So you couldn't get to Venice or Toronto or Sundance for a film festival this year?
Not to fret—the Loft Film Festival is screening innovative, provocative and experimental films from all of those festivals and others across the globe next week. As Loft Cinema Foundation Executive Director Peggy Johnson puts it: "We're trying to skim off the cream and bring it to Tucson."
The Loft crew is indeed bringing it. If they were just curating a sampling of the year's best independent filmmaking for a weekend in Tucson, that would be enough to celebrate. But the Loft Film Fest is more than that: It's nearly four dozen films ranging from highbrow to lowbrow, classic to cult, comedy to drama, wild fantasy to documentary, all unspooling as a love letter to the magic of moviemaking.
As usual, plenty of special guests will be on hand. This year, Rita Moreno, who has already captured the elusive EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), will be taking home the Lofty Lifetime Achievement Award. Moreno be here for a special screening of West Side Story. (See Bob Grimm's Q&A with her).
Also taking home a Lifetime Achievement Award: Alfonso Arau, the director of Like Water for Chocolate, which he'll discuss in a Q&A after Sunday's screening. Arau is perhaps better known as the notorious bandit El Guapo from Three Amigos—which will show on the Loft's cool new inflatable parking-lot screen. Yes, you read that right: The Loft has a new inflatable screen and the Saturday night Three Amigos screening is free, although you have to bring your own lawn chair if you want a seat.
Bobcat Goldthwait, who is taking home the Lee Marvin Maverick award, will talk after a Saturday screening of Call Me Lucky, a profile of Barry Crimmins, a legendary comedian who broke new ground in the '70s with his politically charged material. Loft Programming Director Jeff Yanc says the Maverick award is going to Goldthwait "because he's really sort of changed the course of his career from being one of the stars of the Police Academy franchise to now being this really amazing filmmaker who goes to Sundance and all over the world and gets awards. He's great to have around, and then the film's great, too."
Authors Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana will do a Q&A after the 10th anniversary screening of Brokeback Mountain, which holds the record as the biggest box office the Loft has had. Johnson says she's been hearing from people across the world who have told her the film is important to them. "I had no idea that there was this army of extreme Brokeback Mountain fans all over the world, a lot of whom are planning to come to this screening," Johnson says.
Janis Joplin's brother, Tucsonan Michael Joplin, will be on hand for a screening of Janis: Little Girl Blue, a documentary that combines footage of Joplin's electric performances with interviews with those who knew her best and Joplin's own personal letters to craft a portrait of a troubled artist who died from a heroin overdose at age 27.
The Loft Film Fest kicks off on International Back to the Future Day, aka Wednesday. Oct. 21, 2015—or the date that Marty McFly traveled to in the beginning of Back to the Future II. Along with a double-feature of Back to the Future and Back to the Future II, there's gonna be a '50s, '80s and contemporary fashion show courtesy of Buffalo Exchange, an Under the Sea dance and, of course, a DeLorean for photo-ops.
Hitchcock/Truffaut: Filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, David Fincher Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater talk about the influence of Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut against the backdrop of a famous sit-down the two legendary directors had in 1962. In honor of both directors, Truffaut's Jules and Jim will screen on Thursday night and Hitchcock's Psycho will be show on Friday night. Both screenings are free (although the Loft would love a very reasonable $5 donation) on the new outdoor screen in the parking lot. (Bring your own seating.)
Right Footed is a documentary about Tucsonan Jessica Cox, who was born without arms but has gone on to become a pilot, martial arts expert and motivational speaker. Cox and director/producer Nick Spark while speak after the film.
Fiddlesticks: Fiddlesticks, showing Saturday at noon, is the part of the festival that's for kids. It's a subversive comedy from German filmmaker Veit Helmer about kids who decide to break their grandparents out of the retirement homes they've been remanded so the townsfolk can maintain the proper demographic balance to be the perfectly average village.
Florence, Arizona: New York filmmaker Andrea B. Scott turned her lens on four residents of Florence and how the nine prisons around the town affect them. Scott will talk about the film after the Thursday screening.
In the Basement: Filmmaker Ulrich Seidl has created this Austrian film about what people create in their basements, from brass-band performance space to strange sex dungeons. (No one under 18 admitted.)
Double Digits: The Story of a Neighborhood Movie Star: Director Justin Johnson, who is a guest of the festival, has made a movie about filmmaker Richard "R.G." Miller, who creates his own YouTube genre films—action, horror, western, etc.—featuring himself and a collection of action figures.
Chuck Norris vs. Communism: This Romanian film explores how '80s Hollywood action flicks by the likes of Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme spurred a cultural revolution that helped topple the Communist dictatorship.
Cinema writer Bob Grimm chimed in with some capsule reviews:
Nasty Baby: Writer-director Sebastian Silva goes the low budget, shaky camera route with this drama/comedy that unspools into something altogether different in its final act. The immediacy of shaky cam serves his film well, as this really does have the feel of a documentary about a gay couple trying to have a baby in Manhattan. Silva stars as artist Freddy, a man trying to conceive a child with good friend Polly (Kristen Wiig), but his sperm isn't packing the necessary punch. After some whining all around, they turn to Freddy's boyfriend Mo (Tunde Adebimpe), who is reluctant at first, but eventually agrees to father the child. While this drama is playing out, in often funny form thanks to the presence of Wiig, there's a crazy homeless man named The Bishop (Reg E. Cathey) giving everybody headaches and spewing homophobic slurs. The Bishop's presence plays against the present and future happiness of Freddy, Mo, and Polly, and the film shifts in tone whenever Bishop comes into play. Then, the film takes a major seismic shift, one that might put many off the movie, but one that I personally appreciated. I had no idea where this film was going, and the way it played out really struck me. Silva has a raw charm to his moviemaking, and Kristen Wiig keeps amazing with her choices and performances. She's solidified herself as one of cinema's finest actresses.
Paulette: Bernadette Lafont plays Paulette, a cantankerous, bigoted older woman who has lost her Paris bakery to a Chinese restaurant and now lives in poverty. One night while scavenging through the trash, she notices some local tough kids selling dope and making big wads of cash. Hungry, scheming and desperate, Paulette offers her services to local drug kingpin Vito (Paco Boublard) as his newest drug dealer, a notion he first scoffs but gets used to when Paulette becomes his number one dealer. Eventually, Paulette starts making "space cakes" out of hashish, combining her past glories as a baker with her new status as a drug dealer. Director Jerome Enrico gets some nice satiric bite out of his broad comedy, with Lafont doing a bang up job as the drug dealing grandma. The film drifts into cutesy slapstick at times, but Lafont gives the movie a strong center, making some of the more tedious passages forgivable. The movie works as an interesting statement on the plight of some of the elderly, and the fact that just because you are old and poor, doesn't mean you don't want the best TV set in the store. It's a slightly sadistic bonbon of a movie, and LaFont makes for a nastily fun protagonist.
Finders Keepers: This is a simple story about a man having his leg amputated, that same man retrieving that amputated leg from the mortician and then leaving his leg in a tree for a few months to mummify. That same man eventually leaves his skeevy leg in a barbecue grill stowed in a storage facility and loses the leg when he doesn't pay the bill. Then, somebody else buys the one legged man's storage facility, finds the leg, thinks he now owns the leg, and a media circus ensues. This is actually a documentary, and it all happened to John Wood, who lost his leg in a plane crash and eventually wound up battling a man named Shannon Whisnant for custody of that leg. The story did all the rounds, including reality TV, Maury Povich and court television. Whisnant tried to parlay the leg battle into some sort of fame, which he kind of gets with the existence of this movie. Wood, who has had lifelong battles with chemicals and drink, allegedly got sober as a result of all the hubbub. The amputated foot does actually show up at one point in all its mummified glory, just in case you are interested in that sort of thing.