MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

If You Build It, Will They Come?

The Los Angeles Film Festival kicks off Thursday night with a curtain raiser of The Kids Are All Right, which won awards and commercial distribution following its premiere at Sundance in January. And despite its relative nascence, LAFF is attempting to do a bit of re-imagining.

The most obvious change is its location. Following home bases in Hollywood and Westwood, it’s now decamped those venues for the concrete field of dreams that is downtown Los Angeles.

Grounded by the Regal multiplex that has ceded seven of its screens, the fest will unspool films additionally at Disney Hall’s Redcat screen, as well as special projections at several of the city’s historic movie houses that have been refurbished for special occasions. While not particularly endemic to the City of Angels, festivals of a certain size struggle with the grim logistic reality of finding a sufficient number of geographically adjacent screens to accommodate their program.

That hurdle has certainly been a constant for Toronto and Sundance. The former is addressing the issue this year with the opening of its permanent year round home — The Bell Lightbox — which jhouses four screens. It’s moved a mile south from the Yonge-Bloor corridor, augmenting its home base with the Paramount multiplex and other nearby sites. Sundance just continues to grin and bear the elements, shuttle buses and makeshift screening rooms.

Meanwhile, back in L.A., a great big question mark hovers over a film festival situated in its arguable central core (many contend there is no “there” there). Many felt that the LAFF was committing suicide when it moved from Hollywood to Westwood, but the latter location wound up working for a summer festival with Westwood Village proving ideal in facilitating screenings, outdoor events and parties.

Downtown L.A., on the other hand, hasn’t been a place where people tend to go to the movies in many decades. The old movie palaces were decaying prior to the era of historic preservation and don’t operate as cinemas on a regular basis. But the city and several entrepreneurs have been making strides toward making it more of an entertainment destination and an area for young professionals to live and play. It’s not yet evolved into a place to cruise and perhaps the festival will advance that a couple of steps.

The Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates the Nokia and L.A. Live (including the Regal Cinemas), is the LAFF’s chief underwriter and began its association with Film Independent with last year’s award show moving downtown to mostly negative reviews. The organization obviously hopes the problems were growing pains that will be overcome with time.

For years the Los Angeles Film Festival (as well as the late year AFI Fest Los Angeles) has been dogged with articles that amount to: Why doesn’t L.A. have a world class film festival? There are myriad answers to this poser that eventually boil down to the fact the mainstream film brokers don’t want one located is this particular neck of the woods. It’s not — as TriBeCa should have learned by now — a “problem” that can be resolved by throwing a lot of money at it.

What the LAFF has addressed historically with more or less success is giving the city the festival it needs. It has certain obligations in light of the fact that it falls under the umbrella of Film Independent to its members. And it’s had a pretty good grasp of selling itself as a happening that regular as well as infrequent movie goers ought to put on their social calendar.

But just when one thought that the old canard of “world class film festival” had been retired, LAFF organizers have surprisingly reintroduced it into the discussion. One can only speculate that AEG desires such a designation and as Harry Selfridge might opine, the patron is always right.

The 2010 program is pretty impressive, though it’s much too soon to declare it the bedrock of a future world class event. Some of the selections that arrive with a critical reputation in hand include director Claire Denis’s White MaterialAnimal Kingdom from Australia, Mexico’s Revolucion, the Danish R, the politically charged Lebanon, Romanian new wave The Happiest Girl in the World and Four Lions, a politically incorrect comedy of terrorism from the United Kingdom.

Gary Essert worked for close to a decade to establish FilmEx — the first comprehensive L.A. film festival — in 1971. It was globally significant but whatever combination of timing, inspiration and magic he employed disappeared with his passing and successor events have failed to adapt to changing times with a new workable formula to that end.

The new programmers are primarily taking the high road with a selection of quality films from Europe and Asia, a worthy mini-retrospective of the work of Argentina’s Leopoldo Torre Nilsson and a smattering of potential sleeper hits. It doesn’t have much of a mainstream Hollywood component and at this point American independents appear to have been ghettoized into their own section.

There are also live events with the likes of Ben AffleckChristopher Nolan andSylvester Stallone sans the inclusion of their forthcoming high profile movies. That pretty much crystallizes where the LAFF is and where it would like to go. On paper the gap doesn’t seem particularly wide but for anyone that has trod that path, the reality is that progressing half way to the door on successive steps can take an eternity.
June 17 , 2010

– by Leonard Klady

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon