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LA Film Fest Coverage

June 26, 2008

Please welcome guest writer and awesome co-director of the Oxford Film Festival, Michelle Emanuel to the film freak blog. She is traveling around L.A. this week and is stopping in at the film fest. She’ll provide daily updates..here is day 1:

Los Angeles Diary, Day 1

By Michelle Emanuel

Today I arrived in sunny and hazy Southern California. I am here for multiple reasons. First, the annual meeting of the American Library Association will be in Anaheim from Friday to Tuesday – and yes, some of it is at Disneyland. When I try to imagine 20,000+ librarians at Disneyland, I am reminded of 2003, when the conference was in Orlando. That’s a lot of tote bags. And sunburns. But secondly, I am here to do some preliminary research for a grant I received from the Association of College and Research Libraries. In November, I will go to Paris for 10 days to study French film archives and libraries, and everyone agreed that it would be a good idea for me to anchor my research with a comparison of some American film archives. And what better place to do that than Los Angeles? So I made plans a few months ago to come out here a few days before the ALA conference.

But imagine my delight to discover – at the YAC membership picnic, no less – that my first-ever visit to the City of Angels would coincide with…the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF)! So thanks to Melanie, who hooked me up with a press pass, I am able to partake of a few days of this 10-day festival. More about that in a minute.

The direct flight from Memphis was mostly without incident, though made seemingly longer by the Midsouth woman and her rising high school senior daughter who talked almost NONSTOP across three time zones. I arrived at LAX, collected my suitcase, and picked up my rental car: a yellow beetle convertible. As someone so pale that I can get a sunburn from 40-watt lightbulb, this is hilarious to me. Also hilarious: that the back window is, shall we say, limited in scope, and has led to a couple of near-misses so far. Took the infamous 405 (and despite going only 40mph was driving white knuckled) to get to my hotel near the UCLA campus on Hilgard Ave., which is fortuitously in the same neighborhood (Westwood) as the LAFF. After dropping off my suitcase – which would only fit on the passenger seat – I set off on foot to discover Westwood.

I picked up my press packet, had pad thai at a place called Noodle Ranch, bought some snacks at Rite Aid, and headed back to get the car and drive out to a venue too far to walk to: the Landmark Theater (on Westwood and Pico). Side rant: with no disrespect to the proliferation of Chinese buffets and (soon to be) sushi restaurants, can some enterprising restauranteur please (PLEASE) facilitate the return of Thai food to Oxford? And please don’t tell me to drive to Water Valley. Thanks.

The Landmark Theater is part of the Westwood Pavillion, connected by a walkway to a mall (MALL!!) across the street with a Macy’s and Nordstrom and all kinds of things I usually drive to Memphis and beyond to browse. I am excited to learn that I can get my watch repaired while I’m in a movie tomorrow (since the battery died at a most inopportune time). I can also get a temporary mendhi tattoo on my hands if I get bored. That is less likely.

My first film of the festival was a documentary called LARGO, about a recently closed Los Angeles nightclub in Fairfax Village, where all sorts of cool people/bands/performers would congregate. The film was beautifully shot in black and white, with cinematography that evoked still photography, and included performances from the likes of Jon Brion, Fiona Apple, Nickel Creek, (my personal favorite singer/songwriter) Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Jackson Browne, and others, as well as comedy from Zach Galifanakis, Greg Proops, Patton Oswalt, and Paul F. Tompkins. Unfortunately, the film was a bit long, and the director’s aversion to titles meant that you didn’t know who you were listening to/watching until the end credits. And watching this film, especially in an LA venue, made me feel like I wasn’t one of the cool kids. And while that is certainly true, I don’t need to be reminded of it.

One cool thing about this screening, on a personal note, was that I got to sit next to Kelly Williams (lead programmer at the Austin Film Festival, whom I met last year at SXSW), and we were wearing the same shoes. So maybe I am one of the cool kids after all? And as people who put on film festivals ourselves, we took particular delight when there were audio “issues” during the Sponsor Reel. Some would call that schadenfreude.

The second film on my plate was a delightful documentary called PRESSURE COOKER, which combined elements from Hoop Dreams, Mad Hot Ballroom, Spellbound, and other documentaries about kids beating the odds in the public school system to make a better life for themselves, and the teachers who give all of themselves to help them to it. In this film, set in gritty Philadelphia, a veteran culinary arts teacher, Mrs. Stephenson, leads her class to a city-wide competition where they compete for scholarships to some of the country’s best cooking schools. This film is currently negotiating distribution rights, so it probably won’t be available for the next Oxford Film Festival, or even our monthly series at the Powerhouse, but I am pretty sure that you will hear a lot about this film.

Finally, though my body wanted to stay on Central time, my heart insisted that I attend the special tribute screening of THE LOST BOYS. Yep, the exact film you are thinking of: the 1986 Richard Donner-directed film starring a then-creepy, now-hilarious cast of hot young actors – Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Jason Patric – playing vampires, along with both Coreys (Haim and Feldman) trying to make things right. I especially wanted to see this screening because of the words “special guests” in the festival program, and I was not disappointed: there, on the red carpet (which, by the way, is like 12 yards of red astroturf), was Corey Feldman himself, who delighted the near-capacity crowd at the Mann Festival Theater both before and after the 10:pm screening. To watch this 22-year-old film with a cheering crowd of 1000 – who cheered almost everytime Corey F was on screen, and laughed at the outdated music/hair/clothes/everything – almost makes up for missing the “Swear-along Scarface” event over the opening weekend. Almost.

The price to pay for so much fun was, it turned out, a 7-minute teaser of the anticipated (by some?) sequel to the film – LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE – which will premiere at July’s Comic-Con before going straight to Blu-Ray/DVD on July 29. Admittedly, horror is not my genre, and while the original Lost Boys has a time capsule appeal, and a good blend of humor and horror, the sequel is … well, kinda gross. Yet also, lame. One of those films where you think, “This would be better if no one talked. Ever.” Explaining, perhaps, why the film is going straight to DVD. I had to laugh, though, during the Q&A, when the LAFF programmer asked Feldman why he chose to participate in this sequel. I was thinking, “Well, duh… what else is Corey Feldman doing these days?” and his answer was priceless:

I did it because of the script.

And with that, I headed back to the hotel, and called it a night.

Tomorrow: tour of the Academy Film Archive, and more films at the Landmark, including BALLAST, with Oxford’s own Johnny McPhail.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Lou haney permalink
    June 27, 2008 2:43 pm

    Michelle! I love your LA analysis. The 405 is hell. Corey Feldman is too much. Good luck out there….

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