Tag Archives: The Capri

Upcoming Fall Fun

Looking for something to do, but tired of researching to indulge your morbid curiosity about the two tired old folks duking it out in the Alabama Governor’s race? Convinced in some sort of deeply buried sliver of your soul that there might be more to life than consumption of a weekly slate of college football games? Feeling as if there’s something missing in your life?

Get out there and experience the reality that most people in the world know and love … or at least tolerate until another morning dawns. “But what to do?” you might be shrieking at your computer screen at this very moment. Never fear, here are some good options for Midtown Montgomery residents looking for weekend fun during coming weeks:

Start a morning at the CIA yard sale. No, no, no the Central Intelligence Agency yard sale, which would be super awesome but probably also a trap. No, we’re talking about the Cloverdale-Idlewild Association yard sale, the 6th annual fundraiser for one of the best neighborhood associations in the city.

It’s October 9th from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. and like most yard sales, the early birds get the bargains. Young people and hipsters who prize the kinds of crap you can find at yard sales are also the most likely to be sleeping in because of long Friday nights. Old people will show up early and buy all the best stuff while the young resign themselves to lolling around on the couch watching ESPN’s College Football Gameday, which features Lee Corso, an old person who has probably already hit 3 yard sales before he dodders on the set each Saturday morning.

The C.I.A. yardsale is pretty great. They have everything from clothing to toys to a whole gardening section (where we sold some of the unfortunate statuary that came with our house when we bought it), all priced to move.

Go see the Springsteen movie at The Capri on September 26th. Bruce Springsteen is sort of like U2: been around forever, couldn’t possibly be more critically acclaimed and totally taken for granted. We’re not huge Springsteen fans. We know people from New Jersey who (while tossing a begrudging bone to that other Garden State musical icon, Mr. Bongiovi) pretty much treat Bruuuuce like The Pope. And he is. He’s sort of the Madonna of white dudes, the American Bono, the working class Mick Jagger, the everything good about the “guy with guitar and kickass band” model of music-making.

If you think you already know what’s up with Bruce Springsteen and don’t like him, you probably haven’t heard enough. One of the bad things about being a musical icon is that people slot you into a box. If your knowledge of Bruce begins and ends with the “Born in the USA” and “Dancin’ in the Dark” stuff from the 1980s, you need to clear your mind and experience the haunting brutality of 1982’s Nebraska or even some of the new stuff like Working on a Dream.

Young people would be making a mistake to lump Bruce in with other middle-aged white guitar rock icons like Tom Petty (who is also awesome) or John (Cougar) Mellencamp (who is less so). Maybe you’re more into John Mayer or Jack Johnson. Or maybe you just don’t think as much about music as you once did because the economy has collapsed and you’re juggling your job (or the search for one) with family obligations and other priorities.

Bruce is the soundtrack to all of this, or could be if you’d listen. Go see this movie. It’s called London Calling, was filmed live in London’s Hyde Park, and opens with the title track being performed (a cover of one of the greatest songs by The Clash). We haven’t seen it, but it is getting rave reviews. It’s a 90-minute live show by Bruce and the E Street Band and if all you’ve ever seen of Bruce live is the Super Bowl halftime show, this movie is sure to blow your doors off.

London Calling is the final of three special programs at the Capri Theatre the week of September 20-26. On Friday, September 24 they’ll be showing one of two showings of the cult classic The Big Lebowski (one of our fave movies ever). Saturday, September 25 brings Alexander City resident and star of Troll 2 George Hardy to the theater to present the documentary Best Worst Movie.

Do Oktoberfest at El Rey. We’ve already explained that we think El Rey Burrito Lounge is one of our very favorite restaurants in the city. That would be true even if they weren’t always having awesome special events like Oktoberfest (Friday, October 1st). We went last year and liked their vegan chorizo dogs so much that we wrote Oktoberfest on our calendar as soon as they announced the date. Of course, they have the meaty kind of chorizo too — and delicious soft pretzels. And beer. Did we mention that there will be lots and lots of beer? Some of it will be kinds you’ve never heard of. All of it will be delicious. And hopefully by then it will not be a million degrees outside.

Go to the Wine Festival. We like wine. It gives us that warm feeling, loquaciousness, and, if consumed in sufficient quantities, it can make us forget about the current political climate here in Alabama (Can you tell that we’re thrilled with the current crop of folks being offered up for election in November?).

On Saturday, October 9, go to the River Walk Wine Festival. It’s noon to 4 p.m. at, well, duh, at the Riverfront. It’s $25 a person with music, wine, food, all the usual festival stuff. We were at the river for the Dragon Boat races and had a blast. And as the weather cools, it’s even better to be taking advantage of one of the best parts of downtown.

While we know a little about wine, we’re far from the readers of the insufferable wine magazines. We don’t go to the wine snob Websites or offer the discriminating curl of the lip if offered something less-than-elite. We know only enough to know what we like. And that’s why it’s fun. We’re actually pretty populist about it, being able to sit on pickup tailgates drinking cheap beer with the good ol’ boys one day, while swilling a Spanish reserva rosé with friends on the patio the next.

The River Walk Wine Festival promises to be a good time. At least 11 distributors are featured on the festival’s Webpage. And we promise to have a designated driver. We are also glad that this is not on the same day as the Oktoberfest because we’re not sure we could mix that much wine and beer.

We know there’s more stuff coming up – just wanted to share these events with anyone looking for stuff to do. And please, as always, if you know of cool upcoming events, drop us a line so we can help spread the word.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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Lowder Property Rezoning

Regular MML readers know that we’re closely following the debates over re-zoning in Cloverdale Five Points (the part of town with Sinclair’s and The Capri). For those not as geeked out about zoning as we are, the story so far is basically that the City wants to switch over to SmartCode in this part of town (We have collected drawings and documents here for your reference). That push is still going forward, but in the short term, the City is asking for a rezoning of the Lowder property at the corner of Boultier and Fairview. That’s the western part of the building that used to be a school. For those not totally conversant with the area, it’s near Huntingdon College (once an owner of this parcel), across the street from Sinclair’s and also from the 1048 nightclub.

As it stands, this property is zoned B-1-a. The City is hoping it can be zoned B-1-a-q. Your eyes glazing over yet? It seems the “q” stands for “qualifications.” According to City Planner Tyler Caldwell, “The addition of the q denotes qualifications that restrict potential developments on this property to conform to the standards laid out in the T4-O SmartCode Transect. The only additional qualification is the permission for 1 story structures; whereas, T4-O has a minimum height restriction of 2 stories.” Caldwell has summarized the qualifications in a document you can see for yourself – download by clicking here.

This sounds good to us. Confusing to wade through the jargon, but when you think about it, it sounds nice. This is what governments do. They prevent people from ruining neighborhoods in the name of unchecked property rights. And if you care about how your city looks and functions, this is the sort of thing you should care about.

Why the rush? Well, the property is about to be sold, and the City would like to ensure that whatever is built there maintains the look and neighborhood feel associated with SmartCode. In other words, not a big box store with a bunch of parking in the front. According to Caldwell, this rezoning does not impede the larger effort to have SmartCode for the whole Cloverdale Five Points area. That debate is still upcoming.

The Cloverdale-Idlewild Association voted unanimously at this week’s meeting to support the City’s rezoning of the Lowder property. The next step in the process will be a Planning Commission meeting at 5:00 pm on September 23. The Planning Commission meets at City Hall, Room 142 at 103 N. Perry St. Please contact Tyler Caldwell, City Planner, at 334-241-2728 or tcaldwell@montgomeryal.gov if you have any questions or concerns.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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August Saturday in Midtown

By Kate and Stephen

We just had a great Saturday.

It was one of those days that make you feel really lucky to live in Montgomery. Friday was a late night. Good friends came over. The August heat had finally decided to offer a tease of September. The punishing heat had, if only for a cloudy night, relented. We had mojitos on our patio. Come Saturday, we slept in. But just a little – there was a lot going on in our hometown.

First, we went to the Capri, where the African-American Film Festival was showing from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. It was sponsored by the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University. Admission was free, so the price was right, and the selection of movies was pretty great.

We missed the Lena Horne movie, Cabin in the Sky, but settled in for a civil rights movie called Soundtrack for a Revolution. We both consider ourselves fairly well-informed observers of civil rights history, but we had never heard of this documentary. All we really knew is that it was: A) about civil rights and B) featured music from some of our favorite musical artists. So with The Roots, John Legend, Joss Stone (and others) acting as drawing cards, we went and were happy that we did. It was one of the best movies about the 1950s-1960s American civil rights struggle that we have seen.

The music was on point (Richie Havens performed a stirring version of Will the Circle Be Unbroken?), but the overall arc of the movie brought home the importance of music to the movement. There were great interviews with a number of folks, all of whom seemed to be speaking pretty candidly. The makers of the movie clearly spent a lot of time doing extensive combing over archival footage, and their efforts pay off. There are a few neat cinematic tricks too, like when the camera scans over a full-screen grid comprised entirely of police mugshots, with the grid folding and rotating showing booking photos of more and more of the human faces willing to be arrested for what was right. It covered Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery, Mississippi, and the march on D.C. without getting bogged down. A great, great film about American history that uplifts but also reminds you of the urgency of unfinished business.

Afterward, we went across the street and had tasty sandwiches from Cafe Louisa. Even if you’re a meat eater, you can still appreciate the portobello mushroom Reuben sandwich. Sauerkraut plus mustard plus heavy sandwich press equals happy post-movie lunch.

Next stop? Montgomery’s riverside dragon boat races. We weren’t really sure what to expect and had never been to this gathering before. We felt lucky to have heard about it and weren’t sure if there’d be much of a crowd downtown or not. Sure enough, after passing through multiple other inexplicable police barricades shutting down the downtown area for totally unrelated reasons, we parked near the Brewpub and saw people milling around.

While walking towards the river, we decided to stop in the Bishop-Parker furniture store in the Schloss-Kahn building across from the Biscuits stadium. We weren’t looking for furniture, but have always wondered what that cool triangle-shaped building was like on the inside. Since it was the kind of day where you do a little exploring, we went inside. It’s pretty amazing in there. The beams throughout feature old graffiti, many of which inveigh against the city porter in some way. We’re not sure what the city porter’s job was, much less how it might have angered the workers at some point in this awesome building’s 105-year history, but it must have been pretty bad. There was also some very nice furniture inside, and the people there were very kind to let us poke around and take pictures.

When we arrived at the river, it was hot. Very hot. Alabama in August hot. But the festival was free and the smart people that were competing in the boat races had planned ahead, bringing football tailgate tents, which reminded us that we were enjoying the last Saturday of the year before football consumes the brains of otherwise well-meaning folks.

The festival featured live music at the city’s cool riverside amphitheater. As we walked up, a local band called The Signals delighted us by playing some Elvis Costello, but floored us by launching into Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer,” a super-long guitar-heavy dirge about genocide. They smashed it out of the ballpark, producing a stirring version that somehow, oddly, managed to capture the Neil Young anthemic sound while blending into the sunny civic outdoor atmosphere of people cheering for dragon boats.

We enjoyed rooting for the only all-female team entered into the races, “Chics Ahoy,” right before they won their heat. This made us feel better about the announcer’s insulting pre-race comment that they might not be the fastest boat, but they sure would be the cutest. In general, the scene down at the riverfront was bucolic and happy, with everyone enjoying the races while getting their summer fun on.

Our only quibble was that afterwards, when we wanted to go drink something cold and sit in some air conditioning, neither the Alley Bar nor the Brewpub was open. Why not? There’s a festival going on. It’s a Saturday during the summer. People are hot and want to hang out. Also, is this the business plan that’s going to help you out during college football season? We were surprised. So we went home to cool off.

And all of this activity doesn’t give due to the fact that also on this Saturday were the Black Belt Roots Festival in Eutaw and the Okra Festival in Lowndes County. We didn’t make the quick day trips this weekend, but would love to go next year.

First thing in the morning, we’d seen a movie that reminded us that we live in a city that has, throughout its history, been among the most important in influencing the trajectory of our country. We’d been inspired by photos that have inspired the world – and they were taken right here in our town. Then we met some friendly people and saw a building where new furniture graces old floors. Then we heard soaring music while watching hand-paddled boats slide across our beautiful river. Then we had lemonade. Just another lovely Montgomery Saturday.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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Montgomery Film Festival

By Stephen and Kate

You will, I hope, forgive us for being a little bit provincial when we saw that there was to be a film festival in our neighborhood. We were so very excited. A film festival? What with the moving pictures and all? In Montgomery? In our neighborhood?

As we noted Friday here on MML, the Second Annual Montgomery Film Festival was this weekend. And just as if our town was having an ethnic food festival or some kind of amazing live music, looking up at the marquee of The Capri and seeing the words “Montgomery Film Festival” made us feel like we were living in a big city, with real cinophiles and a local creative underground. We didn’t know how many of the entries would be local, but thrilled at the idea that there were people out there making movies about our shared geography, shining lights onto experiences we might be missing, casting the world in new and eye-opening ways. And somewhere, somebody was cool enough to assemble all of the works into a “festival” and charge a reasonable price for a memorable Saturday evening.

As film festivals go, there are still some kinks to be worked out. But even the amateurish moments added to a warm small-town feel, where most of the people in the audience seemed to know each other (or be friends of the film makers). And when the DVD froze during one of the movies, causing them to have to hit “fast forward” to skip over the glitched scene, well, that’s the sort of communal experience that makes seeing a movie in a theater different than watching it in your living room. And it was fun.

Sure, there were some stinkers in the batch. That’s also part of the fun of it. One of the good things about watching a bunch of movies that are (by requirement) under 25 minutes in length is that even the bad ones will be over soon. And half of the fun of having opinions is sharing them with others. And if some of the bad ones selected to air at the film festival actually were the cream of the submissions, well, it’s even fun to imagine the ones that didn’t make the cut.

Before talking about the specifics of the films, it is worth mentioning that the festival was put on with the help of the Alabama Film Office and corporate sponsors like The Montgomery Advertiser and local TV station WSFA. And of course, the priceless venue, The Capri, about which we have gushed many times.

Here are our reviews (and grades) of the movies that were screened at this year’s festival:

“La Barba Brutta” – This is a silent film, which is to say that there is no dialogue. But the film is far from silent, as it’s set to a soaring excerpt from The Barber of Seville, the famous opera by Rossini. It’s short, hilarious and nicely showcased the editing talents of the creator, a nice young Brazilian fellow named Davi Abreu who spoke before the screening. This did a great job of setting the tone for the festival. A solid “A,” especially for a two minute “silent” film.

Afghan” – The high expectations set by “La Barba Brutta” were exceeded by the next short, a 11:40 long piece from Canadian Pardis Parker about xenophobia, optimism and the beautiful power of creativity and cinema. Simultaneously hilarious and poignant, this short piece managed to contain great acting and a powerful message about the universe of possible responses to fear-driven aggression. It was both a timely comment on the hateful political climate of intolerance in which we exist, but also a timeless meditation on the transformative power of art. Grade: A-plus.

In Our Shoes” – Shot entirely in Birmingham’s lovely Five Points South district, this film was a collection of interviews with people who talked about … well … their shoes. The film maker, Jen Suran, wasn’t able to be present, but it would have been nice to hear some of her thoughts about this project. What did we learn by hearing people talk about the social implications of their footwear? Not much. We’re all humans, man, says that homeless-looking guy. Some people talk about how much money they make. Others just about how hard they work. Seemed a lot like a school project, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Grade: C.

“The Gynecologist” – This film made us cringe, and not in a good way. It is about a person who appears to be male and attempts to visit a gynecologist. Many in the audience seemed to think this “fish out of water” gimmick was hilarious. Perhaps they bought into the filmmaker’s heavy-handed attempt to make us relate to the bureaucracy-beleaguered doctor, but this flimsy premise seemed to us to disguise a much more troubling message: We’d better, if we know what is good for us, stay in our assigned gender roles. Beautifully produced but terrible. Grade: D.

“Your Casanova” – If “In Our Shoes” seemed like a school project, this seemed like something dreamed up in a basement by some high school sophomores. On the other hand, it was made locally (Jimmie Rogers and Michael Turner) and starred area high school students, many of whom were at the screening. We don’t want to spoil the “twist” of a questionably-comprehensible plot, but think of it as a mix of Face/Off, Silence of the Lambs, Vanilla Sky, and American Psycho (as made by a very drunk Roger Corman). Grade: F.

Copper Penny” – The second-best film of the festival. Watching this movie by Jay Pulk is like reading a perfect short story by one of the masters of the genre: a Raymond Carver, a Jhumpa Lahiri. A man goes to visit a prostitute. One of history’s oldest stories plays out in a way that is unexpected, but not cheaply so. If not heart-rending, the movie is at least heart-warping. Grade: A-plus.

“Find a Way” – While “Your Casanova” was the worst film, that’s only because “Find a Way” doesn’t even count as a film. At least “Your Casanova” seemed like it would have been fun to make and involved high school students and local amateurs. Bracket for a moment whether the River Region United Way is a good charity. And bracket further the question of using the tragic circumstances of a disease-stricken child in the most overtly-exploitative way possible. The inclusion of this professionally-produced advertisement opens the doorway to next year’s festival running a 20 minute infomercial for Alabama Power or Alfa. Sure, the end product is well made. But it’s an ad. The maker of the film spoke before the screening, talking about his “client,” the United Way. No grade.

“Two Men, Two Cows, Two Guns” – Pardis Parker again. This won the organizers’ award for the best movie at the festival, but we weren’t that impressed. It’s a quirky comedy that seemed to us to be more quirk than comedy, drawing from the Little Miss Sunshine/Rocket Science well a little too deeply for our taste. But comedy’s such a matter of personal taste, and it made a lot of people in the audience laugh. A lot. Grade: B.

We did wonder what happened to “best 30 bumper” and “best trailer categories” mentioned in The Advertiser story here. Did they not get any entries in those categories? Did they do much advertising before the festival? We only learned about it by way of The Capri’s Facebook page, but didn’t see other promotional materials. Also, we’re sort of unclear on who it is exactly it is that is putting this thing on. Is it a non-profit? Do they get to keep all the money? More organizing will probably help the MFF’s third installment be even bigger and better.

When you purchased a ticket to the festival, you were given a ballot, allowing you to vote on the best film of the festival. As if it weren’t obvious from the above reviews, we voted for Afghan. And we enjoyed muttering about the selections of the festival organizers. We did think they should have had a “best Alabama-made” movie category. It’s not fair to allow movies made by some high school kids from Prattville to compete with movies bearing the seal of the Canadian federal government. All in all, we had a great time. It was affordable. We felt like we were supporting both local art and local lovers of cinema. We hope very much that things went well enough for the festival organizers that they will be having the third annual festival at this time next year. The Capri is, of course, a great venue for this sort of thing and we really, really want to go back next year. We might even make a movie ourselves and submit it.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a dog, a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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