Technically, Day One of the festival was Thursday, but I didn’t go to the opening night screening of Richard Linklater’s Bernie nor the gala screening of Green Lantern, which were the only screenings on Thursday. So my Day One was Friday, catching two films after work. Even though I don’t really like the downtown LA Live location of the LA Film Fest quite as much as the Hollywood location of the TCM and AFI Fests, I have to admit is pretty convenient to get to after work, since LA Live is only a mile or so up from USC.
After a bit of a scramble picking up my media badge (for the record, security guy on the street, the JW Marriott lobby is east of the Regal, not south of it like you told me), I had a bit of time to kill waiting to get into Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive. Still, I was glad to get there early, since I ended up within the first ten people in line and was guaranteed a good seat. They had it on two screens, so I guess the demand for it was pretty strong – our screen (the smaller of the two) was totally packed. No Q&A, but they did have Refn to introduce the film and he brought up most of the cast members – Ryan Gosling, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, and Albert Brooks (everyone except Carey Mulligan) – to nod and wave. Even though I knew who all was in the cast, seeing them all up there was like, whoa, this movie’s gonna be awesome with all those people in it, isn’t it? And it was. I pretty much loved it; it’s a great ’70s-style car chase movie with a European edge. Some people didn’t care for Refn’s previous film Valhalla Rising (which I haven’t seen yet) for being too arty with too little story, but he’s found the perfect balance here. I really hope when the film comes out in September it does well, because I want more films like this. Many more. Oh, and for the record, the festival guy introducing Refn pronounced “Winding” with a short “i” sound. I’ve been pronouncing it with a long “i”, but I guess I’ll do it the other way now. My full review of Drive is on Row Three.
Drive got started late thanks to them trying to get everyone possible in (a worthy reason), so I had to rush to get to How to Cheat, a low-budget indie relationship drama about as polar opposite from Drive as you could get, outside of the fact that both are explicitly set in Los Angeles. I still ended up a few minutes late, but not by much (thankfully it was running late, too). I’ve never run into a festival screening late before, so it’s good to know that it’s possible. Anyway, I already knew the basics of the story, so I quickly caught up to what was going on, and pretty well enjoyed the rest of the film, even though I didn’t necessarily think it distinguished itself all that much from other films of its type. Writer/director/star Amber Sealey was there with most of the cast and crew for a Q&A, and I have to say, I love listening to Q&As, but it makes writing objective reviews much more difficult. I though the film was just a bit above average thanks to good performances and a few excellent scenes mixed into a slightly underwhelming whole, but Sealey and her cast were so personable and talked so passionately about the creative process they used to make the film that I ended up appreciating it a little bit more. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, as supporting indie filmmakers is something I want to do, and I always much prefer appreciating films than not. But yeah. It’s kind of a critical conundrum. I also just like saying “critical conundrum.” No, really, I’ve used it in articles before. You can check. My full review of How to Cheat is on Row Three.
After How to Cheat, it was midnight and I headed home, still a bit stoked because film festivals are just cool. But I’m sure in the coming days, tiredness will take over from adrenaline, though, so I enjoyed it while it lasted. One day down, nine to go. Two films down, twenty-three to go. That’s if I make it to all I’m planning, which depends on how much I crash during the week trying to work a full-time job and stay out at screenings till midnight, which I’m not as good at as I used to be. Now would be a great time to figure out how to not sleep for a week and feel no ill effects. ;)