By Alan Scherstuhl
By Amy Nicholson
By Charles Taylor
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Brian Feinzimer
By CAROLINA DEL BUSTO
By AMY NICHOLSON
By Amy Nicholson
The May 2 Closing Night Spotlight returns us back to the States with the buzzed-about The Way, Way Back, the directorial debut of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who also co-wrote the screenplay (as well as that 2012 Oscar-winning one, with Alexander Payne, for The Descendants). The Way, Way Back is about the unlikely friendship that develops between a laidback water-park manager (Sam Rockwell) and a 14-year-old boy (Liam James) experiencing a difficult summer. Said to be an homage to Meatballs, the comedy boasts supporting players with Little Miss Sunshine/Juno/Bridesmaids cred (Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph). If you want to see this, you'd be advised to step away from this story to score your tickets now because the fest closers invariably sell out fast.
The best part about seeing the closer at the historic Lido in Newport Beach is you can stumble right into the Closing Night Gala that overtakes Via Lido Plaza, just as Coachella does to tumbleweed land. These are the second-steepest tickets ($70 for film and party). All the above-referenced Spotlight films have associated parties, generally at Fashion Island or a nearby restaurant. In some instances, you have to drive or take a taxi from the theater to the affair.
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There is not enough room in this print edition/virtual receptacle to blab on about the rest of the festival features, documentaries and shorts. So here's a quick rundown of 19 titles that caught my eye (with fest categories in parentheses). Missing are local films, which are covered in the Film section.
After Tiller (documentary): Before the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller, four American physicians provided third-trimester abortions. Martha Shane and Lana Wilson look at the other three.
And Now a Word From Our Sponsor (feature): Bruce Greenwood is an advertising CEO who wakes up in a hospital speaking only adspeak. Fest fave Parker Posey co-stars in Zack Bernbaum's comedy.
B-Side (music): Amos Posner's small indie has a radio DJ wisecracking about a second-tier pop songstress, who hears the broadcast, confronts the putz and sparks an unlikely romance.
Cavedigger (art/architecture): Jeffrey Karoff's Best Non-European Documentary winner at the 2013 European Independent Film Festival is about an artist who carves caves into New Mexico cliffs.
Critical Mass (environmental): Mike Freedman calls on authors, academics and scientists to tell us how fucked the Earth will get thanks to human overpopulation.
The East (feature): Zaj Batmanglij has Brit Marling playing a corporate sleuth infiltrating an anarchist collective, where she finds Ellen Page, Jason Ritter, Alexander Skarsgård and conflicted feelings.
Gauchos del mar—Surfeando el pacifico americano (Ocean Cowboys—Surfing the American Pacific) (action sports): Two Argentinean brothers surf the coast from LA to Buenos Aires in Julian Azulay's doc.
Greetings From Tim Buckley (music): Daniel Algrant's drama re-creates Anaheim-born Jeff Buckley's (Penn Badgley) staging of a 1991 tribute concert to his late folky father, Tim Buckley (Ben Rosenfeld, in flashbacks).
Gus (feature): Jessie McCormack's comedy has a gal (Radha Mitchell) wanting a baby with her husband (John Dore). She gets her chance when her bestie (Michelle Monaghan) gets knocked up.
How to Make Money Selling Drugs (documentary): Just as the title suggests, 50 Cent, The Wire producer David Simon and "Freeway" Rick Ross show you how.
I Declare War (feature): From Canada comes Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson's quirky ditty that has a backyard game of army among 12-year-olds devolving into something out of Lord of the Flies.
Isolated (action sports): Justin Le Pera follows surfers and modern-day explorers to the last undiscovered waves in a New Guinea teeming with cannibals, genocide and unethical gold mining.
The Secret Disco Revolution (music): Jamie Kastner grooves with a tongue-in-cheek cultural exhumation of the 1970s craze.
Some Girl(s) (feature): Adam Brody (shout out to The O.C.!) travels the country to make amends to past flames on the eve of his wedding in Daisy von Scherler Mayer's take on Neil LaBute's script.
Space Milkshake (feature): Blue-collar astronauts stuck on a sanitation station try to figure out where Earth went and why a rubber duck is attacking them in Armen Evrensel's intentionally very-B sci-fi.
The Suicide Shop (animated feature): From Belgium/Canada/France comes Patrice Leconte's musical tale of a dark city where a family-run suicide-accessory shop thrives—until a happy baby arrives.
Terms and Conditions May Apply (documentary): Cullen Hoback actually reads the fine print we ignore to discover we won't like what we've signed. (Screens with NSFW; see the Film section.)
Viva Cuba Libre: Rap Is War (music): Jesse Acevedo follows two Havana brothers beaten and imprisoned for listening to Cuban underground rappers Los Aldeanos, exposing a brewing revolution.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (retrospective): See if the effects that amazed us 25 years ago hold up in this CGI world as the Roger Zemeckis, Disney half-animated flick returns to the big screen.
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