Stars Under the Stars
The Old Pasadena Film Festival brings classic films to outdoor locations
By Carl Kozlowski 07/03/2014
Just about every town in California seems to have a film fest these days, with Action on Film Fest holding court in Monrovia and even Burbank hosting its own. Yet, rather than compete with every other tiny film fete for obscure new movies from the bottom of the cinematic barrel, the Old Pasadena Film Festival has taken a different approach: hosting classics and cult-classics in fun outdoor settings that result in entirely new ways of looking at the silver screen.
Sponsored by the Old Pasadena Management District (OPMD), the OPFF has proven so popular that it has become the largest free open-air film festival in California. And this year’s 23 selections appear to be their most eclectic panoply of pictures yet.
“This year’s film festival has the most films we’ve ever hosted,” says Steve Mulheim, president and CEO of OPMD. “We’ve added art films at the Armory [Center for the Arts], and documentaries presented by Conscientious Projector in addition to travel films at Distant Lands, classic favorites at the One Colorado Courtyard, and vintage horror in Central Park. We pride ourselves on a very eclectic selection, so there truly is something for everyone.”
The fun kicks off Saturday with two films from opposing ends of the quality spectrum, as the 1978 cult classic “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” is shown in Central Park, while director Wes Anderson’s sublime 2012 film “Moonrise Kingdom” is screened in the One Colorado Courtyard. “Tomatoes” depicts a special government task force as it responds to a series of attacks involving people and pets being eaten by the traditionally docile fruit, with “Kingdom” offering a memorably quirky look at young love.
While both movies screen at 8:30 p.m., the “Tomatoes” presentation is preceded by live music and food trucks at 7 p.m., while “Kingdom” needs no further audience enticements to lure viewers.
Sunday brings a decidedly more serious film to the mix, as the 2008 documentary “Who Does She Think She Is?” screens at 7:30 p.m. at the Armory. Directed by Oscar-winning producer Pamela Tanner Boll (“Born Into Brothels”), the documentary features five women from ages 27 to 65 as they each attempt to create their own individual art while navigating parenting and creativity, partnering and independence, and economics and art.
Next Thursday, July 10, the 2012 documentary “Arise” screens at 7 p.m. at the Armory with its depiction of 13 women who are trailblazers in environmental protection and restoration. The movie was made by writer-producer-director Lori Joyce and narrated by actress Daryl Hannah. A community discussion will follow.
Friday, July 11, offers a return to lighter fare as One Colorado’s courtyard plays host to a screening of the 1968 comedy classic “The Odd Couple,” featuring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as two divorced men who share a New York City apartment only to find they can’t stand each other. Meanwhile, the 2012 documentary “Go Ganges” follows the adventures of two Emmy-nominated filmmakers who travel the 1,500-mile length of the world’s most famous river, the Ganges in India, in an 8 p.m. screening inside the Distant Lands travel store.
The following night, Saturday, July 12, things get more intense as the fest presents the classic Vincent Price adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s horrific short story “House of Usher,” in which a woman’s suitor arrives to ask her hand in marriage only to find terror unfolding inside her house. The screening is set amid the spooky environs of Central Park after dark with an 8:30 p.m. screening preceded by live deejays and food trucks available at 7 p.m. for picnicking purchases.
Meanwhile, the idea of showing the sci-fi thriller “Gravity” under the stars at One Colorado’s courtyard is an ingenious one, with a screening set for 8:30 p.m. next Saturday as well. The movie won seven Oscars, including Best Director at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, and its haunting visuals should come even more vibrantly to life amid a night sky.
Things take a turn back towards the absurd on Sunday, July 13, with another Central Park screening of a horror cult-classic, “Them!” This was the first “big bug” film of the 1950s, and starred Western legends James Whitmore, James Arness and Fess Parker battling radiation-enlarged giant ants, which should be a fun counter-point to the filmgoers battling ants on their picnic spreads.
Those seeking a more realistic yet offbeat tale can see the documentary “The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists” at 7:30 p.m. in the Armory. The film follows a devoted husband and father who quit his job and became known as the Western-Movie Singing Cowboy in order to take on the art establishment, while refusing to accept money for his art, and was named Best Documentary at the Chicago International Film Festival in 1995. And that’s just the first half of the month’s action. Among other highlights are a screening of the Marx Brothers’ immortal comedy “Animal Crackers” at 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 18 at One Colorado, the original 1958 Vincent Price version of horror classic “The Fly” at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 19 in Central Park, and the adventure-packed documentary “The Art of Travel,” which follows a recent high school graduate thrust into a race to be the fastest people to ever cross the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia.
The fest comes to a close on the final weekend of the month, with the best Rock Hudson-Doris Day romantic comedy, “Lover Come Back,” screening at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 26, at One Colorado, as the comical couple duke it out over the right to a hot advertising account.
Then on closing night, July 27, “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” sails into Central Park to regale viewers with numerous battles featuring legendary effects wizard Ray Harryhausen’s special stop-motion technique called Dynamation, which brought to life a man-eating Cyclops, a saber-wielding skeleton and a ferocious two-headed bird called the Roc.
The 2014 Old Pasadena Film Festival runs from Saturday through July 27 at locations all over Old Pasadena. For more information and locations, visit oldpasadena.org.