Newport Beach Film Festival Goes to Pot (and Other News & Notes for the Home Stretch)
Here are some news nuggets to get you caught up as the Newport Beach Film Festival heads for the home stretch. (Orange County's premiere cultural event ends Thursday night once the last cocktail glass at the Closing Night Party has been drained.)
One Good Year follows one fair-to-middling year for four Humboldt County pot growers. These are not the growers of recent years who have moved in with large-scale operations that have left environmental degradation in their wake. These are homesteaders--and in one case a third generation Humboldt pot grower--who are so barely getting by, they cannot afford to buy much of anything in town (Garberville), where prices have been driven up by you know who moving in.
But the characters--and I mean characters--director Mikal Jakubal shadows in his fascinating documentary seem happy despite the poverty, back-breaking work and multiple threats to their cash crops that are, after all, illegal, even in Humboldt County.
Jakubal includes a priceless scene with a sheriff's sergeant there declaring the drug war over, lost and should of having resulted in legalization. That issue has actually divided the pot growers the filmmaker came to know, as he explained after Monday afternoon's West Coast premiere screening at The Triangle in Costa Mesa.
Some fear legalization will change their businesses but most relish the chance to finally come out in the open and identify themselves to the world as legal pot growers. To that end, at least a couple featured in One Good Year see 2016 as the good year they are targeting (and campaigning) for legalization in California, Jakubal noted.
The director is now planting the seed for a sequel that will look more closely at the legalization struggle and how it's playing out in Humboldt County. Meanwhile, you can still catch the compelling One Good Year at its repeat screening at 3:15 p.m. today at Fashion Island Cinemas.
Another director planning a new project is Ireland's Kevin Glynn, who in his tux was hard to miss at Sunday's Irish Spotlight screening that opened with his tense, clever and explosive two-minute short Countdown, followed by the fractured family feature Life's A Breeze.
It was Glynn's third straight short film to play at NBFF. When Cairdeas was chosen to open the Irish Spotlight evening of 2012 with feature Songs for Amy, he was ready to pack that tux come to Newport Beach, which he'd been told is the best festival in the world. But Glynn's wife then informed him a 50th birthday party had already been set for him the same evening, and he stayed back in Ireland.
"Hell and high water" could not stop Glynn from attending NBFF 2013, which included his short The Kiss Heist. While Countdown brought him back to Newport a second time, Glynn told the packed house at Big Newport he hopes a feature film he is developing will return him here again "if I am fortunate enough to have it selected."
Julianne Moore "mothers" Onata Aprile in What Maisie Knew.
Near as I can tell, no lawsuits have been filed as a result of this year's NBFF Spotlight films, which are the movies from all over the world that play in prime slots and are tied to post-screening parties.
However, at least one suit has been filed over one of last year's NBFF Spotlights. Singer Ronee Sue Blakley, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Robert Altman's 1975 film Nashville, recently sued a former lover she claims based the character of a neglectful mother on her in his screenplay for What Maisie Knew.
From the directing duo Scott McGehee and David Siegel (Bee Season, The Deep End, Uncertainty), the heart-wrenching What Maisie Knew was a modern retelling of the Henry James novel and a Friday night Spotlight film at NBFF 2013.
Blakley, 68, claims she was the basis for the character played by Julianne Moore, a fading, second-tier rock star married to an international art dealer embodied by Steve Coogan. As their marriage breaks up, they drift apart physically and emotionally from their adorable little daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile), the most adult member of the family.
Screenwriter Carroll Cartwright had a relationship with Blakley from 1982-87 that produced a daughter, Sarah, who was born in 1988. The mother's defamation suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages because Moore's character is alleged to be a "thinly disguised portrait" of Blakley.
Cartwright is further accused of using the screenplay to lash out at Blakley "by maliciously and falsely portraying her as a selfish, uncaring mother, when in fact she was a devoted and loving parent."
The NBFF 2014 trailer above is the last thing to roll before each movie or shorts program in the festival, so by now I know it by heart. (Spoiler alert: he's the projectionist!) It's not as dentally painful as last year's trailer Mandible, but Bedtime Story is rather twisted.
So, to keep from going all Jack Torrance "All work and no play ..." after seeing the trailer so many times, I have developed this game where I keep a running tab on how many people in the audience laugh at the comic ending. (Spoiler alert: he's ... oh, never mind.)
Generally, Bedtime Story elicits a chuckle or two, including the time it played before the Jenny Slate starrer Obvious Child, which, trust me, had the packed crowd guffawing at every funny line, even the one I didn't get.
Sometimes, it's been crickets in the theater as the trailer ends. Only once have I heard a disapproving "harumph." But the loudest positive reaction I heard I was not expecting: it came before Monday afternoon's senior special of short films, "Older, Not Shorter." The bluehairs loved it, prompting one observer to note, "No wonder; they're more cynical at that age."
Robert Miano finds his date while looking for a date in Match Made.
"Older, Not Shorter" actually included some solid short films, including King of the Teds starring Tom Jones and Brenda Blethyn; Dotty with Joyce Irving and Match Made featuring Barbara Bain and Robert Miano.
The last two appeared before the audience afterward with director Maggie Grant and co-producer Dale Griffiths Stamos, who wrote the script about an elderly widower (Miano) having ulterior motives when he sees a matchmaker for older folks (Bain).
The first actress to win three consecutive Emmys (for her role as Cinnamon Carter on Mission Impossible), Bain is an Actors Studio buddy of Miano, who was Sunny Red in Donny Brasco and, as Grant put it, "is getting whacked or whacking someone" in most films and TV shows he's been in.
They know Stamos' Match Made script well, having performed it many times under Grant's direction for the Three Roses Players troupe in North Hollywood. They may get to perform it some more; Grant and Stamos say they are developing the material into a feature film and television series that would have a revolving cast of classic TV stars visiting the matchmaking office of Bain's character Meredith.
When someone asked the actors if there are any roles they would still like to play, Miano mentioned musicals like Guys and Dolls before breaking into a tune sung in Italian.
As a cell phone rings for the second time during the first "Older, Not Shorter" short film, King of the Teds:
Lady 1: Would you turn your phone down?
Lady 2: It's not my phone, it's your phone.
Lady 1: Oh. I'm sorry.
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