Come on and take a ride with a helluva guy

N o one is going to fault this one for lack of originality.

“Have you been to that cheesecake shop in downtown Honolulu?”
“Yeah! It’s THE BEST! I’ve tried, like, fifteen different flavors.”
“Me too! My favorite is coconut kahlua. Have you met the guy?”
“You mean ‘Otto’ as in ‘Otto Cake,’ the name of the store?”
“Yeah, that’s him. He’s really cool.”
“Yeah, we should make a movie about him.”
“Tota—wait. What?!”

Otto, just “Otto,” like Cher or Pelé -no, I don’t care if my references are dated on this one—is presented as a baker. He owns a shop and makes cheesecakes; isn’t that cute? And they’re good cheesecakes, huh? Well, I hope so. Which is especially cool because Otto can’t read.


Yes, Otto can’t read. His matter-of-fact impairment is not offered as a poor skill set; it’s more a case of severe dyslexia. How in the world does he manage to … manage? Seriously, don’t you have to read stuff when you’re a small business owner? No? Ummmm, ok. I see Otto is having trouble with the street scene; seems folks like to get baked and have cake. Well, maybe that’s true but unfair – drug dealing would happen on Otto’s block even were there no cheesecake store. As a business owner, Otto doesn’t lack for issues.

For all of Act I, Ottomaticake is presented as Otto v. Drug Dealers which leant itself to the lesser battle of Otto v. Police Enforcement. Honolulu’s finest seemed a great deal more interested in being extras on “Hawaii Five-0” than dealing with real life crime. This seemed to be the focus of the movie – will Otto get to keep his cakery?

And then the film changed directions, all but abandoning the drug angle and shifting into Otto-pilot. I don’t know if the film ran out of plot – which is probably common in real time documentaries – Ottomaticake took the risk and made the film exclusively about Otto. This was a coup – Otto is a trip. Aside from reading issues and mouth-watering cheesecakes, Otto is also the statewide roller skating champion. Not blading, skating. Ok, that’s weird. Otto invents/bakes all the cakes and has designed every piece of art in the store. He also plays bass in at least two punk bands. He doesn’t play bass well, which is to say he’s competent on stage if something shy of electric, but his band mates love his ability to organize gigs. And for a guy who “doesn’t play bass well,” he quite literally learns his part in between songs. This takes a musical understanding common to, well, let’s just say not a whole helluva lot of people. On top of that, Otto is champion of LGBTQ rights, often hosting, staging and performing in local Hedwig and the Angry Inch productions. Wow, who is this guy?!

Ottomaticake clocks in at a tidy 61 minutes. Given how little the film had to say about the cake shop’s milieu, this seems right. We meet Otto. We like Otto. We move on. If you have anything more to say about the man, he better be Forrest Gump. I didn’t think the world of this film, but I did enjoy it enough to track down the Otto Cake shop in Honolulu, which -I’m proud to say- is still in business and seems to doing OK, drug dealers or no.

A documentary about diversified Otto
Who had conflicts with those who dealt blotto
The man’s so much more
Than an owner of store
And “Let them eat cake” is Hawaii’s new motto

Not Rated, 61 Minutes
Director: Gemma Cubero del Barrio
Writer: Gemma Cubero del Barrio
Genre: Real life human
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Sociologists
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Curmudgeons

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