All Wet: The Hook's guide-o-rama to the Film Festival

With over 60 Virginia Film Festival events, how do you decide what to attend? To help you home in on the best choices, The Hook has blatantly stereotyped moviegoers based upon the broadest of generalizations. It all starts with whether you say "movies" or "film."

 If It's a Wonderful Life is your favorite movie, and you often lament how they don't make them the way they used to, you're in the traditionalist section.

 Perhaps you often talk about making a film and shudder to think it might be appreciated by the masses. For you, technology is just a new art medium. Check out the techno freak section.

 Date movies and too much dialogue bore you to tears. You like a high body count and wrecked cars in the wake of your movies. That would be the action dude section.

 The indie snob wouldn't be caught dead in a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie and considers subtitles a plus. You've come to the right place, and don't forget your reading glasses.

 Finally, typical of our celebrity-obsessed culture, some come only to glimpse the stars or at least someone with quasi-Hollywood connections. We call you the autograph hound, and strongly discourage you from pursuing signatures, or you may end up an embarrassing Film Festival legend, like the num-nut two years ago who handed a piece of paper to Anthony Hopkins to sign when he was onstage at Culbreth.

And here's one other tip: Don't be all wet. Part of the fun of the Film Festival is to defy stereotypes like these and get outside your comfort zone. See something that isn't your typical Saturday night video. We insist.

 

Traditionalist

 African Queen - Yep, they knew how to make 'em back when Bogie and Hepburn were making movies, when the characters didn't automatically hop in bed five minutes after they met. Bogart is the riverboat captain with a drinking problem; Hepburn is the prim missionary in this John Huston 1951 classic adventure. The only thing that's steamy is the African jungle. (10am Friday, Culbreth)


Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart star in the 1951 classic
African Queen .

Steamboat Bill Jr. - Comic genius Buster Keaton is the effete, city-boy son of a cantankerous steamboat captain in this 1928 silent classic. Naturally, mayhem will ensue. Live musical accompaniment by Anne Watts and her "avant cabaret" band, Boister, takes you back to the days of your youth. (7pm Friday, Culbreth)


Silent mayhem ensues as Buster Keaton stars in the 1928 classic
Steamboat Bill Jr.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - You can always count on Disney for some good clean fun (at least you could until it bought that smutty Miramax), and this 1954 movie is no exception. Based on the Jules Verne classic, it stars a young Kirk Douglas, Peter Lorre, and James Mason as the misanthropic Captain Nemo. The technical effects were quite something in their day. (10am Saturday, Culbreth)


Captain Nemo (James Mason) goes up against the massive squid in the 1954 classic
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

All that Heaven Allows - A 1955 Douglas Sirk tearjerker from the time when family and peer disapproval meant something. Jane Wyman plays a wealthy widow who falls in love with that good looking, but younger and socially inferior Rock Hudson, causing tongues to wag at the country club. Quelle horreur! (4pm Friday, Newcomb Hall)

L'Atalante - Some call it the greatest French film of all time. We know, you traditionalists don't usually go for subtitles or calling your moving pictures "films," but you do like nostalgia. Roger Ebert says, "This is the kind of movie you return to like a favorite song, remembering where you were and how it made you feel." Director Jean Vigo died at age 29 shortly after his masterpiece was released in 1934. (10am Sunday, Vinegar Hill)

 

Techno Freak

Teknolust - Shown at Sundance and Toronto, Teknolust seems to be a film festival kinda flick. Tilda Swinson of cross-gender Orlando fame gets four screen credits for playing a scientist and three different self-replicating automaton versions of herself in this sci-fi cyber comedy. Festival perennial and multimedia artist Lynn Hershman Leeson wrote and directed the film, which features Karen Black as conspiracy theorist named Dirty Dick. (7pm Friday, Regal Downtown 6)


From Sundance to Toronto to Charlottesville,
Teknolust, starring Tilda Swinson in four roles, has been a festival favorite.

Tuvalu - "The film is relentlessly arty and much too stylistically bizarre for mainstream taste..." says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Perfect for the techno freak filmgoer. The New York Times even bestows potential cult status à la Eraserhead on German director Veit Helmer's surreal movie shot in a Sofia bathhouse. One of the most visually stunning films of the whole festival. (7pm Friday, Vinegar Hill)


Bizarre, arty, visually stunning Tuvalu is a techno freak filmgoer's dream come true.

Liquid Light - The festival offers eight programs to showcase experimental and avant-garde wet-themed films. Best picks are Liquid Light 2, The Garden in the Machine, because programmer Scott MacDonald is the clearest evangelist of experimental film to non-connoisseurs (not that that's you, techno freak), and it has the obligatory Kenneth Anger film (1pm Friday, Vinegar Hill); Liquid Light 3, Throwing Water into the Sea, because it features the best experimental films submitted to the festival, and Luis Recoder will do a live performance involving a glass, water and projector beam (4pm Friday, Vinegar Hill); and Liquid Light 7, the George Kuchar Program, because the underground avant-garde filmmaking legend is inspired by gastrointestinal conditions, and because John Waters calls him and his twin brother Mike "the only real underground filmmakers left working in America today."(10pm Saturday, Vinegar Hill)

Mexterminator: A Living Diorama ­ Performance artists Guillermo Gomez-Peña, whom the Utne Reader places on its List of 100 Visionaries, and Juan Ybarra confront viewers with characters based on cultural and ethnic stereotypes contributed by visitors to mexterminator.com. They call them "multicultural Frankensteins" or "ethno-cyborgs." Part of the Fringe Festival, it's a Freak Show too hip to miss. (8pm Saturday, Frank Ix Building)

 

Action Dude

Lawrence of Arabia ­ David Lean's 1962 epic is a quintessential guy movie except for being almost four hours long. Peter O'Toole plays T.E. Lawrence, a renegade British officer who dons Arab robes and tries to unite Bedouin tribes against the Turks, and in doing so, drifts from hero to madman. Blood, torture, seven Academy Awards, and the desert as it has never been shot. (1pm Friday, Culbreth)

The Long Voyage Home ­ Don't let the fact that this movie is based on four Eugene O'Neil one-act plays fool you. While O'Neil may not be an action dude, John Wayne and director John Ford are. Danger is all around in this men-and-the-sea flick. (1pm Friday, Regal Downtown 6)


John Wayne makes Long Voyage Home seaworthy.

Psycho ­ Okay, so most of the action takes place in the shower or when "Mother" leaps out with a butcher knife. Still, this is Hitchcock at his best, the movie that scared the weasels out of a generation, and kept Janet Leigh from ever taking a shower again. (10pm Friday, Culbreth)


If there'd been water restrictions, there might never have been the shower scene.

Deliverance ­ This 1972 movie is the action dude's nightmare. Four city boys Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox set off on a canoe trip in the backwoods of Georgia, where they learn real men don't squeal like a pig, and the terror of hearing, "He's got a real pretty mouth." Strangely, the folksy "Dueling Banjos" is in no way as menacing as the soundtracks from Psycho or Jaws. Directed by John Boorman, and based upon the James Dickey novel. (1pm Saturday, Culbreth)


Nearly 30 years later, Jaws still has bite.

Beach Dance Party ­ Dry off from Jaws and take a walk on the wild side at the Fringe Festival's dance party. Groove to beach music and a light show. Bonus: more coeds dancing like Annette Funicello. (10pm Saturday, Frank Ix Building)

 

Indie Snob

Warm Water Under a Red Bridge ­ Critics call 75-year-old director Shohei Imamura one of Japan's best. He dips into magic realism and the metaphors of life with the story of a young woman whose orgasms feed the river by which she lives. Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance) is the beleaguered businessman who helps relieve Misa Shimizu's liquid buildup. (10pm Thursday, Regal Downtown 6)

Maelstrom ­ "If you're in the mood for a melodrama narrated by a talking fish, this is the movie for you," says the Christian Science Monitor. Plus, we don't see many Canadian films, and director Denis Villeneuve won five Genies, the Canadian Oscar, for this 2001 black comedy. We're there. (7pm Saturday, Vinegar Hill)


Narration by a talking fish makes Maelstrom out of the ordinary.

The Weight of Water ­ One of the festival highlights is being able to premiere new films even if they've been floating around for a couple of years. Strange Days' director Kathryn Bigelow interweaves the present day with an 1873 double ax murder. Catherine McCormack, Sean Penn, and Elizabeth Hurley's nipples star, but the indie film snob would go just to see Sarah Polley. (10pm Saturday, Newcomb)

Rabbit Proof Fence ­ Director Phillip Noyce breaks away from his Tom Clancy oeuvre in this sneak preview of a Miramax release about Australia's Stolen Generations. The government takes three Aboriginal girls to be trained as servants. They escape and attempt a 1,500-mile trek to get home, with Kenneth Branagh in hot pursuit. (10pm Friday, Regal Downtown 6)


Aboriginal girls, kidnapped by the Australian government, run for home in Rabbit Proof Fence.

The River ­ The Wet-themed festival offers four films called The River, and three have subtitles, really making it tough for the indie snob. There's the Jean Renoir, the Taiwanese, and Jarmo Lampela's River. As hard as it is to choose, we're going for the latter because, well, how often do you see Finnish cinema? And it's Finland's official entry for the Foreign Language Film Oscar. (1pm Saturday, Regal Downtown 6)

 

Autograph Hound

Sonny ­ Academy Award winner and versatile comedy/drama/action star Nicolas Cage comes to town for the premiere of his directorial debut. Sonny stars hunky James Franco, American Beauty Mena Suvari, Brenda Blethyn, and Harry Dean Stanton. But the real stargazing will be in Culbreth with Cage. Special bonus: his wife, Lisa Marie Presley, the King's daughter, could join him. And Roger Ebert will interview Cage after the screening. And get this: UVA grad Samuel Goldwyn Jr. will distribute the film nationally. (7pm Saturday, Culbreth)


Nicholas Cage adds sparkling star power to this year's festival, and he'll be interviewed after the
Sonny screening by Roger Ebert.

15th Anniversary Opening Night Tribute to Virginia Filmmaking ­ Until a month ago, you'd probably never heard of Jeff Wadlow, nephew of Katie Couric and son of the late state Senator Emily Couric. After winning the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival, he's being hailed as the next big thing, and will screen his short film, The Tower of Babel, and a scene from his upcoming Living the Lie.

The late Emily Couric's son Jeff Wadlow's future feature-length film, Living the Lie, will be distributed by Universal.

Director Ron Maxwell is best known for his Civil War epic, Gettysburg. He screens scenes from his new movie and Gettysburg prequel, Gods and Generals, which stars Robert Duval, Jeff Daniels, and Mira Sorvino. Actor Stephen Lang, who portrays Stonewall Jackson, will be here, as will actors Brian Mallon and Karen Hochstetter. (6:30pm Thursday, Culbreth)


Early buzz on Gods and Generals: the story of Stonewall Jackson could be the best Civil War movie ever.

The River ­ Mark Rydell's 1984 movie stars Sissy Spacek and a fresh-faced Mel Gibson struggling to hold onto the family farm. Spacek, who owns her own farm in Albemarle County, will be present to discuss the film along with screenwriter Steven Peros, who was here last year for his Cat's Meow and who wrote Spacek's new film, The Gardener's Daughter.
Ms. Spacek will be on hand to discuss her 1984 film,
The River.

Producer Glenn Williamson, Focus Features (formerly USA Films) president of production who's worked on American Beauty, Almost Famous, and Road to Perdition, will join in. (4pm Saturday, Culbreth)

Far from Heaven ­ Director Todd Haynes, whom one critic accuses of having a thing for torturing Julianne Moore, screens his newest movie that was influenced by Douglas Sirk's All that Heaven Allows and stars Moore as a torn asunder '50s housewife. Haynes, who also directed cult classic Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, is a "figurehead in the new queer cinema," according to the festival program. Producer Glenn Williamson will be there, too. (7pm Friday, Newcomb)

Chinatown, shot-by-shot with Roger Ebert ­ Better than an autograph, spend three days with the best-known film critic in the world, gabbing about one of the all-time film classics and the symbolism of Roman Polanski slitting Jack Nicholson's nose. (4pm Friday, 10am Saturday, 10am Sunday, all at Regal Downtown 6)

 

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