San Diego International Film Festival Festivities: An Explosion in Your Backyard

When people find out at parties that you’re a film critic, you’re asked the usual questions: What movie should I see that’s out right now? Sometimes I get “Have you met any famous actors?”

Once in a while, I’ll hear, “Have you ever been to any of the film festivals, like Cannes or Sundance?
The answers I give usually intrigue people, but what I often add is that they can experience all of these same things, by going there, to the San Diego International Film Festival. Of course, I had a blast at Sundance in Park City, Utah…watching actor Joe Pantoliano get upset that he couldn’t get into his own “Memento” movie. But why bother with all that snow, when you have that San Diego weather, with all the red carpet excitement brought right to your backyard?
While the Asian Film Festival and the Jewish Film Festival have done a great job over the years putting on great programs here in town, nothing beats the San Diego International Film Festival.

That’s where I met my favorite comedian of all time: Alan Arkin. I made Warren Beatty and his wife (San Diegan) Annette Bening laugh at a story I told them. I had a great chat with JK Simmons about his underrated Coen Brothers film “Burn After Reading” and befriended his talented filmmaker wife Michelle Schumaker (a former Chula Vista resident who has performed the incredibly powerful “I’m Not Here” that the Festival showed).

Over the years, other guests have included Michael B. Jordan, John Boyega, and… while Tom Berringer was tipsy, he kept yelling at me from across the patio, asking me about his movies he couldn’t remember the answers to. ask. A few attendees even brought baseballs for him to sign (he was in “Major League” but I preferred his role in “The Big Chill” to that).

Adrian Brody was there for a year, as well as horror director Eli Roth. A participant wanted to meet him, and I asked her why she hadn’t brought a DVD to sign. I bought him a big knife from one of the caterers, and he laughed as he put his John Hancock on it. No one was stabbed in preparation for this meeting.
I could name about 20 other A-listers who have been invited to the Festival over the years, but that comes across as a loss of name. Of course, mingling with these stars can be a blast. And this year, those guests include Andy Garcia (whom I wish my wife would stop talking about already), Regina Hall (who blew my mind last month in the movie “Honk for Jesus”), and singer/actor Colson Baker (better known by his stage name Machine Gun Kelly). He promotes his film “Taurus”.
The Festival does a great job of getting interesting foreign films, and I always have fun watching the short films. A few years ago, some comedy shorts were so funny that I was tempted to put them in my top 10 list of movies of the year.

Each year, a number of films end up being nominated for the Oscars. And, how many times have you been to an Oscar party and heard people say, “I’ve never heard of this movie”?

Well, go to the Festival and see all those great movies, and you’ll know about your Oscar night this time.

Since many documentaries don’t get much attention from theaters (which feel we need to keep ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ for a few more months), it’s great to catch some of these interesting stories and actual on the big filter.

If those are the biggest movies you want to catch, there’s the hysterical “The Banshees of Inisherin” which stars Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell (who were together recently on Saturday Night Live). It was written and directed by Martin McDonagh. If I remember correctly, I had seen at least three of his previous films at the Festival (“Seven Psychopaths”, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “In Bruges”, with these same two great actors).

Anthony Hopkins got another Oscar nomination for ‘The Two Popes’ a few years ago and shocked everyone when he won the Best Actor Oscar against Chadwick Bosman for ‘The Father’ (he really deserved it for that performance ). He will probably be nominated again for a film you can see at the Festival – “Armageddon Time” (Anne Hathaway). This movie will help me forget the awful Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck movie and the equally awful Def Leppard song. But I digress.
Olivia Colman is another Oscar darling (I’m still irritated that she won over Glenn Close for “The Wife” which was a much better movie). His film “Empire of Light” will be screened. It also stars Colin Firth, who can’t be wrong on screen.

Still, I still think it’s even more fun to catch the little movies you didn’t even know about. One year the festival featured a western titled “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” starring Bill Pullman and Peter Fonda. I thought it was a better western than the one that got all the attention that year – ‘Hostiles’.

This year, the little pic I can’t wait to see is “Mending the Line” with Patricia Heaton and Brian Cox. Looks like it would be a great companion to “A River Runs Through It” – which is one of the best films ever made (side note: a Festival volunteer about 6 years ago showed me that she had this movie title tattooed on his arm). Of course, a woman in her early twenties is much more likely to have a movie with Brad Pitt tattooed on her arm than the formidable actor Brian Cox, but…

I have already seen a film which will be screened at the Festival. It’s called “Match” and was written and directed by Sean McGinly, who gave us the tremendous and much underrated “The Great Buck Howard” (John Malkovich, Tom Hanks). It’s a great story about a couple who meet online and things that can go right and wrong when they meet that way.

A few other big names appear in the crime drama “American Murderer” – Ryan Phillippe, Idina Menzel (read that slowly, Mr. Travolta) and the ever creepy Jacki Weaver.

Teenagers might be moved by “Dear Zoe” where actress Sadie Sink (Stranger Things) writes a letter to her deceased little sister.
The two I’m most looking forward to are: “Dotty & Soul”. It features two character actors I adore, Mr. Emmet Walsh and comedian David Koechner, and deals with some cancel culture issues when a tasteless Halloween costume comes back to haunt a business owner. who thinks they have the perfect solution.

Also, two of my favorite British talents – Sally Hawkins (find her movie ‘Submarine’ and thank me later) and Steve Coogan, in Stephen Fears’ movie ‘The Lost King’. Coogan shows he can play serious, not just comedy (has anyone seen the Fears/Coogan movie “Philomena”? Friggin’ awesome).

There’s a movie that reminds me of the premise used in “Brigsby Bear” (Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear) – “The Moon and Back”. A girl finds a science fiction script her late father wrote and decides to see what she can do with it.

An actress from the acclaimed “Parasite” is in “The Woman in the White Car” in South Korea. It sounds like an interesting mystery/thriller, dealing with a stabbed woman and a badly scarred woman, who shows up at the hospital with many unanswered questions.

It’s not just the game, because the Festival also tackles serious subjects, with “Exit” which deals with human trafficking. There is also “Lovely Jackson” which is the story of a wrongfully convicted prisoner.

There are plenty of other films, I’m not going to review every film the Festival will screen this year. It’s quite a long list. You can check out the list on their website and buy tickets there too – SDFILMFEST.COM

If you see me smoking a cigar with Andy Garcia, come say hello.

Josh Board has been reviewing movies for over 30 years and can be heard every Friday morning on KOGO 600 AM.

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About Monty S. Maynard

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