Newport Beach Film Festival: Schedule of events

Compiled by Greg Stacy

Locations:

Edwards Island Cinemas, screens 3-6, 999 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach Edwards Big Newport, 300 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach Regency Lido Theater, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach Radisson Hotel, 4545 MacArthur Blvd, Newport Beach For the full film festival schedule, visit www.newportbeachfilmfest.com. Tickets may be purchased at the website or by calling (949) 253-2880. Most screenings are $10.

THURSDAY, APRIL 15

The Laws of Attraction. World premiere of this romantic comedy starring Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore as two high-powered, bickering attorneys on opposite sides of a case involving an Irish rock star's divorce. They head to Ireland to hunt down depositions, and at a wild party they get good and liquored up and wake up the next morning to find themselves as man and wife. Hijinx, as they say, ensue. (7 p.m., Edwards Big Newport; festival opening night gala immediately follows at Radisson Hotel. $80 for screening and gala.)

FRIDAY, APRIL 16

Mind-Bending Shorts. Go and get your mind bent by some short films. Hey, what else are you going to do on a Friday morning at 11 a.m.? One film on the bill, Chapman student Xavier Janghoon Lee's Jill, concerns a man who receives an eye transplant and begins experiencing memories that are not his own. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 4) My Wife Maurice (Ma femme ... s'apelle Maurice). French farce in which a millionaire, desperate to prevent his mistress from stealing away his money, devises a complex plan in which a man will pose as his wife. Frankly it all sounds pretty lame, so the odds are that an American remake is already under way. (11 a.m., Lido Theater) The Gentleman Don La Mancha. Don Quixote re-imagined as a contemporary drama set in a small town on the Texas-Mexico border. (11:15 a.m., Edwards Island 3) Getting' Your Shorts In A Twist. You see what they've done there, with the pun? This is humor, of a sort. The lineup includes Boris Schaarschmidt's German suspense short Wet Shave, about a barber who is about to close his shop for the evening when two strange and unsettling customers appear. (11:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Cala, My Dog! In the China of 1995, a "One Dog Per Family" policy is strictly enforced. Dogs are seized from owners without special pet permits, and unless those owners can pay hefty fines the dogs are put to death. This drama follows one family whose dog is seized and their frantic efforts to get the poor pooch back before it's too late. (noon, Edwards Island 5) Smorgashorts. The first of this year's shorts programs with a regrettably punnish title. Prepare yourself, for there will be many more to come. The fare in this batch includes Jacob Akira Okada's Curtis, about an artist coping with AIDS, and Chapman student John Dolan's The Martyr. (1 p.m., Edwards Island 3) The Letter. A documentary about the controversy that ensued when Mayor Larry Raymond of Lewiston, Maine, sent an open letter to the 1,110 newly arrived Somalis in town asking them to tell other Somalis not to move to the town as resources were already strained to the breaking point. (1:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Side-Splitting Shorts. Once your mind has been bent, go and have your sides split. Just be sure to check with your HMO first to make sure you're covered for this sort of thing. The lineup includes Rob Meltzer's I Am Stamos, in which an actor finds himself on the bad side of former Full House star John Stamos. (1:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Frazetta: Painting with Fire. Documentary portrait of Frank Frazetta, the temperamental illustrator whose sword-wielding trogs and busty wenches have graced book covers and movie posters as well as the chests of countless prison inmates and the sides of many Chevy vans. (1:45 p.m., Edwards Island 6) A Bedtime Fairy Tale for Crocodiles (Cuento de Hadas para Dormir Crocodiles). Ignacio Ortiz Cruz's drama follows Arcangel, a man who discovers that the men of his family are cursed to die of insomnia. Now Arcangel is determined to save his son from the same fate, but to do so he'll have to pay a terrible price. (2:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Mosku: The Last of His Kind (Mosku: Lajinsa viimeinen). The epic tale of "Mosku" Aleksi Hihnavaara, a legendary figure in northeast Lapland, along the Russian border. We follow him from his childhood in a logging camp, to his adventures as an adult, protecting the reindeer that are the main source of food for the locals. (3:15 p.m., Edwards Island 3)
The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. Anne Marie Fleming's documentary looks at the life of her great-grandfather Long Tack Sam, a magician/acrobat who was well known in the days of Vaudeville. Although Long Tack Sam led an eventful life and Fleming uses some cute animation and other gimmicks to tell his story, the film still feels like a family genealogy project that's been well funded by the National Film Board of Canada. It's not boring, but frankly it's probably of greatest interest to members of Fleming's immediate family. (3:30 p.m., Lido Theater) American Cousins. A bittersweet comedy/drama directed by Donald Coutts. Roberto is a gentle, naive fellow who runs a Glasgow fish and chips café. A local thug tries to strong-arm Roberto out of business, but Roberto's two American cousins step in to help. Unfortunately, what Roberto doesn't know is that his cousins are not really PR consultants at all; they're two Mafia goons on the run from the Ukrainian mob. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Short Term Commitments. The lineup includes Jay And Mark Duplass' Scrabble, in which things turn ugly when a couple plays Scrabble. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Memron.This year's Newport Beach Film Festival is big on Christopher Guest-ian mockumentaries about the humiliations of small people pursuing big dreams; there are so many, in fact, that I'd be tempted to declare a moratorium if so many of these pictures weren't so damn good. Memron is a black gem about the former employees of a nefarious corporation (if the title sounds familiar, it should) who band together to start their own tiny corporation based in a cluttered suburban garage. Every single damn thing that can go wrong does, and everybody in the film is just sleazy enough that we can laugh at their misfortunes and just human enough that we can feel guilty for laughing. This is a movie where just about every character is subjected to some sort of ghastly humiliation. The nice people seem to get it even worse than the true creeps, although Michael McShane (the rotund improv genius you may have seen on Comedy Central's airings of the BBC version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?) is particularly funny as the former Memron head. Now reduced to waddling around the grounds of his estate under house arrest, cheerfully oblivious to the looks of frosty contempt from his trophy wife, McShane makes you feel pity for a man who has screwed countless people out of their livelihoods. Memron is a sharp, uproarious satire that unfortunately gets a little less funny every day here in Dubya's America, so see it now before you get laid off yourself and are too busy dropping off résumés to have time to go see a movie. (And be sure to stay through the credits, where some of the biggest laughs in the whole picture are hidden away.) (5 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Bandwagon. Critics will occasionally gush about an actor's "brave" performance, but former Buffy the Vampire Slayer regular Emma Caulfield's participation in the brilliant new mockumentary Bandwagon is absolutely foolhardy on a number of levels. In this picture, Caulfield portrays herself as an actress who has been adrift since her show went off the air. She admits to being perilously close to 30 and expounds through gritted teeth about all the roles she's been losing recently to younger actresses. With no clock to punch, she fills her days with lunches at trendy eateries; long sessions with her personal trainer to work off the lunches; and her endless, self-righteous efforts to Make the World a Better Place by throwing herself into whatever cause has caught her fancy that week. When conservatives make their snide remarks about Hollywood's "limousine liberals," they are imagining people like the Caulfield we see here: a pretty girl who is vastly less intelligent than she thinks and who noisily makes her opinions public out of a mix of arrogance, misguided idealism, and the desire to get a little attention and hopefully prop up her own sagging career. Caulfield is shown harassing her former Buffy bosses for professional favors; she has a few tellingly curt remarks about notoriously prickly but highly bankable Buffy leading lady Sarah Michelle Gellar; she cluelessly endangers a bunch of cute little birds; and she says and does some things that will really piss off advocates for the mentally challenged. Is Caulfield determined to never work in Hollywood again? Following a few years in a supporting role on a terrific but Nielsen-challenged genre series and the starring part in the schlocky thriller Darkness Falls, Caulfield's career is at a major crossroads, and now would be a very good time for her to play it safe as somebody's girlfriend in a couple of big-budget, by-the-numbers action pictures. But instead she shows up in this tiny, scathing Hollywood satire and allows herself to appear as an aging, neurotic, pushy bimbo who is teetering on the very brink of has-been-hood. It's as if she's set out to violate every unwritten Hollywood law she can, without giving a good goddamn how unattractive it makes her to future casting directors. Say what you will about what courage it took for Charlize Theron to gain 30 pounds, slap on some facial prosthetics and pop in some joke-shop teeth for Monster; with Bandwagon, Caulfield has taken a real risk, and it has richly paid off in what may be the most cringingly hilarious mockumentary since This is Spinal Tap. (5:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Fire Within. Thirty teenagers (10 Israeli Arab Muslims, 10 Israeli Jews, 10 American Jews) travel through Spain and Israel together in this documentary. (5:30 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) BachelorMan. John Putch's raunchy comedy follows Ted, a devil with the ladies who meets his match when a beautiful, promiscuous girl moves in next door and throws off his game with her constant, window-rattling groans of pleasure. (6 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Clipping Adam. Since his mother and sister died years ago, sullen teen Adam Sheppard (Evan Peters) has refused to cut his hair and now has goofy, Peter Frampton locks cascading down his shoulders. Adam's boozer dad (Chris Eigeman) is at least as messed up as Adam is and provides no real guidance, so when Adam responds violently to some schoolyard bullying, his concerned grandmother (Louise Fletcher) arranges for him to seek counseling once a week with a hip neighborhood priest (Kevin Sorbo). Written, directed, produced and presumably catered by Michael Picchiottino, Clipping Adam is perched precariously on the brink between genuine, affecting Catcher In the Rye coming-of-age tale and Afterschool Specialschmaltz. Picchiottino's dialogue is natural and he handles his actors well; Sorbo, for instance, is surprisingly adept in his smallish but pivotal role, with an understated, world-weary charm he never had much call to use back on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The film generally captures the low-key despair of disaffected teendom quite well and it's suffused with the kind of quirky details that only come from real-life experience, but some aspects of the story (such as a lengthy chase scene) ring terribly false and feel like they've been tacked on in a misguided attempt to "spice up" the action. Make no mistake, Clipping Adam is a good film and worth seeking out . . . but frankly it could have used a little trimming in the editing room. (6:15 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Bucket O' Shorts. How many short films are in this collection? Apparently, enough to fill a bucket. One bucketed film is Robbin Shahani's Unbroken, a surreal musical drama about a man coming to terms with his father's death. (6:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. Documentary from the makers of the excellent and horrifying Paradise Lost and Paradise Lost 2 docs that takes the boys from Metallica and their head-bangin' tunes very seriously. So, no SpinalTap jokes, please. (7:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) The Endless Summer. Dear god, can you imagine it? A summer that never ends! Heat shimmering on the sidewalk in the middle of February as a sweat-soaked, beleaguered population endures day after day of blistering, mind-numbing heat. The polar ice caps melt away, lake beds dry and crack beneath the punishing sun as the world descends into a sweltering hell. The horror, the horror. We can only pray that the terrible apocalypse implied in the title of this innocuous 1966 surfing documentary never comes to pass. (8 p.m., Lido Theater) Le Chiefs. Documentary about Canadian hockey players. They brawl, they bawl and you're there for it all. (8 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Shorts-ploitation. Goofy shorts with no pretensions, including Chapman graduate Marton Varo's The Rules of the Game and Alan Chan's 12 Hot Women, which promises "NO PLOT! NO STORY! JUST 12 HOT WOMEN!" (8:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Vodka Lemon. Against the bleak, wintry landscape of modern Armenia, an old widower strikes up a relationship with a woman he meets near his wife's grave. (9 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Short-A-Licious. Sigh. Someday the Newport fest people will start giving their shorts programs titles I can say aloud without wincing, and when they do I will be so very happy. At least the films in this batch sound interesting, including Cristian Nemescu's Romanian short "C" Block Story, about a young man's experience calling up a phone sex line. (9 p.m., Edwards Island 4)
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