The Sublime and Beautiful, a kickstarted indie drama about a small town college professor’s crumbling life, was the big award winner at the just-concluded Newport Beach Film Festival, taking five honors. Other multiple award winners included Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind, Teacher of the Year and The Immigrant.
A seven-member jury of film industry insiders named The Sublime and Beautiful Best Feature Film and its writer-director-star Blake Robbins Best Director and Best Actor. Lyn Moncrief, the film’s cinematographer, won Best Cinematography, and the jury gave its Special Jury Prize for Actress in a Feature Film to The Sublime and Beautiful‘s Laura Kirk.
Robbins, who lives in Los Angeles, used the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise more than $21,000 for The Sublime and Beautiful , which went on to roll at Slamdance in Salt Lake City.
Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind, which is about a neuroscientist and all-but-forgotten jazz singer battling Alzheimer’s in New Orleans, won Aunjanue Ellis a Best Actress award from jurors, and festival audiences selected writer-director Richie Adams’ picture Best Musical.
The jury’s Best Screenplay award went to Jason Strouse, who also directed Teacher of the Year, a comedy that finds an award-winning instructor at a high school at a crossroads that has him deciding between staying in the classroom or taking a high-paying education lobbyist job.
Festival audiences named Teacher of the Year the Best Comedy along with We’ll Never Have Paris, which stars and was written and co-directed by The Big Bang Theory‘s Simon Helberg, who plays a nebbish fellow torn between loving his longtime girlfriend or a hot colleague who confesses her love to him.
Festival Honors, which are bestowed by the Newport Beach Film Festival staff, included a double winner for 2014, The Immigrant, which is set in 1921 Manhattan and is about a new arrival to the U.S. (Marion Cotillard) falling under the spell of a charmer (Joaquin Phoenix) who forces her into prostitution. The Immigrant won Festival Honors for ensemble acting and directing (by James Gray, who co-wrote with Ric Menello).
Other Festival Honors for directing went to: Sarah Spillane for Around the Block, which she also wrote and is about an American drama teacher (Christina Ricci) introducing theater to kids in a tough, inner-city precinct of Sydney, Australia; and Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs for Growing Up and Other Lies, which they also wrote and is about a struggling artist (Adam Brody) trying to convince his buddies to walk down the entire length of Manhattan before he takes his crushed dreams back to Ohio.
More awards and festival stats are on the next page …
Other jury awards:
Special Jury Prize for Documentary Film: Who Took Johnny. Special Jury Prize for Cinematography of a Feature Film: Patrick Jones, The Last Lonely Place. Best Documentary: The Honest Liar. Best Narrative Short Film: Mr. Invisible. Best Documentary Short Film: Aerodrome. Best Animated Short Film: Rabbit and Deer. Special Jury Prize for Animated Short Film: Rhino Full Throttle.
Jurors were: Marjoe Aguiling, Emmy-winning producer (and Chapman University Film Studies graduate); Tom Davia, director of Festivals & Alternative Theatrical Distribution for Shoreline Entertainment; Bill Dill, award-winning cinematographer; Allyson Nadia Field, UCLA assistant professor of Cinema & Media Studies; veteran screenwriter Dan Mirvish; Jennie Morris, senior vice president of Acquisitions and Operations with Participant Media’s new TV network Pivot; and writer/director/producer David Rodriguez (Push, American Bully, Last I Heard).
Other audience awards went to:
Foreign Film: Noble and The Invisible Collection (A Coleção Invisível). Feature Film: Chef. Documentary: Taking My Parents to Burning Man. Action Sports: Land of Patagones (Tierra De Patagones). Art, Architecture + Design: Hairy Who & The Chicago Imagists. Short Film: The Boy and The Bus. Youth Film Showcase: Minimum Max.
Other 2014 Festival Honors went to:
Feature Film: Break Point; Fort Bliss; The Goodbye (La Despedida); Cas & Dylan. Acting: Elisabeth Moss, The One I Love. Breakout Performance: Jenny Slate, Obvious Child. Editing: Simon Jacquet, Attila Marcel. First-time Filmmaker: Giulia Nahmany, Love By Design. Foreign Film: Life’s A Breeze. Documentary: Our Man in Tehran. Documentary (Sports): Don’t Quit: The Joe Roth Story. Music: Stuart Murdoch, God Help the Girl. Action Sports: OUT in the line-up. Art, Architecture + Design: Fabregé: A Life of its Own. Environmental: SlingShot. Music Documentary: Keep On Keepin’ On and Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back. Humanitarian Award: Untouchable: Children of God. Short Film: Hsu Ji Behind the Screen; We Keep on Dancing; Dragula.
The festival reported record attendance of about 54,000 film lovers, up from last year’s then-record of 53,500. More than 400 films from 50 countries were shown during this year’s eight-day run, up about 20 percent over last year. The nonprofit festival expects to have earned a surplus on this year’s $1.2 million budget.
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 went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.