Sometimes I wonder about the power of coincidence. Both times I've covered the Newport Beach Film Festival, I have been unable to attend every day because some or other duty at the office ends up taking a lot more of my time than expected. So I was called home on Tuesday, thereby missing both THE REST IS SILENCE (which fest staffer Jay has been recommending to me all week) and THE SEEKERS (made by my friend Diana Ljungaes).
I was fortunate enough to see on the big screen a short that I actually worked on and helped to conceive, entitled THE ANGEL. It would probably be a party foul to technically “review” it, but I will say I was very happy to see it on the big screen. Director Paul Hough (THE BACKYARD) and star Eddie McGee (winner of the very first U.S. “Big Brother” show), both of whom I also worked with on the Fozzy music video “Enemy” (it's on Youtube, look it up), came down for the day and it's always fun to hang with those guys (pictured).
After a full day and night of working on a feature story, though, I was less in a mood to see movies and more in a mood to drink, downing four of Red Robin's “nuclear” ice teas before hitting up the documentary A SNOW MOBILE FOR GEORGE, mainly because I ran into the director in the media lounge and he said I should come. I always do what people tell me, sort of like Ella Enchanted.
The director's name is Todd Darling, and he's firmly in the Michael Moore tradition here, but old-school ROGER N ME Michael Moore rather than “Shame on you George Bush!” yelling Michael Moore. Distinction? He doesn't grandstand, just presses forward until he either gets answers or runs into a brick wall (metaphorically — running into a birck wall on a snowmobile would kill you. In fact, his film informs us that decapitation is a leading cause of death among snowmobile riders. Those things get up to 120 mph.).
Owning a snowmobile, and doing an emissions test, he wonders why the danged things emit 27 times more pollution than a car, and why George Bush eliminated regulations to phase out the overly polluting 2-stroke engine. His quest leads him to more than just snowmobiles, into the entirety of the current administration's deregulation of environmental despoilers, and the establishment by Bush of the Office of Energy Permit Expiditing.
You thought you hated the president now? Darling gives you all-new reasons. When he visits a ranch in Wyoming, presumably similar to land owned by Dick Cheney, he explains that property ownership there doesn't include the mineral rights, so government can basically allow private developers onto said private property to drill and mine as they like. When the miners try to get Darling and his cameras away from their operation, the cowboy who owns the land has to forcibly assert that its his land and he gives Darling the right to go anywhere on it. The sad part is that these cowboy ranch-owner types probably voted Republican out of an old-school libertarian conservative philosophy, and are getting totally screwed by those they support.
Eventually Darling discovers something called the voter vault, which uses credit card data to target voters according to their purchases, utilized by Karl Rove. As to why snowmobiles still pollute so much — it's all part of pandering to voting blocs.
And you come away feeling that snowmobiles are really stupid things to own.
I started to watch the umpteenth version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, but couldn't take much more than 20 minutes of it. Why even bother if you have no budget and no good new angle? Jekyll and Hyde are supposed to look different, though recent adaptations have gone the route of getting showy actors like John Malkovich in minimal makeup, demonstrating the transformation merely by method acting. Dougray Scott doesn't have that range, and looks exactly the same as Hyde, though he briefly crinkles his eyes to indicate the change. What Tom Skerritt is doing in this crap, I have no idea.
Having seen every other film in the 8:00 slot, I settled on OSSO BUCCO as the last film of the night. It sounds foreign, but it isn't — going purely on what the movie tells me, which I shall do unless somebody gives me a reason to believe otherwise, osso bucco is a kind of veal dish. Y'know, tortured baby cow. Which I actually don't have much of a problem with, but then I've eaten live things that were still moving.
The premise of the movie is that during a massive Chicago snowstorm, two cops and two mobsters are trapped in an Italian restaurant. One of the mobsters, a reluctant wiseguy nicknamed Jelly (Mike Starr) who really wants to be a shrink, is seriously crushing on Megan the waitress (Ileana Douglas) who in turn is dating the jerky restaurant manager.
Sitcom-style hijinks ensue, but like a good sitcom, not a crappy one. I liked the amusingly named Aaron Roman Weiner as the hyper-macho cop.
Problem, though: it made me hungry for good Italian food afterwards, especially dead tortured calf. Instead, the after-party was at an Irish pub.
Now, let me say something here that might aggravate a few aggressive drunks out there. I lived in Ireland for 12 years. I grew up there. Irish food fucking sucks. I don't miss it in the least.
But this isn't just my opinion; I think I can prove it objectively. It's pretty telling that the foods most associated with Irishness are potatoes, Lucky Charms, and the McDonalds Shamrock Shake…NONE OF WHICH originated in Ireland. As for corned beef…you know why that exists? Because plain old Irish beef is awful. I used to think I hated beef, and hamburgers. Then I realized I just hated the crap available to me as a kid from Irish grocery stores.
Also, any cuisine worth a damn has invented at least one sauce. The USA has ketchup and barbecue sauce. Mexico has salsa, Italy has Marinara, France has Bernaise, and I think Remoulade comes from Belgium. Even England, as lacking in culinary imagination as it is, has given the world “brown sauce.” Ireland never invented a sauce. And pouring Guinness on cornflakes doesn't count.
England gets a bad rap for food, but at least they invented a few things there, like the Cornish pastie and the Yorkshire pudding. Ireland has what, soda bread?
Anyway, point being, my heart sank to see “Irish” appetizers at the party. Lunchmeat sandwiches on white bread. Sliced sausages. Corned beef. Dry unflavored chicken wings.
But thankfully the offerings were “tainted” with some internationalism. Highlights of the night were bits of battered fish, and all-American mini-burgers with onion rings on top. And while Irish food is crap, Irish drinks are wonderful. I enjoy myself some Smithwicks, even at $7 a pint.
[I should add that you can get really good seafood in Dublin, but not on any kind of affordable payment plan.]