THIS YEAR'S PROGRAM:
The 2003 festival (lucky 13) runs from Thursday, Feb. 27-Sunday, Mar. 9. The festival will screen over 60 feature films in 11 days. The complete program guide is available online at the Cinequest web site. The Maverick tributees this year are actors James Woods (Mar. 1), Lupe Ontiveros (Mar. 5), William H. Macy (Mar. 7), and Val Kilmer (Mar. 9). The honored directors this year are Stephen Frears (Mar. 4) and Ralph Bakshi (Mar. 8).
Woods's varied career includes multiple appearances for Oliver Stone (Salvador, Nixon, Any Given Sunday), Casino for Martin Scorsese and The Virgin Suicides for Sofia Coppola, a celebrated self-mocking vocal performance as a motor-mouthed Hades in Disney's Hercules, noteworthy TV roles in Citizen Cohn, Promise, and My Name is Bill W. (winning Emmy Awards for the latter two and a Golden Globe for Promise), and killer roles in The Onion Field and Ghosts of Mississippi. Woods has been nominated twice for Academy Awards, as supporting actor for Ghosts in Mississippi and actor for Salvador. Notorious for his straight talk, Woods promises to rivetingly hold (kangaroo) court at San Jose's Fairmont Hotel with moderator Brian Adams, a familiar veteran of Bay Area media (Valley Scene, KRTY, Silicon Valley Biz Ink). The conversation begins 7pm on Saturday, March 1.
Texas-born Lupe Ontiveros has gradually established herself as a heroine of Latino (make that Latina) cinema. Since breaking in in Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit and Gregory Nava's El Norte, Ontiveros has made a big impression in over two dozen features, including two with Jack Nicholson (The Border and As Good As It Gets), My Family, cult favorite The Goonies, and Selena, as the pop star's disturbed assassin. In recent years, Ontiveros has carved out a niche in controversial indie films and edgy mainstream fare, including Storytelling, Chuck&Buck, Adaptation, and the somewhat more benign Real Women Have Curves, which the festival will screen with Ontiveros's chat, at 7pm at San Jose's Camera One Theater on Mar. 5.
Theatre-trained acting whiz William H. Macy began his career inseparably associated with his writer-director muse, David Mamet. The two still work together frequently, but Macy has long since branched out to become one of America's hardest-working and best character actors, as well as an increasingly viable leading man. Macy's appearances representing Mamet include House of Games, Things Change, Homicide, The Water Engine, Oleanna, Wag the Dog, and State and Main. But Macy is perhaps best known for his Oscar-nominated performance as the misbegotten Jerry Lundegaard in the Coen brothers' Fargo. Macy also lit up Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia and Boogie Nights, Jurassic Park III, Focus, Mystery Men, Pleasantville, and Air Force One. On TV, Macy connected with audiences for four seasons on ER, an extended run on Sports Night with wife Felicity Huffman, and in his most recent pet project, as a salesman with cerebral palsy in Door to Door. Macy accepts his award and chats atop the Fourth Street Garage in downtown San Jose on Mar. 7 at 9pm.
Val Kilmer can't seem to shake his reputation as a difficult, nay, untameable eccentric. In his discussion Mar. 9 at 1pm at the Fairmont, Kilmer will have to answer for questionable mainstream fare such as The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Saint, while collecting accolades for indelible pop culture snapshots The Doors, Heat, Top Secret, Real Genius, Willow, Top Gun, Batman Forever, and True Romance. Other films include Tombstone, Thunderheart, and The Salton Sea, qualifying Kilmer as the deadpan utility man of the last twenty years.
Stephen Frears has long been a favorite of cinephiles as a reliably intelligent and skilled director. Following his early critical success with My Beautiful Laundrette, Frears gained a reputation for capturing the gritty reality of urban life, backed up by subsequent films Prick Up Your Ears, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, Roddy Doyle's 'Barrytown Trilogy' entries The Snapper and The Van, and last year's Liam. But Frears also took off in Hollywood with a range spanning supreme costume drama Dangerous Liaisons to Jim Thompson adaptation The Grifters to the Capraesque Hero, as well as Julia Roberts's off-model Mary Reilly, western The Hi-Lo Country, and everyone's favorite modern comedy High Fidelity, based on the Nick Hornby bestseller. Following a screening of one of his films, Frears will participate in a discussion and accept his Maverick Award, at the San Jose Repertory Theatre at 7:30pm on Mar. 4.
Animator Ralph Bakshi has courted controversy and polarized audiences for decades. Bakshi has been associated with Heckle and Jeckle, Deputy Dawg, Mighty Mouse, and Spider-Man. Bakshi is best known for animated features Heavy Traffic, Wizards, Lord of the Rings, American Pop, but especially the notoriously X-rated Fritz the Cat. Bakshi also directed the animated/live-action hybrid (and Brad Pitt vehicle!) Cool World, the Rolling Stones video "Harlem Shuffle," and Coonskin, the stinging parody of Disney's Song of the South. Cinequest will screen Coonskin at Bakshi's discussion and award ceremony on Mar. 8 at the Camera One Theater at 5pm.
Expecting (screens 2/28, 3/1, 3/2): Die-hard fans of Whose Line Is It Anyway? will want to catch this improvised narrative comedy, which includes Colin Mochrie (and wife Debra McGrath) among its ensemble. Others may appreciate the life-affirming story of a motley group united by their love of a central earth goddess, their pregnant friend Stephanie (Valerie Buhagiar). The film opens with an unusually explicit love scene with the 8-and-a-half-months pregnant star and moves on to vivid character comedy nevertheless hampered by its uneven shapelessness, alternatingly sweet, flat, shrill, and only fleetingly funny. Mochrie and McGrath make the biggest impressions, as an expectant maybe-father and the formidable, put-together doctor who attempts to control everything and everyone. Though wholly predictable, Expecting is ultimately heartwarming as all petty considerations get pushed aside to make room for the miracle of life. A toss-up.
Con Man (screens 3/2, 3/3, 3/4 with For Our Man): This gripping, hour-long doc--produced for Cinemax Reel Life--has major local interest. It tells the story of "serial imposter" James Hogue, who initiated his masquerading career when he posed--at age 25--as a teenager, gaining entry into Palo Alto High School. Immediately, Hogue became a high school track star, but when too much attention resulted in a 6-month Utah state prison stint on burglary charges, Hogue found himself with a bizarre opportunity to start over. Under false pretenses, Hogue scored a $15,000 academic scholarship to Princeton (offered, unwittingly, while Hogue was still serving time). Director Jesse Moss wittily cuts together a black-and-white Princeton promotional film, tapes of interrogations of Hogue, and interviews of Hogue's knackered marks, all on the way to the main event: a successful search for the elusive Hogue himself. The constantly repeated chorus? "He was different." He remains incomprehensible, even to himself. Highly recommended.
Making Arrangements (screens 3/5, 3/8): With impressive verisimilitude, Making Arrangements details a weekend in the life of an upscale flower shop. Director Melissa Scaramucci helmed this mockumentary over 17 days in Oklahoma City, and while she's credited with the screenplay, the feel is decidedly improvisational. The documentary style affords a cinematographic simplicity that meshes well with an indie budget. The film's great strength is contrasting the imperfectly functional family of the flower shop to the harridan-like clients who make their life so difficult. In the film's most distinguished moment, Scaramucci lends the wackiness weight by lingering on a client--whose high-strung demands have previously served for comic relief--as she quietly weeps over the failure of her life to live up to her fantasy ideal. The staff habitually scolds their clients behind their backs: "It's just flowers," but the joke's on these perfectionists, who secretly do live for their art. Recommended.
The Flats (screens 3/6, 3/7, 3/8): A rare low-key indie that, with quiet smarts and no showy pretense, makes a genuine audience connection. The Flats isn't brilliant, a classic, or even terribly original, but it's never clumsy. In fact, it's compulsively watchable with many quiet pleasures, chief among them a limber performance by Chad Lindberg (who you may recall from The Fast and the Furious or The Rookie). Lindberg's central character of Harper is a spontaneous, unihibited clown, an alcoholic dropout, and simultaneously charismatic and repellent. Favorably reminiscent of recent films 25th Hour and All the Real Girls, The Flats finds Harper facing a six-month jail term for an alcohol-soaked run-in with the cops. Harper bristles while he waits for his appointed incarceration day. As he considers jumping bail, Harper begins to messily fall for his best friend's girl, Paige (Jade Herrera). She's enough to make him consider abandoning his womanizing ways and walking the straight and narrow. With impressive production values (and particularly lovely photography), The Flats depicts small-town Northwestern life with a surprisingly sensitive touch. Recommended.
Real Women Have Curves (screens 3/5): Click for review.