Register Tuesday | January 21 | 2020

Hollywood Lives

"Nine Lives" surprises

I went to the "gala" party and screening of "Nine Lives" at the LA Film Festival on Tuesday night. It took place at the one and only Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wilshire in Beverly Hills, where security had blocked off the entire sidewalk. At first, they would not let me through, despite my insistence that I had tickets waiting for me at Will Call. Finally, the guard relented and I walked past the back side of a large backdrop that had been set up along the red carpet. If you ever watch "Entertainment Tonight" or "Access Hollywood" and see the stars standing in front of a wall covered in corporate logos, then you know what I'm talking about. So next time you watch a show like that realize there are many people who actually walk BEHIND it to get into the theater while all those flash bulbs are popping off.

I got my tickets and met my lovely date and we headed into the theater, once again bypassing the red carpet. The other thing I should mention about these red carpet affairs is that walking down the red carpet without actually being a star is an experience both humbling and hilarious. Because as you walk, the photographers start snapping photos until they realize that you are a "nobody" and all of a sudden the cameras stop clicking and wait until you have passed. Then they go back to snapping photos and yelling out the names of the stars they want to shoot. It's like walking into a room where people are laughing but stop as soon as you enter.

We found seats and chatted before the movie started, noting the giant Oscar statues on both sides of the screen. Secretly I was hoping my non-Hollywood date would be impressed by this affair. It was hard to tell, but I'm pretty sure she was playing it cool while we pointed out the various recognizable actors walking down the aisles.

The movie was not at all what I expected. "Nine Lives" is a series of vignettes, each focusing on a different female character and each taking place in only ONE SHOT. That's right, there are no cuts. The camera just rolls through the entire scene and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for all involved (cast and crew) to choreograph such complicated scenes. (Imagine if you were the one who screwed up on minute fourteen of a fifteen minute scene and they had to start all over!) The film takes place in L.A. and each of the women is connected to the others in some way, even if they don't know it. Though this device is similar to the recent, excellent "Crash", this film does not try too hard to link the characters or to draw out a plot from the connections. It's more about the actors and the situations these characters inhabit. Of particular note is a scene between two old flames who meet in a supermarket after a few years to find they are both married, one expecting a child soon. It's a painful, beautifully acted scene about two people who have so much past between them that it overwhelms them and reminded me of "Before Sunset," another great film about the same topic. Overall, "Nine Lives" contains so many strong performances and interesting situations that the lack of a cohesive storyline is soon forgotten. Instead, you can't help but surrender to it and enjoy watching great actors create scenes and characters full of nuance and depth. They must have loved making it.

After the film we headed to the party, where there was plenty of free booze and food. I ran into my movie-star neighbor and we talked about the film and how he was doing with his career, which seems to be going extremely well by my estimation. This was our first extended conversation, besides the occasional hellos uttered in passing on the way to the parking garage, and I couldn't help but notice how intense he was for such a young guy. Which makes sense considering his performances in movies, which are not only brilliant but extremely daring. It's too early to tell but he may be the next great young actor. The next Sean Penn perhaps.

After the party we walked across the street and sat outside the fountains of the ICM building, talking under a full moon. It was a first date and I had no expectations, only the hope that she had a good time with me and would want to do it again sometime. (I promised myself I would not relay too many details of my dating life onto the web as it has only brought me trouble in the past and this will be no exception.) When we both felt sufficiently sober enough to drive home safely, I walked her to her car and we hugged goodbye. Normally, I hate hugs at the end of dates, but I didn't mind this time. It was a good night.