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July 1, 2009


Festival Recap by Don Rose

LAFFING: there were comedies galore at this year's fest. "Cold Souls" was the hottest Dark SciFantasyComedy of the fest (okay, the only one), and the director said it was inspired by a dream she had in which she and Woody Allen are in a waiting room holding boxes containing their souls. (Dream analysis, anyone?) Paul Giamatti stars as himself; after undergoing a procedure to store his soul, it winds up getting smuggled out of the country and into a female actress who suddenly displays his great acting prowess. (Yes, the plot is kinda Kaufmanesque.)

LOVING: the LAFF is known for showcasing quirky tales of attraction action, and this year brought unique love stories. For example, "Paper Heart" (starring buzzworthy actors Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi) and "Paper Man" (the Jeff Daniels / Ryan Reynolds dramedy that gets The LA Report's Find of the Fest award), which kept audiences elated and enthralled.

LIVING LEGENDS: several made appearances, both live and onscreen, especially those in the (artificial yet artful) category Music Legends In Documentaries. Two living Doors (Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger) attended a screening of the new Doors doc "When You're Strange" (my favorite film of the fest). And there was white-haired Jimmy Page and Jack White at the premiere of the doc that features Page, White and The Edge -- "It Might Get Loud" -- as well as at the afterparty held at the Hotel Palomar (a spiffy recently-opened hotel at the corner of Wilshire and Selby, with a superb restaurant that served delicious sliders and other delectables at the party). In the arena of sports, "Facing Ali" featured many legends of yesteryear; this doc showcases the select group of boxers who took on the best boxer ever, and now share what it was like to fight The Greatest.

LOUDNESS: In addition to "It Might Get Loud" there was the loud (and now lucrative) sequel of "Transformers" to transfix festivalgoers' eyes and ears. And at the Ford Amphitheatre, "Soul Power" served up some soul-shaking sounds in its tale of the superstar R&B concert that took place at the time of the 1974 Zaire Ali-Foreman fight (yes, Ali was one recurring theme of this year's fest).

LIVELY LOUNGE: The Zone Perfect lounge was the central meeting/partying point during
this year's LAFF. Loved the interactive word wall and painting area. On one especially lively night, actress/comedienne Charlyne Yi showed she is a musician too (one with many rough yet endearing edges) as she rocked the lounge with her eclectic duo Glass Beef. Matt Nathanson also rocked the Lounge, on the final evening, as part of a special VH1 Save the Music night.

LLYN's LORE: at a Reel Talk event held poolside at the W Hotel (the first of 3 such panels over 3 consecutive days), lore about days of yore came forth from artist Llyn Foulkes, who was perhaps the most passionate of the panelists at this panel on art and design in film. He talked of a pivotal point in his art career when, instead of selling out like some others did, he took a different, less-lucrative road in order to keep true to his art - and heart. Was there a tinge of regret in his voice, or was it pride in pursuing the path he ultimately forged over the path of easy money? Hard to tell, but moments like that kept the panel in high thought-provoking gear, and proved that drama is not just found in the films of a festival.

LAFF's LEADING LIST: Leaving LAFF leads some to ask, "what were LAFF's hottest films?" Hard to decide, but here is The LA Report's Excellent Eight: Paper Man, Paper Heart, Cold Souls, Soul Power, No Impact Man, When You're Strange, It Might Get Loud, Facing Ali. These got the most buzz and crowds. However, there were dozens more movies just as heartfelt at the fest and, with time, may garner just as much attention.

All in all, LAFF 2009 was a well-run and supremely entertaining film festival, and we highly recommend you attend LAFF 2010 next summer. (Our one suggestion for timely retro programming next year: a screening of "2010", the sequel to "2001"; while it may not enjoy the classic status of the original, it's still a stellar film!)