December 2008

Last updated on December 1, 2008. Please check back later for additions.


Coming Attractions Trailer Night, Winter 2008
The Wrestler: Darren Aronofsky Gets Rourke to Wrestle His Demons Away
The Cinema Lounge
The Austin, Texas Film Festival
The Washington International Jewish Film Festival
We Need to Hear From You
Calendar of Events

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Coming Attractions Trailer Night, Winter 2008

The results are in from the latest Coming Attractions Trailer Night, Winter 2008. Attendees were polled at the recent preview of upcoming winter films about what films they were most anticipating seeing based on the trailers we showed. They are:


  • Cadillac Records (Beyonce as Etta James)
  • Defiance (with Daniel Craig)
  • Doubt (from award winner with Streep & Hoffman)
  • Frost/Nixon (from dir Ron Howard)
  • Milk (starring Sean Penn)
  • Revolutionary Road (with Winslet & DiCaprio)
  • Slumdog Millionaire (from dir Danny Boyle)

  • A Christmas Tale
  • Australia
  • The Class
  • Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Gran Torino
  • The International
  • Last Chance Harvey
  • Seven Pounds
  • Taken
  • Tale of Despereaux
  • Wendy & Lucy

  • Bedtime Stories
  • Bolt
  • Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Notorious
  • Waltz with Bashir

    The Wrestler: Darren Aronofsky Gets Rourke to Wrestle His Demons Away

    By Ronn Levine, DC Film Society Member

    Walking to the front of the theatre with Marisa Tomei after last month’s Washington premiere of his new film, The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky looks pleased—which is good because he should be. He makes interesting movies for a living—Pi, Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain—got the talented Mickey Rourke to act and not act up, sweated as Bruce Springsteen serenaded him this summer with a song for this movie, reportedly lives in Manhattan’s East Village with Oscar-winner Rachel Weiss and their son, and, well, that’s enough in my book on why someone should be pleased.

    Tomei, also an Oscar-winner for My Cousin Vinny—a film that the mere mention of at a recent dinner party caused half the people to start acting out the courtroom scenes—and looking shapely and confident off her role as a stripper/love interest in the film, should be the bigger draw at this Q&A, but she’s not. Aronofsky is. It’s a film crowd and we want to know film things.

    Why Rourke in the lead role? ("I’m kind of into actors who are a surprise.") Why all those shots from behind? ("My mentor is Stuart Rosenberg, who directed Cool Hand Luke and then Pope of Greenwich Village with Mickey. One of the lessons he taught us was he always talked about how Mickey could act really well with his back. There’s a moment [in Pope] when Darryl Hannah dumps him and slaps him, he puts on his jacket and goes out into the world, and Mickey was so expressive that way. So I got to shoot a lot of Mickey’s back to impress my mentor.") And how did you get that deli scene where Mickey was serving customers to look so damn realistic? ("You could probably tell that some of those people weren’t actors, they were really ordering meat from Mickey. We didn’t have enough money to close the supermarket or deli counter so we just ran with it. It worked out.")

    To his credit, Aronofsky, a couple months shy of his 40th birthday and looking younger, comes off every-guyish. He prefers the time he gets to spend with the actors versus the "year and a half to two years working on effects for The Fountain." He was in complete shock and awe of Springsteen—more on that later. And he was obviously fixated by pro wrestling, saying it was one of the many ideas for a movie that he wrote down when he graduated film school.

    The Wrestler follows the after-stardom, weekend-wrestling life of Randy the Ram Robinson (Rourke), as he hits a career/health crossroads. Aronofsky shows us the grittiness of pro wrestling in all its choreographed, staple-gun, bumps-and-stitches glory. But he also shows the intense camaraderie in the locker room, and it’s that element that many athletes will tell you they miss most after retiring. Two women are prominent in his life: Cassidy (Tomei), the similarly post-stardom stripper, who he seeks time outside their "rings" with; and Stephanie, his estranged daughter, powerfully played by Evan Rachel Wood.

    "I don’t think we’ve ever seen Marisa or Mickey like this before," Aronofsky says. Certainly, Rourke is almost unrecognizable from his pretty-boy days in The Diner and Johnny Handsome. "For me that’s always exciting—you don’t know what an actor’s going to do next. And then the physicality was really hard. I wasn’t sure Mickey could pull it off. He weighed about 190, and he’s a big guy but he’s not Hulk Hogan size. But then he put on about 36 pounds of muscle over six months and turned into a wrestler."

    "Both roles are demanding," Tomei adds, getting laughs and her first words in. She smiles. "It’s true! That was one of the first things that Darren talked to me about—how their stories are parallel, and how they both use their bodies to make a living; they’re both at a crossroads and have a passion for what they do. I feel my character had that.... I didn’t have to put on weight though."

    Rourke’s involvement was crucial for Aronofsky, though he also says that it’s why it took him two years to get the $6 million-dollar financing. "Every single financier said no to Mickey Rourke," he says, referring to his alleged bad-boy past, made worse by a number of questionable decisions on the roles he accepted and turned down. "Marisa and Evan Rachel Wood had more [cache]. It’s really funny how financing works."

    After Aronofsky had the idea for the film, he remembers reading "a script by this guy Rob Segal who used to be the editor of The Onion for several years. And he wrote a great screenplay that had humor but also darkness. It was based on football so I knew he was a sports fan. We just started talking and 25 drafts later we shot it. It was a long development. Mickey got involved when the writer got involved so I think he was channeling Mickey from the start. It was a very hard role to cast because of the emotional depth."

    For Aronofsky, The Wrestler is a departure in subject, tone and work atmosphere from his previous films. "I really just wanted to do something different," he says. "I was looking for a project that was just about acting. The first three films were like a kind of a trilogy or chapter in my filmmaker career; they all had the same stuff—the same filmmaking team, the same producer, the same production designer, the same editor, and I just really wanted to, as Madonna says, reinvent myself and do something different. I tried to do the thing that was most radically different, hire a new team, just make it all about working with actors and see what happens.

    "It’s kind of death as a creative person to hold on to who you were," he goes on. "I don’t think you can ever repeat yourself. You can try but it rarely works. I wanted to be challenged, take a risk, and not have the support of subjective camera work, subjective sound design. I wanted to see if I could pull off the fight scenes without a heartbeat thumping, which is kind of the cliche. When I talked to [the actors] I said, it’s your film, and I’m going to just hang back and document it and you guys can do anything you want. That wasn’t completely true but it was sort of the intention."

    But pro wrestling and stripping? In a way, it makes sense. What could be more about acting than those two occupations?

    "They were all real wrestlers in the wrestling scenes," Afronofsky says. "They’re actually real comfortable in front of the camera because wrestling is closer to theater than athletics in a lot of ways. It’s all about performance, they’re always selling the moves, always selling if they’re a bad guy or good guy. They were totally up for it and incredibly natural. They were more natural than some of the day players we had. I wanted Mickey to be in that world. Everyone said you gotta get stuntmen, but especially because wrestlers are trained to take care of their opponent, a major thing is not to hurt your opponent. They have all these sayings, put on a good show, work with each other; it just made more sense to work with real wrestlers."

    Tomei also took a reality-based approach, immersing herself in the strip world, "going to a lot of clubs, hanging with a lot of girls. I didn’t really have a choreographed dance. I wanted to learn a lot of different moves so I could express her organically." She says that her character’s path is similar to that of Rourke’s. "For me, it comes down to I feel like there’s a comradeship, their lives are in parallel places, they’ve both been through the trenches together. Maybe sometimes she gets confused or he’s pushing her for a more romantic thing. She respects everything that he’s been through and wants to get him to the next point in his life. As she tries to get there herself."

    As for the Springsteen connection, Rourke is old friends with The Boss. He wrote him a letter while he was on tour in Europe, and Springsteen replied that he was very busy but he would take a look at the script.

    Aronofsky continues the story. "He called me, 'Yeah, this is Bruce Springsteen'; I said who’s messing with me. It didn't sound like Bruce. 'I got some ideas, I’ll have something for you in a couple weeks.' Then a couple weeks came and went, and he was playing Giants Stadium, his home turf. Mickey and I went there, and went down by the stage. My first Bruce concert and it was amazing; 80,000 people staring at one point for four hours. So much energy. Next thing I know I’m backstage with Mickey and Bruce in the Giants lockerroom, and Mickey goes, 'I’m going to leave you two guys alone, you have business to talk.' I didn’t know Mickey was going to do this. Suddenly I’m alone with Bruce and he grabs his guitar; I literally got stage fright. I’m freezing up in front of the coolest guy in the world. Eventually, I just started talking to him. He opened up his spiral notebook and said see if you like it, and played it for me, acoustically.

    "He gave us the song for free," Aronofsky says. "It had nothing to do with me. I said, 'Did you see any of my films?' And he said 'Actually, no. But I know you’re serious and I’m a big fan of Mickey; he has a lot of authenticity. I was hoping he would get a chance like this, I just want to help.' Then he went and got Obama elected."

    Although that got Aronofsky the "wow" factor that any director looks for, another big name gave him the approval. A couple nights earlier at a premiere in another city, the famed '80s and '90s wrestling showman, Rowdy Roddy Piper sat in the audience. "The night before someone said they were going to bring Roddy Piper along, and I said, 'Oh, can you give me his number, can I invite him?' " Aronofsky says with excitement. "So I invited him and he showed up. The second question [after the movie] was how did the wrestlers feel about the movie. 'Well, actually,' I said, 'Rowdy Roddy Piper is here,' and there was that same type of murmur that you guys [in the audience] just did, about him. 'Piper are you here?'

    "There in the back left corner, furthest to the left, this silhouette stands up," Aronofsky says. " 'So what did you think?' [Piper says] 'What you guys did'—and there's a pause, you don't know which way it was gonna go. 'I don’t know where you guys did your research.' And still we don’t know. If he trashes the film, what are we gonna do? And he just said 'You couldn't have done a better job, Mickey just nailed it.' And he came up afterwards and gave Mickey a hug and basically started sobbing in his arms, because it’s the first time his story’s been told. For Mickey and me, it was a great victory, because we all wanted to impress those guys. Now we’re all excited to show them."

    And show others as well. "Please spread the word!" Aronofsky shouts at the Q&A’s end, in true indie spirit.

    The Wrestler is scheduled to open December 12.

    The Cinema Lounge

    The next meeting of the Cinema Lounge will be on Monday, December 8 at 7:00pm. The topic to be discussed is "What the hell did I just watch, a.k.a. 'bad hooks'."

    The Cinema Lounge, a film discussion group, meets the second Monday of every month at 7:00pm at
    Barnes and Noble, 555 12th St., NW in Washington, DC (near the Metro Center Metro stop). You do not need to be a member of the Washington DC Film Society to attend. Cinema Lounge is moderated by Daniel R. Vovak, ghostwriter with Greenwich Creations.

    Last month at Cinema Lounge
    On November 10, 2008, we discussed "Movies ahead of their time," The meeting began with a person giving a passionate plea to consider the brilliance of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). It had: (a) Great special effects, (b) It was a science fiction film that was not a fantasy, (c) Arthur C. Clarke wrote it brilliantly, (d) It had sequels and spoofs about it, (e) It had a passionate beginning, and (f) It was a somewhat realistic depiction of the future. Someone else added that computers have advanced but ironically PanAm no longer exists.

    Other movies were also ahead of their time, though they did not have a high box office: Citizen Kane (1941), The Searchers (1956), and Vertigo (1958).

    We also discussed the following films:

    The Princess Bride (1987) became successful after it was released through VHS. This is Spinal Tap (1984) became a reference point for Christopher Guest films and mocumentaries. Psycho (1960) was ahead of its time because of its subject matter. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) reminded one person about the real-life person, Rupert Murdoch. Airplane (1980) spoofed true stars. It had a rapid fire quality of jokes, with even jokes in the credits. Duck Soup (1933) was anti-war and anti-nationalistic, especially unique for a film between the two world wars. The timeline of Full Metal Jacket (1987) was unique. Dr. Strangelove (1964) was revolutionary because it ridiculed atomic war. The Great Dictator (1940) made fun of Adolf Hitler, long before The Producers (1968) did. Superman (1978) was treated like a big-budget film, made great because of the casting. The Graduate (1967) set the standard for a coming-of-age film. The soundtrack was excellent and set the mood for such films. It handled the taboo topic of men having sex with older women. It also inspired John Hughes, who wrote several comedies in the 1980s. Animal House (1978) was a slapstick movie about sex, leaving a long impression about that topic on its audience. Easy Rider (1969) was great because of its use of music and its glorification of drugs. Bonnie & Clyde (1967) had an excellent final scene. In that movie, the outlaws were heroes throughout the film. In the Heat of the Night (1967) during the orchid scene, it was revolutionary when the main character (a Black man) slapped a rich White man. Basic Instinct (1992) was unique because the main character (the hero) raped a woman. There was also full nudity with Sharon Stone, in addition to excessive sex scenes. The Passion of the Christ (2004) was great because Mel Gibson flipped the bill for the whole film, outside of the Hollywood system. Die Hard (1988) had brilliant casting with Bruce Willis, a television figure at the time. In addition Alan Rickman was the bad guy, another brilliant casting decision. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) was a B movie that was done correctly. It had no true big stars and no major special effects. Network (1976) attacked television and blurred the line between entertainment and news. At the time that was a revolutionary concept, though in the modern times it is an everyday occurrence. Other movies were ahead of the time because of their violence or twists: Matrix (1999), Fight Club (1999), The Sixth Sense (1999), and Donnie Darko (2001). Toy Story (1995) was the first evidence of the Pixar formula. Annie Hall (1977) established Woody Allen as a great writer and inspired When Harry Met Sally (1989). Jaws (1975) set the standard for books leading to blockbusters, with its B-quality movie becoming an A-list movie. The Battle of Algiers (1966) was a movie created with handheld shots. It was also unique because it was about terrorism. Rope (1948) was fun to watch because of its seemingly non-stop cuts. Birth of a Nation (1915) had many awesome qualities, including its advanced time progression, its cuts, and its big budget. The Big Bounce was a film produced with 68 frames per second, three-times that of most other films. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), The Last Starfighter (1984), and TRON (1982) were computer-generated films. As the meeting concluded, someone commented that "King Kong (1933) looks awful if you watch it closely, even if it's an awesome film. That ape suit is an abomination in some scenes."

    The 15th Annual Austin Film Festival and Conference

    By Anita Glick, DC Film Society Member

    Austin Film Festival was the first and continues to be one of the only film festivals in the country with a focus on writers and their craft. The AFF is dedicated to furthering the art, craft and business of writers and filmmakers and recognizing their contributions to film, television and new media. The 15th Annual AFF (October 16-23) and Conference (Oct 16-19) screened over 180 films at eight venues.

    AFF enhances public awareness, provides cultural events and services to aspiring and established writers and filmmakers. The AFF Conference featured a strong focus on television writers, the art of the teleplay and the future of television programming. Panels and roundtable discussions included development, dialogue/structure/genre, pitching, getting a writing job, building a script and many more.

    Ticketing Options

  • Badges
    Producers: $650 - all-inclusive, all parties, open conference panels and all films
    Conference: $375 - welcome, pitch finale & conference wrap parties, open conference panels and all films
    Weekend: $225 - pitch finale & conference wrap parties, open conference panels on Saturday and Sunday and all films
    Lone Star: $95 - open conference panels on Saturday, pitch finale party and all films
  • Film Passes: admission to all films (excludes all special events) $42
  • Individual Screenings: $9 per feature

    The four day AFF Conference ran from late morning until late afternoon and covered a variety of formats and subjects conducted by filmmaking professionals. I especially enjoyed the Conversations with Danny Boyle and James Cromwell. They were interesting, entertaining and informative.


    The AFF 2008 Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award went to Danny Boyle for his commitment to outstanding scripts and innovative filmmaking. His body of work has included film noir, horror, science fiction, family, adventure, romantic comedy, television production and Royal Shakespeare direction. His second feature, Trainspotting, is one of the highest grossing British films of all times.

    The Outstanding Television Writer Award was presented to Producer and Director Greg Daniels. Daniels has been associated with groundbreaking television including Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and King of the Hill. Currently, Daniels is Executive Producer of The Office and is working on a new series with Amy Poehler to air in early 2009.

    The AFF's Young Filmmakers Program (YFP) introduces students ages 9-17 to screenwriting and filmmaking. The Arts Education Program offers 300 students and teachers from all over the state the opportunity to meet with industry professionals. The YFP offers panels for both students and teachers. Additional awards were given for Screenplay and Teleplay. Pitch competition allows contestants in 90 seconds to give their best pitch to a panel of industry professionals. I met several women who read and evaluated over 100 scripts each. These screenplays had been submitted to be eligible for competitions.

    My Conference Badge granted access to all panels, all films, welcome party, pitch finale party, conference wrap party, meet and greets, and exhibit hall.

    Films Seen

  • W. Oliver Stone's biography of President George W. Bush opened the festival. Josh Brolin gives a creditable lead performance and Richard Dryfuss captures the attitude of Dick Cheney. Tension between father and son escalates as the first President Bush (played by James Cromwell) bails "Junior" out of mess after mess. The son's sobriety and finding his faith only somewhat remedies his father's parental disappointment. Almost nothing in the film is subject of much debate ? it is only rehashing common knowledge.

  • Slumdog Millionaire is Producer/Director Danny Boyle's most recent feature. The film follows an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, India. The film asks questions about fate, righteousness, greed, and even urban sprawl. Boyle received the AFF 2008 Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award for his commitment to outstanding scripts and innovative filmmaking. His body of work has included film noir, horror, science fiction, family, adventure, romantic comedy, television production and Royal Shakespeare direction. Both Slumdog Millionaire and Shallow Grave (1995), his first feature film, screened with a Q&A.

  • Synecdoche, New York was introduced by Charlie Kaufman. This is the first film Kaufman has both written and directed. The excellent cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theater director who tries to re-create New York inside a warehouse.

  • Max Payne is based on the video game and dark graphic novel. It is wannabe film noir full of crime film clichés. Following the savage murder of his wife and baby Max (played by Mark Wahlberg) is out for revenge. It's all too artificial ? like a video game.

  • Les Ninjas du Japon won the Film Jury Award for Best Documentary. It is about a team of Japanese cyclists competing in Africa's most prestigious bicycle race. It was well photographed.

  • Paper or Plastic, Alex da Silva and Justine Jacob's documentary follows several contestants as they prepare for the National Grocery Bagging Competition in Las Vegas. The film provides a look into the lives of the sackers, who range in age from 17 to 50.

  • Wendy and Lucy was shot in only 18 days and edited in 6 months. The film conveys the true friendship a person can have with a dog. Appearing to be running away from something, a desperate young woman (Michelle Williams) is led through a series of dire economic decisions after her car breaks down in Oregon, with far-ranging repercussions for herself and Lucy. It is Kelly Reinhardt's follow-up to the lovely "Old Joy". Her next project is another road film a period western which takes place in mid 1850s. The dog in the film belongs to Reinhardt. Reinhardt was asked "How do we know when you are at the end?" She answered "I tried so hard to get the girl and the dog together. This had to be the ending. It summed up the film: GRIM. If you can't take care of your dog, you should not have a dog." (Note: This is scheduled to play at Landmark Theaters next year).

  • Role Models is David Wain's silly new comedy starring Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott who play man-boys who are arrested after trashing a company truck while high on energy drink fueled bender. They were given the choice of doing hard time or spending 150 service hours with a mentoring program. Each works with a different difficult young boy.

  • Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. In 1968, in a prison cafeteria in Northern California, prisoners witnessed the making of a legendary album. Several animators were invited to draw their interpretations. Clever, stylized animations, were included in the film. The film follows the lives of three former prisoners. The DVD includes a boxed set of Cash recordings.

  • Shades of Ray is Writer/Director Jaffar Mahmood's first feature film. It is a mix of comedy and pathos, with a lead performance by Zackary Levi (NBC TV's Chuck) and features Kathy Baker.

  • Lake City is a Southern drama written and directed by Hunter Hill and Perry Moore. Sissy Spacek stars as a mother who reunites with her son years after a family tragedy drove them apart. When he returns home he begins to confront his troubled past.

  • A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy is a series of vignettes showing black love and sexuality by Writer/Director Dennis Dortch. The soft focus, close-ups and very dark screen made it difficult to watch.

  • The Poker Club is a suspense thriller directed by Tim McCann. The film tells the story of four friends who discover and accidentally kill a burglar (trying to escape) during their weekly poker night. The details were well connected. It has been picked up by Sony.

  • Happy-Go-Lucky. A bright comedy by Writer/Director Mike Leigh is currently playing at local theaters.

  • Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story is a documentary that played at Landmark's 'E' Street Theater.

  • Short Programs – There were 14 Shorts Programs each had as few as 3 and as many as 9 films.

    Short Q&A with James Cromwell

    James Cromwell, at 68 years and six feet, five inches tall, looks distinguished even wearing blue jeans. Oliver Stone called him and they met with Josh Brolin to discuss W. Cromwell found Brolin to be inordinately charming. He became a vegan after filming Babe, for which he was nominated for an academy award. "If you love animals, you can't eat them."

    Question: Tell us a little about your background.
    James Cromwell: My father was John Cromwell, a noted film director. I was born in Los Angeles but raised in Manhattan and educated at Middlebury College and Carnegie Tech. I went into the theater (like both my parents) doing everything from Shakespeare to experimental plays. I struggled somewhat early in my career due to my height and the fact that few producers wanted someone towering over their leading men.

    Q: How did you feel when Oliver Stone called and asked you to discuss the part?
    JC: I went to the hotel; Josh (Brolin) was there. He is inordinately charming. It had been his suggestion that I audition for Oliver.

    Q: What is it like playing a living former President?
    JC: A living person (even a former President) is just playing another character and a relationship. I have played presidents four times.

    Q: How did you prepare for the part?
    JC: I read Kitty Kelly's books. George Walker Bush was greatly affected by his father Preston, who was an alcoholic. As a result he had no mechanism to deal with situations with his heart. He was very strict. Christian Bale was originally scheduled for the part of George W. and Robert Duvall was asked to play the Dick Cheney part. There was no financing available in America. The money was raised by Producer Moritz Borman in Germany. Brolin was (initially) insulted to be asked to play an unpopular President.

    Q: What is it like to work with Oliver Stone?
    JC: Oliver is very persuasive, the consummate filmmaker and he is very demanding. Josh has same background issues with his own father, James Brolin, a very powerful man. During the making of the film Josh internalized and worked through his past.

    What to see and do while in Austin

    Austin is the capital of Texas and one of the country's most popular cities. As the "Live Music Capital of the World," you can find live music playing in approximately 200 different venues. Sixth Street is the center of the historic entertainment district. Austin is alive with history: I visited the State Capital, Bob Bullock Texas History Museum (featuring Austin's only IMAX theater), Mexico-Art Museum, and the Blanton Museum of Art. I especially enjoyed the LBJ Library and Museum. Congress Avenue Bridge shelters a bat colony. Just prior to dusk large numbers of people line up to see more than 1.5 million fly out. I did not!

    The University of Texas at Austin is one of the largest in the nation, home to 48,000 students. The weekend I was there they played and beat Oklahoma in their 98,000 capacity stadium. The tailgate parties were unbelievable! Both teams are in the top five. After all, you can't have a motto like "Keep Austin Weird" and be buttoned-up. Austin is laid-back, full of energy and, yes, a little weird. They love that description! Austin has internationally renowned music, film, food and media festivals throughout the year.

    Mellow Johnny's bike shop is co-owned by Lance Armstrong and his business manager Bart Knaggs. The store occupies a converted 9,000-square-foot brick warehouse. It is a block north of the planned Lance Armstrong Bikeway that will run east-to-west on the left bank of Lake Austin past the almost-finished Austin Music Hall. But MJ's is more than a store. There is a coffee shop, where Austinites can get their morning fix after bike commuting into downtown and having a complimentary shower in the bike shop's locker room. Armstrong is eager to promote bike riding for exercise and good health in his overall campaign of fighting cancer through preventative medicine. Not surprisingly, "museum piece" bikes hanging from the rafters of this too-cool building are mostly Treks: ones that Armstrong rode to victory in seven Tours. Clearly, besides the racing set, the new store is out to capture a new type of cyclist, and Armstrong is hoping that his Mellow Johnny's will be a catalyst for motorists to start switching to bike commuting as gasoline prices rise.

    Whole Foods Market is amazing and overwhelming. In 2005 the world's leading natural and organic food supermarket opened a landmark store in Austin, Texas, their world headquarters. The new store is the company's largest, at 80,000 square feet. This location is a few blocks from where the first Whole Foods was located 25 years ago. Cooking demonstrations, food sampling, sit-down dining and takeout selections mingle with thousands of fresh and all natural ingredients in every department. Atop it all is a rooftop, park-like plaza and community meeting place for gatherings and live music. Even before you enter the store, the Market Hall, reminiscent of an outdoor farmers market, greets you with the freshest fruits and vegetables in season, along with lots of local products, fresh-cut flowers and gardening essentials. From three different types of ovens (deck, hearth, and wood stone), 50 fresh-baked breads are available daily along with dozens of chef-prepared pastries, candies and desserts. More than 1,800 types of wine include a wide selection of local and organic varieties. Thousands of beers from around the globe are stocked in the walk-in cooler that measures almost 400 square feet. The hand-selected coffees and teas come from farms across the globe.

    December 4-14

    The 19th Washington Jewish Film Festival

    The 19th Washington Jewish Film Festival: An Exhibition of International Cinema presents 59 features, documentaries and shorts from 10 countries, in seven venues, during the December 4 - 14, eleven-day Festival. This is one of the largest Jewish film festivals in the world. The Festival opened 19 years ago with 8 films screened at the old Biograph Theatre in Georgetown, bringing in an audience of 1,500. Along with the increase in films presented throughout the years, the Festival grew its programs surrounding the films, increased its audience by more than four times, moved to multiple venues, diversified its programming and increased its special guest roster. The Festival has presented more than 600 films on the Jewish experience from over 30 countries. An audience of 7,000-plus is expected to attend this year’s Festival.

    New Film Fest Director Susan Barocas explains this year’s trend, “This year seems to be a particularly strong year for documentaries. We had so many good films to choose from, but the docs were exceptional. It’s exciting to see more and more filmmakers turning the cameras on themselves and the worlds around them, revealing untold stories in their own unique voices.”

    Opening Night: The Festival kicks off with the US Premiere of the Australian film Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger on December 4 at 7 pm at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater (1529 16th Street NW), followed by a party with Producer Miriam Stein in attendance. Like its lead character, Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger is charming, smart, quirky and a dead-on portrait of life’s unending quest to fit in. Esther Blueburger (perfectly-cast newcomer Danielle Cantanzariti) is not your typical teenager. No, Esther Blueburger has ambitious plans: she simply wants to defy the meanness, absurdity and isolation of this world. Her quest gets a big push at her bat mitzvah party when she meets the cool, hip Sunni (Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider). With Sunni’s help, Esther leaves her old life behind, including her strict private school where being Jewish is definitely not cool. Pretending to be a Swedish exchange student at the less reputable public school that Sunni attends, Esther is no longer the unpopular kid everyone loves to push around. She starts spending less and less time with her dysfunctional Jewish family – disorganized mother, sentimental father and manic twin brother – and more time hanging out with Sunni’s incredibly hip mother, Mary (Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine, Muriel’s Wedding).

    Closing Night: The Festival closes with the DC Premiere of the French film Let’s Dance!, December 14 at 7 pm. With insight, compassion, and humor, French filmmaker Noémie Lvovsky creates an affectionate examination of aging, identity, family ties and memories of the Holocaust. Eighty-year-old Salomon Belinsky lost his family in the Holocaust, but has worked throughout his life to maintain his joi de vivre. He refuses to surrender to his age and spends his days dodging funeral obligations of friends, taking tap dancing lessons inspired by his favorite actor, Fred Astaire, and dating a much younger woman, the charming but insecure Violette.

    Other feature films of note: Eran Riklis' new film Lemon Tree starring Hiam Abass; Amos Gitai's new film One Day You'll Understand starring Jeanne Moreau and based on Jerome Clement's autobiographical novel; Two Lives Plus One starring Emmanuelle Devos and introduced by director Idit Cebula; Max Minsky and Me based on Holly-Jane Rahlens' best-selling novel.

    Documentaries: Weekday Daytime Documentaries at Goethe Institut Washington. And lots more!


    In addition to the Washington DCJCC's Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater, screenings will be presented at Avalon Theatre (5612 Connecticut Ave NW); AFI Silver Theatre (8633 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD); Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema (7235 Woodmont Ave, Bethesda, MD); Goethe-Institut Washington (814 Seventh Street NW); Embassy of France – La Maison Française (4101 Reservoir Road NW); National Gallery of Art – East Building (4th Street at Constitution Avenue NW).

    We Need to Hear From YOU

    We are always looking for film-related material for the Storyboard. Our enthusiastic and well-traveled members have written about their trips to the Cannes Film Festival, London Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, the Palm Springs Film Festival, the Reykjavik Film Festival, the Munich Film Festival, and the Locarno Film Festival. We also heard about what it's like being an extra in the movies. Have you gone to an interesting film festival? Have a favorite place to see movies that we aren't covering in the Calendar of Events? Seen a movie that blew you away? Read a film-related book? Gone to a film seminar? Interviewed a director? Taken notes at a Q&A? Read an article about something that didn't make our local news media? Send your contributions to Storyboard and share your stories with the membership. And we sincerely thank all our contributors for this issue of Storyboard.

    Calendar of Events


    American Film Institute Silver Theater
    A retrospective of Paul Thomas Anderson's films includes Boogie Nights, Hard Eight, Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood. A series of holiday films includes Fanny and Alexander, It's a Wonderful Life and Bad Santa. The AFI also takes part in the Washington Jewish Film Festival see above. Special events include restored prints of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. See the website for dates and times.

    Freer Gallery of Art
    "Roads to the Interior: Another Side of Japanese Cinema" conludes in December with The Mourning Forest (Naomi Kawase, 2007) on December 5 at 7:00pm. On December 7 at 2:00pm is Fine, Totally Fine (Yusuke Fujita, 2008); on December 12 at 7:00pm is Bootleg Film (Masahiro Kobayashi, 1999); on December 13 at 2:00pm is Bashing (Masahiro Kobayashi, 2005); and on December 14 at 2:00pm is The Rebirth (Masahiro Kobayashi, 2007). Masahiro Kobayashi is a folksinger turned screenwriter turned filmmaker who will be present December 12-14 to present his films.

    On December 6 at 2:00pm is the anime film Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988), followed by a panel discussion with three Japan specialists: John W. Dower, author of Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII, Susan J. Napier, author of Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle and Frederik L. Schodt, author of Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga.

    National Gallery of Art
    Films by Hungarian avant-garde artist Peter Forgacs begin with "Film, Memories and Amnesia," and a lecture by Peter Forgacs on December 7 at 2:00pm. On December 7 at 3:30pm is Miss Universe (2006), doing double duty as part of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. On December 7 at 5:00pm is Own Death (2007) and on December 13 at 2:00pm is I Am Von Hofler (2008).

    "David Lean Restored" is a series of David Lean's early films from the 1940s including Blithe Spirit, In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Madeleine, Brief Encounter and The Passinate Friends. See the website for dates and times.

    National Museum of African Art
    On December 11 at 7:00pm is Clouds over Conakry (Cheick Fantamady, 2007) from Guinea. A political cartoonist and a web designer struggle to find a balance between their indigenous customs and progressive ideals.

    National Museum of the American Indian
    On December 7 at 2:00pm is Smoke Signals (Chris Eyre, 1998), an independent film about a young Native man who embarks on a journey to retrieve the body of his estranged father. Filmmaker Chris Eyre will be present for discussion.

    National Portrait Gallery
    On December 1 at 7:00pm is "Brando Himself", a part of the Portrait Gallery's Cultures in Motion series. Actor Edward Gero brings Marlon Brando to life using his own words. Note that this is not a film.

    Smithsonian American Art Museum
    On December 3 at 6:00pm is "Art:21" a documentary from the award-winning series "Art in the Twenty-First Century," featuring behind-the-scenes conversations with contemporary artists. On December 11 at 6:00pm is The Reflecting Pool (1977-80) an art film by Bill Viola.

    Films on the Hill
    On December 10 at 7:00pm is Hungarian Rhapsody (Hanns Schwarz, 1929), starring Dita Parlo (of L'Atalante fame) in a Stroheim-like story of Old World class distinctions. The film is preceded by Laurel and Hardy in With Love and Hisses (1927), a major hit at Slapsticon a few years ago and made when the boys weren't yet a team. On December 17 at 7:00pm is The Daughter of the Regiment (Carl Lamac, 1933), starring Anny Ondra in a re-working of the Donizetti opera.

    Washington Jewish Community Center
    See above for the 19th Washington Jewish Film Festival.

    Goethe Institute
    A new series "Artists in Film," portrays the extraordinary lives of outstanding artists, focusing not only on the artists' works but also glimpses into their personal lives. On December 1 at 6:30pm is Extracts from the Life of Beethoven (Horst Seemann, 1976) from the former GDR. On December 8 at 6:30pm is Jagged Harmonies: Bach vs. Frederick II (Dominique de Rivaz, 2003) winner of the 2004 Swiss prize for best fiction film. On December 15 at 6:30pm is Comedian Harmonists (Joseph Vilsmaier, 1997), a documentary about the a cappella German singers whose group was broken up by the Nazis.

    French Embassy
    On December 9 at 7:00pm is Steak (Quentin Dupieux, 2007), a comedy starring Eric Judor and Ramzy Bedia.

    The Japan Information and Culture Center
    On December 12 at 6:30pm is The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, an animated film based on the 1965 novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui and winner of the 2007 Japanese Academy Award for Best Animation. Reservations are required.

    National Archives
    On December 13 at noon is Northwest Passage (1940) starring Spencer Tracy, part of the "Treaty of Paris" film series.

    On December 12 at noon is a film program to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 8: Debrief: Apollo 8 and Project Apollo: Manned Flight to the Moon.

    National Museum of Natural History
    On December 6 at 2:00pm is a lecture "Animating the Ocean." Featuring clips from the film Finding Nemo, production designers from Disney and Pixar discuss how Hollywood studios adapt ocean stories to bring underwater animation to life.

    The Avalon
    On December 10 at 8:00pm is Zelary (2004), presented by "Lions of Czech Film." On December 17 at 8:00pm is Crime Is Our Business (Pascal Thomas, 2007), part of the "French Cinematheque" series.

    Smithsonian Institution
    "New Documentaries from Mexico" is a film series taking place at various locations. On December 11 at 7:00pm is Trazando Aleida (Christiane Burkhard, 2008), about Aleida Gallangos whose parents disappeared during Mexico's "dirty war." (Baird Auditorium, Natural History Museum). On December 13 at noon is La cancion del pulque (Everado Gonzalez, 2003) about daily life and music at a tavern, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker. On December 13 at 3:00pm is Los ladrones viejos (Everardo Gonzalez, 2007) about Mexican thieves in the 1960s (Baird Auditorium, Natural History Museum). On December 14 at 12:30pm is XV en Zaachila (Rigoberto Perezcano, 2002) and at 3:30pm is Tropico de Cancer (Eugenio Polgovsky, 2004), both followed by discussion. (Rasmusson Theater, American Indian Museum).

    Smithsonian Institution
    A program of Puerto Rican films is shown at two locations. On December 4 at 7:00pm is Juan sin Seso (1959) and Modesta (1956) both at the Hirshhorn's Ring Auditorium. On December 7 at noon is Cayo (Vincente Juarbe, 2005) and at 3:00pm is Maldeamores (Carlos Ruiz Ruiz and Mariem Perez Riera, 2007). Both are followed by discussion; location is the McEvoy Auditorium, American Art Museum.


    The 19th Washington Jewish Film Festival
    December 4-14. See above.

    The Capital Irish Film Festival
    The Capital Irish Film Festival takes place December 4-7 at the Goethe Institute. On December 4 at 9:00pm is Frontline (David Gleeson) shown with the short film A Film from My Parish. On December 5 at 8:00pm is Adam and Paul (Leonard Abrahamson) shown with the short film Joyriders. On December 6 at 3:00pm is O'Donoghue's Opera (Kevin Sheldon) and Flea Ceoil (Louis Marcus) shown with the short film Ding Dong Denny's History of Ireland. On December 6 at 8:00pm is Small Engine Repair (Niall Heery) shown with Marion agus an Banphrionsa. On December 7 at 3:00pm is Oileán Thoraí (Patrick Collins) shown with The White Dress. Admission is $10.


    Avalon Theater
    On December 9 at 10:30am is "Arch Campbell: My Life and the Movies." Hear about the Emmy Award-winning movie enthusiast's life story.

    Previous Storyboards

    November, 2008
    October, 2008
    September, 2008
    August, 2008
    July, 2008
    June, 2008
    May, 2008
    April, 2008
    March, 2008
    February, 2008
    January, 2008

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