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When it comes to film festivals, Sundance and Toronto are just too cold. Cannes is far away and expensive. Right here in our own backyard, we have a terrific one. The San Diego International Film Festival starts tomorrow, October 4th, with the opening movie Marshall as well as the after party at the rooftop of the Westgate Hotel. Nothing like mingling with filmmakers and film fans, playing casino games, drinking, and listening to bands and DJs in style.

If it’s the parties that you like, there are plenty. Friday night is the “Party with a Purpose.” That has many food vendors and lots of options for drinks. Most people flock to the Stella Artois, which is good. But I get a kick out of the Buzz Box. You know those boxes of juice you give your kid at halftime of his youth soccer game? These are like those, but for grown-ups. They have flavors like mojito, margarita, bloody mary, coconut, cosmo, and whiskey lemonade. Nothing like yummy when you’re getting a buzz on.

The Filmmaker Awards Show and party is always fun. Who doesn’t like awards shows? And seeing these filmmakers get up and give speeches is both touching, and often very funny. I still laugh thinking about comedic legend Kevin Pollak winning for Late Bloomer. It was also interesting to find out my wife and I were sitting at the table with the cast of a scary movie we loved. We got to talk to them about the inspiration behind certain scenes and it was a blast.

My favorite day of partying is the Variety Night of the Stars. The reception has incredible food and lots of drinks, and you’re mingling with the biggest names in Hollywood. Who would think that at a film festival that isn’t in France or LA, such big stars would be involved? It’s where I got to speak at length with Alan Arkin, my all-time favorite comedic actor. I made Warren Beatty and Annette Bening laugh. I talked with Geena Davis about a small picture she did that she thought nobody had seen. Many of us got to talk to Michael B. Jordan before he became the huge star with Creed, or John Boyega, who was so fun in Attack the Block…but after the San Diego International Film Festival, he blew up big playing a stormtropper in a Star Wars film. A few fans knew he’d be famous, and they brought Star Wars things for him to autograph on the red carpet.

This year you’ll get to meet Heather Graham, who was terrific as Rollergirl in one of the best movies ever made — Boogie Nights. Younger folks might remember her more for The Hangover. As a boxing fan, I’ll be sure to ask her about the underrated Diggstown (James Woods, Lou Gossett Jr., Bruce Dern).

I met Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) at CinemaCon this year and we talked about his terrific, autobiographical movie The Big Sick. What I’m going to bring up to him at this Festival is…how his scene in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates was perhaps, the funniest scene in a movie all year (he was the masseuse that was a little too into his job).

The women are going to love meeting Blake Jenner, a terrific young talent in Hollywood. Keep in mind, he’s not just that pretty face you saw in Everybody Wants Some, or as the caring brother in The Edge of Seventeen. He also wrote a screenplay years ago.

Former Saturday Night Live cast member and actor Taran Killam will be there, and his cast member in Ted 2, who’s known for bigger things than a talking teddy bear movie, will be Patrick Stewart receiving the Gregory Peck Award.

The Comic Con fan boy love Stewart from Star Trek and the X-Men movies. Obviously, he’s done a lot of great things in his career (the most interesting recently, was playing a skinhead in Green Room a few years ago).

For those folks that like to hobnob with the stars, there’s the “actors panel” where you’ll hear critic Jeffrey Lyons moderate a panel that will have Travis Aaron Wade (Supernatural, NCIS) and Jack Kesy, who is currently doing Deadpool 2, but you (well, your kids) have seen him in Hot Summer Nights and Baywatch.

The various panels are always fun. The diversity of them this year include the Social Impact Panel, Unstoppable Women, and the Business Side of the Business.

Of course, I didn’t even touch upon the best part of the festival — the various films. You won’t see a better and more interesting selection in such a short period of time.

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