Say Qua?! New DVD Features the Best Shorts From 2016's Ann Arbor Film Festival

PREVIEW FILM & VIDEO

Remember back in October when Saturday Night Live did a parody of the kinds of artfully shot and totally nonsensical movies you often see at film festivals?

SNL called its film qua -- which was being screened at the, ahem, "Ann Arbor Short Film Festival" -- and it had Emily Blunt running through a forest dotted with the number 3 and ended with her being forced to face her own self ... with her own self.

After the screening, the audience bolted to the stage -- since the crowd was made up entirely of the movie's huge cast and crew, save for one unlucky woman who was forced to ask qua's makers multiple questions about their terrible film.

Awkwardness ensued, comedy was had.

Sadly, qua did not make it onto the new DVD featuring 10 highlights from the actual Ann Arbor Film Festival's 2016 expansive short-film program. But this 9th collected edition of the festival’s best works includes films by:

Michigan Movie at the Michigan: "The Pickle Recipe"

PREVIEW FILM & VIDEO INTERVIEW

Fermented foods are a form of pickling, but pickles can just be ... pickles, straight up.

See, sauerkraut and yogurt are fermented foods that engage in a form of pickling, with the preservation caused by lactic acid fermentation.

But straight-up pickling is the process in which a vegetable -- in this case, a cucumber -- is preserved by vinegar, an acidic.

In the [http://www.thepicklerecipe.com|The Pickle Recipe], a new film set in Detroit, whatever secret ingredients have been added to Grandma Rose's pickling process -- whose dill-icious concoction has had patrons flocking to Irv’s Deli for years -- is the driving force behind Joey Miller’s desperate attempt to steal the recipe from her.

In other words, this ain't no straight-up pickle.

Miller is a DJ/MC for weddings, bat mitzvahs, and any other party that needs its roof blown off. But Miller (played by Jon Dore) is in debt and he loses his only source of income when all his sound and lighting gear gets destroyed by accident. He turns to his sneaky Uncle Morty (David Paymer) for a loan, who agrees to give Miller the dough -- on one condition: That he steal Grandma Rose’s (Lynn Cohen) pickle recipe, a secret creation she’s long sworn to take to her grave.

Hijinks ensue and viewers are treated to comedic caper flick with more than a touch of heart.

Director Michael Manasseri and writers/producers Sheldon Cohn and Gary Wolfson are Michigan natives, and nine of the cast/crew members attended the University of Michigan. The Pickle Recipe is playing at the [http://www.michtheater.org/show/the-pickle-recipe|Michigan Theater] through December 22, and we caught up with Manasseri, Cohn, and Wolfson in an email interview, whose questions they answered as a group.

Animal Magic: Donald Hall's "Eating the Pig"

Donald Hall

Donald Hall's poetry is the apple of our eye.

If you’re a vegetarian, Donald Hall’s poem “Eating the Pig” might make your stomach churn.

But if you’re a meat eater and are disgusted by Hall’s imagery -- or the pictures in the Eating the Pig: A Dinner Party in Poetry, Photography & Painting exhibit, on display at the Ann Arbor District Library, that document the evening described in the poem -- you need to get in touch with where your animal-based protein comes from and the often brutal ways it gets to your plate.

(Read the "Eating the Pig" poem [http://www.aadl.org/eating_the_pig_poem|here] or listen to Hall read it [http://www.aadl.org/pig|here].)

In 1975, Hall left his teaching job at University of Michigan and bought his maternal great-grandfather's farm in New Hampshire, where he spent many summers as a child. With so much of his life spent in a rural area, the 2006 Poet Laureate is deeply in tune with nature and the creatures that populate it. His poems show a clear-eyed vision of how real life is always an ongoing mix of beauty and struggle, inextricably linked and forever a source of consternation and inspiration. Hall recognizes that a gorgeous horse can become a broken down beast of burden; that a majestic but aging rooster’s final morning crow is lost to the wind before his head is chopped off; and that a cute little suckling pig can also be a source of human sustenance.

Hall has written many poems that feature animals -- and no, they aren’t all about eating them. Below is a selection of those poems, which display Hall’s reverence for animals and the many things they provide for humanity. These poems also give additional context to “Eating the Pig,” which ties a single October 1974 Ann Arbor evening spent carving and devouring an animal to a historic ritual of life and death that stretches back to the Stone Age when flint cutting tools first appeared.

Interview: Photographer Michelle Massey/Omeeomi, UMMA/Tiny Expo Award Winner

INTERVIEW VISUAL ART

Michelle Massey/Omeeomi

Omeeomi, we have a winner!

[http://www.aadl.org/tinyexpo|Tiny Expo] has become an annual tradition for the Washtenaw-area arts and crafts community, and the juried artists who exhibit their works often leave the downtown Ann Arbor District Library brimming with dinero from all the sales.

But this year there was a chance to take home some bonus bucks.

For this year’s event, which was held December 10, the Tiny Expo/UMMA Store Vendor Contest allowed patrons to cast votes for their favorite artists, with the prizes being:
-- 3rd place: $20 gift card to the UMMA store
-- 2nd place: $30 gift card to the UMMA store
-- 1st place: Select products by the winning artist will be featured and available for sale at the UMMA museum store for 6 months.

The top 3 vote-getters were then vetted by Nettie Tiso, manager of the [http://umma.umich.edu/store|UMMA store], who chose which artist would get to sell his or her works at the museum.

And this year’s winner is ... [drumroll] ... [really long drumroll] ... [now the drummer is doing a jazz solo, so this may take a while] ... [security breaks the drumsticks and escorts percussionist out of the building] ...

[https://www.facebook.com/omeeomiphotography|Michelle Massey], a Ypsilanti-based photographer who calls her company Omeeomi.

We talked to Massey about her art and photography in the interview below:

Interview: Fred Thomas on his "Voiceover" video

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Fred Thomas

Fred Thomas is hearing voices.

Fred Thomas doesn’t evoke regular feelings among his listeners. His smart, wordy songs have grabbed listeners’ emotions for two decades as a solo artist or in bands such as Saturday Looks Good to Me, City Center, and a slew of others.

Thomas is an Ann Arbor native, but over the last decade he's bounced between Portland, New York City, and everywhere in between. But we’ll always claim the prolific songwriter, whose music veers from urgent indie rock to recumbent soundscapes, as our own -- even if his current home is Montreal, Quebec.

He’s just too talented for us to let him go completely.

Thomas has a new album, [https://www.polyvinylrecords.com/product/changer|Changer], coming out January 27. Two tunes have been released so far -- the stripped down and emotionally biting guitar song “[https://fredthomasmusic.bandcamp.com/track/brickwall|Brickwall]” and the electronic “[https://soundcloud.com/polyvinyl-records/fred-thomas-echolocation-1|Echolation]” -- but for “Voiceover,” the third song released into the wild, Thomas made a video.

The clip features Thomas deadpanning his way through strumming a guitar as scenes of everyday activities -- fixing your hair, turning on a lamp, etc. -- are repeated over and over to hammer home that even the smallest moments contain moments of beauty even if everything in the greater world feels like it’s going to hell.

We’ll have a longer feature on Thomas closer to when Changer comes out, but we did a quick chat with him about the making of the “Voiceover” video:

Preview: Student Partnerships in Technology and Performing Arts Showcase

Professor [http://michaelgurevich.com/|Michael Gurevich] is a facilitator.

As the assistant professor and chair of the Department of Performing Arts Technology at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance, it’s Gurevich’s job to help his students make connections between seemingly disparate things, be it computer music and improvisation or tap dancing and video games.

On December 13 at 7:30 pm, the public can watch some of these collaborations at the [https://events.umich.edu/event/34393|Student Partnerships in Technology and Performing Arts Showcase], the first event from an experimental pilot course Gurevich developed to bring together artists from the tech side (electronic musicians, coders, etc.) and the traditional arts (dancers, instrumentalists, etc.) Held in the state-of-the-art Chip Davis Technology Studio in the [https://campusinfo.umich.edu/building-search/building/52/earl-v-moore-building|Earl V. Moore Building], the multimedia and performance showcase promises to be a head-twisting exploration of artistic intersections.

In the video below, Pulp editor Christopher Porter interviewed [http://www.music.umich.edu/faculty_staff/bio.php?u=mdgurev|Gurevich] and asked him about the showcase -- which is free -- and how it all plays into the University of Michigan’s [http://thirdcentury.umich.edu|Third Century Initiative]: "As U-M prepares to celebrate its bicentennial in 2017, the Third Century Initiative has been established to inspire innovative programs that enhance the student learning experience and develop creative approaches to the world’s greatest challenges."

Interview: Dr. Thomas Strode and Boychoir of Ann Arbor

PREVIEW MUSIC

Boychoir of Ann Arbor

A past edition of the Boychoir of Ann Arbor chilling in their vestments.

It’s a haunting sound when a group of boys’ voices in the treble range convene.

I’m not talking about performances by boychoirs, which feature the unchanged voices of prepubescent boys, who together make a sound so lovely and pure that the effect is haunting.

I’m talking about the start of boychoir practices and the scary sound created when a gaggle of rambunctious dudes with short attention spans and constant jokes get together to learn the craft of choir singing.

But for 30 years, the ever-patient Dr. Thomas Strode has led the [http://aaboychoir.org/|Boychoir of Ann Arbor] through innumerable practices, and his ability to keep cool and impart high-quality musical education to a rather wiggly and easily distracted audience is remarkable.

In the common area of Ann Arbor’s St. Paul Lutheran Church, where Strode is the director of music, he teaches boys musical theory and gives singing lessons using a quiet, measured tone of voice. Under Strode's gentle guidance, the boys' constant hum of silliness at the start of practice soon becomes a gloriously soothing sound when they begin to sing.

Strode instructs a prep choir, for newer singers, as well as the performing choir, which features more experienced vocalists and expands the treble boychoir model to also include an SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choir, with the older boys and their changing voices providing the lower notes.

Dr. Strode really understands how to teach children, which is why Boychoir of Ann Arbor has thrived for three decades. And the kids really do learn to sing beautifully, as listeners will be able to hear at the [http://aaboychoir.org/upcoming.html|“A Boychoir Christmas”] concerts on December 9 and 10.

These annual shows are highlights for many holiday concertgoers -- but they will also be Strode’s final ones as the choir’s director. He’s retiring at the end of the boychoir’s season, which wraps on June 4 with the “Spring Finale” concert.

With this being Strode’s final Christmas concert, we asked the good doctor to give us a preview of what we will hear and why.

Interview: U-M Professor Stephen Rush, author of “Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman”

Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman, the least understood person in the room.

Ornette Coleman’s music can be inscrutable to unprepared ears. The jazz giant, who died in 2015 at 85, developed a music theory he called “harmolodics.” It’s a style that goes beyond the “free jazz” tag that frequently accompanies Coleman’s name -- even if the alto saxophonist/trumpeter/violinist did release a [https://play.spotify.com/album/7zE4RadAWa8lYSvAZkGtFw|genre-defining record] under that name in 1960 -- and relies as much on a philosophical idea as a musical one. Simply put: Harmolodics is about race.

Harmolodic theory can baffle experienced musicians, too. Even guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer, who played with Coleman for 6 years, said, “I don’t get it!” in a new book called [http://www.literatibookstore.com/book/9781138122949|Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman] by Stephen Rush, [http://www.music.umich.edu/faculty_staff/bio.php?u=srush|professor of performing arts technology] at the University of Michigan.

But Professor Rush, who has taught at U-M for more than 30 years, breaks down Coleman’s complicated theories in a series of free-flowing interviews with the legendary composer that clarify harmolodics’ underlying philosophy. Plus, the book’s in-depth musical examinations will help students absorb the style into their own playing.

In addition to being a U-M prof, keyboardist Rush has a [http://stephenjrushmusic.com|staggeringly wide body of work] that includes everything from chamber jazz and opera to digital music and sound installations, and he explores harmolodics (and all sorts of other styles) in his Naked Dance quartet.

To celebrate the release of Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman, Rush is doing two area readings: Wednesday, December 7, at [http://www.literatibookstore.com/event/jason-corey-and-stephen-rush|Literati (Ann Arbor)] and Sunday, December 11, at [http://trinosophes.com/PERFORMANCES-EVENTS|Trinosophes (Detroit)]. Both are at 7 p.m. (For the Literati event, Rush is joined by Jason Corey, associate dean and associate professor of music at the University of Michigan, who just released a new edition of his book [http://www.literatibookstore.com/book/9781138845947|Audio Production and Critical Listening: Technical Ear Training].)

Rush answered questions over email about Coleman and the book, and he gave Pulp a list of recommended recordings that illustrate harmolodics at its finest.

Preview: December Documentaries

PREVIEW FILM & VIDEO

Warren Miller’s Here, There & Everywhere

Warren Miller is Here, There & Everywhere. / Photo by [http://www.cammcleodphotography.com/index|Cam McLeod Photography].

Do you have a God complex? Then documentary filmmaking might not be for you.

“In feature films the director is God; in documentary films, God is the director,” said the deity Alfred Hitchcock.

But the seven documentaries being shown in Ann Arbor this December had directors who put aside any supernatural ambitions they may have to tell real stories.