Picture shows! Eight movies you must see at the 2009 AFI Dallas Film Festival
With more than 180 films showing over eight days, the third installment of the AFI Dallas International Film Festival isn’t quite as ambitious as last year’s edition, but it’s equally intimidating. What films to see? What pass to buy? What events to attend?
If you have the time and money, you can’t lose by springing for an all-access pass and spending the next week loitering around the Magnolia Theater and the AMC NorthPark 15. Where else than at a film festival do you get the opportunity to jump into a theater and find out what movie you are about to see only when its title flashes on the screen? But for those who can’t devote the next eight days to movies, here are some must-sees to guide you through AFI Dallas 2009.
The Celebrity: The Last Picture Show
April 2, 7 p.m. @ Nasher Sculpture Center
Starting smack up against the close of South-by-Southwest in Austin, one of the ways AFI Dallas tries to distinguish itself is by packing the program with star power. Among the A-listers who will be in town this week are Adrien Brody (The Pianist), Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days), animator Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas), screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown), and the daughter of Hollywood siren Rita Hayworth. Even Gov. Rick Perry plans to show his face. Star-gazing is a given, if you are into that sort of thing.
If you can see only one, the festival screening of The Last Picture Show (1971), with director Peter Bogdanovich in attendance, is it. If The Last Picture Show isn’t the best movie ever made in Texas, it is a shoo-in for the top five. Shot in Archer City and based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, the film is a candid, sometimes raw depiction of small town American life. At its heart, it is a coming-of-age story with an honest, gentle approach to characterization, revealing the dreams, despair, and bored diversions that are a byproduct of the American Dream.
Bogdanovich’s vision for the film was so complete, that when filming, he only shot the scenes from the angles he knew he wanted, leaving little on the cutting-room floor. The director will discuss that vision and more after the April 2 screening.
The Vote: Big Fan
March 31, 9:45 p.m. @ Northpark 2; April 1, 7 p.m. @ Northpark 2
The AFI Dallas has two voting competitions, which sets it apart from some of Dallas’ other film fests. Let your voice be heard. Robert Siegel, the screenwriter of the much-acclaimed The Wrestler (2008), makes his directorial debut with Big Fan. Shot in digital HD, the gritty study of obsession revolves around two New York Giants fans who bump into star linebacker Quantrell Bishop at a gas station on Staten Island. They decide to follow him, but their playful stalking takes a horrible turn.
The Panel: “Documentary or Vlog, What’s a Documentary Really?”
March 28, 1 p.m. @ Nasher Sculpture Center
Iconic French filmmaker Jean Luc Goddard once declared that with the advent of video, filmmakers no longer have excuses not to make movies. Indeed the near ubiquity of HD cameras and user-friendly video editing software has made filmmaking almost as natural an art to practice as writing or drawing. But just because anyone can make something with video these days, does it mean that what they make can actually be considered cinema?
That will be the topic under discussion as part of the Talk Show series of panel discussions AFI Dallas will present at the Nasher Sculpture Garden. Does storytelling involve more than editing images together? Is there an essential difference between a video diary posted to YouTube and an Oscar-winning documentary? Anyone interested or concerned with the evolving modes of media and its role in shaping our society should sit in on this discussion.
The Risk: Empty Nest (El Nido Vacio)
March 31, 10:15 p.m. @ AMC NorthPark 15; April 1, 4:15 p.m. @ AMC NorthPark 15
If you go to a film festival and you don’t see at least one bad movie, you’ve totally missed out. Half the fun of festival film-watching is taking chances. Pick a film because of its funny title, an unrecognizable name, or just because it’s starting in five minutes and you are standing outside the theater. If you want to take an educated risk, try a film that is part of AFI Dallas’s international film series—one of the ways the AFI Fest distinguishes itself from South-by-Southwest.
An Argentine, Spanish, French, and Italian production, Empty Nest is a comedic take on married life after kids. Staring well-known Argentine actor Oscar Martinez and Pedro Amadovar veteran Celia Roth (All About My Mother), the couple takes a second look at their lives and their relationship now that their youngest child has moved out.
There are a number of films showing at this year’s fest that you may never get to see on the big screen. Indulge your closet movie fetishes:
Campy Horror: Yoroi: The Samurai Zombie (March 28, 11:45 p.m. @ Magnolia 3; March 29, 10 p.m. @ Magnolia 3) Japanese film about zombie samurais. ’Nuff said.
Addicted to Al Gore: Houston We Have a Problem (March 27, 10:30 p.m. @ Magnolia 5; March 28, 4 p.m. @ Magnolia 3) Part of the documentary competition, the film looks at the energy crisis from the perspective of Texas oilmen.
Anime: Evangelion 1.0 You are (Not) Alone (March 29, 7 p.m. @ Victory Plaza; April 2, 7:30 p.m. @ Magnolia 5) Re-release of a Japanese anime classic, with new scenes and 3D GC technology.
Local Hero: The Dungeon Masters (April 1, 4:30 p.m. @ Magnolia 5; April 2, 10:15 p.m. @ Magnolia 4) Former Dallas music critic-turned-filmmaker Keven McAlester debuts his documentary about Dungeons and Dragons fanatics.
Shopaholics: The Store (March 30, 4:15 p.m. @ AMC NorthPark 15) Free screening of documentary that goes behind the scenes at Neiman Marcus’ downtown Dallas flagship.
Also, don’t miss these extra events:
Family Day at Victory Park and NorthPark Center: Kids are cute. But sometimes it’s good when they just sit there and watch a movie. This weekend should be sunny, so bring them to AFI Dallas’ Family Day at Victory Park on March 28 and NorthPark Center on March 29. They’ll be showing movies on the big video screens, and with movies like Spongebob Squarepants: The Movie, those kids will be so wrapped up they will barely have time to talk. Which means you and the significant other can enjoy some food and drink (available for purchase) and have a good time, too. Don’t forget lawn chairs for comfortable viewing. March 28 & 29. 11am–2pm. Victory Park and NorthPark Center.. www.afidallas.com.
Texas Day Film Celebration: On April 3, wrap up the festival with a day-long celebration of Texas. The Texas Film Celebration begins with a luncheon and panel discussion, followed (later in the afternoon) by a cocktail reception with Governor Rick Perry, a "Great Texas Moments in Film" tribute at Victory Park, and a Gala at Neiman Marcus. We are tired just typing all that, but we’re sure it will be worth it, especially because the Gov. is going to declare April 3, "Texas Film Day," somewhere in there. $125. 11am–midnight, Victory Park and Neiman Marcus Downtown. www.afidallas.com.