I had the amazing opportunity Wednesday to meet Martin Cooper, widely known as the "father of the cellphone." And, boy, did I manage to sound like an idiot.
Cooper was receiving the new Maverick Innovator Award on the opening night of the Cinequest Film Festival and stopped by downtown San Jose's Cafe Stritch with Cinequest President Kathleen Powell before the show Tuesday night.
I thanked the 85-year-old visionary for his work in creating a device that's become indispensable to our lives. Then, like a 14-year-old boy trying to say something snarky to impress a teacher, I added, "And, you know, damn you for that, too."
He gets that sentiment, and he's heard it plenty. "You know," he said, with far more patience than I deserved, "you're not the first person to come up with that. When we invented the thing, we did include an on/off switch."
Impeccably dressed and sporting a mane of white hair, Cooper was, of course, wearing a phone on his belt. An iPhone? Nope. The man who made the first cellphone call in 1973 uses a Motorola, the company that employed him for nearly 30 years, and I'd think he deserves a good discount.
CHIP FLICK: IndieWire film critic Eric Kohn also was at Wednesday night's festivities, where he received Cinequest's first Media Legacy Award for his work helping to connect audiences to movies that might otherwise be overlooked. He brought one along with him, too: "RPG OKC," an animated short by director Emily Carmichael. It's a funny love story set entirely within an old-school video-game world, complete with pixilated graphics and 8-bit chip music.
"You think it's a silly nostalgic throwback to 'Zelda' or something, but it has real emotion. It's a real surprise," said Kohn, who discovered the movie at a festival last year but thinks the packed house at the California Theater for Cinequest's was the largest crowd to see it.
It nicely set the stage for the opening night film, "The Grand Seduction," a comedy about a desperate fishing village that starred Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch (whom NBC Bay Area's Christina Loren playfully lauded for his ability to act while shirtless in her introduction of the movie).
FULL CIRCLE: David Cohen, the former publisher of the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, is a former chairman of Cinequest's board, and now his son, filmmaker Dustin Cohen, has a film in the festival. Dustin's wonderful short, "The Shoemaker," is about a 91-year-old shoemaker that he met in New York City. It will screen before the world premiere of the raunchy comedy "A is For Alex" at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Camera 12.
Both Cohen and Alex Orr, who directed and stars in the feature film, will take part in a panel discussion about their films after the screenings.