Notes from the LA Film Fest – Part 4

August EveningThursday night the Narrative Award at LAFF went to writer/director Chris Eska’s August Evening, a drama about an undocumented worker whose life working on a chicken farm is interrupted when tragedy strikes. This one was on my list of things to see but it was always scheduled at the same time as other stuff I wanted to see a little bit more. Anyway, Eska gets $50,000 from Target.

Also on Thursday, the Documentary Award went to Jennifer Venditti, director of Billy the Kid a documentary about a 15 year-old with unspecified behavioral problems.

The most critical buzz seems to have been generated by the English documentary Young@Heart about a chorus of senior citizens who sing songs ranging from The Ramones to Coldplay. I know it sounds weird as hell, but watch them singing ‘Schizophrenia’ by Sonic Youth and tell me it’s not kind of cool:

If you’re still not convinced, how about this video of them singing ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ by The Ramones?

Naturally I didn’t see any of the above because I have a preternatural ability to miss out on the cool things all the cool people are enjoying. Instead, here are a couple more mini reviews of the things I did see:

What We Do is Secret. The story of late 70’s L.A. punk band The Germs and their leader Darby Crash who burned brightly and briefly, killing himself by heroin overdose in 1980. Allmusic.com describes the band as follows:

Taking musical cues from the Sex Pistols (and English punk in general), as well as the CBGB’s scene, adding the theatricality of Bowie, Iggy, and Lou Reed, Crash was the perfect frontman for the Germs. Backed by guitarist Pat Smear (later of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters), bassist Lorna Doom, and drummer Don Bolles, the Germs kicked up a hellacious racket that strayed from fast/loud punk into art damage and garage grunge. On-stage, their gigs bordered on performance art, with Crash in full Iggy frenzy, diving into the crowd, adorning himself with whatever foodstuffs the audience provided, wearing less-and-less clothing, all done while the band cranked out noisy spasms of simple, but effective, rock noise.

The band seemed doomed to implode from the very start. A running joke in the movie has someone asking “When are you guys going to play again?” and one of the band members replying “Probably never” as they’d just been banned from another club for wrecking the place.

Secret was a nice blast of punk rock vitality, full of humor and energy, but it had a bit of a scrubbed, stage-bound quality, a little too cleaned up to properly convey the LA punk scene….or what I’ve seen of it in Penelope Spheeris’ terrific documentary The Decline of Western Civilization anyway:

Shane West was pretty good as Darby Crash and he even did the singing, but Bijou Philips and Rick Gonzalez were even better as bass player Lorna Doom and guitarist Pat Smear.

The Beautiful OrdinaryThe Beautiful Ordinary. The last day of school in 1999 for a bunch of suburban high school kids. Wastes some good performances from a handsome cast of young actors by being little more than a valentine to the high school experience. Largely a TV sitcom with drugs and swearing. I guess we’re supposed to be shocked by all the sex and drugs in suburbia? Unlike Fast Times At Ridgemont High (which this movie seems to be trying to emulate along with Breakfast Club to a lesser degree), it falls flat whenever it tries to be about something. Still, there are some funny bits and good interactions between some of the kids and it feels like writer/director Jess Manafort was drawing from her own experiences. Katrina Begin was especially funny as this generation’s Jeff Spicoli and Brie Larson was terrific as snotty younger sister Angela.

LAFF part 1 here
LAFF part 2 here
LAFF part 3 here

LAFF part 5 here

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4 thoughts on “Notes from the LA Film Fest – Part 4

  1. If I’m first, clearly we’re the only two people on planet earth who care. Sad.
    As for Billy the Kid…yeah I don’t know. At first I was surprised Young at Heart didn’t win, but then I realized it wasn’t in the running for some reason.

  2. My pleasure. I once wrote an extended rant aimed at NYCBusybody that I composed on Word then cut and pasted that was completed destoyed by screwy apostrophes. I was pissed. Then I figured out how to avoid it.

    Thanks for the reference on Thompson’s blog btw. You’ve gotten me tons of hits lately. I owe you one.

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