It was fun.
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It was so amazing to be a part of the independent film scene for a weekend, to experience the results of the passionate labors of (mostly) young filmmakers. To see that after I previewed nearly 28 hours of (mostly) crap entries last fall, there were some real gems that made it to the big screen at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 cinema. The beauty of the film festival was the opportunity to interact with the filmmakers, producers and actors themselves. I came away from the weekend with movies with whom I feel personally involved. Thus, I am compeled to insist that you see them when they (hopefully) make it to a theater near you.
With Peter Falk as the "force of nature" that is Morris Applebaum at the head of this cast, Checking Out is a hilarious jaunt through one Jewish family's reconciliation caused by Morris's announcement to his grown children that in one week he will be throwing a huge party, and then he will kill himself. I can't believe that no studio wanted to take this film on. Fortunately, the producer and director have a meeting with the woman who helped propel My Big Fat Greek Wedding into theaters across the country. This movie has the potential to be My Big Fat Jewish Suicide. I had the chance to talk with both the director (Jeff Hare) and the producer (Mark Lane) after the movie. This was Hare's first big film; he had done comercials before, and before that, he was a reporter for a news station in Kearney, Neb. When he said he went to journalism school rather than film school, I knew I had to introduce myself. Alas, he attended Penn State; props to him, though, for his impressed reaction when I said I attended Missouri.
This jokes in this French film transcend cultures and language. Even though it lacks Audrey Tautou, I think this movie could actually make it in the U.S. I knew from the opening credits and song that it was going to be a good movie and it was. Antoine stumbles across Louis in a Paris park and saves him from killing himself, ultimately invloving himself in a complicated love affair. Funny funny funny. Sidenote: The actor who plays Antoine looks so much like Paul McCatney I kept expecting him to doff his French for a British accent and burst into "Hey Jude."
Lisa Kudrow. Maggie Gyllenhaal. Tom Arnold. I don't know how to describe this movie. I guess it's a humorous look at hard topics such as abortion and homosexuality. But it's better than that description. This was the opening night film at the festival and it was a very surreal experience to watch the movie, knowing that the director (Don Roos), the producer (and president of Lions Gate Films, Tom Ortenberg) and an actor (Tom Arnold) were in the theater. It was kind of like watching a sex scene with your mom. Rather than "Oh look. The actors are getting naked. Oh look. My mother is sitting next to me." it was "Oh look. Tom Arnold's getting naked. Oh look. He's sitting five rows in front of me in a pink shirt with a pink scarf/tie-thing." I was conscious of my every reaction. Was I not laughing enough? Did my laughter sound forced or fake? Should I laugh louder? Sidenote: Maggie Gyllenhaal's haircut is super, super-sexy.
Never Been Thawed
I didn't find this movie as compelling as the ones above, but it's worth mentioning. It was a locally produced film by a director and actors who had never done movies before. I think the director said the whole thing was shot with one $400 camera from Best Buy. NBT is a mockumentary about a guy who is the founder of the Frozen Food Entre Club of Mesa, Ariz. (that's right, they collect t.v. dinners) and also the lead singer in a Christian rock band. The Christers isn't your typical Christian rock band; they "converted" from hard rock, but they haven't left the hard rock lifestyle behind. Upon deciding that it'd be esier to make it in the Christian rock business, they changed all the lyrics of their songs. "I Love to F***" became "I Love to Pray." Totally blasphemous, the movie is like a coarser Saved! in both plot and production. It was ok.
in other movie news
My mother just told me that she went to see Sin City today because she heard it was based on a comic strip. Her reaction: "Those people are sick." I just shook my head. Comic book ? comic strip.