San Diego International Film Festival — Day 4

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I finally found a way to break my addiction to the buzzboxes, and it didn’t involve AA. As I was in the VIP lounge before my first movie, I was walking over to grab a Margarita buzzbox, and I noticed a table with two different kinds of cupcakes. I detoured and walked over there. After trying one of these chocolate pastries for Cupcakes Squared, I found another love to replace my affections for the other squared, box of delicious liquid. Buzzbox became a distant memory as I shoved square cupcakes into my pie hole.

In the morning, we got a Molly Shannon (Saturday Night Live) movie Wild Nights with Emily. It dealt with the lesbian relationship poet Emily Dickinson had with her brother’s wife. It was a biographical period piece, with some fun comedic moments.

After that, my wife and I went to grab some lunch downtown. I was thinking about how weird it was that in a one mile radius that night, San Diegans could be entertained by another SNL alumni — Dana Carvey, who was in town, as well as Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, and comedic legend Lily Tomlin right there at the Balboa Theatre. Yet I wasn’t disappointed with the fact that my choice of entertainment was going to be watching more movies and talking to filmmakers about their flicks.

I was able to catch some of the movies of the 48 Hour Film series, where filmmakers have two days to write, film, and make a movie. My favorite was “What’s in the Box” (an awesome title).

It won the award for best film recently, and it’s easy to see why. Ryan Kelly, the director and cinematographer, did a terrific job. One of my old radio buddies, Craig Herdrich (who often plays a soldier or some kind of heavy in local films), told me it’s the second time Kelly has strapped himself to a car to film a scene. Reminds me of something Tarantino did in Death Proof. Actress Angelique Kenney (who you can see in the last Baywatch movie) survived the shoot with all her limbs intact. Things probably went along smoothly with that movie, because they used legendary stuntman Pete Porteous, who has worked on The A-Team and many other films. Cowboy actor Larry Poole, who always has that perfect look on his face (think Sam Elliott) had the best expressions on his face in a scene where a car is pulled over.

We caught the movie I May Regret, which had a packed house and the cast was all there for Q&A’s. It was an intriguing story about a rich heiress with dementia who thinks her nurse is trying to kill her. You watch it, wondering why she doesn’t think it’s her nephew or lawyer that might also be trying to off her. At the awards show that night, it ended up winning the award for “best break-out feature.”

The actress from that movie that played the nurse, Denise Dorado (who is like a prettier, more talented Rosario Dawson), knocked my socks off earlier in the day in a short called “The Wedding Scene.” The shorts are usually a blast, but this year they were funnier than I can remember. In “The Wedding Scene” Dorado complains about the lines her character has. It’s something this movie critic can side with. Yet she gets more and more insane with her demands, and wondering why her character would marry that guy. That leads to the groom having some thoughts on the script, and the director constantly trying to keep people on track. At a certain point, even an extra with no line, gripes about not being sent the script or even being given a name. He’s merely the “hot boy toy” of an older woman, and he wants to be called Chad. I swear, every second of this short was pure bliss to watch.

Hero is the short that won the award for “Best Comedy Short Film.” It starts with a man in a gunfight with bad guys. A younger guy shows up to help him, and we get the movie cliche of, “You shouldn’t be here! You should’ve just stayed home.”

The shoot-out gets bloody, and an edit is made to kids that are playing cops and robbers. We soon realize that, every time they’re doing something, we get to see their imagination doing it as adults. So, joyriding in a neighbors golf carts, becomes adults drag racing in muscle cars. There ends up being a war scene, and of course — cowboys and indians. This short was so well conceived and brilliant, I’m glad it won the award.

My wife and I felt the funniest short was Sac de Merde (sh*tbag). It was about a woman (who reminded me of Jenny Slate), trying to find love. She’s set up with a much older man, and she’s also on a date with a guy she doesn’t realize is still a teenager. She finally meets a clever, good looking guy in a bar and they go back to his place. Right before they’re about to make love, he tells her he has a colostomy bag. Obviously, she’s not thrilled by this news. She also doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. What ends up happening, you might think you know. Nope. It’s a thousand times funnier than you can imagine. I’m going to find this short and make everyone I know watch it. It’s the best 20 minutes I’ve had watching anything in a theatre in a long time.

Have it All wasn’t chopped liver. We watch as a career woman, with a new baby, is called into an early morning meeting on a holiday. Her boss tells her to just bring the baby with her, but that’s a lot more problematic than you could imagine (or if you’re a mother, you probably can imagine). It was so cleverly written and sharp. It just amazed me that you can take a topic that you think has been used to death for comedy (new born babies crying, breast feeding, etc.), and still have such a fresh, interesting film done on it. It was also cute afterwards, to hear the woman tell the crowd that that was her actual baby in the movie.

Deep Dish Apocalypse was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. I’m so burned out on anything zombie related, but they made a lot of fun jokes on the topic. For example, the woman that just killed her boyfriend, keeps calling them “walkers” which confuses the friend she runs into on the subway. It’s a gas to see her bloody tennis racquet, and listen to her talk about the air-borne virus being transferred through the cheese in pizza.

I thought about that virus in the cheese as I ate mac and cheese at the awards show that night at the Westin. My wife had a lamb chop, and thankfully neither of us turned into zombies. Even after all the booze we drank. Anyway, we got to catch up with some of the friends we’ve met over the years at the Festival, and talk to some new ones.

Last year I sat at a table with director Adam Rifkin, who directed the last Burt Reynolds movie The Last Movie Star (find it if you can). He ended up winning an award, and it was thrilling to be sitting next to the filmmaker behind The Driver is Red, which won the “best animated short.” He’s from San Diego and said “This is for the 619.” He also mentioned the music composer being from San Diego.

A few of the other awards went to Soufra for the “Artistic Directos Award,” Learning to Swim for “Best Student Film,” and Romance is Dead for “Best Breakout Local Short Film.”

My Name is Batlir, Not “Butler” won “Best Global Cinema. It must’ve been a thrill for the filmmaker, who won an award the previous night.

Akeda won for “Best Short Film” and the “Best Thriller Feature” went to Rust Creek, which I’m excited about seeing today.

Electric Love won for “Best World Premiere” and it was cute listening to the woman who wrote the script, talk about trying to get a certain director to work on the movie. He ended up doing it, and she said “He’s my partner in crime…and in love.” She leaned over and kissed him. It was adorable.

The boxing movie Tiger snagged the “Best Feature Film.” It has a sikh dealing with the ring, and the politics and religion outside of the ring.

The “Most Inspirational Film” went to The Push. The guy that won that was at our table, and I didn’t even know he was disabled until he walked up to the stage. He and his wife were the best looking couple at the Festival, and his speech was arguably won of the best, too. He mentioned his wife standing by her man, even when he couldn’t stand by himself. The crowd was in tears. When he got back to our table, with the two huge eagle trophies, I told them “This table is all out of balance with all that weight down there.”

The film Stroop: Journey into the Rhino Horn War won “Best Documentary,” and it was interesting to find out how long they were working on it, and how the movie is getting world-wide distribution.

Yet as I’ve said before, not all of these films get big distribution deals. That’s one of many reasons this film festival is so much fun. You’re seeing terrific movies you might never have a chance to see, and talking to filmmakers and actors you will certainly never have a chance to meet otherwise. I mean, I was talking to Keith friggin Carradine the other day. And meeting Alan Arkin at the San Diego International Film Festival years ago, still ranks as one of the best moments of my life. It may sound horrible to say that meeting a movie star ranks as one of the best events of your life, but hey…my love of movies is one of the reasons I became a movie critic.

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