The Gasparilla International Film Festival is a big deal for both the local arts community and Tampa Bay at large, so if you like movies at all, head to downtown Tampa to kick off GIFF's Opening Night in style at the lavish and historic Tampa Theatre.
Beginning with a VIP reception at 6, the celebration includes food from area restaurants, beer, wine and a lifetime achievement award celebration for formidable character actor M. Emmett Walsh. Walsh has appeared with Dustin Hoffman in Straight Time, Paul Newman in Slapshot, Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, Chuck Norris in Missing in Action, Denzel Washington in The Mighty Quinn, and Gene Hackman in Narrow Margin.
At 7:30 p.m., see the southeastern premiere of the Sundance selection The Music Never Stopped. Based on the case study The Last Hippie by Dr. Oliver Sacks, M.D. (Awakenings), the movie takes us into the evolving relationship of a father and son, who have been separated for a number of years and are adjusting to cerebral trauma while making up for lost time. As evidenced from the title, music plays an instrumental role with a nostalgic soundtrack of 60s tunes. The film stars J.K. Simmons, who you'll recognize from Juno and those Farmers insurance commercials, in a career-defining performance that's a big departure from his usual co-starring gigs as the smartass friend and funny dad, with Lou Taylor Pucci (Thumbsucker) playing his son. Film producer will be in attendance for talk-back after the film; after party at 10 p.m. at the Fly Bar.Tampa Theatre is at 711 N. Franklin St. $55. Award presentation cost an additional $15; For more highlights, click here or visit giff2011.org.
Jon Jefferson, one half of of a writing team known as Jefferson Bass, appears at Inkwood Books to discuss the duo's latest page-turner, The Bone Yard. The novel is of particular interest to Floridians as it deals with an infamous reform school for boys in the Panhandle. St. Petersburg Times reporter Ben Montgomery moderates the discussion; his newspaper series exposed the horrific history of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys near Marianna. Jefferson is a veteran journalist, writer and documentary filmmaker. The co-author of Death's Acre, he is also the writer and producer of two highly rated National Geographic documentaries about the Body Farm, University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility. Also in attendance will be Robert Straley, who endured brutal beatings as a reform-school "student" in the 1960s, and who recently co-founded a survivors' organization, The White House Boys. 7 p.m., Inkwood Books, 216 Armenia Ave. S., Tampa. 813-253-2638.
From 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., you can spend a unique happy hour amid the vibrant richness of the Coalition of Hispanic Artists' Spring Blast/Un Soplo de Primavera, taking place at the Towers at Westshore's Main Lobby.
Meet the artists and enjoy free entertainment from Duende (guitarists Dean Johanesen and Joe Matsagos) and vocalist Lily Cortes while noshing on complimentary hors doeuvres. If you can't make it today, the exhibit is open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. through April 1. 1408 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa. For information, call Magdalena Matias Negron at 813-300-1635.
For unique, fun and fantastic female-fronted live music, Rachel Goodrich w/Sons of Hippies take over Crowbar in Ybor City tonight. Goodrich is a singer-songwriter with a natural knack for charming the pants off her fans, Miami native-turned-LA dweller Rachel Goodrich is among my favorite purveyors of quirky, infectious folk pop. This year is turning out to be a great one for Goodrich, whose self-titled second LP was produced by Grammy-nominated Greg Wells (Katy Perry, Rufus Wainwright), released this February via her own Yellow Bear imprint to much critical praise, and has been used in TV spots ranging from MTVs My Life as Liz and HBOs Weeds to commercials by Crayola and Blackberry. The mistress of shake-abilly sings in a big, velvety-rich soprano and plays guitar along with myriad other instruments. Her bright and buoyant sound is infused with vaudeville-inspired and Latino-flavored embellishments on kazoo, xylophone, ukulele, charango and percussion (hand-claps and whistling included), and she delivers pert ironic lyrics like I fell in love with your face, honey, not with your heart amidst the odd nonsensical ba-ba-bas, na na nas and other cutesy vocal outbursts. A definite must-see. (Crowbar, Ybor City, $5, $8; see the Facebook event page for info about other acts opening the show.; info courtesy of Leilani Polk.)
The Ybor Festival of the Moving image continues at 6 p.m. this evening with American Nightmare: Made in China. The documentary examines the shortage of U.S.-made sheetrock, which leads to importation of the toxic Chinese product that turns Florida dream homes into nightmares; directed by Briana Frapart; $5.
Showing tonight in the Mainstage Theater: Waste Land, a documentary with New York City artist Vik Muniz, who films garbage pickers/recyclers at the world's largest landfill near Rio de Janeiro; directed by Lucy Walker; 7:30 p.m., $10. At 9 p.m., see More Than Skin Deep, a look at America's tanning craze and the most misunderstood and underestimated illness the disease of skin cancer; directed by Stan Kozma; $10.
In the Studio Theater at 7:30 p.m., the fest's nightly Time Travels: Explorations features return with Elements of Time, David Montgomery; Parallel, Dee Hood; Exquisite Corpses, Dana Plays; Aquifer, Dana Plays; River Madness, Dana Plays; Glory, László Horváth and The Lost Thing, Shaun Tan; free.
Tonight also is the kickoff for the annual Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which takes over the citys downtown March 24-27. The waterfront circuit winds around Pioneer Park, the Mahaffey, the Dali Museum and extends onto runways at Albert Whitted Airport, a section that overlooks the Bay and St. Petersburg Harbor and Marina. Six sanctioned races are scheduled, and surrounding venues such as Jannus Live present concerts and special events. Tonight is the Festival of States Illuminated Night Parade at 7 p.m. Vincent Lecavalier, Captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, is grand marshal for driver parade Sun. morning. For race schedule, visit gpstpete.com, and for city info, visit stpete.org.