I stood in line Sunday for tickets to the 6th Annual Traverse City Film Festival. Fortunately, I have a peach of a husband who didn’t mind keeping my place in line for a few hours until I got out of church. Then I waited a few more hours, but it’s all good.
You meet the most interesting people in line, and sometimes you even bump into them again during the festival. It’s like a week-long party, and everyone is there for the same reason – to celebrate “just great movies.”
This year’s festival boasts more than 100 films, including a tribute to the Beatles with ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ the short films of Jon Alpert and Rory Kennedy, and attendance by the co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics, Michael Barker and Tom Bernard. And of course, the awesome free movies at the open space, including ‘Mary Poppins,’ ‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,’ ‘Twister,’ ‘Raising Arizona,’ and ‘Help!’
You can check out the full schedule here, but follow me after the jump to check out a few of the movies I’ll be seeing…
‘The Kids Are All Right’ (opening night film) – Hard-working doctor Nic (Annette Bening) has been with her partner Jules (Julianne Moore) for almost 20 years. The couple has it all — a house in the suburbs, steady income, and two teenage kids, Laser (Josh Hutchinson) and college-bound Joni (Mia Wasikowska). When Laser pressures his now-18-year-old sister into tracking down the identity of their biological father, the anonymous sperm donor turns out to be Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the hunky proprietor of a hip organic restaurant who’s more than a little curious to meet the kids he never knew he had.
‘The Secret In Their Eyes’ – I love a good legal thriller, and this won Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards. Haunted by the memory of a brutal murder case for over 25 years, retired court investigator Benjamin Espósito decides to write a novel about the horrific crime to exorcise his inner demons. Director Juan Jose Campanella sets the majority of the action in Buenos Aires circa 1974 — a time when the city was in political turmoil and the courts were more concerned with closing cases than investigating them. We follow Benjamin in his relentless pursuit of the killer, aided by his bumbling-genius colleague Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) and their cautious superior Irene, a judge’s assistant.
‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ (closing night) – This sequel to the wildly successful "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (loved it!) is based on the second in the bestselling "Millennium" trilogy novels by Stieg Larsson. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is many things: tough, independent, sexy, anti-social, and smart. She’s also a wanted woman. After returning to Sweden to aid her journalist partner Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) on an investigation into a sex-trafficking investigation, Lisbeth becomes the target of a manhunt when her fingerprints are found on the weapon that has left two journalists dead. Lisbeth and Mikael set out to find the truth behind the murders, dodging authorities and dispatching some menacing bad guys along the way.
‘Please Give’ – Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt star in this comedy from Nicole Holofcener, which explores an upper-middle-class woman’s sense of guilt about her privileged life. On the one hand, Kate gives regularly to the homeless. On the other, she and her husband indulge in somewhat morbid materialism — the successful vintage furniture store they own in Manhattan’s West Village is stocked with pieces acquired from the grieving children to whom recently deceased parents have passed along their estate. The couple also has their eyes set on expanding their already-spacious apartment once their aging neighbor Andra (Ann Guilbert). Also stars Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet.
‘Legacy’ – Super excited about this film because director Thomas Ikimi will be doing a Q&A after the film. Idris Elba (Stringer Bell on HBO’s ‘The Wire’) stars as Malcolm Gray, a black ops officer who ends up in a military hospital after being ambushed, captured and tortured while pursuing a black market arms dealer. Years later, he’s living alone in a run-down Brooklyn apartment, plotting to expose a powerful New York Senator whom he believes to be the man pulling the strings — a man who also happens to be his brother.
‘Solitary Man’ – Michael Douglas stars in this dark comedy as Ben, an aging lothario who suffers through a mid-life catastrophe after his wife leaves him and his successful car dealership crumbles in t
he wake of a self-inflicted scandal. Ben’s womanizing gets him into even more trouble when his new girlfriend asks him to accompany her teenage daughter to college, hoping Ben will use his connections at his alma mater to her advantage. But the visit only amplifies Ben’s unreserved behavior, leading to a few less-than-savory decisions. Directed by Brian Koppleman and David Levien, also stars Mary-Louise Parker, Susan Sarandon, Jesse Eisenberg, Jenna Fischer and Danny DeVito.
‘Farsan’ – From director Josef Fares comes this heart-warming comedy about manliness. As a Middle Eastern immigrant living in Sweden, Aziz (played by Jan Fares, father of the director) has a pretty good life: He’s got a steady job, and he’s expecting his first grandchild soon. He’s even got time to teach his punch-less coworker Jörgen a thing or two about being a man (which apparently involves being pushed out a moving car). But when it comes to finding a sweetheart of his own, the long-widowed Aziz needs more than a little assistance from his pals. (Trailer contains a little profanity towards the end.)
‘Tucker & Dale vs. Evil’ (midnight movie!) – It’s a slasher-film lover’s delight! Tucker (Alan Tudkyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are just a couple of country hicks on vacation in the woods, looking to get some R & R in their ramshackle cabin. Along comes a gang of preppy college kids, also on holiday, who mistake the harmless hicks for homicidal hillbillies after a member of their group goes missing. Comedy ensues as a horrified Tucker and Dale attempt to avoid bloodshed while their accusers die off one by one in a series of freak accidents. (Trailer contains slasher stuff.)
Other films I’m seeing:
‘Lebanon, Pa.’ – After learning that his father has passed away, Philadelphia advertising executive Will heads to rural Lebanon, Pennsylvania, to get his dad’s affairs in order. There, he meets his father’s staunchly conservative second cousin Andy, himself a father of two. Will forms an unlikely friendship with Andy’s bright and bubbly 17-year old daughter CJ, who confides in him that she’s pregnant. In Person: Director Ben Hickernell, actor Rachel Kitson.
‘The Infidel’ – London family man Mahmud (Omid Djalili) does his best to be a good Muslim, even if he’s a little lax in the whole "no drinking, no swearing" thing. But one day, Mahmud’s life is turned upside down after learning he was adopted — and his parents were Jewish! Mahmud’s real name? Solly Shimshillewitz. His only friend through the ensuing identity crisis is Jewish-American cabbie Lenny (Richard Schiff), who offers a few pointers to his newfound Hebrew comrade. Adding to his crisis of faith, Mahmud’s revelation comes just in time for his son’s upcoming marriage to the daughter of a fiery fundamentalist Islamic cleric, who might not be so keen on letting his kin marry into the Shimshillewitz clan.
‘Tiny Furniture’ – Lena Dunham wrote, directed and starred in this breakout film that won Best Narrative Feature at South by Southwest. Dunham plays Aura, a 22-year-old college grad who returns home from her Midwestern liberal arts school to her artistic family’s Tribeca loft with nothing but a useless film theory degree and 357 hits on her YouTube page. Disarmingly funny and self-aware (it’s set in Dunham’s real-life apartment, and her mother and sister play versions of themselves), this portrait of post-college ennui features a sharp and scathingly funny script.
‘The Man Next Door’ – Casa Curutchet in Buenos Aires is an architectural wonder, and the only residence in the Americas designed by famed Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. In this dark comedy, it’s home to world-famous interior designer Leonardo and his privileged family. One day, Leonardo wakes up to the sound of a sledgehammer from his neighbor Victor’s building as workmen open a hole for a window that looks directly into Leonardo’s abode. Victor just wants a little more sun in his space, but Leonardo protests in an effort to preserve the perfect symmetry of his palace.
‘Will You Marry Us’ – Set in small-town Switzerland, this romantic comedy centers on Rahel, a civil registrar who performs the town’s marriages. But her life is thrown for a loop when her now-famous former band mate Ben shows up in the quiet town. Ben is looking for a place out of the limelight to get hitched to his movie-star girlfriend, and asks Rahel to perform the ceremony. But the situation gets dicey when Rahel, who is having problems of her own with her cheating husband, realizes that her feelings for Ben are stronger than ever.
‘The Happy Poet’ – Writer-director Paul Gordon stars as Bill, an unemployed post-grad poet with a dream to open an all-organic food stand, despite having terrible credit and little business know-how. He manages to secure a tiny loan from an amused banker — just enough to buy a hot dog cart and convert it into a health food stand. Aided by an unemployed friend who volunteers to help with advertising and start a delivery service, Bill finds his first two loyal customers in slacker-philosopher Curtis and the poetry-loving Agnes. But two customers don’t make a business. As debt piles up, will Bill be able to compete with the neighboring hot dog vendors? In Person: Director Paul Gordon, producer David Hartstein.
‘The Miscreants of Taliwood’ – Australian artist and guerilla filmmaker George Gittoes spent two years in a Taliban-controlled area of northern Pakistan near the Afghanistan border, where a cottage film industry dubbed "Taliwood" is thriving in spite of constant pressure from local mullahs to shut it down. Gittoes agrees to act in one of these low-budget film productions – an over-the-top action drama in which he plays the part of an evil Westerner leading a band of Afghani militants, shot on location just a cave or two away from where Osama bin Laden is purportedly hiding. Fearless, violent and disturbing, this documentary also plays as a bizarre comedy that celebrates the creative freedom of those on the lowest-budget fringes of filmmaking. Adults Only — contains scenes of graphic violence conducted by religious fanatics on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. In Person: Director George Gittoes.
‘Heartbreaker’ – Set in glamorous Monte Carlo, this French romantic comedy stars Romain Duris as Alex, a master of seduction who teams up with his sister (Julie Ferrier) and her husband (François Damiens) to form an unusual business: they’re hired by concerned parents and friends to break up couples "who shouldn’t be together." Alex’s latest assignment: he must charm haughty wine expert Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) away from her seemingly perfect fiancé before their wedding, and he might have to break the first rule of the biz: never break up a romance where the woman is truly happy.
‘Mike’s Surprise’ – Who knows?!!! You just never know what you’re going to see when Film Fest Founder Michael Moore offers up a surprise to filmgoers.