The Newport Beach Film Festival kicked off its fifteenth year Thursday night in usual form at Big Newport, with endless entourages and well-dressed media types all abuzz under the Orange County sunset. As the festival's big opening is one of the most highly anticipated events of the season, your plucky reporter was there to check out the scene and keep you all abreast of the goings on of the evening. One moleskin notebook and several cocktail napkins later, I present my comprehensive notes of the evening. Enjoy!
7:10pm: Arrive. Photographers buzz around the red carpet area, and reporters interview talent next to a sweet muscle car painted with the stripes of the British flag. Have no idea what relevance that car has to anything.
7:12pm: More subdued vibe at this festival than last year, when Green Day came to present their film Broadway idiot. Got up as close as I could to the photographers section/ red carpet area and none of the people being photographed seem recognizable to me.
7:15pm: The media area is super busy and crowded, I've probably walked into at least five different group photos without even trying; I've only moved about three feet in the last two minutes.
7:20pm: The Big Newport sign is looking beautiful under the sunset tonight, it's shining like a beacon.
8:03pm: Finally get to sit down in the theater, NBFF director Greg Schwenk has begun his opening remarks to the audience and discussing the new season of the festival.
Schwenk declares this year's festival is in honor of Todd Quartararo's father who passed away just recently. RIP Richard Quartararo.
8:14pm: Lovesick director Luke Mctheny begins to introduce his film. He begins by marveling at the size of the theater (its kind of hilarious how many visitors to Big Newport begin their speeches with a quip about the theater's size).
Mctheny's a young director who is presenting his first feature film, and he apologizes for star Matt LeBlanc, who regrets not being able to make the screening.
8:16pm: Film begins.
9:50pm: Film ends. Matt LeBlanc plays Charles Darby, an elementary school principal who is a stand-up figure of the community, but when he falls in love his brain chemistry goes haywire and begins to have psychotic-levels of jealousy over his girlfriends. It's a cutesy romantic comedy, and LeBlanc is probably the best person to portray Darby because of his affable demeanor and good looks. Ali Larter plays Molly Kingston, Darby's love interest, and is remarkably fresh and sweet, while Chevy Chase plays Darby's porn-obsessed neighbor. Even if the premise seems rather far-fetched and twee, you're bound to laugh at some points.
9:59pm: The deluge of festival goers begin walking towards Fashion Island for the after party. Many remain in the red carpet area to take more photographs.
Notice a shuttle bus exclusively for members of city council. Kind of funny how they all show up together as though its important city council business, and as they sit quietly in their large bus seats they resemble children going to a field trip.
10:07pm: The British flag colored car is parked in the Fashion Island valet area. Still no idea why it's even there.
10:39pm: Arrive at party. The vibe there seems relaxed as well. Most of the businesses give away delicious desserts or savory foods, like oysters. It also seems like, to me, last year's fest had way more businesses at the after party too.
10:44pm: Mariachi Divas, who performed at last year's Latino Showcase party are back and more amazing than ever. Their set is short but definitely makes an impression among the stunned festival goers. Their reception is warmer that I would expect in an audience full of non-Mexicans.
11:00pm: The decor this year is day glo colors and funky shapes inflated throughout the mall's grounds, similar to last year's decorations. There are much less businesses this year than last year it seemed, but at least there are multiple DJs and entertainment.
12:00am: I've consumed so much dessert and beer, its time to head off. The partying still goes on strong, as partying has erupted in a full on dance party, while bored Newport cops protecting a Cadillac look on. I drive off with multiple plates of dessert in my hands and drive home, leaving Big Newport shining behind me in the distance. Not a bad way to begin the festival.
The Newport Beach Film Festival runs until May 1st, for more information and tickets, go to www.newportbeachfilmfest.com