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Blue Ox Millworks and Breakwater Studios invite you to attend the world premiere of THE OX, a short documentary about Blue Ox owner Eric Hollenbeck. Hosted by Michael Fields, the evening’s events will also include local musicians, an exclusive retrospective on Blue Ox Millworks, and a Q&A with filmmaker Ben Proudfoot, Blue Ox owners Eric and Viviana Hollenbeck, and more surprise guests. Admission is free, and all ages are encouraged to attend.

Watch the teaser and read more about the film.

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What: The World Premiere of THE OX

Where: Eagle House Victorian Inn, 139 2nd St., Eureka, CA 95501

Old Town Eureka, on the corner of 2nd and “C” | Google Map

When: Sunday, November 10, 2013

Time: Doors open at 6:00pm. Show starts promptly at 7:00pm.

Admission: Free

RSVP to reserve seats by Saturday, November 10 at 9pm. Please call Biz at (323) 522-6953.

Note: Due to limited seating, it is encouraged to RSVP, but not mandatory.


Ben Proudfoot was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

At the age of 15, Proudfoot began studying sleight-of-hand magic and over the next three years, won both the Canadian and International Championships for legerdemain. At 16, he joined the Magic Castle Junior Program in Los Angeles, traveling to meetings several times a year, paying for it by performing at children’s birthday parties.

Proudfoot’s passions shifted to filmmaking and was subsequently accepted to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles. In 2011, Proudfoot wrote and directed the short film Dinner with Fred which garnered dozens of festival awards worldwide and won him two Best Director awards and a qualification for the 2012 Academy Awards© for Best Live Action Short Film. In May 2012, Proudfoot directed a short documentary entitled ink&paper that found an international audience of over one million people on Vimeo and caught the attention of Sony Pictures Television, who optioned the idea.

In 2012, Proudfoot founded Breakwater Studios Ltd. and established a production office in Los Angeles in the building where Walt Disney first started his company in 1923.

Breakwater Studios is a young, ambitious and independent–minded film production company located in Los Angeles with ongoing international productions in Nova Scotia, Canada & Rwanda, Africa. Film producer and director Ben Proudfoot founded the company in early 2012 as an incubator for young talent. THE OX is the second in a series of craft documentaries by Ben Proudfoot, the first being the award-winning ink&paper, about the last letterpress shop in Los Angeles.

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Blue Ox Millworks – Celebrating 40 years of quality custom millwork. Blue Ox is a fully functioning Victorian job shop which produces custom architectural millwork, as well as interior and exterior details for historic homes and new construction projects around the United States. But it’s more than that. Blue Ox is a school, a historic park, and a haven for craftsmen.

Blue Ox is the product of four decades of work from master craftsman Eric Hollenbeck and his wife Viviana. It is a place where the craftsmanship techniques of the last century are preserved and quality takes precedence over mass production. It’s also a place where community comes together and lives are changed in positive ways. Enthusiastic support for Blue Ox comes from many sectors of Humboldt County society, and has expanded to include national and international recognition, including being honored by President Clinton in 1994 and by a resolution before the California legislature.

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Strong recommendation for a documentary entitled “Protagonist.”   On instant Netflix.

It’s about the lives of four men: a German radical terrorist who worked with Carlos the Jackal, A former Kung Foo fanatic (the director’s husband who inspired the theme), A bank robber turned journalist, and a gay cure specialist fundamentalist minister turned transvestite entertainer.  All four had rough childhoods and wrestled with their dark side and the overwhelming drive for a feeling of certainty – something I’m very familiar with.  It plays with comparisons between Euripides themes and the real lives of these very dynamic men.  The director is Jessica Yu, who’s done some other excellent documentaries.  Nothing like Arguing the World.  Well, maybe a little in that the film addresses major changes in life philosophy and outlook, but not dry at all.  Each chapter begins with a puppet rendition of a Euripides play, including the gory scenes of The Bacchae.


And just for fun, she also did this short film Sour Death Balls, which I recognized as soon as it came up on Youtube along with the Protagonist trailer.  It plays at the Exploratorium in the section about the mind.

Strongly recommended is this amateur documentary my wife just happened to find on the Netflix instant viewing.   Amy Ferraris does a gentle version of Michael Moore in this no-frills but deep substance film which explores the pleasures and histories of espresso as well as the politics of coffee, much of the film revolving around a conflict between the Starbucks Corporation and a coffee house owner in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a master at his craft and yet an inadvertent adversary to a large corporation perhaps too protective of a trademark.

Ferraris has some definite opinions, but laces them in beautiful narrative prose with refreshing balance, even managing to humanize the faceless in Starbucks as they refuse her interviews and clearly play the role of bully.  She deals with a depressing subject of the corporatization of coffee and homogenization of culture, but leaves you with hope in the “third wave” coffee movement.

And now I’m in search of the perfect cappuccino in Humboldt County, by her criteria.

Some excerpts from a little known soft-sell film which deserves a lot of attention.  To paraphrase the last lines of the movie, it’s great to have a little taste from someone who will serve you a cup with “knowledge, passion, and integrity – it was delicious.”

Her website, which includes some of her favorite coffee spots in the Bay Area where she lives.

I think I had read somewhere that Joss Whedon had written and directed the new uber-geek movie in a long line of monotonous comic book superhero movies, but I had forgotten that until just before agreeing to bring my kid and his friend to see The Avengers (no, it doesn’t violate the copyright for the TV series with Diana Rigg with lame remake with Uma Thurmond).  It’s the one that geeks everywhere have been waiting for.  Action movies actually tend to bore me.  I don’t think there’s an extended fight in any movie I’ve seen where the outcome isn’t easily predictable based upon conventional plot lines, when it takes place in the movie (good guys lose the first fight and win the last), and the relative mood of the antagonists.  The longer the fight scenes get drawn out the more I start rolling my eyes.  And I’m really not impressed with 3D technology.  It gives me a headache.  But when the sequences are funny, they’re fun.  And these were funny.

But with Whedon, at least you know it’s going to be funny.  If there was too much CGI; too much of the movie was taken up by tedious and predictable “suspense;” and too much deference to the mass market (and there was on all three counts, but Whedon has learned his lesson and probably wants to make some money – and he made it as the opening weekend broke all records); it was going to be funny.  And it’s hilarious.  From the first moment to the two epilogues, one following the animated credits and another following the overly detailed credits – the first being a gift only the uber-geeks (like me) will get, and the second worth waiting for if you have a sense of humor.

John Bennett of the NCJ wrote a great review.  I agree about Ruffalo being the most compelling of the heroes.  I disagree that Loki wasn’t menacing or compelling – I thought, oh, whoever it is who played him, actually did the most real acting in the film.  Johannasen isn’t very convincing as an ex-Russian spy turned good, but her character is probably the most fun to watch.  Some geeks have complained about her lack of accent, but as she is a super-spy, I would expect her accent to be perfectly American.  She does cry out in Russian at one point of stress, but I don’t know if her accent would be convincing to anyone who speaks the language.  One of the more hilarious moments of the film (which is saying something) is her early “interrogation” scene (of questionable appropriateness for kids considering the prurient imaging, but nothing to throw a tizzy over).

The premise of the Avengers was originally conceived by Marvel Comics as the anti-Justice League.  Where all of DC’s pantheon of heroes were basically morally perfect at the time (with some exception for early writings of Batman), the Avengers was a dysfunctional team of social misfits, egomaniacs, and sociopaths with superpowers kind of thrown together by circumstances – a perfect setting for Whedon to weave his magic.  There’s a great scene where the heroes are all arguing over stupid crap while the evil Loki’s machinations come to fruition.  Anyone with half a brain can see it coming, but that doesn’t detract from the effectiveness of the delivery.  It’s fun.

And with all the big names in the film, I have to wonder if there were ego fights on the set that played into the storyline.  Somehow, Whedon managed them well.

Anyway, there’s absolutely nothing deep about the film at all.  It’s pure fun.  But how many action movies are this well written?  The last one I can remember is Die Hard.  And this script is actually better.

Here’s the trailer.  It doesn’t do the movie justice.  But I’m sure it sold plenty of tickets.

Posted by request:

Free Movie Screening!

A Map for Saturday is a documentary that tracks the emotional arc of extreme long-term travelers; teenagers and senior citizens who wondered, “What would it be like to travel the world?” Then did it.


This was the winner of the Best Documentary at the Memphis International Film Festival

Humboldt State University’s Siemens Hall, Room 128 at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday May 3rd

US Servas is a non-profit membership organization that fosters understanding of cultural diversity through a global, person-to-person network promoting a more just and peaceful world. They are screening this film to raise awareness about the importance of travel and to encourage potential travelers to join their network and experience the world in a unique way, as a Servas traveler.

For more information please contact

Amy Scolari at (707) 825-1714 M-F 8am-4pm or

Nothing that comes to mind in western cineman – not sympathetic nor negative in depiction.

There have been movies about Che Guevara, including a very bad right wing hit movie entitled “Che” in which Omar Sharif played Castro and was contractually forced to utter lines like “the revolutionary and the peasant are like the flower and the bee – neither can propogate without the other.”

There was a movie about Rosa Luxembourg.  One about John Reed.  Lenin has been depicted, including a very nuanced depiction in the old BBC series The Life of Reilly (the real life character upon which James Bond is loosely based).  There was a sympathetic depiction of Trostky in Frida.  But nothing, positive or negative, about Marx – not even by CP/fellow travellor movie makers cranking out agit prop films like Salt of the Earth or Burn!.

There have been plenty of depiction of Hitler.  I can only think of one depiction of Stalin in Children of the Revolution.  Oh, actually there was a depiction in The Life of Reilly – not so nuanced, but then he wasn’t very nuanced in real life.

Wikipedia has an entry re Marx in film, but it’s mostly documentary, though there’s apparently something which may be in the works –  Haitian director Raoul Peck has apparently been working on a bio-film since 2007.

But whatever your views on the person, he is a fascinating character – much drama in his life – and for better or worse has had a profound impact on the whole planet and its course of history.  Why the absence of treatment?

The drawing is of the young Karl Marx, snatched from Google Photos.

Somebody reviewing one of Michael Moore’s movies once commented that while Moore’s ability to drive entire audiences to a standing ovation is a notable feat, a film maker who is a true artist ought to prefer that his/her film has audiences arguing in the aisles as the credits roll.  I thought it was a good point, but I was hard-pressed to come up with a documentary film which could accomplish just that.  And then, recently the recommendations robot at Netflix directed me to a documentary film entitled Arguing the World.  In terms of stimulating thought and argument about the larger political issues, I can think of no more effective documentary film.

The film focuses on four dynamic figures of a group which became known as the New York Intellectuals, characterized primarily by Jewish ethnicity, radicalism in youth tempered by anti-Stalinism, cultural critique in middle age, and anywhere but anywhere in old age.  The four are Irving Howe, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, and Daniel Bell.  They were all raised in poverty in Jewish ghettos in New York City.  They met at City College of New York during the 1930s.  City College became known as the “Jewish Harvard,” because of the prominence of working class children of Jewish immigrants who would ditch poverty as adult career intellectuals. As legend has it, the professors themselves were mediocre, but the students would read and learn through arguing with each other.  The dining hall contained various horseshoe shaped alcoves, and each one was claimed by some sort of clique (jocks, Catholics, etc.).  As it happens Alcove One was perennially occupied by anti-Stalinist socialists, either Trotskyist or Second International variety (the SWP and SP actually merged for awhile, weird as that sounds to modern students of sectarian politics), while Alcove Two was occupied by the Communist Party activists and their fellow travelers.  Often there were arguments and even altercations between the two, but more often each group kept to itself.  The Alcove One denizens infused literature readings into their politics, lacing their Marxist analysis with smatterings of Dostoevsky, Proust, T.S. Lewis, the Bronte sisters, etc., and moved beyond even the Frankfurt School of Marxism in the blending of cultural criticism with politics.  The subculture was also characterized by intense arguments, sometimes stimulated by alcohol consumption (a darker aspect of the old left which is known to the families but not often discussed even in the narrative histories).

These four began as Trotskyists, which leads me to my favorite quote in the film (I’m not quite remembering who said it):  “We didn’t know he [Trotsky] was right. We only knew he was interesting. And in the Village then, to be interesting was to be right. Certainly to be uninteresting was to be wrong. And I’m not sure I don’t still hold to that.” I have to admit that I probably hold to that as well, as I frequently find my self disagreeing even when I agree.  And Trotsky was a more interesting figure than Stalin, or even Lenin, and certainly more interesting than Norman Thomas (you get to see a rare clip of a Thomas speech in the film), though maybe not quite as interesting as Debs or Shachtman.

As they got older and left CCNY, the four, and others, pooled resources and joined as writers a magazine entitled Partisan Review – intending to be a literary magazine with a political philosophy emphasis.  Now the film doesn’t get into the history so much, but Partisan Review actually has roots in the Greenwich Village intellectual milieu, which included John Reed, Max Eastman, and the Masses Crowd, and it may overemphasize a bit the divide between Alcoves One and Two in the broader sense, but perhaps not as it applies to these four individuals.

They were integral to the formation and development of Commentary Magazine, which began as an attempt to integrate Jewish radicalism into American democratic culture with complex cultural criticism, but the magazine ultimately slid into a more straight-jacketed ideological neo-conservatism, and exists now as a shadow of its more intellectually challenging past.  But by the time the four were writing for Commentary, all of them, including Howe, had abandoned their CCNY-era radicalism and embraced a more skeptical and pragmatic liberal outlook, which sent them into different directions.  The film examines the directions they took and attempts to find answers to the question of why like experiences could leave Irving Howe in the socialist fold (even if most self-proclaimed socialists regarded him as neo-conservative) while pushing Irving Kristol into the the Reagan camp.

When McCarthyism came into full swing, these intellectuals found themselves in a tight spot.  They had become anti-communist to the point that they were slamming not only the C.P. itself for its ties and loyalty to the Soviet Union, but also the liberals who downplayed the American communist’s complicity with the mass killings carried out by their more “successful” Soviet counterparts.  None of the intellectuals’ was particularly enamored with McCarthy as a matter of style, but while Kristol protests that he referred to McCarthy as a “vulgar demagogue” while implicitly supporting the carnage McCarthyism was wreaking on innocent people and the culture at large, he and other Commentary writers did not object to the underlying witch hunt process which ruined the lives of people who had been guilty of nothing more than attending socialist meetings while in college.  At this point, Irving Howe broke away from many of his friends; and while slamming communism and even to some extent defending American culture, he attacked McCarthyism on civil liberties grounds- a frame that the others were unable or unwilling to adopt.  Their defensiveness as exhibited in the interviews of the film is remarkable.  On the one hand they protest that they did in fact “question” methods being used, but on the other felt that some sort of process was necessary.

Howe and other anti-Stalin socialists started the independent socialist quarterly Dissent (there is a recurring theme in the film that when Intellectuals don’t know what else to do, they start a magazine).  The idea was to revisit socialism as a goal or a hope in a non-ideological manner, and outside of the auspices of any particular organization or program, while maintaining critical independence of thought and analysis.  Kristol dismissed it as ideologically anachronistic and irrelevant, but by the time he was asked to comment he had already turned to the dark side and it’s unclear whether he was at that point unable to segregate his personal opinions from his political agenda.  But the debate raged and an indication of the prominence of the debate in the NY Jewish subculture came a couple of decades later when Woody Allen, either unaware or uncaring that the reference was somewhat obscure on the national level, dropped a line into his acclaimed movie Annie Hall referencing a peace reached between Commentary and Dissent so that they merged to form the magazine Dysentery.  Of the millions who have watched the Academy Award winning film over the decades since, probably only a fraction of them understand the reference.  But that it made it into the movie is an indication of how strong the debate was in NY Jewish subculture.

The documentary then moves into the 1960s and the contentious relationship between the NY Intellectuals and the New Left.  It doesn’t go into the initial discussions where Howe’s protege Michael Harrington attended the Port Huron conference and left with some frustration.  The episode is described in some detail in Maurice Isserman’s If I had a Hammer, which is a brilliant summary of the history of the American Left.  The film covers mostly the summit talks between Dissent and SDS.  Howe and Glazer describe their interactions with upstart activist Tom Hayden, whom they regarded as a potential totalitarian – romantic utopian politics within a good looking guy completely into himself.  The Intellectuals were paternalistic and condescending.  The New Lefties were charged and emotional.  It didn’t go well.  There are interviews with New Leftists including Hayden and Todd Gitlin, and you can tell that it’s still a sore point.

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I’ve never been big on romance stories, not just because I’m a guy, but because the plot lines and resolutions are fairly limited (Couple lives happily ever after, couple breaks up, one partner dies in tragedy, etc.).  But there are some stories which have been classified as “romance” with a backdrop which carries enough interest to dilute the more predictable plot line.

1.  Gone with the Wind

2.  West Side Story

3. The Way We Were

4.  Reds

5.  Bull Durham

6.  Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (Taiwanese)

7. Harold and Maude

8.  Bonnie and Clyde

9.  Romeo and Juliette (the one with Michael York as Tybalt)

10.  Wings of Desire (German)

Okay, this list has changed dramatically in the 5 minutes I took to type it up.  I guess the question to be answered is, “what is a romance?”  Is Kiss of the Spiderwoman a romance?  Is Bonnie and Clyde?  Obviously most movies involve some sort of love interest, but I assume that we agree that the romance – the coupling, or the frustration of potential coupling, must be at the core of the plot.

The end of the week is near, and I have a slow moment.  Time for another top 10 movie list.

Each film need not be about cooks or cooking per se.  Food simply must be integral to the central theme, and make you hungry watching it.

1.  Babette’s Feast (also one of my favorite religious movies)

2. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman

3.  Like Water for Chocolate

4.  Mostly Martha

5.  Big Night

6.  Chocolat

7.  Waitress

8. Fried Green Tomatoes

9.  Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

10.  Tortilla Soup

Haven’t seen Tampopo, God of Cookery, or Kitchen Stories, so they’re not on the list.

I recently watched John Carpenter’s Vampires.  It was okay.  I’ve seen a number of vampire movies over the years.  They don’t scare me.  Zombies scare me.  Vampires?  All of them lame.

I’m on the quest for a scary vampire movie.  The creepiest one was The Hunger, but it was the concept and plot which creeped me out.  Catherine DeNeuve and Susan Sarandon weren’t scary.  In fact, the sex/bite scene between them is probably one of the most erotic moments in film – until Sarandon ended up bleeding.

I watched the whole Buffy series and the Angel spin-off.  None of the vampires scared me, although those creepy floating skull creatures in Victorian garb which thrived on silence scared the bajeezus out of me.  Probably the lamest vampires ever were those in the original Buffy movie.  Did they really expect Pee Wee to impress as a vampire?

Bela Lugosi was a self-parody even before he set the standard.

Nosferatu, the silent movie version, was kind of scary.  Kind of.

I think the closest to scary any vampire has reached were the Lost Boys, but I think that film creeped me out because I was living in Santa Cruz at the time it was filmed there.  The sites were familiar, and twisted, like a dream.  But Kiefer Sutherland is scary anyway, whether he’s a vampire or just a teenage punk.

So, have any vampire movies scared you?  Maybe these vampires aren’t lame.  Maybe vampires just don’t scare me.


September 2020