LAFF: Five Weekend Picks

In the blink of a downtown eye, the Los Angeles Film Festival has established itself as the city’s coolest-vibe annual celluloid marathon. By relocating  to LA Live and environs, organizers were able to foster more of a Toronto International Film Fest feel.

FishbowlLA will be there, along with all the usual journo suspects. Here are five of our recommends for LAFF opening weekend:

Renée (Friday, 7 p.m.): In between the French Open and Wimbledon seems like a perfect time to catch Eric Drath‘s phenomenal documentary about Renée Richards, whose life went volley-up after a sex-change past was revealed. In a bit of ironic subject matter mimicking, there are two separate “official website” links on the film’s IMDB page, neither of which at press time work. That’s probably because the producers are in the process of repointing to ESPN, which will broadcast the documentary this fall. But it’s still kind of funny.

Sawdust City (Saturday, 7 p.m., world premiere): Eau Claire, Wisconsin writer-director David Nordstrom (now based in LA) is getting good advance buzz for his feature debut, loosely reminiscent in terms of storyline to the Jack Nicholson drama The Last Detail. A couple of brothers spend a snowy Thanksgiving combing through hometown bars in search of their estranged dad.

Familiar Ground (Saturday, 10:10 p.m.): Unlike the usual time travel tinged flick, this Narrative Competition deadpan comedy entry from Quebec writer-director Stéphane Lafleur keeps things simple. The mysterious man who suddenly drops into the lives of of an unhappy wife and her slacker brother is from the “not too distant” future of September.

Coffee Talks: Screenwriters (Sunday, 5 p.m.): Scheduled for the last of the day’s four “Coffee Talks” are Diablo Cody (United States of Tara), Dustin Lance Black (J. Edgar), and several other top-flight scribes. Expect a lively Q&A, during which those aspiring get to quiz those succeeding.

An Ordinary Family (Sunday, 7:30 p.m., world premiere): Back in 2006, Austin writer-director Mike Akel‘s feature debut Chalk earned an “Outstanding Performance” award at LAFF. This year, he’s back to world premiere a new drama about the fireworks that go off at an annual summer family vacation. At the heart of the narrative are two brothers with very different opinions and… sexualities.

If you catch something memorable at LAFF this weekend, let us know in the comments. Otherwise, see you downtown!