Feature Film “Leaving Circadia”: How Does Art Define its Creator?

By Colleen Rowe

Behind its “feel good” effect, Evan Mathew Weinstein’s feature film, “Leaving Circadia,” is laced with serious undertones circulating around semi-harmless manipulation and the everyday struggles artists, and people, face in a world filled with aesthetically presentable competition.

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“Leaving Circadia” circulates around the life of resident manager, “super,” Tom’s interactions with the people around him—friends, his boss, and initially unfriendly, but occasionally respectable acquaintances. Tom is played by Evan Mathew Weinstein, who is not only the director, but also the writer and executive producer of the film. Portrayed as a somewhat hopeless stoner with limited obligations and a knack for painting, Tom lives his pointless life as if he is a promoter for the nonconformist lazy man. His character, initially likable, even with his untactful commentary, becomes even more engaging as the film progresses. There are times when his manipulations are harmlessly, for lack of better words, cute. His encounters with the noticeably attractive Collette, played by Larisa Polonsky, shed the covering of his comical outer persona and allow audiences to see him beneath his protective guise. As viewers, we remain suspicious of his motives that are intertwined with benign manipulation.

The few side-plots featuring the various characters in Tom’s life are memorable in their brevity—including an interaction between two lovers as they talk in a bathtub. These simple sentiments are some that all viewers can relate to on a personal level. Those moments that are so private, but all-encompassing, portrayed and likened to be interactions that probably have happened in real life situations. They are charming, realistic even—this is what makes “Leaving Circadia” so appealing, with its character stereotypes shaded with the individualistic behaviors that can be found in real people who aren’t performing for a camera. A few shots involving the major characters throughout their day at a park and its surroundings, the sun setting in the distance, remain the most aesthetically memorable throughout the film. A shot of the sunlight between trees—it strikes you suddenly like a glaring focus.

Aside from Collette, his boss plays one of the most important roles in his life, similar to an overbearing father who gives many chances, but also expects too much. Played by Joseph R. Gannascoli, Nat is a self-serving, mercurial individual who often criticizes Tom on his most obvious flaws: slothfulness, irresponsibility, and folly. He rightfully demands Tom’s time, because, as he explains to the aloof stoner, it is his job, but he is unreasonable in his expectations—even if Tom had been a hard-working, reliable character. Nat sheds light on Tom’s inactivity, forcing viewers to see that he isn’t doing enough, regardless of how rudely he interacts with him. As viewers start to see Tom through Nat’s viewpoint, they might wonder: who is in the right here? The supermodel-toting, Bluetooth-obsessed Nat has a valid point, but we are already on Tom’s side because he is so easy to empathize with. Before dismissing Nat as a typical, “jerk” boss, consider his character’s accusations as credible, as he has probably known Tom for an elongated period of time.

Aside from acting as the visual muse and emotional stability for Tom, Colette plays a key, inspiring role that transcends Nat’s introspective assessments. She offers her advice to Tom, upon seeing his art for the first time, to sign paintings, sell them—to get his work out there. She sees talent past this major “hopeless” category that Tom is fit into by his peers. Why hasn’t Tom, who is so quick to attempt to win money in poker bets, taken advantage of marketing his immense artistic talent? He answers this later during a reflective moment with a friend: “My dad was an artist, talented. At his easel, cigar in his mouth. The art world is a brutal place. Somewhere along the way, it broke him. I watched that light go out. I was always afraid that would happen to me.”

Tom eventually takes back control of his life, something that Collette is directly responsible for—picking up his art, brushing off the dirt, and offering it as a piece to sell. Before you put your “trash,” the work that made you so horribly mad, to the curb think about its effect on others. It is validated that Tom is not the potential that Collette thought he was, but that he is an artist.

If you’re not going to allow the light to shine, it will never be lit. How will it ever go out? That’s the equivalent of hiding in a dark closet, waiting for your captor to find you. If you leave your protective cage before that darkness you fear discovers your whereabouts, you might just create a perpetual brightness—art that is not tainted by fear.

The people we meet in our lives change us, regardless of how long they stay.

Larisa Polonsky won Best Actress in a Feature Award, lead lady in “Leaving Circadia,” at Long Beach International Film Festival (2014).

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“Leaving Circadia” cast includes: Christian Coulson: Tom Riddle from “Harry Potter”, Joseph R. Gannascoli from “The Sopranos”, Ashley C. Williams from “The Human Centipede”, Larisa Polonsky from “Chicago Fire”, adult actress Stoya, and two time Tony winning actor (and star of Fox’s “Fringe” and Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming series “the Knick) Michael Cerveris.

Photos previously featured found on: Facebook.com/LeavingCircadia

Photo Link:

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Robin Williams: Irreplaceable

Written by Colleen Rowe, Film Syrup Founder/Managing Editor

“It is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.” –Susan Schneider, Wife

I decided to write a tribute to honor the request of Susan Schneider, Robin Williams’ wife, from a fan’s (my) perspective.

Robin Williams was not simply an actor I watched a on a television as child, but a part of my childhood that helped me to laugh, cry, and accept life for what it was: monotonous, confusing, specific, and often, quite beautiful. I have never personally met him and I never expected I would, but he was the type of actor who made fans like me feel like they knew him. A walking enigma, sometimes sporting green tights, I felt like my life was positively altered by his presence on screen. There are many things we realize in retrospect, in a haze before sleep or during a conversation that seems monumental at the time, but this is one thing that I knew while it was happening: Robin Williams was directly responsible for a lot of my happiness at a young age.

He was and remains a man who wears women’s clothes in a conventional setting without questioning whether it is appropriate. This, his character did for his kids. By his family’s reaction to his passing, I can tell that he was the type of man who could and would really help people if he had the chance, on individual and widespread levels. Through my television screen and movie screens, I have only known Robin Williams, but with so much support from his fan base, the celebrity community, the people who knew him personally, he is an irreplaceable human being. I arranged a few public videos I found on the internet (all sources cited via links) to acknowledge my respect for him.

He was the type of guy who you could have a food fight with in the cafeteria, you know, your best friend.

He was the type of husband who would cook for you if you asked, in whatever attire you requested.

He would talk about board games with authority figures like it was no big deal.

He was the type of guy who wouldn’t feel offended if you farted in front of him. He’d make you feel comfortable about the absolutely rude noise you just made:

He was the type of guy who would grant your wishes, as long as they were reasonable:

He was the type of guy who would change your view on the world:

He was the type of guy who reached you on a personal level.

Robin Williams will be missed by his fans, friends, peers, and, most importantly, his family. Without him, my childhood wouldn’t have been the same.

Beneath Apparent Routine: Mark & Jay Duplass’ “Jeff Who Lives at Home”

Written by Paige Skelly

In feature film, “Jeff Who Lives at Home” (2011), directors/writers, Mark and Jay Duplass depict Jeff (Jason Segel) as a 30-something bachelor who lives in his parents’ basement. Jeff is compelled to unravel a mystery after having a brief, but strange conversation with an unknown caller, concluding that it was a sign sent directly from the universe. Along his travels we meet Jeff’s brother, Pat (Ed Helms), and see how Jeff’s apparent absurdity with digging into coincidences actually comes to a head as a family secret is revealed and a potentially life threatening situation takes place. Though the plot-line may not sound extravagant, the film itself speaks volumes. This comedic drama will leave you with a sense of curiosity concerning the bigger picture—looking at life with a broader perspective. You are given the opportunity as a viewer to contemplate priorities, and delve beyond the surface of routine. As we see in “Jeff Who Lives at Home,” not all is as it seems—everything is connected in one way or another. It’s a film for everyone, really.

*Also starring Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) as Sharon and Judy Greer (Jawbreaker) as Linda.

What Does it Mean if You’re “Sorta’ Horny” Anyway?: Review with additional information provided by Filmmaker, Don Cherel

By Colleen Rowe

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Photo from “Stony Brook Film Festival” website: Link

In a world where feigned perfection sells, the characters in Don Cherel’s short film, “Sorta’ Horny” (2013) are buying twenty-two-year-old Sheldon Daffner’s (Adam Silver) time to stare at the protruding horn on the side of his forehead as he waits on the customers at the diner he works for. Generally, it’s difficult not to stare at the particular individuals we see in public with birth defects and physical abnormalities—Cherel portrays this concept with his own amusing spin.

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“Sorta’ Horny” is an initially semi-depressing, comedic visual commentary on the way people react to the societally proclaimed “abnormal.” Innocently portrayed, Sheldon works at this local diner, acting noticeably timid, but friendly enough to fulfill his role as the “head waiter.” Confirmed by Cherel during a Q&A after the film showed at the 19th annual Stony Brook Film Festival (SBFF), the seemingly cheap, lower class diner is an actual building located in Pacioma, Los Angeles, a place he described as a “destination to nowhere,” used solely as a set for production purposes. Cherel explained that many Los Angeles police officers were present on the highway, infamous for questionable activity with its functional motel (rent by the hour) behind the diner set, in Pacioma. One day while shooting, Cherel thanked one of the cops for his consistent presence and he responded, “Odds are I would’ve been here anyway.”

Throughout the workday at Sheldon’s job, we see his various interactions with different customers, some who simply stare at his horn and others who actually ask him about it. The African American couple (Zondra Wilson & Michael MicQuick Davis) he waits on seems most comparable and believable—they were the easiest for the audience to relate to. Although initially noticing the horn, they are more concerned with being served their food and teasing each other. Perhaps we can learn from these characters and the way they slightly ignore Sheldon’s horn for the duration of their meal. Hashtag: not being a judgmental bigot.

Sheldon’s shift at the diner circulates around these embarrassing (for him) conversations and his interest in the new, noticeably attractive hostess, Jessica (Sara Fletcher). Cherel revealed that Sheldon’s horn, made from silicon and foam, was actually created by Tony Gardner, who has done the prosthetics for the Jackass & Farley films, along with “Bad Grandpa.” Through his research, Cherel concluded that it is physically possible to develop a callous of bone (horn).

During his break, Sheldon meets with his overbearing mother (Mary Beth Pape) in his car where she, suspicious of his mysterious behavior, begins to falsely accuse him of taking part in illicit activities. The vehicle where they meet, similar to the car from Joel and Ethan Coen’s infamous “The Big Lebowski,” was specifically chosen for this reason, Cherel, a Coen Brothers fan, told the audience at SBFF. This deliberate technique to present a familiar prop to the audience is subtly clever without risking complete imitation, associating “Sorta’ Horny” with an already popular comedy.

After a difficult interaction with childish young women (one imitates his horn with a straw, holding it with her fingers against her forehead to depict his physical appearance), Jessica, the now blatant heroine, dismisses these foolish valley girls. Sheldon makes an important decision, directly affected by the young hostess’s defensive actions for him, after this negative-turned-positive interaction with Jessica and her former “friends.” What is the secret that Sheldon’s mother suspects he is keeping in this 21 minute short and how does the empathetic Jessica change his previously regretful mind? As this film comes to a questionable end, let us ask ourselves if bullying continues as age strips us of tired immaturity?

As Sheldon finally discards his typically geeky paper bag (used for when he hyperventilates), is he losing that part of himself that helplessly attempts to shield him from social criticism. Why is he “sorta’” and not just completely horny and where does that differentiation separate the phrase? It could be considered a metaphor for atypical human beings and how they’re supposedly part-“normal” beneath the guise of social rejection, the word “sorta’” emphasizing a person who is not fully an outcast, but inherently strange.

Transcending traditional stereotypes, we are entering this age where those who are now criticized heavily by the typically “beautiful” are frequently portrayed as heroes to larger audiences than a backyard gang. What does it mean if you’re “sorta’ horny” anyway? I think we’ve all been there.

The Crisis of Red Photojournalism in “1,000 Times Good Night”

By Colleen Rowe

1,000 Times Goodnight 

juliet binochePhoto taken from the official Stony Brook Film Festival website: http://stonybrookfilmfestival.com/fest14/schedule-1.html

A collective, expressive sigh narrates the audience’s horror as a Middle Eastern Woman is strapped with explosives in one of the first scenes of Erik Poppe’s feature film, 1,000 Times Good Night. Female protagonist, Rebecca (Juliette Binoche) pauses in unison with these outside sound effects produced by viewers, her camera slightly tilted and her eyes expressing an incomprehensible emotion—variations of worry, pain, and, quite possibly, an unannounced interest. Why Rebecca did not attempt to stop this suicide bomber from completing her mission is unclear, but a few suggestions revolve around the easily assumed idea that she did not want to be killed by the terrorist group who organized this mission. There is a subtle, fleeting thought throbbing in one’s head that she could be perceived as a terrorist herself for not stopping the event prior to its occurrence—but, would her interference have really counted in the grand scheme?

Her redemption is her camera, the direct means of her photojournalism that would provide proof that such events actually occurred. With this evidence, a more powerful military force would interfere and save future intended victims. Here, where Rebecca holds a backstage pass to a terrorist mission, arises one of the main themes of 1,000 Times Good Night: How far will someone go to obtain the evidence of a controversial story—will she go so far as to almost be blown up? Repeatedly, this concept is demonstrated throughout the duration of the film through Rebecca’s interaction with her daughters, particularly Steph (Lauryn Canny), and husband, Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).

The film is initially misleading—viewers have this idea that the train of events will follow the various photojournalism foreign conflict missions that Rebecca is assigned, but after she suffers an unfortunate injury, the film is shot in her very safe home environment. Regardless of this opposite, seemingly uneventful main setting, we follow her life as if we are a part of it—imagining her tattered, worn traveling-wear that Marcus comments on, from which she smells the dirt and fear from the victims she photographs. Her husband’s distaste for her dangerous career choices along with Rebecca’s feigned, desired carefulness not to frighten her daughters with the possibility of her death become more potent obstacles that she must face. What choice is she to make—a life of criticism by disappointed loved ones on the home front or a physically dangerous, life threatening career of photojournalism in conflict areas? Viewers would be surprised which lifestyle is more difficult to pursue.

A film not shy to portray scenes of mass murder by foreign terrorists in a conflict crisis setting, the different locations are essential to the portrayal of the idea that who we are in the workplace is not who we are at home, and likewise, who we are at home really affects our work in a “professional” environment—even if that environment is pushing us to run for our lives. Photojournalism and violence aside, it is Rebecca’s attitude that is the real shock factor while viewing 1,000 Times Good Night—suggested by her husband: is there ever really a final shot? Her inability to perceive danger as DANGER pierces the audience’s eyes like a rogue bullet and, suddenly—we’re all blind with fury. Why didn’t she leave when the firing commenced? Is a picture worth her life? Such perspectives filtered into an audience’s emotional range boasts controversial filmmaking.

Within the depths of family and international conflict, there’s a simpler story and it’s found on the beach that is in close proximity to Rebecca’s house. She often runs, presumably, from an obvious perspective, to stay physically fit, but there is also a very apparent metaphor presented: that she is running from the problems that consume her daily life (a lone runner, classic metaphor portrayed in film and media). In the few minutes where sadness alludes them, Rebecca and Marcus share these beautifully crafted frames where they are laughing, pushing each other into the water—the bright sunset-inspired lighting inviting—no, intoxicating. We run from our problems and attempt to shield them with our sweat, but sometimes they end up finding us and kissing us forcibly on the lips.

Toward the end, after Rebecca’s fears of frightening and disappointing her daughter come true, a riveting, gripping, completely devastating scene takes its place in her car as Steph tells her it might be better if Rebecca died, a statement that she later rescinds. Upon hearing this, Rebecca slowly starts to tear, the close up of her facial features immediate. Her daughter then rapidly starts to take unyielding shots from Rebecca’s camera, paralleling her mother’s common action to take photos of heartbreaking conflict depicting the emotional turmoil of her subjects. It is a silent, rhetorical question asking, how do you like it, mom? This scene could arguably be considered climactic in the plotline.

Ultimately, we feel for all major characters involved in this film, including Rebecca—she is obviously torn between reporting social injustices and pleasing her family, but as the film winds down we are left with this simple realization, verbally portrayed by Steph, that someone MUST do this job. People do, every day, risking their lives for a cause—blatant activism shielded by press motives. Some die, but the ones who live to tell, or rather, show the tale leave us with ideas to promote the enforcement of peaceful change.

Not yellow journalism, I’ll call it “red,” [photojournalism] like the blood from the victims it captures and portrays, bright with yielding tone and explicitly effective in defining a necessary cause.

“Trouble With Women” (2014) Photo Collection (Q&A) : Long Beach International Film Festival

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8/2/2014

Trouble With Women,” Directed by Alan Ginsberg, starring Montgomery Sutton,  Andrew Mauney, & Brian Boswell.

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After Brian Boswell was asked if he was anything like his character in real life, (apparently it happens a lot):

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Alan Ginsberg & part of the cast

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