If a few movies already screened for press types are any indication, the Los Angeles Film Festival – which began its 15th year on June 18 with Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, and Jeff Daniels heading an all-star cast in “Paper Man” – promises another memorable celebration of worldwide cinema.
By the time the animated “Ponyo” (from the legendary Hayao Miyazaki) wraps it all up in Westwood the night of June 28, some 170 selections will have been shown as features, shorts, or music videos. Earlier that day, winners in both the narrative and the documentary competitions, among many others, will be announced at an awards brunch (www.lafilmfest.com/2009/). Special premiere screenings of likely summer blockbusters, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (www.transformersmovie.com/, on June 22), “Public Enemies” (www.publicenemies.net/, on June 23), and the smaller but cleverly irresistible “(500) Days of Summer” (www.foxsearchlight.com/500daysofsummer/, on June 26), likely also will generate some excitement.
Numerous festival films already enjoy very early buzz, including the documentary “Branson” (www.thebransonmovie.com/; two separate screenings both followed by concerts from singer/star Jackson Cash); the similarly named but otherwise poles apart story of “Bronson” (www.bronsonthemovie.com/); “Cold Souls” (http://coldsoulsthemovie.com/) featuring Paul Giamatti; “Paper Heart” (www.paperheart-movie.com/) starring Michael Cera; and “Weather Girl” (http://weathergirlmovie.com/) with Mark Harmon and Tricia O’Kelley (pictured above), to name just a few.
Of the handful of new fest releases we’ve already seen, “Dear Lemon Lima” (www.dearlemonlimamovie.com/) brings a uniquely colorful and sweet tale of adolescence to Alaska, of all places. Think a more-poignant “Napoleon Dynamite,” distinctly from the distaff side, and newcomer Savanah Wiltfong (above) making quite the impression as one smart and moving little Eskimo.
The very funny “In the Loop” (www.intheloopmovie.co.uk/) satirizes the politics of war both here and in England, with unusual turns from James Gandolfini (as a liberal general, no less) and Tom Hollander (the bad guy in the last two “Pirates of the Caribbean” films) playing an inept Brit bureaucrat. Peter Capaldi (remember the name) is hilarious, too, as a foul-mouthed spin doctor.
“Harmony and Me” (www.harmonythemovie.com/) features a schleppy lead performance (somewhat reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate”) from Justin Rice (above), apparently the singer in an equally quirky band called Bishop Allen. Fittingly, the lovable loser barely goes on with his life by constantly putting music where his broken heart used to reside.
Speaking of harmony, some vintage footage and photos of young Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and The Edge (U2) certainly make “It Might Get Loud” (www.sonyclassics.com/itmightgetloud/) special enough. However, there’s also the uniquely funky presence of Jack White (White Stripes) in a doc that finds this talented trio of twangin’ rockers deftly talking and playing some very mean electric guitar.
Film Independent (www.filmindependent.org/), the same group behind the annual Spirit Awards, produces all the festival fun, conversation and hoopla.
[John M. Urbancich has been reviewing movies and writing film features and celebrity profiles at Cleveland’s Sun Newspapers for 25 years. As a longtime member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, his work has been appearing on the Sun News website for more than a decade. John also regularly updates his own site at www.JMuvies.com ]