By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Amy Nicholson
By Chris Packham
By David Kipen
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Caira LaVelle
Kristie McClanahan:Despite growing up very much in the public eye, your childhood seems to have been pretty, well, normal.
A.J. Cervantes Jr.:I think that my father's life, his childhood and his high school years, were so dysfunctional. He was the baby of six kids during the Depression era, and his father and his mother had separated, and his father just wandered off. My dad had nothing, literally taking off with just some coins in his pocket at fifteen and going out to California. When he came back and became successful in business, one of his first missions with his family was to create stability in a normal family life and good schools. My dad was really committed, I think, to healing some of the wounds of his youth.
In the film, you didn't shy away from things in your father's political career that didn't work out.
No, there were some incredible challenges. The Spanish Pavilion was one, the East Side airport was another. Even Francis Slay, to his credit, on camera said [the East Side airport] was a very good idea, just bad politics. He pleasantly surprised me with that comment. But it became an anti-Cervantes theme through the whole campaign. And of course, the Life magazine article.
Wasn't that tough on the family?
He stayed enormously positive through all of it. I remember he'd come home, have a cocktail and say, "I wonder who's mad at us today." He just took it as that's the way the world worked and that's what he was going to deal with.
How do you think he'd view the city as it is today?
I think he would think Mayor Slay has done a brilliant job with limited resources. The tax base of St. Louis has continued to erode. The flight to the suburbs that took place in the '60s and '70s has created enormous difficulty in governing the City of St. Louis. And I think Mayor Slay and the board of aldermen have absolutely done an exemplary job given the challenges the city faces in this current day and age.
What do you consider your dad's most enduring legacy?
I'd say the convention center, number one. And I think that there's a more conceptual gift or legacy, which is that he helped sell St. Louisans on St. Louis. He helped foster a great civic pride. And that's why, when you see things like the St. Louis Cardinals or the film festival, these are all indications of a vital city that can have a great future, and I think that's what his mission was and [he'd] reinforce that in any way that he could. I think St. Louis went through a renaissance during his time, because he worked so tirelessly on stimulating business and on generating interest in the city.
Mr. Mayor screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 9, at the Moolah Theatre. Advance ticket purchase required. (KM)
The O Tapes(Chris Arnold). Just call it The Orgasm Monologues. A diverse panel of women (everyone from a 25-year-old Supergirl impersonator to an 80-year-old Dixie Queen wearing a fuchsia halter top and oversize white boa) discusses everything from how they initially learned about sex to their first experience with masturbation. There's even a moment of art therapy, during which the women draw their interpretations of the Elusive O. The dialogue is supplemented with a surprising number of Victorian-era renderings of the female anatomy and lots of fun orgasm facts (including one that will result in never looking at breakfast cereal the same way again). Although their stories range from the typical (oh, the vibrating showerhead) to the downright horrifying (where incest and pedophilia meet on the bathroom floor), there is an overarching sense of womanhood and community that could very well make for the latest installment of sex-education videos. Screens at 10:15 p.m. Saturday, November 11, at the Tivoli.
The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes(Stephen and Timothy Quay). Stephen and Timothy Quay, twin brothers from Philadelphia, have over the past 35 years created distinctive, macabre animated short films that draw on fables and surrealism to convey a beautiful but cruel world. Harnessing, among other objects, doll parts, screws, antique apothecary tools and slabs of raw meat, the Brothers Quay have developed a fervent following among goths, vampires and Nine Inch Nails fans. (They also worked on Peter Gabriel's groundbreaking "Sledgehammer" video.) In The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, their second feature-length film, the Quays mix live actors and soundstages with stop-motion and computer animation to tell the story of a piano tuner (Malvina van Stille) beckoned to a mysterious forest. He encounters a doctor (Gottfried John) who speaks in riddles ("He is a forest no one can inhabit," explains one character) and is intent on creating an "automata," a musical instrument that harnesses a woman's voice to create its sound. The film is beautiful to look at, but the story is clumsily told; each declaration is delivered with the weight of philosophic inquest, each prop is presented as a profound symbol (though few seem to mean much at all), each fleeting image is offered as though the viewer should understand its significance. "After a while you get used to the confusion," explains the perfectly named character Assumpta fifteen minutes into the film. If only it were so. Screens at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 14, at the Tivoli.
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