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Los Angeles Film Festival Day One

LA Film Festival Day One

Courtesy of:
Preview This! With Mike from CW69/Atlanta

Last week, the LA Film Festival kicked off with the North American première of Woody Allen's To Rome with Love, Allen appeared on the Red Carpet to début his latest comedy, starring Penelope Cruz and Alec Baldwin. To Rome with Love website

A full schedule of films played over the weekend, highlighted by the much loved Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Monday night, the Pixar film Brave had its World Premiere. Beasts of the Southern Wild website Brave website

I began my LA Film Fest with the Jonathan Demme documentary, Neil Young's Journeys, a concert film where Young performed near his birthplace in Canada at the Massey Hall in Toronto. The film showed Young traveling around his hometown in an old four-door sedan, reminiscing about his early childhood. These moments were interspersed with songs from his hits of the late 60's/70's and music from his 2010 CD Le Noise. Young did the concert solo and moved from electric guitar to piano to electric organ, singing in the classic Neil Young style. It wouldn't be a Neil Young concert without a little message thrown in (since Young is a well known activist), as the 1970 song Ohio cut with footage and pictures of the four people killed in 1969 on the Kent State University campus during the height of the Vietnam War protests. I enjoyed the film, which had a great sound track. It perfectly captured the energy and power of both Young's performance and his music. I did get tired of the cute camera angles that Demme used to spice up the film, especially shots from the camera that was mounted on Young's mic, which gave us a close up of his nose hairs. Overall, the film presents the story about where Young came from and what it's like to attend one of his concerts. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Neil Young's Journey's website

My second film of the day was another documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, a fascinating film about a little-known early 70's singer, called Rodriguez, who cut two albums in the U.S. that were soon forgotten. The album, though, became a huge hit in South Africa - due to its songs about changing the system and became an inspiration to many of South Africa's musicians who were trying to start a campaign to end apartheid. Remarkably, Rodriguez never knew of his success, because he had given up the music business to work as a manual laborer in construction. Part of the appeal of Rodriguez was the legend that he had committed suicide on stage in protest. In the mid 90's, a South African reporter and a music fan decided to track down any information on the artist.  What they found surprised and shocked them. This is one of the best documentaries I have seen in the past year. It perfectly uses Rodriguez's music to highlight the story with interesting interviews and an intriguing use of animation to recreate scenes in the past that builds an interesting story and makes this a film to be enjoyed. This is a great film that celebrates a long lost musician who was never appreciated in America but became an important musical figure for so many people he never knew. My Rating: Full Price Searching for Sugar Man website

My third film of the night was Saturday Morning Massacre, a horror comedy, about four paranormal investigators that experience a horrible night at an abandoned school. Think the Scooby Doo gang - made up of a plucky nerdy girl, a tall good looking, but kind of dim-wit guy, the beautiful leggy girl, and a goofy green shirted guy with a dog sidekick. The team is used to debunking paranormal sites, but they soon discover that this school holds horrors that are real, and they may not survive the night. This film is a fun idea that never delivers on either the comedy or horror side, with dialogue just not witty enough, and the scary parts just too predictable. My Rating: Cable Saturday Morning Massacre website

That's it for now, but look for more reports from the Los Angeles Film Festival later in the week. LA Film Festival website

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