Big Screen Blowouts

Photo by Debra DiPaoloWhile the Newport Beach International Film Festival (NBIFF) has established itself as the biggest and bestest yearly film extravaganza south of LA, the next one isn't until well into 2002, and considering the NBIFF's shaky financial situation over the past few years, who knows if it'll even happen?

Happily, two whopping film fests roll into theaters just beyond Orange County's borders this week, each with the potential to be even bigger and more bestest than the NBIFF.

Of the two, the Long Beach International Film Festival sounds like the charmer. It begins on a rather bum note Friday evening with a screening of Seven Girlfriends, a blah-sounding romantic comedy starring Tim Daly, Mimi Rogers and a bunch of other struggling celebs who are this close to starting careers in real estate. The cast and crew are expected to attend, but the way things often go at festivals, don't set your heart on glimpsing the ex-Wings star or the former Mrs. Tom Cruise.

From this less-than-auspicious start, the fest then launches into nine bustling days of features, shorts, workshops and gala events, culminating next weekend with a salute to Balboa Studios, the legendary Long Beach outfit that launched the careers of such silent stars as Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton. As part of this celebration, there will be a screening (featuring live musical accompaniment) of the 1917 silent Twin Kiddies. This will be followed by a 90th-birthday party—complete with ice cream and cake—for the film's star, Marie Osborne-Yeats, the actress once known as "Baby Marie."

Over in wine country, the Temecula Valley International Film and Music Festival features a startlingly eclectic lineup ranging from Bus Stop (starring Marilyn Monroe at the apex of her chunky goddesshood) to Daydream Believer (a witheringly perceptive, hilarious indie that looks at the horrors that befall a young actress who moves to New York seeking fame and fortune).

The most intriguing item on the bill is Harry Shearer's Teddy Bear's Picnic, a brand-new, satirical look at the annual weekend retreat enjoyed by the cabal of old white guys who secretly run the world. The film's cast boasts nearly all of Shearer's comedian pals, including Michael McKean, George Wendt and, uh, Alan Thicke, as well as Shearer, who has entertained and enlightened generations through his work in This Is Spinal Tap, The Simpsons, Le Show, etc. and is always worth our attention.

If the Long Beach fest has an air of funky charm about it, the Temecula fest is probably where you'll find most of the really interesting movies. Of course, after viewing all those films, you're bound to be left feeling sore and achy. But at least it will be in a good way.

The Long Beach International Film Festival screens at AMC Pine Square Theaters, 245 Pine Ave., Long Beach; and aboard the Queen Mary, 1126 Queens hwy., Long Beach. (562) 436-4259. Fri.-Sept. 23. For ticket prices and screening times, call or visit; the Temecula Valley International Film and Music Festival at the Movie Experience at Tower Plaza, 27501 Ynez Rd., Temecula, (909) 699-6267. Thurs.-Sun., Sept. 13-16. For ticket prices and screening times, call or visit


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