San Diego International Film Festival — It’s a Wrap!

In all my years of going to the San Diego International Film Festival, I’ve never gone to the “Culinary Cinema” event they do on Sundays. That’s due to a few things. First, I’m not all that into cooking and fancy foods. The Festival shows a food related film and has lots of delicious foods on the beautiful patio area of the ArcLight in La Jolla. The second reason I don’t go is because I’m a hardcore football fan and would rather watch men on the gridiron, than men cooking with cast iron. But when my wife said, “They’ll have lots of champagne” I figured I could put my love of football (and my consumption of buzzboxes) on hold for a day.

We walked in at 11 a.m. and grabbed our champagne and went to our seats. We saw an interesting documentary about a chef that broke off from his brothers world-famous popular restaurant elBulli, and is making it on his own. It was interesting, but about an hour and a half into it, I lied to my wife. I told her I had to go to the bathroom, and that I’d bring her back another champagne. Instead, I walked into the bar area of the ArcLight to see if I could catch a few football highlights. They didn’t have TVs in there, so I went around the corner in UTC, and went into Red Robin. I saw that Chargers running back Melvin Gordon had scored 3 touchdowns for my fantasy football team. I got a Coke from the bartender and watched five minutes of highlights before high-tailing it back to the theatre. I was only gone 15 or 20 minutes, and I still got to catch the last 10 minutes of the movie.

We went out to the patio, and the crowd was devouring all the food. Since I have the palate of a 10-year-old boy, none of the shrimp, seafood, and fancy stuff appealed to me. I munched on some caramel corn and potato chips.

I had some fun conversations, but was most excited about talking to Patti Judd. She’s been involved in the film festival since its inception, and I wanted to ask her questions about a movie she was involved in that showed at the festival — An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn. I love the cast — Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Emile Hirsch, and Craig Robinson. Unfortunately, and it’s my only complaint about the Festival, I couldn’t see it because I was watching another movie. There are just so many options, and I was at a different theatre. And on the subject of different theatres, this was the first time this weekend I drove to another theatre for films. We hopped into the car to drive downtown, which was nice because I got to listen to the football games on the radio. That helped with the jonesing I was having. Especially since I found out my running back on the Steelers also scored me two touchdowns.

We got to the UA Horton Plaza in time to see more shorts. We missed the first one, because in the VIP lounge there was such an array of food. I had some meatballs, cheeses, and pita bread with humus. I feel like such a fraud as a movie critic, when I’m willing to skip a film in order to eat.

The second short was called Laboratory Conditions. We were surprised to see it had Minnie Driver and Marisa Tomei. It was an interesting story that felt like a Twilight Zone or X-Files episode. It dealt with a hospital taking patients that were about to die, downstairs to a hidden area they had set up. They wanted to test if they have a “soul.” They end up seeing a lot more than they had bargained for.

Another short called Wake the Riderless Horses was so powerful. It dealt with a guy that overdoses, and his guardian angel takes him on a humorous, but also sad journey. Listening to his mother at the funeral read from his old diaries, was just so well written. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

My wife surprised me, by claiming her favorite short from this series was the same as mine — Baghead. The story dealt with a clean-cut guy walking into a pub, and speaking with a motley looking bartender that barks, “We’re closing.”

The customer throws an envelope on the bar, wanting to see “the woman” (or maybe he said “the witch” I couldn’t hear). The barkeep tries talking him out of it, but ends up taking him into the back, and into this creepy looking storage facility. A strange looking human/creature, with a bag over her head, is seated and strapped down to a chair. The gatekeeper/bartender snaps, “You got two minutes.”

The patron provides a photo of the woman he wants to see, along with a necklace that belonged to her. After looking at the photo and swallowing the necklace, a strange metamorphosis takes place. This creature becomes his deceased girlfriend, and just as you think it’s going to be all sweet and sappy, he grills her for having his younger brother in the car that crashed. He asks about the affair they were having. The bartender chuckles, and is amused by the conversation. As things wrap up, the guy throws another envelope of bills on the table. He now wants two minutes with his dead brother. That leads to a closing credit scene with merely dialogue and sound effects, that had the entire crowd shocked, and laughing. One old woman even tapped me on the shoulder, and asked me to recite what they were saying (which I gladly did after the program).

After that, we saw Boy Erased, another movie done by the two most talented brothers working in Hollywood (and Australia) — Nash and Joel Edgerton. It’s going to get wide release, and some Oscar nominations. Russell Crowe plays a preacher (and car dealer) in a small Arkansas town. Nicole Kidman plays his wife. It’s based on the true story of a teenager who gets outted, and is sent to a conversation therapy treatment. The boy is played by Lucas Hedges, who was solid in Three Billboards, and amazing in Manchester by the Sea.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and a few times the crowd broke into applause. Afterwards, everyone stood around the theatre doors discussing what they just saw. It’s moments like that I’d like to see people having after every movie. At festivals like this, it’s almost guaranteed. But if you missed out, you can either fly to Cannes or Sundance…or buy tickets for next year.