Almost Famous - Round XVVV

My Continuing Adventures As A San Francisco Entertainment Journalist

By Kimberlye Gold

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This month: The 28th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival!!

Greetings Heroldonians, and welcome back to my Almost Famous hell, I mean paradise. Here we are for a FOURTH go-round of hob-nobbing with the stars and wanna-be stars, the up-and-coming icons of tomorrow and yesterdays news waiting to happen.

The opening night film I chose was The Matador, starring Mr. 007 himself, Pierce Brosnan as a lovable, womanizing assassin with a dark secret, and cuddly family man Greg Kinear, as his unsuspecting, soon-to-be-accomplice. Brosnan was pitch perfect, with a slimy moustache, generating amusing and touching buddy chemistry with Kinear (in his usual fine form). Writer/director Richard Shepard concocted just the right amount of light and dark comedic turns to keep the audience on its toes. After the film, Brosnan, looking positively dashing with a full beard, blazer, jeans and boots (be still my heart!), joined Shepard for a quick Q&A. Pierce believed so much in this quirky little film that he financed it and helped get it to Sundance. They both love San Francisco and want to make more movies here.

The opening night gala, in downtown Mill Valley in the Square, was pretty much a snooze fest. It was too packed, the food was okay, the lines were too long and there were no stars to be seen. We danced to some cheesy disco music before the night was over.

The next film I attended was Berkeley, a coming-of-age, labor of love period piece set during the Viet Nam War and filmed on the Berkeley campus. Written and directed by former Berkeley native/grad Bobby Roth and starring his son Nick (who is gonna be a big star), the film was shot in fifteen days and was quite effective in portraying the humor, heart and intensity of the era. Henry Winkler played the kid’s worrywart dad. Country Joe MacDonald opened the festivities by playing a rousing acoustic version of “1-2-3, What Are We Fightin’ For”, or whatever it’s called, and the baby boomer audience sang along, “Whoopee, we’re all gonna dieeeeeeee!!” I ended up sitting next to the producer of the film, Jeff White, Roth’s childhood pal who also attended Berkeley. After bonding with him throughout the film and the Q&A, I gave him a copy of my CD Sycamore Street, natch!

On Sunday, TV actress and Bill Macy’s wife Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives, Sports Night) was given an on-stage “Spotlight” interview by larger-than-life TV film critic Jan Wahl and her wacky hat, before the screening of Huffman’s new film Transamerica. Huffman, tiny and adorable in a grey pants suit and blond hair in ponytail, was charming, funny and self-effacing. She talked about her breakout film debut, and the role of a lifetime. Huffman plays a man who is in the process of becoming a woman and is half-way there (he/she still has male genitalia, which we get to see when he/she takes a leak!) when he/she discovers he has a son, and they set off on a cross country road trip. Huffman, who was brilliant, joked she had to look like Kate Hepburn and talk like James Earl Jones. Filmmaker Duncan Tucker, who wrote and directed an Oscar caliber slice-of-bizarre-life, was also on hand. He made brilliant use of music throughout the film, so of course, I had to compliment him on his stellar choices and give him a copy of my CD at the reception afterwards.

On Wednesday, I put on my singer/songwriter hat with my partner-in-crime, talented guitar player/singer/songwriter Kurt Huget and shared the Outdoor Garden Party bill with the lovely and talented Jenna Mammina. We had fun, although the festival did not promote it and the masses of director/filmmaker liaisons to our musical future were not privy to our potential earning power. Timing is everything…


Pierce Brosnan

On Thursday, our pal, author/columnist/ex-Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres interviewed French filmmaker Jean Pierre Jeunet, most famous for the wildly popular Amelie from a few festivals ago. Jeunet has one of the most animated, innovative minds in history, and delighted the audience in waxing on and on about his crazy ideas. We watched several clips and two shorts, all showcasing his twisted style.

The reception was held at Frantoio, always the best party of the festival with outstanding Italian cuisine and vino. But again, not too much fanfare, another subdued event (where was Sean Penn lurking this year?)

Saturday night festivities began with our friend BFT again, interviewing Donald Sutherland. The Donald has made like, 9000 films and we were shown clips of gazillions of them, including Klute (when Jane Fonda was his squeeze) and MASH, of course. Sutherland told us when Alan Alda met him, he grabbed his hand and said “Thank you for my life!” When discussing Sutherland’s current TV role as Geena Davis’ nemesis on ABC’s Commander In Chief, Ben quipped “From Hawkeye to Hawk”. Another cast member, the ubiquitous Peter Coyote, was also in the audience. Sutherland, tall and debonair with his long coat and shock of thick, white hair took great delight in being the center of attention and had story after story to tell, including how he shot some of his simulated sex scenes from the past.

His new film, a remake of Pride & Prejudice, where he played the father of five girls, was surprisingly the highlight of the festival. I’m not a big fan of period films, but this was one of the best movies I have ever seen. Stunningly shot, a stellar cast led by the utterly captivating Keira Knightly, and an absolutely perfect screenplay and directorial debut by British TV director Joe Wright make this film a DO-NOT-MISS in my book. Wright, on hand for a Q&A after the film, looked all of 25 years old, further blowing my mind with his brilliance. You KNOW I approached him at the reception and gave HIM a copy of my CD. He seemed quite pleased, maybe he is a brilliant actor, as well. Ben took a photo of The Donald and me, I’m sure his life will never be the same…

Closing night belonged to actor Jeff Daniels, interviewed by director of programming Zoe Elton. It was Daniels “first honoring thing”, and he seemed bemused by the whole process. Laid back Daniels is the anti-Hollywood type, living with his family in Michigan and running The Purple Rose Of Cairo Theater. He has also written ten plays, a true renaissance man! We were shown clips of many of his films including the afore mentioned The Purple Rose Of Cairo and Dumb and Dumber. Local legend Robin Williams was in the audience. We were then treated to Daniel’s new film The Squid & the Whale, a truly dysfunctional family film that makes your family and mine seem like Ozzie and Harriet. Co-starring Laura Linney, this mom & pop divorcing duo give love (and parenting) a baaaad name. It made me squirm.

The closing night party at the Mill Valley Community Center was okay, no big whoop. The food lines were outrageously long, no celebs or outrageous moments. Drew Youngs & his band played jazz and R&B – yours truly got up and belted out the Rufus classic ”Tell Me Something Good”.

Kudos to Goddess of Publicists Pam Hamilton & her staff for another successful year. Ditto to party people Dave Turreau and the lovely Juliet Michelle. Zoe Elton commented, “We had great music events this year and a different group of festival goers. Documentaries were stronger than ever, particularly Live & Become. Executive director of the California Film Institute and MVFF founder Mark Fishkin raved, “After 28 years I am truly blessed with one of the best film festivals throughout the world. Directors and filmmakers want to participate from 55 countries in great and meaningful ways.”

See ya next year!

Buy my CD SYCAMORE STREET at www.cdbaby.com/kimberlye

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If you have a housesitting gig (or a job) for Kimberlye contact her at GldnSng@aol.com.

All contents © 2006 by Gene Mahoney