Film Festival Darlings
The Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) has been fun. It was an opportunity to see a collection of entertaining and enlightening films from budding young talent, as well as industry veterans. The ten day cinematic celebration in Westwood presented over 200 productions, and some darlings emerge from the crowd.
At a screening of the devastatingly funny “In The Loop,” I caught up with stars Anna Chlumsky (“My Girl”), Mimi Kennedy (“Dharma & Greg”) and David Rasche (“Burn After Reading”). When she was a darling little child actress back in the 90’s, I got to know Anna, but then she disappeared from Hollywood. Wisely, she went back to her family in the mid-west to grow up, then went to college, graduated, and now is taking the plunge again in the entertainment whirlpool. The political satire “In The Loop” is a film that surrounds Anna with some great performers, including James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”), and her talent shines right alongside of them.
So why did she leave showbiz? Anna told me, “I took a break because, although I enjoyed acting, there were other things that came with the job. There were pressures to get in all the magazines, and put up with all the nonsense that didn’t have anything to do with acting. So I went home.” She went to the University of Chicago, then after pursuing a variety of interests, Anna discovered that she missed acting, and wanted to try it again. Now, Chlumsky at 28 is playing a U.S. State Department assistant to Mimi Kennedy, trying to prevent war, with the help of a peace loving General (Gandolfini), and a liaison with a young British diplomat (Chris Addison from the BBC’s “In The Thick of It”). “It’s smart filmmaking with a message. Every day on the set I was reminded about how great it feels to be a performer.”
“In The Loop” (an IFC Film that releases on July 24 in Los Angeles) is directed by Armando Iannuci from a screenplay he co-wrote, and Mimi Kennedy calls him a genius. I’d like to acknowledge that Mimi’s pretty smart too. She’s currently writing a novel, plus a play. “Another project is a one woman show playing Anne Landers in a presentation about the woman who was a mother, activist, patriot and advice columnist, twin sister to ‘Dear Abby.’ I just love bringing her back to life for people who remember her, and for a new generation,” Mimi explained.
Another LAFF red carpet event (organized by 42West) was the documentary “Branson,” which also became the darling of the film festival, thanks to the electrifying performance of Jackson Cash after the screening. A country singer who does a tribute show to “The Man in Black: Johnny Cash,” Jackson is one of the central characters in the documentary about the personal demons and backstage battles of the performers on the small stages of Branson, Missouri. Talking with director Brent Meeske, he said the film is compelling “because it’s a familiar story set in a really unique place, which reminds you that you should never give up on your dreams.”
Another documentary that drew a lot of attention was “The Cove,” (LA release July 31) directed by Louie Psihoyos. It is a fascinating true story of how Psihoyos and Richard O’Barry, along with an elite team of activists, filmmakers and divers, embarked on a covert mission to a hidden cove in Japan to uncover a horrifying secret. It’s interesting to know that O’Barry was the world’s leading authority on dolphin training, working on the set of the 60’s popular TV series “Flipper.”
For laughs at LAFF, there was “Humpday,” a buddy movie gone wild with Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard. It’s about Ben and Andrew, the bad boys of their college campus, who take a dare to enter an amateur porn contest. Of course it’s silly but the “bromance” comedies are very trendy right now. Going retro was “Black Dynamite” which stars Michael Jai White as a soul brother who’s a gun-toting, nun chuck-wielding ladies man. The Sony Pictures release features Tommy Davidson, Nicole Sullivan, Arsenio Hall and John Salley (the NBA great who survived NBC’s “I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here”). All are decked out with afros and polyester for the comedy that makes fun of the 70’s blaxploitation movies. Also, the festival’s celebration of hot rod flicks on the inflatable outdoor screen in Westwood was nostalgic and cool!