Winners named in both film fest and songbook competitions

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Yes, there was a race over at the Brickyard.

But that wasn't the only contest in town over the weekend.

For fierce competition, nothing beat the high schoolers squaring off at the Great American Songbook High School Vocal Competition at the Palladium on Friday. Their weapons of choice were the songs of Porter, Gershwin, etc.

Julia Goodwin from Baldwinsville, N.Y., shot out to an early lead with a disarmingly charming "Dream a Little Dream of Me." But, for me, Miami's Melinda Rodriquez was the first-half front-runner with her remarkably controlled "Autumn Leaves." Acting chops and a playfully resigned attitude helped Chicagoan Kyrie Courter stay in the race with "Taking a Chance on Love."

After an intermission pit stop, Rodriquez's smartly sung "Blue Skies" didn't provide a strong enough contrast to her first-act stunner (although I'd happily listen to a full set of her singing). The emotional resonance of Courter's "I Who Have Nothing" pushed her to the front of the pack. But there seemed to be no doubt in the audience as to who would finish on top after Goodwin nailed "Feeling Good."

I'm assuming most of the lengthy deliberation among the judges (including Michael Feinstein, Sylvia McNair and Jane Monheit) had to do with who would take the second and third spots.

Meanwhile, the Indiana-set documentary "Medora" (which I wrote about here), took home the Grand Jury Prize at the 10th Annual Indianapolis International Film Festival. I could have told you that a few weeks ago, but as a jurist this year, I was sworn to secrecy. "Medora" also won the Audience Award for best feature film, proving that the critics and the crowds don't always disagree.

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