Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MSPIFF website is up!

Now that Spider Baby is over and I needn't remind you that you missed it, I give you another short-attention span post.

MSPIFF rumblings have started, and low and behold, you wouldn't guess what website I happened upon by Googlish chance! That's right! The 27th Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival website is up and sort of running. Not much activity at this point, but under films you do get a sneak peak at what might (or might not) be play during the Fest. Initial reactions? Bring on Three Monkeys!

The Minneapolis St Paul Film Festival runs from April 16 - 30. Until then, if you want to test your stamina for five films in one day, check out the Beyond Borders Film Festival starting Thursday at the Parkway.

Thanks to Bobak Ha'Eri for the photo from last year's MSPIFF.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Your town is just too cool. It is a wonder you get anything productive done!

Jim B said...

I'm glad the site is up, and grateful the festival is happening, but what a poorly designed website. Looks like a template of sorts, so I'm not even sure it's fair to call it a design.

If MFA is going to exist primarily to produce a yearly festival, they could do a much better job with marketing and public image.

Daniel Getahun said...

What Jim said. It's actually been up for well over a month now (though as you say, Kathie, it hasn't been that obvious) and is not showing a lot of life. The RSS feed still does not work and my guess is that the schedule is going to be an animal to navigate online. No offense at all to your work last year, Jim, but even lthe 2008 website was a little lacking in terms of an updated "featured" homepage, though it was a vast improvement on the year prior.

A friend of mine posted the link to his local festival and I'm pretty envious, both of the site and the films (although Jim, many of those films are playing at BBFF so kudos to you).

It just doesn't seem like a clean website cross-referencing 140 films, synopses, and showtimes should be that difficult, especially with the programming/designing abilities of the local townsfolk here. I guess everything costs money, though.

Whatever - freaks like me don't depend on the website. I love the fest and I'm going to see as many movies as possible. It would just me nice to make a little easier for the general public to navigate and find what they're looking for, maybe even with recommendations.

Jim B said...

I'm in no way affiliated with MSPIFF.

Just a local and a film fan who has been disappointed to see the decline of MFA.

I find it sadly funny and mildly insulting to get their occasional e-mails promoting some random screening without so much as a hint of what long-term goals MFA still has, if any.

We're told the focus is the Festival, but they don't do such a hot job of producing that either -- at least not compared to top regional festivals in other cities, like Sarasota (probably the best regional fest around, and quickly rising), Chicago, Denver, etc...

Kathie Smith said...

I'm excited that the site is up too and there are some films logged there. It would be nice to have a more functional website, but once the Fest starts I'm sort of chained to the program in my backpack for the duration.

MFA is obviously a struggling organization with some structural issues, and I don't think an International Film Festival in this town can reach its full potential under those circumstances. That being said, I've been relatively impressed in what they have pulled off the last couple of years under those conditions.

Making things even worse is how divided the community is regarding MFA. I'd be hard pressed to find anyone who didn't have a pretty strong opinion about what has gone on at MFA/U Film/Oak Street in the past ten years, myself included. All of this kind of gets in the way of bringing good films here. Instead we have one group pissed off about what another group is playing and another group pissed off that the another group is pissed off...

I agree, Jim. If the focus is the Festival, prove it. MSPIFF is less than 3 weeks away and the above linked website is a paltry showing. I know the Fest is a a shoestring budget, but there are a lot of low cost ways to get the word out and to generate the buzz that a Festival needs.

I'll be watching the website for changes and updates!

Daniel Getahun said...

Sorry for the confusion, Jim - I got mixed up for someone who was previously involved with MFA!

But I still agree with both you and Kathie - MFA has done some great work in years past, but there needs to be some kind of healthy transition in order to ensure we're able to watch the movies we want to watch in a few years. Longstanding history and efficiency on a shoestring budget don't much in terms of the future, and I think that's what we're all concerned about. Or at least I am.

But like Kathie said, a year ago I didn't think the Oak St. would still be standing, and yet there it is.

rebecca said...

There are so many marketing things they could do that cost very little. Take advantage of the much buzzed about "social networking." Blog! Twitter! Cut the festival down to one week instead of two, curate a few really great films instead of 140, of which maybe 15 are great. Use the money saved in cutting down on the days and films to actually have more directors present. Give up the ghost and become strictly about the festival. Do one thing and do it well - its worked for Hertz, Coke, McDonalds, Apple. I find the festival to be disorganized and somewhat of a drag. Not to mention that last year reels were out of order for at least two screenings.

Kathie Smith said...

Rebecca, you have mentioned a couple things that I was implying, and I couldn't agree more. If I were running a festival (which I'm not, and wouldn't even consider doing without the support of more qualified people) I would set up a blog for programmers and staff, I would set up a Twitter account and a Facebook account: find the core audience and build on it. Sure all of that takes time, but it is free. And if I were a programmer (which I am not) I would love to blog about my experiences at festivals and profile possible films.

And although I wouldn't want a festival with only 15 films, I am totally with you on cutting out some of the crap. 70 solid films would totally outshine 140 mediocre films.

However, I don't want to complain too much. Because I am excited about any movie coming to town. I saw 30 films at last year's Fest and even though some were real dogs, I don't regret a single one.

Charles said...

I can live with a second-rate website. What frustrates me about this festival is that so many of the so-called 'films' are not even that: they're videos. DVDs look fine on small television screens, but they look awful when blown up to the size of the silver screen. I got a really helpful hint last year from Jim B. (the other, MFA Jim B., that is), that they were designating Theater 3 for most of the non-35mm screenings. No idea if they'll be doing that again, but I'll be wary of stepping inside that particular auditorium until I hear otherwise.

I know MFA is not the Walker (the only film-related organization, aside from Take-up, that really has their act together in these parts), but considering the steep prices they charge to this festival, it's only fair to tell us up front what we're paying to see. How hard would it be to put a little "35mm" or "video" tag next to the runtime like the Walker does?

As an aside, I'd prefer more bouts of stellar repertory programming like they did last fall with the Robbe-Grillet/Godard series to this mediocre, pricey, and overcrowded international festival. Did anyone else notice that, according to Rialto's website, the Oak Street was supposed to be showing Lola Montes starting today? It was never confirmed on the MFA site, and about a week or two ago Rialto removed the Oak from their playdate schedule. Personally, I'd trade the entire international film festival for that one film. But that's me.

Kathie Smith said...

Charles, I still have steam coming out my ears from the screening of Sokurov's Alexandra from DVD, but that is water under the bridge and I have complained about that particular screening enough. However. There was another screening I went to that was on a DVD that froze three (!) times. And not just stuttered, but gotta-stop-the-DVD-player froze. They absolutely have to tag whether it is video or film. I am even willing to look online if they can't get that info in the program. I can watch a DVD at home.

I had no idea about Lola Montes! That is super disappointing; it was probably lined up, but just ditched. I'm with you on the Robbe-Grillet/Godard series. I totally dug seeing some of those films for the first time and others for the second or third. I was moderately impressed with the decent numbers they were getting for that series on the nights I was there, but ironically the powers that be at MFA were very very upset about the lack of people. I don't get it.

In a funny aside, I was noting to someone a few weeks back about how I thought they were showing films at the Oak. The place where I check movie time (imdb) kept having listings for the Oak Street. I was confused until Barry at Take-up showed me this website that is still up. In a way that I don't really understand, imdb (as well as other websites) were picking up the times from the calendar for these screenings! You can imagine my surprise when I saw that A Fistful of Dollars was playing at the Oak!

Charles said...

Yeah, I also use IMDb to check on some showtimes, and was just as bewildered when those screenings started popping up last month. It took me awhile to realize (after digging out my old Oak St. Calendars, which I've saved for posterity) that they were picking up on screenings from exactly five years ago. Now, every time I check in and see something like Sans Soleil or I Vitelloni allegedly playing, I'm not sure whether I should laugh or cry. It's hard to believe that just five years ago we had stuff like that to look forward to. (I hadn't realized that website was still up and running, but that explains it.)

I was at that screening of Alexandra, too (which as I recall was not held in Theater 3, to add insult to injury). Really disappointing. And I wish I could say that this is the only organization around that is screening unadvertised videos instead of film prints, but it seems to be getting more prevalent. A couple months ago I went to the Parkway to watch Hud, and they screened a DVD. I'm pretty far from South Minneapolis and was going to ask for my money back afterward, but I couldn't find anyone around, and decided to boycott that place unless it's being rented by other groups or has something special that I know is going to be in 35mm, like that 3D festival. Even Landmark has started doing this; I went to check out Cherry Blossoms the other week, and knew I was in trouble as soon as it started, sans trailers, with those distracting horizontal lines of resolution that undulate back and forth all over the picture. It's really a shame that with these so-called advancements in technology, the cinema-going experience is getting worse, and I'm afraid that if more people don't speak out, the powers at be are going to think this undoubtedly cheaper option of presentation is perfectly acceptable. I'm beginning to feel like a broken record, but at the very least, they should be advertising what they're screening. [/soapbox]

Anyway, I don't want to sound too negative. I suppose we should be grateful that we're getting anything at all. I'm already excited over a half dozen or so films that are supposed to be screening at the festival, and I'm going to give MFA the benefit of the doubt that most if not all of them will be on film.


DJGuam said...

I'm with you all on this chatter. Having worked on the festival last year and working through the ups & downs, I was in favor of listing all the formats that we were screening. Needless to say, I didn't win.

But yes, what Charles said, If you're planning on seeing stuff at the festival, just know that anything screened on the main floor (screens 1 & 2) of St. Anthony will be on 35mm, screen 3 will be video and screens 4 & 5 were 35mm or video. At least that was the set-up last year.

Something like "Alexandra" last year, they didn't have prints available during the festival, so do you bring the film to show in the festival or do you forget? We were in favor to bring it (it was a digi-beta) and a lot of people enjoyed the film, but yes 35mm is always the preferred format. The other thing is that St. Anthony runs a platter system, meaning every 35mm needs to be built and run through the projector. The difference is that at the Oak, you can go reel to reel and therefore, you can save at least, an hour if not longer, just for 1 film running 35mm's reel to reel, instead of running them on a platter.

I read in a press release late Feb, that Lola Montes & Carlos Reygardas 'Slient Light' were/are suppose to screen at the Oak. Will they? Who knows?

The website is impossible to read, first, second rate, it doesn't mater.

Kathie Smith said...

Charles, I had heard about the DVD projection at the Parkway and couldn't believe it. I have, unfortunately, been to things at the Lagoon that were video.

Good to get the inside scoop DJGuam. My whole beef with Alexandra was that, had I know it was going to be screened from video, I would have gone to see something else. It just seemed a little like blasphemy with that particular film. I really loved the film, but the better the film, the more I want to see it on 35mm, especially in a festival setting. (Granted, had I not seen it, I would have had to wait almost a year for the Alexandra DVD, which just came out in the UK.)

I hadn't heard about Silent Light at the Oak. All that is up on MN Film Arts website is Harvard Beats Yale in April. (?) Ironically, I associate Silent Light with last year's festival because it screened during the Festival at the Walker with Reygadas in attendance. I even saw him the next night at the Patti Smith documentary.

I keep expecting someone to post how we should stop being so nit-picky and be thankful for what we get. In an attempt to preempt that, I just wanna say that I am thankful. I'm a film fan first, and my criticisms of MSPIFF are only out of concern for something I value.