FILM

North Coast Culinary Fest honors the ‘first foodie’

A weekend of special meals, cooking workshops, tastings, and film benefits Seaside High School's culinary arts program while paying tribute to James Beard

Cannon Beach is known for the many art galleries dotting its ocean-view avenues. Now local culinary aficionados want to bring visitors’ attention to another kind of art – the kind that happens in the kitchen — while paying tribute to a cooking pioneer.

The North Coast Culinary Fest kicks off May 10 for a weekend of workshops, fine dining and a night  market – all honoring legendary chef James Beard, with proceeds supporting the Seaside High School culinary arts program.

“We want folks get to know the artists in our kitchens better,” said Lenore Emery-Neroni, co-owner with husband and chef Bob Neroni of EVOO Cooking School. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Beard, whom The New York Times dubbed “the Dean of American Cooking” in 1954, had a long history with the North Coast. He was born in Portland in 1903, and his family summered in Gearhart. An advocate of using fresh, local ingredients before doing so  became commonplace, Beard later taught cooking classes in Seaside, which helped inspire the Seaside High School culinary class.

James Beard

In his memoir, “Delights and Prejudices,” James Beard wrote of the Oregon Coast, “no place on Earth, with the exception of Paris, has done as much to influence my professional life.”

For Beard fans, the highlight of the weekend will no doubt be the opportunity to attend a Champagne Reception at the Beard family’s former summer home. It’s a small party Saturday afternoon with tickets on a first-come, first served basis. The home, a small cabin, still features the Beards’ three-element electric stove. The stove now sits in a special alcove dedicated to Beard.

The James Beard Foundation website notes: “James Beard laid the groundwork for the food revolution that has put America at the forefront of global gastronomy. He was a pioneer foodie, host of the first food program on the fledgling medium of television
in 1946, the first to suspect that classic American culinary traditions might cohere into a national cuisine, and an early champion of local products and markets. Beard nurtured a generation of American chefs and cookbook authors who have changed the way we eat.”

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National Poetry Month draws near, and Yamhill County is lit

April brings readings, workshops, performance, and a documentary about poetry slam to venues around the county

In his introduction to The Best American Poetry 2018, published last fall by Scribner, editor Dana Gioia took a swing at the question, “What is the state of poetry?” and concluded with a wink and eye roll that it was both awful and had never been better.

Alas, never have so few read poetry, he lamented. And yet, this happy proclamation: The audience has never been bigger, etc., until finally: “All of these contradictory statements are true, and all of them are false, depending on your point of view,” he concluded, ceding to the obvious subjectivity in play. “The state of American poetry is a tale of two cities.”

Denice Frohman

Denice Frohman performs Monday at Linfield College.

If your point of view originates from Yamhill County, there’s cause for optimism. Poetry is alive and loud here, even when it’s not National Poetry Month, as it will be in just a few days. April marks the 23rd annual celebration, which was conceived by the Academy of American Poets in 1995. I’ve mapped out the month for poetry lovers in wine country, so this is a column to bookmark.

Ongoing: The McMinnville Public Library’s annual Spring Poetry Contest is live, with a 2019 theme of “literary spring.” It’s open to adults 18 and older. Poems must be original, unpublished, and no more than a page in length; limit of two entries per person. Bring them to the information desk upstairs or email to libref@mcminnvilleoregon.gov through May 21. Entries will be judged anonymously, and winners will be the featured readers for the library’s Poetry Night on June 4.

Nickole Brown

Nickole Brown

April 1: The month begins with a tough act to follow: Activist, educator, and poet Denice Frohman will perform “Stories of Ourselves: Celebrating parts deemed unworthy” at 6 p.m. in the Ice Auditorium, which is tucked away in Linfield College’s Melrose Hall. Frohman, a former Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, has appeared on hundreds of stages in the United States and around the world, including the White House (when the occupants valued the literary arts), the Nuyorican Poets Café, and The Apollo. Frohman is a CantoMundo Fellow whose work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color, and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism, and she is the organizer of #PoetsforPuertoRico. The performance is free and open to the public.

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Oregon Spotlight: Spring breaks from Shakespeare to Caravaggio

Our sampler of hits and bits from around the state offers music in Covallis and Medford, art in Bend and Roseburg, film on the Coast, and OSF is live in Ashland

We’ve set the clocks ahead, spring is coming, and that means Oregonians are tentatively emerging from their abodes with a mind to hit the road for day and weekend trips. What’s on the state’s cultural menu?

Mark Murphey (holding book) plays William Joad, who meets unexpected relative Martin Jodes, played by Tony Sancho (on ground), in Octavio Solis’ “Mother Road” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Mark Murphey (holding book) plays William Joad, who meets unexpected relative Martín Jodes, played by Tony Sancho (on ground), in Octavio Solis’ “Mother Road” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival

For starters, it’s showtime at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Right out of the gate, four options: Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band in the Thomas Theatre, while the Angus Bowmer hosts As You Like It, Hairspray: The Broadway Musical and Mother Road, a new play by Octavio Solis, inspired by John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and featuring OSF favorite Mark Murphey as William Joad. Solis is an Oregon playwright, and he’s calling this a “sequel” to Steinbeck’s classic, although it continues the story from an immigrant’s perspective. This is a world premiere directed by outgoing artistic director Bill Rauch and likely to be a play you’ll be proud to say, years from now, “I saw it first at OSF in Ashland.” Tickets and more info here.

Meanwhile, a few other options beyond Portlandia:

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Movies Without Borders: The 42nd Portland International Film Festival

Sometimes the best place to tap into our empathy is in the dark at the movies

The tagline for this year’s Portland International Film Festival is “Empathy has no ethnicity.” While clearly intended as a response to the xenophobia and intolerance currently plaguing our nation, it’s also a timeless reminder of the value of global cinema. It harks back to Roger Ebert’s famous description of cinema as a “machine for empathy.”

Movies, after all, arguably do a better job than any other art form at creating an intimate, visceral sense of identification with people totally unlike ourselves. They help us to recognize universal human tendencies as familiar emotions play across the faces of those separated from us by space and, increasingly, by time. Suffice it to say that if more Americans watched more non-American movies, the world would be a better place.

This year’s PIFF (March 8-21) is the 42nd overall, but the first to occur following the retirement of longtime Northwest Film Center director Bill Foster last year. While this year’s fest (and any in the foreseeable future) will surely evidence Foster’s ongoing influence, it will be interesting to see in what ways the event evolves in an increasingly competitive media landscape. As the theatrical distribution of foreign-language films continues to wither and their availability on home video or streaming platforms remains unreliable, PIFF offers, perhaps more than ever, the best and sometimes only way to experience a dizzyingly diverse array of experiences hailing from every continent save Antarctica. What follows is a necessarily scattershot look at this year’s program.

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Comment: Our Bodies Our Doctors

An Oregon-made film about abortion providers premieres at the Portland International Film Festival. Friderike Heuer looks at the issues.

Story and photographs by Friderike Heuer

The Portland International Film Festival, which opens Thursday, March 7, and continues through March 21, has a long (42 years and counting) and honorable tradition of focusing on controversial subjects. This year is no exception. On March 8, International Women’s Day no less, it features the world premiere of Our Bodies Our Doctorsa documentary film by Janice Haaken exploring the experiences of contemporary abortion providers.

The team: Director Jan Haaken front center; from left to right: Katrina Fairlee, Sound Recordist, Timothy Wildgoose, Photography, Caleb Heyman, Co-director of Photography, Samantha Prauss, Assistant Director. Not featured: David Cress, Producer.

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Watching (and talking) movies in McMinnville

Local filmmakers involved with the McMinnville Short Film Festival discuss the role of video stores, film festivals, and "This Is Spinal Tap" in their work

The 8th Annual McMinnville Short Film Festival was too big a meal to consume entirely last weekend, but I did get to a screening in the largest auditorium at Coming Attractions’ multiplex, which was pretty full Sunday afternoon. Between that and watching a few online, I caught about 15 of the record 50 films shown over two days. Only a few left me cold; most films — none longer than 20 minutes and many no more than 10 — were very good, and a few were excellent.

A complete list of this year’s films, nominations and winners can be found
here.

Festival organizers Dan and Nancy Morrow are friends, but I feel like I’m on solid ground in saying that the McMinnville Short Film Festival is a polished affair, organized by serious film-lovers who know what they’re doing. I hadn’t attended a film festival before (having a kid puts a damper on extracurricular stuff like that), but I was impressed with both the quality of the work on the screen and the informal, yet professional presentation. It is also encouraging to see a mainstream movie theater chain (Southern Oregon-based Coming Attractions, which runs many small-town theaters in Oregon and several other states) work with locals like this, handing over its largest screen for two days for a homegrown show. I hope to scoop up a bigger helping in 2020.

One of the weekend’s big crowd-pleasers was Sac de Merde. A barely 14-minute comedy about a young New York woman’s dating woes, it includes what is possibly the funniest and most outrageous sex scene I’ve ever seen in a film. Sac de Merde came from California, directed by Greg Chwerchak of Los Angeles. The film was nominated in five categories and received the festival’s top honor, the Grand Jury award, along with awards for directing and original short story, which was written by the trio of Chwerchak, Arielle Haller-Silverstone (who was also nominated for her acting in the film), and Gabrielle Berberich.

Arielle Haller-Silverstone was nominated for a Best Actress award for her work in the McMinnville audience favorite, “Sac de Merde,” which she also co-wrote.

He Calls Them All By Name, directed by Chad Sogas (who splits his time between Portland and Brooklyn, N.Y.) also impressed this year’s judges, garnering six nominations and winning in four categories, including: Best Actor (Ted Rooney), Best Sound Mixing (Noah Woodburn) and Best Editing (Katie Turinski). (The festival named two Best Actors; the second was Moussa Sylla in La Rage.)

Sogas’ film is an eerie piece centered on an intense confrontation between a tenant farmer and his drunk, gun-toting neighbor. Shot entirely outdoors at night, it was inspired in part by Flannery O’Connor’s Southern gothic short stories and films such as In Cold Blood and A Face in the Crowd. The story is pretty thin gruel that falls just short of being a complete enigma, but it clearly spoke to the political unease of the times. The technical skill on display, direction, and acting were outstanding. Greg Schmitt’s cinematography was extraordinary, and the film deservedly won for that as well.

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McMinnville Short Film Festival is long on innovation

This weekend's eighth annual event includes 50 films from around the world

On any given day, Coming Attractions Theatres’ multiplex in McMinnville screens 10 films. But this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9 and 10, in the theater’s 208-seat auditorium, you can see 50 – and you don’t have to sit for 18 hours straight to do it.

This weekend’s 8th Annual McMinnville Short Film Festival is a considerably larger and more polished affair than when it began with a single screening that included “movies” clearly shot on iPhones. This year’s crop comprises high-quality shorts shot by professionals on high-end equipment with full production crews. Portland is represented well, obviously, but an impressive international showing includes movies from Israel, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and Germany. Each of the four screenings runs from 80 to 110 minutes, no film runs more than 20, and you can talk to many of the filmmakers at the end of each show.

A common thread that emerges from talking with both filmmakers and festival attendees is that once they go, they’re likely to return. “I have been to the McMinnville festival, and I’m a fan,” said Tim Williams, who heads the state agency Oregon Film. “I love that they get so many filmmakers there, I very much enjoy their keynote speakers, and I love that it is in the middle of wine country, which means there’s good food and drink in your free time.”

Nancy and Dan Morrow spent years running a successful and eclectic video store in McMinnville. Today, they’re helping keep film alive by hosting the McMinnville Short Film Festival.

How did this happen? Why did it happen here?

The festival is the brainchild of Dan and Nancy Morrow, who until a few years ago owned the coolest video store in Oregon outside Movie Madness in Portland. Operating out of a house built in 1908 across Oregon 99W from Linfield College, the Morrows over 15 years built Movietime Video into an essential resource for hard-core film buffs. Sure, they had the latest Hollywood blockbusters and mainstream fare, but they also packed the shelves with foreign and art films, cult classics, Americana gems from the TCM Vault, and manga.

The TV wall alone was astonishing and offered the same breadth and variety available in every other section. Not only could you get Game of Thrones or The Sopranos, but you also could find throwbacks like Adam-12, Perry Mason, or even Tenspeed and Brownshoe. (Full disclosure: For a couple of years, I did some freelance writing for the store.) When Movietime shut its doors in April 2016, joining the nationwide wave of locally owned indie video-store closures, it felt like a funeral. (They have since converted the building into The Gallery at Ten Oaks, which features work by Oregon artists.)

The Morrows started the festival in 2011, building on the experience of a film competition they’d sponsored earlier that year for McMinnville’s UFO Festival. One screening was held in the local community center. Year by year, the event grew. Submissions started to climb and the films kept getting better. They partnered with Coming Attractions so audiences could see the work on a big screen. Screenings were added. The festival also booked speakers; in 2015, filmmaker Will Vinton gave the keynote address.

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