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Friday, April 30, 2010

Newport Beach Film Festival 2010 Opening Night Run Ins & Reviews

I came, I saw, but before me, Giants had conquered the Punk Rock World on the West Coast to the East.  These Giants weren't the Kings of Rock-n-Roll, though they stood on their shoulders, but they did it jumping up and down and all around, throwing tantrums, kicking down doors, knocking down tables, bad mouthing everyone's name and just not giving a damn cause they did it their way.  "We Were Feared", sounds like a cool title for a cool movie for a documentary, it was, except I didn't see it cause I came too late and saw another movie that had a punk edge...cause it involved a former porn star.
This wasn't a real porn star, but she could've fooled me in the mockumentary-like dramedy that was more tongue-in-cheek comedy titled, "Elektra Luxx" featuring Carla Gugino as a smokin' hot blonde haired porn star who stops hanging up her legs for the public life of teaching her deeply desirable traits to women from everyday life now that she's pregnant and doesn't know who the father really is.  Not it's not the Virgin Mary, though there is some "divine intervention" involved.
The film is introduced by a slick haired Latin gigalo looking movie reviewer (no, I was not cast in this film, but thank you) played by Joseph Gordon Levitt.  Yeah, that's what I thought, after he dropped the accent, because when he started with his adoration of Elektra Luxx I was buying it, so kudos from a man who knows how to do the accent to another who pulled it off.  Of course the sparsely fellow better known from "3rd Rock from the Sun" was funny, refreshing and still living in his mother's basement like a homage to Robert Deniro's "Rupert Pumpkin" character in "The King of Comedy", LOVE IT!

The fairly well known film festival is quite unique as it featured not only films by high profile directors, producers and actors, but a mix of truly independent films (feature length, documentaries, shorts including experimental pieces) from all over the World including countries, like India, Colombia (YAY!), Brazil, Mexico, Chile, France, Italy, Germany, Cameroon, Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Japan, Jordan, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Bulgaria, Nepal, Norway, Sweden, The UK, Ireland, Mozambique, Russia, China, Hungary, Indonesia even Canada and Tadzhikistan.  No it's not a sauce for Greek food (that's taziki), but a feature film called "True Noon"about a village in this country who were now separated with a barbed wire fence after the collapse of the Soviet Union who had worked together for decades.  Speaking of Rock, there is also a spoof Vampire Rock-n-Roll movie starring Alice Cooper, Dave Foley & Malcolm McDowell even Moby as well as a celebrity cast of punk rockers (Iggy Pop & Henry Rollins) who have grown long in the tooth, but  are re-energized after their female bass player is bitten by a vamp only to return with a "sexually charged charisma that drives audiences wild" (official review quote) .  Some of the films were about surfing (for obvious reasons being a part of the localles heritage), architecture & design, coming of age shorts and a plethora of documentaries along with a Youth Film Showcase, free seminars on filmmaking as well as rare Disney animation films.  "Jefe, do you know what a plethora is", oh yessss, I do SeƱor Guapo, but do you people reading this article?  HAHA...If you don't know the movie that line is from go watch "The 3 Amigos", I don't care how old or young you are it's hilarious, but for another article.  Despite the fact that more than 90 percent of the films were from US filmmakers, many of the documentaries were shot in and about people from war-torn Uganda, tours in Iraq (no not the friendly kind), survival in Tibet, disabled U.S. Olympians in China, a Polish female immigrant in 1880's America, running 75 marathons in 75 days, an environmentally friendly set with a green consultant, a soccer playing couple having pick up games globally, Muslim punker-rockers in Pakistan, the effects of the US-Mexico border, the unseen world of the bottled water industry, parallels of struggle in modern times & The Great Depression, whatever suits your liking could be had with such variety...ah variety, the spice of life.

(L to R: Editor of "We Were Feared" Katy Bright, friend, Producer York Shackleton, Director of the film Jon Mills, Jerry Roach & last Joe Escalante guitarist for the Vandals; photo by John Gilhooley)
Now I came to Newport Beach straight from my job in Manhattan Beach hoping to catch, "We Were Feared", directed by Jonathan W.C. Mills (no not Fields, he was an actor), but lucky for me I was able to enjoy it just on the reputation of this audacious and quite controversial film.  Why do I say that, read the papers or at least online background to a film that was partly previously released in 1981 under the title "Urban Struggle" by Paul Young with the help of the owner, Jerry Roach, of the former "Cuckoo's Nest" bar featured in the film which was the West Coast version of the CBGB in New York kidding.  Now I'm not being biased, but this was the place to be in the late 70's, very early 80's with bands like The Minutemen, T.S.O.L. , D.I., The Adolescents, The Descendents, The Circle Jerks, The Vandals, Black Flag (originally from LA, but added frontman Henry Rollins who hails from DC), even Iggy Pop, The Ramones and a group called Smile.   (THE RAMONES & JERRY ROACH)

Now when I arrived I was already late from the rains and increased traffic that prevailed that auspicious night and having never been to "Fashion Island" in Newport Beach I was like a lost customer at Home Depot looking for spackle when all I see is paint trying to find the best parking spot as well as location of the theater amongst the myriad of stores.  "Just follow the crowd" is the best bet and sure enough, up an escalator and around a corner is the entrance.  I run in only to be stopped by a volunteer with a purple shirt bearing the name of the festival who looks eerily like Dennis Hopper and said, "You gotta buy a ticket in the tent around the corner man".  He goes on to tell me that "We Were Feared" is probably sold out, but go and try.  I came to find 10 people all lined up for the same movie with that look on their face that they should've arrived earlier too save one svelt and sexy woman who on her cell phone mentions "Elektra Luxx".  If I was trying to ask her out, the gist of the movie would easily be a conversation starter, but I want PUNK ROCK DOC!!!  Other volunteers, who were all very professional I might add, start talking on hand held radios, "4 seats available and that's it", oh a chill just went over my body, but I'll stand in the back for 76 minutes while my preferred film plays.  Just a little closer and they allowed two more, 1 guy had a reservation while another pleads he was on a guest list, which has since closed cause the movie is about to start any minute.  So yeah, you guessed it, my luck had run out, but as the old adage goes, when one window closes another one opens up" except this one was wide open for I knew not what I was quite in for when I said, "Give me a ticket to Elektra Luxx, is it good" the cashier replied, "We all want to see it".  That's good enough for me!  "Dennis Hopper's look alike" who I will call Mr. Mike from here on as to not reveal a wonderful source of information after said film, takes my ticket and tells me to hurry up.  I reach a nearly packed house just in time.

As you had previously read, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and didn't answer or take a phone call from my ex-girlfriend who finally called me after leaving me for reasons I was still uncertain about.  Not only do I think it was not the right time to talk, it would be rude especially at someone's premiere as the director, producer or one of the actor's could've been sitting right behind me and I didn't want to get asked to leave.  95 minutes later the satisfied and cheerful audience was left with some funny outtakes that made the film that much funner to watch.  Upon exiting, more volunteers have tear cards for you to rate the film, which I gave an approval of "GOOD".  "EXCELLENT" to me would entail something from a film that was Oscar worthy, nouveau or very deep.  Just to note, Mr. Mike informed me that all the tear cards for "We Were Feared" came back EXCELLENT, he knows, cause he collected them. (Duane Peters & Jerry Roach; photo by John Gilhooley)
Now, I'm by myself, note different groups taking pics in front of the Newport Beach Film Festival banner inside the theatre so I get my picture taken too.  I know there's gotta be an after party after "We Were Feared", but only those who saw the film are invited.  Some of these invitees are bringing in beers, hootin' & hollerin' and figure I look like a filmmaker so as often happens, an attractive female tells me to come to the party to which I reply, "I wasn't invited".  Not only that but it's a "school night" (I had to work the next day & was tired), but to pay $20 to drink myself silly on Absolut & Stellas to drive home...not a good idea all by myself.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for partying, but when I can get better info from chatting with volunteers than hanging out with groupies & filmmakers who aren't looking to talk shop, I must move on.  As I make my way out I am fortunate enough to run into Mr. Mike again down the stairway leading to the parking garage.  We quickly start up a conversation about "We Were Feared" which he was not able to see either, but what he did see will either impress or shock you none-the-less.  Just a side-note, I had played high school football in Orange County and the team I played with the previous 3 years actually beat his Rancho Alamitos Football team in the Conference Championship game, SMALL WORLD, he wasn't bitter...just tripped out on the irony.
(Below a packed house, Duane Peters in the forefront; photo by John Gilhooley)

Now back to the story in progress.  To begin with, just as this night, Sunday's show was sold out and featured a Q&A with the film's producer & director for the media, but also a healthy handful of punk rockers from the Southland area.  Now here is were the story gets racy; before the start of the movie Mr. Mike peaked in to see the crowd which was ripe and raucous, but his attention was soon zoomed in to an old punk rocker "receiving fellatio" from a sexily clad blonde groupie who stopped before he was finished, unfortunately for others...he did finish.  This was just as raw and raunchy as the club that was closed down due to trouble with the police except at that time somebody was shot at and a police office was dragged down the street.  Now there was a shooting involved, but luckily nobody was hurt.

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