Preston Barta // Film Critic
There’s a special feeling that comes over movie fans on the first day of a film festival: ceaseless anticipation that borders on delight, as today commemorates the opening day of the USA Film Festival in Dallas.
In its 44 years, the festival has become known as an event that pulls in big name talents, and this year it continues to fit that description.
For the next five days, local and visiting guests such as John Turturro, Ed Harris and Morgan Fairchild will stop in Dallas and take over the Angelika Film Center with their upcoming features, documentaries and shorts.
Red Carpet Crash is attending the festival and is sitting down with a few of its filmmakers and screen talents. But until then, here’s our festival preview, where we’ll discuss the films that you should venture to Big D to see.
As storied a career as Turturro has had – whether behind the camera for 2005’s “Romance & Cigarettes,” starring Kate Winslet and the late James Gandolfini, or simply acting in favorites such as “The Big Lebowski” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” – he has forever been a gift to follow.
With “Fading Gigolo,” Turturro brings his gifts back behind the camera, as well as in front, for the all-star comedy about a mild-mannered florist (Turturro) whose lifelong friend (Woody Allen) wants his best bud to be New York City’s go-to middle-aged man-whore.
From the film’s humorous trailer, “Fading Gigolo” seems to be precisely what the film festival doctors ordered: a comical, touching and well-acted film to kick off the festival tonight.
Also premiering tonight is the peculiar “Particle Fever,” already being hailed at other festivals as a documentary that captures a scientific breakthrough as it happens.
It follows six scientists who are invested in what is considered the biggest, most intricate tool in human history and what it can tell us about the foundations of the universe.
Directed by physicist-turned-filmmaker Mark Levinson, “Particle Fever” is a celebration of discovery that uncovers the human stories behind this impressive machine.
This year’s lineup features a significant amount of shorts. From high school and college students to local filmmakers, the shorts include fun and interesting narratives such as Peter Pan confronting a harsh reality in “East of Kensington” and an invisible man being blackmailed in “Everyday Monsters: Anonymity.”
It’s difficult to articulate what people know Carol Kane for best: starring alongside Woody Allen in “Annie Hall,” cracking audiences up next to Billy Crystal in “A Princess Bride” or for her Academy Award-nominated role in “Hester Street.” Regardless of what it may be, many recognize the face of the talented comedienne.
Bringing her newest feature to the festival circuit on Friday night, “Clutter” tells of an eccentric widow whose packrat lifestyle becomes a great burden to her family.
With the recent fascination with shows like “Hoarders,” perhaps “Clutter” will make an engaging drama for festivalgoers to eat up.
With two Oscars under his belt for his sound engineer work on Steven Spielberg’s films, Ron Judkins (“Jurassic Park,” “Saving Private Ryan”) directs his first movie in 15 years – “Finding Neighbors.”
Pivoting around a group of neighbors living in Los Angeles, the film is a narrative about a mid-life crisis, a fading marriage and the human bonds they test.
While this may not seem like the most pleasant of filmgoing experiences, former Dallasite and SMU graduate Judkins aims to take audiences on a poignant journey and provide some surprising insights about life.
“A Night in Old Mexico”
25 years after they memorably teamed up for the beloved miniseries “Lonesome Dove,” Robert Duvall and screenwriter Bill Wittliff have reunited for a smaller-scale project: “A Night in Old Mexico.”
Acting as a cantankerous South Texas rancher, Duvall returns to the genre he knows best. Mixing Duvall’s signature humor, guns, women and booze, “A Night in Old Mexico” may be a fun feature for the older demographic to spend their Sunday afternoon.
In the vein of award-winning films “Babel” and “Traffic,” “Frontera” is set in the dangerous place between the United States and Mexico. After crossing the border illegally to work in the states, a hard-working father (Michael Pena) finds himself wrongfully accused of murdering a former sheriff’s (Ed Harris) wife.
Based on its exciting and relevant plot description, “Frontera” could be the best movie of the festival. It only helps that it includes an ensemble with the likes of Harris (“A History of Violence”). He commands the screen every time he’s on, without yelling or getting too crazy. His freezing stare, mixed with his cold voice he’s known for, is destined to make his role in “Frontera” another memorable one to add to his filmography.
“The Grand Seduction”
Closing out the festival on Sunday night is “The Grand Seduction,” a movie that tells of a small fishing village in Scotland that must procure a local doctor to secure a lucrative business contract.
Riding a wave of glowing reviews from last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and its winning cast, including Taylor Kitsch (“Lone Survivor”) and Brendan Gleeson (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”), “The Grand Seduction” is fated to win the hearts of audiences and close the USA Film Festival with a bang.
The full lineup and information on screenings and tickets can be found on usafilmfestival.com.
Previously published on NTDaily.com