Thursday, October 16, 2008

Woodstock Glitter

This opinion piece appeared in the Townsman, October 9 edition

"The Woodstock Film Festival stands for more than just girls wearing no bra," said cinematographer Haskell Wexler ("One Flew Over…" and this year's recipient of the WFF Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award) to the several hundred attendees of the WFF awards ceremony held last Saturday night at the Backstage Productions venue in Kingston. The purpose of film, according to Wexler, "is to denounce the deception and lies that have become part of our life."

Cool, but let me dwell on that 'no bra' comment. First of all, although it was dark except for the flash bulbs, it looked like the 'girls' were wearing bras (I assure you this was not the focus of my study). But aside from that formality or utility, with the exception of exactly three women in heels and black cocktail dresses, the sartorial equipage of the mob of film buffs and professionals would make a congregation of skateboarders look like a Tommy Hilfiger fashion show. Tee shirts and sweatshirts almost looked like dishtowels, jeans absolutely refused to flatter any legs, and the shoes may have been left from Napoleon's army deserting Russia. Of all the businesses in Ulster County that benefited from the film festival, not one of them was a hairdresser. This was one event where the 'help' (the dozens of volunteers who made Festival possible) clearly outshone the grandees.

I loved it. It has been said that no man is a hero to his valet. Here, VERY BIG PEOPLE were dressed like their valet on a Saturday morning cleaning the leaves out of the gutter. As one fellow put it, it makes every one at the festival "approachable." I'll say; if actor David Strathairn were standing outside of Cumbies some kid would have asked him to buy a six pack of beer.

The films I saw I liked. I thought local boy Phil Dorling's 'Predisposition,' one of the shorts shown at the Community Center on Friday night, verged on brilliance. The full- length feature at the Tinker Street Cinema on Sunday, "Visioneers," was uneven but contained enough flashes of inspiration to make me glad to have seen it. Point is though, without the vision of the "fiercely independent" WFF I doubt either of these films would have been seen and the very worthy writer/director/producers would have been deprived of the encouragement to soldier on.

The people who made the WFF possible, and Meira Blaustein and Laurent Rejto are at the top of that list, deserve both ours' and the film community's gratitude. And the corps of volunteers, each one of them helpful, cheerful, welcoming, that made the chaos navigable and most enjoyable, also deserve a big round of applause. This annual event has put a nice little zing in the air. It's made the "deception and lies that have become part of our life" for a moment tolerable.

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It's not too late if you act right now to get a seat at the Shady Methodist Church's Roast Beef Dinner this coming Saturday night. Talk about "mom's" cooking, this platter comes right out of the first edition of Fanny Farmer's Cookbook. Plus you get to rub elbows with a part of the Woodstock community that is almost invisible, except that it forms the core of volunteerism that glues our town together. Take my word for it; good chow, low prices, great company!

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Boy, if we could bottle this year's weather. Whether it was that or the increased volume of CO2 in the atmosphere, but the fruit and nut trees and the vegetable patches simply went crazy. I am fortunate to have on my tiny, almost infinitesimal lot an apple and a black walnut tree. Last year I couldn't have made a tart from what they produced. This year, five apple pies and six quarts of applesauce later (not counting the ten apple pies the deer got to first), there are still apples the size of softballs waiting to fall. Does anybody out there have a good suggestion for processing black walnuts? I did it one year, cracking them with a vice (believe me, a nutcracker didn't make it, not with these nuts), but it sure took a long time to end up with a fist full of nutmeat. Please let me know, because I've got lots of them.

And you know what, with what's happening in the economy and all the gloomy things being said, we might better get into the habit of helping each other with friendly hints and advice. To make matters even more dramatic, the wooly caterpillars are promising a long, cold winter. Let's all keep an eye out.

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