Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dangerous beasts, lovely people - and screenings...

I had an epiphany on Saturday night at dinner at a friend's apartment. Everyone was talking about this mountain lion that's just been captured in Griffith Park. Then my friend's girlfriend mentioned that they can't let their dog out at night - because of a coyote she's spotted around their house. Oh, and there are rattlesnake warnings on forest trail signs.

So for the first time ever, I'm living somewhere with things that can actually kill you. This is kind of cool. In Ireland, we get wasps and vermin. That's about it. No predators apart from your fellow humans.

I have to say, my fellow humans here are a polite and friendly bunch. For all the rumours of L.A. being full of snobs and airheads, everyone's been lovely so far. I've met more assholes in Dublin, to be honest.

I've been to two Brits in L.A. brunches, which take place at Cecconi's on Melrose Avenue on Saturday and Tuesday mornings. They're a good idea - a chance for Brits, although this is a loose term - to meet up and have a chat about the crazy Americans. Things like, "why are decent spray deodorants impossible to find here?" and "What's with calling the hash sign on a phone the 'pound sign'?"

I went to a screening of an independent movie called Complicity on Sunday night. Directed by C.B. Harding and based on a dream he had (really - he dreamed the whole story), Complicity is a very effective thriller about a teenage house party that goes horribly, horribly wrong. Harding has made a very expensive-looking film on a very small budget, using a cast of young up-and-comers who are definitely going on to even bigger things. The script is tight and suspenseful, keeping you guessing right up to the end.

Many thanks to C.B.'s lovely wife Louise, who got me a seat at the very last minute!

Today I had tickets to a screening of comedian Mike Birbiglia's semi-autobiographical film Sleepwalk With Me, shown at the Writers Guild Theater (yes, the guild here have their OWN, QUITE LARGE, CINEMA. Take note, ISPG!).

"I'm going to tell you a story", Mike tells the camera at the start of the film, "And it's true.... I always have to tell people that". What follows is, according to the real Mike during the Q&A, about 70% true.

Based on his one-man show, Birbiglia co-wrote the film with This American Life producer Ira Glass. It covers his attempts to become a successful stand-up comedian and cure his dangerous sleep-walking, while trying to figure out his burned-out relationship with his girlfriend (played on screen by Lauren Ambrose). Birbiglia's character is called Matt and his parents are played by the legendary James Rebhorn and Carol Kane.

But there is a highly-realistic streak running through this movie that had the entire audience laughing from start to finish. You recognise parts of yourself in the script, and can't help finding them funny. Yet there is also a tragic undertone to the whole thing that only adds to the humour.

This is the 21st century Annie Hall, a finely-judged depiction of relationship issues, career disasters and trying not to kill your parents. It's my favourite movie of the year so far and if it doesn't rocket Birbiglia to stardom, there is no justice.

Cheeringly, the American public clearly agree. Sleepwalk with Me opened in 34 cinemas but decent word of mouth led to this being increased to 170 theatres.

After the screening, Joss Whedon moderated a Q&A with Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass, the producer. They had a recent amusing spat with him on Youtube, where they went to war with The Avengers and vowed to beat it at the box office!

The three guys were on fine form tonight, trading zingers and taking questions from the audience. Birbiglia had a lot of questions about how his now wife had taken the film (well, apparently) and whether his sleepwalking had been cured (sort of).

It was really interesting to hear how they'd tweaked the film to create more laughs by editing bits and adding scenes in. They certainly had a brilliant editor involved - the cuts alone make it one of the decade's best comedy films.

The Q&A was all in good humour, apart from one crazy guy in a green T-shirt, who tried to used the interview microphone to do an open-mike session and had to be frogmarched out by a massive security guard.

Then it was outside for wine, cheese and dessert - and a chance for a good gossip, for Danny De Vito and Tim Robbins were both present. We agreed that De Vito was even more mini than expected, while Robbins was much taller (seriously, the guy must be 6' 4").

My big thanks to the WGA Foundation, especially Kevin, for getting me in despite my Irish credit card not working on their site!

L.A. is an eccentric town, but I'm loving every minute of it. Now it's down to the hard work of finding an agent and convincing them to represent me...


Yolanda Baker said...

So glad to read this post. Sounds like you're having a great time. And yes, why can't you find a decent spray deodorant in L.A.? I can't find any in Austin either.

Milanoguy said...

Ah yes, dreary old Ireland, no volcanoes, earthquakes, mudslides, forest fires or tsunamis.

No snakes, crocodiles, alligators or indeed any reptiles, including Armadillos (only non-human carrier of leprosy , yes leprosy) . Thank God I moved to Texas.

Hmm, I'd write more, but I have a sudden desire to visit the Aer Lingus site.

eilism said...

I know, right? All the deodorants here are sticks, like something from the Eighties. I don't understand!

aggiebrett said...

There's far scarier predators in LA than coyotes and cougars and snakes.

eilism said...

And they're all human, right?