By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
A loud explosion in Saturday's predawn hours interrupted a pleasant dream The Bitch was having about Marc Anthony and mojitos. The source of the detonation was a palm frond striking a pole-mounted transformer, and the sparking, sputtering power plant quickly became a source of fascination for many of the human residents of the sleep-deprived hound's Coconut Grove neighborhood, who drifted outside to stare up at the totemlike gray box. But more on this later.
Thanks to Katrina and Wilma, The Bitch is no stranger to the vicissitudes of life without amperage, ohms, volts, and watts. So she sighed, took a cold-water dog bath, and spent the day with some filmmaker friends in town for the serendipitously power-themed Eighth Annual Short Film Contest.
Producer Zachary Johnson-Gramana and Florianopolis-born director Rodrigo Rocha-Campos have casting-call exoskeletons for the game: hyphenated names, artsy designer glasses, thin beards, witty indie patter. The blond, surfer-y Johnson-Gramana is a freelance television consultant from Tallahassee, and Rocha-Campos teaches cinema studies at Full Sail College in Orlando.
"This is the chance we've all been waiting for," enthused Johnson-Gramana, momentarily breaking his cool faade. "This is a chance to actually have a meeting with The Guy." Indeed the contest, sponsored by Miami's Entertainment Industry Incubator and held at AMC Theatres CocoWalk, offered winners a meeting with the financiers at Lions Gate Entertainment plus several thousand dollars in filmmaking equipment.
Competitors had 31 days (from November 11 to December 12, 2005) and $500 to write a script, hire cast and crew, get grips and lighting, and then shoot and edit a five-minute film related to interpreting "power." Long-time E-Incubator director Susan Schein said, "The theme was obvious, given all the recent power outages."
The Bitch managed a wan smile.
The screenings began at 7:30 p.m. Saturday as the theaters filled with would-be Anderses, Godards, Fassbinders, and their posses. The Bitch, naturally a follower of Lars von Trier's Dogme 95 movement, was nonetheless impressed with her friends' entry, A Thousand Natural Shocks. Rocha-Campos describes the film as "voyeurism and eavesdropping with ambiguous and vague undertones of the supernatural," which is pretty much what The Bitch lives for. And the saturated film stock and camera angles were cool too.
Of the other fifteen five-minute movies, some were humorous, some narrative, some bizarre, some boring. A disturbing vignette called Paper Cutswas about a psychotic self-mutilator; The Bitch had to look away.
Johnson-Gramana and Rocha-Campos did not win first place. In fact they did not garner anything but applause. What's wrong with these film judges?
The victors: Self, produced by Alejandro Naviaand directed by Manolo Celi, both locals. The film about a Miami man having a mental breakdown has some clever special effects as well as several scenes on the Metrorail. Self was okay, but it didn't measure up to the creativeness of Natural Shocks.
Cast from the Garden
A different kind of power was on display at the 50th anniversary party for Miami Beach's Eden Roc Resort later on Saturday. For the first time in The Bitch's memory, humans invited to an event described as requiring formal wear actually arrived in tuxes and gowns (and unfortunately furs). And, for a party in ways reminiscent of the Jack Rabbit Slim's sequence in Pulp Fictionand held outdoors on the impossibly coldest night of the year, it wasn't too shabby. There was a lot of food and top-shelf alcohol. So much food, in fact, The Bitch hopes the hotel and catering staff, who had to stand outside in the chill all night, got to take all the leftovers home with them.
Still the sight of a brilliantined Nat King Cole doppelgnger sharing the stage with the real Frank Sinatra, Jr. made The Bitch feel a little creepy and a lot melancholy, despite the ebullient company of Michelle Sas.
Sas, who recently shuttered her Design District art gallery and studio to devote more time to her roving photographic portraiture, has a new second full-time job: megaproperty agent for Buy the Beach Realty. The energetic native Miamian zoomed around the Eden Roc's outdoor concourse, taking in nonmelting ice sculptures, mountainous dessert tables, and the largest collection of crustaceans ever assembled (lobsters, clams, oysters, crabs). The Bitch struggled to keep up.
Settling finally on a sofa in the hotel's lobby, Sas sassily explained her verve: "Before I had Rain (her adorable two-year-old), I could never wear heels, but now I can practically run a marathon in them."
A distinguished but approachable fortyish, red-haired woman seated nearby allowed The Bitch to shoot her picture and then joined the pair along with her husband and parents. All were visiting from Boston.
"Oh, this is a very nice soiree," exclaimed Joanne Costello in an expansive Brahman accent. "And the people here they're just top-class. I'd call them blue bloods. We've been coming to the Eden Roc for years; it's our winter getaway."
The Bitch and Michelle smiled politely; Edward Tierney, Costello's dad, gravely distributed napkins and coffee to the female humans and canines. Then Costello leaned in to clasp The Bitch's paw, and gazing directly into her eyes, dropped the bombshell: "Daddy just got the diagnosis; it's not so good. It's cancer. So I know this will be our last year here. But we'll have the memories." Good thing canines can't cry.