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In love with the movies

By John Larsen
February 8, 2007

After scanning schedules for several film festivals, one thing became obvious: so many films, so little time. A portable Red Bull IV drip can only go so far. Most film festivals schedule one or two screenings of a particular film. Some films screen once, and then disappear onto the film festival circuit, never to be seen at a local theater.

Instead of compiling another Valentine's Day Guide, I thought, why not create a film festival of titles currently available for purchase or rent, a festival for people who love films but don't like standing in long lines?

A majority of DVDs are film festival-friendly. You can listen to filmmakers discuss their craft, watch production featurettes and enjoy interviews with the stars. While nothing beats seeing a movie on the big screen, DVD is often the only place to see these independent films. In some cases, these titles are making their county debut.

Pop some corn, grab a brew, and spend a week with our Films for Film Lover's Film Festival.

Thursday: Opening night film


Infamous covers the same territory as Capote without feeling redundant or familiar. Toby Jones delivers a seamless performance as Capote, whose fascination with a small town slaying sets the stage for his novel In Cold Blood. Writer-director Douglas McGrath digs deep to uncover small details that make this take completely his own. Daniel Craig brings humanity to Capote's obsession, a killer with a soul, while Sandra Bullock shades author Harper Lee with professional skepticism. McGrath discusses his experiences on the commentary track. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Friday: Foreign focus

The Promise (Wu jig)

Orphaned and destitute, a young girl makes a wish to an enchant-ress: In exchange for beauty and admiration, she will forsake true love. Now a grown princess, the woman regrets her wish, sending every lover to his death. When she crosses paths with two men, one a soldier, the other a slave, she finds herself drawn to both, aware her love will seal their fates. Kaige Chen, director of Farewell My Concubine, fills every inch of the frame with breathtaking beauty, dazzling action, and a fairytale love story. In Mandarin with English subtitles. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

The latest film from the director of House of Flying Daggers will capture your heart. Ken Takakura is excellent as Takata, an aging fisherman who breaks down and visits his gravely ill, estranged son in the hospital. When his son refuses to see him, Takata watches his son's unfinished documentary about life in a rural Chinese village. Vowing to finish the film, Takata arrives in the village and, through the kindness of the locals, slowly remembers family is the most important commodity of all. Beautifully realized. Chinese language with English subtitles. (Sony)

Infernal Affairs Trilogy

The inspiration for Martin Scorsese's The Departed#, this ball-busting trilogy is the perfect companion piece for film purists. Infernal Affairs (Mou gaan dou) is epic in every sense of the word, a bold crime thriller about good guys, bad guys, gangsters, moles and how their respective paths cross. Directors Wai Keung Lau and Siu Fai Mak turn what could have been a standard issue tale of corruption into grand opera, going undercover to expose every nerve of the characters. Then the filmmakers rub that nerve until it becomes raw. (Weinstein/Genius)

Midnight show

Wassup Rockers

Latino skate punks from South Central decide to stir up things in Beverly Hills, attracting the attention of the local police, parents, business owners and hot chicks out looking for a walk on the wild side. Writer-director Larry Clark (Kids, Bully) uses a limited budget to his advantage, creating a film that feels real and in your face. Clark defends his subjects and style on the commentary track. (First Look Home Entertainment)


Boynton Beach Club

The Boynton Beach Bereavement Club is where southeastern Florida widows and widowers go to share their grief, make new friends, and move on with their lives. New member Marilyn (Brenda Vaccaro) is so full of grief and anger that she refuses to see the possibilities around her. Director/co-writer Susan Seidelman fills the story and the characters with hope and spirit, and discusses her work on the commentary track. (Sony)


Maggie Gyllenhaal is heartbreaking as Sherry, a drug addict back home after three years in prison. Anxious to start her new life, Sherry learns you can't turn back time. Laurie Collyer's film is a searing character study filled with effusive highs and lows that take their toll. Gyllenhaal scans a wide range of emotions as a woman desperate to reconnect with her past. (Screen Media Films)

Running with Scissors

Augusten Burroughs' memoirs put the funk in dysfunctional family. Joseph Cross stars as the author in this dark, biting satire about growing up in the 1970s, first as the son of distant father and deluded mother, then as the brokered son of a shrink and his crazy family. Ryan Murphy's screenplay and direction keep all of the outlandish elements in check, creating a surreal comedy, both funny and sad. Annette Bening and Alec Baldwin play the parents: Brian Cox and a sympathetic Jill Clayburgh, the adoptive guardians. (Sony)

Animation showcase

The Animation Show

Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge and Academy Award-nominated animator Don Hertzfeldt present an eclectic collection of animated films from around the globe. Featuring rarely seen and award-nominated short films, including hand-drawn, stop motion and computer-generated, this festival in a box is guaranteed to invigorate your mind and tingle your senses. Box set comes with an informative program booklet and additional shorts, tests and drawing lessons. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Midnight madness

The Wicker Man (1973)

Complete, uncut version of director Robin Hardy's cult classic makes its United States debut from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Written by Anthony Shaffer and featuring a decadent turn by Christopher Lee as the leader of a Scottish pagan society, The Wicker Man is creepy and unsettling, played out as a battle of faith between a devout Christian detective (Edward Woodward) and a cult looking for new blood. Hardy, Lee and Woodward are on hand for a new audio commentary.

Sunday: Documentary digest

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Filmmaker Kirby Dick's fascinating examination of the movie rating system and the people it employs is part exposé, part detective story, with a Hollywood finale. Eager to see what makes the rating board tick, Dick hires a colorful private detective to learn their identities and how they arrive at their decisions. Featuring funny but pointed interviews with filmmakers, producers and actors, this film is thoughtful, revealing, and unexpectedly funny. (IFC/Genius)

Jesus Camp

This is an absolutely frightening exposé of religious zealots who brainwash children into accepting their extreme views of faith. If you didn't know better, you would swear this was a horror movie about possession. Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady follow the owners, teachers and students of the Kids on Fire summer camp as they expel evil from their souls in exchange for love in their hearts. Watching these children go through the brainwashing process is riveting. (Magnolia)

U.S. vs. John Lennon

Documentary filmmakers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld present an evocative and uncompromising look at singer-activist John Lennon and the efforts to have him deported. Celebrated for his humanitarian and antiwar efforts, Lennon became a thorn in the side of the government, which worked through channels and covertly to silence the singer and his fans. Honest, compelling and informative, a history lesson about a time and place that almost seems like a memory. The filmmakers do an excellent job of keeping those memories alive. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Cocaine Cowboys

Watching the golden sands of Miami turn white with cocaine makes for unforgettable viewing in Billy Corben's eye-opening documentary. When the Columbian Medellin cartel began pumping billions of drugs through Florida in the 1970s, it forever altered the landscape. The filmmaker has done his homework, using interviews, archival footage and cinéma vérité to create a document that is both in your face and hard to look at. The images aren't pretty, while many of the players discuss their reign of terror as business as usual. (Magnolia)

Street Fight

Oscar nominee divulges the bitter political minefield dividing Newark, N. J., mayoral candidate Cory Booker and his opponent, who teaches the newcomer a hard lesson in dirty politics. Filmmaker Marshall Curry gets so close to the mudslinging you can smell it, an authentic civics lesson that is both shocking and puzzling. Curry examines all the variables, covers all the angles. (Genius)

Independent vision

Red Doors

Three Chinese-American sisters are forced to abandon their individual lives and come together after their father ends up missing. The disappearance is just a catalyst to give the sisters a chance to stop and smell the roses. While searching, the sisters explore various issues (infidelity, lesbianism, school) complicating their lives. Writer-director Georgia Lee finds plenty of opportunity in their quest, giving the film and characters a strong sense of identity. (Warner)

The Science of Sleep (La Sciences des Rêves)

The writer-director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind unleashes another surreal experience with this tale of a calendar maker who slips into a dream world to escape his boredom. Michel Gondry creates a visual high, incorporating old-school film techniques like stop motion animation and cardboard cutouts, to surround his characters. The style perfectly compliments the abstract plot and character arcs that find Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) pining for his beautiful neighbor, held back by his inability to accept reality. Director and stars sit down for a fascinating commentary. (Warner)

Monday: Director's showcase

Warner Home Entertainment spotlights three films making their DVD debut. Tony Richardson's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner stars Tom Courtenay as a rebellious youth who uses running to help transport him out of the confines of his reformatory, turning him into a political pawn. Released in 1962, the anti-establishment film maintains its momentum. Controversial directors Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell provide Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger with plenty of satisfaction in 1970's Performance, a new wave crime thriller that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. Jagger plays a rock singer who provides safe haven to a gangster (James Fox). Reality and fantasy collide in director Neil Jordan's dark 1997 comedy, The Butcher Boy, starring Eamonn Owens as a young boy dealing with a dysfunctional Irish family.

Tuesday: A day with Day

The Doris Day Collection

Day sparkles in three of her mid-1960s romantic comedies. Day spoofs the secret agent genre in Caprice, a goofy caper starring the perpetual virgin as an industrial spy on the trail of her husband's killer, sidetracked professionally and romantically by spy Richard Harris. Day resurfaces in Move Over, Darling, an engaging romp that brings Day back from a watery grave, trying to win back ex-husband James Garner from new fianceé Polly Bergen. In Do Not Disturb, Day relocates to England with husband Rod Taylor, and where she finds herself competing with her husband's new secretary for attention. All three features have been restored and include numerous featurettes. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Marie Antoinette

The turbulent and tumultuous life of Marie Antoinette fuels writer-director Sofia Coppola's biography. Kirsten Dunst is both cynical and sympathetic as the young princess more interested in living life than playing by the rules. Trapped in a prearranged marriage to an indifferent prince (Jason Schwartzman), Marie flaunts her wealth and luxurious lifestyle, much to the dismay of the king and the peasants. Filled with bright, colorful images and a pulsating rock score, this quasi-biography is like having your cake and eating it, too. (Sony)

Wednesday: Closing night film

1900 (Nonecento)

What better way to close a film festival than with the United States premiere of the epic, five-hour version of Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial classic. Shot in 1976 and released in a heavily edited version in the United States, Bertolucci's sprawling tale follows two men, one the bastard son of peasants (Gerard Depardieu), the other the son of wealthy land owners (Robert De Niro), and how their lives cross and change from 1900 to 1945. Controversial due to its frank depiction of nudity and sex, 1900 has a lot on its mind (like fascism and communism). Its length allows the director to thoroughly explore what makes these characters tick. (Paramount)

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