FilmColumbia: A fall bounty for moviegoers

Wednesday October 17, 2012

CHATHAM, N.Y. -- FilmColumbia's cup seems running over with good things to see, to hear and do, as the festival opens its 13th season this afternoon.

A thoroughly-committed film buff might be tempted to pitch a tent under the marquee of the Crandell Theater through Sunday evening, were he or she not in danger of being trampled by the throngs expected to cue up for more than 100 films -- feature length and shorts -- to be shown primarily in that venerable little movie house on Main Street.

The festival, presented by the Chatham Film Club, is on track to sell more than 7,000 tickets to individual films and events this year, as opposed to 6,000 in 2011, according to festival director Calliope Nicholas. In addition, she said, a record 175 passes have been sold.

"As far as bigger
distributed films that will come out later this year, and award-winning festival films -- a combination of heavy drama and comedy -- it's
the best mix we've ever
come up with," she said in an interview.

That mix includes:

  • "Silver Linings Playbook," the latest achievement of David O. Russell ("The Fighter," "Three Kings," "Flirting With Disaster") offers Bradley Cooper as a victim of bipolar disorder moving back with his parents and trying to reconnect with his wife after eight months in a mental institution. A new romantic possibility further complicates matters in this film also boasting the talents of Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro.
  • "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God" investigates the strange tolerance within Roman Catholic Church upper echelons for pederasty in its ranks, focusing on the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, accused of sexually abusing nearly 200 deaf boys at a Wisconsin school over 24 years. This film is by Alex Gibney, whose previous efforts screened at FilmColumbia included "Taxi to the Dark Side" (2007) and "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer" (2010).
  • "Quartet," Dustin Hoffman's first credited directorial assignment, is based on a play by Ronald Harwood ("The Dresser") and focuses on colleagues in a home for retired opera singers contemplating their annual concert marking Giuseppe Verdi's birthday anniversary. The strong cast includes Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Tom Courtenay.
  • A sensation this year at the Sundance Festival, Ben Lewin's "The Sessions" introduces Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), a 36-year-old paralyzed polio victim confined to an iron lung who seeks to lose his virginity, enlisting the help of a priest (William H. Macy) and a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt). "It's beautifully done," observed Nicholas, "and people are going to love this."
  • "Cloud Atlas," one of the most widely discussed films of the festival circuit and perhaps one of the most important of the emerging awards season. Nicholas said the festival brochure was ready for the printer when Peter Biskind, the festival's executive director, halted proceedings to insert this late entry A collaboration of Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") and Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski ("The Matrix") and based on David Mitchell's bestseller, "Cloud Atlas" stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon and Jim Broadbent. The three-hour long film closes the festival Sunday evening at 7:30. "I read the book, and it's astounding," said Nicholas.
  • Both "Hyde Park on the Hudson," with Roger Michel's' unlikely casting of Bill Murray as Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the subtitled Saturday-Night Sneak, said to be one of the year's most anticipated films, are sold out.

Ancillary activities abound, among them:

  • Biskind's panel discussion of film digitalization, a future looming for movie houses everywhere, including the Crandell (see separate story);
  • Two screenwriting events include local resident John Shea, winner of the first FilmColumbia Screenwriting Lab Award, reading his short-film script; and the customary Screenwriting Panel, during which scenes are read by a group of actors led by Scott Cohen.

"I'll be living at the theater from Wednesday morning at 9 until Sunday evening at 11 -- the first in and the last out," promised Nicholas. "But quite a few audience members will be there as well."


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