Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Anna Mastro's debut 'Walter' epitomizes Palm Springs Film Festival


Andrew J. West stars in Anna Mastro's "Walter"

It's always dicey to characterize a major film festival based on the movies you personally see there, because no matter how diligent you try to be, your impression will always be statistically anecdotal.

I'll see perhaps 10 percent of the films at this year's Palm Springs International Film Festival by the time they roll up the red carpets for the final time, added to the 25 or so I'd watched before I got here, owing to the festival's unique programming policies.

Not bad considering there are 190 movies being screened. So I think I've got the feel of things here. I wouldn't want my doctor to diagnose me based on a test with a 35 to 40 percent chance of accuracy, but I'm not a doctor. Instead of "Do no harm," I quote Spencer Tracy to myself. He said the secret to the creative process is to "just look 'em in the eye and tell 'em the truth."


FREE: Watch the Golden Globes at The Crest, and dress up!

Golden Globes logo

I got the word this week from The Crest of Westwood that they'll be streaming coverage of the Golden Globes at The Crest on Sunday.

It's free and open to the public; doors open at 4:30 and the event starts at 5pm.

The Crest's Virginia Chavez writes, "We're encouraging formal attire, but it's not required for entrance."

But Off-Ramp says, "Phooey! Dress up. It's what classy people do." Like this stunning couple:

(Anne Knudsen/LA Public Library Herald-Examiner collection)

The caption of this 1985 photo reads, "David Hasselhoff in a burgundy-and-black striped tuxedo kept pace with wife Catherine Hickland's high fashion style: Ellene Warren's silk shoulder-beaded jacket, silk jacquard pants and matching evening bra. Hasselhoff and Hickland attended the Emmy Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.


Palm Springs Film Festival: Croatian 'Cowboys' wrangle laughs

Kino films

A scene from Tomislav Mrisic's "Cowboys (Kauboji)," which screened at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

It has escaped the average filmgoer's notice, but Eastern Europe has been in the midst of a cinematic renaissance for quite a while now. A few individual titles and filmmakers have bubbled to the surface in U.S. cinemas, including Danis Toanovic's Serbian antiwar satire "No Man's Land," which won an Oscar in 2001, and Cristian Mungiu's Romanian abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days," which nabbed the Palme d'Or at Cannes 2007.

Those are both great movies, but they are also the small tip of a very large iceberg. This year, Estonian filmmaker Zaza Urushadze's "Tangerines" — a humanist drama about the Georgian civil war of 1992 — is a leading contender for a foreign film Oscar.

As of now, its main competitor for the trophy would seem to be the Polish film "Ida" by Pawel Pawlikowski, which has taken most of the top critics prizes for foreign film this awards season. And who has heard of Radu Jude, the witty Romanian director of "The Happiest Girl in the World," or Kamen Kalev, Bulgaria's great hope for the cinematic future? Among so many others.


Palm Springs Film Festival: Patrick Stewart's comedic talent lights up 'Match'

26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film - Day 2 Film Screenings & Events

Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images for PSIFF

Actors Carla Gugino, Matthew Lillard and Sir Patrick Stewart pose at the "Match" screening during the Palm Springs International Film Festival on January 3, 2015 in Palm Springs, California.

Is there a happier star in Hollywood than Patrick Stewart?

Certainly no one seems to be having more fun than the onetime Star Trek captain and current (and seemingly permanent) X-Man. And why shouldn't Sir Patrick be pleased with himself? He really has got it all: a thriving stage profile in both New York and London, the unconditional love of a vast and loyal fan base, and a film career that oscillates freely between franchise blockbusters and the small, character-driven chamber pieces Stewart so clearly relishes.

"Match" is about as small a movie as Stewart has ever appeared in: a well-intentioned three-character film studded with very funny dialogue courtesy of writer/director Stephen Belber, upon whose play "Match" is based.

Stewart plays an aging gay dance instructor named Tobi Powell, who may or may not have sired a child back in the swinging 60s – an era movies now take to have been 10 years of uninterrupted orgy punctuated by Beatles records and gunshots aimed at the Kennedy brothers.


Palm Springs Film Festival: A celebrity warm-up for Oscar

26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Festival Awards Gala - Alternative View

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Sophie Hunter arrive at the 26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Festival Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 3, 2015 in Palm Springs, California.

The 26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival opened this weekend, distinguished by robust audience turnouts, megawatt celebrity visitations and constant reminders of the unique space PSIFF occupies and the specialized services it provides to Hollywood.

Falling as it does just before Sundance and just after the Golden Globes nominations, Palm Springs is as much a part of the awards season calendar as it is the festival circuit. Big ticket screenings are presented with all the photo op pomp that would greet a major world premiere at, say, the Los Angeles Film Festival, but in many cases this is to build buzz for (or to re-energize) films that are already in theaters.

At Sundance or Tribeca, the suspense is usually about whether the films in competition will get good reviews and/or find distribution. At Palm Springs, especially on opening weekend, it's more about whether you'll run into Brad Pitt in the guest and industry suite at the Renaissance Hotel.