WESTWOOD TALES: 2008 LOS ANGELES FILM FESTIVAL WRAP-UP

Sadly, another Los Angeles Film Festival has come to pass and it was jam packed with good times. I’m already preparing my liver for next year.

Westwood, I Missed Ye
If I’m not mistaken, this was the third year LAFF took place in Westwood Village and this was the year that I truly warmed up to the area. When I first started attending the Los Angeles Film Festival way back when in the olden times, the fest took place in West Hollywood, mainly at the Sunset 5 across from the Virgin Megastore (R.I.P.) with most of the other screenings taking place at the DGA just a couple blocks up the street. It was a great location, the two main venues and festival HQ were right next to each other and that area just screams Los Angeles…at least the Los Angeles you’re always seeing on E! Entertainment. The area was also really familiar, not only to myself, but most everyone there…even if you weren’t a local. Add to that familiar setting a lounge that served free vodka nearly all day long to fortunate festival badge holders and you’re spinning into another dimension. True, many of those days are still lost to me, but I can guarantee you I was having a good time.

So I dug my heels in when the festival moved to Westwood a couple years ago. Westwood? What the fuck do I know about Westwood? Well, still not too much, but this year I can honestly say that I’ve become fond of the little college village where many of the festivals venues are spread out. It really is a cool area for a festival and I can finally admit to it. Most of the festival venues are within walking distance of each other – Westwood Village is loaded with little single screen movie theaters – and inbetween are plenty of places to get stuff your face and get loaded. Perfect festival atmosphere.

The Landmark Stands Alone
However, there was one venue that was located a few miles outside of the Village – walking distance if you were crazy – but the distance wasn’t too much of the problem, rather it was the venue itself that left quite a bit to be desired. This venue, The Landmark, was located inside a big indoor mall.

Ew.

Talk about knocking the festival right out of your festival experience. Nothing kills a film festival boner quicker than the stench of Hot Dog on a Stick and unfortunately many of my screenings just happened to be at this venue. The theaters themselves were fine, but the atmosphere was just lacking. Simply put – you don’t feel like you’re at a festival when you’re at a mall.

I did buy some cute little shorts at the Randy Gentleman, though.

The Target Red Room Lives On
The LAFF’s Target sponsored filmmaker/press/VIP lounge is always a must stop destination if you have a badge that will get you in. Schmoozers and festival drunks (ahem) mill about, this year enjoying the rum, wine and Stella Artois that flowed at a seemingly endless supply from something like 6pm to 1am. The experience can actually be a little dull if you don’t have a buzz, but after a few drinks, you’re open to talk to just about anyone – an act that may yield regret the following morning if you are not careful.

But if the sound of people jabbering still isn’t music to your ears, DJs make the scene as the evening progresses and the dancing begins. If you’re a rhythmically challenged clod, but have always wanted to try your hand at shaking your ass on the dance floor, then the Target Red Room is the place to do it as pretty much everyone there moves their stuff, whether they can dance or not. When I was there, tunes were usually of the 80s club hits variety. A great place to stop before and after your late night screening.

A Special Thank You
To Julie Siegel, Petra Kauraisa and the rest of the Press Office Crew who rocked the house this year and made our festival experience a comfortable one. I imagine other members of the press feel the same. It’s always a huge bonus when you have a great press office to work with as this year at the LAFF has proven. Their efforts have made this event a memorable one.

Festival Highlights
As with any festival’s line-up of films, you’re gonna have the good, the bad and the ugly. I get no real thrill in discussing the bad and the ugly, especially if it’s a small indie trying to make its way in the world. It doesn’t need some asswipe like myself knocking it down, so recently I’ve been trying to take the stance of – If I don’t have anything nice to say, I won’t say anything at all. After all, I do what I do because I love to love movies and it’s the good movies that I enjoy talking about. So, here we are, the highlights, as I saw it, of the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival:

“Hotel Very Welcome”
Started my festival journey with this cool little German film and I couldn’t have been happier about it. Playing like some of Wong Kar Wai’s more popular films, “Hotel Very Welcome” has us join the separate adventures of a few Europeans tourists as they vacation/escape their lives in South East Asis. The film and the characters take a bit to get into, but once you do you’ll be really happy about it.

“Cinematic Titanic”
The absolute highlight of the festival for me didn’t have anything to do with indie film, but the return of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew to true form. Now called Cinematic Titanic, the team performed a live riffing of notoriously shitty “Doomsday Machine.” A totally incredible evening and major nerd cred to those of us lucky enough to be in the audience.

“Trinidad”
I’m still a little disappointed in myself that I was unaware of the transsexual haven that is Trinidad, Colorado. Anyway, this documentary gives us the history of this town that is known by many as the “sex change capital of the world.” It also gives us a look at a few of the lives the town and the operations have changed. Great doc – informative and touching.

“Prince of Broadway”
My fave film of the festival (apart from the “Cinematic Titanic” screening). This urban tale focuses on the life of New York street hustler Lucky and how it’s turned completely upside down by the arrival of a baby he never knew he had. I know, I know…sounds like a wacky John Hughes comedy. It isn’t. Super genuine storytelling mixed with some amazing performances make this one a must see.

“Mirageman”
Pleasantly surprised with this Chilean superhero movie that sees a normal, everyday guy (other than the fact that he’s a ripped martial artist) donning a costume and fighting crime. Lots of laughs and lots of ass whoopins. Good times.

“Cargo 200″
It’s not a great movie by any stretch, but that’s part of what makes it so memorable. You’ll hear from other sources that this film is extremely dark and brutal and while this is mostly true, it’s also really funny…if you’re a sick fucker like myself.




Posted on July 1, 2008 in Features by
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