Director Kevin Smith continues his Red State barnstorming in Long Beach tonight, presenting the Westboro Baptistesque shoot 'em up twice–and sticking around each time to take audience questions.
Meanwhile, over in Newport Beach, there's a members-only screening of Santa Ana-bred filmmaker Drake Doremus' latest indie gem Like Crazy, with that film's co-writer (and Weekly Sundance Film Fest blogger) Ben York Jones handling the Q&A.
Red State has three horny high school students in Middle America looking for sex and finding fundamentalist Christians gone wild. Smith does string together some compelling scenes (I'm still trying to figure out his influence for an intense foot chase captured via hand-held), and Michael Parks as Rev. Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps stand-in Abin Cooper, and John Goodman as ATF caught-in-the-middleman Joseph Keenan, deliver solid performances (and monologues). Oscar winner Melissa Leo inhabits her character completely as she always does, and it's a kick to see KROQ's Ralph Garman on the silver screen.
However, overall, I found the flick uneven. Red State is certainly no Clerks or Chasing Amy (nor Smith's hilarious SModcasts with Scott Mosier). You can't begrudge a filmmaker for spreading his wings by exploring other genres, but in the end the point of this bloodbath eluded simple ol' me.
Maybe that was it: fundie states in this union are red as is the life juice of the innocents they victimize along with our callous nation state. Perhaps the sequel will have Bible-thumping zombies eating the brains of Occupy demonstrators.
It is up to you, fair citizens, to go to the historic Art Theatre in Long Beach at 7:30 or 10 tonight, see what all the fuss is about, and then ask Smith all your questions that have been lingering since 1997, such as, “What's a Nubian?” Visit the event's Facebook page for more details and The Smodcast Network for your $20 tickets. If you can't make it, rent the Red State DVD or stream it over Netflix because, love it or hate it, you'll be supporting an indie auteur. Here's his trailer:
Newport Beach has a historic theater of its own in the Regency Lido, where Like Crazy screens at 7:30 p.m. for the Orange County Film Society (OCFS).
Two college students, Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin), fall in love in Los Angeles. But an expired visa sends Anna back to London, and the couple struggles to stay together while miles apart.
Like Crazy won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, the same one where Westboro Baptist Church members famously picketed Red State.
Following the screening, Smith offered distribution rights for his $4 million film to the highest bidder–then closed the bidding after “buying” the rights for $20, explaining he planned to self-distribute all along. Doremus' film (which I'll be seeing for the first time tonight), was made for less than a million and was sold shortly after Sundance to a division of Paramount. It opens in limited theatrical release Friday, perhaps you've seen the TV ads.
Members of the OCFS who want to see the film tonight need to email ocfs@NewportBeachFilmFest.com to RSVP. Information on one-year OCFS memberships, which include six to eight advance screenings of films bound for theaters, is available at OrangeCountyFilmSociety.com.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I'll be moderating the Q&A at the Lido with Corona del Mar's Jones, who starred in childhood pal Doremus' previous film, Douchebag.
Here's the Like Crazy trailer: