If a few movies already screened for press types are any indication, the Los Angeles Film Festival -- which begins its 15th year Thursday night with Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone and Jeff Daniels heading an all-star cast in “Paper Man” -- promises another memorable celebration of worldwide cinema.
By the time the animated “Ponyo” (from the legendary Hayao Miyazaki) wraps it all up the night of June 28 in Westwood Village, some 170 selections will have been shown as features, shorts or music videos. Earlier that day, winners in both narrative and documentary competitions, among many others, will be announced at an awards brunch. Special premiere screenings of potential summer blockbusters, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (Monday night), "Public Enemies" (June 23), and the smaller but cleverly irresistible “500 Days of Summer” (June 26), likely also will generate some excitement.
Numerous festival films already enjoy very early buzz, including the documentary “Branson” (two separate screenings both followed by concerts from singer/star Jackson Cash); the similarly named but otherwise poles apart story of the cold-blooded “Bronson”; “Cold Souls” (Paul Giamatti); “Paper Heart” (Michael Cera); and “Weather Girl” (Mark Harmon), to name just a few.
Of the handful of new fest releases we’ve already seen, “Dear Lemon Lima” brings a uniquely colorful and sweet tale of adolescence to Alaska, of all places. Think a more poignant “Napoleon Dynamite,” distinctly from the distaff side, and newcomer Savanah Wiltfong (at top) making quite the impression as one smart and moving little Eskimo.
The very funny “In the Loop” satirizes the politics of war both here and in England with unusual turns from James Gandolfini (as a liberal general, no less) and Tom Hollander (the bad guy in the last two “Pirates of the Caribbean” films) playing an inept Brit bureaucrat. Peter Capaldi (remember the name) is hilarious, too, as a foul-mouthed spin doctor.
“Harmony & Me” features a schleppy lead performance (somewhat reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate”) from Justin Rice (above), apparently the singer in an equally quirky band called Bishop Allen. Fittingly, the lovable loser barely goes on with his life by constantly putting music where his broken heart used to reside.
Speaking of harmony, some vintage footage and photos of young Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and The Edge (U2) certainly make “It Might Get Loud” special enough. However, there’s also the exceptionally funky presence of Jack White (White Stripes) in a doc that finds this talented trio of twangin' rockers deftly talking and playing some very mean electric guitar
Film Independent, the same group behind the annual Spirit Awards, once again produces all the festival fun, conversation and hoopla.