Monday, March 31, 2014

Reintroduction to Community Affairs

So you're counting down the days until Captain America: The Winter Soldier premieres nationwide April 4. You've read our April feature story and know the trailers by heart (we're a little partial to the Super Bowl version), hunting for glimpses of the West Shoreway, Theater and Warehouse districts.

But if you need even more insight into what Cleveland natives Anthony and Joe Russo have done with their piece of Marvel's universe, it's time to sign up for Hulu Plus and binge on Community.

That's because, while the duo was in postproduction for the first blockbuster of 2014, Joe directed two episodes of the show they got off the ground.

And you don't need Superman's X-ray vision to see the big screen's influence on the quirky NBC cult-comedy.

“His directors’ eye is even keener,” says Yvette Nicole Brown, the Cleveland native who plays Shirley Bennett. In “Geothermal Escapism,” the Community students play a schoolwide game of hot lava (you remember that kids game, right? You must walk on chairs, tables or whatever to avoid the floor, which is deadly) to win Abed’s (Danny Pudi) prized $50,000 comic.

“We don’t have a huge budget on Community, but Joe made that episode look like a movie,” she says.

The action-packed episode was loaded with special effects, stunts, laughs and even LeVar Burton. It echoed the premise of the paintball saga the brothers directed to conclude season two, which put them on Marvel’s radar and got them their career-changing gig.

“He’s learned how to make it even bigger with even less,” Brown says.

“Geothermal” also marked the final episode for Donald Glover, who plays Troy Barnes. “Most of us were blubbering messes,” recalls Brown. But Joe kept the set light and loose, which allowed the actors to stay composed long enough to pull off the scene’s “heartstring moments.”

And for a look at how proudly geeky the brothers really are, queue up “Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.” Anthony read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy three times each by the end of high school and Joe collected comics for 20 years.

"I was a big fan of Marvel growing up, a big fan of X-Men, Wolverine and Spider-Man," Joe says. That should make it a fun summer of movies for the Russos. Besides their own Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sony's Amazing Spider-Man 2 debuts May 2 and Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past opens May 23.

Friday, March 28, 2014

CIFF: “The Sax Man” delivers a satisfying performance

What began as a 20-minute short film about saxophonist Maurice Reedus Jr. turned into a three-year project for local filmmakers Todd Bemak and Joe Siebert. Known to Clevelanders as “The Sax Man,” Reedus has been entertaining audiences for more than 17 years with his alto sax outside plays and sporting events. He was selected as one of Cleveland Magazine’s Most Interesting People in 2013. The Sax Man premiered March 22 at Cleveland International Film Festival and has an encore showing at 4:45 p.m. March 30 at Tower City Cinemas. Cleveland Magazine talks to the filmmakers about the  festival experience and Reedus’ influence on our city.

Cleveland Magazine: How did it feel to watch The Sax Man on the big screen for the first time?
Todd Bemak:
Premiering here in Cleveland was a very special thing because everybody knows Maurice, and the intent of the film was to show the connection Cleveland has to Maurice. The audience was clapping along to the music and interacting with the film more so than I’ve ever seen. It was almost like it was a live event in front of them, and that was quite amazing.

CM: What did you take away from your time with Maurice?
Joe Siebert: Success isn’t necessarily about becoming rich and famous or being the best at what you do, but it’s about being true to who you are and figuring out a way to contribute that to the world around you. At one point, Maurice could have made it big, but life didn’t work out that way. Instead of giving up on music, he stuck with it even when he had to play on the street to do it. What he ended up creating with that was becoming this essential part of Cleveland that everybody recognizes and has an attachment to that has made a difference in creating an experience in Cleveland.

CM: What are your plans for the film?
TB: We’ve been entering the film into festivals, and we’re just starting to hear back from some. In April we’re taking it to the Memphis International Film and Music Festival, the Arizona International Film Festival, the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival and Beverly Hills International Film Festival. We expect to hear about the May and June festivals soon, so hopefully we get into some of those.

The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 30. To browse the full schedule, visit

By Christina Bucciere

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CIFF: "The Winding Stream" Charts the Path of Country Music's Origins

Sara Carter, Maybelle Carter and A.P. Carter

While scientists and physicists debate the universe's origins, there's no debate about the big bang of country music. Recording sessions held in 1927 in Bristol, Tenn., resulted in the debut of the Carter Family, made up of A.P. Carter, his wife Sara and her cousin Maybelle. The family from Maces Spring, Va., would go on to impact country, folk, bluegrass, gospel and even rock music.

June Carter and Johnny Cash

The Winding Stream takes a loving, musical look at the path carved by the family, whose music influenced a young Johnny Cash, who himself would go on to marry June Carter — one of Maybelle's three daughters. (Read our March article about the film here.)  The documentary is layered with classic recordings of Carter Family songs such as "Keep on the Sunny Side" and "Can the Circle Be Unbroken" and new and archived interviews with members of several generations of the family, including Johnny Cash. New recordings of Carter Family classics are performed throughout the movie by musicians such as Sheryl Crow, George Jones, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson and more.

The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 30 at Tower City Cinemas. To browse the schedule, visit The Winding Stream screens March 26 at 7 p.m. at the Cedar Lee Theatre and March 27 at 11:25 a.m. at Tower City Cinemas.

Learn from a Local

Judi Strauss teaches cooking and gardening all around the Cleveland area. Originally with the horticulture department of the OSU Extension Service, she segued into a career as an independent kitchen and garden expert. Strauss has written numerous cookbooks, listed on her website, and sells her own custom herb blends. The versatile foodie maintains a lively cooking blog featuring new recipes almost daily and handy tips. Just last week she covered chocolate waffles, pineapple glazed chicken wings, a vegetable soup created from what she found in her pantry and fridge, Moroccan date cake, and advice on how to clean copper kitchenware without chemicals (hint: her method uses lemon and salt).  I follow her on Facebook and her status updates are a source of constant education.

She also likes to grow what she puts on the table and helps others do the same. Learn the basics of vegetable gardening with Strauss April 3 at the Wellness Center, operated by Fairview Hospital, at  3035 Wooster Road in Rocky River. Register for the class online or call 440-356-0670. On April 15, she’s leading a one-day class at Wildwood Center, at 7645 Little Mountain Road in Mentor, on herb gardening, sharing information about how to harvest, store and use your crop. Register online or by phone at 440-974-5720.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

CIFF: "Oliver, Stoned" is Baked with Laughs

Oliver, Stoned has some high expectations to live up to in the stoner comedy genre. But it fits right in with Half Baked and Pineapple Express, both of which are sidesplitting classics in the subversive category centered around glorifying marijuana.

Oliver is a 26 year old living in his father's garage. A bit of a loser who can't seem to keep from screwing up in life — it might have something to do with smoking a bunch of pot —his shenanigans take a serious turn when a classic car he was driving for a customer to his father's car wash gets stolen. He steals an ice cream truck, believing the truck's driver had stolen the classic car and goes on a weed-empowered adventure to find the car. He gets some help along the way from Megan, who he met after destroying her scooter with the ice cream truck, and his paranoid pot-dealing friend.

The movie is full of laughs, including a hilarious dance montage in front of the ice cream truck and a generally crazy cast of characters who need to be seen to be believed, such as Oliver's dad, who thinks he is a rad 20-something bro dating someone half his age, or a sexually depraved blind clown. And a young kid riding around on his bicycle periodically shows up between scenes to move the film's plot along. Keep an eye out for pop-culture references throughout to movies such as Memento or the Veronica Mars television show.

The 38th annual Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 30. To browse the schedule, visit

CIFF: “The Cooler Bandits” Breaks Free

It’s been more than 20 years since the four Akron teenagers dubbed, the Cooler Bandits, committed the 17 restaurant robberies that resulted in harsh prison sentences. While Charlie Kelly, Donovan Harris and Richard “Poochie” Roderick have been able to regain freedom, Frankie Porter, the ringleader of the four, will not be up for a parole hearing until 2035. None of them injured anyone so the rough sentencing shocked many, including filmmaker and Cuyahoga Falls native John Lucas, who has known two of the men since they were young. In 2007, Lucas began making his documentary, The Cooler Bandits. It follows the four as they survive prison and deal with re-entering society as branded felons, and will be screening at the Cleveland International Film Festival at Tower City Cinemas at 2 p.m. March 26 and 11:20 a.m. March 28.

Cleveland Magazine: Why did you choose to make this film?
John Lucas: It’s not a prison story for me, and it’s not an unjust story about lengthy prison sentences. It’s really a story about the friendship of the four. …The three of them [Charlie, Donovan and Poochie] were sent to the same prison together and they grew up in prison. …They held each other down and helped facilitate their growth into who they are now. I thought it was an interesting story on survival and redemption and friendship and juxtaposed what happens when you isolate somebody and send them away basically for life.

CM: What did you learn from these men?
JL: I admired their strength and their resolve and their perseverance and their willingness to accept what they did and try to make up for it and try to move on with their lives. I just learned that friendship can really overcome a lot of things. The bonds that are formed are important.

CM: How did this experience affect your perspective on crime and the justice system?
JL: It just reinforced my belief that we can’t sustain our system with just incarcerating people. … When individuals come’s hard to find housing. It’s hard to get a job…When I grew up it was you did the crime, you did the time. You know, you paid for your crime. That’s not necessarily true. Once you have that felon label, it can be very difficult.

To learn more about the film, read column Stuart Warner’s “Icing the Cooler Bandits” here.

By Cassie Smith

Monday, March 24, 2014

CIFF: A Fond Farewell in "Adieu Paris"

Patrizia Munz could finally see her future. Her first novel is a smash and her French lover Jean-Jacques Dupret is ready to start a family with her. As she relays these joys over a phone call with Jean-Jacques, he crashes his car and soon is deep in a coma. She rushes from Dusseldorf, Germany, to Paris to attend to her love, but is confronted by his cold wife Francoise.

When the decision about Jean-Jacques’ life gets passed to Patrizia’s hands, the free-spirited German must decide whether to hold onto to the 1 percent chance that her lover will survive or pull the plug and face a future alone. She finds solace in a fellow traveler, but her new friendship only reminds her of the life-altering decision she has to make.

Adieu Paris confronts life’s most difficult situations with honest, raw emotions while still embracing a few pockets of laughter. It offers viewers a look at what we are capable of when pushed to the extremes. Moments of utter brokenness result in unlikely friendships and ironic laughter. Although devastating, the film subtlety reminds viewers that a life thrown off course can still be sweet.

The 38th annual Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 30. To browse the schedule, visit

CIFF: Jim Jarmusch’s Surprise Film Fest Appearance

Indie film pioneer Jim Jarmusch surprised an audience last night with an unannounced appearance at the Cleveland International Film Festival.  The filmmaker who broke out of Akron 30 years ago was introduced before his new film, Only Lovers Left Alive, and stuck around for a long Q-and-A after the screening.

Jarmusch shot his dark vampire romance in Detroit and Tangier. Both cities become ancient, decadent homes for Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, a couple still deeply in love after centuries together. Hiddleston’s Adam, a brooding, black-clad musician, has forsaken the violin for majestic drone rock as he mourns the world’s chaos. Swinton’s Eve, an intellectual in flowing white, swoons over the world’s beauty. The actors wrote some of their characters’ deepest dialogue.

“I asked each of them to write a long tirade,” Jarmusch said: “his feelings about the zombies” – the vampire’s slur for humans – “her feelings about love and life and his romantic self-obsession. I told them I’m going to film it, but I probably won’t use it all. They wrote very long, beautiful things. Those beautiful things Tilda’s character says, in a way, sum up the intention of the film.”

The Detroit scenes capture the city’s haunted industrial abandonment. Hiddleston’s character lives in the ultimate modern vampire lair, a dilapidated mansion on an emptied city street. “I have a fondness for Detroit,” Jarmusch said, “its history, its visual state at present.”

Detroiters, he acknowledged, often use the term “ruin porn” to criticize artists’ love of their city’s Gothic deterioration. “In a way, we are guilty of that,” he said. He used Detroit’s “romantic decay,” in some ways, as “an extension of Adam.”

For 30 years, ever since Stranger Than Paradise, his breakout art-house classic, Jarmusch has embraced improvisation and unusual collaborations in his films. Adam’s hypnotically sad music was recorded by Jarmusch’s band, Sqürl. He applies an artist’s instinct to the path from script to filming to editing.

“Writing is a proposal of something you want to capture,” he said. “Shooting a film is capturing things.” Then, in editing, “you make your movie. It tells you what it is.” The DVD version of Only Lovers Left Alive will include 30 minutes of deleted scenes, he said. “The film didn't want them all.”

Jarmusch’s mother and brother attended the screening with him. His appearance last night was unusual, he said, because he rarely watches his finished films.

“I regret that I saw it,” he said, “because I saw a few things I wish hadn't taken out.”

Only Lovers Left Alive opens at the Cedar Lee Theatre May 9. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

CIFF: "A Birder's Guide to Everything" is an Adventurous Flight

A Birder's Guide to Everything
is a wonderful adventure about what it means to be a teenager, while also coping with grief and change. It’s all seen through a pair of binoculars held by David (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a young birder who thinks he's spotted a long-thought-extinct duck species.

On the eve of his father's wedding to another woman following his mother's recent death, David embarks on a journey with his friends Timmy and Peter — all three of which are the only members of the Young Birder's Society at their high school — and classmate Ellen to find the duck. The relationship between the three friends is so authentic, with Timmy playing the wise-guy jokester and Peter the rule-abiding man to counterbalance David's thoughtful and introspective reserved nature. Ellen, who is tagging along to snap a photo of the duck, quickly fits right into the gang.

The movie is warm and really funny and features a guest appearance by British actor Ben Kingsley as a seasoned birder who knew David's mother — a birder herself. Shot mostly outdoors in upstate New York, the film serves as a beautiful love letter to nature and birders everywhere.

The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 30 at Tower City Cinemas. To browse the schedule, visit Although there are no more screenings at this year’s festival, A Birder’s Guide to Everything is available to rent or buy on iTunes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Get the Scoop on a Great Deal

A few years ago, Celeste Blau had an "aha moment" that led to a life changing decision. "I realized that I loved eating ice cream and I didn't like working in an office," she says. That insight became a business plan, and a trip to Italy inspired Blau to tweak her concept and make gelato instead. With the help of her husband, parents and brother, she opened The Sweet Spot in July 2011.

She does all the preparation on site in small batches using Ohio milk, organic and natural products and local fruit when it's available. "I buy raspberries picked at their peak of readiness from Rosby's, five miles away," she tells me, "and use them in the gelato the next day. You can't beat the taste." Amidst the more familiar flavors such as vanilla, butter pecan and pistachio, are some less common and inspired combinations such as chocolate mint cayenne and fig hazelnut. She offers vegan versions, too, made with almond milk and dairy-free sorbet.

Weary of the cold, which definitely discourages the consumption of frozen treats, Blau felt a need to get into a spring spirit and bring people back to her 25-seat shop. So to welcome the new season, which officially begins tomorrow, and kick-start some warm weather thinking, she's decided to give her stuff away. "This has been such a long winter," she says. "There was snow on the ground in October and snow on the ground last week.  Now that it's over, it's time to celebrate." 
Between noon and 9 p.m. Thursday, March 20, everyone who walks into the Detroit Road store  (across the street from The Beck Center in Lakewood) gets a free scoop. If you miss the giveaway day, stop in another time soon anyway to buy a bowlful of her rich, dense creamy confections. It's a wonderful way to say good bye to polar vortexes and hello to balmy breezes.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wear St. Paddy's Day On Your Sleeve

Nobody likes to be pinched on St. Patty’s Day, so show off your holiday spirit and wear one of our favorite festive T-shirts from CLE Clothing Co.

Photo courtesy CLE Clothing Co.

Cleveland Loves St. Party’s Day Unisex Crew, $25: If you’re planning on partying it up this St. Patrick’s Day, stay comfy and look good doing it in this bright green and orange T-shirt.

Photo courtesy CLE Clothing Co.

Beer Me I’m Clevelandish! Unisex Crew, $25: This year, don this beer me T-shirt and let everyone know what you’re after without even saying a word.

Photo courtesy CLE Clothing Co.

Kiss Me I’m Ohio-ish Men’s and Women’s Crews, $25: Not Irish? No worries. You can still feel the love in this clever Kiss Me I’m Ohio-ish T-shirt.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Riffy Rendezvous

Photo by Ed Battes
After their first album careened onto the scene last year, Cleveland rockers So Long, Albatross are finally working on new things, bringing their riffy stoner rock sound out of the basement and into a professional recording studio, literally. But before they start work on their latest album, they’ll be taking the stage at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern for Cellar Door Rendezvous, along with label-mates Seafair, Ohio Sky and The Commonwealth. The two-day get-together (March 14-15) will feature 17 other bands, with full access passes going for $20.

This will be So Long, Albatross' first appearance in the big room together, though they’ve all played there at one point or another in different bands. “We’ve played the tavern quite a few times in the last couple of years and it’s always fun,” says vocalist and guitarist Keith Vance. “But it’s just cool to do something else.”

We spoke to Vance about the finer points of writing lyrics and what's on the horizon for the Cleveland-based trio.

CM: What was the recording process for your first album like, and where do you want to go next?

KV: Well, we’ve written a bunch of songs recently. We’ve taken a break from playing shows, since we played a bunch after the first album. We’ll be working with Jim Stewart, who’s one of the sponsors for the show, and is a really great guy. He’s worked with a bunch of people I know and everyone has awesome things to say about him.

CM: Though you started out as three-person group have you thought about adding a fourth?

KV: The three of us have been playing together for so long now. The drummer and I especially have been playing in bands since we were 14, so 16 years ago. ... It’s hard enough for the three of us to get together, let alone another person. We’re just so locked into each other, we know what we’re going to do before we do it, and to add somebody new would be difficult.

CM: Lyrically, where do you want to take things?

KV: That’s something that’s probably my biggest struggle. The music comes really easy to us, generally, and the lyrics get filled in in the end. I want to get a little bit better at trying to tell a story or get my point across in ways that aren’t so vague. Sometimes I feel like I’m a little vague or cryptic and I don’t mean to be. I want to get a little more open, maybe a little bit more vulnerable with some of the things that I write.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hidden in Plain Sight

Tony's Southside is out in the open. There's even a big sign. But you're not likely to find it unless you know what to look for. The exterior of this tiny Tremont restaurant and bar, located at 2193 Professor Ave., gives no hint of what's on the other side of the door. The place has no website, and doesn't have an active Facebook page. Owners Anthony Tuleta and his wife, Eleny, intentionally keep a very low profile. People hear about it, like I did, from someone who's been there. And yet, it has a cult following.

On a Friday or Saturday night, the only two days of the week the restaurant welcomes guests, you can't be sure to get a table without reservations, and there are precious few of those available as the restaurant seats just 25 to 30 people. But be forewarned — when you call to make one (216-771-0515), you'll likely have to leave a voicemail message and wait patiently for a call back to find out if they can accommodate you. It's all part of its off-the-beaten-path, speakeasy, hideaway allure. And one other low-tech aspect of what they do — no credit cards are accepted, so come prepared to pay with cash.

The back story for this spot is as charming as the interior, all polished wood and soft lighting like a library in a posh, old mansion. The Tuleta's grew up in the neighborhood and his parents operated a a classic red and white checkered tablecloth pizza and spaghetti joint out of this location in the 80's. They passed on, and Tony's was closed for a number of years. But in 2009, the couple decided to revive the family business, doing an extensive remodel and rethinking of its concept.

It's still Italian food with a nod to Eleny's Greek heritage but more upscale. Tony Tuleta does all the cooking, making long simmering sauces and letting the dough, used for the diminutive personal pizzas, rise and rest for three days. One of his sisters will likely be your server, and his wife tends the bar, mixing up craft cocktails with as much care as a grandma at her stove.

They restaurant keeps late hours, until 1 a.m., and will stay open even later if you phone to say you're coming. There's no special knock or password to get in, but this hidden local gem still has the romance of a secret.

Monday, March 10, 2014

"Monuments Men" in Our Backyard

Photo courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Art

Nearly two decades before the larger-than-life Peter Paul Rubens and Workshop painting called the Cleveland Museum of Art home, Diana and Her Nymphs Departing for the Hunt was a prisoner of war during World War II. 
Nazis stole the Baroque piece along with the rest of Edouard Rothschild and Baroness de Rothschild's collection in 1940. From there, Diana traveled to places only the canvas knows. The hunt to ensure her survival was on, but her mythological nymphs weren't the ones coming to her aid.
The monuments men, a section of the Allied forces known for rescuing not only Diana in 1948 but also many other pieces of art and architecture, are finally receiving some recognition after almost 70 years in the shadows if history. George Clooney’s recently released film Monuments Men portrays some of the elaborate plots this group had to execute to fulfill. Even though it’s set in Europe, Northeast Ohio has many more ties to this group than Diana.
Former director of the Cleveland Museum of Art Sherman Lee served as a Monuments Man in Japan from 1946 to 1948, and the experience was an invaluable contribution to his legacy. Dr. Noelle Giuffrida, an art history professor at Case Western Reserve University who is currently writing a book about Lee, says, “The contacts he made with art dealers and historians [in Japan] gave him access to collections that were otherwise hard-to-reach.”
The future director would take extensive trips throughout Japan to catalogue and research Japanese and Chinese art. He spent most of his time in the field, according to Giuffrida, introducing him to many of the art dealers he would later do business with through the museum to create one of the top Asian collections in the United States.
The Asian division of the Fine Art, Monuments and Archives section of the Allied forces isn’t featured in the Hollywood film. But it did include not only Lee, but also famous East Asian art historian/curator Howard Hollis and Laurence Sickman, the former curator and director of Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum. Their experiences were not only unique to each involved, but also helped jumpstart their careers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hurray for Orale!

I'm a big fan of Roberto Rodriguez's cooking. Orale, his prepared Mexican food stand at the West Side Market, is a regular stop. I like to take home his chunky salsas, ceviche, empanadas and cactus salad. I have been known to consume one — okay two — warm, soft enchiladas filled with potato and spinach,  chicken mole or black beans and cheese on the spot, as I walk up and down the aisles, or seated on a bench outside.

So I was delighted when the chef decided to open Orale Contemporary Mexican Kitchen in 2011. The small Ohio City restaurant on W. 25th Street, just down the road from the West Side Market, had just 25 seats and it was BYOB. It was a sweet little spot but it had obvious limitations. All that changed in November. After taking over the adjacent storefront and a major remodel, he had twice as much space and a full bar.

I stopped in for lunch recently with my mother and have only raves about the expansion as well as everything we ate. She's generally not a fan of this type of cuisine and has a certain fear of spiciness, but Chef Rodriguez does it differently and she ate until she couldn't eat another bite. We had bowls of tortilla soup, a great version of heuvos rancheros — over easy eggs layered with corn tortillas and queso fresco in a charred tomato sauce — and the stacked enchilada with smoked chicken and caramelized onions. Both came with a side of what the menu calls "mom's rustic mashed potatoes," which were irresistible. We left full and happy.

I haven't been back for cocktails or bar snacks, yet. But I feel his shrimp tamales, tomatillo chicken wings and barbacoa pulled pork pizza, washed down with a margarita or a tequila flight, calling. LikelyI will be there again some night very soon.