August 26, 2008

A Free Ticket to The Los Angeles Film Festival

Print More

The best thing about living in Westwood, Los Angeles is that about every other day, the road you need to walk down or park on is blocked off for a movie premiere. What’s even better is the Los Angeles Film Festival, where the entire neighborhood becomes a mini-Sundance, complete with ticket booths, mini-red carpets, special super-secret party rooms (like the Target Red Room, where — if you are important, famous or a major filmmaker — you get to hang out and drink free booze).
There are also ridiculously long lines of people waiting to get in to see movies earlier than everyone else, so they can brag to their friends that they saw them first. (Yes, that is what I am doing.) Aside from movie screenings, there are also screenings of commercials, music videos and shorts, networking events, after parties and discussions with filmmakers. I saw a lot (and ate more popcorn than any one human being should consume in 10 days time). I don’t want to ruin any of the films for you, but the two best by far were Choke, which will be in theatres this fall, and Warner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World.
Choke — adapted by director Clark Gregg from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel — was the best thing I’ve seen all year. In classic Palahniuk style, it’s a hysterical, witty and — to be honest — sick take on a man who is trying to overcome his worse impulses. There’s no question about it; everyone in the film is terrifically messed up, which works, both because of fresh dialogue and the combined talents of the cast. Sam Rockwell plays Victor Mancini, a sex-addicted psuedo con artist who has a beyond-messed-up relationship with his mother (and women in general). Anjelica Huston plays his mother Ida, both as the bed ridden Alzheimer’s patient of the present and, in flashbacks, as a ruthless, borderline psychotic nomad who, when Victor was young, would kidnap him back from his foster parents. Kelly Macdonald is the female lead, and that’s all I will say, except that she’s completely charming (in a pretty loony way).
What’s really terrific about the film is how it was shot for barely anything — benjamins-wise — in an abandoned mental hospital filled with asbestos. After the film, Clark Gregg and Chuck Palahniuk both came out for a Q&A session. I had a prime viewing location because my friend Mike and I decided to show up five minutes before it started, so the only seats left in the theatre were the two in front, right underneath the speakers and big-ass boxes. My legs had no room, but, alas, these are the sacrifices I make for all of you … and free tickets.
Encounters at the End of the World was welcome to me, if only because big blue screen shots of icebergs were a godsend in the above 100 degree weather. Herzog — who I guess is known for his thick accented — peppered his sly voice overs with strange metaphors (I wish I had excerpts to share with you, but my phone was stolen two days later, and therefore the notes are all gone). Visually it was, of course, incredible — underwater shots of seals and icebergs; impossibly electric blues; white snow everywhere; so many penguins. But the film was actually about the people you find down in Antarctica — the random travelers, researchers and cooks; their quirks and histories. It’s definitely worth seeing, even in the winter.
What was better was that this time, we actually got real seats, so I didn’t lose all blood flow in my legs.