Opening night was a real treat with The Deal, a comedy about what really happens in Hollywood starring William H. Macy and Meg Ryan. For those not in the business, this movie won't be as funny, but it's still plenty funny.
Bill Macy plays producer Charlie Berns, who's on the verge of suicide when his nephew shows up at his door with a script about Benjamin Disraeli, a 19th century English statesman. Deciding that he could play studios the way they've played him, Charlie decides to market the script with a twist--instead of casting a middle-aged white man, he wants to cast L.L. Cool J. Of course the movie gets picked up, but everything goes to pot when L.L.'s character is kidnapped by extremist during the shoot.
I'm sure with the star power it's got behind it, The Deal will be picked up, so keep an eye peeled for it in theatres or at least on DVD.
Another stand-out feature was Out at the Wedding. It was, hands-down, my favorite film of the week. It's refreshingly original, hilarious, and just great storytelling.
Alex Houston (Andrea Marcellus) is living it up in New York. She's got a successful career and a wonderful boyfriend (Mystro Clark). When her boyfriend Dana proposes, Alex has to figure out how she'll break the news to her very southern family that she'll be marrying a Jewish black man. She also has to figure out how to tell her fiancé and his parents that her family isn't dead.
When she attends her sister's wedding, her best friend Jonathan (Charlie Schlatter) mistakingly starts a tiny rumor that Alex is a lesbian. Instead of clearing up the matter, Alex goes with it, and has to pull off the lie of a lifetime when her sister comes to visit her in New York.
Out at the Wedding has supposed been picked up by LOGO, so if you have cable, you should check for it there. It's definitely worth the watch.
As I like to do at film festivals, I watched tons of shorts. Because Americans are weird and really don't like their films under 90 minutes, the only place to see good shorts is at a film festival. A lot of these are available for instant watching on Netflix. Also, look for them in compilation DVDs available for rent at Netflix as well.
Of all the shorts I saw, there are four that really stand out.
A young gynecologist has trouble being intimate with his wife in Just One of the Gynos. At first, I thought it was just going to be a one-joke short, but this is well-written and had a bust-out-laughing moment that still makes me snicker a little. Plus, for fans of The Office, there's the extra bonus of Creed Bratton as the father-in-law.
Spider is a comedy about a man who has a fight with his girlfriend. When he tries to apologize to her, something goes incredibly wrong. When the "moment" happens, you don't know if you should laugh or cry. I pretty much just had my jaw on the floor.
Gaining Ground is a touching drama about illegal immigrants living in Germany who have to figure out what to do when their son reaches school age. Do they keep him away from the children he desperately wants to be with, or do they risk being found out? Political standing aside, this is an incredibly well-acted and written story that tugs a bit at the heartstrings. I teared up a little at the end, and even though I'm a big cry-baby, shorts don't usually get to me like that.
Another one that had me tearing up was Happy New Year, a story about two best friends who fought together in Iraq. One getting severely injured due to the possible incompetence of the other. The strength of their friendship is tested when their war experiences have brought them to very different places.
If you haven't been to a film festival, I suggest going to one. Big or small, there's always good things to be seen.