Summer Film Festivals

School is out and  the weather enjoyable. It is time to relax and enjoy life. On those overly hot nights, look no further than catching a film. Luckily, both UCI and the Orange County Performing Arts Center are having free film festivals.

The theme of the movies are extremely different. UCI has selected movies which are very “artsy” by nature and deal with serious modern social issues, with plenty of four-letter words used. The OCPAC has chosen to screen features with a much more uplifting feel-good nature in which entire families can enjoy.

The themes of the different series allow viewers to have diversity in stories, ideas and different flavors. You can sit back and escape reality with the movies at OCPAC. On the other hand, the films at UCI allow you to really focus on current societal issues in a different format from the norm of watching CNN or reading journals. Ultimately, both film series are captivating and refreshing because movies are a way to temporarily leave everyday life and be transported into another environment.

The few hundred audience members at UCI’s indoor screenings are mostly college students and adults looking for provoking intellectual stimulation. They are very different from OCPAC’s 3,000 plus audience members, who gather in portable chairs at the outdoor community plaza to see high definition movies projected onto a 22-by-30-foot screen. The community members are comprised of a wide range of people from first-graders to grandparents.

There is audience interaction for both venues. UCI has audience discussion groups moderated by a UCI film grad student after the film with complimentary hot beverages and biscuits. It’s amazing how much anyone can learn by attending these fascinating talks.

I was completely blown away by how many interesting tidbit details I missed out on which further helped to explain the intricate story lines in the films.   Sometimes there can be heated exchange during these discussions, with people sharing personal stories and their own values as it relates to the modern issues of the film. It is so informative and great to see so many people of different demographics get together for these discussions and explore all the details of not only the movie of the night, but also to how it relates to the modern day we live in.

The OCPAC has a lively costume contest where contestants dress up like central characters from that evening’s chosen film to win some local community prizes. Before each film, the center shows a selection of the Best Animated Short Films from the Newport Beach Film Festival.

They have also offered fun-filled contests such as dressing as your favorite character for “The Wizard of Oz.” Contestants have won a variety of prizes including free tickets to the OC Fair, tickets to see shows at the Center, gift baskets and cookies from Corner Bakery, picnic meals from Gelson’s Markets and swag such as t-shirts, CDs and other goodies from musicals. They also had a performance by a cast member from “In the Heights.” And for “Oliver!”, the Center partnered with KCRW 89.9 to present the movie.

UCI’s film series for the month of August is titled “As They Were Meant To Be Seen,” and focuses on how something essentially vital from a movie can only be attained by watching it in the true movie theatre venue with others. The celluloid strips on the big screen really enhance the movie versus the other formats of popping in a DVD, watching it on YouTube or even on an iPod.

There are two movies from 1966: “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” and “Andrei Rublev.” One has a western flavor while the other tells the story of a medieval Russian icon painter. There is also a silent movie from 1927 entitled “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans,” which was the co-winner of the Best Picture award at the very first Academy Awards. There is such diversity in this film series because it really allows people to get exposed to cinematic history with ground-breaking movies that are not really part of our mainstream culture.

UCI’s films are very compelling, but cannot necessarily be classified as “fun” movies. They require a lot of intense concentration. There is also having to stomach some very graphically disturbing images like drug usage, as was seen in “Half Nelson.”

The movies at OCPAC are more what summer is really about—just having a good time outdoors. It’s still fun to travel down the yellow brick road in “The Wizard of Oz,” or watch Marilyn Monroe illuminate the silver screen in “Some Like It Hot.”
People should really come out and take advantage of both of these film series because there is nothing like these movies in the theaters showing the current hits of today. It is amazing how homogeneous today’s movies will look after comparing them to the great films of yesteryear.