AFI Fest 2012

AFI Fest officially ends today. 8 days and 133 films from across the globe, screening in some of Hollywood’s most historic theaters. From November 1st though November 8th, hundreds of people waited in lines in front of The Egyptian Theater, The Chinese 6 Theater, and Grauman’s Chinese Theater in an effort to celebrate the undeniable magic of cinema.

Perks of attending this festival: free films, hanging among film enthusiasts and industry “hot shots” alike, enjoying the chaos that is Hollywood, and engaging in some of the most compelling storytelling collectively curated under one umbrella.

Not so great parts: standing in line for up to 2 hours to see a film, getting terrible seats because half the theater is already reserved for said “hot shots,” spending tons of money on parking, and my personal favorite – not being able to see the subtitles on the screen because someone’s head is blocking them. Happened to me twice!

{Personal highlight? Hot Tamales in the old school packaging!}

I appreciate what the American Film Institute aims to do with this festival and was very happy with all 6 films that I saw over the last week. They were excellent stories that brought up injustices in our legal system, shared insight into the wrongly accused, the bullied; and even added a bit of humor to the life of an icon.

Naturally, I have my complaints: the lack of organization with lines and people not knowing where to stand; the strange method of giving a ticket, to receive another ticket, to then get another ticket into a screening seemed wasteful; and consistently starting films late, while expected in a festival atmosphere, didn’t help matters after you’d already been waiting in line for hours.

{Lines.}

I do want to acknowledge that it’s not easy coordinating and pulling off a festival. I can only imagine the amount of planning, scheduling, and rescheduling that went into such a feat and I commend that. However, I’m looking forward to get back to seeing movies the old-fashioned way. Where you pay for a seat, can sit wherever you want, and not a 2 hour-long line in sight! 🙂

My grades on this year’s films I saw:

Hitchcock – Grade: B
The Central Park Five – Grade: A-
West of Memphis – Grade: B
After Lucia – Grade: A
The Hunt – Grade: A
Rust and Bone – Grade: B+

Bad Turns 25!

Location: 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood

I am the first to admit that I get bored easily and I can be pretty fickle. One of the few things this logic doesn’t apply to is my eternal love for Michael Jackson’s unmatched legacy of music!

I was beyond stoked when I heard through the grapevine, that a new MJ documentary exploring the cultivation of and stories behind the production of the Bad album and its iconic music videos was making its way to Los Angeles for a one week limited theatrical release at the Chinese 6 Theater at Hollywood and Highland. The theater’s Chinese inspired decor has a modern flair and was designed as a newer counterpart to the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater downstairs. I don’t make the rounds to this theater very often. I’ve seen a handful of films here this year – usually in the morning or afternoon – so I was surprised at the $16.00 per ticket peak weekend price tag! Really? That’s more than the Arclight!

Boy, was I glad we overlooked the ticket prices (thanks Darlin’ :)). Director Spike Lee uses his accomplished narrative skills and industry connections to examine track by track the enigma and timelessness of MJ’s “Bad” LP as it turns 25 years old. I spent an awesome Friday night in Theater 1 reliving my childhood anthems, reinforcing my love affair with his music, smiling, laughing, and mini dancing in my seat. I had 2 hours of the most consecutive fun in the movie theater that I’ve had in quite awhile.

While the 400 seat theater was not at all crowded for a weekend screening, it was packed with some of his die hard fans. You could tell from the audience’s loud cheering, clapping, singing, and later sobbing as we learned more about MJ’s world circa 1987.

What a treat to see archival behind the scenes footage of the late November film shoot for the “Bad video with current commentary from director Martin Scorsese himself; to catch up with Tatiana, the extension wearing beauty every girl wanted to be in “The Way You Make Me Feel” video; and to learn how “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” was written as a possible duet with Whitney Houston that was eventually recorded with Siedah Garrett. Garrett, who is drenched throughout the film, shares her accounts of working alongside MJ intimately and how “Man in The Mirror” came from writing pad to recording studio. Even better, the film is chocked full of interviews from MJ’s sound engineers, producing team, instrumentalists, and fellow musical peers singing his praises from Mariah Carey to Kanye West.

This is the most entertaining documentary I think I’ve ever seen! If you can’t make it out to the Chinese 6 by the end of the week, there will be a special presentation airing on network television on Thanksgiving night. Get together with your loved ones, have some turkey, some laughs, share what you’re thankful for, and crowd in front of the TV. You won’t be sorry.

Fighting for Sparkle

“You won’t make it. You should have left sooner. Just go home, get into your sweats, and veg in front of the TV. Ooh, maybe I can order in tonight. Thai? Boo, traffic sucks!”

“No, this is a great opportunity. Yeah, you should have left sooner, but take a risk and see what happens.You might surprise yourself. Boo, traffic really sucks tonight!”

I had this internal dialogue back and forth in my head the entire time I sat in traffic on Sunset Boulevard fighting to get to Grauman’s Chinese Theater last Thursday. I had gotten passes to the world premiere red carpet screening for Sparkle. The passes simply meant that I had a chance to get in to see the film, but it was on a first-come, first-serve basis. While I’ve never been turned away from a screening, in this case, it wouldn’t have surprised me. I’d seen various outlets promoting the passes and the fact that the film featured the last performance from one of the greatest singers that ever lived, I knew would draw an even larger crowd.

50 minutes later, I arrived at the corner of Franklin and Orange and knew deep down that there was likely no way I was going to get in. The line had already wrapped around the corner but I thought, “I’m already here, it’s a 1,000 seat theater, why not get in line and see what happens?”

As I parked and made the nearly ten minute trek just to get to the line due to sidewalk closures, Hollywood Boulevard was bursting alive with activity around me. The red carpet was out, photographers everywhere, and onlookers stood across the street watching as celebs made their way down the press line and into the theater. Let’s not forget that this part of town is typically busy without a Hollywood premiere, and the summer season draws tourists by the masses. Needless to say, it was more than crowded. It was a zoo!

Meanwhile, I was still having the “go home, no wait and see” conversation in my head as I stood in line telling myself “I’ll give it 30 minutes max then I’ll head upstairs and see what’s playing at the Chinese 6 instead.”  Yet somehow, I got into mingling with a few of the other hopefuls as we waited in line. On top of that, you couldn’t ask for a better place to stand-back and people watch (a fun secret pastime of mine…shhhh). It’s then that the world becomes a larger place, full of different styles, cultures, looks, good fashion choices and plenty of bad fashion choices. Simply stopping and taking the time to look around you, to chat with a complete stranger and hear some of their stories can be so invigorating and was the best part of the experience.

An hour or so later we had heard that the theater was at capacity and that we wouldn’t make it in. I eventually found out that this was the case for those who arrived much earlier than I did. I wasn’t disappointed because I knew how it worked and was grateful for taking the time to immerse myself in the risk because it still turned out to be fun. I also wouldn’t have any “what ifs?”

I did walk upstairs to the Chinese 6 Theaters at Hollywood and Highland, but I’d either already seen the film or didn’t have an interest in it (“Brave 3D is still out?”) so I headed home.

As they say, “one monkey don’t stop the show.” Enter the beauty of the Arclight.

I took myself to see the movie Tuesday night, in my comfy pants, popcorn in hand, soda in cup-holder, and enjoyed every single frame!

Of all of the celebrity deaths in recent years, Whitney Houston’s was the biggest shock to me personally (Michael Jackson a close second). It was because the last time I saw her, she was sitting on stage with Oprah looking as if she’d really turned it around and was headed toward true freedom. In the end, we’re all human. I think we forget that sometimes because someone is projected onto a big screen in front of you, making millions of dollars. We all have our opinions of how someone should be or shouldn’t be, but I choose to remember Whitney Houston as the beautiful woman I used to imitate singing in the shower or with a brush in front of the mirror. What a great way to leave this life and into the next in Sparkle.