Now that I've woken up after having some actual sleep, I can look back on this weekend's Newport International Film Festival and truly appreciate just how magical it was. While good friends were there (Craig Zobel, David Nugent, etc.), what distinguished this festival from all of the others I attended this spring (I guess Jacksonville applies as well) was the fact that I met and bonded with so many new people, whereas at the others I feel like I was there with an already formed unit of friends. Both are great ways to attend a film festival. But this year's Newport International Film Festival wins the award for feeling most like Sarasota 2006. I didn't bring my camera this time around, so I'm leaving it up to AJ Schnack to post his visual documentation of the trip. When he does, I'll link to that and consider my job done. But for now, on to the memories...
Every festival I attend produces at least one cinematic revelation for me, something that manages to transcend my lofty expectations, or, in an even better-case-scenario, is a work that I know nothing about and catches me all the way off guard. Examples from this year's run:
South by Southwest -- THE UNFORESEEN
Sarasota -- KURT COBAIN: ABOUT A SON
Nashville -- THE URIM AND THUMMIM
Boston -- THE GOODTIMESKID
Maryland -- FROWNLAND
In Newport, I was lucky to have two major revelations. I wrote about the first one briefly the other day. Shane Meadows' THIS IS ENGLAND is another definitive contribution to the coming-of-age genre, featuring an incomprehensibly great performance by newcomer Thomas Turgoose. While I have a few tiny (well, one major) issues with the film that prevent me from considering it 100% perfect, it is still a wonder to behold. I'm going to be talking this one up when it gets released to make sure it doesn't slip through the cracks. It's a really special film.
My second revelation was Jeff Nichols' SHOTGUN STORIES. This is one of those cases where I had a lot of baggage and expectations surrounding the film, which everyone knows can ruin one's appreciation of a perfectly fine piece of moviemaking. Somehow, those things never got in the way. For I was completely absorbed in Nichols' world from the very first frame. The best compliment I can give SHOTGUN STORIES--and I mean it completely--is that this is a film that doesn't have one false note. Even my favorite movies have moments that don't play, but every breath of SHOTGUN STORIES feels honest, sincere, and natural. This is in large part due to the performance of Michael Shannon, who has now officially joined Robert Longstreet on my list of favorite actors. It's amazing that neither GEORGE WASHINGTON nor SHOTGUN STORIES got into Sundance. Hopefully some wise distributor will pick it up before too long, for this is a work that deserves to be seen on a big screen, unlike most of the indies that have been produced this year. Adam Stone's 35mm anamorphic cinematography is breathtaking.
As for the town of Newport, what a quirky, yet lovely, place. You really had to be there to appreciate it, and I won't bother trying to convey the experience. Suffice to say, I had such a great time. However, I will unleash some random thoughts...
-- I discovered my new summer drink (when I'm at an open bar and don't have to pay for alcohol, that is; otherwise, I'm back to teetotalling). It's called the "Annie Sundberg." Ryan Harrington turned me on to it, but I learned the official history yesterday at brunch. Mount Gay and Tonic. Try it for yourself and you'll be name-checking Annie Sundberg all summer long.
-- Shorts juror Katie Brown, Ryan Harrington, and yours truly are about to embark on the greatest biopic ever conceived. We wrote an unofficial contract at Saturday's closing night party, which we had notarized by indie film guru John Pierson. Seriously, this thing might be our ticket to glory.
-- I stood on a porch on a mansion on a cliff above the water Friday evening, eating lobster and shrimp and sushi. While these festival experiences are great, for a sensitive person such as myself it is really, really, really hard to have these extreme ups and downs. I was in more mansions in two days than I've been in my entire life combined. And now I'm back in my room, realizing that I have forty-two dollars in my account and no food in my kitchen. I'm not complaining, just pointing out the strangeness of this lifestyle. It is e-x-t-r-e-m-e.
-- People I'm glad to have met and/or gotten to know better: Jeff Nichols, Michael Shannon, AJ Schnack, Katie Brown, Annie Sundberg, Ryan Harrington, Lucy Walker, Rachel Dratch, John Pierson, Matthew Lessner, Carlton Evans, Cullen Gallagher, Sloane Klevin, Sean Flynn, and the list goes on and on and on.
-- Speaking of Michael Shannon, I had a good, hearty talk with him about REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. I actually finished rereading the book on the train up to Newport, and have written a hopefully more mature essay about Mr. Yates and the project that I plan to post this week. The casting of Michael Shannon has singlehandedly rejuvenated my spirits about the film. I'm still worried, but I'm now intent on checking my juvenile bitterness and seeing how things go.
I guess that's it. Thanks Newport, Mr. Nugent, and everyone connected with the festival, from the board to the directors to the volunteers to the drivers. You guys rocked the house!