Film Fests Are a Beach

Some of this stuff originally ran on OC Weekly's staff blog, The Blotter.

Nobody ever cares about the opening speeches at film festivals, but here's a synopsis for those who weren't there.Greg Schwenk, festival director (paraphrased): "Hundreds of people helped make this happen, and I shall thank each and every one of them by name right now!" Leigh Steinberg, mega-agent allegedly the basis for the character Jerry Maguire: "One day this festival is going to be bigger than Sundance and Cannes!" Chad Lowe (synopsis): "Hey, I'd come down here more often, but man, that freeway traffic sure is bad! [A freeway joke? Hey, at least it was an actual joke, and the only one of the night]. Cannes and Sundance are way too corporate. You guys have a purer love of film." The man knows his cheap pops, and we welcomed them.

So which new flavor of Absolut Vodka is doing the rounds of film festivals this year?Pear. And it's their best new flavor since Kurant. There's also a new super-premium brand of Absolut with the pretentiously lowercase moniker "level." And it's pretty damn smooth.

I like weird food, damn it. At the Thai food booth on opening night, I asked the guy what he was serving. "No question; just eat!" he yelled back. "If you like, come back for more and I tell you!" As a fan of live sushi, I was mildly miffed he didn't trust me . . . and disappointed when I came back and he told me it was chicken and tamarind-flavored noodles.

Perhaps the best 4.5 minutes of film you'll see all year. A Brazilian short film titled "Tyger," in which a large tiger puppet rampages, Godzilla-style, through a major city, and in his wake, the city turns into a jungle and people are transformed into animals. Gorgeous stuff from director Guilherme Marcondes, screened as part of Heather Henson's compilation Puppet Dreams III.

Too many goddamn ads. It's fine to introduce each film by thanking the sponsors by name, and it's completely expected to begin with several title cards featuring every sponsor's name and logo (might wanna check the spelling of "Chipotle," though). But in between that, to have commercials for a Jaguar dealership, Absolut Vodka, the OC Post, Central Park West Apartments, Karl Strauss, and a twofer ad for Farmer's Merchant Bank and Body Glove? Too much. Filmgoers started coming in 10 minutes late.

Parker Posey stars in Zoe Cassavetes'Broken English. You can tell it's a Cassavetes film because everyone smokes and drinks constantly, but obviously not a John Cassavetes film because they don't seem especially damaged by such behavior. Also, there's a plot. Posey's dating woes in the movie ring painfully true, except that in real life, she probably has no such troubles, but then the movie decides that the perfect solution is to hook her up with a skinny French guy who's passionate about women in a way that no mere American mortal can ever be. Great, keep stoking that fantasy in women's minds; bad enough that most of us already don't live up to their high standards. Most unintentionally funny scene is when Posey is on a date with a pretentious actor (Justin Theroux) at a really fancy sushi place, but they appear to be eating California rolls and dyed-pink ginger. Any serious high-end sushi chef would have kicked them both to the curb the moment they asked for a roll of any kind.

The award for Best Party Performance goes to . . . Tattoo artist Paul Booth and two other ink-slingers, who collaborated in improvising a new design on the leg of one lucky victim. It ended up being a skull. What, you expected they'd draw a teddy bear?

Death Note(Desu Noto) and its sequel are awesome.A pair of Japanese horror/comedy/cop flicks about a young law student named Light who finds a book created by Ryuuk, god of death. Write anyone's name in the book, and they die. If you like, you can be really specific about how they die, but the only catch is you have to know the person's real name and what they look like. Light decides to play vigilante and starts offing the world's criminals, which catches the attention of the cops and a mysterious mastermind named "L." Meanwhile, Ryuuk, who's 9 feet tall and looks like an F.W. Murnau rendition of David Bowie playing the Joker, just hangs out with Light, eating apples and being invisible to everyone else. Part two introduces another god of death and another notebook, making the plot way more convoluted before it gets resolved, but for all the twists and reversals, the story is never confusing, and it's refreshing to see a movie in which the lead characters are smarter than the viewer. It's like Infernal Affairs/The Departed crossed with Devilman, Primal Fear and Drop Dead Fred. If that combination doesn't scream "Watch me!" to you, well, you're wrong. Bonus points for hilariously incongruous use of recent Red Hot Chili Peppers hits "Dani California" and "Snow" as theme music.

The least popular free food at the closing-night party? Leek, Cheddar and apple bisque. Never would have seen that one coming.


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