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You’ll have to put on pants

San Diego Film Festival Oscar party helps a human thing

Call Me By Your Name, Best Picture nominee
Call Me By Your Name, Best Picture nominee

Most years, I watch the Oscars from the comfort of my bed, clad in my finest thrift-store pajamas and swilling El Jimador like they’re going to stop importing tequila when they build Trump’s wall. That way, I can hurl abuse at the Academy and curse my own weakness for watching the sparkly charade without bothering anybody besides my wife, who is used to it by now. But this year, I’m thinking I may put on both pants and my best set of manners and mosey up to Rancho Santa Fe for the San Diego Film Festival’s Oscar party. (See sdfilmfest.com for details.)

Past Event

Oscars at the Ranch

  • Sunday, March 4, 2018, 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Private Estate
  • $175

Festival CEO and artistic director Tonya Mantooth was tickled to see that two of this year’s Best Picture nominees, Call Me By Your Name and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, were among her picks for last year’s festival.

“We follow Toronto, which is only three weeks before us, and they get the world premieres,” says Mantooth. “So when I’m out there pitching the studios, nobody’s seen the films yet. It’s all about researching, seeing if all the puzzle pieces will fit together. Who is the director? Who is the writer? Who’s in the cast? What’s the story? The morning after they premiere at Toronto, I’m reading the reviews, seeing how the films I’ve secured measure up.” (Billboards was a relatively easy call: she premiered writer-director Martin McDonagh’s last film, Seven Psychopaths, at the 2012 festival, and was happy to see that Sam Rockwell was back in front of McDonagh’s lens. “And when I saw that Frances McDormand was in it and read the background, I saw it had all the pieces for being a brilliant film. It’s a tough subject, but McDonagh always brings a kind of human, dark humor to things.”)

Movie

Call Me By Your Name **

thumbnail

Director Luca Guadagnino’s sunnily seductive ode to <em>eros</em> tells the story of a summer romance between 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet, looking 15) and 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer, looking 30). Or rather, it explores the dynamics between them, operating at a cool remove from its own frank depiction of desperate teenage longing and volcanic sexual passion among brilliant Jewish outsiders in gorgeous Catholic Italy. There are people involved, sure, but the main thing you need to know about them is their wanting and being wanted, so that you may consider what that might <em>mean</em>. (The title is telling on this score.) Elio’s dad (Michael Stuhlbarg) is an archaeology professor who swoons over the sensuality of Greek statuary even as his son swoons over Pop’s statuesque grad student/houseguest. Mom serves up fresh-squeezed apricot juice, which Oliver guzzles before explaining how we got “apricot” from the Latin <em>praecocia</em> — “early ripen.” Everyone is terribly sophisticated and sensitive, so the drama surrounding the romance must be mostly self-generated: “Is it better to speak or to die?” Overall, the film throbs with feeling, but the pulse of felt life is faint.

Find showtimes

So, in one small way, the Oscar party serves as a quiet reminder of the festival and what it offers San Diego filmgoers. But its main function is as a fundraiser for the SD Film Foundation’s Focus on Impact Film Tour. “I feel that film can help people find a sense of commonality, instead of how things are now, where everybody looks for the divide,” says Mantooth. “And I feel like kids today don’t get to see documentaries; they control what they watch in a different way than previous generations, and there are things they’re not made aware of. We need that next generation to care.”

To that end, she partnered last year with filmmaker Thomas Morgan to bring his documentary Storied Streets to five San Diego high schools. “It shows the side of homelessness that most people don’t see: people who work a full-time job but can’t afford a place to live, who ride public transit all night, then get off the bus and go to work in the morning. Families who lost their health insurance and then had their medical bills push them to lose everything.” Morgan came along to talk about his work, and the tour also brought in Giuseppe Pizan, a young man featured in the film.

Movie

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri *

thumbnail

Writer-director-producer Martin McDonagh (<em>Seven Psychopaths</em>) presents the story of a heartbroken but otherwise rarin’ to go woman (Frances McDormand, billy-club blunt) who plasters the titular roadside ads with a direct question to the local police chief: why haven’t you caught the guy who raped and killed my daughter? She’s gotta do something to stave off the feeling that “there ain’t no God and the world’s empty and it doesn’t matter what we do to each other,” and the billboards are close at hand. It doesn’t matter that the chief (Woody Harrelson, laconic) is a good man who is dealing with cancer, or that a violent man-child cop (Sam Rockwell, alarming) is out to stop her. She’s suffered to the point where suffering holds no more terror for her. Yessir, shit gets real. Or does it? For starters, McDonagh works way too hard to inject nearly every scene with his patented solution of acid wit and dark-roast comedy: <em>go ahead, laugh in the face of horror, I dare you.</em> It’s jarringly effective until it starts to feel like shtick, at which point it works only as a numbing agent. For another, his fondness for the outlandish and over-the-top doesn’t mesh well with his effort to tease out the ordinary humanity in his creations. And finally, there’s a serious over-reliance on coincidence and underportrayal of consequence. Good acting, though.

Find showtimes

“We surveyed all the students on their opinions about the homeless issue before the film,” explains Mantooth. “And we surveyed them afterwards to see if it changed their perception.” (It did.) “I made sure to bring it to half affluent schools and half Title I schools,” the former because “these kids are going to go to college, they’re going to do urban design, they’re going to run for office and make laws. They need to see this as a human issue.”

Mantooth says she plans to make the film tour an annual event, taking on “big issues that need to be looked at.” This year, the tour will feature River Blue, David McIlvride and Roger Williams’s look at conservationist Mark Angelo’s investigation of the fashion industry’s impact on the environment.

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Call Me By Your Name, Best Picture nominee
Call Me By Your Name, Best Picture nominee

Most years, I watch the Oscars from the comfort of my bed, clad in my finest thrift-store pajamas and swilling El Jimador like they’re going to stop importing tequila when they build Trump’s wall. That way, I can hurl abuse at the Academy and curse my own weakness for watching the sparkly charade without bothering anybody besides my wife, who is used to it by now. But this year, I’m thinking I may put on both pants and my best set of manners and mosey up to Rancho Santa Fe for the San Diego Film Festival’s Oscar party. (See sdfilmfest.com for details.)

Past Event

Oscars at the Ranch

  • Sunday, March 4, 2018, 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Private Estate
  • $175

Festival CEO and artistic director Tonya Mantooth was tickled to see that two of this year’s Best Picture nominees, Call Me By Your Name and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, were among her picks for last year’s festival.

“We follow Toronto, which is only three weeks before us, and they get the world premieres,” says Mantooth. “So when I’m out there pitching the studios, nobody’s seen the films yet. It’s all about researching, seeing if all the puzzle pieces will fit together. Who is the director? Who is the writer? Who’s in the cast? What’s the story? The morning after they premiere at Toronto, I’m reading the reviews, seeing how the films I’ve secured measure up.” (Billboards was a relatively easy call: she premiered writer-director Martin McDonagh’s last film, Seven Psychopaths, at the 2012 festival, and was happy to see that Sam Rockwell was back in front of McDonagh’s lens. “And when I saw that Frances McDormand was in it and read the background, I saw it had all the pieces for being a brilliant film. It’s a tough subject, but McDonagh always brings a kind of human, dark humor to things.”)

Movie

Call Me By Your Name **

thumbnail

Director Luca Guadagnino’s sunnily seductive ode to <em>eros</em> tells the story of a summer romance between 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet, looking 15) and 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer, looking 30). Or rather, it explores the dynamics between them, operating at a cool remove from its own frank depiction of desperate teenage longing and volcanic sexual passion among brilliant Jewish outsiders in gorgeous Catholic Italy. There are people involved, sure, but the main thing you need to know about them is their wanting and being wanted, so that you may consider what that might <em>mean</em>. (The title is telling on this score.) Elio’s dad (Michael Stuhlbarg) is an archaeology professor who swoons over the sensuality of Greek statuary even as his son swoons over Pop’s statuesque grad student/houseguest. Mom serves up fresh-squeezed apricot juice, which Oliver guzzles before explaining how we got “apricot” from the Latin <em>praecocia</em> — “early ripen.” Everyone is terribly sophisticated and sensitive, so the drama surrounding the romance must be mostly self-generated: “Is it better to speak or to die?” Overall, the film throbs with feeling, but the pulse of felt life is faint.

Find showtimes

So, in one small way, the Oscar party serves as a quiet reminder of the festival and what it offers San Diego filmgoers. But its main function is as a fundraiser for the SD Film Foundation’s Focus on Impact Film Tour. “I feel that film can help people find a sense of commonality, instead of how things are now, where everybody looks for the divide,” says Mantooth. “And I feel like kids today don’t get to see documentaries; they control what they watch in a different way than previous generations, and there are things they’re not made aware of. We need that next generation to care.”

To that end, she partnered last year with filmmaker Thomas Morgan to bring his documentary Storied Streets to five San Diego high schools. “It shows the side of homelessness that most people don’t see: people who work a full-time job but can’t afford a place to live, who ride public transit all night, then get off the bus and go to work in the morning. Families who lost their health insurance and then had their medical bills push them to lose everything.” Morgan came along to talk about his work, and the tour also brought in Giuseppe Pizan, a young man featured in the film.

Movie

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri *

thumbnail

Writer-director-producer Martin McDonagh (<em>Seven Psychopaths</em>) presents the story of a heartbroken but otherwise rarin’ to go woman (Frances McDormand, billy-club blunt) who plasters the titular roadside ads with a direct question to the local police chief: why haven’t you caught the guy who raped and killed my daughter? She’s gotta do something to stave off the feeling that “there ain’t no God and the world’s empty and it doesn’t matter what we do to each other,” and the billboards are close at hand. It doesn’t matter that the chief (Woody Harrelson, laconic) is a good man who is dealing with cancer, or that a violent man-child cop (Sam Rockwell, alarming) is out to stop her. She’s suffered to the point where suffering holds no more terror for her. Yessir, shit gets real. Or does it? For starters, McDonagh works way too hard to inject nearly every scene with his patented solution of acid wit and dark-roast comedy: <em>go ahead, laugh in the face of horror, I dare you.</em> It’s jarringly effective until it starts to feel like shtick, at which point it works only as a numbing agent. For another, his fondness for the outlandish and over-the-top doesn’t mesh well with his effort to tease out the ordinary humanity in his creations. And finally, there’s a serious over-reliance on coincidence and underportrayal of consequence. Good acting, though.

Find showtimes

“We surveyed all the students on their opinions about the homeless issue before the film,” explains Mantooth. “And we surveyed them afterwards to see if it changed their perception.” (It did.) “I made sure to bring it to half affluent schools and half Title I schools,” the former because “these kids are going to go to college, they’re going to do urban design, they’re going to run for office and make laws. They need to see this as a human issue.”

Mantooth says she plans to make the film tour an annual event, taking on “big issues that need to be looked at.” This year, the tour will feature River Blue, David McIlvride and Roger Williams’s look at conservationist Mark Angelo’s investigation of the fashion industry’s impact on the environment.

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