The Thursday night opening of the LA Film Fest was not quite what the organizers had hoped for, with the NBA final game right next door at the Staples Center. That was one risk the LAFF took this year by moving the festival downtown. Film Independent chief Dawn Hudson insists that the influx of apartment dwellers and lively night life downtown is bound to invigorate the fest. (But Westsiders especially dread the drive during rush hour.)
After my hideous experience at the Indie Spirits, I almost didn't go--newscasters were predicting riots if the Lakers won, and sure enough, that's what happened. (See the horrifying police video below.) My date abandoned me, and I almost took a metro bus down Olympic to LA Live, but my friends Michael and Tim agreed to drive down together for an early pre-show dinner. We left at 5:15 PM for a 7:30 PM event (I'm never that early), took Olympic to Georgia, parked easily, grabbed our tickets and climbed up to the roof, where I scored my press badge. We wandered over to the Nokia Center but the vibe was already getting Laker-noxious, so we went to the new Ritz Carlton on the corner for a snack at the 24th floor bar.
Artistic director David Ansen said that they had filled three theaters for Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right; but many no-shows meant empty seats at the gorgeous 800-seat Regal Cinema. (In Todd McCarthy's interview with Ansen, he was afraid this would happen.) The movie played great--Cholodenko told me she had "tightened" the film since its Sundance debut in January. My seat-mate, Roadside Attractions' Howard Cohen, agreed that it was even funnier and sexier than we remembered--it plays like a relationship comedy. Even with its comedic bent, because the film has enough dramatic moments and a requisite Big Scene, I am more than ever convinced that Annette Bening will nab an Oscar nom for her performance as one of two lesbian parents of two teen kids, one from each mom and both sired by the same sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo), a laid-back restaurateur and commitment-phobe. Julianne Moore is just as strong--and she and Ruffalo are very sexy. But Bening gets the dramatic moments.
After the movie it was a quick (well-policed) hike down the street to the roof-top after-party, high above the Laker action; it was pleasantly not too crowded. I hung with Film Independent's Hudson, LAFF's Doug Jones, Rebecca Yeldham and Curtis Hanson, Focus Features' John Lyons, Todd McCarthy and Sasha Alpert, The Hollywood Reporter's Gregg Kilday, CAA's Micah Green, Vanessa and Ted Hope (who was giving a speech on Saturday), and Mark Duplass (brother Jay was on the road promoting Cyrus) and Katie Aselton, writer-director-star of The Freebie.
The Duplasses (who were screening Cyrus at LAFF on its opening day in theaters) have already completed their next for Paramount, Jeff Who Lives Alone, starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer, which they wrapped in New Orleans a few weeks ago. (Here's their NYT profile.) Duplass was comfortable working with a major studio, singling out motion picture president Adam Goodman as straightforward and even helpful. (We'll see how the final cut process goes.) They're also finishing their on-the-shelf sports-comedy The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, starring Duplass regular Steve Zissis and Mark Kelly. Shawn Levy has also attached the directors to film their wedding script Table 19 under his deal at Searchlight.
I asked a gaggle of post-Berney Apparition survivors--the staff is 25--what they were expecting to happen. They indicated that it was business as usual for them: Sundance critics' fave Welcome to the Rileys plays LAFF.
Here are my recommendations of thirty films to see:
Sundance 3D doc: CANE TOADS: THE CONQUEST, directed by Mark Lewis.
SXSW IFC pick-up, relationship drama COLD WEATHER, directed by Aaron Katz.
Walter Hill's classic THE DRIVER.
Luchino Visconti's classic THE LEOPARD.
SXSW funk-music doc THUNDER SOUL, directed by Mark Landsman.
Sundance Weinstein Co. pick-up, war doc THE TILLMAN STORY, directed by Amir Bar-Lev.
IFC SXSW pick-up, dramedy TINY FURNITURE, from writer/director/actress Lena Dunham.
Sundance Apparition drama WELCOME TO THE RILEYS, directed by Jake Scott.
I did NOT like Neil Marshall's Centurion (Magnet Releasing), sloppily violent action film that wastes the talents of Dominic West and Michael Fassbender.
I Hope to See:
SXSW Levon Helm doc AIN'T IN IT FOR MY HEALTH.
SPC's Sundance buy ANIMAL KINGDOM, directed by David Michod.
Doc GASLAND, directed by Josh Fox.
SPC Sundance buy LEBANON, directed by Samuel Maoz.
Percy and Felix Adlon's world premiere of MAHLER ON THE COUCH, which Studio Canal is selling. Here's a fest review.
SXSW Cinema Guild doc MARWENCOL, directed by Jeff Malmberg.
Documentary Competition: ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT, directed by Lisa Leeman. Here's indieWIRE's feature.
Sundance fave THE RED CHAPEL, directed by Mads Brügger.
REVOLUCION short films.
Sundance education doc, picked up by Paramount, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, directed by Davis Guggenheim.
Fest veteran WHITE MATERIAL, directed by Claire Denis.
IndieWIRE previews three LAFF world premieres.
The Post-Laker Win Riot Video: