FIND MOVIES
Movie List
Loading ...
or
Find Theaters and Movie Times
or
Search Movies

Non-starter

Opening night at the 23rd Boston Film Festival
By BRETT MICHEL  |  September 20, 2007

tji_bff

George Clooney’s Hub stopover this past Saturday night — to present Jerry Weintraub (producer of Clooney’s Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels) with a Lifetime Achievement Award — was designed to draw attention to the 23-year-old Boston Film Festival (BFF), still struggling to find its center after the independent Massachusetts Film Bureau’s Robin Dawson took over from festival founders Mark Diamond and Susan Fraine three years ago.

By many accounts, the $250-a-head tribute dinner at the InterContinental Boston hotel was a poorly organized affair, but any problems there paled in comparison with the debacle of the festival’s opening the previous night. Diamond and Fraine were roundly criticized during their 20-year tenure for failing to establish a clear focus for Boston’s annual celebration of cinema, but at least they adhered to their mission of presenting movies to the public.

As of this past Thursday, Dawson’s film festival didn’t even have an opening-night film. Rather, a look at the festival’s schedule on its ever-evolving Web site, bostonfilmfestival.org (which, a week earlier, had contained no schedule whatsoever), revealed only an opening-night party to be held at 33 Restaurant & Lounge at 10 pm. By early Friday afternoon, the schedule had been updated, now mentioning a “7:30 opening night film,” dubiously listed as “TBA.” A subsequent e-mail sent from a publicist at Allied Advertising invited members of the press to the mystery movie, finally disclosed to be the 2007 Sundance Film Festival hit Grace is Gone, starring John Cusack as a father of two coming to grips with the loss of his soldier-wife in Iraq. An Oscar campaign is anticipated for Cusack’s performance, so choosing it to open the BFF could only raise the fest’s visibility.

Visibility, however, remained elusive. For their part, Allied, which handles the lion’s share of movie publicity in town and knows who to call, tried to get the word out. They distributed passes to the film that generously offered free admission for up to four people per pass, in hopes of filling the AMC Loews Boston Common’s 276-seat auditorium. (Individual tickets were also sold at the theater's box office for the comparably exorbitant cost of $10.) By 7:30 pm, though, the theater was at only half-capacity.

At 8 pm, already a half-hour past the scheduled show time, Dawson sheepishly announced that the film wouldn’t begin until director James Strouse (who had mistakenly been driven from New York to Tremont Street . . . in Quincy) arrived to introduce it. Fifteen minutes later, Strouse appeared and said a few words. Then, the house lights dimmed and his film began playing. Due to the last-minute nature of the booking, a film print was apparently unavailable, so the BFF projected GraceIsGone from a beta tape — without sound.

Forty-five minutes later, with still no movie to be seen (and certainly not to be heard), organizers wheeled in free popcorn and bottled water to placate the curiously calm audience, as technicians fruitlessly attempted to correct the problem. With Dawson seemingly AWOL, John Michael Williams, the BFF’s creative director, offered stalwarts the chance to attend the evening’s fête in lieu of the film.

Additional parties were scheduled to run throughout the festival. Any film screenings, however, remained to be seen. Or perhaps not.

Related: October lite, Leatherheads, Hell on earth, More more >
  Topics: Features , Celebrity News, Entertainment, Movies,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY BRETT MICHEL
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   WOMEN WITH SWORDS: KING HU AND THE ART OF WUXIA  |  March 12, 2013
    Decades before women took center stage in the one-two punch of Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill , King Hu (1932-1997; the subject of a retrospective at the HFA) put swords in the hands of a soaring heroine in Come Drink with Me.
  •   REVIEW: EMPEROR  |  March 12, 2013
    Yes, Tommy Lee Jones plays the "supreme commander" of the US forces in this historical drama from Peter Webber ( Girl with a Pearl Earring ) that takes place after the Japanese surrender in World War II, and the Oscar winner puts in another towering performance.
  •   REVIEW: 21 AND OVER  |  March 05, 2013
    As one of the Asian stereotypes in this hit-or-(mostly)-miss comedy from writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore says, "Fuck kids these days. Every one of you is drunk, stupid, and fat."
  •   REVIEW: THE LAST EXORCISM PART II  |  March 06, 2013
    Now that the shaky-cam nonsense has been left behind, what remains are textureless, overlit, sub-TV-quality visuals that only accentuate the fact that our protagonist, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), is at least a decade older than the 17-year-old exorcised sect-escapee that she's playing.
  •   REVIEW: JACK THE GIANT SLAYER  |  March 06, 2013
    Stop me if you've heard this one before: a farm boy dreams of adventure, finds it, and falls in love with a princess along the way. (For everyone's sake, let's just hope she's not his sister.)

 See all articles by: BRETT MICHEL