With a new name and its grandest star ever in attendance, Houston’s premiere movie festival this year will celebrate female filmmakers when it opens Nov. 7 for its fourth annual celebration of art and movies about art.
Newly christened the Houston Cinema Arts Festival (“Houston” came last until the board of directors switched the words around in May), the festival will both open and close with films made by women filmmakers and will include a 40th anniversary tribute to the organization Women Make Movies.
The four-day festival still will not be without a strong male presence, however, as Robert Redford will be on hand to accept the Levantine Cinema Arts Award and participate in an on-stage conversation about his career and the work of his Utah-based Sundance Institute.
As befitting a film festival that is organized around an “arts” theme, Cinema Arts Festival programming is big on performing and visual arts, with some live performances and nearly all of the movies chosen not just because they’re good but also because they have some connection – however sometimes tenuous – to the arts.
It all can seem sometimes rather rarified, but just regular movie fans won’t be disappointed by the film selection.
Stand Up Guys: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Juliana Margulies star in a mob drama about aging con men reuniting for a last hurrah. “In sticking with our arts theme,” festival director Richard Herskowitz said in announcing the movie Tuesday night, “Stand Up Guys is about con artists.” Fisher Stevens, the film’s director, will attend to introduce the film.
Silver Linings Playbook: The title isn’t very thrilling, but this is the latest movie from David O. Russell, whose movies include The Fighter, Three Kings and Flirting with Disaster. Any movie he makes demands that attention be paid. The movie stars Bradley Cooper attempting to start over after a meltdown who is helped by his neighbor, played by (current “It” girl) Jennifer Lawrence.
Quartet: Herskowitz seemed particularly dazzled by this one, which he predicted would be a strong contender for Academy Award nominations. Dustin Hoffman, in his directorial debut, directs Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins in a humorous film about a retirement home for opera singers and musicians. Don’t confuse it with the next movie.
A Late Quartet: Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir star as members of a renowned string quartet that erupts in n explosion of repressed resentments on its 25th anniversary as one member announces his retirement because of illness.
Love, Marilyn: The opening night movie is a documentary that marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death with newly released outtakes from her films, home movies and photographs that document her private life. Directed by Liz Garbus (who was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1998 film The Farm: Angola, USA), the film also employs recently discovered letters and diaries and features leading actresses such as Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Marisa Tomei, Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Burstyn, Evan Rachel Wood, Uma Thurman on screen enacting Monroe’s words. Men who were part of her orbit or otherwise fascinated by her are included two, their observations performed by actors such as Adrien Brody (Truman Capote), Jeremy Piven (Elia Kazan) and Ben Foster (Norman Mailer).
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel: The closing night movie, also a documentary, focuses on Diana Vreeland, the longtime fashion editor (Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar) who launched the career of Twiggy and established many fashion trends. Her granddaughter-in-law, Lisa Immordino Vreeland, directed the movie. She will be interviewed on stage after the Nov. 11 screening at the Museum of Fine Art. by Lynn Wyatt, the Houston socialite and style icon.
For the full line-up and to get information about tickets, visit the festival website at www.cinemaartssociety.org.