Funny films join bill at Comedy Arts Fest
May 14, 2003
For those who prefer to get their laughs in a dark movie theaterinstead of a smoky club, who prefer a good piece of celluloidover a parade of stand-up comics, there is the U.S. Comedy ArtsFestival’s Film Discovery Showcase. The showcase will bring 38 new films – 19 features and 19 shorts- to Aspen over the course of the USCAF, which opens tomorrowand runs through Saturday.The USCAF has featured a film program since the festival cameinto existence four years ago. But the Film Discovery Showcase,organized by film program director Kevin Haasarud, is a programof a different stripe.”Where we concentrated on retrospectives in the past, now we’reconcentrating on new films,” said a USCAF staff member. “We’vecreated a niche for comedy films that don’t have an out-let anywhereelse.”In its first appearance at the USCAF, the Film Discovery Showcasehas proved to be a tremendous draw for comedic filmmakers. Over300 films were submitted for consideration; several of the filmsin the program are world premieres, featuring some big-name talent.Making their world premieres are writer/director Mike Binder’s”The Sex Monster,” director David Steinberg’s “The Wrong Guy,”and Roger Nygard’s “Suckers.” Also being shown for the first timein public are Leigh Slawner’s “Arthouse,” Stu Pollard’s “NiceGuys Sleep Alone,” Francesca Talenti’s “Snake Tales” and NicoleBettauer’s “Zack and Reba.”American premieres include “The Pitch,” by Canadian directorsKen Hotz and Spencer Rice, and “The Wetonkawa Flash,” directedby Boyd Hale and Wendy Hopkins.All films will be shown during the daytime at the Stage 3 Theatres.The program also includes a special screening of “Go,” which willbe shown at the Wheeler Opera House on Friday at 7 p.m. “Go,”which was shown at the recent Sundance Film Festival, is the latestfilm by director Doug Liman, who had a hit with “Swingers.”Among the world premiere films, perhaps the most highly anticipatedis “The Sex Monster.” Writer-director Binder has a list of successfulmajor studio films to his credit: With Jim Carrey, Binder dida rewrite of the script for “Liar, Liar”; he also wrote “IndianSummer” and wrote and directed “Coupe de Ville,” which starredAlan Arkin. But Binder grew weary of working within the constraintsset by the Hollywood studios.”I got tired of these studio films,” said Binder, whose brotherJack is a co-producer of “The Sex Monster,” and who shot the filmat his own house to keep costs minimal. “I wanted to do it myown way – and I loved it. I haven’t tried to sell it yet, butWoody Allen and the Farrelly Brothers, they all loved it. Testaudiences have loved it.””The Sex Monster,” never to be mistaken as a chick flick, revolvesaround the ultimate male fantasy: a husband persuading his wifeto participate in a ménage à trois. Binder himself stars as thehusband; Mariel Hemingway stars as his wife, Laura, and ReneeHumphrey plays Didi, Binder’s intended third piece. Laura finallycapitulates to her husband’s pleas, but things don’t go quiteas planned.”The idea is the guy talks his wife into doing it with anotherwoman,” said Binder. “And she ends up doing it with everybody- his boss’s wife, his sister, his assistant. It just becomesa total nightmare for him.”Binder, who began doing stand-up comedy 20 years ago at the ageof 20, adds elements of stand-up comedy to “The Sex Monster.”(One excellent scene that has become a favorite of test audiences,known as “Home Field Advantage,” has a definite feel of sketchcomedy.) But Binder said that the film is much more a traditionalsexual comedy than a filmed stand-up routine, and it is definitelymore comic than sexual. All sex scenes are off-screen.”It’s meant to be titillating, but it’s not a sex film,” saidBinder. “It’s a sexual farce. I wanted it to have a French orSpanish feel to it.”Nor was filming “The Sex Monster” a vicarious sexual thrill forits director. “The truth is, I became pretty friendly with Mariel,and I’d see her kissing another woman and I’d think, `I don’twant my wife doing that,'” said Binder. “I’d get too jealous.I couldn’t handle it. It’s not such a fantasy of mine anymore.”Still, Binder knows the fantasy plays strongly in the male psyche,and he played to that in the casting of “The Sex Monster.””The movie’s filled with beautiful women,” said Binder. “I’m notan idiot.””The Sex Monster” shows at Stage 3 on Friday at 2:15 p.m. andon Saturday at 4 p.m.”Suckers,” an exploration of the world of car salesmen, premieresThursday at 4:30 p.m. “The Wrong Guy,” about a man bungling hisway out of a murder rap, has its premiere Friday at 2:15 p.m.”Nice Guys Sleep Alone,” about the guy who girls want to be “justfriends” with, premieres Wednesday at 2 p.m.The world premiere of “Snake Tales,” which adapts “The ArabianNights” and sets it in Texas, is Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. “Zackand Reba” will have its first-ever public showing Wednesday at4:15 p.m. “Arthouse,” about two clashing filmmakers setting outto write the ultimate arthouse film, premieres Wednesday at 2:30p.m.Also included in the film program are several films, includingNeil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” and “The Goodbye Girl,” and JamesL. Brooks’ “Broadcast News” and “Terms of Endearment,” by writersand filmmakers appearing at the USCAF.Full programs for the Film Discovery Showcase will be made available.