With the 1040 form finally in the mailbox, a typically diverse and well-heeled crowd gathered on Friday, April 15 for the penultimate night of the 2005 Beverly Hills Film Festival. The plush Clarity Theater on the corner of Wilshire and Crescent played host to a pair of enjoyable short films and what was perhaps an oddly-paired feature.
the Beverly Hills Film Festival seems to offer a welcome blend of both access and accessibility
A long line was left waiting outside of the theater until well past the scheduled start time, although some careful eavesdropping made it clear that this was an industry savvy crowd. In contrast to larger festivals, the Beverly Hills Film Festival seems to offer a welcome blend of both access and accessibility. A modest group of press gathered to snap a few photos in front of the ever-present, sponsor-laden banner (which included, among others, Lions Gate Films, Premiere Magazine and Renaissance Hotels among others), giving the screenings a bona fide authenticity.
Director/Actor Scott Addison Clay opened the evening with a hilarious take on the Christopher Guest style mockumentary. Hooray For Everything, the story of a quirky improv troupe of the same name, is shot documentary style and features some well-timed flashbacks and visual gags. Cast members Bryn Boice, Chris Catalano, Fred DeReau, Rich Fromm, Travis Stroessenreuther and Scott Addison Clay as "the alternate" each offered their own unique brand of comedy, helping to prove that the whole can indeed be greater than the sum of its parts. Especially memorable was the amorphous Chris Catalano - a man who can transform himself into anything (excepting, of course, a bow tie). Created as a tribute, after the troupe allegedly perished in a tragic hunger strike to bring back the ill-fated My So Called Life, Hooray For Everything left the audience wanting more. The obvious comfort and rapport between members of the troupe definitely warrants higher production values and a feature-length yarn in the future.
The Big Handsome Guy is... the kind of loveable frat boy meathead who gets all the girls and all the credit
The middle act brought a well-crafted short from director Jason Winer. The Adventures of Big Handsome Guy and His Little Friend showcased narrative short film-making at its best. Short films often either address too little (effectively turning them into sketches) or attempt to tackle too much (producing incoherent and uninteresting mini-features). However, Winer and co-writer Hayes MacArthur's effort showed a wonderful balance of both character and story. The film stars MacArthur and Winer as the title characters. MacArthur effortlessly played the "Big Handsome Guy," the kind of loveable frat boy meathead who gets all the girls and all the credit, but in the end shows he's got a heart as well. The Robin to his Batman was Winer, the soft-spoken friend of the "Cool Guy" who can never catch a break of his own. The two descend on a hip Hollywood nightclub with Big Handsome Guy proclaiming that the night's mission is to get his little friend laid "once...maybe twice." Only moments later our Little Friend finds himself stuck on the outside looking in after Big Handsome Guy schmoozes his way in and leaves him alone. Little Friend sneaks his way inside, only to make a scene and get tossed out by his bouncer nemesis. Rest assured, a Hollywood ending is just around the corner, as the apparent "girl of his dreams" (who unbeknownst to him had eyed him all night) steps into his life and actually seems intrigued by his use of the word Visigoth. Our hero triumphs as he scores a kiss on the cheek and the girl's digits on his hand. The two walk off into the night as Big Handsome Guy boasts at having made out with 17 girls. As the credits rolled, one could all but hear the agents and development execs clamoring about "marketability" and "heart." Indeed, The Adventures of Big Handsome Guy and His Little Friend seems like the ideal calling card for procuring mainstream industry gigs.
Rounding out the night was writer-director Chris Lovenko's Easy Six. Although it was billed in the evening's program as a "darkly comic romp," this may be the single most willful misreading in the history of the logline. The film's story is that of Packard Schmidt (Julian Sands), a conflicted English professor who finds himself increasingly disgruntled with life at a corporate-minded college in Florida. The opening scene makes it clear that the evil, anti-academy administrators, would like to see him ousted, but have no real reason to do so. Schmidt departs for Las Vegas to attend a conference on Milton, but before he goes agrees to search for the daughter of baseball coach Frank Iverson (John Savage), one of his former students.
Cut to Vegas as Schmidt haphazardly tracks down Sally Iverson (Katharine Towne), through her roommate at an out of town brothel (which he foolishly believes to be a restaurant). He hitches a ride in a hearse limousine captained by a refreshingly funny Jim Rambo, an Elvis impersonator with 199 confirmed kills (Jim Belushi). Sure enough, the stunning Sally is a working girl at the Paradise Inn and is understandably surprised to see her old prof. Reluctant at first, Schmidt ultimately falls hard for his former student, and the two spend some crazy nights in Vegas getting to know one another in the Biblical sense.
Back in Florida, Sally comes home for Christmas, ostensibly to see her father. It doesn't take long for old man Iverson to grow wise to their relationship when he discovers some lurid Polaroids of the two lovers. Iverson takes the news to the evil administrators, vowing to ruin Schmidt's career. After a painfully awkward moment in which Schmidt professes his love for Sally only to learn that she thought it was "just a couple fucks," Schmidt has truly hit rock bottom. He goes slightly crazy and winds up jailed for D.U.I.
Inexplicably, Schmidt and Sally elope to Vegas. How or when this sudden reversal transpired must have occurred off screen. Nevertheless, Frank Iverson tracks the newlyweds down and takes the hearse limousine hostage (for the record, Belushi's Elvis character also preformed the wedding). In a funny, if underdeveloped, climax, Frank shoots Schmidt in the neck with a pellet gun and curses the "damn Democrats" and their five day waiting period. However, the violence soon escalates when Frank grabs an undercover cop's revolver and moves to finish Schmidt for good. Elvis impersonator Belushi saves the day by pulling a sniper rifle from his hearse and shoots Schmidt for his two hundredth confirmed kill.
Easy Six is not without its problems. A quick IMDB search reveals that the movie has been around in some capacity since 2003, and the director is no doubt struggling to keep it alive. Production values are quite high and the D.P. does a nice job capturing Vegas in its bright reds and yellows. Katharine Towne is a beautiful woman (that same IMDB search confirmed my suspicions that she is the daughter of the famed screenwriter), and does about all she can as the femme fatale that never really materializes. Sands struggles a bit, John Savage does his part and Jim Belushi provides most of the laughs. In the end, this is a true B-movie, the kind of crime-of-passion picture they used to crank out by the dozen, but that seem to have fallen out of favor of late. If you want to catch it, my guess is that you'll need to search it out on DVD.