NBFF: The Long and the Short of It

party model chick - Photo Hosted at BuzznetYou hear all the time that men never stop and ask directions. Women use it as proof that we're all stubborn and pointlessly macho. But there's another reason.

Men don't ask for directions because they know that 98% of the time, the response from whoever they ask is going to be something along the lines of "Durrrr....hurrrr....uhhhhh....I dunno."

Point being, the Orange County Museum of Art is directly adjacent to Fashion Island. But God forbid you should actually ask a Fashion Island employee for directions to get to it. Because familiarity with one's immediate surroundings is not a prerequisite for a customer service job. That's why companies outsource 'em to India so much.

OCMA was the site of the Sunday night film fest party, though the picture I've included is actually of a model posing at Friday night's party. I figured readers would like a more naked picture. But it's a trade-off -- no string bikinis at OCMA, but we did get gift bags containing a chocolate bar made with chipotle chilis. Can't wait to give that a bite.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I did promise to talk about the HD deck breakdown on day 1.

I should preface this by saying I like to walk in late to NBFF screenings, because NBFF always shows about five commercials first, and some of them are the EXACT SAME as last year (Hi, Karl Strauss beer!), and they're prefaced by a self-promotional cartoon in which the process of filmmaking is deoiucted by a guy having a lightbulb rammed into his brain, where it grows like a tumor until the dude vomits out a script (along with a wee bit o' pink puke), and then the screen gets all vaginal shaped and pops out an egg wearing a beret, which represents the final film somehow. Truly strange.

But speaking of tumors and creativity, Toddy Burton's short film "The Aviatrix" deals with that very topic, with puking and ideas and all of that except it makes more sense. A girl with cancer imagines herself as a retro-pulp era superhero who battles an anthropomorphized version of her tumor in a sci-fi setting, while dealing with the romantic advances of her gardener in the real world. Now, I admit to some degree of pre-bias here because I think am aviatrix outfit is about the sexiest thing a woman can wear, but the film is most impressive, both in the way it reflects the real world (borne of Burton's own battle with cancer) and the imagined (with special effects at least as convincing as in the current Doctor Who).

But back to the feature world. I was interested in seeing CHOOSE CONNOR at 5 p.m. on Friday. And see some of it I did, but it was off-frame and no sound was coming out. The director's nightmare. Minutes of seeing various computer drop-down menus ensued. We were told the HD machine broke, but the director had a DVD in his car, only they had to now hook up the DVD player (none of the so-called films I've seen at this festival has actually been projected on film).

At 5:26 p.m. I got tired of waiting, and decided to hit the 5:30 show of CRAZY. I sat in that auditorium for 15 minutes, before hearing that it too would be delayed, probably for the same reason. By this time, CHOOSE CONNOR was finally starting so I went back in to watch it.

Alex D. Linz, former star of HOME ALONE 3, plays middle-school graduate Owen Norris, who has no friends but is fascinated by politics. When local Congressman Larry Connor (Steven Weber) speaks at his graduation, Owen's knowledge of the issues (and naivete about political corruption) makes Connor decide that the kid would be perfect to lead a youth campaign for the upcoming Senate race. Pressured by his unemployed dad to go for it, Owen does, but soon realizes that Connor has a dark side. And though Owen starst becoming good friends with Connor's puppet-making nephew Caleb (Escher Holloway), the latter's affections turn out to be more than strictly platonic.

Writer-director Luke Eberl's first feature has echoes of Tim Robbins' BOB ROBERTS, and an excellent supporting cast, which includes ubiquitous character actors like Erick Avari and Richard Riehle. The ending is also note-perfect. However...it could have used perhaps a bit more restraint in some areas -- is it really necessary to have all the local politicians be involved in child-rape? Maybe in an actual horror movie, but this one hews to reality the rest of the time. Albeit dated reality, as Owen has a VCR in his room. You know any teens who haven't switched to DVD yet?

Oh, and it's clear that Alex D. Linz has never really been so drunk as to vomit -- he certainly can't fake it convincingly. But he's not old enough yet, so I cut him some slack...wouldn't want him to be another Bonnaduce. If the price to pay for that is one or two false acting moments, so be it.

Best non-sequitur dialogue in the movie, uttered during a montage: "It's not a triangle...It's umbrellas!"

WE'RE ALL ANGELS, from director Robert Nunez, sounds on paper like a mockumentary, as it follows the exploits of a gay Christian pop duo. But it's all true -- they are Jason and deMarco, and this movie about them was executive produced by Arianna Huffington's gay ex-husband.

Mostly, we see them bicker as any couple would, with the added dimension that Jason wants to be treated more like a woman but deMarco sees him as a dude. They travel to various open-minded churches and have to mesh with different local back-up bands, which doesn't always work well. And while the usual messages of hope and tolerance are front and center, they make it clear that one day they would just like to be known as a music duo, and not specifically a gay Christian duo.

Well, yes and no, boys. I hope we will get to the point where your sexuality isn't an issue, but one thing that cannot be disputed is that your music falls into the horrendously insipid genre known as Christian contemporary, in which mediocre musicians prosper among audiences of the sheltered faithful by proclaiming their love for God rather than for a significant other. Jason and deMarco's problem is that the crowd which eats that stuff up also thinks gay people are going to hell. And they can't market so much to the rest of us because, well, as crappy boy bands go, they're no *NSYNC.

It's possible to still like the movie and the guys without endorsing their over-sung, sub-American Idol tunes. I'm pretty sure I do. But I also find it really interesting that they neither kiss on the lips nor mention Jesus by name until the end credits, and even then, there's no tongue, and we're merely told that Jesus liked to party.

I was going to go see 1000 JOURNALS even though the idea sounded terrible (mailing out a bunch of sketchbooks at random, and filming a documentary about what happens to them), but aparently it sounded good to a lot of people and a huge line formed for it. Being contrary, I went to see a collection of shorts called "The British Are Coming II." That was a mistake.

Short 1: James Killough's "Losing Her." Lots of blurry slo-mo as an attractive woman in a gallery starts talking to an obnoxiously precocious child. I suspect the hand of an American in the screenwriting process, as the girl uses words like "cookie" and "poop" that wouldn't be unknown to UK kids, but would be unlikely to be their first choice. Stupid twist at the end.

Short 2: "Yoga Noga Reyoga." CG animation in which two yogis have a meditation contest. Not a bad idea, but the individual gags within that framework don't play so well.

Short 3: Simon Arthur's "Silver Tongues." A Scottish couple enter an old folks' home hoping to scam those with senile dementia, but those seniors are cannier than one expects. This was the best of the bunch, and along with the two that followed indicates that the Brits are a lot less in denial about aging, or demeaning towards those who have aged.

#4: "Mr. Thornton's Change of Heart." Two flower-sellers compete for the heart of the florist who sells them their wares. One of the men is named "Cupid." You'll probably guess the twist.

#5: "Over the Hill." Dialogue-free animated short in which a group of seniors in a retirement home learn that many of their housemates have been disappearing, and are actually hooked up to a kind of mini-Matrix. I didn't care for the drawing style.

So it was back to the features for me, with mixed results...


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