The Newport Beach Film Festival: Moving Pictures

The Newport Beach Film Festival: Moving Pictures

Rising from the ashes of the Newport Beach International Film Festival, which crashed and burned in 1999, version 2.0 ditched "international" from the title (but thankfully not the programming). It hummed along quite nicely heading into this 12th year, attracting 51,000 mostly indie movie lovers in 2010. But like a plot point in a no-budget zombie flick, danger lurked around the bend. . . .

Just before Christmas, it appeared the Irvine Co. had cast itself as the Grinch Who Stole the Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF). Orange County's largest landowner decided to give a major, several months-long face-lift to the Edwards Island Cinemas at Fashion Island. The NBFF has shown flicks at the Big Edwards of Newport Center and Regency's historic Lido, among other spots. But Regal's Edwards Island has traditionally been the workhorse, devoting its six screens to the festival.

Learning of the remodeling too late to rearrange the schedule but early enough to consider writing off the NBFF not just for 2011 but—gulp—forever, festival officials pleaded with Regal, the Irvine Co. and founding sponsor the city of Newport Beach for a workable alternative. They found it not in Newport Beach but just over the city limits.

Starlight Cinemas in Triangle Square, which is at 19th Street and Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa, will present most 2011 NBFF selections. As the theater has one more screen than Edwards Island, festival officials promise more repeat showings this year.

You might say it took true grit for festival presenters to scramble and get this puppy off the ground. It's fitting, then, that the 2011 John Wayne retrospective film will be 1969's True Grit, which won the Duke his only Best Actor Oscar. Remember how Jeff Bridges and the Coen Brothers kept insisting their True Grit was different from director Henry Hathaway's? See if they were right on the Starlight screen.

You can also mosey over to more than 350 other films from 45 countries playing April 28 to May 5. Many make their West Coast, North American or world premieres at the NBFF. Several have only previously played at the Sundance or Toronto film festivals, and one closed the last Cannes. New is a music series composed of feature-length dramas, musicals and documentaries. International spotlight films feed into special parties, some of which (full disclosure alert) OC Weekly sponsors.

Opening the festival on April 28 is the little indie East Fifth Bliss, starring Dexter himself, Michael C. Hall (see accompanying interview). The closer on May 5 will be A Beginner's Guide to Endings starring Scott Caan, Paul Costanzo, The Daily Show's Jason Jones and, albeit briefly, Harvey Keitel.

Among the titles smooshed in between those films and dates are: Penelope Spheeris' Balls to the Wall, a comedy about a male stripper; Face to Face, which is based on an Australian stage play that has been compared to 12 Angry Men; and A Good Day for It, which stars Robert Patrick as a man who can't reunite with his family until he settles an old score. Documentaries include: PressPausePlay, which tracks the digital revolution's effects on art, music and culture; the Oscar-nominated Warriors of Qiugang, which follows peasants in central China as they take on the polluters who are killing them; and California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown, which was executive produced by the former governor's niece.

Hall says he's coming to Newport Beach to support East Fifth Bliss, and festival officials are also trying to woo his costar, Peter Fonda, as well as Eric Stoltz of the drama Fort McCoy and Glen Campbell of True Grit. Aaron Sorkin, who won Emmys for writing The West Wing and an Oscar for adapting The Social Network, will be in attendance for a free NBFF talk.

Talk about dream appearances the NBFF is trying to swing: How about Colin Hanks and Jeffrey Tambor? Hanks starred in Orange County, and Tambor was Newport Beach patriarch George Bluth in TV's (and soon the movies') Arrested Development. They're in Gil Cates Jr.'s fest selection Lucky.

You'll be lucky to score festival tickets, because they go so fast. The zombie comedy Deadheads sold out four days after the screening date was announced; a second showing has since been added. Visit (or the handy program we'll have tucked into this issue), figure out what you want to see and get your tickets now. They range from free up to $125 for the opening-night film and gala. Most screenings are $12.

The show does go on.





This article appeared in print as "Moving Pictures: An 11th-hour relocation saves the 12th Newport Beach Film Festival."

Jesse Lenz

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