Category Archives: Arts Travel & Culture Features
The Humphrey Bogart Film Festival takes its pistache from the idea of the titular angle of the famous actor and placing it in a location that many people associate with him which is Key Largo. An interesting part of the legend is that the key was actually named Rock Harbour and was changed because the place became so known for the Bogie & Bacall perception.
Founded by Stephen Bogart, the only son of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, it is a way to honor the legend by showing a diverse collection of his films while integrating a certain theme and films that might have a direct correlation to their meaning.
The theme this year was romance and, by extension, the three films seen by this critic reflected a cross section of what within the Bogie and Bacalll romance dictated the connection. The first film, “To Have & Have Not”, based on the Hemingway novel, is set in Martinique, not unlike a key in the Lower Keys. It is the first pairing of the legendary couple and you can see the electricity as they slowly seem to fall in love on screen, not unlike the modern pairing of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening in “Bugsy”. The storytelling here is simple but it allows the characters to breathe. And like many of Bogie’s films, it has to do with boats or a journey. The second is the epitomes “Key Largo” which, while obviously shot in a sound stage in Hollywood, shows a more reserved Bogie and Bacall as they deal with the infamous Paul Mundt as a hurricane bears down on the key. The final shootout on the way to Cuba is simple but as effective as any Scorsese showdown. The final film of the weekend, “Dark Passage” shows a divergence of narrative structure in many ways. Its personification of mystery almost brings to mind “Vertigo”. You don’t see Bogart’s face for the first 40 minutes at least. It is done as point of view with Bacall serving almost as his eyes as he hides away from the cops. The great thing about the picture despite its noir styling is its ability to let its characters be flawed without redemption or primary resolution. That is why the ending works so well because there is a sense of background and guilt to go with it.
One of the cornerstones of the festival is the Bogart Gala which recognizes a young performer connecting the legacy or helping to pass it on to the next generation. Held within the Ballroom of the Key Largo Hilton draped in white silk while an auction of Bogie memorabilia swirls outside, the tone of the night felt right. Heightened by the rich cigars from the Mya Cigar Company, the ode of hanging and discussing film outside mixed with the smoothness of retreating inside for wine and music played well. Olivia Thirlby who is starring in the second film from the resurrected Santana Films entitled “The White Orchid” received the award. The dinner was a family affair with her parents having known Bogie’s son Stephen for many years.
Other events also occupied the weekend including a reception at the Murray Nelson Center before the outdoor screening of “To Have & Have Not” as well as an informal discussion with Stephen Bogart and film historian Leonard Maltin showing some intrinsic film clips, one of which showed a pivotal moment in “The Maltese Falcon” which was then dissected by both Maltin and Bogart.
A closing day Brunch at the Key Largo Hilton brought everyone together in the element which the festival is built on: honoring the legacy of Bogie. The theme of the 2015 festival was reflected to be “The Best Of” with many more additions to come.
On a side note, beyond the element of the film Key Largo. the area does have one other attraction which connects it surreptitiously which is the actual African Queen which was restored and relocated to the canals of the main marina leading out to the Atlantic. The boat takes people for a fee on an hour and half cruise using the same basis of the steam engine that would have been used in the Congo when it was originally created and used. Some of the pictures the captain had within his notebook were some very candid shots from the actual film. Their origin was from the original owner of the boat but how he got them and acquired the boat is still a bit of a mystery.
Another key element with running back and forth in Key Largo is finding food, drink and a place of respite without being completely overcome in the tourist centric element of the key.
The Key West Inn, located on the same Marina Canal, is aptly situated mere blocks away from both the Lions Club and the Murray Nelson Center where the many events are held with adequate food possibilities around. The dual story efficiencies are perfect for 5 or more people with a snorkeling trip taking off simply steps away beneath (although not experienced on this trip). Across the canal lies Sharkey’s, a locals bar that serves food until 10pm. But even when a beer late night is needed, time is made…especially when it is a Key West Southernmost Wheat.
Across the Overseas Highway for breakfast and lunch, Doc’s Diner offers everything to order in an old school way. A simple Mahi Mahi fillet with tartar sauce, newly caught in the past couple days, works with simple accuracy alongside a hearty garden salad topped with balsamic.
However a true gem resides at the fork in the Overseas Highway just a few blocks away at Nami Sushi. With cats hanging around the neighborhood, it is no secret the fish is so good around these parts. Sitting down at the apt sushi bar, the rainbow and tuna rolls mixed with scallions are thick and intense offering the right amount of consumption as miso soup warms the soul. Another interesting element during an early dinner is that two fisherman came in after a day on the Atlantic with fresh tuna asking for the chefs to make into rolls so one of them and his wife could feast on the meat the way it was meant to be served. There is no bigger compliment.
As shown throughout this structure, the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival offers much in parallel with Key Largo insomuch that Bogie itself is indirectly responsible for the name of the place. Rediscovering the films on the big screen and hearing stories from a person personally connect and able to share memories make this homage all the more real.
Seeing Kronos Quartet in close quarters always belies the noticeable texture of their playing. Their emotion always run counter-place to norm but still never fails to intercede with melodics and identity within the music. For their recent stop at Bailey Hall in Davie, Florida, the energy was there in spades with a touch of the absurd. And unlike in a larger venue like Royce Hall at UCLA, the second row here is possible giving a much more practical and in-depth look at the playing and interrelation of the performers.
Kronos has a massive repertoire to work from but, like all, personify a cross section. They, in grand fashion, did play the “Requiem For A Dream” Suite, arguably a highlight of their career, but the different themes and compositions they surrounded them with obviously reflects a darker texture below the surface. The first on this stop was “Aheym” (Homeward) by Bryce Dessner which speaks of Jewish immigrants in NY but also the past they left behind. The lingering standards of strings spin like lost memories feathering in between thoughts of loss and hope for the future. Nicole Lizee’s “Death To Kosmiche” is a little more out there using a style of music from the late 60s and combining it with atmospherics to become a more experiential experience. Here the different players have a different responsibilities throughout each movement where different instrumentation, including some further-out digital manipulators, are integrated. To finish out the first half of the concert, the quartet played a composition that was only finished weeks before by Philip Glass for them called String Quartet No. 6 as part of their ongoing collaboration with the composer. Like all Glass compostions, the heavy base of the strings adds a lush countenance but with slight variations which makes you think he is trying something new. It doesn’t come back to a melodic wrangling but shows that he is trying to push the bounds of his comfortability.
After the intermission, the mentioned “Dream” suite was performed. Its darkness and energy every bit as superb live as it was in recording with the screaming violins balancing against the beating cello. The next composition “Flow” by Laurie Anderson intersects almost as an epitaph where the last words of complacency and intention run out as if in a last breath. The last piece by Aleksandra Vrebalov entitled “hold me neighbor, in this storm” follows the essence of life in Serbia, both related as a folk element using tribal drums but also likely a reflection of the strife there specifically in the 90s. Using different instrumentation again, the Quartet branches out in challenging what they are capable of. As has always been true of their selections, they can balance between simply effortless masterful playing and didactic approaches to otherwise very difficult pieces.
The texture of the South Florida sun revels in its ability to be many angles at once. In approaching a festival, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida understands the balance of the game, especially when culinary potions are in play. With their Food & Wine Festival, the key is being dexterous and intense while still showing the ideals of VIP and simple fun.
Beginning the progression, Luca Bella fancied a bit of variety with their stuff mushrooms, baked clams, meatballs and penne alla vodka but, across the way, Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, whose location is situated in the round just outside the festival gates, triumphed with its sliced pork mixed with mashed plantains.
After a small but potent sip of Capital’s Supper Club Beer from Wisconsin, the comfortability of PDQ with its tasty chicken club and tenders balanced into the down home tremblings of Chef Creole. As the dancers spun in headdresses and the pig was sliced, the essential element of catfish, sausage and beans warmed the stomach.
Roho Kitchen offered a Short Rib Empanada with distinction, though dry in its follow through, and Tijuana Flats Burrito Company proved that fresh ingredients in the right proportions always makes sure the job is adequately completed. However, it was Jet Runway Cafe, with its unquenched line and its Asian Chicken Salad, meatloaf slider and luscious brownie that truly touched the soul.
Kitchen 305 circled in generous style with an exceptional seafood salad not lacking in tasty crustaceans while Martorano’s, a staple at the Hard Rock Hollywood as well as The Rio in Las Vegas, simmered with the owner’s signature meatball.
Swirling into the VIP section, which allows for early entrance into the festival, is a decidedly smart idea. Within their tent caddy corner to all the festival’s wares, Bahama Breeze offered up an alfredo tuna pasta that lulls one with its intention.
Looking towards the looming and tantalizing hotel, the tent remaining featured that of the Hard Rock itself with the Center Bar pouring libations in unending fashion while Blue Plate enhanced the finding with its salacious buffalo chicken poppers.
The Seminole Hard Rock Food & Wine Festival, entranced by all realizes the temptations and notions of its guests to both enjoy food, libations and life, all with considerable stride.