My Cinevegas visit is over, I leave for McCarran Airport three hours from now and I wish I could say I saw something here that really lifted me out of my seat. But I had an excellent time all around, and for that I owe a word of thanks to the BWR people who brought me here, and to festival director Trevor Groth and everyone else who lent a helping hand.

Cinevegas press assisters

The best thing about this festival is the spirit, the hospitality and the fun. It’s the best thing to happen to Las Vegas image-wise in a long, long time. It gives the town a kind of alpha vibe (a significant thing given that Albert Brooks line about Vegas being “the worst money-grubbing place in the world”) and obviously raises the culture bar. And it’s nice to at least grapple with some of the films. The ones that don’t make you want to walk out, I mean.
I did catch two engaging docs. Scott Goldstein‘s Where I Stand, a through, well-cut, occasionally intimate assessment of two-fisted Las Vegas newspaper publisher Hank Greenspun, was the most conventional fo the two, but it’s a decent, professionally-made thing that told me the stuff I wanted to know about Greenspun in clear-cut fashon. Abel Ferrara‘s Chelsea on the Rocks, which I missed at Cannes due to leaving on the day it showed, obviously gets the lefty/bohemian/aging malcontent/economically indifferent joie de vivre of Manhattan’s Chelsea hotel. It not only understands the history and mood and spiritual attitude of its many rebel-artist inhabitants, it embodies it. It’s about as good a doc about celebrating and trying to hold on to the good old rebel days of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s as I’ve ever seen. It made me regret that I’ve stayed at the Chelsea only one night in my entire life.
I didn’t see Jonas Cuaron‘s Ano Una, which I heard wasn’t half bad. I saw the British documentary The End but had problems with the needlessly splotchy and ragged look of it. I didn’t arrive soon enough to see Rolf Belgum‘s She Unfolds By Day, which Variety‘s Robert Koehler told me was quite respectable. A reputable critic told that me that Matthew Klinck‘s Hank and Mike, which Magnolia has picked up, was “dreadful…the worst.” I was told last year that Gael Garcia Bernal‘s Deficit wasn’t entirely successful, but the 45 minutes’ worth I caught yesterday convincned me it was at least a cut or two above mediocre.

Cinevegas happy hour at the Palms — Tuesday, 6.17, 5:35 pm

I was more or less mystified why all those bright, nicely dressed people (including Elvis Mitchell) were saying such admiring things about Takashi Murakami‘s Planting The Seeds, an anime short that played at Wynn Hotel and Casino last Monday night. Nice metaphors and all, but It played like a very sweet episode of a Saturday morning children’s TV series. Something aimed at thoughtful five year old females. I was squinting at the screen and saying to myself, “Why am I here, given the fact that my time on this planet is finite? Why am I watching this? Why did they show this? Why is Steve Wynn staring at the screen with such concentration?”
I hated, hated, hated Mike Gibisser‘s Finally, Lillian and Dan, a murky suburban love story about a couple of mousy twentysomething losers (Gretchen Akers, Jason Kean) who squeek and scamper their way into a relationship on tiny rodent feet. If I were either of these characters I would buy or steal a gun and shoot myself out of respect for the human spirit and the idea that grace and beauty are always attainable for those with reach and gumption.
I felt so sorry or these two, so sorry for the millions of people out there whose lives resemble theirs, and so sorry for myself for being stuck in a front-row seat at the Brenden Theatre plex, sitting next to Robert Koehler and feeling even worse for him, poor fellow, knowing he had no choice but to sit through the whole thing since he was reviewing for Variety. I quit after 45 minutes or so. The urge to leave began around the 20-minute mark, but I stuck it out, cock-eyed optimistic fool that I am.
Togetherness is always an improvement over being lonesome, but there are limits to being able to endure movies like this. The lethargy that comes out of this film and out of these characters has to be felt to be believed. I prayed to God as I watched it last night — an improvised prayer that went “please, God…please don’t lead to movies like this…movies that make me feel ill and gloomy and enervated by the grim lives of characters I don’t care about and certainly don’t want to know.”
I was especially infuriated with Kean’s appalling unattractiveness — his mangy man-beard, doofus haircut, doughy body, godawful clothing sense. I loathed his constant cigarette smoking, and was rooting for cancer to strike. I was thinking of that Dylan line for Desolation Row that said “her sin is her lifelessness.” Kean doesn’t sin in this context — he commits a felony. If I were a judge and asked to decide on a punishment, I’d throw the book at him. I’d send his fat lard ass to Devil’s Island so his lethargy would at least be isolated and prevented from spreading.