[Newport Beach Film Fest] You Don't Want to Miss These Films, Documentaries and Shorts

10 for the Tenth
Don’t miss these feature-length films, documentaries and shorts at NBFF

Every year, while pre-screening Newport Beach Film Festival entries for human consumption, a little indie gem invariably jumps out at us. Gregori Viens’ fable on fame and the record-industry meat grinder is 2009’s leaper. Henry Phillips, who co-wrote the script with Viens and supplied all the music, plays himself, a troubadour drifting the country performing in coffeehouses, pizza parlors and bowling alleys before landing in LA for one last shot at stardom. His niche is original folk songs that drip with satire and sarcasm. Through a misunderstanding, he quickly finds himself the next hot thing. Just when it appears he’ll be able to leave the couch he is sub-subletting in the apartment his struggling actor brother (Matt Walker) sublets from his roommate girlfriend, another misunderstanding turns Henry into the next vilified thing. Punching the Clown won the Audience Award at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival. (Matt Coker) Edwards Island 3, Fashion Island, 999 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 640-1218. Tues., April 28, 8:15 p.m.

Rafael Monserrate’s dysfunctional family comedy follows a brood in 1987 Buffalo shuffling to the patriarch’s revelation over dinner that he is losing his crappy customer-service job at a department store. Oh, and Cliff and Carol Morgan (Jay O. Sanders and Kathleen Quinlan) are divorcing. Can one of you kids pass the butter? Poundcake rises thanks to the travails of the empty nesters’ three (barely) grown, underachieving children trying to cope while clinging to childish sibling rivalries and, in the case of Robby (Troy Hall) and adoptee Brooke (Deshja Driggs-Hall), dealing with an attraction stronger than Greg and Marcia Brady’s. Co-writers Hall (who rocks a mullet seemingly glued, stapled or stitched on) and Kevin Logie (who plays the third sibling, fucktard Charlie) dish most of the best lines to themselves, and Rob Bogue, as a slimy real-estate agent missing a hand, nearly steals the picture. It’s at times uneven, but by the end credits, it all rings true, mostly due to the emotional heft veteran actors Sanders and Quinlan supply with just their wounded expressions. (MC) Edwards Island 6, (949) 640-1218. Fri., April 24, 1 p.m.


Talk about dysfunctional families! NBFF’s dark opening-night dramedy has two: the financially well-off Bartletts and the Lyme disease-wracked Braggs are coming apart on Long Island at the turn of the 1980s. While suburban-tract developer Mickey Bartlett (30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin) rules his roost (and screws around), wife Brenda (Crossing Jordan’s Jill Hennessy) longs for a return to Queens and freaks out about Lyme-infected neighbor Charlie Bragg (Timothy Hutton). Son Jimmy Bartlett (Igby Goes Down’s Kieran Culkin) is back from the Army, protecting his picked-on younger brother Scott (Culkin’s little brother Rory). Sensitive and horny 15-year-old Scott has had a thing for Charlie’s daughter Adrianna (Emma Roberts) since they were 8. Like son, like father: Mickey hires Adrianna’s mom, Melissa (Sex & the City’s Cynthia Nixon), out of lust. Lymelife is like The Ice Storm with more gunplay, less pretentiousness and no swapping of car keys. It’s based on the wonder years of Derick Martini and his younger brother, co-writer/co-editor Steven Martini. Pity them. (MC) Edwards “Big Newport,” 300 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 644-0760.Thurs., April 23, 7 p.m.

Nowadays, border-hopping dramas are a peso a dozen, most overwhelmingly Aztlanista or with so much manufactured pathos you figure Frank Capra is collecting royalties somewhere in the afterlife. Few dare find the funny in such a large-scale human tragedy (the Citizen Kane of the genre, of course, is Born in East L.A.), but one of the bold ones is Cruzando (Crossing). In a bit of Woody Allen-esque bravado, writer-directors Michael Ray Escamilla and Mando Alvarado play a buddy team crossing the Rio Grande in the hopes of Escamilla’s character, Manuel, meeting his father (who crossed into the U.S. decades ago) before his execution. Diego (Alvarado) films every godforsaken step of the way. With beautiful cinematography, expert acting, and a story that doesn’t drag (but can someone PLEASE outlaw Spanish-style guitar flourishes in Mexican films?), Cruzando won’t legalize millions but might teach gabachos a thing or two without shoving amnesty down their throats. (Gustavo Arellano) Edwards Island 5, (949) 640-1218. Mon., April 27, 5 p.m.

Garden Grove filmmaker David Di Sabatino, who packed the Lido Theatre for his 2005 NBFF entry Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher, returns with another fascinating documentary on a born-again Christian outcast. San Jose rocker Norman crossed over to the cross in the 1970s and is now hailed as the “father of Christian rock,” influencing everyone from Jars of Clay to the Pixies’ Frank Black. The unfamiliar will be blown away by Norman’s music and stage presence, just as Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan were back in the day. But while Norman unleashed revolutionary Christianity onstage, he indulged in the Behind the Music antics that invariably torpedo secular artists. Worse, as the head of his own label, he dragged down other Christian artists, especially Seal Beach’s Randy Stonehill and Daniel Amos, the group that emerged from Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. They and others burned by Norman willingly dish to Di Sabatino, who suffered the wrath of Norman up until his February 2008 death—and that of Norman’s family and worldwide fans ever since (as the Weekly described in “Rock Angel,” Oct. 15, 2008). Fortunately, these stone-casters did not derail this compelling look at a broken man who turned scores of searchers on to the Lord. (MC) Edwards Island 6, (949) 640-1218. Thurs., April 30, 5:15 p.m.

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