By Ben Crandell
Much like Holly Golightly, the indelible Truman Capote character reimagined on this year’s marketing poster (courtesy of local model Sabrina Anderson), the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival is a party girl whose good-time guise can obscure her more substantive side.
To be sure, the 29th annual festival that got going Friday does like to have fun: The opening-night film at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts was a madcap musical comedy, “Lucky Stiff,” and its screening included an appearance by one of its stars, former “Seinfeld” bumbler Jason Alexander. (The film will be shown again at 8:45 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Cinema Paradiso Hollywood; and at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 22 at the Miramar Cultural Center.)
The evening included a raffle with a zany prize, two cemetery plots at Beth David Memorial Gardens in Hollywood (valued at $4,000 each), and an afterparty at Cyn, a Himmarshee nightclub best known for the abbreviated attire of the staff and the tasering of Miami Dolphin Derrick Shelby.
That said, FLIFF is serious about films, and this year’s festival is particularly strong when it comes to documentaries and dramas, according to FLIFF president Gregory Von Hausch.
There are about 180 films screening through Nov. 23, a period that is a week shorter than last year, in an attempt to trim expenses, Von Hausch says. The list was culled from about 1,200 submitted films, plus dozens more seen by FLIFF staff at festivals from Tribeca to Cannes.
Von Hausch personally viewed more than 500 films, including one sent in “without a box,” from a clearing house that relays him piles of movies of all lengths and genres. But you never know what you’re going to get — even at 3 a.m.
“One night, I was really tired, and I thought, ‘I really shouldn’t do anybody a disservice by watching a film now. I’ll just put one more in and see where that takes us,’ ” he says. “So here it is, almost 3 in the morning, and I’m laughing my butt off.”
The film was “Lucky Stiff,” based on the hit 1988 off-Broadway farce, which follows the plight of a sad-sack British shoe salesman who will inherit $6 million if he can fulfill the last wish of his dead American uncle: Take his corpse on a weeklong trip to Monte Carlo. The cast includes Alexander, Dominic Marsh, Pamela Shaw, Dennis Farina and Nikki M. James (who won a Tony Award in “The Book of Mormon”).
“The art direction is so beautiful, the lyrics for the songs are just wonderful and … it’s just a riot,” Von Hausch says.
Here are more films he thinks are worth going out of your way to see:
Documentary: “There’s a really strong mix of films. ‘Love Thy Nature,’ by a Brazilian filmmaker [Sylvie Rokab]. It’s her second time with us, and she’s got Liam Neeson narrating. It’s just wonderful, and it’s good for all ages. … There’s also “An Honest Liar,” with [famed psychic debunker] James Randi, who’s got the Randi Institute here, which was shown at Tribeca.”
Drama: “‘Traitors’ [about the leader of an all-girl rock band in Tangiers] and ‘Manos Sucias’ [a tense tale of drug smuggling in a Colombian fishing village, with Spike Lee as executive producer] are two really terrific films. ‘The Imitation Game’ [a gripping profile of WWII code breaker Alan Turing, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley], I know will sell out because of the hype it’s getting already as a late bloomer for the Oscars.”
Comedy: “I love ‘Lost in Karastan’ [about a washed-up British filmmaker played by Matthew Macfadyen]. It’s dark humor. Another dark-humor film is our closer, the Courtney Cox film ‘Just Before I Go.’ When I saw it in Tribeca, most of the audience just loved it, but the other 25-30 percent were, ‘Oh!’ … because it’s out to offend just about everybody. You just cringe, but it’s really, really funny. And ‘Gone Doggy Gone’ [a satire of the childless and dog-doting] is just wonderful.”
Guilty pleasure: “‘The Jersey Shore Massacre’ never aspires to be a great film, but the first half of it is absolutely hysterical, about these Jersey chicks and Jersey guys down by the Jersey Shore doing really macho and sexual double-entendres left and right. And then it turns into this horror film, which is still pretty much a comedy.”
Ben Crandell’s Go Guide blog is linked at http://www.cityandshore.com/
Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival runs Nov. 7-23 in theaters in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Sunrise and Miramar. Opening-night festivities will be held at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts with a screening of “Lucky Stiff” attended by cast members Jason Alexander and Pamela Shaw. Tickets, including the post-screening party at Cyn, cost $35. The Centerpiece Party is Nov. 14 at the Sunrise Civic Center, where stars Henry Ian Cusick (“Lost”) and Ever Carradine will attend a screening of “Frank vs. God.” The Awards Gala is Nov. 21 at the Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood and includes appearances by award recipients Clara Mamet, Daniel Baldwin, George Hamilton and producer Mike Downey. For a complete schedule of screenings and other events, go to FLIFF.com.
Film admission is $10, $8 for seniors and students; some special screenings may be higher, as is admission to various parties. FAST Pass tickets, which include all screenings Nov. 7-23, and admission to the opening, centerpiece and wrap parties are $450 ($350 members). Info: 954-525-3456, FLIFF.com.
Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale: 503 SE Sixth St.; 954-525-3456
Cinema Paradiso Hollywood: 2008 Hollywood Blvd.; 954-525-3456
Miramar Cultural Center: 2400 Civic Center Place; 954-602-4500
Sunrise Civic Center: 10610 W. Oakland Park Blvd.; 954-747-4600