Posted: Tribune Media Services / MovieQuest April 22, 1999

By Hugh Hart

L.A.I.F.F. held its 5th annual gathering of indie filmmakers April 15 - 21, and MovieQuest was there. A report from the field:

Day 1: Joanou tweaks Hollywood...
Director Phil Joanou (“Final Analysis,” “Rattle And Hum”) introduced his new movie “Entropy” at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Thursday. “Are you insane?” was the response Joanou got from studios when pitching them the modest $3 million budget for his ambitious picture, the director told the opening night audience.

Stephen Dorff, the film's star, slouched in his seat wearing an untucked white shirt, just like the character he plays. “Entropy” concerns Jake, a music video director (Dorff) who gets his first big budget Hollywood movie, only to discover that his bossesare venal idiots. Jake falls in love with a French model and winds up drunk on the ledge of a Manhattan skyscraper trying to sort out his identity. U2’s Bono, Lauren Holly and Jon Tenney co-star, but the movie’s biggest scene-stealer was a sarcastic cat who dispenses advice in between puffs of a cigarette.

Day 2: “Artsy, but not fartsy...”
That’s how director Jessie Feigelman described his movie “Snapped,” which debuted Friday at Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. “Snapped” stars Johnny Zander (who did those steamy Calvin Klein commercials a few years back) as a petty thief/short order cook who returns home to East Hampton during the off-season hefting a bag full of money belonging to somebody else. Gaby Hoffman plays his anti-social ex-girlfriend who lives in a shack, takes photos of roadkill for a home-grown art project and gives the finger to just about anyone who gets in her way. David Wheir, strikingly David-Bowie-esque, is a slacker who gets mixed up with the others after he sees some surprising pictures while working a dead-end job at a photo developing shop.

Day 3: Ricci joins white trash in the Valley...
Riff raff living in a seedy motel try without much luck to get the heck out of there in “No Vacancy,” which debuted to sold-out crowds Saturday at L.A.I.F.F. Christina Ricci wakes up with a hunky refrigerator repairman who accidentally fell asleep in her bed. She wants to be an astronaut. There’s also a violinist who simply won’t shut up, two drug-addled roommates, a waitress torn between a rich boy and her macho dad plus Lolita Davidovich as a health food nut and Robert Wagner as an obscenity-spewing pimp named Tangerine. Directed by Marius Balchunus, the ensemble slice-of-life comedy features a happenin’ soundtrack of accordian-pumping salsa music.

Day 4: The next Pacino?...13-year old Cameron Van Hoy gives an explosive performance in “Pups,” the new effort from Ash, which debuted Sunday at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The British director, who made a splash with last year’s “Bang,” shot the film in just 16 days. "Pups" stars Van Hoy in a role similar to Al Pacino’s in “Dog Day Afternoon:” weirdly likeable loser holds up bank, takes hostages and ponders the meaning of life. Mischa Barton (“Lawn Dogs”) is terrific as his smart and funny accomplice. Burt Reynolds also appears as a hapless F.B.I. agent trying to negotiate with the kids.

Day 5: on the town: In Hollywood, you don't get  ''He looks like Keanu Reeves.'' No. He is Keanu. (showing up at a retrospective of ''River's Edge.'')

You're striding up Sunset, a stranger passes on the left and you're suddenly wondering ''Why's Jerry O'Connell walking down the street by himself?''

Two dwarfs and a tattooed rocker are hanging out in the lobby of the Sunset Marquis hotel, just outside of  the Whisky Bar, owned by Cindy Crawford's husband Randy Gerber. Dietrich the waiter, a pop/gospel singer, reads scripts on the side for his roommate's boyfriend, who directed "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." Dietrich suggested the director ''pass'' on the ''Charlie's Angels'' movie because the script was "uneven."
The masseuse rubs shoulders with Mel Gibson.
When a taxi driver makes an excuse for why he's at the wrong address, the dispatcher replies sarcastically in a heavy Russian accent ''Yeah. Right. What-EVer.''
A gaggle of Star War fans camped on the sidewalk outside of Mann's Chinese Theater waiting to get into the premiere screening of ''Phantom Menace'' were unable to speak on the record to a reporter. They have a publicist. (pictured above)

Day 6: Fest finale: script by Orson Welles... L.A.I.F.F. concluded Tuesday with the world premiere "The Big Brass Ring," based on a never-produced screenplay by Orson Welles about a politician with skeletons in his closet. The festival's most impressive effort, "Ring..." took seven years for "Hearts of Darkness" director George Hickenlooper (pictured to left) to complete. Clean-shaven star William Hurt showed up at the premiere, jovial in a tropical suit. Praised for his ability to deliver a line, Hurt  told Movie Quest "I don't turn the line; the line turns itself."

Celebrity scene...
"Matrix" star Keanu Reeves showed up Sunday for a retrospective screening of “River’s Edge,” the mother of all depraved teen movies...Courtney Love was seen hanging out at The Body Shop, a strip joint in West Hollywood...Billy Zane, dapper in a Frank Sinatra-style fedora, strolled into a press reception for “Pups,” directed by his pal Ash. Zane, who’s done a bunch of indie features since “Titanic,” pops up in the“Cleopatra” TV miniseries, may take a part in Ash’s next film...Jill Henessey (pictured to left) (TV's ''Law and Order'') promoted ''Chutney Popcorn'' dressed in a turquoise sari with a dot painted on her forehead...Sally Kirkland was animated and wearing black...Tia Carrere, in horn-rimmed glasses, black dress, burned-red shoes and purse, posed for pictures. Sighted a few rows ahead of Stephen Dorff at the "Entropy" premiere: a great head of chin-length blonde hair cut in uneven layers belonging to Rachel Hunter.

Indie chic... Grey the new black? Don't believe it. 90 degree heat was not enough to separate the opening night crowd from their black duds. Not that there's a dress code. The festival's two big winners -- director Chris Roe, whose "Pop And Me" was voted   Best Feature, and Ed Radtke, named Best Director for "The Dream Catcher") gave their acceptance speeches Tuesday night outfitted in baggy tee shirts.

Smoke & mirrors... After each screening, an exodus of smokers filed through the glass doors to the patio, surrounded by smoke, backlit by a quartermoon. Through the front glass doors, people stood about three feet apart lined up at the curb, oblivious to their curbmates as they talked animatedly, cell phones on one ear, fingers stuck in the other.

Director's Cut... Was waiting to see his virgin-at-29 comedy ''Cherry'' a moment of great satisfaction for director Jon Glascoe? Well, no. ''Are you kidding? They had to drag me kicking and screaming to come to L.A.,'' the New Yorker admitted. ''I'd rather be at the bar around the corner.'' In ''A Good Baby'' Henry Thomas plays  a hill country loner who finds a baby in the woods and nurtures it. Director Katherine Diekmann described  the protagonist as a ''boy who becomes a man who becomes a woman.''