By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Claire Lawton
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Anna Merlan
Less so is End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, a history about the twin mysteries of how two late, great guys who hated each other (the no-shit Johnny and the no-chin Joey) stayed in a band for more than two decades and how the Ramones managed to influence a million kids to start 250,000 bands without ever having a hit. It has all the usual stuff and all the usual suspects: a dead bassist on junk (Dee Dee), the woman who came between guitarist Johnny and singer Joey, the important drummer callously treated like an afterthought (Tommy), the nobodies who became bigger somebodies than their role models (members of the Clash and Sex Pistols) and the managers and hangers-on and enablers who stayed in orbit awaiting the blast-off that never quite came.
The best film of the fest is also the best of the year: Alexander Payne's Sideways, starring Paul Giamatti as a junior-high teacher and would-be novelist touring Santa Barbara vineyards with his former college roommate, a struggling actor played by Thomas Haden Church. Giamatti's once more the lovable schlep, this time falling for Virginia Madsen's wine-loving waitress; Church, as a groom-to-be who screws around with Sandra Oh's winery worker, is at once boomingly larger-than-life and not much of anything at all. Giamatti and Church are wonderful as good friends who shouldn't even like each other; one learns a little something, the other not much of anything, and the movie's as genuine and sincere as any doc in the fest. Payne loves his little people who can fill the biggest screen.
Its counterpart is lbs. , also a sort of buddy pic about A Fat Guy (Neil, played by Carmine Famiglietti) and His Junkie Friend (Sacco, played by Michael Aronov) trying to give up their respective addictions in the middle of nowhere. Famiglietti even looks a little like Giamatti--thick, haggard and just this far from losing his shit. What could have been preachy and treacly is often heartbreaking, with just enough humor to make it go down easily.
And then there are the movies that are included for the pure fun of it, including Ong-bak, a Thai martial-arts movie that plays like a cross between Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Biker Boyz and every good movie Jackie Chan ever made; the blues concert documentary Lightning in a Bottle; and Overnight, a harrowing big-screen version of Project Greenlight and Entourage about how bartender Troy Duffy sold a script (and his soul?) to Miramax and wound up screwing himself. Really, there is no better way to enjoy a film fest than to see a movie about how screwed up the film business can be and how it will destroy you if you let it. And it's all real--really funny and really scary, which adds up to really perfect.
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