Frenetic: The Hook's Film Fest Guide-O-Rama
Wasn't it just yesterday that Patricia Kluge started a little film festival in Charlottesville?
Nope, that was 17 years ago, and if past years' Southern or film noir fests still seem fresh in your mind, that's an example of how time flies.
Which segues nicely into this year's Virginia Film Festival theme, "Speed." And we're not just talking fast cars or methamphetamines– although both certainly have a place in this festival.
Look for the speed of life, as well as the speed of light. Look for speed as in slow, what the festival dubs the "cinema of contemplation." Look for Attention Deficit Disorder, with over 60 events, from regional premieres of "important" movies to a Slow Foods brunch, all vying for our limited attention spans.
Then there are the subcategories– the premiere selection, with its "Virginia filmmakers" and "Southern gothic" subsections, and a sub-subcategory trend, the fresh-out-of-prison movies.
How's a beleaguered festival-goer to focus?
By turning to The Hook's Guide-O-Rama, which helps viewers avoid spinning their wheels by thoughtfully stereotyping filmgoers to determine their best bets.
Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
Frankly, some of these fast-paced movies with the jerky camera give you a headache. When you want an action movie, you think John Wayne.
Accessory: A big wad of tissues
Motto: "They don't make 'em the way they used to."
Angels- A modern day Scrooge story? Well, you've always loved A Christmas Carol, and who doesn't like angels? In fact, you probably collect them. And with so many locals– Boomie Pedersen, E. Danny Murphy, Theresa Dowell-Vest, and Dave Matthews and Coran Capshaw's ATO Records– involved in this Paul Wagner directed/Karl Ackerman co-written work-in-progress, expect to see your neighbors or their names up on the big screen. (7pm Friday, October 29, Culbreth) [Thank goodness, this is no longer titled Anjlz. –editor]
Mondovino- This Jonathan Nossiter documentary is the real-life Falcon Crest, where traditional winemakers are threatened by globalization and standardization the way Jane Wyman was by unscrupulous relatives and rival winemakers. Crozetian Rick Preve produced Mondovino, which was invited to compete at Cannes. Wine importer Neal Rosenthal, who appears in the film, will be at the Sunday screening. That's followed by a $75 brunch at Mas, with wines picked by Rosenthal and sponsored by Slow Foods, a group that wants to keep making food– and wine– the way they used to. (7:15pm Friday, October 29, Regal 5. The 10:15am Sunday, October 31, show is SOLD OUT)
The Great Escape- Every time you see this 1963 three-hour epic, you keep hoping that this time Steve McQueen will finally jump that fence. The brave fellows who don't make it– the all-star cast includes James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, and James Coburn– always make you cry, no matter how many times you've seen it. (10am Sunday, October 31, Culbreth)
Speedy- Harold Lloyd, though overshadowed by Chaplin and Keaton, remains one of the silent-film comedy greats. Playing a fired soda jerk-turned cabbie, he drives Babe Ruth– yeah, the real Babe– to Yankee Stadium. They sure don't make horse-drawn trolley chase scenes anymore. You can take your grandchildren to see this 1928 moving picture free of worries about smutty language or inappropriate behavior. Art Wheeler provides live musical accompaniment. (2pm Sunday, October 31, Culbreth)
Paper Clips- A group of non-Jewish middle school children in Whitwell, Tennessee, forego video games and think of someone other than themselves. The kids are moved to collect six million paper clips– one for every person killed in the Holocaust. Inspirational. Producer Bob Johnson attends the area premiere. (1pm Friday, October 29, Regal 4)
Was this festival themed for you or what? You so dig the fact that– with just a digital camera and a credit card– you sidestep the whole Hollywood commercialization dynamic. Although, if they want to distribute your film, that's cool, too.
Motto: "It's all about art that's not fed through the capitalist death machine."
Adrenaline Film Project- You're probably already in this, but for those who haven't kept up, 13 teams of filmmakers crank out a movie in three days and show the results on Sunday. Jeff Wadlow, winner of the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Competition (and son of the late Emily Couric) leads the charge and screens his latest efforts– Catching Kringle and a trailer from Cry Wolf. (4pm Sunday, October 31, Culbreth)
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
Synaesthesiologists- Back at the end of the 19th century, Huysman's hero in the decadent classic A Rebours experimented with "synesthesia," using a "mouth organ" to make music through taste. Modern synaesthesiologists create "visual music," and this collection of films was a smash at this year's New York Video Festival. Audiovisualist David Last is on hand to present the genre Thursday– and DJ Spinoza spins the dance party Friday. (10pm Thursday, October 28, Regal 4; Party 9pm Friday, October 29, Satellite Ballroom)
Extreme Time Program- In Andy Warhol's original version of Empire, he aimed a camera at the Empire State Building for eight hours. Mercifully, it's been cut to a 46-minute excerpt. Michael Snow does a variation on that theme in his 1967 Wavelength, and WVLNT is his 15-minute compression of the same. (10am Saturday, October 30, Vinegar Hill)
Tarnation- Can you say "cine-diary"? Jonathan Caouette goes borderline documentary/avant garde in his home movie about growing up gay with a mentally ill mother. The film's $218 budget only added to its allure at Sundance. (10pm Saturday, October 30, Regal 4)
Spicebush- UVA art prof Kevin Everson [see sidebar] had 10 times Caouette's budget, but that still adds up to only two grand for his experimental collage of narratives using amateur actors. Sundance wants him. (4pm Sunday, October 31, Vinegar Hill)
You like devastating carnage in your cinematic experience. High body count, massive explosions, hundreds of wrecked vehicles? Good times! Large breasts and cleavage? Even better.
Motto: "I ain't going to no chick flick."
Faster- Motorcycles at 200 mph not driven by stunt drivers. Director Mark Neale catches two poised-for-disaster years of Motorcycle Grand Prix. Like NASCAR, only even more dangerous. (7pm Thursday, October 28, Regal 4)
Two-Lane Blacktop- Drag racing across America in a '55 Chevy with James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson? Yeah [see sidebar]. Don't be put off by little film buff snots who call this 1971 flick an existential cult classic. You'll see it because "You can never go fast enough." (7:15pm Thursday, October 28, Regal 5)
Speed- The daddy rabbit of all fast bus movies, it's got bombs, it's got a runaway subway, it's got Dennis Hopper. Need we say more? This launched the career of Sandra Bullock and gave Keanu Reeves the action lead chops that led to The Matrix. Hard to believe it's been 10 years since it pulled away from the curb. Screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon will be on hand. (10pm Friday, October 29, Culbreth)
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!- Three strippers on a murderous rampage in hot cars? You're there. Thanks to the late, great Russ Meyer for those lethal breasts. Sure, these babes are deadly– but you'd do 'em. And just ignore those revisionists now calling this low-budget 1965 flick "feminist." Keep thinking "sexploitation." (10pm Friday, October 29, Newcomb Hall)
Bullitt- Really, has there ever been a better chase scene than Steve McQueen flying through the hills of San Francisco in a Mustang GT? Of course not. That sealed McQueen's claim to "king of cool," the savvy cop who gets Jacqueline Bisset. Long-time McQueen stuntman Loren Janes [see sidebar] will be on hand. (1pm Saturday, October 30, Culbreth)
Fall is your favorite film-going season. You've survived the summer of inane blockbusters; now you can sink your teeth into some serious cinema. This year's Film Fest is even better than usual for getting a jump on upcoming films you'd actually consider seeing.
Accessory: A sneer
Motto: "It got raves at Sundance."
The Woodsman- Charlottesville-raised, NYU film school grad Nicole Kassell made her directorial debut at Sundance and kicks off the Virginia Film Festival. A just-out-of-jail pedophile played by Kevin Bacon tries to put his past behind him and stay away from parks. With Benjamin Bratt, Kyra Sedgwick, and David Alan Grier, The Woodsman is set for release December 24. (8pm Thursday, October 28, Culbreth– SOLD OUT. Additional show 1pm Saturday, October 30, Regal 4)
Pickpocket shot-by-shot- The auteur-ville combo of Robert Bresson and Paul Schrader is enough to make any indie snob swoon. Supposedly based on Crime and Punishment, Bresson's 1959 classic examines the beauty of criminal compulsion– a theme revisited by Schrader in American Gigolo and Light Sleeper. Schrader sits in for Roger Ebert to look more closely at key scenes, and he's joined by film scholar Roger Kolker. (Pickpocket 10am Friday, October 29, Regal 4; Shot-by-shot at 4pm Friday, October 29, Regal 4)
Undertow- Terence Malick protégé David Gordon Green screens his newest film, one of the Southern gothics in this year's festival. Billy Elliott's Jamie Bell along with Dermot Mulroney and Josh Lucas– as the evil, just-out-of-jail uncle– star in this poetic thriller set in Georgia. (10pm Friday, October 29, Regal 4)
Chrystal- Billy Bob Thornton kills his child and cripples his wife, Lisa Blount, in a car wreck. Twenty years later, out of jail and returning to a Southern gothic Arkansas, Thornton mixes it up with director Ray McKinnon, who plays a crank addict in the movie. McKinnon and Blount are on hand for this regional premiere. (7pm Saturday, October 30, Regal 4)
Kinsey- Liam Neeson takes on the role of 1930s sexual research pioneer Alfred Kinsey in Bill Condon's new film that also stars the sublime Laura Linney, the sublime Oliver Platt, his Three Musketeers buddy Chris O'Donnell, and Timothy Hutton. (10pm Saturday, October 30, Culbreth)
Much as you'd like to take it in stride, you still get flustered when you see John Grisham or Sissy Spacek around town. In your choice of Film Fest events, star power weighs heavily, but you'll consider soon-to-be stars– or even friends of friends of celebs.
Accessory: Autograph book
Motto: "Do you have a pen?"
Miss Congeniality- America's sweetheart, Sandra Bullock, snags the Virginia Film Award just for showing up. And, well, she's a Virginian, too. And she was in Speed– but couldn't get here the night it's screened. As a consolation prize, Bullock brings a clip of her upcoming sequel, Miss Congeniality 2. That will be followed by the 2000 original with Bullock as the snorting FBI agent transformed into a beauty pageant swan. (7pm Saturday, October 30, Culbreth– SOLD OUT)
Light Sleeper- Just for writing the screenplays for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, Paul Schrader's place in the pantheon of America film is secure. But he directed Richard Gere in American Gigolo and 1992's Light Sleeper, starring Willem Dafoe and Susan Sarnadon as drug dealers. Sarandon's announcement she's leaving the business causes a career crisis for Dafoe. (7pm Friday, October 29, Regal 4)
The Golden Era of NASCAR- Yes, director John Warner [see sidebar] is the son of Senator John Warner, and, yes, his daddy, who was married to Elizabeth Taylor, will be there. But don't ask either Warner about that. Instead, in this second of Warner's racing film trilogy, enjoy watching how stockcar-driving moonshiners cleaned up their acts under the legendary Bill France to become the money machine NASCAR is today. And ask 'em if they know Richard Petty or Number 3. (4pm Saturday, October 30, Culbreth)
Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus- As if we haven't hammered the Southern gothic theme enough, here's one more, a documentary that follows "sad core" musician Jim White driving around the South in a 1970 Chevy Impala with a life-size Jesus hanging out of the trunk. Music is the opiate of the poor Southern masses. (4pm Saturday, October 30, Regal 4; White performs 7pm Saturday at the Gravity Lounge)
The Cruise- Fast-talking Speed Levitch stars as a Gray Line Manhattan tour guide in this award-winning 1998 documentary about his "Cruise philosophy"– life as a freewheeling adventure. Apparently Levitch is known for the "couch surf," relying upon the kindness of strangers– and friends– for places to stay. Whose bed will he end up in? Not a one-city guide, Levitch leads two cruises around the Lawn October 30. (The Cruise 4pm Friday, October 29, Culbreth; walking tours at 12 and 2pm Saturday– SOLD OUT)
COVER SIDEBAR- Venues: Please be seated
Most of the screenings will take place in two theaters of the Regal Downtown 6 this year.
Vinegar Hill, normally a festival stalwart, is being used only for Saturday and Sunday afternoon screenings. By devoting its one screen to the Film Festival, "their film broker said they were damaging their chances of getting good openings," explains festival director Richard Herksowitz
The biggest shows– and stars– go to Culbreth Theatre– the most uncomfortable theater in town for watching movies. Refreshment offerings usually are sketchy, and food and drink are forbidden in the theater, so it's probably best to bring your own snacks and sneak them in– taking your wrappages with you when you leave, of course.
The Virginia Festival kicks off with a swanky gala October 28 at the University Art Museum. Fifty-dollar tickets keep most of the riffraff out.
The town's upstart acoustic venue, the Gravity Lounge, hosts Jim White's October 30 concert.
At Newcomb Hall Theater, UVA students will get their first tastes of Faster, Pussy Cat! Kill! Kill! at 10pm screenings October 29 and 30. Mature elders can catch Control Room , Al-Jazeera's coverage of the war in Iraq, October 31 at 3pm.
The Synaesthesiologist Party takes place Friday night in the hidden Satellite Ballroom behind Plan 9 on the Corner.