Greetings from opening weekend of the Los Angeles Film Festival. This is the second year the festival has taken place downtown at the LA Live complex across the street from where the Lakers play. I’m not crazy about the commute or the convention center atmosphere, but there’s a definite energy in the air and a convenience factor that mostly make up for it. The festival organizers have worked out some of the kinks from their first year at this location and the programming team lead by artistic director David Ansen have continued to carve out a unique identity for a festival that has struggled in the past to stand out among the brighter worldwide festival lights.

Already there have been disappointments (Check out my Drive review here) and some excellent surprises (stay tuned for my thoughts on the doc Where Soldiers Come From) and I look forward another week of movie goodness.

Away from Los Angeles meanwhile, the rest of the cinematic universe keeps turning. The relatively flaccid $52.7 million pulled in by Green Lantern has to be a disappointment and makes me wonder if the bloom is finally off the superhero and 3D roses or whether the movie just looked terrible. On the other hand, Woody Allen’s wonderful Midnight in Paris keeps chugging through expansions and it pulled in another $5+ million. With $21.8 million in the bank already, the film is well on its way to being Woody’s 4th highest grosser ever (and best since 1986). As always, box office doesn’t mean too much in the big picture, but it’s nice to see things that are good rewarded and things that are bad punished. Both things happened this weekend.

That’s all from me. Now it’s your turn. See anything good or bad or otherwise worth talking about this week?

6 Responses to “2011 LA Film Fest Edition”

  1. Best Wishes for a great time this year at the Los Angeles Film Festival Craig! I’m sure you will unearth a few gems there, and I’ll be looking in on the reports!

    Lucille and I had a relatively busy week on the cultural scene that included a fine staging at the Classic Theatre Company on 4th Street of Tony Speciale’s Unnatural Acts, a two-act work, inspired by events that occurred at Harvard University in the spring of 1920, when a student’s suicide sparked a campus-wide investigation by a secret court of administrators aimed at purging the university of a group of homosexual students. Untold stories of some of these students are brought to light in an intimate presentation that explores themes of fear and societal intolerance that are as relevent today as they were 91 years ago. The staging was quite imaginative, as much was made of simple props, and the backround bookcase was effectively multi-purpose. A bizarre conclusion and an earlier sequence before intermission when the students begin to yell at the top of their lungs were misfires, but for the most part the play was both funny and affecting, and shed light on a taboo subject. The three-quarter theatre-in-the-round mini-auditorium seemed perfect for this subject, and the young men in the cast delivered impressive performances.

    On the movie front we saw four ‘classics’ and one new release:

    College ***** (Monday night) Buster Keaton at Film Forum

    The Goat **** 1/2 (Monday night) Buster Keaton at Film Forum

    La Dolce Vita **** 1/2 (Thursday night) Film Forum

    Bringing Up Baby ***** (Friday night) Film Forum

    Mr. Popper’s Penguins ** 1/2 (Saturday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex

    Purportedly, COLLEGE was Keaton’s favorite film, and it’s perfect sense of timing and glorious set pieces -my favorite is when Buster, coaxing a boat with the rudder tied to his behind, and trying to emulate with disastrous results, the college champion in all the major sporting events. The visually inventive and ever-ambitious THE GOAT must surely rank among Keaton’s best two-reelers, and like “The Playhouse” it’s one of the most densely packed 20 minutes one could ever hope for. LA DOLCE VITA is Fellini’s famous exposure of the decadent aspects of Roman cafe society revolving around the activities of a gutter journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) as he searches for material for his scandal sheet while on an endless round of parties and orgies. Stunningly played by Mastroianno, Anita Ekberg, Yvonne Furneux and especially Anouk Aimee, and scored by Nino Rota, the new restored and remastered print is extraordinary to behold. Howard Hawks’ BRINGING UP BABY is the ultimate screwball comedy, a delectable showcase for Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and rapid-fire dialogue and pacing that has become a model of its kind. It was a real joy to bring a few of the kids along to experience this comedy masterpiece on the big screen, and the many laughs proved the humor is timeless.

    And then there’s MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS based on a favorite children’s book by Florence and Richard Atwater, which won a Newbery Honor in 1939 (the gold medal winner Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright was markedly inferior, but like all other awards politics play a part) and has delighted children and elementary school students for decades, and is a staple on reading lists. The film tries to capture the magic but overplays it’s hand, and Carey is rather a monotonous bore. A few set pieces stand out, but it’s largely formulaic, and lacks the freshness of its source.

  2. Enjoy the fest, Craig! I’m excited to hear what you discover, good or ill.

    I caught Buck earlier last week, which I enjoyed quite a bit.

    I also saw Another Year last night, which was well-acted but a little limp narratively. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as engaging as the typical Mike Leigh film. A little disappointed the trailers were designed to make it look a laugh riot, which is was not.

    Today I saw The Trip, which I liked but it became a bit tedious. I honestly don’t see how this would have held up as a TV series, but maybe the events of each day could have held more interest if they had been fleshed out more. Still, it made me laugh quite a bit.

  3. Sam, that’s a pretty dismal sounding new release. Though the real question is I suppose: did the kids like it?

    Sorry you didn’t cotton to Another Year more Joel. It definitely had kind of a lackadaisical narrative arc, though I think that fit its slice of life shtick. It literally was just a year in the life of this group of people.

    I don’t remember the trailer, but I went in assuming it would be somber because it’s Mike Leigh.

    The Trip depends almost entirely on how much you like Steve Coogan’s character, which isn’t easy because he’s a complete asshole. It worked for me though because it got me to feel bad for him. Plus, it was funny.

  4. ANOTHER YEAR is a stone cold masterpiece – the best film of Mike Leigh’s career.

    That’s my take.

    Craig: the kids liked MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS half-way I’d say–intermittantly funny and tedious.

  5. I saw Midnight in Paris. It was lovely, charming, witty, whimsical, delightful. Sheer genius. So refreshing to watch a comedy that is actually witty and doesn’t rely on shock value and fart jokes.

  6. Welcome to the club of people who were charmed by MiP, Jennybee. Easily one of my favorites of the year.

    Sam, it’s pretty dismal if kids are only half way on a kids movie. I needn’t sample this one for myself.

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