By AMY NICHOLSON
By ALAN SCHERSTUHL
By CAROLINA DEL BUSTO
By AMY NICHOLSON
By STEPHANIE ZACHAREK
By R. Scott Moxley
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 15The 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 16Mind-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)
SATURDAY, APRIL 17Her Majesty. In this children's period piece, a New Zealand town is in a frenzy preparing for a visit from Queen Elizabeth when a 13-year-old girl forges an unlikely friendship with an old Maori woman. (9 a.m., Edwards Island 3) A Dog's Life: A Dogamentary. When Emmy-winning television producer Gayle Kirschenbaum set out to make this documentary, it was supposed to be a cute chronicle of her adventures on the streets of New York looking for a husband while she also tried to build an "acting" career for Shih Tzu, Chelsea. But then 9/11 happened and the project went in another direction entirely as Kirschenbaum set about doing what she could to help those who had suffered tremendous losses . . . with Chelsea at her side, of course. (9:30 a.m., Edwards Island 6) Stellaluna. William R. Kowalchuk's animated feature follows a baby fruit bat who is separated from her mother and raised by a family of well-meaning but confused birds. The poster art looks way cutesy, but there's something to be said for a cartoon that sets out to rehabilitate the public image of unfairly maligned fruit bat community. (9:30 a.m., Edwards Island 5) Choice Shorts. Eh. Not a particularly catchy title for this program of shorts. The show includes Chapman student Zack Fox's Gorman and Joe Denk's I Was a Mathlete Until I Met Margo Marris, about a boy's romantic awakening. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 4) The Empty Building. A real head scratcher, this one. There's this rundown building, see, and people who enter it are compelled by some mysterious, Twilight Zone-ish force to confront the great traumas of their pasts. It seems like the set-up for an anthology picture, but instead we only get a quick glimpse of one poor lady's private grief and then we spend the rest of the picture with one guy's abstract tale of childhood abuse. Giovanni Sanseviero directs as well as stars and his talent in both arenas is undeniable; his performance is memorably intense and the film looks absolutely fantastic, with sweeping camerawork, artful compositions and the kind of production values most directors couldn't manage on nine times the budget. But for all Sanseviero's obvious talents, there is still something rather "student film" about the whole affair. Sanseviero has a ways to go as a storyteller and some aspects of the story are needlessly confusing. The film is also too arty by half, and there are a few modern dance interludes that rather unfortunately resemble bits from Mike Meyer's old Sprockets sketches on SNL. I don't mean to slight Sanseviero; it's obvious a lot of work went into this picture and he has every right to be proud of what he's accomplished. But it feels like he's trying for his masterpiece his first time out, and the strain shows. Ten years from now Sanseviero will almost certainly have a few interesting studio pictures behind him, and a handful of his most devoted fans will dig up this curio and see the first inklings of what he would later become. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 5) Letters In the Wind. Italian drama about a former Albanian Party secretary who has now become an unemployed professor. When he learns that his son has become a feared killer, he journeys to Italy to confront his son and find out what went wrong. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 6) Shorts For Shorties. A selection of films for the wee folk. The show includes Caldeira Mendes' animated adventure The Pigeon and the Mouse. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 3) A Tradition Of Honor.A documentary about Japanese Americans who fought for the U.S. during WWII, at a time when the government was sending their friends and relatives to internment camps. (11 a.m., Orange County Museum of Art) California Sea Lions. Local boy Alan De Herrera's documentary about everybody's favorite aquatic mammals. Well, most people's favorite aquatic mammals, next to dolphins. And whales. And otters. And seals. And maybe manatees. Well, the issue of which aquatic mammal is everybody's favorite is bound to be a matter of bitter debate, so let's just say that sea lions have their admirers. (12:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Hawaiian Double Docs. Two Hawaiian documentaries, including Nihi, Brooks P. Guyer's portrait of Hawaiian surfing legend Titus "Nihi" Kinimaka, and American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai'i, a celebration of the ancient and lovely art of the hula. The film follows three kumu hula, or master hula teachers, and looks at the hula's roots as well as its current revival on the America mainland. (12:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Song For A Raggy Boy. Aidan Quinn stars as William, a haunted man who fought on the side of the Communists but now teaches at St. Jude's Reformatory School. He finds a new life for himself here; he has a beneficial effect on the boys and they in turn have a beneficial effect on him. But the Catholic Brothers at the school prefer to employ the old-fashioned means of discipline–verbal and physical abuse–and William's more gentle methods make him a controversial figure at the school. (12:30 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Justice. Evan Oppenheimer's drama follows various New Yorkers as the struggle through the days following 9/11. Screens with the short Hammer & Cycle. (1 p.m., Edwards Island 6) The Fight. Barak Goodman's documentary looks at the historic, 1938 boxing match between African-American Joe Louis and his opponent Max Schmeling from Nazi Germany. (1:15 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Down Under Your Shorts. Oh, Christ. I take it back, the title for Choice Shorts is genius. They have the excuse of being films from Australia, but still, jeez. Anny Slater's The Ball, a spoof of Jane Campion's The Piano, is one of the films on the bill. (1:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Dreaming of Tibet. A look at Tibetan exiles, including a hospital administrator who is the Dalai Lama's LA press liaison, a nurse working with refugees in Nepal and a monk in the foothills of Mt. Everest. The film includes appearances by the Dalai Lama, Jon Krakauer, Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn. (2 p.m., Lido Theater) Beat The Drum. A mysterious plague strikes a village in KwaZulu Natal, and young Musa is orphaned and ostracized by his fellow villagers. He sets off for Johannesburg in order to find his uncle and help support his grandmother. Once there, he learns of a deadly disease called AIDS, the true source of his village's misfortune. (3 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Never Been Done. Documentary look at Jon Comer, who didn't let losing his right foot at the age of seven stop him from becoming a skateboarding pro. (3 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Jim in Bold. Documentary examining the life of Jim Wheeler, a young man who took his own life following years of being persecuted for his homosexuality. The film also journeys to America's heartland to talk with young gays who are coping with homophobia in different ways. (3:30 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Nightingale in a Music Box. Sci-fi thriller in which a legendary, female operative is dispatched to prevent the release of a genetically engineered life-form designed to colonize the human brain. Screens with the short Snackers. (3:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) The Ride. An arrogant, young world champion surfer nearly drowns but is rescued by a Hawaiian beachboy. When the surfer revives, he finds that he is in Waikiki in the year 1911. Here he learns the sport from its creators and gets in touch with its roots. (3:45 p.m., Lido Theater) Nine-to-Five Shorts. Shorts about the workin' life, including Chapman student Zack Fox's Snap, and Xochitl Gonzalez's Stuck, about an ER doc who struggles to finish his shift after a life-changing event. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Cinerama Adventure. More than 40 original crew members, celebrities and film historians contribute their stories and a wide selection of never before seen film clips, photos, and home movies for this look at the film process that brought America so many of those big, big, big-ass epics of the '50s and early '60s. (5 p.m., Edwards Island 5) The Delicate Art of Parking. A comedy about a parking enforcement officer. That's right, those awful, sour little nazis who compensate for their own deep personal inadequacies by cruising around all day giving tickets to hard-working, tax-paying citizens who parked, like, half a goddamned inch into the red while they were running into the pharmacy for five minutes to get a prescription. What the hell kind of a job is that, anyway? Well, somebody made a comedy about one of these people. Hooray. (5:30 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Nothing Without You. Ted Mattison spent a week at Burning Man buck naked and without any food save for what was donated to him by the festival's attendees. Did he perish of sunstroke? Did he starve to death? You'll have to watch this documentary to find out! (5:45 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) American Storytellers. Harold Ramis, John Sayles, John McNaughton and Forest Whitaker, busy writers/directors/actors all, discuss life, art and filmmaking in this Kevin Mukherji documentary. (6 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Breakfast with Hunter. If the world of hipster celebrities is a box of chocolates, Hunter S. Thompson is one of those orange cream things that you inevitably find mixed in with the stuff that you actually want. If you follow the careers of interesting people like, say, Terry Gilliam, Alex Cox, Gary Trudeau or Johnny Depp, you just have to accept that Thompson will turn up in their adventures again and again. The problem isn't that Thompson is untalented. On the contrary, when the man isn't too screwed up on drugs he can be a funny, absorbing and occasionally brilliant writer. But alongside his increasingly incoherent writing, Thompson has made a whole other career out of being publicly obnoxious--waving guns around, vomiting on people's carpets, etc. His wildman persona got old long before he did and just gets more pitiful as the decades go by. The documentary Breakfast with Hunter chronicles the lengthy process involved in adapting Thompson's classic memoir Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into a film, and along the way we see him making life hell for just about everybody he comes into contact with (a list that includes such notables as Depp, Gilliam, Benicio Del Toro, John Cusack, songwriter Warren Zevon, artist Ralph Steadman and journalists George Plimpton and P.J. O'Rourke). As a traveling spectacle Thompson makes for fascinating viewing, but lord knows he would better serve his talent and the rest of us by checking himself into a good detox program. (6 p.m., Lido Theater) Shortus Dramaticus. Ouch. That title makes my soul ache. Anyway, this is a program of dramatic shorts, including Maximilian Jezo-Parovsky's Shui Hen, about a Chinese girl reuniting with her family after 15 years apart. (6:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Hollywood's Magical Island Catalina. Greg Reitman's documentary looks at that buffalo-infested clump of dirt just off the coast. How did Catalina get there? Was it built by the druids? How did those buffalo end up on the island? Did they swim there? Can buffaloes swim? This film will answer all these questions, and more. (7:30 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Torremolinos 73. Pablo Berger's comic romance is set in the Spain of 1973, where a financially blighted husband and wife begin making their own Super 8mm "erotic" movies as part of a phony Scandinavian World Encyclopedia of Reproduction. But the movies stir up unexpected complications when the lady of the house becomes an international sex symbol and begins to feel an undeniable urge to have a baby. (7:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Finding Home. Lawrence David Foldes' drama concerns a woman who was traumatized by being separated from her grandmother as a child. As an adult she returns to her grandmother's New England bed and breakfast inn, and memories come back to her that explain much about her childhood and the adult she has become. (8 p.m., Edwards Island 3) The Feast of the Praying Mantis (Le Festin De La Mante). Whoa, here she comes . . . watch out boy, she'll chew you up. Whoa, here she comes . . . she's a man-eater. No, really! She eats men! Run for your lives, guys! This Belgian fantasy follows a beautiful girl who is compelled to eat her lovers. (8:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Saved. Mary (Jena Malone) is a devout student at a Southern Baptist high school, but when she becomes pregnant her fellow students shun her. After all, didn't Jesus teach us that when people do something we think is sinful, we're suppose to cast stones at them? Whether this satire is any good or not--it got a bounce from some positive Sundance buzz--it's probably worth seeing just for the sheer oddness of the thing. Macaulay Culkin appears as a wheelchair-bound, teenage smartass, Mary's stridently religiously pal is played by Mandy Moore, Valerie Bertinelli is in the mix, and the soundtrack features both Moore and Michael Stipe of R.E.M., who also serves as exec producer. "It's like those monster vampire high school kind of movies," Stipe has said of the film. "Only here, the monsters are Jesus-freak teenagers." (8:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Sex, Drugs, and Rockin' Shorts. Includes Brad Ableson's Save Virgil, a romantic comedy featuring motorcycles, monkeys… and Gary Coleman?! (9 p.m., Edwards Island 4) The Locals. When Grant is dumped by his girlfriend, he sets off across the countryside for a surfing trip with his pal, Paul. Heading through some eerie farmland as the sun sets, they encounter two party girls on their way to an '80s party . . . and here's where Grant and Paul's troubles begin in this New Zealand thriller. (10 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Pleasure and Pain. Documentary look at contemporary roots rocker Ben Harper, examining his travels, performances, songwriting, religion and daily life. (10:45 p.m., Lido Theater)
SUNDAY, APRIL 18Cinematographer's Forum. The guys who point the cameras roundtable to whine on about being the most fucking important people on the set, look at me, yadda-yadda-yadda. (10 a.m., Edwards Island 5) Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. It is the China of the 1970s, and with the Cultural Revolution in full swing two teenage best friends, Luo and Dai, are shipped off to a far-flung mountainous village for their Maoist re-education. But instead of getting with the Maoist program, the pair set about bringing Mozart and other forbidden, western wonders to their new neighbors. But their friendship is tested when they both fall in love with the daughter of a prosperous tailor, a girl who has her own secret stash of Western literature. (10:45 a.m., Edwards Island 3) Life In Shorts. Sounds chilly. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 4) Surf Shorts. Shorts about surfing for all you ho-dads and, uh, ho-moms. (11 a.m., Lido Theater) In The Realms of the Unreal. Henry Darger was a reclusive Chicago janitor who secretly filled his small, lonely boarding-house room with In The Realms of the Unreal, quite possibly the strangest, saddest work of art ever created. Realms consists of both a 15,000-page novel and a series of Darger's own enormous, crude yet powerful illustrations, and it chronicles the adventures of the Vivian Girls, pious Catholic children who wage perpetual war against the Glandelinians, a race of malevolent men in mortarboard hats. Sometimes the little girls in Darger's world have wings or horns or tails, and when they appear naked (as they often do while frolicking in paradisiacal gardens or being bloodily tortured by the Glandelinians), they have penises. His work was not discovered until shortly before his death in the early 1970s, and the more you learn about the man, the more questions you'll have. I've been enthralled by Darger's work since I discovered it 10 years ago, and since then, I've read whatever books, magazine articles or websites I could find about him. So I went into Jessica Yu's new documentary, In The Realms of the Unreal, assuming I already knew most of what it had to tell me. I was wrong. Yu has assembled the few people who crossed Darger's path in his later life, and the portrait they offer of the strange little old man who lived down the hall is full of contradictions but nonetheless absolutely mesmerizing; Darger was a terribly damaged man who could barely speak to his fellow humans, but it's plain that his presence left a deep mark on his neighbors, who speak of him today with respect and a certain baffled affection. The film brings sequences from Realms to life through some very effective animation, and Darger is allowed to speak for himself through excerpts from his autobiography, read by Larry Pine. It's terribly compelling stuff, easily one of the most fascinating documentaries you will ever see. (11:30 a.m., Edwards Island 6) Cold Harbor. Just days after their father has committed suicide, four brothers journey to the town of Cold Harbor to collect his personal effects. Once there, old wounds are reopened as the brothers examine their own lives and what remains of their family. (12:45 p.m., Edwards Island 3) OCC Shorts. Shorts from Orange Coast Community College. You were expecting Harvard, maybe? The show includes Kai Ota's Peekaboo, in which a thief gets an impromptu lesson in babysitting. (1 p.m., Lido Theater) Togbe. Togbe tells a story that sounds like a lowest common denominator Disney picture waiting to happen: an average white guy visits an African nation, is stunned when the locals proclaim him the reincarnation of their king, and suddenly finds himself ruling over 300,000 people. But Togbe is not some laughless, culturally insensitive comedy; it is, astonishingly enough, a documentary. This stuff really happened.But you can bet that at this moment some heinous Hollywood hack is banging out a script for a movie version that will make King Ralph look like a freakin' masterpiece. (1 p.m., Edwards Island 5) USC Shorts. Shorts from USC. Hey, what'd you expect with a title like that? (1:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Happy Hour. A once-promising writer who has become an embittered, bar-hopping copy editor falls in love and is inspired to get back to work on his novel. Will he get his life back into shape, or will he be sabotaged by his own cantankerous nature? Anthony LaPagila, Eric Stoltz, Caroleen Feeney and Robert Vaughn star in Mike Bencivenga's comedy. (1:45 p.m., Edwards Island 6) The Dance Dance Documentary. A documentary about a group of dancers competing at the X-Tream Tour Finals, a peculiar event where people hop around like crazy playing the video game Dance Dance Revolution. The competition takes place right here in OC, so who knows, maybe you're in this movie! (3 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Ghostbusters. This peculiar supernatural comedy hasn't aged very well; there are stretches where the story doesn't hold together at all, the soundtrack is overflowing with '80s slop and the special effects that once seemed so impressive now wouldn't pass muster for an episode of Buffy. But the scary stuff is still fairly scary, the comedy is still mostly pretty funny, and the cast is perfection. (Whatever happened to Rick Moranis, anyway?) Your kids may well love the film as much as you did back in the day, but there are more dick jokes in this thing than you probably remember so plan accordingly. (3 p.m., Lido Theater) Made In Estonia. In Rando Pettai's Estonian comedy, a popular live radio show is entirely performed by one actor who lives in the station. He manages to keep his fantasy life and real life separate, until he finds real love and an actual home and things get confusing. (3:15 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Global Eco Shorts Today. If the Japanese were trying to market pants to hippies, I think they'd call them something like this. Global Eco Shorts Today are go! (4 p.m., Edwards Island 4) She Got Game. This Canadian documentary looks at the women's pro tennis tour. These women gave up their childhoods for the sake of their game and many of them were pushed into the sport by their obsessive parents, and the film explores the stress and sacrifice it took for them to get to the top of their game. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Giraffes (Girafot). Three young women who live in the same Israeli apartment building are brought together by the arrival of a most inconvenient corpse in Tzahi Grad's drama. (5 p.m., Edwards Island 5) The Party Heads. Reasonable people from all over the political spectrum agree: pot should just be legal already. The Party Heads profiles Tom Leighton and the Marijuana Reform Party on their crusade to legalize medical and recreational marijuana. (5 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Farther Than The Eye Can See. Documentary portrait of Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to scale Everest. (5:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Raising Flagg. Comedy about two childhood friends whose endless, petty competitions eventually land them on opposite sides in a court battle. (5:45 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Sumo East and West. Documentary about Sumo, the national sport of Japan as well as part of the Shinto religion. The film looks at recent changes in the sport, as larger, heavier Polynesian wrestlers enter the competition. (6:15 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Queer Shorts for the Straight Festival. You came into my life, and my world never looked so good . . .The show includes Chapman student Erin Benzenhoefer's Alone. (6:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) The Dance--The Billy Roth Story. John Darling Haynes documentary about Billy Roth, a one-time professional boxer who became a coach and referee in the Louisiana state prison system. The film celebrates Roth's courage and compassion as a white man who volunteers to go into deep south prisons and become a surrogate father to the mostly African-American inmates. (7:30 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Shut Up and Kiss Me. In Gary Brockette's comedy, two 27-year-old best friends in Miami meet the women of their dreams on the same day, but face obstacles on the path to true love. Ryan knocks heads in an elevator with his lady fair, but he passes out before he can get her number. Pete, meanwhile, must deal with Tiara's protective, mob boss uncle. (7:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) The Big Empty. A variety of stars (Jon Favreau, Rachel Leigh Cook, Kelsey Grammer, Daryl Hannah and Sean Bean) turn up in this small comedy about a debt-ridden actor who makes a shady deal to deliver a package to a small desert town, only to find once he arrives that he's entered a whole new world of dusty, sun-bleached strangeness. (8 p.m., Lido Theater) Endless Summer II. The 1994 sequel to Bruce Brown's 1966 surfing documentary. You kids run along and have your summertime fun, but personally I plan to spend the evening at home savoring my indolence, pasty skin and absolute lack of muscle tone. (8:15 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Short-Animation-O-Rama. You want short animation? You got it, and enough of it to qualify for an o-rama, even. The varied bill includes Chapman student Chris Weller's HEAD!, and Woman in the Attic, in which an aging woman encounters her younger self in the attic of her home. (8:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Shorts Bloody Shorts. Unless this is a collection of educational films about menstruation, there's no justification for this absolutely disgusting title. Even then, it'd still be bad idea. The fare on the bill includes various bloody happenings, including Jason Ipson's The First Vampire. (9 p.m., Edwards Island 4)
MONDAY, APRIL 19Her Majesty. See April 17, 9 a.m. (10:45 a.m., Edwards Island 5) Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. See Sunday, April 18. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 3) Sex, Drugs, and Rockin' Shorts. See Saturday, April 17. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 4) Short Term Commitments. See Friday, April 16. (11:30 a.m., Edwards Island 6) Eila. Finnish docudrama about a timid woman who is so incensed when the government illegally fires a bunch of employees that she becomes a crusader for public change. (12:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Em & Me. Jim Langlois' quirky romance stars Alan Young as Ernie Biglow, an 80-something gent hell-bent on getting across the country in time to celebrate his anniversary with his wife. (12:45 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Khachaturian. Documentary portrait of Aram Khachaturian, an Armenian composer who worked in the former Soviet Union. The film examines whether Khachaturian was a tool of the soviets or whether he was using his talents to critique the soviet regime. (1:30 p.m., Edwards Island 3) On Golden Shorts. This title puts all sorts of unwholesome images in my mind. I want them out. (1:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Time of the Wolf. Burt Reynolds and Jason Priestley both show up in this tiny little Canadian/French/German co-production, the story of a kid who takes in an injured wolf but risks having his secret exposed by a local bully. (1:45 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Devils Are Dreaming. Michael Sladek's strange and irritating but potent directorial debut follows Joseph (Stephan Donovan), a 30-year-old, wannabe artist who finds himself ping-ponging around in various alternate realities, getting glimpses of other paths his life could have taken. Devils are Dreaming is a clumsy and off-putting film, but it has a strange power that sneaks up on you. For the first few reels I dismissed it as simply amateurish and paid more active attention to the affecting mope-rock soundtrack by the New York band Stupid, but gradually I was drawn in to poor Joseph's plight. Donovan starts the film as a charmless lump but his performance just seems to get better and better the more frantic Joseph becomes; by the film's conclusion, you may be surprised how much you've grown to worry about where Joseph will eventually wind up. He can't seem to find contentment in any of these realities, and there is something genuine and affecting about the plight of this schlubby, depressed everyman adrift in a potentially infinite number of suburban hells. Joseph's story is a perfect sci-fi allegory for the dilemmas faced by many men of a certain age: What happened to my dreams? How did I get this crappy job? How did I end up married to this strange woman? Where the hell did these kids come from? For a while Joseph is allowed to just ride each scenario out, safe in the knowledge that at least a new reality will probably come along soon. But, as with all of us, as time goes by it becomes more difficult for Joseph to pick up and start his life over. What strange forces are toying with Joseph this way? What strange forces are guiding your life? (3 p.m., Lido Theater) Handful of Bullets. 18-year-old Ivars moves from the Latvian countryside to the big city and finds himself living in poverty and caught up in an unusual love triangle with a tempestuous local beauty and his uncle Fredis. (3 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Fossil. Neal Nellans' docudrama investigates the case of an anthropologist who disappeared in the African Congo while investigating a mythical creature. Did he perish by some conventional means, or did the creature get him? (3:30 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Les Chiefs. See Friday, April 16. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Shorts-ploitation. See Friday, April 16. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Playing for Change. Documentary look at street musicians across the USA, from Venice Beach to New York City. Despite being hassled by the authorities, these plucky souls never stop trying to brighten the world with music . . . and hopefully make a living for themselves in the process. (5 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Screen Door Jesus. Jesus makes an appearance on the screen door of an elderly woman's home in East Texas. Or does He? In Kirk Davis' drama, tensions flare all over town when some of the locals insist they can see the image of Christ on the door and others are equally insistent that they can't. (5 p.m., Edwards Island 5) The Five Stages of Beer. Local boy Brian Mix's affable little ensemble picture The Five Stages of Beer is a romantic comedy with plenty of snark to ground it in reality and keep it interesting. It's not the kind of movie that rocks anybody's world, but the dialogue has the lazy charm of Kevin Smith on a good day, and it's certainly refreshing to see a contemporary American comedy that looks at love from the straight dude point of view without including a few dozen fart gags. (5:30 p.m., Lido Theater) A Peck on the Cheek (Kannathil Muthamittal). When Amudha, a 9-year-old Sri Lankan child, is informed by her parents that she is adopted, she is anguished but also deeply curious about her birth parents. (5:30 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Noise. Recently divorced, Joyce Chandler moves to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. But the strain of her new life and living alone in a small apartment begin to wear on her, and her sanity unravels. Former Brat-Pack'er Ally Sheedy stars. (6:15 p.m., Edwards Island 6) In Tune With Our Shorts. Shorts with a certain musical quality, including Steve Johnson's Everloving, a pairing of the paintings of Beksinski and the music of Moby. (6:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Fandom. Documentary about Gordon Coleman, a naïve young man who has never left the small town where he was raised. All seems well when he is invited to Boston to meet his favorite celebrity, but the closer he gets to Boston, the more tenuous his grasp on reality becomes. (7:30 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Moi Cesar. Richard Berry's French comedy follows Cesar, a precocious 10-year-old boy, as he journeys to London with his two pals to find the mysterious father of Cesar's friend Morgan. (7:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Red Roses and Petrol. In Tamar Simon Hoffs' comedy, all hell breaks loose as an Irish family gathers from around the globe for the wake of the clan's stern, moody father. Old grudges surface, new ones form, and dad manages to stir things up even beyond the grave with a few scandalous videotapes he left behind. Even as a corpse, the great Malcolm McDowell predictably steals the show. (8 p.m., Edwards Island 3) She Said. Young ladies muse, gripe and rejoice about the state of the modern American woman in this documentary. A cross-section of women in their twenties speak out frankly on work, food, fashion, relationships with those pesky guys, and whatever else is on their minds. Now and then there are also some digital art pieces and still photographs and whatnot. (8 p.m., Lido Theater) Life In Shorts. See Sunday, April 18. (8:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Pot Luck Shorts. Who knows what you'll find in this selection of shorts? Maybe drama, maybe comedy, maybe coleslaw. (Somebody always brings coleslaw to a potluck.) (9 p.m., Edwards Island 4)
TUESDAY, APRIL 20Nine-to-Five Shorts. See Saturday, April 17. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 4) Shorts Bloody Shorts. See Sunday, April 18. (11:30 a.m., Edwards Island 6) Lesson One: A Wail (Padam Onnu: Oru Vilapam). In Malpupuram, India, a land where it is standard for girls to be married by 15, one girl tries to buck the system by pursuing her education instead of seeking a husband. (noon, Edwards Island 5) Mosku--The Last of His Kind (Mosku--Lajinsa viimeinen). See Friday, April 16. (12:15 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Giraffes (Girafot). See Sunday, April 18. (12:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Mock Dock Short Block. Wow . . . that's actually kind of witty. A selection of short, satirical documentaries. Mock Dock Short Block. Hats off, people who come up with the titles of these things! The bill includes Chapman graduate Michael Mohan's I Heart BillyandChapman student Anthony Piersant's Save Jesus. (1:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) In the Land of Milk and Money. Sci-fi satire in which tainted dairy products cause mothers to kill. The government begins to round up moms, hold them in special camps and subject them to congressional hearings. ("Are you now or have you ever been a mother?") (1:45 p.m., Edwards Island 6) In the Eyes of a Child. A documentary that profiles the work of two Brazilian organizations dedicated to keeping Brazil's poor children from falling into gangs or being exploited by the child-sex tourism market. (2 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) In My Life. A romantic dramedy in which a dying 23-year-old heads for San Francisco to tell his friend that he loves her. The trip is complicated by his poor health, and at the end of the road he has no idea how his friend will respond. (2:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Beyond Honor. An Egyptian immigrant and his Americanized daughter fight an increasingly bitter battle over their very different ideas of honor in Varun Khanna's dark drama. (3 p.m., Lido Theater) Gaz Bar Blues. In Louis Belanger's drama, François Brochu, aka "The Boss," manages his service station and tries to cope with the indifference of his sons to the family business. But a new, rival station, a few too many robberies and a case of Parkinson's Disease all take their toll on The Boss. (3 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Global Eco Shorts Today. See Sunday, April 18. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Homecoming: The Forgotten World of America's Orphanages. This documentary found its genesis in an article that UC Irvine professor Richard McKenzie wrote for The Wall Street Journal about the strong criticism Newt Gingrich faced after he suggested that instead of sending orphans to live with foster families, America should reopen its orphanages. McKenzie, who was raised in an orphanage himself, felt orphanages were being unfairly denigrated in the debate, and he eventually decided to make a film that would present an even-handed look at the orphanage experience. McKenzie (who co-executive produced the film), director George Cawood and their crew assembled an assortment of seniors who spent their youths in orphanages around the country, and they let them tell their stories without a lot of interference or editorial fuss. The tales they tell are surprisingly upbeat; although a few of the interviewees do have grim experiences to recount, in general, these are moving, nostalgic stories told by a sweet and lively bunch of seniors. Far from being damaged by their childhoods, these people seem unusually grounded and open-minded, defying stereotypes about bitter old folks at every turn. While I'm approaching orphanages as an outsider and the prospect of agreeing with Newt Gingrich on anything at all makes me swoon with horror, Homecoming is highly persuasive without being even slightly polemical. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 6) In Satmar Custody (Bechezkat Satmar). In Yemen, underprivileged Jewish families are convinced not to emigrate to Israel, but to America, where they're promised that they will be welcome. But this turned out to be sadly untrue for Yahia and Lauza Jaradi, a couple who were brought to America by the Satmar community in 1994. Things went horribly wrong when their daughter Hadiyah died, and Lauza was charged with murder. Nitzan Gilady investigates the Satman community, an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect little known here in America. (4 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Blackball. In the town of Torquay, lawn bowling is taken very serious indeed and the stuffy Ray Speight is the king of the sport. Or he is until young, sassy, lawn bowling whiz Cliff Starkey shows up. This is one of those little English comedies full of charmingly eccentric people doing charmingly eccentric things. You know the type. (Although how Vince Vaughn ended up in the mix is anybody's guess.) (5 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Proteus. If you have ever been lucky enough to visit LA's wonderfully strange Museum of Jurassic Technology (MJT), all I have to tell you is that this film would make a perfect exhibit there and you'll know this is something you absolutely must see. Of course, if you've never been to the MJT, Proteus becomes a much trickier sell. By all rights, David Lebrun's documentary about 19th century artist/biologist Ernst Haeckel should be astonishingly dull stuff, and in the hands of most filmmakers, it easily could be, but Lebrun takes a lyrical approach that's completely hypnotic. Through the use of limited but supremely effective animation and some tersely poetic narration read by Marian Seldes, we are introduced to the life and work of Haeckel, the man who coined the word "ecology" and whose name was once a household word, but who is now known only to a handful of geeks. The pacing is handled wonderfully, and every time your attention threatens to wander, the microscopic undersea creatures that Haeckel studied and drew will begin to flash by at a near-subliminal rate, so unutterably alien and beautiful that you can instantly understand why Haeckel was more than willing to spend his life behind a microscope. But even if your tiny mind can't take it all in, this is the kind of picture you can feel free to just sit back and bask in, letting all those fascinating images and pretty words wash over you. The film takes us back to an era when the depths of the sea where as mysterious and exciting as outer space is today . . . and makes it mysterious and exciting all over again. (5:30 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Super Size Me. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's food for a month, and it does not go well. No, it really does not go well. He gets fat. He can't think straight. He almost dies. Turns out McDonald's is even worse for the human body than those annoying vegan types always said it was. (8 p.m., Lido Theater) The Great Year. Walter Cruttenden's The Great Yearfeatures the combination of two documentary genres I'd typically cross county lines to avoid–it's equal parts somber, Discovery Channel-style science doc and one of those mystical, astrological hippie dealies of the Chariots of the Gods school. Yet somehow these two genres do manage to be interesting when you mix them together; the film's seriousness and scientific rigor help to mitigate a lot of the new age woo-hoo, while the more wacky stuff spices up the dry science. James Earl Jones narrates with the full, Darth Vader rumble. (6 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Latvi-animation. Crack the code of this program title, and you'll get to see some animated films from Latvia. (6:15 p.m., Edwards Island 6) The Other Side of Shorts. My snark muscles are getting sore. Make up your own joke for this program title. The show includes Crust, James Muir's Canadian drama about a man who is irrationally consumed by his hatred of bread crusts. Maybe someday he'll meet a nice girl who is good with a butter knife and she'll change his life forever. (6:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Memory Lane (Le intermittenze del cuore). The tale of an aging Italian film director who is commissioned by a French producer to direct a film about the novelist Marcel Proust. The job takes the director back and forth between Italy and France, but during the prep stage he begins to experience a Proust-like flood of memories and he begins reliving key moments of his life. (7:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Cuba Libre. In the last days of the Batista regime in Cuba, a young boy encounters a mysterious American blonde who lives in a fairytale mansion on a hill overlooking the town. But this enchanted scenario is disrupted when a local revolutionary squares off against the authorities. (8 p.m., Edwards Island 3) My Family's Pizza (Pizza Mishpatit). Ronen Amar's 2003 Israeli picture is making its Southern California premiere. When Maksim convinces his parents to help him buy a pizza place, they soon find themselves pressed into service making deliveries and cleaning ovens. Will the aimless Maksim ever find his purpose in life and stop demanding so much from his folks? (8 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Trekkies 2. When Roger Nygard shot his documentary about Star Trek fans in 1996-1997, the franchise was near the peak of its popularity. Seven years later he sets out again with camera in hand to explore the lives of those diehard fans who've held on even as Trek itself seems to be teetering on the edge of extinction. These fans are misfits who have formed a thriving community based on their shared love of Gene Roddenberry's brainchild, and the film treats them with respect and affection without denying the fact that some of them are absolutely friggin' bizarre. Various Trek also actors appear to offer their generally good-natured commentary on the whole phenomenon. (8 p.m., Lido Theater) A Slipping Down Life. World premiere of a quirky drama starring Guy Pearce and Lili Taylor (AKA: the girl who shows up in almost every indie movie Christina Ricci doesn't snap up first). Taylor is Evie, a shy girl who falls hard for a pop star called Drumstrings Casey and decides that she will make him her own. (8:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Don't Forget Your Shorts. Generally sound advice, but a lousy title for a shorts program. The films generally offer a fractured take on romance, and include Dale Heslip's The Truth About Head, which isn't about what it sounds like. (9 p.m., Edwards Island 4)
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21Down Under Your Shorts. See Saturday, April 17. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 4) Made In Estonia. See Sunday, April 18. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 5) Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. Bush is a lying sack of crap. There's your whole truth right there. If you wish to see that truth explored in greater depth, this documentary is a dandy place to start. (11 a.m., Orange County Museum of Art) American Cousins. See Thursday, April 22. (11:15 a.m., Edwards Island 3) Short-Animation-O-Rama. See Sunday, April 18. (11:30 a.m., Edwards Island 6) Dreaming of Tibet. See Saturday, April 17. (12:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Somalia's Handbook. Independent journalist Dominique Mollard journeys to Somalia to investigate rumors that the radical Islamic organization Al Itihad is harbored there. Al Itihad has been linked to Al Qaida, and Mollard's trip takes him into dangerous and lawless country, where he hears firsthand stories of the U.S.'s disastrous intervention in Somalia in 1993. (1 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Shut Up and Kiss Me. See Sunday, April 18. (1:15 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Song For A Raggy Boy. See Saturday, April 17. (1:15 p.m., Edwards Island 3) On Golden Shorts. See Monday, April 19. (1:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Little Brother of War. Eight year old Jay Williams is sent to stay with his mother's estranged sister after his parents die. Confused and unhappy, Jay sets off alone on an adventure across the country. (1:45 p.m., Edwards Island 6) The Boys of Buchenwald. When the Buchenwald Concentration Camp was liberated, more than 1,000 children were left without families to take them in. France agreed to take more than 450 children into their already overburdened orphanages, and this documentary follows three boys, the friendship they forged and the lives they've led over the past half a century. (3 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) The Utopian Society. OC filmmaker John P. Aguirre's drama follows a motley group of college students who are given a class assignment to devise a plan for a utopian society. Of course they leave it until the last minute and then must cram a full semester's worth of work into one night, struggling to overcome their own differences at the same time that they're struggling to work out an ideal civilization. It's your basic Breakfast Club situation, with a not-terrible script and not- terrible performances. It's not terrible. (3 p.m., Lido Theater) Robbie Mullins. A comedy set in the world of high school baseball, Robbie Mullins follows a moody pitcher who is drawn away from his best pal Katie by the schemes of a prom queen-to-be attracted by his status as the school's star ball player. (3:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Cuba Libre. See Tuesday, April 20. (3:45 p.m. Edwards Island 3) He Shorts She Shorts by the Seashore. What would compel the people at the Newport Fest to inflict a title like this upon an unsuspecting populace? It hurts. God, it hurts. A varied bill of shorts includes Nancy Deren's Home, about a 10-year-old girl who experiences mixed emotions when her troubled mother comes home resolved to turn her life around. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Zen Noir. A hard-boiled detective is called in when a monk keels over dead during a group prayer at a Buddhist temple. The detective soon finds that the monks are no hel
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