Tagged: Los Angeles Film Festival

Los Angeles Film Festive 2015The Los Angeles Film Festival, produced by Film Independent with Presenting Media Sponsor the Los Angeles Times and Host Partner L.A. LIVE, announced last week the launch of the second annual Funny Or Die Make ’em LAFF contest, an internet talent search to discover content creators of color and underrepresented voices who specialize in comedy. Last year’s winner Suzi Yoonessi’s Olive and Mocha: Fast Times at Sugar High was selected from over 300 submissions.

“We are so thrilled to work with Funny Or Die again,” said Stephanie Allain, Director of the Los Angeles Film Festival.  “Our mission of discovering diverse talent gets amplified through their reach.”

Submissions are now open until May 8, 2015. This year’s jury will be comprised of Film Independent Curator Elvis Mitchell and comedians Jason Mantzoukas (Kroll Show, Parks and Recreation), Beth Stelling (@midnight, Jimmy Kimmel Live!) and Ron Funches (Kroll Show, Undateable)

The Los Angeles Film Festival and Funny Or Die invite content creators and comedians from underrepresented communities (i.e. artists of color, women and/or LGBT) to submit videos of under five minutes in length showcasing their diverse, unique and authentic comedic voices. Short films, webisodes, animation and music videos are welcome. Visit the Make ’em LAFF page on the Funny Or Die website for full competition details. The deadline for submissions is May 8, 2015.

10 short-listed videos will be announced and streamed on the Funny Or Die website on May 15, 2015. From those 10 short-listed films, Funny Or Die and Los Angeles Film Festival Curator Elvis Mitchell will select three finalists to screen their films in conjunction with a live comedy show during the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival, which runs June 10-18 at Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14 in Downtown Los Angeles. The winner will be announced live at the Make ’em LAFF showcase at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The winner will also meet with a Funny Or Die producer where they’ll pitch ideas for their next comedy video and once Funny Or Die approves a concept, we will co-produce the video and have it distributed on Funny Or Die.

Passes to the Los Angeles Film Festival go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, April 21. The full line-up will be announced on Tuesday, May 5. Individual tickets go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, May 19.

ABOUT THE LOS ANGELES FILM FESTIVAL

The Los Angeles Film Festival, produced by Film Independent, showcases diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision in new American and international cinema.  The Festival provides the movie-loving public with one-of-a-kind events featuring critically acclaimed filmmakers, film industry professionals, and emerging talent from around the world. The Festival’s signature programs include the Filmmaker Retreat, Music in Film Nights at The GRAMMY Museum ®, Celebrating Women Filmmakers, Master Classes, Spirit of Independence Award, Coffee Talks, LA Muse and more. The Festival also screens short films created by high school students and a special section devoted to music videos. The Los Angeles Film Festival is presented in conjunction with Presenting Media Sponsor the Los Angeles Times. The Official Host Venue is Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14. Platinum Sponsors include Jaeger Le-Coultre, American Airlines, Dolby Laboratories, Inc. and EFILM. The University Sponsor is Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television. Sauza 901 Tequila is the official spirit sponsor. The Los Angeles Athletic Club is the Official Host Hotel. WireImage is the Official Photography Agency. More information can be found at lafilmfest.com.

Eat With Me 01

As a Chinese-American, David Au’s “Eat With Me,” is a portrayal of the Chinese American experience, that I’ve wanted to see in a movie in a long time. It’s easily the closest any filmmaker has produced in a movie to show my personal experience of living in Southern California as a Chinese-American. “Eat With Me” is an official selection at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Emma (Sharon Omi) is a mother and wife finding it difficult living her ordinary, bland life. Elliot (Teddy Chen Culver) is her estranged son. He runs a struggling Chinese hole-in-the-wall restaurant and recently came out to his family as gay, thus his estrangement from his family. Au has managed to create a family dynamic that feels real and not stereotypical as one would expect from an “Asian” movie.

After an evening of mental/emotional degradation, at the hand of her husband, Emma is fed up and moves into her son, Elliot’s apartment in hopes of quick relief and to start a new life. You can never run away from your problems.

Eat With Me 03

It’s never easy to move in with family. The act of cleaning Elliot’s apartment, Emma is forced to confront her son’s sexuality. Desperately needing help, she runs into Elliot’s outgoing Yoga neighbor, Maureen (Nicole Sullivan). Maureen becomes Emma’s guide into the world of alcohol, discovering oneself and on an unfortunate trip on Ecstasy.

Elliot, on the other hand, is somewhat afraid of life. His old and tired menu is not attracting new customers to his restaurant. With the prospect of eviction, Elliot turns to his mother for her dumpling recipe and Emma opens his world to the endless possibilities of flavor and dumplings, including her cheeseburger dumpling.

Elliot is also a near failure in his dating life as he is in his professional life. While active on the dating scene, Elliott is unable to commit to anyone in fear of dishonoring his family. He soon finds love in Ian (Aidan Bristow), the bass player of a local band. After a night of passion, things take a turn for the worse, when Emma accidentally walks in on her son and Ian in bed together.

Although Emma’s world is starting to expand, she has problems accepting certain facts about her son. He’s gay and not turning back. Elliott, on the other hand, carries the burden of pleasing his mother to the point of never finding true happiness.

David Au has managed to tell a real and accurate story of Chinese-Americans. Many films use Chinese-American culture as jokes and punchlines or worse, to prove that their story is Chinese-American. “Eat With Me” is the story of a mother and son with a backdrop of the Chinese-American culture. Au never needs to point out the differences between Chinese and Caucasian people.

Au also confronts the subject of being gay in a conservative culture that is slow to accept change. He first starts with several scenes of same-sex passion. Gay or straight, not something I see in many Chinese –American films. That’s probably why he put it in there, just how fine am I with the gay lifestyle. If one has not yet been confronted with friends or relatives who have come out, I assure you its a struggle. For Emma, it’s the loss of a dream that she may have had as a mother about her son and now with her own marriage. Star Trek’s George Takei makes a brief but poignant cameo as himself.

If there’s any reason to criticize “Eat With Me,” is one the food scenes. Cooking, filming and shoot food takes a back seat to the overall story. Most of the food and restaurant scenes show prepared food in a wok being pushed around by a spatula. Hardly a display of fine Chinese cooking. When working with food, you want beautiful shots of food preparation, cooking and cooking technique, food presentation and then the response after eating. Audiences will not be hungry when the movie is over.

The second problem is stilted acting all around. It may be a problem of editing and coverage, but the acting just did not seem to flow naturally. It is these little lapses in acting that can emotionally pull an audience out of the story.

“Eat With Me” from writer/director David Au is a good movie, with flaws, about living in America as Chinese. He attacks the topic of homosexuality in the Chinese American community, in a way, that is real and with a serious message about acceptance. It’s hard to find movies that feature Asians-Americas that are good and this is one to see.

 

The Verdict

6Fair

The Good: Accurate portrayal of the Chinese America experience today.

The Bad: The uninspired portrayal of food | stilted acting

This exclusive interview aired on the Secret City Geek Lab show on KTST 89.5 fm.  We spoke with director Mo Perkins about her movie, “The Last Time You Had Fun,” which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

We spoke with Mo about:

  • Collaborating with her writer husband Hal Haberman
  • The Theme of Transitions on Marriage
  • Working with her cast
  • The challenges independent films face when trying to find an audience

THE LAST TIME YOU HAD FUN stars Eliza Coupe, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Kyle Bornheimer and Demetri Martin

SYNOPSIS – When Ida, cheeks streaked by mascara tears, unexpectedly shows up at her sister’s house, the staid Alison bargains her way out of mom duty for the night and the two head

off to an Eastside wine bar. There, they run into Will and the freshly divorced, sweat pants-attired Clark. After some slightly inebriated commiserating about mismanaged marriages and other adult concerns, the foursome head out into the night, determined to prove they still have what it takes to have a good time.

As billed, “Echo Park” is a love letter to the city of Echo Park and is part of the LA Muse competition at the Los Angeles Film Festival featuring movies that are distinctly Los Angeles.

Here’s the thing about movies about cities. You have to assume your audience doesn’t know anything about the city. The only exception is probably New York. My personal connection is limited except that I know where it is located in Los Angeles proper. When approaching “Echo Park” as a movie, it’s a love story that uses the city as it’s backdrop. The film could have been called Silver Lake, except that it was filmed in Echo Park.

If I were to describe the city of Echo Park from “Echo Park,” it’s a lower income suburb of Los Angeles, that is slowly experiencing an economic rebirth. New residents to the city are middle-class, who have found a new home in this area of downtown Los Angeles. The city has a small art scene and many hole-in-the-wall restaurants. That’s my best guess.

The story of “Echo Park” is a pretty simple love story. After a break-up with her boyfriend, Sophie (Mamie Gummer) moves from affluent Beverly Hills to the small community in Los Angeles known as Echo Park. Here she meets Alex (Anthony Okungbowa), a record connoisseur, and his best friend and single father, Mateo (Maurice Compte) and his son, Elias (Ricky Rico). Sophie and Alex bond over their passion for classic vinyl and strike up a quick romantic relationship. To complicate this relationship, Alex is leaving for home in England and Sophoe still has feelings for her ex.

The romance is quickly put to the test when Sophie offers to buy Alex’s home and soon after ex-boyfriend, Simon (Gale Harold) returns to win Sophie back. Along with Sophie’s mother (Helen Slater), both wonder why she would want to leave Beverly Hills for Echo Park. Alex patiently waits out the phase Sophie is going through living in Echo Park. Can you guess, how this will turn out? Well, you’re right.

“Echo Park” is an interesting story based in the culture of Echo Park, I guess. The two leads characters are not native to Echo Park but attracted to the allure of Echo Park. In all honesty, its hard to fall in love with “Echo Park.” The story is not groundbreaking, the acting is good but at times stilted, especially by the supporting cast. Mamie is alluring on screen and Anthony as Alex is also an interesting character, but their story has been told before. Not to put down “Echo Park,” I just don’t believe there is a strong enough mystique in the city to distinguish it apart from San Francisco or to tell stories around it, like New York City.

The real find from “Echo Park’s” beautiful soundtrack pieced together by local talent. Other than that, “Echo Park” is a good, beautiful movie, but not great movie.

The Verdict

6Fair

The Good: Strong performance by the leads | Beautiful shots of Echo Park

The Bad: Unoriginal Story

“10 Minutes” is the Korean submission into the Narrative Competition of the Los Angeles Film Festival. The story of Ho-chan (Baek Jong-Hwan) with dreams of greatness, who quickly gives it away for the comfort of security.

The movie starts with Ho-chan starting a new job in a small government film agency preparing for an important government presentation. With his family in financial trouble and his university application stalled, Ho-chan is grateful for the job. His hard work pays off quickly as he quickly wins the approval of his supervisors and co-workers. Soon a fulltime position opens up and everyone agrees he’s perfect for the job. Problems arise, with another temp, a chipper young woman gets the position instead.

Distraught over the broken promises, Ho-chan spirals into depression, paranoia and he begins to sabotage not only the office but his future as well. The office also slowly changes from a team of co-workers to a den of suspicion.

“10 Minutes” is an office drama from writer Kim Da-Hyuan and director Lee Yong-Seung. The movie is about the games we play to shift the balance of power in an office situation and the passive aggression we display to undermine our co-workers.

It’s also a story of Korean office politics in a government office. Ho-chan is reduced to being played as a pawn between the union representative and office management. He also begins to sabotage the success of his replacement by hiding important papers and documents. Rather than working hard at his job, he works the bare minimum to survive.

The film is well made. You feel the claustrophobia of the office and the city. The actors are good. Baek Jong-Hwan does an admirable job playing the every man and we’re there as his character slowly dies inside.

From a cultural standpoint, it’s interesting to see Korean office politics unfolds and see that Korean business is not that different than ours. The film’s audience is definitely for the Korean people. That said, “10 Minutes” is just a little too inside for an American audience. The story is interesting but not unique in any way. It’s merely a slice of life of the Korean office.

Directed By: Lee Yong-Seung
Screenwriter: Kim Da-Hyun
Producers: Kim Dong-Ho, Kim Gi-Cheol
Cinematographer: Sung Seung-Taek
Editor: Kim Woo-Il
Music: Lee Uk-Hyun
Cast: Baek Jong-Hwan, Kim Jong-Gu, Jung Hi-Te

 

The Verdict

5Mediocre

The Good: Good performance from lead

The Bad: Familiar Story

Meet the Patels 01Meet the Patels” is a documentary about the search for love from the perspective of the Indian culture. The documentary follows Ravi Patel, a starving actor of Indian descent living in Los Angeles. The documentary is filmed and directed by Ravi’s sister, Geeta as she follows her brother through the process of falling in love.

“You know that girl in Eat, Pray, Love?” says Ravi, “she goes through a break up, goes on an existential journey to India to get over depression, find out what she really wanted in life? I was that girl, except, my family was with me the entire time.”

Meet the Patels” follows Ravi’s search for love after his breakup with a Caucasian girl. Like many Asian cultures, getting married and having a family is important. Culturally-speaking, at 30-years-old Ravi is falling behind. In the eyes of his parents, he’s perceived as being lazy and not caring about his culture. Ravi decides to give traditional Indian methods of courting a try. He employs a wide variety of channels including his mother, a popular matchmaker, online dating services, a “Biodating” system, family weddings and Patel marriage conventions.

Meet the Patels 05Meet the Patels” could easily have been a documentary on the process of finding a spouse in a culture that once valued arranged marriages similar to his parents, Vasant and Champa Patel, marriage. It’s the interactions between Ravi, Geeta and their parents that make this more than a simple documentary. You get to witness on screen and family drawing closer together. Their traditional, conservative views of marriage could easily have been fodder for ridicule, but instead their views are insightful and full of love.

Throughout the film, Ravi is forced to share his fears and feelings from date to date to date. His sister, Geeta, repeatedly get Ravi to open up through constant questions. Vasant and Champa are also stars of the movie and the love for their children is touching. You see the love that Ravi’s father, Vasant, has for his son and the wisdom he imparts, whether ignored by Ravi or not, is truly insightful. Champa’s love for her children also comes through this very traditional mother.

The documentary is well produced but as the movie admits from the very beginning, Geeta is not a good cinematographer. The movie is littered with focus, lighting issues and expect to see a few mics in the frame. It’s a well crafted story that will get you past the imperfections of filmmaking, which is hard to pull off as well as “Meet the Patels” does.

Meet the Patels 04You have to admire the fact that the Patels were so willing to be honest and open in front of the camera. It clear that some tense family moments were not meant to be on film for privacy sake. The movie utilizes animation as a way to re-enact these tense moments in the story. The use of animation works and is meant to protect the family, which is understandable.

“Meet the Patels” is a fun, heartwarming story of finding love in the Indian culture, while managing to be insightful and educational. “Meet the Patels” is a winner in the Documentary competition of the Los Angeles Film Festival. Congratulations.

 

The Verdict

8Great

The Good: Well constructed documentary | Open and honest family

The Bad: Less than stellar cinematography

The Last Time You Had Fun 03The Last Time We Had Fun” is the story of four thirty-somethings exploring the streets of Los Angeles in a stretch limo. Will (Demetri Martin) and Clark (Kyle Bornheimer) are best friends. Clark is recently divorced and has decided to accept his dull life as a new single father. Will rents a limo, in hopes of cheering his friend up with rented limo and an endless night of night clubs and strippers.

Ida (Eliza Coupe) and Alison (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) are sisters. When Ida unexpectedly shows up at her sister’s house, Alison bargains her way out of mom duty for the night to be her sister at a local wine bar. Meeting at the wine bar for the first time, Will and Clark hit if off with new friends Ida and Alison. Upon the declaration, “If anybody in the history of the planet needs a night out, it’s the four of us,” the four leads embark on misadventure across Los Angeles in a limo.

The last time we had fun has the three things I look for in a comedy. The first is to simply make me laugh; don’t make me groan. The laugh come at the right moments from the superb script from writer Hal Haberman.

Second, the movie should ground the story in reality. Director Mo Perkins worked hard to produce a movie about four strangers who agree to accompany one another on Los Angeles limo adventure, she manages to keep the movie, acting and dialogue grounded in reality.

Third, touch me emotionally in your story. “The Last Time You Had Fun” is a tale of marriages in mid-life transitional stages. A moment in a relationship when spouses either continues to grow deeper as a couple or becomes stagnant to the point of being lifeless.

Our two couples start off as strangers, but as the night rolls along in the limo, barriers are broken and walls of secrecy come down eventually. Alison is in a marriage where she lives only for her husband and children. Ida is running from a marriage as her husband considers exploring new territory. Will is stuck in a marriage he never wanted to be in and Clark is facing with raising a family on his own.

The beauty of strangers is that you can quickly open up about your life and take down the masks, we wear for others, knowing that whatever you say will never come back to haunt you. In the infamous beach scene, you see each relationship and friendship come to a point where each character must make a tough decision about their marriage before that decision is made from them.

The Last Time We Had Fun” is a dialogue heavy movie. Haberman and Perkins do an exceptional job with pacing of the words and the actions of the movie. It’s the cast, that should also be commended. Their acting is real and you believe everything they say. There is nothing worse than a talky movie that feels forced.

There are also two fantastic performances from Jimmi Simpson, who plays Ida’s husband, Jake. Without spoiling the action, he is not what you expect from Ida’s husband. His performance is not to be missed. Also, Charlene Yi helps to break the serious edge at time as Betty the limo driver.

Admittedly the audience of this movie skews a little older. It speaks powerfully to those of us in long term marriages. It also challenges us to ask whether or not, we’re happy about no only the state of our own marriages, but the state of our lives as well.

The Last Time We Had Fun” is a fun and thought-provoking comedy that allows us to take a night off in our own lives and think.

There’s still a chance to see this fantastic film. It has one more showing at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Wednesday, June 18, at 6:30 p.m.

The Verdict

7Good

The Good: Funny comedy expertly produced by writer Hal Haberman, director Mo Perkins and outstanding cast.

The Young Kieslowski 02The Young Kieslowski” is the story of two virgin college students, who instantly fall in love and after one night faced with the life-changing event of parenthood. The movie features two strong lead performances from Ryan Malgarini (How to Eat Fried Worms) and Haley Lu Richardson (Awkward, Ravenswood) and a funny and heartwarming script from writer/director Kerem Sanga.

In the wrong hands, “The Young Kieslowski” could have been a bad after-school special about teenage pregnancy. Instead, the movie is a smartly written story about our inner turmoil when taking the fast track to parenthood.

The Young Kieslowski 03The story follows two Cal Tech students, Brian Kieslowski (Ryan Malgarini) and Leslie Mallard (Haley Lu Richardson), who happen to be virgins—one by choice and the other by circumstance. They meet at a party and instantly attracted to each other. This encounter leads to a night of passion and an unexpected pregnancy with twins.

The Young Kieslowski” is inspired by writer/director Kerem Sanga’s parents, who had twins in college. Although, this is not a story of his parents, “The Young Kieslowski” is Sanga’s answer if faced with the same situation as his parents.

The two leads, Ryan Malgarini and Haley Lu Richardson, are the highlight of the movie. The movie opens with Ryan portraying the typical nerd with a horrible, horrible hairstyle. He could have played a typical over-the-top nerd character, but instead Malgarini brings likable depth to his character that has you rooting for him to make the right choice throughout the movie.

Haley Lu Richardson performance as a girl, cynical with life but changed with the prospect of parenthood, is nothing but stellar. Her presence on screen has you instantly falling for this sometimes abrasive/cynical character.

Another smart move writer/director Kerem Sanga made was to surround you relative unknown leads with quality supporting talent. Joshua Malina and Melora Walters plays Robert and Barbara Kieslowski. Barabara struggles with stage 4 cancer. James Le Gros plays Leslie’s father, Walter. He is a writer of historical novels. Le Gros is perfect as the reclusive writer, who is haunted by watching the mistake he made as a youth replayed in his daughter.

It hard to bring heart to a comedy, but writer/director Kerem Sanga pulls it off perfectly. Sanga manages to answer on-screen all the issues, young couples face when surprised with unplanned parenthood. He also sprinkles the film with truly laugh-out loud moments.

The Young Kieslowski” is both a funny and heartwarming tale of young love and is currently on the film festival circuit at the Los Angeles Film Festival. “The Young Kieslowski” had its world premiere last night and will screen again this Tuesday, June 17 at 6:30 PM.

The Verdict

8Great

The Good: Funny story of love and unexpected pregnancy | Great performance | Fantastic Script

Love is Strange” is a heartwarming tale from writer/director Ira Sachs about three generations trying to maintain love in New York City. The movie focuses on a senior couple, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), who after 39 years together finally tie the knot.

After their marriage, George is fired from his job as music director at the location Christian school. This event financially devastates the new marriage and Ben is forced to live with his nephew’s family in Brooklyn and George lives with this two gay police officer neighbors.

When Ben moves in with this nephew, Elliot (Darren Burrows), his wife, Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their teenage son, Joey (Charlie Tahan), he finds that their family is not as happy as he once thought. Elliot is a workaholic and neglects his family. Kate is a writer, who no longer find peace and quiet because of Ben’s presence and Joey, who resents having to share his bedroom with his uncle.

Writers Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias have written a touching story of two older gentlemen trying desperate to maintain their love for one another while living apart. Their story is a generational tale. First is the senior couple, newly married, but having to start over at such an advanced age. Then there is Elliot and Kate trying hard to hold their tenuous marriage together and having their uncle upset the status quo. Finally, Joey, the teenager, trying to final love and friendship, where none is to be found at home.

Both Lithgow and Molina manage to create a create a believable loving couple that are genuinely happy when they are together and tragically sad as guests in the homes of others. Ben knows that he is a burden on his nephew’s family and his presence is not helping that situation. George, on the other hand, in living in an apartment that seconds as a community of gay couples; a community that is oddly foreign to him. George’s frustration comes to an emotional head after a night of Dungeons and Dragons.

Love is Strange” is an art piece too. Ira Sachs masterfully tells his story at a slow and deliberate pace accompanied by wonderful piano pieces and visually expresses himself with lingering takes on the city of New York. Sachs says that his past movies have been about relationships that tear themselves apart, but “Love is Strange” is about relationships building stronger.

Although “Love is Strange” spotlights a older gay couple, this is by no means a political film. It’s a touching love story and should be viewed as one. Love is love and the struggle to keep it is universal. The ending is both moving and haunting. It will stay with you for a long time.

The screening of “Love is Strange” is part of the Gala series at the Los Angeles Film Festival from June 11 to 19. It is expected to see general release in August.

The Verdict

8Great

The Good: Wonderful acting performances | Touching story

The Bad: Sometime a little to inside for the non-New Yorker in the audience.