Film Notes: Sundance unveils Dock Ellis movie


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"No No: A Dockumentary," described by its maker as an elegy to pitcher Dock Ellis famous for his no-hitter, his outspokenness and his curlers (before Bradley Cooper in "American Hustle"), had its world premiere Monday night at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Ellis claimed to have thrown his 1970 no-hitter, or no-no, for the Pittsburgh Pirates while high on LSD. After he retired, he fiercely spoke out against drug and alcohol addiction and worked as a counselor until his death from liver disease in 2008.

When Ellis died, his obituary noted: At a time when drugs, race and other issues in American society were colliding with baseball, Ellis often was at the forefront. He spoke his mind and stood by what he said while playing with the likes of Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and Roberto Clemente.

"He didn't take nothing from nobody," former agent Tom Reich told the Associated Press. "He was very much ahead of his time."

In a press kit for the movie, director Jeffrey Radice said he became fascinated with Ellis while working on a short about LSD and hearing tales about the pitcher's feat while under the influence. "The more I explored Dock, the more fascinated I was. The deeper I investigated, the more wild the truth became. There is a Bunyanesque quality to Dock stories."

"No No," with music by Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, entered the festival as one of the 15 most coveted films, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The festival, after all, doubles as a marketplace bringing work to the attention of distributors who want to buy the rights and get it into theaters.

Other Pittsburgh connections at Sundance include "The Immaculate Reception" from director-writer Charlotte Glynn. It's about a 16-year-old who has the chance to prove himself when his crush ends up at his house to watch the famous football game between the Steelers and the Raiders.

Yes, we know it was blacked out in Pittsburgh, but people traveled outside the immediate TV viewing area to watch the Dec. 23, 1972, game in which Franco Harris carved a spot for himself in Steelers history.

Carl Kurlander, one of the founders of the Steeltown Entertainment Project, who is attending Sundance, said Ms. Glynn's entry "wowed the shorts film audience, capturing young love in the 1970s in Pittsburgh better than any film I have seen in years."

John Paul Horstmann, one of Mr. Kurlander's former students at the University of Pittsburgh, helped to edit "Cold in July," a Sundance drama starring Michael C. Hall. He plays a man investigating noises in his house one balmy Texas night in 1989 who ends up putting a bullet in the brain of a low-life burglar.

Also screening is "Happy Valley," a 100-minute documentary by director Amir Bar-Lev ("My Kid Could Paint That," "The Tillman Story"). It was filmed after Jerry Sandusky's arrest rocked the Penn State campus, and the festival guide says the filmmaker "creates a parable of guilt, redemption and identity crisis for a small town caught in the glare of the national spotlight."

Sundance isn't the only movie game in Park City.

The Slamdance Film Festival, celebrating its 20th season and renegade DIY spirit, also is taking place, and its features include "Kinderwald," set in 1854 Pennsylvania as two boys vanish into the mountains without a trace.

Findlay Zotter, a 2009 graduate of CAPA and 2013 graduate of Drexel University's film school, worked as an assistant director on the movie. She is the daughter of Leslie Ward and Randy Zotter of the North Side.

For the first time, Slamdance presented a Founder's Award to Christopher Nolan, whose film "Following" screened there long before he joined forces with Batman.

Another Oscar connection

Unlike Leonardo DiCaprio or Bradley Cooper, who took their moms to the Golden Globes, Gary Brozenich doesn't plan on escorting his mother to the Academy Awards.

Darlene Lea of Peters is perfectly fine with that. She and her husband, Warren Lea, will celebrate their own way. "We're going to have a party. Absolutely, we're having a party."

While she would love for her son's name to be inside the envelope, she says, "We don't care if he wins. We'll get to see him at the Academy Awards. He has a brilliant future ahead of him."

Mr. Brozenich, a former Pittsburgher who now makes his home in London with his wife and Oscar date, Katherine, and their two children, is nominated along with Tim Alexander, Edson Williams and John Frazier for best visual effects for "The Lone Ranger."

He served as visual effects supervisor on the Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp adventure, which is competing for the Oscar with "Gravity," "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," "Iron Man 3" and "Star Trek Into Darkness."

The team at MPC, a global leader in visual effects, completed more than 550 shots ranging from computer-generated canyons, caves and Comanche attacks to trains, horses, birds, arrows, fire and scorpions.

Mr. Brozenich, 44, was in a meeting in London when the announcements were made in the pre-dawn hours Thursday in Beverly Hills. His mother and one of his sisters, Maegan Bregenser of Upper St. Clair, watched the televised portion of the nominations and went online to check the balance and saw "The Lone Ranger."

"His sister called his wife and she said, 'I don't know anything about it,' " Mrs. Lea said. Mr. Brozenich's wife suggested the Pittsburgher call her back in three minutes.

"Katherine called my son ... and he said, 'Katherine, I'm in a meeting, I can't talk.' She said, 'Well you need to talk. I think you were nominated for an Academy Award,' and he said, 'I'll call you back.' "

At one point, Katherine was on two calls at once, with her sister-in-law and husband, who politely insisted they were mistaken. And then he said, "Oh my gosh, I'm getting hundreds of emails, you must be right!' " his mother said this week. He then spent the balance of the day writing thank-you notes to people who worked with him on the project.

Mr. Brozenich was enrolled at the Highlands School District here through the middle of his sophomore year when he moved to St. Louis with his family and swapped basketball and baseball for art. He then attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, started a company in London and then joined MPC.

His mother and stepfather are in Peters, a second sister, Cara Brozenich, in New York state and his father in Florida. His cheering section also includes two grandmothers, both 92, in Brackenridge and Natrona Heights.

Mr. Brozenich's credits include "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," "Clash of the Titans," "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and "The Da Vinci Code."

Oscar gala tix on sale

One of a kind autographed items from "The Fault in Our Stars" will be among the silent auction treasures at the 14th annual Oscar gala supporting the Pittsburgh Film Office.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Presents Lights! Glamour! Action! will be held March 2 at Heinz Field, Club Level East. Guests can expect a red carpet entrance, champagne reception, live telecast of the Oscars on a big screen, gourmet food stations, fashion presentations and the silent auction. Dress is black tie optional.

The film office generates most of its funding through the Oscar event, and last year's gala grossed more than $276,000. Since 1994, the film office has helped to bring in more than $798 million from Hollywood productions to Pittsburgh.

Tickets are: $75 (a minimum of six must be purchased) and $125, granting admission at 7:30 p.m.; $250 allows entry at 6 p.m. and includes VIP champagne reception and valet parking; $500 patron ticket includes a pre-party Jan. 31 at J. Verno Studios along with entrance on Oscar night at 6, champagne reception and valet parking.

In addition to objects from "The Fault in Our Stars," filmed in Pittsburgh last summer and early fall, the auction will have items from Channing Tatum, Christian Bale, Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Chloe Sevigny and Joe Manganiello.

Tickets: www.pghfilm.org, ShowClix.com or 1-888-718-4253.

'Not My Life'

An evening of film and conversation about the prevention of slavery and human trafficking will feature Robert Bilheimer and his documentary "Not My Life" at 7 p.m. Monday at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room.

"Not My Life," shot in a dozen countries on five continents, takes moviegoers into a world where children are exploited daily through forced labor, domestic servitude, begging, sex tourism, sexual violence and child soldiering.

Mr. Bilheimer was nominated for an Oscar for the 1988 documentary "The Cry of Reason -- Beyers Naude: An Afrikaner Speaks Out."

Monday's event, in recognition of Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, is a program of the World Affairs Councils of America with support from Carlson and the Carlson Family Foundation and cooperation from Filmmakers.

Charge for the event is $10. Register at www.worldpittsburgh.org or call 412-281-7970

In brief

■ Add another "Blood Brother" screening to the ones announced on Sunday. It will be shown at 7 p.m. Jan. 31 at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 616 N. Highland Ave., Hicks Chapel Auditorium.

A $5 donation is suggested, to benefit LIGHT or Living to Inspire Global Healing Today. Producer Danny Yourd will appear.

■ A limited number of tickets remain for "Travis: A Soldier's Story," being shown at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at Carmike 10 at South Hills Village. Tickets are $12.

The movie tells the story of the Mills family and how lives were dramatically changed on April 10, 2012, when Staff Sgt. Travis Mills was on routine patrol in Afghanistan and an IED took portions of both of his arms and legs. "Travis: A Soldier's Story" features interviews with Mr. Mills, his wife (the couple have a young daughter) and fellow soldiers and how he has inspired others with his "Never give up, never quit" philosophy.

Go to www.tugg.com/events/7570 to reserve a ticket.

For more information about the Travis Mills Foundation go to www.Travismills.org.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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