NBFF Forever!

Your cheat sheet for the Newport Beach Film Festival, from the parties to the flicks about speed-dating geezers

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THE VENUES
Opening-night films have always been shown at Big Newport, billed as the largest moviehouse screen west of the Mississippi. Big Newps, the adjacent Newport Center cinemas and the nearby Island Cinemas of Fashion Island have always screened NBFF fare.

Longtime venues include the historic Lido Regency Theater in Lido Village, the Orange County Museum of Art (which also partners with the festival for the year-round Cinema Orange program of art, architecture and design documentaries) and Sage Hill High School on Newport Coast Road, which is where most Collegiate Showcase and Youth Film Showcase films are run.

Since 2011, Starlight Cinemas at the Triangle in Costa Mesa has done heavy NBFF lifting. This year, they've added what has long served as a second home to many Orange County lovers of foreign and independent cinema, the much larger, dual-screen Regency South Coast Village in Santa Ana. (Fret not, Newporters, it's the South Coast Plaza-adjacent area of Santa Ana, not the SanTana where your housekeepers reside.)

"We have definitely increased our footprint," Schwenk says.

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THE OPENER/CLOSER
This year's festival opens at Big Newport at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 24 with the world premiere of Lovesick, a romantic comedy starring Matt LeBlanc (Friends, Episodes) as a fellow named Charlie Darby, whose brain chemistry causes him to become clinically insane whenever he falls for a woman. Along comes former dancer Molly Kingston (Ali Larter), who Charlie can't resist, forcing him to confront his psychosis with the help of a friend (Adam Rodriquez) and a wacky neighbor (Chevy Chase).

Director Luke Matheny has helmed five episodes of IFC's Maron starring standup/podcaster Marc Maron, and the filmmaker snagged an Academy Award for his quirky comedy short God of Love, which rolled at the one-and-done Anaheim International Film Festival in October 2010 on the way to the Oscars. Lovesick screenwriter and executive producer Dean Young wrote for Mad About You, The Drew Carey Show and King of the Hill, with the latter earning him an Emmy nomination. One of Lovesick's producers is Josh Goldstein, who grew up in Costa Mesa.

The closing-night picture, Chef, rolls at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 1 at the Lido, where it will be making its West Coast premiere after having played at the most recent South By Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. The small-scale dramedy stars and was written, directed and produced by Jon Favreau, an A-list Hollywood director (Elf and the Iron Man franchise) returning to his indie roots (1996's Swingers) and the NBFF (2004's The Big Empty).

The title character in Chef loses his restaurant job and starts a food truck to reclaim his culinary glory. At the same time, he tries to piece together his estranged family. Check out this indie cast: Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Amy Sedaris, Bobby Cannavale and Oliver Platt.

"Two little comedies are a great way to bookend the festival," Schwenk says.

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THE WORLD PREMIERES
Sandwiched between the opener and closer are more than 400 films, including, at last count, 138 feature-length movies, 62 of which were documentaries. (Negotiations with studios, distributors and filmmakers were ongoing as this story went to press.)

Among the world premieres at NBFF 2014 are two documentaries by Brent Deal, a San Clemente director of commercials who long dreamed of making a feature-length film. He plunged into the stand-up paddling (SUP) world with his first two full-length docs, H2indO and Decade of Dominance, which made their world premieres at NBFF 2012. He's back this year with H2mexicO, which puts some of the first film's SUP stars on a "surfing yacht" in waters south of the border, and XOXO, which follows five female athletes from different sports to Maui, where they give something back to local girls.

Other world premieres include writer/director Keith Palmer's Swelter, a drama with Alfred Molina, Josh Henderson and Jean-Claude Van Damme about robbers of a Las Vegas casino breaking out of prison after 10 years to chase the lone member of the gang who escaped capture . . . with $10 million; Craig and Brent Renaud's documentary Earthquake, which follows the lives of two children who were found barely alive after three days beneath the rubble from the Haiti earthquake; Tierre De Patagones (Land of Patagonias), which has Julián and Joaquín Azulay, the surfing/filmmaking brothers from last year's NBFF entry Gauchos del mar—Surfeando el pacifico americano, confining their cinematic journey to Argentina's coastline; Jim Becket's documentary Sons of Africa, which follows the now-adult sons of ruthless African leaders Idi Amin of Uganda and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania up Mount Kilimanjaro for a climb of peace and reconciliation; Sandy Smolan's The Human Face of Big Data, a documentary about online access, data crunching and thorny NSA issues; and Alvaro Diaz Lorenzo's Spanish dramedy La Despedida (The Goodbye), which has three friends honoring the deathbed wish of a dear companion to take the ashes on a road trip through Europe.

Also world premiering are Don't Quit: The Joe Roth Story, Bob Rider and Phil Schaaf's documentary (narrated by Keith Jackson) about a Cal quarterback who led the Golden Bears in 1976 while keeping secret the melanoma that was eating him alive; Give Us This Day, a football-related doc from Adam Stern, D.L. Stern and Milton Boyd that follows one of the nation's top high school programs struggling through its toughest season ever; Grant Knisely's documentary Untouchable: The Children of God, which takes us inside the brothels of India, where young girls perish every day; The Milky Way, Jon Fitzgerald's documentary on a lactation consultant who sets about changing American attitudes about breast-feeding; Regina Russell's documentary that's part of the NBFF Music Series, Well Now You're Here, There's No Way Back, which follows Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali introducing his daughter to the band he left behind with singer Kevin DuBrow's death in 2007; Steven Loring's documentary The Age of Love, which looks at singles in their 70s through 90s going to a speed-dating gathering; and what must be a hot ticket because three screenings have been scheduled as this goes to press, David Baker's doc American Wine Story, about a dozen entrepreneurial winemakers from around the country.

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