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Apocalypse Now

Interview: GutiFest with Guest Curator Gustavo Arellano

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Award-winning Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano is making his mark at The Frida Cinema as our first guest curator with GutiFest.

Gutifest will run from Monday July 17th to Monday July 24th, Arellano’s handpicked four films, Aliens, Apocalypse Now: The Final Cut, The Apartment, and The Karate Kid. With Aliens, the film that will kick off GutiFest, Arellano will moderate a Q&A with Aliens actress Jenette Goldstein, who played the iconic Private Vasquez.    

Arellano, who’s an Orange County native, initially gained national acclaim for his work with OC Weekly as the columnist of the popular column, ¡Ask A Mexican!, where he later became an editor. Both his work as an author and journalist has highlighted southern California history, culture, and current events, as well as Mexican food history and culture. His work has also helped bring new life and attention to both serious and sincere subjects.

Recently, he won the Pulitzer Prize Award as part of the team at the Los Angeles Times responsible for exposing the controversial 2022 leaked audio recording of LA city council members plotting to consolidate power redistricting and making racist remarks.    

Arellano shares with us about becoming the first guest curator, why he chose these four films, and what he hopes audiences will take away from GutiFest.

Bonilla: How did you become interested in film?

Arellano: I’ve been interested in movies my entire life. I got into thinking of wanting to be in Hollywood when Pulp Fiction came out. And my best friend Art (who’s still my best friend), when him and I got a bootleg version of Pulp Fiction, we just wore it out. I wanted to get to Hollywood, it didn’t work out, but that’s okay. Sadly now, I’m too busy to just sit down and watch movies. So this is also a way for me to go to the theater and watch a movie.

How did you become the first guest programmer?

That’s a question for [Frida executive director] Logan. I’m assuming because of two things. I gave a donation to The Frida, and they were touched by that. But they also saw that I was able to pack a theater for Blazing Saddles. So, Logan came up to me and said, “Hey, we want you to be our first curator.” He told me that evening when we had when we screened my documentary and Blazing Saddles. And I immediately said yes.

I never go to the theaters anymore. The rare times I do, it’s gotta be at The Frida, obviously. But it was perfect.

It was so touching. It was cool. And I can’t wait to see it. At the very least, if I’m the only person who shows up, then I get to see all these films on the big screen, which is always its own experience, with Reese’s Pieces of course.

How does it feel to be the first guest programmer?

It’s an honor. I hope that other people get jealous and then tell Logan, “Hey, how can I be a guest programmer?” Logan’s such a nice guy. But I hope he says, “Well, give us a good donation the way Gustavo did and let’s talk about it.” I hope this is the start of a tradition.

Why did you pick these four films, Aliens, Apocalypse NowThe Apartment, and The Karate Kid?

Aliens:

Logan asked me to pick films based on a particular category. So Aliens, it was a cult movie.  Most people would say Aliens is not a cult movie because it was a box office smash. It’s iconic.

On the other hand, I would argue it is so [cult] because the Aliens universe is very much a cult. Everything that H. R. Giger did with Xenomorphs. Is its own thing. I gotta say, I’m not the biggest fan of Xenomorphs. I find that completely creepy. And I think most people do.

But the main reason I picked Aliens is because that guarantees that my wife Delilah will go to at least one of the movies. She’s working all the time. She wants to be at home, and I respect that. But Aliens is her favorite movie of all time. She could totally tell you so much stuff about it. And I also want her to just enjoy it on the big screen.

The Apartment:

Logan asked me to pick a film that I think is underrated. And it’s funny because when I announced it, a lot of people were like, “The Apartment isn’t underrated. It’s a masterpiece. So many people know about it.” And my response is, yes, The Apartment is a masterpiece. But I would argue that Billy Wilder was so far ahead of his time, in terms of the cynicism and skepticism about humans. There’s a quote in a German magazine, I believe, but it said, “What others find tragic Billy Wilder finds funny.” With all this said, I don’t think Wilder’s films are as popular as they should be with modern day audiences, like the younger generation. They haven’t picked up on him just yet. And they should.

I remember seeing The Apartment at Chapman. It was so caustic and so gallows humor. I immediately thought, “Oh my god. This is amazing.” Fred MacMurray, playing against type. He plays such an evil person so easily. And that’s a scary part, because his other legendary evil role is another Wilder movie, Double Indemnity.

Jack Lemmon, you want to talk about another person ahead of his time. He played the neurotic. People would make fun of him during the 1960s, saying, “Oh, you’re always thinking you’re out of character. Like ‘Can’t you be like happy’ and all that.” But look at our country now. We’re all a bunch of neurotics. I just think it’s so underrated. Everyone should see it, and I cannot wait to see it on the big screen.

Apocalypse Now:

Logan said, “Pick your favorite movie of all time.” It’s Apocalypse Now. I love the story. I love the soundtrack. I love the cinematography. And also the backstory about how Francis Ford Coppola basically became crazy, trying to make Apocalypse Now. Then to see the Director’s Cut. It’d be great to see the whole six and a half-hour original first cut, but that’s not going to happen.

The Karate Kid
William Zabka and Ralph Macchio facing off in The Karate Kid.

The Karate Kid:

That’s the one that we’re telling people that’s gonna be on Friday night on purpose. So we could have an after party at the Alta Baja Market.

Logan said, “Pick your favorite movie as a kid,” and its Karate Kid. I mean, you’re a boy, you’re a nerd in the ’80s, that’s your film, because that’s the ultimate “getting bullied, revenge against your bully” story. Because of that film, I got into taekwondo. It’s still such a great story. Johnny and Kreese together, they’re the greatest screen villains of all time. They’re just so evil and so absolutely mean.

Speaking, by the way, on this theme of your favorite movie as a kid, every single film is gonna start off with a classic cartoon. Trust me, I could do a whole festival just my favorite cartoons. But let’s do this like the old-time little matinee, starting with a cartoon. Of course, I gotta shout out Tex Avery, the greatest cartoonist of the mall.

What do you hope audiences will get from these films?

If they’ve never seen them before? They are all classics in their own right. If you have seen them before, but not on the big screen, just to remind people that we could see films on our smartphones now, but nothing replaces just being in front of a huge screen.

When we did the screening of Blazing Saddles, this was February 2022. So, a lot of people still had not gotten back to, quote unquote, “normal life.” A lot of people still have it. A lot of people told me afterwards, “Oh my God. This is the first time I’ve been in the movie theater a long time.” And just seeing it on the big screen reminded me of just how powerful and magnetic live screenings are on the big screen, seeing it with other people.

And then just to have a great time. You don’t even have to like me, just show up. I’m sure most of the people will go just because these are films aren’t really screened that much on the big screen anymore. People will just show up. So it’s not even about me. It’s just about going and having a great time.

For the Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday screenings for each respective movie, I’m gonna give this a short introduction why I picked it, a little bit of why I love them, and all that good stuff.

GutiFest movie schedule:

Monday, July 17th

Aliens + Q&A w/ actress Jenette Goldstein – 7:30PM

Tickets

Tuesday, July 18th

Aliens – 7:30PM

Tickets

Wednesday, July 19th

The Apartment – 7:45pm

Tickets

Thursday, July 20th

The Apartment – 7:45PM

Tickets

Friday, July 21st

Apocalypse Now – 1PM

Tickets

The Karate Kid – 7:30PM

Tickets

Aliens – 10:30PM

Tickets

Saturday, July 22nd

The Karate Kid – 3:35PM

Tickets

Apocalypse Now – 6pm

Tickets

Sunday, July 23rd

The Karate Kid – 4:30pm

Tickets

Apocalypse Now – 7pm

Tickets

Monday, July 24th

Apocalypse Now – 7:30pm

Tickets

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