FILM FEST- Hot Picks

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006)

7pm Thursday, October 26

Newcomb Hall

For those who know and love the furious ball of often musically induced energy that is Jack Black, Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny should be quite a treat. Long before he melted the faces of schoolchildren in The School of Rock (2003) or offered unsolicited record-buying advice in High Fidelity (2000), Black stoked his fire for rock as half of acoustic metal duo Tenacious D along with fellow comedian Kyle Gass. After several concert tours and a TV series on HBO, the band that's written such gems as "F*** Her Gently" and "The Greatest Song in the World" finally makes it to the big screen in this feature soon to be released nationwide. See it now so you can be the first to quote it to your friends.

Life of Brian (1979)

10pm Thursday, October 26

Newcomb Hall

Speaking of memorable cinematic punchlines, do the words "How shall we f*** off, O Lord?" "Blessed are the cheesemakers," and "If you say 'Jehovah' one more time..." ring any bells? 

Moviegoers are in for a rolicking two hours with this classic from the Monty Python gang (ranked the 129th best movie of all time by Directed by the troupe's own Terry Jones, the movie chronicles the life of Brian of Nazareth, the man born in the stable next to Jesus Christ. With its brazen irreverence and lowbrow humor of the highest order, Life of Brian demonstrates why even folks who've seen Python sketches only on DVD quote them like the holy comedic scriptures they are.  

God of a Second Chance (2006)

10pm Friday, October 27

Newcomb Hall

Sissy Spacek isn't the only Academy Award winner living in our midst. City resident and filmmaker Paul Wagner won Best Short Documentary in 1984 for The Stone Carvers. Now he's back with his latest feature length piece, God of a Second Chance, which follows the lives of six people living in the poorest neighborhood in Washington, DC.

Tender Mercies (1983)

1pm Friday, October 27

Regal Downtown 

Before he takes the stage at the Paramount later that night, go meet Robert Duvall at this decidedly more intimate setting on Friday afternoon. He'll be discussing his Academy Award-winning performance as country singer-songwriter and failed father Mac Sledge in this heart-rending 1983 film. The movie is worth seeing for Duvall's performance alone, but the way director Bruce Beresford and writer Horton Foote take the time to let an audience know the characters makes this forgotten classic a must-see.

Little Children (2006)

1:30pm Friday, October 27

Regal Downtown

It's rare that moviegoers outside New York and Los Angeles get a sneak peek at a movie with this much buzz, but the Festival gives Charlottesvillians the chance this year. The latest film from In the Bedroom director Todd Field looks like a sure-fire Oscar contender with the likes of previous Academy nominees Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly and rising newcomer Patrick Wilson (The Phantom of the Opera, Angels in America) in the cast. Based on the novel by Tom Perotta, the story follows a tangled web of sex, crime, and deceit in a small town. 

Lindsay Barnes is the Hook's special sections editor and edited this year's Virginia Film Festival coverage. 

Lindsay Barnes

Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

The Dark Crystal (1982)

1pm, Sunday, October 29

Regal Downtown

How do we love The Dark Crystal? Let me count the ways: Jim Henson's sublime puppetry; Brian Froud's marvelous production design; Billie Whitelaw's priceless performance as Aughra; Trevor Jones' sweeping score; Chamberlain's whimpering.... Mercifully free of computer-generated filigree, this all-puppet film is alive with imagination and a genuine sense of wonder.  

The Milky Way (1969)

10:30am, Sunday, October 29

Regal Downtown

Orson Welles called surrealist Luis Bunuel "the most supremely religious director in the history of the movies"– not to mention the most blasphemous. But Bunuel wasn't simply anti-clerical: he hated everybody. Fortunately, his misanthropy was exceeded only by his sense of humor, as this medication on various Christian scandals and heresies illustrates.  

I Confess (1953)

4pm, Friday, October 27

Regal Downtown

This is Alfred Hitchcock's ecumenical variation on his standard "wrong man" theme. 

Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift), compelled by his priestly vows, must not only withhold a killer's identity revealed to him within his confessional, but is also persecuted for that killer's crimes. The final scenes of Father Michael's "passion," as he mournfully passes below statues of the Stations of the Cross, are truly moving. This isn't a Hitchcock masterpiece, but Hitch's second-tier work is better than most directors' finest. 

The Seventh Seal (1957)

10:15am, Saturday October 28

Regal Downtown

Set during the plague-ridden Middle Ages, Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal follows a motley cast of characters, led by the magnificent Max von Sydow, grappling with towering questions of faith and death. Shot in a mere 35 days using the scantest means, the film offers iconic highlights including the Knight's (von Sydow) chess match against Death, and the climactic Dance of Death (which was improvised, with anonymous crewmen filling in for several of the lead actors, who had already left the set). 

Ordet (1955)

10am, Friday, October 27

Regal Downtown

Unlike the relative stylishness of Danish director Carl (Vampyr) Dreyer's previous films, his Ordet (which translates as The Word) has an austere and peculiarly theatrical look. This dark, weighty tale of two rural Danish families' trials and their members' wildly varying takes on Christianity offers patient viewers a richly thoughtful– and, ultimately, uplifting– exploration of religion. 

Justin Humphreys is an author, whose first book, Names You Never Remember, With Faces You Never Forget, hit shelves last January. His second, the authorized biography of filmmaker George Pal, is due out in early 2007. 

Justin Humphreys

The Dark Crystal

Live From...The Hook (2006)

8pm, Saturday, October 28

Paramount Theater

All of my festival selections this year are by local filmmakers or on local topics, starting off with this look at the Charlottesville music scene of the 1980s. Rock out with Bob Girard, Charlie Pastorfield, and other local musical favs appearing on the Paramount's big screen. Then stick around to for the real thing, live on stage.

Rebellion of Thought (2006)

4:30pm, Saturday, October 28

Regal Dowtown

Kent Williamson, a filmmaking colleague of mine here in Charlottesville, has been working with his brother Brad on this documentary for the last few years. It promises to be a thought-provoking film about the challenge of holding personal spiritual beliefs in an age when no one believes anything.

Swedish Auto (2006)

7pm, Thursday, October 26

Paramount Theater

Maybe you've heard that this opening-night film of the festival stars Lukas Hass (the Amish kid in Witness all grown up). And you may know that it's a little indie film with big buzz after premiering at the Los Angeles Film Festival earlier this year. But did you know that it was directed by local-boy-about-to-make-good, Derek Sieg, right here in Charlottesville last year? (Check out Sieg in the HotSeat on page xx.–ed.)

Trapped by the Mormons (2005) with Esperanza (2006)

10pm, Thursday, October 26

Regal Downtown

Who said religion had to be a serious subject? Just as the '50s anti-marijuana film Reefer Madness was recently recast as high comedy, this comic re-make of a cautionary anti-Mormon tale from 1922 sounds truly weird. But I'm especially eager to see the short film being shown before it: Esperanza, by local filmmaker/journalist/radio-personality/madman Bruce Sanborn.

Volvo Adrenaline Film Project (2006)

4pm, Sunday, October 29

Newcomb Hall

Every year at the Film Festival, the Adrenaline Project throws teams of erstwhile directors into a wild weekend orgy of frenzied, all-day/all-night filmmaking mentored by Jeff Wadlow and Beau Bauman, the creative team behind last year's feature thriller, Cry Wolf. Last year a team from Light House, our Charlottesville teen filmmaking workshop, won the big prize. Who will it be this year?

Paul Wagner is an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker who will host a screening of his latest film, God of a Second Chance, at 7pm Saturday, October 28 at the Regal Downtown.
Paul Wagner

Live From...The Hook

The Apostle (1997)

6pm Friday, October 27

Paramount Theater

Robert Duvall has directed four films, of which The Apostle is the best, besides showcasing one of his 10 best performances (Tender Mercies and The Great Santini top the list), as a preacher on the road to redemption after his world caves in. The script, which Duvall wrote, is so uncynical and free of clichés it seems to belong in another category from most movies. Farrah Fawcett, Billy Bob Thornton, and June Carter Cash are in the cast.

10 Items or Less (2006)

10pm, Friday, October 27

Paramount Theater

I also once met Morgan Freeman backstage when he was in the original Off-Broadway production of Driving Miss Daisy. Since that time, and especially since finally winning his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Million Dollar Baby, he's been able to take his pick of the biggest films, but he still likes to mix it up. 10 Items or Less is a smaller movie in which he plays a once-famous actor whose options are more limited than Freeman's. It's a cultural exchange/road movie with a relatively short road through Los Angeles, in which he's accompanied by Paz Vega (Spanglish), as a cashier in a barrio market.

Jesus Camp (2006)

7pm, Friday October 27

Regal Downtown

Camp Out (2006)

4:15pm, Friday October 27

Regal Downtown

Jesus Camp and Camp Out are documentaries about summer camps for Christian youth, but they couldn't be more different. Jesus Camp will appeal both to evangelical Christians, who will think it shows children being raised right, and to liberals of any (or no) faith, who think it shows kids being brainwashed and exploited. Camp Out will freak out most evangelicals because it's about a camp for gay and lesbian Christian teens, who celebrate being able to worship their creator without having to hide a part of their identities. The style is a bit too close to The Real World for comfort, but the content is eye-opening.

Everything Is Illuminated (2005)

7pm, Saturday October 28

Newcomb Hall

This is a movie that came and went too quickly last year. The few who saw it will want to see it again, but give someone else a chance. Debuting director Liev Schreiber adapted a story by Jonathan Safran Foer, who is played by Elijah Wood, about his trip to the Ukraine to find the woman who helped his grandfather escape the Nazis. His guides are zany Eugene Hutz (of the band Gogol Bordello) and his anti-Semitic grandfather (Mel Gibson– just kidding). Mostly funny, the film ranges from downright wacky to outright tearjerking.

G.I. Jesus

7:15pm, Saturday, October 28

Regal Downtown 

Many leaders in Washington aren't sending their family members to fight in Iraq, and G.I. Jesus is a darkly comic tale of one of the people they are sending. Cpl. Jesus Feliciano (Joe Arquette) is fighting in exchange for U.S. citizenship, and most of the story takes place during a month he spends in California with his wife and daughter before being redeployed. It took almost 20 years before M*A*S*H let us laugh at the Korean War, but this is the age of instant communication; besides, we don't know if the world will last another 20 years.

Steve Warren is the Hook's regular movie reviewer.

Steve Warren

The Apostle