Friday, July 4, 2008

Vegas--The New LA Chic vs. The Mall Rat and The Honky Tonk

I recently returned from a trip to Vegas where my new film Out of Print was screening at the CineVegas Film Fest. In 10 short years, CineVegas has established itself as one of the top American Festivals. Its quick rise to prominence is in part be due to its fine programming and in part due to the fact that it’s in Vegas, and who doesn’t want to go to Vegas? I believe a Gentleman’s Club was one of the fest’s sponsors. The fest takes place at the Palms Hotel, with festival guests split between the Palms and the neighboring Gold Coast. Whenever I’ve been to Vegas I’ve always stayed on the Strip and spent quality time downtown, thus taking in all that Vegas has to offer—the Rat Pack vibe of the Strip’s finer casinos, the honky tonk vibe of downtown, and the ever-increasing theme park vibe of the newer casinos on the Strip. The Palms and the Coast are in neither of these locales and they offer up an altogether different vibe. The Palms is a weird hybrid—part L.A. chic, part mall rat. For the most part entering the Palms is like walking onto the set of Entourage. The Palms is home to the kind of clubs where you have to wait in line an hour to enter and mortgage the house so you can be dressed appropriately. Since many of the fest parties were at these clubs, festival attendees could get to the head of the line and gain entrance looking like slobs. Definitely glad I got a glimpse, but never felt like I needed to stay all that long at any of these places. Though, had I stayed at the pool party long enough, I’m told I could have rubbed elbows with Britney. The odd thing about the Palms though was that while it is fancified to the max, it simultaneously has a mall rat vibe. It has a music venue, host to Stone Temple Pilots and Panic At The Disco while we were there, a food court and a multiplex movie theater. In other words, teenagers are all over the place. Truly bizarre. Across the street at the Gold Coast, the vibe was altogether different. The place just smells like 1972. Stale cigar and cigarette smoke seem to be pumped through the air vents. The gambling vibe is grim. No glitz. No honky tonk. Just a lot of dour, chain smoking Philipino men sporting poker faces to end all poker faces. I could never tell if these guys were having the time of their life or if they just lost the ranch. It reminded me of gambling at a horrid spot in South San Francisco called Artichoke Joes. My traveling companion, Ray Wilcox, and I lit out for downtown one night, which was such a refreshing change. We spent our gambling dollar at The Golden Gater. Our kind of place --rotgut vodka tonics, pink-tassled ladies dancing on pedestals in the blackjack pit, excitable dudes from Truckee plonking down bet after bet. Now that’s Vegas.

As for the fest, I got to give big props. It was a great time. Most hospitable, totally organized, great projection, and good fun. They know how to treat a filmmaker and throw good parties. As for the films, here’s what I recommend.

The Rocker. This is a major motion picture coming out soon. Like all rock and roll movies I was totally skeptical going in. It stars Rainn Wilson as a washed up rocker who gets one more chance to rock by joining his nephew’s high school indie rock band. It has all the markings of a real horror show. Wilson is channeling Jack Black from School of Rock in a painful way. Particularly bizarre given how recent that film is and the fact that Black is still alive. Wilson’s new band sounds just like the Smashing Pumpkins or some 90s indie retrograde rock band and I think we hear the same song over and over and over again. And finally, the opening scene of the film is a total rip off of my 1996 movie I’m Not Fascinating. For real! But all of that said, I was laughing throughout. I won’t stake my reputation on this film, but I thought it was pretty damn funny. The writing holds up.

Your Name Here. Bill Pullman stars as a paranoid sci-fi author who is losing touch with reality. The film is clearly an amalgamation of stories and lore behind beloved sci fi author Phillip K. Dick. I’ll give major points to the film for doing a great job of creating a time-slipping world of paranoia that is true to Dick’s writing. Now, I grant you, I was pretty tired but a lot of scenes seemed to overstay their welcome and are too talky. I think Ray fell asleep and was snoring during parts of this. The film definitely seems to crawl at times, but like I said, I may have been getting too comfortable in my seat, so I’d like to get someone else’s opinion. Definitely worth checking out for PK Dick fans.

The End. This is the doc that my film played with and I highly recommend it. It’s a doc about East End gangsters in London. These are the guys that the characters in films like Sexy Beast and Snatch are modeled after. The film was made by two sisters whose father is one of these gangsters. Dad and his buddies are the stars and these guys are able to open up because of how well they know and trust the filmmakers. Totally riveting and kind of chilling.

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