Thursday, June 24, 2010

L.A. Film Festival

We’ve never been to Sundance or even the Palm Springs International Film Festival, but we do occasionally attend LAFF (the L.A. Film Festival) because it’s close and we like to pretend we’re hip. This year the festival moved to L.A. Live, where Tim works, making it much more convenient than Westwood and UCLA, where it used to be held. In addition, the movies are especially strong this year, so we bought tickets to five events. We’ve gone to three so far.

Like all film festivals, this one has its share of big-name movies (e.g., The Kids Are All Right), but we’re usually more attracted to the off-beat films we might not otherwise see. On Sunday, we saw The Tillman Story, a riveting documentary about the cover-up of former football star Pat Tillman’s death by “friendly fire” in Afghanistan. This was followed on Monday by Waiting for Superman, a powerful documentary about the pathetic state of public education in America. Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, who also directed the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth, introduced the film. Feedback is encouraged through ballots that are turned in at the end of every screening. We each gave both films the highest rating.

The festival can be quite the scene, depending on the event. Although Monday night’s big movie was a documentary, the paparazzi were out in full force yelling at a redheaded young actress named Jessica (??) as she walked down the red carpet. She wasn’t in the film, but we did see her later in the audience (and still have no idea who she was!).

We returned last night for the L.A. premier of Animal Kingdom, an incredibly intense Australian drama about a psychotic gang of robbers. I was hoping to see Guy Pearce, the film’s most famous actor, but he didn’t show. Instead I had to make do with Ewan McGregor, the young Obi-Wan Kenobi of the Star Wars prequels and the title character of Ghost Writer, one of our favorite movies of the year thus far. He wasn’t in Animal Kingdom, but he did sit in the row ahead of us, so I was thrilled.

I expect the wildest festival event will be tonight’s premier of Eclipse, the latest installment in the Twilight vampire saga. We won’t be there, but we did see hundreds of fans camped out (literally) in the L.A. Live plaza, waiting four days to attend the film’s red carpet festivities. You couldn’t pay me enough money to get within 10 blocks of that zoo tonight!

Next up for us: an interview with film legend Roger Corman (Friday) and Welcome to the Rileys, a drama starring James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo (Sunday). More soon . . .

P.S. You can read about the Corman event above--a wonderful evening! Less wonderful, though, was Welcome to the Rileys, which we saw Sunday afternoon. Gandolfini and Leo were terrific, but the theater was filled to capacity with fans of Kristen Stewart, who plays a young stripper the older couple befriend. More importantly, Stewart is Bella, the female love interest in Twilight; so every time she said anything remotely funny, the audience burst into a fit of giggles. Could I have ever been that silly??

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