Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Evidently, film festivals are where dietary considerations and exercise regimens go to die. And they die a relatively happy death — because the Oxford International Film Festival was quite fun.

Do you want the travelogue replete with witty remarks about the preponderance of cows and scary highway rest areas?



We'll hit you with the relevant facts and let you get on with your life.

Lisa and I were stashed away in a primo room at the Marcum Conference Center — the de facto hub of the festival. We were directly across the hall from Donna D'Errico and her two kids, though we wouldn't actually see them until the next day at the Actors Panel.

The first thing we did was grab some food. Actually, the real first thing we did was grab some umbrellas because it was pouring rain. We'd been told to expect a bevy of dining alternatives within walking distance of the Marcum. We didn't realize that the "walking distance" frame of reference used by our host was of the college-kid-in-flip-flops-during-an-artic-blast-who-cares-if-we-get-
soaked-we're-friggin'-19 variety.

Being on the geezer side of the median age range — and hungry — and thirsty — we got umbrellas ... and beer.

The food was good at 45 East Bar and Grill in downtown Oxford, Ohio and they poured a respectable pint of Guinness.

A good harbinger — if you put stock in harbingers.

Our first cinematic experience was a block of documentary shorts — we hung in for one about the mysterious death and disappearance of honey bees in the U.S. The we got hit with one about stock-car-racing evangelical pastors. It was a bittersweet character study that ranged from fundamentalist shouters to borderline- clowns-at-a-kids-party-with-bad-intent. All champion perspirers.

One definite highlight of the festival was the first feature-length film we saw. My guess is that Kabluey will never make it into your multi-plex (or your single-plex, for that matter) and that sucks for you because this movie is funnier than most of the stuff currently on the docket.

Writer/Director/Star Scott Prendergast recruited the likes of Lisa Kudrow, Christine Taylor, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and an utterly ego-less and, frankly, very ballsy Teri Garr for a sweetly quirky and often hilarious tale of redemption.

Remember this movie. It'll be out on DVD soon, I bet. Its worth the time.

Lisa had to make a premature exit the next day — but not before a rigorous night of classic festival boozery with the gang from The Lodge. Our daughter was sick and Lisa — being a far more responsible parent than I — went home to take care of her.

Later that day, I had the pleasure of sitting on an Actors Panel that was moderated by the delightfully no-nonsense director John Putch, whose very funny Bachelorman was in the festival competition and racked up the largest audiences we saw all weekend. The other panelists included Ms. D'Errico, who was in the ensemble drama Intervention and was the target of my shameless pestering since Intervention was directed by Mary McGuckian, who is married to the estimable John Lynch. In addition, there was Rodney Lee Conover (whose stand-up act provided the basis for Bachelorman), Clyde Kusatsu, who's been in practically every movie and TV show made in the last twenty years and is a top-notch storyteller, and Mike Landry, star of the film Frost.

The panel was lively and most memorable for the story Clyde told about getting axed by his agency of 18 years right after doing The Interpreter, with some ne'er-do-wells named Kidman and Penn. It was bracing to be reminded that working more steadily than 98.7% of all the other actors out there means ... well ... nothing to
certain dull-witted agents who shall remain (Paradigm) nameless.

I mean, Clyde was on Ironside, for Chrissake!! And has not stopped to take a breather since. Seriously, what the fuck, Paradigm!? Your roster just too full of talented, gracious and genuinely nice actors who work non-stop?

The Lodge screened twice and pulled a Villanova-Namath-Eruzione-esque upset, sharing the Audience Award with hometown favorite Eastern College. I missed the jubilant celebration at the awards dinner and the (no doubt) witty, self-deprecatingly irreverent acceptance speech by directors Brad Helmink and John Rauschelbach.

I had left that morning — after a final night of free food and booze — a night that saw one supremely creepy, hapless, balding, middle-aged dude trolling the reception for teenage girls with an invite to the "After-After party", which coincidentally happened to be back at his place.

In the woods.

In a lodge, I think.