Today’s trivia question: what do Pulp Fiction, Garden State, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Clerks, All About Eve and Taxi Driver all have in common?
Before I get to the answer, there’s a pretty big local event going on here in Hollywood – The Los Angeles Film Festival. It’s a 10-day affair that kicks off tonight in downtown LA. Okay…you know how there’s perception and reality – and how the two are often vastly different? Well, there’s definitely something to this when it comes to film festivals. To backtrack: as a kid, there weren’t any US film festivals to speak of, but when I got a little older a few had cropped up – notably Sundance – and the images they conjured up were a sort of bleak. They just didn’t look like much fun.
Thus, when I first relocated to the west coast – a temporary thing, mind you – I had some pretty strong opinions about film festivals. I’d never even been to one of course — although that’s never stopped me from forming an elaborate opinion. Besides, I knew people who knew people who knew people who had. Apparently they were strange holier-than-thou affairs filled with boring, obscure movies that smug, Prius-driving people called “art”. And since Chicken Run, Notting Hill and Pretty Woman are all permanently ensconced on my All Time Top Ten List, festivals were not my speed. In fact, I was sure they held all the appeal of a bridal shower you’re obligated to attend for a distant relative you don’t really know, held in a foreign country where you do not speak the language. Plus, I’d been warned that they only show weird films with unknown actors and creepy subjects and there’s rarely a happy ending in sight. Nor, people told me, should I go to a film festival expecting to make any friends because the other attendees would sense how ignorant I was about film and “film culture”. They would take one look at my pink tortoiseshell eyeglasses and my sensible flats and walk away, unimpressed. I was sure if I ever made it to a film festival I’d find myself seated all alone at a documentary about say, the History of Precious Metals or maybe Third World Cattle & Livestock Migration Patterns and there would be no popcorn and no Diet Coke and no Junior Mints, just dismissive people sighing audibly every time my seat squeaked.
Turns out? I couldn’t have been more wrong. The good news is that nowadays there are great film festivals cropping up everywhere – all across America, in cities big and small. Miami, Cleveland, Telluride, Seattle, Little Rock, Austin – you name it. Most of them actually have something genuinely interesting going on. And about those obscure films no one’s ever heard of? Well, Pulp Fiction, Garden State, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Clerks, All About Eve and Taxi Driver? All came from film festivals. Not to mention Up In The Air, and The King’s Speech. I bet you’ve seen at least one of those movies.
The first festival I ever went to was Sundance, in Utah. I was working for a radio station and my boss sent me and told me to do daily live reports back and to make sure the two well-known rock stars I would be ‘looking after’ had a ‘really good time’. I was terrified, both of the festival and of the rock stars who were completely certain I was an idiot. I delivered daily reports back to the station standing in four inches of beer-soaked carpet in the basement of a bar, waiting for the cleaning crews to turn off their vacuum cleaners long enough for me to squeak out my name and tell listeners which celebrities had walked by me on the icy streets. My reports were pretty awkward, and the rock stars disappeared the minute we arrived in Utah, eager to find other rock stars and cool parties (which they did). But the point is, I ended up having a really good time, saw several amazing movies, and decided then and there to stop making snap judgments (about some things). Now, whenever there’s a film festival, I try and go. Los Angeles Film Festival is just such an animal, so I’ll be there. Plus, they’re screening a little film called Green Lantern, too, so it can’t be that bad. My point is simply that if you ever get a chance to see movies at a film festival, you should try and check it out – they’re definitely a lot more fun than you might have heard. In fact, some of them are downright awesome.
Today’s featured poll:
1) Tori & Taylor