LA Film Festival Preview: 10 Films We Want To Watch
The LA Film Festival (LAFF), which opens Wednesday (June 14) and runs through June 22, presents a diverse slate of films that will appeal to a wide audience. (In other words, there really is something for everyone.) While the ArcLight Cinemas Culver City and The Culver Studios serve as the festival’s home venues, additional screenings and events are also being held at the ArcLight’s Hollywood and Santa Monica locations as well as at LACMA and the Theatre at Ace Hotel. Film Independent—the organization behind the festival—has programmed 48 feature films, 51 short films, 15 high school short films and 10 short episodic works that represent 32 countries.
The festival kicks off at the ArcLight Culver City with the World Premiere of Colin Trevorrow’s The Book of Henry starring Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay, Sarah Silverman, Lee Pace, Maddie Ziegler and Dean Norris. The film, which opens nationwide on Friday, follows a single mother and her genius son who plans to help a classmate with a dangerous secret. Closing out the festival is Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes Weststarring Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen and Pom Klementieff. The social media-themed dark comedy focuses on a social media stalker (Plaza) and influencer (Olsen) as their “relationship” goes haywire.
In between those bookends, there are a number of other star-studded (e.g., The Beguiled) and worthwhile films both in and out of competition, as well as TV and web programs and events happening during the festival’s run.
Here’s a quick rundown of the 10 films we want to catch at LAFF, in no particular order. Note, these films run only once during the festival, so we’ve included the screening days and times, too. Click on the links for ticket information.
The Housemaid/Cô Hầu Gái (June 15, at 9:45 p.m., ArcLight Culver City)
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen, The Housemaid is a gothic horror romance that takes place on a plantation in the remote woods of French Indochina in 1953. We're looking forward to the scares, but also curious to see how Nguyen tackles the topic of colonialism in his film.
Humor Me (June 16 at 6:40 p.m., ArcLight Culver City)
Written and directed by Sam Hoffman, Humor Me is inspired by the web series Old Jews Telling Jokes. In the film, a father refuses to engage emotionally with his son, who seeks his dad’s approval. Father and son are played by Elliott Gould and Jemaine Clement (!!) from Flight of the Conchords and What We Do in the Shadows.
Mankiller (June 19 at 6:15 p.m., ArcLight Culver City)
Valerie Red-Horse Mohl’s in-competition documentary Mankiller is a portrait of Wilma Mankiller, who took office as the Cherokee Nation’s first female principal chief in 1985. With the Cherokee feeling alienated from the U.S. government, Mankiller—who had previously worked with the Black Panthers and the Alcatraz occupation movement in San Francisco—brought her activism back to Oklahoma to help revive a disenfranchised nation.
The Year of Spectacular Men (June 16 at 9 p.m., ArcLight Santa Monica)
This film is a total family affair. In her feature directorial debut, Lea Thompson stars in and directs her daughters Madelyn and Zoey Deutch. The story follows a twentysomething who’s struggling with adulting and finally turns to her mom and sis for support though they’re having relationship woes of their own. Madelyn Deutch wrote the screenplay (and music) for the film.
G-Funk (June 16 at 7:30 p.m., The Theatre at Ace Hotel)
Karam Gill’s documentary G-Funkfollows childhood friends from the LBC—Warren G, Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg—and how they “merged gangsta rap with ‘70s and ‘80s funk, Motown and R&B to create a brand new sound that crossed over into mainstream pop music.” And if that premise isn’t enough to entice you, then the night also includes a Q&A and post-screening performance by Warren G and special guests. Tickets start at $21.50.
Skid Row Marathon (June 17 at noon, ArcLight Santa Monica)
Mark Hayes’ documentary follows a running club on L.A.’s Skid Row. Organized by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell, his team members are the homeless, recovering and paroled people who seek redemption and self-esteem through running.
Izzy Gets The F--- Across Town (June 17 at 8:40 p.m., ArcLight Culver City)
Ok, we love the name of this movie, and bonus points that it takes place in L.A. The film, which is in competition, follows a hung-over riot girl Izzy (Mackenzie Davis) who finds out that her ex-boyfriend and her ex-bff are holding a “bougie engagement party” across town. She embarks on an adventure to get to the party and break it up (sans car).
'My Friend Dahmer' is a film that follows the growth of a monster. (Image via Facebook)
My Friend Dahmer (June 18 at 6 p.m., ArcLight Santa Monica)
What was serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer like in high school? Writer-director Marc Meyers attempts to answer this question in My Friend Dahmer. The narrative film is based on the true-life graphic novel by Dahmer's high school buddy John Backderf, so we’re hoping for insight into the making of a monster. Don’t Come Back from the Moon (June 20 at 6:45 p.m., ArcLight Culver City)
Bruce Thierry Cheung’s coming-of-age drama set in the California desert stars Jeffrey Wahlberg (Mark’s nephew) as a kid whose dad (James Franco) “goes to the moon”—slang in the town for fathers abandoning their families. Wahlberg’s character has to deal with the ramifications of his father leaving and whether he should break that cycle, especially since he’s falling in love with a girl (Alyssa Elle Steinacker) whose father also went to the moon.
The Big Sick (June 21 at 6:30 p.m., ArcLight Culver City)
We saw this film on Monday night, and it’s so worth seeing it for a second time. Based on the lives of now-married comics Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani Muslim, and Emily V. Gordon, from North Carolina, The Big Sick follows the early part of their relationship as they struggle with cultural expectations and family issues. This film has heart and more than enough laughs. See it at the festival before it’s released later this month.
In addition to the aforementioned screenings, the festival also offers a number of free screenings (like Documentary Now on June 18 at 12:30 p.m., ArcLight Culver City) and a great line up of conversations and diversity panels. Two discussions we’re looking forward to are Portlandia: A Look Back and A Look Forward with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein on June 15 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, and Yes, We Exist: Ava DuVernay and the Female Directors of Queen Sugar on June 19 at 7:30 p.m. at LACMA.
The ArcLight Culver City serves as the festival’s home base, but please check for other venues. Individual tickets are still available and run $14-$16; passes start at $260-$350.