CVIndependent

Fri06232017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Dwight Hendricks

The month of June brings the Palm Springs International ShortFest—the largest short-film festival on the continent.

This leads to a common question: “What makes a film a short?” The answer: No, it has nothing to do with the height of the director. Instead, a “short film” is any motion picture not long enough to be considered a “feature film.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits.” Sometimes, the synopsis may seem longer than the actual movie.

Lili Rodriguez is the festival director of the Palm Springs International ShortFest. Festival organizers receive more than 4,200 submissions for about 325 slots, organized into 90-minute themed screenings—and the nature of the films submitted often reflects the social and political issues of our time.

“This year, we’ve seen a lot of films about race relations in the United States, as well as about migration,” said Rodriguez.

So, how does a film make it into the festival?

“Films go through a selection process that includes a screening committee of around 20 people and four programmers,” Rodriguez explained via email. “Programmers select the final films that will play, and our goal is to have a balanced program that includes talent from all over the world and films with different perspectives and across many genres.”

Short films, like feature films, come in a variety of genres, including documentaries, fiction films and animated films. Many directors have honed their skills using the short format; Wes Anderson, Sam Raimi and Neill Blomkamp are just a few who did. The films are sometimes shown at the theater before a feature—usually the case with Pixar films, for example—or via avenues like AdultSwim.

I asked Rodriguez what she felt the festival’s goal is. “ShortFest is a platform meant to discover and nurture talent,” she said. “Our goal is to provide emerging and established filmmakers a space where they can learn and network—a space where short form is king.”

The festival also includes the ShortFest Film Market. It’s is the only short film market in the U.S., and includes more than 3,500 titles. Unfortunately, the market is not open to the public, but just to industry insiders and professionals. This is one reason why many sales people, distributors, filmmakers and others come specifically to the Palm Springs International Shortfest.

Originally, shorts were included as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival—until organizers realized the shorts deserved a festival of their own.

“Shorts used to get programmed with feature-length films in the January festival, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, but in 1995, it broke off to be its own thing,” she explained. This is a good thing: I volunteered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival this year, and I can’t imagine where they could even try to fit in short films.

The Palm Springs International ShortFest will take place Tuesday, June 20, through Monday, June 26, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets for individual screenings are $13, and six-packs of tickets are $69. For tickets or more information, call www.psfilmfest.org/2017-shortfest.

She stood in my office doorway, as palm trees from Palm Canyon Drive framed her long, dark-auburn hair. The cut of her emerald business suit clung to her curves in the all right places. The way she clutched her Kate Spade purse, I could tell something was really worrying her. Her deep hazel eyes betrayed her, showing the fear she had seen.

“What’s on your mind, doll face?” I asked as I tried to keep my eyes on her in a professional way. I have years of practice at looking at the wrong places.

With a pursing of her lips, she looked at me and said, “It’s already after 4 o’clock.” Her hands started to wring her purse tighter. “We’re going to be late for this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.”

Well, that’s how I would imagine it would go.

The 18th annual film festival takes place May 11-14, and once again, it is hosted by writer/historian Alan K. Rode at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs.

“I handpick each film, hoping it’s something people will want to see,” Rode told me.

I asked him where he finds so many of these films—many of which even avid fans like me don’t know. “Warner Bros studios opened their vaults to me this year. We are presenting an extremely diverse lineup of films.”

The film festival, per usual, will feature a wide range of guests, including one on opening night—Monika Henried, the daughter of film star Paul Henried, who produced and starred in the opening-night feature: a restored print of Hollow Triumph (1948), directed by Steve Sekely and co-starring Joan Bennett. From the novel by Murray Forbes, this is a story of a casino heist gone bad, a change of identity and the troubles to which a new life can lead.

One of the jewels of the festival is Meet Danny Wilson (1952). This rarely viewed Frank Sinatra and Shelley Winters collaboration is a musical drama directed by Joseph Pevney. This is the transition film that took Sinatra from his bobby-soxer popularity to From Here to Eternity fame. Raymond Burr is also in the film as the gangster who threatens the small-time singer as he rises to the top of his profession.

For first time, the festival will be showing Split Second (1953), marking the directorial debut of Dick Powell (radio’s Richard Diamond). The film follows a group of escaped convicts and hostages hiding in a ghost town—a group that is in real danger.

Other special guests slated to participate include Richard Duryea, son of Dan Duryea, the star of Black Angel (1946). The film also stars June Vincent and Peter Lorre. Andy Robinson, a star of “neo-noir” movie Charley Varrick (1973), will be present for that film’s screening, while Sara Karloff, daughter of Boris Karloff, will attend the screening of The Body Snatcher (1945)—which, in Rode’s opinion, marks Boris’ “finest screen performance.”

The festival’s focus is not only on delighting fans of film noir; it’s meant to open new eyes, too. Rode said festival organizers have been using social media such as Facebook in an effort to entice a younger generation of fans.

“Film is not a museum piece—not a genre, style, look or feel,” Rode said. “… Now we are offering everyone the opportunity to watch in original setting and mode.”

One of the reasons the festival takes place at the Camelot is the theater still has a 35mm film projector. Festival tradition dictates that screenings are shown in that format.

“We are attempting to preserve the original movie-going experience,” Rode said.

The 18th Annual Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival takes place Thursday, May 11, through Sunday, May 14, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $13 per film, or $125 for an all-access pass. For tickets or information, visit ArthurLyonsFilmNoir.org.

How much history can one man touch?

Meet songwriter Jack Lawrence. Born to modest beginnings in 1912, at the age of 20, he graduated from the First Institute of Podiatry. However, it turns out this would-be doctor was also a budding songwriter—and in the same year, his first song, “Play, Fiddle, Play,” was published.

Songwriting won out.

Lawrence was openly gay at a time when this was a dangerous admission. His surviving partner, Richard Lawrence, said Jack frequented so many clubs in Harlem, so often, that he was known by a pet name that he refused to let me print.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Richard Lawrence, Jack’s longtime partner and—because they were together at a time before marriage equality—adopted son. (This made Richard his legal heir.) I also talked with Burt Peachy, with 100 Hundred Miles From Hollywood Productions. They’re the team behind They All Sang My Songs—A Musical Tribute to the Composer/Lyricist Jack Lawrence, coming to downtown Palm Springs Friday and Saturday, April 14 and 15.

Richard moved to Rancho Mirage after Jack’s death in 2009. He told me how they meet at a Fourth of July party in Hollywood back in the 1970s.

“I didn’t want to go. A friend of mine dragged me there,” Richard said. “On the way out, I saw this guy. I went to the hostess and asked, ‘What was this man’s name?’”

Turns out Jack had asked her the same question about Richard.

“One Saturday, he called me and asked what I was doing for lunch. I didn’t have anything to do, but I wasn’t going to commit, so I said, ‘I will call you back,’” Richard remembered. “I thought about it and said, ‘What the hell?’ and I called him back.”

They were together for 34 years, right up until Jack’s death.

Richard and Peachy based They All Sang My Songs on Jack’s book, which has the same title. The show is a musical revue with a storyline, they told me, with a feel like “you’re sitting in a supper club like Chi-Chi’s.”

Peachy said that after he wrapped up work on his short film Faces of 8, about opposition to California’s anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8, made in 2012, he was hoping to take a break. “And this guy comes into my life,” he said, pointing at Richard. “Jack was one of the cornerstones of America’s songbook.”

That’s no hyperbole. During World War II, Jack served as a lieutenant in the Maritime Service and wrote the official song of the Maritime Service and Merchant Marine, “Heave Ho! My Lads! Heave Ho!” The successes kept coming. Dinah Shore sang his song “Yes, My Darling Daughter” on Eddie Cantor’s radio program, and later put it on her first record.

He wrote the lyrics for “Tenderly,” which became Rosemary Clooney’s trademark song. “This song helped revive Rosemary’s career,” Richard said. “It was on the rocks, and this song bought her back to the top. She was really a nice lady.”

Jack Lawrence also helped introduce The Ink Spots to the world with the song “If I Didn’t Care.” Even Old Blue Eyes sang a song of his, “All or Nothing at All,” which became one of Frank Sinatra’s first solo hits.

Oh, and then there’s his song “Linda,” which he wrote for his attorney’s infant daughter, Linda Eastman. Years later, she became Paul McCartney’s wife.

They All Sang My Songs will feature many of his hits, as well as three unreleased songs—including one sung by Jack himself, from a recording done in London. Performers include Darci Daniels, Keisha D, Charles Herrera, Phillip Moore and Bill Lohnes, who will play Jack Lawrence.

They All Sang My Songs—A Musical Tribute to the Composer/Lyricist Jack Lawrence will be performed at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 14 and 15, at the Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2837455.

An estimated 450,000 people attend March’s BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament … so what do the other 434,000 people do when the tournament has narrowed down to action in just Stadium 1?

One possible answer: They head over to the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa for the second annual Spectrum Indian Wells Art Show, taking place Thursday, March 16, through Sunday, March 19.

Lisa Ashinoff is just one of the many artists participating in the juried contemporary arts show. The Virginia Beach, Va., resident studied art at Bard College and Florida International University. Why is she taking part in an art show so far away from home?

“My body of work is a good fit out there,” she said.

Actually, her work—paintings and drawings of cityscapes and dreamscapes—has been shown in Palm Springs before, which should come as no surprise, since she describes her work as “a mixture of modern and a midcentury modern.” She said growing up in a Norman Jaffe-designed house influenced her work, which has hints of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture as well. Ashinoff’s precise lines come from a system she has honed over the years.

She recently displayed her work at one of Spectrum Indian Wells’ sister shows in Miami, and she said she’s looking forward to having her work back in the desert.

“It allows me to show my work to get more exposure, because I have pretty large paintings,” she said. “The gallery hasn’t been able to show as many big pieces as I like, so it allows me to take (to the show) the big pieces I like.”

Ashinoff’s paintings can indeed be big—as large as 73 inches by 92 inches.

“They’re bold when they’re larger,” she said. “The color and the style of them are more effective on a larger scale. They just lend themselves to being a little larger than normal. I think it’s easier to paint a larger painting than it is to paint a smaller painting.”

The international list of galleries and artists confirmed as participants in Spectrum Indian Wells is quite impressive. For example, Renssen Art Gallery, from the Netherlands, will show works in the figurative tradition. Renssen is an avid admirer of Pablo Picasso, and adds a bit of abstraction—with vibrant and subdued colors—to his works.

Also confirmed is Canadian James Patterson, a sculptor whose work includes a piece that was commissioned by and recently installed at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning/Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Almost any type of artwork one can imagine—painting, photography, glassworks, sculptures and more—will be on display at the show. Spectrum Indian Wells is one of six annual art shows put on by the Redwood Media Group, including Artexpo New York, which is billed as the largest fine-art trade show.

Spectrum Indian Wells takes place at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa, 44400 Indian Wells Lane, in Indian Wells. The opening-night preview, from 5 to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 16, is a benefit for the Desert AIDS Project; tickets are $50 in advance, or $60 at the door. One-day passes for the rest of the show are $20 in advance, or $30 at the event; three-day passes are $25 online, or $35 at the event, with discounts for students and seniors. Children 15 and younger are admitted for free. For tickets or more information, visit spectrum-indianwells.com. Below: "El Raval" by Lisa Ashinoff.