Thus could be summed up my experience last night at the Newport Beach Film Festival, the first such formal thing I think I’ve attended. It’s only been around for a few years and is not yet a tradition per se — and the amateurishness evident in the problems they had with advance tickets, well, I won’t go there entirely — but the organizer’s hearts are in the right place and if it isn’t Sundance, then in ways that’s probably a very good thing.

However, for me it was less important than the film I was seeing, Ringers, an offshoot of, dedicated to following Three Certain Films by one Peter Jackson that received some attention as of late. Only the second time it was screened and since no deal for formal release had been put together yet I figured why not catch it and see what the shouting was all about? And in sum, it’s pretty good. Enjoyable, and if I’m not shouting from the rooftops about it it’s because I trying neither to damn with faint praise nor to say I found it a mess. Instead it’s a reflective ramble of a film that’s well-edited and had some incredible moments but as a study of fandom over the years is scattershot, following a general chronological bent and sometimes reliant on touches that verged on the gimmicky (having four actors play ‘typical’ fans at various points to illustrate changes over the years was a bit much). If anything, it was a slew of uneven mini-films exploring aspects of the same subject, with a shared narrator (Dominic Monaghan, who did a fine job), a good range of interviews (most of the major members of the cast plus Jackson, various long time Tolkien critics and readers and of course, many different fans) and some flat out hilarious moments — there’s a bit where one fan talking about his favorite character finds Andy Serkis suddenly appearing that can’t really be described easily.

The best film of the night, though, appeared afterward, Instant Credit, a short done for Scottish TV last year starring LOTR actor Billy Boyd, which doubtless is why it ended up on the bill for this showing (both he and the director attended — said hi to Boyd briefly, seemed a cool guy!). And frankly it was a great little treat — if you can’t follow along with swiftly spoken Glasgow brogues then it’ll be a struggle to start with, but the general gist becomes clear enough, as Boyd’s character, a well-meaning but broke chip-shop cook, suddenly finds himself with the company credit card of an egregiously asshole businessman. For a short film it packs in and plays with a lot of ideas, tells just what it has to while still leaving time for some bits of random flair — there’s a way the various locations are described that I won’t spoil, but is handled beautifully — and there’s a happy ending. Plus a slew of constantly funny moments, camera tricks and random touches — a winner, in short.

To top it all off, this was my long overdue visit to the Via Lido Theatre in Newport Beach, which is a class place. Looks great outside and in and if the seats aren’t the standard stadium seating hoohah, it’s still well worth it.