NBFF: Opening Night

David Holechek and Brandon Tyra at NBFF 2008 - Photo Hosted at BuzznetRumor had it that the Newport Beach Film Festival was looking for a high-profile opening night movie that failed to finally come through, so instead the festival kicked off with SHERMAN'S WAY, which is not to be confused with the Ross McElwee documentary SHERMAN'S MARCH -- their only common factor is that I don't like either one of them.

So no way was I going to actually watch the movie again: the only thing worse than sitting through a movie you don't like is sitting through it again after it starts an hour late following several boring speeches by people not used to public speaking, and lots of shout-outs to sponsors, most of them individually named. I get that this stuff is obligatory, and it's worth sitting through if the movie at the end of it is good. But it was SHERMAN'S WAY.

(And yeah, "the only thing worse" is hyperbole. Torture would be worse. But we're talking within the cinematic realm.)

One thing I always notice about Newport is that the opening-night crowd is very different from the festival norm. Lots of really old people in nice suits who probably spent the day on their yachts. I wonder to what extent they could relate to the movie, which suggests that having a mother who's a rich, successful politician is actually a bad thing, while slumming it in small-town America is a character-building exercise.

Also, apparently, every American small town features one really gorgeous babe who's crazily spontaneous and free-thinking, and for some reason has not either fled the place or gotten knocked up by the local football hero. No, she's just waiting for an uptight nerd who's afraid of everything to come along, so she can work really hard to open him up to life.

DOC HOLLYWOOD, CARS, and other more superior works have used this cliche to slightly better effect. In the movie's favor, James LeGros is decent as a down-and-out former Olympian runner-up, but that guy who played Eliot on JUST SHOOT ME is really miscast as a celebrity chef who now hides out in (cue Chris Farley voice) "a VAN by the RIVERRR!"

Anyway, if this movie sounds good to you and you missed it, there's another one in the fest called THE ART OF TRAVEL that's almost exactly the same, but substitute South America for small-town America, and add a little gratuitous T&A (good try, guys, but doesn't save the flick) and James Duval (also a good try. James is a friend and I always like seeing him in stuff, but he deserves better).

So I stood outside the theater and watched people enter. After they all went in, various others who were curious about the fest but not inside demanded to know what was good at the fest. This is a tough one for a critic, because without knowing someone's taste, it's hard to make recommendations. I adore THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS, but when I watched it via screener, my friend Brian walked out of the room after five minutes, never to return. It is imperative to try to explain to people that it's a movie which contains floating frames within frames, images within images, and if you don't have the evolved attention span of an MTV-age/Internet multitasker, it just might not be for you.

A woman on the staff shared her popcorn with me as she went through day-by-day asking me which was the best each day. She refused to see anything with subtitles, saying the only subtitled film she liked was LA FEMME NIKITA. She also really wanted to see a movie with airplanes in it, for some reason, so if you're King Kong, this isn't the girl for you.

And then David Holechek and Brandon Tyra from 305 showed up (see picture, above). It was around 9:30 and they expected the 8 p.m. movie to be ending. No, boys; it started late, by like an hour.

After waiting a while, shooting the breeze, and learning that Dave is flying up to Colorado for one day to present 305 at a local film fest a mere 24 hours before it shows here, we headed for the after-party, which I have to say seemed a lot less packed than last year. Last year's opener did have more stars involved, which may be why...it was BEAUTIFUL OHIO, directed by Chad Lowe and featuring Michelle Trachtenberg, William Hurt, and Julianna Margulies. I don't think it ever got distribution, though (imdb doesn't list any, anyway).

A lot of the after-party food was familiar: chocolate fondue, barbecue (some of which went down the wrong way, and of course while I was struggling to get it down, everybody wanted to start a conversation), mac & cheese, sweet Thai noodles. Food highlight of the night, though, was raw diver scallop skewers, courtesy of a new Spanish-Italian seafood place called blanca.

Perrier is a big sponsor this year, which meant a Perrier-brand photo-booth, several tables lit from withing by a green glow, and Perrier-clad babes who were always hovering to clear said tables the second one lays down the drink. I'm currently off the booze and thus didn't partake of the free vodka, but disappointed to see no new flavors of Absolut this year. They're overdue to make an apple version. The Izze natural sodas make a great non-alcoholic option, though the bartender seemed really disappointed that I didn't want to add booze. I'm disappointed in myself too, but having recently felt vague muscle pain in the liver area, I'm backing off for now.

No celebrity sightings, unless you count the L.A. Press Club's Diana Ljungaes, who has turned filmmaker with her drama about Swedish immigrants entitled THE SEEKERS.

I left shortly after most of the 305 crew decided to go to the bathroom en masse. What's up with that?


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