It' always more enjoyable to watch movies you love with friends. That's the idea behind the Wayne Federman International Film Festival hosted by Cinefamily, where comedians present films they love or are inspired by.
Comedian Wayne Federman got the idea to start the festival after watching Patton Oswalt screen one of his favorite films — the comedy "The Foot Fist Way" — at the New Beverly Cinema in 2008.
This year's lineup includes Sacha Baron Cohen presenting the Danish comedy "Klown," Will Forte with his film "MacGruber," and Kumail Nanijani screening the 2005 horror film, "Descent."
Federman and Lauren Lapkus — she'll present the 1988 Tom Hanks film, "Big" — spoke with The Frame's John Horn about how comedians choose the film they want to show, how these films inspire them, and how the festival is for comedy and movie fans alike.
What is important to you when you are picking comedians to present films? Is it that they're funny or have eclectic taste in movies?
FEDERMAN: Not at all. I have no idea what their taste are in movies. I just see if they're funny and I know them and they want to do it.
Lauren, what was Wayne's pitch to you?
LAPKUS: Pretty much that. It was, "Do you wanna come present a movie that inspires you or that you care about or love and share it with an audience?" And that sounded really fun to me, so I was in.
And you chose the Tom Hanks movie, "Big." Why was this movie so important to you?
LAPKUS: This is one of those movies... I can't really watch a lot of movies over and over again. I just don't really do that. I usually just watch a movie and then consider it done. But this one I have watched a million times in my life. I could watch it over and over again and I really relate to the story. I think it really captures a specific feeling.
FEDERMAN: I have a question for you. Do you remember the first time you saw it?
LAPKUS: Yeah. I don't know if it was the first time. I remember watching it as a kid and it's just interesting how this movie changes with you as you grow up and what you see in it that's inspiring. As a kid, of course, I related to him as a kid and the feeling, What's it like to be a grown up? And I wanted to be a grown up...
FEDERMAN: Do you remember the theater or anything you saw it in?
LAPKUS: No, I didn't see it in a theater. I was too young for that [laughs.]
Is it often the case that a comedian will find him or herself influenced by this movie in some ways that are either obvious or a little bit not so obvious.
FEDERMAN: Oh, that's interesting. I mean, sometimes there's been that. Usually it's movies someone loves. It's just like, I don't know why I love this movie but it just resonates with me on some level. Like for Bill Burr — who picked the 1967 movie, "The Dirty Dozen" — that was all about him and his dad watching movies together on television and how much he loved that experience. And also how he related specifically to what John Cassavetes was doing in that movie, who's kind of an instigator. If you look at what Bill Burr does in his stand-up, he is a little bit of an anti-authoritarian instigator. So I do think that influenced his aesthetic as a comedian— a movie you would never, in a million years, think would influence a comedian.
This year, you've got some pretty recognizable comedies. What happens when a comedian comes in and says, I'd like to present this movie, and you say, What are you talking about?
FEDERMAN: Well, it's happened a couple times. This movie called "Klown" that Sacha Baron Cohen is doing, I've never heard of it.
LAPKUS: Oh yeah, I want to see that.
FEDERMAN: And I consider myself, like, films are my... that's my jam. More than jelly. That is my jam.
LAPKUS: And I think with him in particular, I'd be interested to see a film that he's excited about that I've never heard of. Like he's so cool.
FEDERMAN: By the way, it's NC-17.
LAPKUS: Even better! [laughs]
Outside of the audience having a good time, is there something bigger that you hope happens? That people come out of the theater thinking about a movie in a new way or thinking about a comedian's work in a new way?
LAPKUS: I don't have any expectations about what the audience should experience, but I do think that it's interesting what people pick. I automatically chose "Big" without second thought and I think that it does say a lot about me as a comedian. Once I gave it a little more thought and looked into it a little bit, [I thought], Why do I like this movie so much? Why does it resonate with me so much? I mean, I think I'm very much into pretending to be a kid all the time. I do a bunch of characters. I'm very ridiculous. I don't really live a regular adult lifestyle, which I love. And I think that all kind of plays into that feeling of why that movie means so much to me.
Have you ever thought about it that consciously before you did this?
LAPKUS: Not at all. I do improv and sketch comedy and I do a podcast. I have this kind of character-fueled improv based nightlife-style living that not a lot of my friends outside of that community really relate to. And I never thought about it, until actually maybe this moment, why this movie is so important to me.
Wayne — in terms of what the audience will take away — if you succeed on a night, what works? What happens?
FEDERMAN: I don't know. I think the comedy fans really get to see someone they admire geek out on something. So they're like, Oh, I'm geeking out on this person and they're geeking out. So they feel sort of part of that continuation. Like I said earlier, I am a film buff from way back and it's my favorite form of entertainment, like, sitting in that theater, lights go down. Let's see what happens!
LAPKUS: And I think it's so fun for the movie — even though it doesn't have a brain or a heart — but I imagine that the movie's excited to [be laughed] at again in a big crowd. You don't think that's gonna happen with some of these movies. You'll never get to see them again. And I'm excited to see an audience watch "Big" with me.
The Wayne Federman International Film Festival runs March 5-8 at Cinefamily in L.A.’s Fairfax District.