The House of Tomorrow

Ellen Burstyn and Asa Butterfield star in "The House of Tomorrow."

Submitted photo

We are in the final stretch. Four days of film down, one to go. Turns out blogging about a film festival isn’t that easy when you have to drive from place to place and stand in line for the films you hope to see. Then when you do have a free moment to write, you hope that your internet hotspot will be strong enough to post your rushed account of what you’ve been up to.

But there is still one day left in the Napa Valley Film Festival, and I want to offer some quick bites for you to savor in case you are thinking about checking out the festival before it’s gone.

My biggest piece of advice is to have a plan. Unless you are staying at the same venue all day, you need to account for drive time and traffic. Plus, if you are headed to St. Helena to catch a film at one of the smaller venues, you want to be there early because these venues sell out.

There is a bag check at Uptown Theater in downtown Napa. They are checking for outside food and water, but they aren’t checking that well. I was able to walk in with both in my bag without being stopped. However, out of respect for the venue, I didn’t indulge in my contraband while on site. My provisions were strictly for commuting survival.

Please, make time to eat. Your film battle plan may look good on paper, but if you don’t eat, you will end up hangry and no one wants that.

Be open minded. I’ve talked to a lot of people over the past few days, and some people feel that the synopses provided in the film fest guide are misleading and don’t offer a true picture of what the films are about. I say, go with the flow. These are independent films. Some of these films are genuinely weird, but just go with it. You might be surprised. You may also be disappointed, but I think that is part of the fun of the festival. You are experiencing art. Sometimes it resonates with you. Sometimes you run for the exit. Either way, take a chance on a film even if you don’t know the actors or the director.

So far, Chuck and I have been lucky. We haven't seen any duds. A few left us underwhelmed, but we haven’t seen anything we hated. I will try to dissuade you from seeing “Life Hack” though. It plays Sunday at Jam Cellars. It’s the classic story of boy meets girl. Boy and girl fight over parking place. Boy parks his car, so girl keys car. Boy seeks revenge on girl by hacking her computer and draining her of her life’s savings. There is no love story. It sounds interesting. It’s not. Spare yourself.

“Stuck” is playing again on Sunday. I wrote about that on Friday. It won the jury prize for best narrative on Saturday night, so you’ll want to check it out. After letting the film sit with me for a day, I realize that “Stuck” is a movie for our time. If you strip away the music, the story is a reflection of our need to come together. We, as a society, are not trapped in a subway car. We can see the light. We can open our hearts and our minds and be better people if we just take the time to be more present. It’s not something that is easy. It is easy to judge. It is easy to hate what you don’t understand, but if you take a moment to listen, to really listen, you may hear the music of life that has been drown out by the buzz of all our rushing.

Speaking of award winners, “Skid Row Marathon” and “The House of Tomorrow” both picked up wins from the Napa Valley Film Festival judges, and both films are playing at Lincoln Theater on Sunday. Parking at the Lincoln Theater isn’t the greatest. You may have to do some walking and you may even have to park in the mud, but it’s the best venue of the festival. It has the biggest screen, comfortable seating and ample legroom.

Parking is tight at Native Sons Hall and Farmstead Theater in St Helena, but if you manage your time well, you should be able to secure a spot nearby with no trouble. Farmstead Theater has these super plush seats, but all the seats are level, there is no staggering, so if you are tall, please sit toward the back. That’s my only issue with venues that aren’t movie venues any other time of the year. The seating arrangements can be tricky so you have to choose your spot wisely and hope that the people who sit in front of you don’t obstruct your view. Sometimes it is worth sitting up front to avoid this. I had to slink down my row at Freemark Abbey to escape an egghead (sorry, distractingly tall man who sat in front of me right before showtime) so that I could have a clear view.

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Freemark Abbey is the most attractive theater space with its wine barrels in the background. It gives off the purest Napa Valley vibe. I didn’t make it to Charles Krug, but I hear that the 200 seat theater is very comfortable.

Jam Cellars Ballroom is a great venue, and I appreciate the padded folding chairs, but if you try to reposition yourself in any way, a distracting flatulence sound is created as you shift your weight. Consider yourselves warned.

FInal thought: “Molly’s Game” is screening at Uptown Sunday night at 5:30 p.m. This is the film’s only showing and it has Oscar buzz, so the demand will be pretty high on this one. Plan accordingly.

Make sure to download the Napa Valley Film Festival app so that you have the most up to date schedules, and check back in with me tomorrow, when I share my final thoughts about my favorite films.


Samie Hartley is the Napa Valley Register online editor. Her column Simple & Sassy runs on alternating Sundays.