And the Other Newport Beach Film Fest Awards Go To ...
As you can read here . . .
. . . NBFF awards have been dished out for the weeklong cinextravaganza that ended Thursday night. But, like American television producers, I feel even more awards need to be bestowed. So I came up with my own. Call them the Matties or Shmatties or Cokscars, if you will.
But first, keep in mind these were compiled after the send off for the Songs for Amy Irish/Scottish/English cast and crew at Muldoon's Pub in Newport Center, where songwriter Jim Mckee and composer/co-songwriter Ultan Conlon armed themselves with acoustic guitars to perform soulful music from the dark dramedy.
By the way, sitting next to directorKonrad Begg
and writer-producerFiona Graham
Thursday night as they dropped shots of something into their black stouts with handy mixed-drink and Coors Light chasers by their sides (a ritual which would be repeated . . . repeatedly), it hit me: Irish people can drink. Who knew?
From Muldoon's and the Celtic serenade, it was on to the waning moments of the festival's official closing night party at a Via Lido Plaza sticky with spilled Absolut Citron, oozin' with schmoozin' and pounding to DVUET-DVUET-DVUET tuneage that shook the barnacles off tubs in the adjacent harbor.
So, yeah, keep my frame of head in mind while scanning these awards for . . .
Worst Use of Cher's New Lips
Before Ted Turner and Meryl Streep conspired to make us forget what a great actress Jane Fonda was, she did On Golden Pond with her dad. The 1981 weepie comes to mind while watching Bruce Beresford's Peace, Love and Misunderstanding, where an elderly parent who lives in an idyllic spot next to a pool of water is visited by a long estranged daughter with kids. The difference is Henry Fonda had a spouse and his daughter only had one child. Hank played a retired college professor who aged gracefully. Jane plays a hippie grandma/ craftmaker/pot grower whose plastic surgery took me right out of the picture. I mean, what kind of Earth muffin goes under the knife? Worse, Fonda's over-acting had me screaming at the screen.
Best Use of Larry Miller and/or Janeane Garofalo
Directed and co-written by Tom Morris and co-produced by former Irvine resident Kevin Liang, this effective comedy packs a lead actor who resembles my cousin Lance (Chris Sheffield), high school students played by people who appear to be 27 and a familiar face behind the teacher's desk, Elaine Hendrix of Superstar, The Parent Trap and TV's most recent 90210. It's the story of a guy about to lose his tennis scholarship because he failed physical science and must make it up in summer school after he was supposed to graduate. As his parents, Larry Miller and Janeane Garofalo might have been expected to phone it in, but to their credit they gave their all. You had to love seeing Garofalo, the pride of Air America here playing a homemaker with an ever-present white wine. There are hilarious scenes without the veteran comic-actors, but the movie is all the better with them in the pocket.
Most Pretentious Film
Daniel Gillies directs himself as an American children's book author dealing with writer's block, emotional pain and a 14-year-old prostitute in Bogata, Columbia. Their story intersects with that of an LA daycare teacher played by Gillies' real-life wife andBroken Kingdom
's executive producer Rachael Leigh Cook, who gets way too close to a student and his father. There is interesting camerawork, actor interplay and totally unnecessary poetry breaks. If a stooge like me can figure out in the first act the plot twist that will be revealed in the third, the kingdom isn't the only thing that's broken.
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Funny, philosophical, menacing, Duane Peters is that and more in the shortDay at the Pool
. When the skateboarder and U.S. Bombs/Die Hunns frontman out of Huntington Beach talks of fucking up the fictional character Benton at the center of this mockumentary, you actually fret for the dude's safety. Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta also turn up to extend the legend and/or cover up Benton's unequaled swimming pool skating feat. Special kudos to writer Josh Gold and directors Ian Douglass and Eric Fulford for milking the bit just long enough.Saturday Night Live
could learn from those guys.
Best Movie Without Any Promotion
Hicks on Sticks
It's not the lack of promotion for this action-sports documentary that made its world premiere at NBFF being lauded here, but that of writer-director Soren Johnstone's subjects: skateboarders who set across western Canada in 1999 to mount music and skate showcases with a portable stage and ramp. Unfortunately, no one seemed to think ahead to tell anyone in the towns being visited they were coming, leading to them being largely ignored. That someone held onto all that footage without taping over it is even more amazing achievement.
Best Commercial Interludes
One hopes this comedy's writer-star Christy Scott Cashman and directors David Pomes and Derek Estlin Purvis attended the Saturday Night Centerpiece screening at Triangle Square and not the Tuesday evening second run at Island Cinemas. If they had, they would have noticed the audience laughed louder and longer at the fake commercials for theCut the Crap
reality show hosted by new agey Angela Lovecraft (Parker Posey) than they did the actual main story.
Best Infomercial Interlude
Our only repeat winner gets the nod for the rednecky how-to video on converting a diesel car engine to run on bio-diesel. This involves a plot point surrounding a used Mercedes, and I must admit to bias here: my son went through the same thing, twice, changing out the filter, getting used vegetable oil from restaurants, etc., before blowing out the engine in the Benz. Twice.
Best Use of a Penis
Phil Daniels in Vinyl
As the Welsh rocker at the center of Sara Sugarman's rip-roaring punk rock comedy, the actor-singer didn't need the Viagra scene to steal the show, having nicked it long before that point in the picture. But his bare-ass reading of "I've got a boner!"--say it like a kid who found a Willy Wonka golden ticket--is still a hoot.
Best Actress in a Mixed Racetionship
In ABC'sHappy Endings
, Eliza Coupe's Jane is married to a character played by Damon Wayans Jr., who is African American. In the NBFF's closing night picture and world premiere screening ofShanghai Calling
at the Lido and Big Newport, Coupe's Amanda is pursued by Daniel Henney, who is Chinese American. Not that there's anything wrong with either relationship; love is love. But anyone not evolved enough to consider such pairings controversial should know Shanghai Calling is a very tame rom-com as a whole, even thought it's about a guy who loses his job, his love and his ethics after getting caught up in shadiness involving a Chinese manufacturer of new cell phones bound for the U.S. Like so tame it hurts.
Trippiest Feature Film
Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy
Based on acclaimed author Irvine Welsh's 1996 novelEcstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance
, Rob Heydon's film zeroes in on an aging clubber and drug mule (brilliantly played by Adam Sinclair) falling in love with an unsatisfied wife and office drone (Kristen Kreuk) just as dark forces are making the man's life a living hell in an Edinburgh, Scotland. We already know the place is bleak, thanks to Welsh's 1993 novelTrainspotting
and the smash movie adaptation. But where heroin intensified the scuzziness, ecstasy makes it all warm puppies and sunshine, baby. Heydon and his crew blend intense electronica with cinematic tricks that make you feel as if you're using as effectively as Marty Scorsese did in Harvey Keitel's swirling drunk scene inMean Streets
The story is about extreme skiers and their realization that what they do leaves a carbon footprint. To drive this message home, directors Dave Mossop and Eric Crosland cut into impossible ski porn several shots of nature--flowing lava and ice floes, steam rising from seas, a bright yellow moon dropping like the Times Square New Year's Eve ball, snow, snowflakes and snow banks that appear to be created by artists, and orange, purple and yellow skies at sunset. As inIrvine Welsh's Ecstasy
also relies on a vigorous soundtrack to render your mind blown.
Best Double Take
Daniela Flynn directs, co-edit, adapts and stars solo in this eight or so minute short based on a monologue from the stage play of the same name by Jerusalem-born Australian playwright Ron Elisha. It's about a grown woman dealing with her upbringing by a Nazi SS officer and Jewish woman. As she looks into the mirror, the daughter speaks of grief over her mother's suffering at the hands of her father. But the image looking back defends dad and shames momma. Borrowing a German accent, Flynn's haunting performance proves your family's dysfunction was nothing.
Best Spaghetti Western Face-Off
Ernest Borgnine and Barry Corbin
The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez is an uneven comedy--it's about an elderly man (Borgnine) who never realized his dream of becoming a famous actor finding fame among Latino nursing home workers because he once locked mitts with a certain Mexican singer-actor. But give writer-director Elia Petridis credit for not only pulling out a solid performance from 95-year-old Borgnine--who appears in nearly every scene of the movie--but of squaring him off against another veteran actor primed for the challenge, 71-year-old Barry Corbin. The quality of the film rises several notches in their scenes, which coupled with goofy spaghetti western cues, show that Petridis was at least on to something.
Best Reason Not to Panic, It's You-Know-What
In Organic We Trust
Los Angeles commercial and filmmaker R. Kiplin Pastor travels the country to find out whether organic truly means something or is just a marketing term. I won't give away the final answer, except to say you won't be wrong whichever one you choose. Pastor's amazingly packs several topics into 81 minutes, although while presenting the film at Island Cinemas he did say anIn Organic We Trust II
is in the works, and I don't think he was kidding. Fun fact: the sister and brother-in-law of the first farmer interviewed on screen fired me from an editing job a few years ago. Oh, and screening attendees learned more about organics, growing your own and donating overflow backyard crops to the needy at a after-drinks-and-munchies party at Sage Restaurant in Corona del Mar sponsored by OC Food Access. Learn more about what that nonprofit is up to atocfoodaccess.org
Best Supporting Players of All
Newport Beach Film Festival volunteers
Without them, I'd have nothing to blog about. Oh, jeez, but please don't take it out on them.
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