The Boys of Syracuse

Heading down the road today to Syracuse, N.Y., for the annual gathering of 16mm film geeks known as Cinefest. The four-day film festival, in its 28th season, doesn’t have the glamour of the swanky film fests held each year in Toronto or Cannes. Instead of Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, for example, the biggest name at Cinefest is Leonard Maltin, film historian and long time Entertainment Tonight correspondent. But at least he’s met Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie!
There are no limos, just a few rusty yellow school buses, which pull up at 7 a.m. Saturday in front of the charming and newly vacuumed Holiday Inn in Liverpool, N.Y. They arrive like the brutal snow storm that hits this region every May to take hard core film buffs to a charming neighborhood movie theatre optimistically called “The Palace.” There and at the hotel, films no one outside of this group has ever heard of, including “You’re A Sweetheart” (1937) with Alice Faye, and “Too Many Blondes” (1941), with Rudy Vallee, are hauled out of the vaults, threaded through a Bell & Howell or Kodak Pageant and projected onto screens.
For the silents, three piano players, including Montreal’s Gabriel Thibaudeau, provide live musical accompaniments.
If you’re wondering why a TV critic who should be screening the latest reality offering from Fox chooses instead to watch filmed entertainment from the first half of the last century, well, maybe because it beats the hell out of watching the latest reality offering from Fox.
One note for people more interested in current fare: Sunday’s debut of the HBO miniseries John Adams on The Movie Network/Movie Central is worthy of some future Cinefest screening. Based on the Pulitzer prize-winning biography by historian David McCullough, the series stars Paul Giamatti (Sideways) as America’s second president, a forgotten leader who really embodied many of the principles of the founding fathers. The opening hour deals mainly with a tense courtroom drama as Adams courageously takes up the case of British soldiers who allegedly fired upon the good citizens of Boston. An angry mob of future tea-dumpers are out for blood; Adams sticks to the law and stares them down. He upholds the principle of free trials, innocent until proven guilty and, eventually, freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a film every American heading toward the polls in an election year should see, but don’t tune in because it might be “good for you.” Even if you have no interest in historical drama (and this one is so painstakingly accurate you can almost smell the gunpowder and candle wax) John Adams is utterly compelling thanks to Giamatti, who gives another great under the skin performance. Laura Linney (who play’s Adam’s loyal wife and valued advisor), Sarah Poley and Stephan Dillane (as Thomas Jefferson) also star. Tom Hanks is among the executive producers. Starts Sunday at 9 p.m. on TMN (8 p.m. in Western Canada on MC).
For something COMPLETELY different–the flip side, in fact, of the American dream–check out the first of two even more bracing than usual episodes of Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks, airing Sunday in Canada on Teletoon (10:30 p.m.) after being pulled off The Cartoon Network in the States.
McGruder likes putting the boots to The Man but these two animated episodes go way over the top with a flat out hit on the BET network. Watch, be afraid, shake you head at all those taboo cuss words, but let it sink in–didn’t John Adams fight for Huey to have the right to speak his mind in America? Read more about it here in my Brioux On The Box column this week for The Canadian Press.
One other note. my Vancouver-base colleague Alex Strachan was kind enough to call and chat about my book, Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV’s Most Famous Myths. You can read his feature about it today in the Nanaimo Daily News. If you’re looking to pick up a copy of the book (not that I’m using this blog as a thinly disguised marketing ploy or anything), Amazon.com carries it, but they seem to be down to their last copy. Try over a Barnes & Noble, which–rumour has it–has a pretty good members discount available at the moment.

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