an adjacent sound stage–and when the actor hired for this tiny role failed to show up, he offered his assistance. He’s in the film for maybe thirty seconds, but has quite a few lines. It’s like he’s stepped in from another movie (which isn’t far from the fact)–but he manages to be rather cartoonish, in keeping with the film’s tone, and chewing the scenery like a terrier gnawing on a rubber band. I wouldn’t recommend this film to many people, but it’s a fun way to piddle away a chunk of a chilly Saturday.

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