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Beautiful Ohio in Sunny Newport Beach

We’re heading south for our annual migration to the Newport Beach Film Festival. I like a festival that I can drive to and where I don’t have to know how to ski. Plus, I get the chance to see my UO dorm buddy, Pete Feibleman, because his wife, Leslie, is one of the main honchos who puts the whole deal together.

Thursday’s opening night film is “Beautiful Ohio” from director/producer Chad Lowe. It’s a coming-of-age tale, set in the early 70s (back when yours truly was “coming-of-age,” whatever that means) about a kid who’s a math whiz expected to win a mathematics competition while his little brother struggles to live in his brother’s formidable shadow. This intrigues me because about that time, my brother Alan was a math whiz who was leading his high school team in the “High-Q” TV competition (and would go on to set the record for consecutive wins before leaving town for M.I.T.) and I was, well, the little brother struggling to live in his formidable shadow.

I doubt it will be too much like my own life because, in this telling, the math whiz has Michelle Trachtenberg for his hot girlfriend and, if I recall, my brother was barely dating because he was a math whiz which all but disqualified you from dating back then (except for the movies, I guess).

Until I’ve seen the film, I’m not actually sure what the Smackdown! will be. Maybe it’s “Bee Season,” or “Searching for Bobby Fischer” or “Little Man Tate.” Maybe it’s “The Royal Tennenbaums.” You never really know until you get out and start thinking and then it usually hits you…

We have some new Movie Smackdown! referees coming on line this week and next. Look for those, too.

Friday night is the festival premiere of “Moola” — a film produced and directed by my good friend Don Most. It’s a comedy about chemical glow sticks which, when hung on a cow’s ass leads to insane sexual behavior in the dark, and how that discovery leads to a corporate merger deal making a bunch of losers rich. I guess with that description it better be a comedy! Anyway, it stars William Mapother who you may also have seen as the creepy Other on “Lost.”

So, let’s see now. When it comes to Smackdown!, we’ve got a chemical stick, cow sex, corporate merger film. What can I compare that to? Hmmm… I got nothin’!

Anyway, back to opening night and “Beautiful Ohio.” Since Rita Wilson plays the kid’s mom in
this, maybe we’ll run into Tom Hanks at the after-party. I can remind
him that we sat next to each other at the 2002 Emmy Awards when he won
for “Band of Brothers” and he can pretend to remember me. Or maybe he
actually will. He really is one of the nicest guys working in showbiz.
He sent me this terrific short little note, written on a vintage World War II-era
typewriter, that I still have.

And if I get a moment to talk to Chad Lowe, we can
swap war stories about our brief encounter while working on ABC’s “Life
Goes On” when he played a high school kid “coming-of-age” who happened
to have AIDS. I played the role of “Executive Story Editor with a Heart-of-Gold.” I will exercise caution and not bring up his fellow
producer on this project, some woman named Swank, I think. I actually
also know the other-other producer on this project, Mark Burton. I’m not sure who’s still talking to whom in that group. We’ll see.

Then, Saturday morning, it’s time to sing for the
supper, as I’m moderating the screenwriter panel that morning.
Panelists include Steve Oedekerk (“Bruce Almighty”), Jeff Arch
(“Sleepless in Seattle”) and Brad Gann (“Black Irish,” another festival
selection). If you have ideas for things I should ask any of them, post
your thoughts in the comment section…

I won’t ask the usual question audience members often
want to know at these things: “How do I get an agent?” The better
question for these working writers would probably be: “How do you get
an agent you want to keep?”

About Bryce Zabel 196 Articles
Drawing inspiration from career experiences as a CNN correspondent, TV Academy chairman, creator of five produced primetime network TV series, and fast-food frycook, Bryce is the Editor-in-Chief of "Movie Smackdown." While he freely admits to having written the screenplay for the reviewer-savaged "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," he hopes the fact that he also won the Writers Guild award a couple of years ago will cause you to cut him some slack. That, plus the fact that he has a new StudioCanal produced feature film, “The Last Battle,” shooting this summer in Europe about the end of World War II. He's also a member of the Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild, and a past enthusiast of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. His new what-if book series, “Breakpoint,” just won the prestigious Sidewise Award for Alternate History, and has so far tackled JFK not being assassinated and The Beatles staying together.
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