Saturday, July 01, 2006

LA Film Festival (7/1/06)

While everyone else on the 405 freeway was getting an early start on the long Fourth of July weekend, we were headed north to Westwood to see two more installments of the LA Film Festival: “Right at Your Door,” a dramatic thriller set in present-day Los Angeles, and “I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With,” a comedy written by, directed by and starring Jeff Garlin, Larry David’s overweight manager in the hilarious HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Our first challenge, of course, was finding reasonably-priced parking. It was still well before 5PM when the lots change to the more affordable evening rates, so I knew we were in trouble. I tried a lot near the Crest theater, but quickly made a U-turn when I noticed we would have had to pay $16 (!) I then headed over to the $5 lot we use when we can’t find free parking on Geffen play nights. It was $7, but I was starting to worry about getting to the theater on time and so paid the price. Tomorrow we go back to taking the bus!

There was no one on line when we got to the theater (Mann Festival). In fact, it was so hot outside that the festival volunteers told all ticket-holders to wait in one of Westwood’s many air-conditioned coffee shops until 30 minutes before show time. We did and, finally, at 4PM were admitted into the theater.

“Right at Your Door” is a frighteningly realistic look at what might happen if terrorists attacked Los Angeles. The protagonists are a young couple who had moved to Echo Park just two weeks before. The wife (Mary McCormack, of “West Wing” and “ER”) gets caught in the fallout when bombs explode during the morning rush hour, while the husband—an unemployed musician (Rory Cochrane, formerly of “CSI: Miami”)—listens to the unfolding events on the radio at home. As contaminated ash starts to pollute the entire city, it quickly becomes apparent that the wife is doomed.

Suffice it to say that the movie is a real-life nightmare. Listening to the radio reports of bombs exploding in downtown LA, Century City and then LAX, I could barely remain seated in the theater. It reminded me of the nearly unwatchable nuclear holocaust film “Testament” (1983)—except all the horror of this movie is squeezed into 48 hours instead of over several weeks. Tim and I were both relieved when it was over. As soon as the credits rolled I ran to the bathroom, where I overheard one exhausted-looking woman say to another, “I need to see a comedy!”

The Jeff Garlin film was starting in 30 minutes, so we left before the post-movie Q&A began. But we did wait long enough to see the writer-director Chris Gorak (art director on “Fight Club” and “Tombstone”) and Mary McCormack (tall and pretty). We ran into a hurrying Rory Cochrane (cute!) as we left the theater. We were grateful to be outside in the light of a beautiful day.

En route to the Crest, we noticed a man wildly gesturing and yelling to a couple across the ever-congested Westwood Blvd. “There he is!” Tim said. And sure enough, there was Jeff Garlin and his petite blond wife walking down the wrong side of the street. The gesturer was advising them to go back to the stoplight so they wouldn’t get killed jaywalking.

A short line greeted us at the Crest. Actress-comedienne Bonnie Hunt was already there, graciously signing autographs for several fans. She plays one of Jeff’s love interests in the movie and is much prettier and thinner in person. Things started getting crazy when Jeff arrived, but by then we were on our way into the theater.

Once inside, Tim noticed that the last three rows—the best seats in the house—were open, so we quickly staked our claim in the third row. Luckily, several other people soon joined us because, five minutes later, a petite blond—Mrs. Garlin!—showed up to rope-off the last three rows. We refused to move, so instead she taped off the two rows behind us. We also agreed to save the three empty seats next to us. We were about to be surrounded by the entire cast of the movie!

I was busy watching for celebrities, when Tim whispered, “Dan Castellaneta is sitting right behind you!” Castellaneta, best known as the voice of Homer Simpson, plays a mini-mart owner in the movie. Next to him were Mina Folb (alum of the wonderful old TV show “That Was the Week That Was”) and David Pasquesi (Garlin’s friend from Second City), also both in the movie. Behind Tim was documentarian Morgan Spurlock and a fetching blond, whom he introduced as his “new wife.” Apparently he’s no longer with the woman who stood by him for thirty days in “Super Size Me.” Spurlock was telling everyone about the new season of his TV show “30 Days,” when Richard Kind showed up to quite a fanfare. He had just been named as a replacement lead in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” on Broadway and so was treated to much hugs and kisses by his peers. By the way, Kind is much handsomer in person than he is on TV. He plays Garlin’s agent in the movie.

We also saw Caroline Rhea, a comedienne who used to have her own talk show, and Paul Mazursky, who plays a TV producer in the film. Mary McCormack slipped into the last row right before the lights dimmed.

The movie was wonderful. Very sweet and funny, it’s partially based on Garlin’s early show biz life in Chicago, where he grew-up. It’s by far the best film we’ve seen at the festival. Afterwards, Garlin, Bonnie Hunt and the producer took questions from the audience. Garlin was obviously very thrilled to be there. We all screamed in joy when he announced that he had sold the movie to a distributor. Tim and I gave the film the highest rating—GREAT—on our exit surveys.

Headed back to the car, we walked up “Popcorn Alley,” a street cordoned off for festival-goers. We marveled at a group of Asian tourists using chopsticks to eat bags of popcorn! Everyone was in a festive mood. Tomorrow we return for more...


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