To Live and Write in LA

LA Film Fest: Bits and Pieces

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This year’s LA Film Fest, sponsored by Film Independent, continued to be a remarkable cultural achievement. But within its 10-day run there were highs and lows.

Acrobats at Family Day

Acrobats at Family Day

Family Day, coinciding with the premier of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls was a great event for kids and parents. I’ve attended a lot of film festivals and this is the first time there was an opportunity to bring kids along to participate. Sponsored by Hasbro Studios, it included entertainment, face painting, lots of Play Doh, craft stations, games and more free stuff than you could carry. A fire engine from the LA Fire Department and wandering Rescue Bots also added to the fun.

“In Conversation: Ricky Jay and David Mamet” should have been a highlight for writers and film fans. Ricky Jay (The PrestigeDeadwoodHeist), world renowned sleight of hand artist, and David Mamet (The UnitWag the DogGlenngarry Glen Ross), one of Hollywood’s most honored screenwriters and authors possess a depth of experience and knowledge that is priceless. Unfortunately, the decision by LA Film Fest to have them interview each other, with no moderator, was a disaster. No insights into film or writing; just stories about vaudeville entertainers, wrestlers and old comedians. Sad. The decision to show Mamet’s film, Heist, after the conversation instead of before didn’t help either.

Award winning writer David Mamet

Award winning writer David Mamet

A recurring meme at the festival is the sight of a volunteer urging people to “fill in the empty seats” so it is easier to get everyone seated at the often sold-out events. One volunteer was so charming in her pleas for attendees to move that I couldn’t help but smile. Then she said, “Hey, the scariest looking guy in here just gave me a really sweet smile. That means you’d better move and fill in those seats.” I guess my wife is right. I am scary looking.

It was nice of festival sponsor Film Independent to provide its members with a free movie. However, the movie, Afternoon Delight, was anything but. The premise of the film, “A bored housewife tries to spice up her sex life and brings a homeless stripper into her family” sounds full of comic potential, and I did laugh half-a-dozen times.

But somehow, director Jill Soloway managed to make even the sex scenes boring, and towards the end of the film, I thought to myself, “How long is this thing going to go on?” I was sure the film had already run its two hours. I glanced at my watch and it had only been droning on for 70 minutes. Soloway should stick with producing. Not even the presence of Jane Lynch as a needy psychiatrist could save this. The film’s depiction of self-involved San Fernando Valley Jewish housewives was so negative it bordered on Antisemitism.

Mystery sign

Mystery sign

The Filmmakers Lounge located on the parking structure event deck provided a much needed oasis. The air conditioning saved me on hot days and the food trucks provided a welcome change from movie theater hot dogs and popcorn. I especially liked the No Jodas Cuban Kitchen truck, but a sign I could see through the window puzzled me. It read: “Death to False Food Trucks.” The proprietor explained that a false food truck was one that “…was stealing someone else’s idea. Not being original.” Who knew there was a food truck culture and ethics?

The most important accolades should go to the festival’s volunteers. The 300, mostly young and always charming volunteers were there to answer questions, help you find things, and generally add a human touch to an epic size event. “Thank you, Volunteers!”  You were the real stars of the Fest.

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An exploration of film and filmmaking