Opening Night at the Film Festival

At the Movies Blog
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The San Diego International Film Festival couldn’t have come at a better time. I was in a movie funk a few days ago, upon hearing about the death of an actor I loved — Robert Forster (he got an Oscar nomination for the terrific Jackie Brown, but catch his flick “What They Had” from last year and thank me later).

What got me out of my funk was the opening night of the Festival, which unfortunately for you, you already missed. Luckily for you, you have five more days of great films, parties, panels, and events that you can hit (for more details go to: ).

It was nice to have the opening night reception outside, because the weather was perfect. One of the benefits of a film festival in San Diego (I was once at the Sundance Film Festival when there was two feet of snow; not fun).

There were at least 20 different types of alcoholic beverages to choose from, as well as yellow tail sushi, pulled pork sandwiches, and BBQ chicken sliders.

It was great catching up with friends that I’ve met at previous film festivals, and meeting new people. I talked to one guy who, and I never got the exact story, was responsible for getting the video clip of Robin Williams when director Gus Van Sant was being honored here (they did Good Will Hunting). 

The most interesting guy I met asked if he could join our table. He’s an immigrant from Greece named Marco Kyris. He told me about the documentary short he has in the festival. It’s about his 20-year career as a stand-in for Nicolas Cage. I’ve always found documentaries (and all the shorts the SDiFF shows), to be entertaining. Yet hearing him tell me these stories as we both stuffed our faces with chicken sandwiches, was hysterical. He told a humorous story about being on the set of the movie The Weather Man (not to be confused with Cage’s The Wicker Man). Another “Man” movie Cage has done — Matchstick Men — Kyris gave legendary director Ridley Scott some advice on how he should shoot a certain scene (which he did).

Now, I remember reading a story about Cage meeting a waitress and marrying her. Well, this guy was a waiter, who could barely read and write, when Cage said, “You’re going to be working with me.”

You can catch his short documentary “UnCaged” in the “Decisive Moments” shorts track a few different days (at the Theatre Box downtown and ArcLight in La Jolla). See it now before the longer version, which is being made and has a lot of interest from some big studios.

The opening film is a movie that’s going to be getting a lot of awards consideration. It’s already gotten a lot of controversy. Director Taika Waititi (Thor, and two of my favorite movies — Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows) made a movie about a young boy that yearns to be in the Nazi party, and his imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. His mom (Scarlett Johannson), has other ideas. She’s hiding a Jewish girl in the attic.

Film critic and all around great guy Scott Mantz introduced the picture. And there’s not a more enjoyable person to talk movies with when you see him at the Festival. He always has a smile on his face and is always so engaging with people in the crowd. As I was sipping wine before the movie started, one woman approached him with her Festival program asking him what to see. He smiled and started thumbing through it and making suggestions. I almost felt like interrupting and saying “Don’t miss Parasite out of South Korea. It’s the best reviewed movie of the year and is a shoe-in to win the Oscar for best “foreign film.” 

I was at a dinner party in L.A. a few days ago, and talking to critic Leonard Maltin and a few other L.A. film critics. They all said that was their favorite of the year, without hesitation. And you can catch it at the Festival before anyone else. 

And speaking of the best movies of the year, I put Brittany Runs a Marathon on my Top 10 when I saw it a few months ago. You can see the comedic actress that starred in that — Jillian Bell — at the Night of the Stars on Friday night. 

Rapper Pitbull will also be there, and seeing him live does wonders for your street cred. I’m excited about an actor who made his film debut at 15-years-old (after lying about his age and saying he was 18), in Apocalypse Now! Mr. Laurence Fishburne, who blew me away with his subtle performance in Last Flag Flying a few years ago (where he plays a much older Vietnam Vet).

I just hope after a few glasses of wine, I don’t try to be clever and say something to him like, “Should I take the blue pill or the red pill?”

If you take the time to get tickets to the Festival this year, you’ll see how far the rabbit hole of fun films can take you.


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