The Tenth Annual CineVegas Film Festival was held June 12 – 21, 2008 at the PALMS Casino Resort and BRENDEN Theatres in Las Vegas. Each year the Festival highlights the most exciting offerings from up and coming filmmakers and visionary veterans, in-depth celebrity tributes and world premiere films. Once again Robin Greenspun served as the Festival’s President, Trevor Groth served as Artistic Director and Dennis Hopper served as Chairman of the Creative Advisory Board.
This year’s Festival was highlighted by World and U.S. premieres of more than a dozen highly anticipated films and special screenings, including Peter Segal’s Get Smart and Takashi Murakami’s Planting the Seeds. Honorary awards were presented to several entertainment icons: Angelica Huston, Don Cheadle, Rosario Dawson, Viggo Mortensen, Sam Rockwell and James Caan.
Tickets for most films were $10 each. Tickets to the Opening Night Film “The Rocker,” the closing night film, The Great Buck Howard and all honoree tributes cost $15 each. Tickets to the screening of Get Smart at PLANET HOLLYWOOD ranged in price from $25 - $45, with proceeds going to The Rock Foundation’s Project Knapsack. Tickets to the special screening of Takashi Murakami’s animation piece Planting the Seeds at the Lake of Dreams at WYNN cost $25 each, with special dining packages available. Dining packages were priced at $160 per person at SW Steakhouse, and $145 per person at Daniel Boulud Brassiere, including tax and tip.
The Red Carpet for The Rocker, the opening film at CineVegas was held outdoors in outlandish heat, and while it was a flashy, interesting event, I thought I would drop from heat prostration after about a half hour. Thanks to George Maloof, finally, some bottled water was brought out, enabling us to continue. Thereafter, Red Carpet events were held indoors.
THE ROCKER” starring Rainn Wilson (The Office), is a story about Robert “Fish” Fishman, the drummer for an eighties hair band. He's living the rock n’ roll dream until he is kicked out of the group. Twenty years later, the desperate rocker joins his nephew’s band, “A.D.D.,” finally reclaiming the rock-god throne he’s always thought he deserved -- while taking his much younger bandmates along for the ride of their lives. In this rockin’ mix of physical comedy, heart and garage band/power rock/heavy metal music, Rainn Wilson as The Rocker trades his paper company desk job for rock ‘n roll fame, taking on the role of a big, sweaty, out-of-control – and sometimes naked – drummer who gets a second chance at rock superstardom. He’s joined by Christina Applegate (“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”), Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Josh Gad (“21”), pop star Teddy Geiger and Emma Stone (“Superbad”). I liked this film that was directed by Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) that is due for general release on August 1.
This year’s CineVegas event limited the press to 1 movie ticket per day and you had to request the film the day before it was shown. This limited my critiquing movies, as I usually would go to about three or even more a day. A feature I always enjoyed was the Q&A that followed films.
These two are the best and the worst of the films I did get to see. When viewing the movie called `Finally Lillian and Dan’ many people were leaving while the movie was going on. I persevered and remained until the end. The acting was fairly good, however, I waited for something about the characters lives that brought them to their present shyness and loneliness, but that never happened. I spoke to the director about that and he said it was sort of like an abstract picture for the viewer to figure out. This was his first attempt at a feature film and one character was his real grandmother who did a valiant job.
The best picture of CineVegas for me and from the reaction of the audience, was “What I Stand For,” the amazing real life story of Hank Greenspun. He was the original fearless publisher of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper whose column changed the face of Nevada and the nation. Hank also founded the first TV station in Nevada. He is also the husband and father of the very influential Las Vegas’ Greenspun family. This geographical story of actual happenings was narrated by Anthony Hopkins in the first person as Hank himself. Surprisingly Hopkins is nothing like Hank Greenspun was in both speech and appearance, but the director explained he did not want someone who appeared to be an impersonation of Hank. It did work very well with the accomplished actor Anthony Hopkins who told the story along with Greenspun’s video interviews, his own text and his family’s involvement. The film features amazing footage of events that Hank was involved with, such as facing off with the Mob, the IRS, Senator Joe McCarthy, Senator McCarran and others he felt needed righting. His intense involvement with arms to Israel and the consequences that came about for him and his family are heartfelt. Directed by two-time Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning producer, writer and director Scott Goldstein, the film tells a story, rather than just being a documentary. Many historical facts during Hank Greenspun’s lifetime and that of his family are included in a film that I hope is widely distributed for all to see.
Some films I liked were:
A movie called Go Go Tales was directed and written by Abel Ferrara, who because of his directorial hits has well known actors pining to work with his such as those in this film. This film about sleazy reality with much humor stars well known, Wilhelm Dafoe, Bob Hoskins, Mathew Modine, Asia Argento. Sylvia Miles and Burt Young. The film was not bad, just okay.
We were treated to the pre opening of Get Smart along with a Popcorn Festival at Planet Hollywood. That movie was fun and enjoyable with Steve Carrel doing the Don Adams part quite well, along with Anne Hathaway who looked gorgeous. With computers now doing amazing stunts this movie was able to do so much of this that could never be done on the small television screen.
A CineVegas drive-in was set up for one night for the screening of the 50s sci-fi thriller, THEM! on an inflatable screen. The drive-in was located in the heart of downtown Las Vegas on 3rd and Ogden had a total of 300 seats. Made in 1954, THEM! is an entertaining sci-fi scare film, with a real message: nuclear radiation is evil. One of the first giant monster movies, original audiences must have been terrified with the special effects which by today’s standards are nostalgically simple. The film still packs an eerie atmosphere with desert landscape, shocked actors, and stark black-and-white photography. Fortunately, the weather was somewhat cooler that evening, as we viewed the film outdoors. Afterwards we walked to a party at the Downtown Cocktail Room where it was so dark, you could hardly see in front of yourself.
I was unable to get a ticket to see Dark Streets, which I heard, was quite good. However, I was able to see and hear featured performers Bijou Phillips and blue musician, Chris Thomas King as well as other musicians from the film at a live concert at the Palms Poolside.
The Last Mistress tells the story of a tempestuous Spanish mistress and a distinguished well-bred French man in 19th century France.
Big Heart City tells the story of a driven, but cocky guy, whose life is mostly compiled on lies. fantasies, expectations, betting on horses, loans and working at dead-end jobs. Skilled acting by veteran actor Seymour Cassel and Shawn Andrews add to the realistic character studies in this film.
A film very appropriate to Las Vegas entertainment was Women in BOXES. This film revealed the women behind the magician. More than eye candy, the magician's assistant is responsible for the execution of many tricks and illusions, often risking life and limb. Whether she is sawed in half, poked, prodded, stabbed, contoured, or set on fire, she will do it all for the sake of the show, and for her passion of the practice. This film tells the story by compiling interviews from veteran performers and mixing footage of live acts with personal confessions and cameos by Criss Angel, Teller of Penn & Teller, and Lance Burton. Very interesting!
I did not get a ticket for the closing night film, The Great Buck Howard and I will try to see it when it opens in movie theatres. I understand it is based on The Amazing Kreskin, the mentalist who I had met and interviewed some time ago when he appeared in Las Vegas.
I was also disappointed as I was unable to get a ticket for conversation with Anjelica Huston who received the Marquee Award. I did see her at the Honorees Awards Ceremony at Planet Hollywood and was surprised how tall she is, and how svelte and lovely she looked.
I did get to see and hear Don Cheedle and Viggo Mortensen. Each received the Half-Life Award. Don Cheedle had a very inspiring dialogue with Elvis Mitchell as moderator. Viggo Mortensen was not as interesting as he went on and on, as the moderator did not intercede for additional dialogue. Viggo’s movie Alatriste was shown afterwards. However, I was unable to see it, as there was another event at the same time.
Parties were so-so as most were held in niteclubs or pool areas with loud music and limited selection of drinks and very little or no food. I remember when we had sit-down dinners along with the stars at earlier CineVegas Film Festivals here. However, the Honoree Awards Ceremony and Reception at the Planet Hollywood Pool and the Closing Night Party at the Palazzo Pool were great.
CINEVEGAS WINNERS OF THE 10th ANNUAL FILM FESTIVAL
year’s feature jury was presided over by Screen International film critic
David D’Arcy, Matt Dentler of Cinetic Digital Rights Management, longtime film
festival advisor Robert Hawk, esteemed film journalist Mark Olsen and Claudia
Puig, lead film critic for USA Today.
The Grand Jury Prize went to She Unfolds By Day, the film directed by Rolf Belgum about a frustrated middle-aged son trying to manage his misanthropic 80-year-old mother.
A Special Jury Award was given to Dark Streets for the collaborative craftsmanship in achieving its visual splendor and showmanship. Dark Streets, directed by Rachel Samuels, is a stylish noir fever dream of blues music, seduction and murder.
Bill Pullman was also given a Special Jury Award for his outstanding performance as America’s greatest science-fiction writer who awakens to find himself trapped in an alternate reality in Matthew Wilder’s Your Name Here.
Documentary Jury Competition
Acclaimed writer/producer/director Morgan Spurlock, film and television critic and journalist Robert Abele and Tamara Krinsky, associate editor of IDA’s documentary magazine made up the inaugural Pioneer Documentaries Jury.
The Documentary Jury Award went to Beautiful Losers from directors Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard. Beautiful Losers documents the lives of a loose-knit group of artists in the ‘80s who created their own art movement outside the mainstream.
Hi My Name is Ryan was awarded with a Special Documentary Jury Prize. The documentary by directors Paul Eagleston and Stephen Rose tells the story of Ryan Avery, the Clown Prince of the downtown Phoenix art scene.
CineVegas’ record high audiences chose Lost in the Fog to receive the CineVegas Documentary Audience Award, presented by FIJI Water, and Visioneers to receive the CineVegas Dramatic Audience Award, presented by Cadillac.
From director John Corey, Lost in the Fog follows a cantankerous owner and his blue-collar colt who earn the right to take on horse racing’s finest.
Visioneers, the crafty debut from first-time director Jared Drake, cleverly and comedically highlights the trajectory of a 1984-esque, dystopian society.
La Próxima Ola Jury
This year’s La Próxima Ola jury was comprised of CNN en Español anchor Ana María Montero, Sergio Burstein from La Opinión and Shaz Bennett, Associate Director of Programming at the AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles.
The La Próxima Ola Jury Prize was awarded to Jonás Cuarón’s Año uña (Year of the Nail), a love story between a Mexican teenager and an older American woman who meet one summer in Mexico.
VEGAS Magazine writer Humberto Guida, Karina Longworth, co-founder of Cinematical and current editor of SpoutBlog, Giant Robot founder Ryan Nakamura and Patrick Walsh, reviewer for Cinematical.com, made up this year’s shorts jury.
Myna Joseph’s Man received the CineVegas Short Film Jury Prize while Jonpaul Lewis’ Jack the Ripper received the CineVegas Nevada Short Film Jury Prize presented by the Nevada Film Office. The jury also acknowledged Allan Steele’s The Fence, Benh Zeitlin’s Glory at Sea, Jason Kupfer’s The Sleuth Incident and Josh Safdie’s Jerry Ruis, Shall We Do This? with Honorable Mentions.
This year’s 10th annual CineVegas Film Festival had a record number of attendees. I was told this has. by far. been the most well-attended CineVegas Festival to date.