The big question on the mind of anyone amid the crowds at Edwards Island Cinema at FashionIsland in Newport Beach Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday nights was: My God, don't these people work? And a second: Don't they know we're teetering on Depression? Finally: Buddy, can you spare a ticket?
The masses were expected at the Newport Beach Film Festival over the weekend, but Monday night's healthy crowd became Tuesday night's packed house which became Wednesday night's mob scene. Bet your house (if it hasn't gone into foreclosure) that the 2009 festival will be the biggest in the event's 10-year history.
Bounced out of other movies Monday night because paying moviegoers take precedence over those with press credentials dangling around their necks, I wound up finding an open seat for the Korea Spotlight film. Thanks to the generosity of the newish, Garden Grove-based KoreanCulturalCenterOrangeCounty, my seat came with swag: an '09 day planner courtesy of the center's CEO Dr. Francis S. Lee, who noted Korean cinema is getting better and better.
Ji-Woo Jung's Modern Boy proved his point.
Afterward, I hung around for Nancy Montuori Stein's All Ages Night because the story is set in Anaheim and centers around a show at the all-ages music spot Chain Reaction. Sort of a That Jonas Degrassi Thing You Do!, the teen dramedy is uneven, predictable and packs every ABC Afterschool Special problem afflicting our nation's youth in 93 short minutes. But that doesn't mean the kids won't love it. Dylan (Django Stewart), a teen from Great Britain, came to stay with his band leader cousin Sean (Billy Evans) in Anaheim. The Brit was a genius at the bass. The band needed a bass player hours before its breakout gig. Guess who got the call? Throw in the usual band leader douche-baggery, a slumming Grant Show, a confounding cameo by Gedde "Long Duk Dong" Wantanabe, a bizarre story thread about a live living room cam and a shy lad's inevitable movie dilemma of having to choose either the shallow hot girl (Elizabeth Nicole) or the damaged Ally Sheedy type (Holly Markham), and you've got All Ages Night.
At the post-screening Q&A for this puppy, it was revealed that the only local associated with the production was director of photography Jeff McCoy, who hails from Newport Beach. The LA-based filmmakers just happened upon Chain Reaction while scouting for locations and loved it. "It's really fitting that we showed it here because it was shot in OrangeCounty," Stein said. Her film took 24 days to shoot in high definition at a cost of under $1 million and the addition of one marriage. Apparently, there were a number of on-set romances, including one among two crew members who later wound up walking down the aisle.
Stein, who has a background in the music business, was able to lace her film with the songs of Green Day, Iggy Pop and My Chemical Romance--in addition to the indie musicians who sub for the actors or play competing bands. She said if the picture gets picked up for distribution, a soundtrack should be forthcoming.
I left EdwardsIsland to the largest mob I had yet to encounter at the festival. Lines to enter that began just beyond the glass entry doors extended all the way to the elevators next to parking lot. Fighting my way to my car, I discovered most were waiting to get into Gigantic, a quirky rom-com starring Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel and John Goodman that the Weekly panned before the festival even began. Go figure. I just pray none of those poor souls in line was wearing a pink press badge.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before "graduating" to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper's first calendar editor. He has contributed as a freelance editor and writer to several publications and been the subject of or featured in several reports online, in print and on the radio and television. One of countless times he returned to his Costa Mesa, CA, home with a bounty of awards from a journalism competition, his wife told him to take out the trash.