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  • 2010 Dallas International Film Festival Preview

    DIFF 2010

    By | April 8, 2010

    In its first year following the conclusion of its contract with AFI, the 2010 Dallas International Film Festival will take over all eight screens of the Angelika Film Center for an Opening Night Celebration. 1,600 film goers will participate in the festivities and see featured films including Bill Cunningham New York, Multiple Sarcasms, Nosotros los Pobres and Skateland. In addition, the Super Saturday lineup of films will be packed with four world premieres: Hold, Sin Ella, Virsa and We Are the Sea.

    This year, the Dallas Star Award – presented annually to film artists in recognition of their unique contributions to cinema – will be given to writer-director Guillermo Arriaga (Babel, 21 Grams), writer-director John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Blind Side), three time Academy Award nominated cinematographer Wally Pfister (Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight) and Mexican film Icon Pedro Infante (Nosotros los Pobres, Ustedes los Ricos, Pepe el Toro).

    Academy Award winning writer-director Pete Docter (Up) will be the recipient of the Texas Avery Animation Award, which honors lifetime achievement in animation filmmaking.

    The 11-day festival will run April 8 – 18, 2010, featuring 153 feature films and shorts with 170 screenings. Passes and tickets are currently on sale both via online (, and at the Southwest Airlines Ticket Window located at 5330 Mockingbird Lane on the Hotel Palomar retail strip facing Mockingbird Lane.

    The ever diligent writing staff here at Smells Like Screen Spirit has already seen several of the films that will be screening at the Dallas International Film Festival. Here is what we have to report:

    A Town Called Panic

    “Neither sense nor logic exists in the world of A Town Called Panic – this is essentially a cinematic representation of the playtime fantasies of a dangerously imaginative and hyperactive five-year old child (it makes the Toy Story films seem like snooze-fests written by stodgy and stuffy Hollywood studio hacks). The sets are constructed with papier-mache and cardboard; the characters are plastic toy figurines – most of which stand upright with the aid of a flat base to which their feet are attached – of mismatching dimensions, as if the aforementioned child was let loose in a vintage toy shop for 10 minutes and given enough funds to buy a bucketful of toys. Coherency and cohesion be damned, A Town Called Panic is pure unadulterated anarchy!”


    Alabama Moon

    “Director Tim McCanlies turns what could have been a hokey children’s movie into a rich and emotionally deep (read: total tearjerker) philosophical essay on human existence ala Into the Wild. Based on Watt Key’s children’s novel (Key also wrote this screenplay), Alabama Moon tackles some very mature themes – death, for one, surrounds Moon.”


    Bear Nation

    “Somewhat of a follow up to Small Town Gay Bar, Malcolm Ingram takes us inside the world of Bear Nation, a sub-culture within the gay community. These large, hairy, gay men have created a little slice of heaven for themselves, complete with magazines and conventions dedicated to their girthy physique and cuddly personalities. In addition, Ingram touches upon the prejudice that still permeates society concerning gay culture, and the misconceptions straight folks have concerning the gay community.”



    “If you’ve seen The Puffy Chair or Baghead, you know what to expect from a Duplass brothers film.  Unlike many other directors today, they manage to insert an enormous amount of realism and humanity in both their stories and humor.  Led by an awesome sense of silence and comedic timing, they’re able to make you feel like what you’re watching isn’t just a movie, but that these could be conversations that you’ve had in your life with actual human beings.  In the case of Cyrus, they manage to take this style and collide it with the off-kilter humor of Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly.  The result is awesome.  All the best elements of each respective party combine to make something truly special.  Marisa Tomei and Catherine Keener are the icing on the cake, as they deliver solid performances, consistent with their usual dependability.”


    Dance with the One

    “There are some amazing performances in Dance with the One – most notably Gabriel Luna and Xochitl Romero. They both bring some much needed naturalness to this film and their onscreen chemistry is pretty amazing. I wish they had better written dialogue to work with, but they did the best with what they were given.”



    “Writer-director Clay Liford does not shy away from referencing different genres of cinema (such as the aforementioned Cassavetes and Antonioni); in doing so, the resulting creation is something very unique and special. Grounded almost entirely on Earth, Earthling is purely a cerebral brand of sci-fi functioning as an intense meditation on humanity. Is a human being defined purely by biological make-up or can it be a state of mind?”


    The Loved Ones

    The Loved Ones, a brilliantly creepy feature-length debut from writer-director Sean Byrne, is sure to please some of the more discerning horror fans out there with its brains, creativity and visual panache. From my estimation The Loved Ones is prone to become a “midnight movies” cult favorite ala Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, and Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive and Bad Taste.”


    Lovers of Hate

    Lovers of Hate is an exquisitely written and acted film about two highly competitive brothers who do not get along. (You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.) The film itself seems relatively simple (three characters, two locations) – yet Poyser’s directorial vision is complex and even somewhat unconventional, at least in Hollywood terms. (I find Poyser’s honest portrayal of relationships, nudity and sex to be akin to Joe Swanberg). In anyone else’s hands, my bet is that Lovers of Hate would have been an absurdly unbelievable comedy; but Poyser’s tactfulness and maturity keeps the events and characters grounded in reality. Lovers of Hate is ridiculously funny at times but it is also a thrillingly emotional roller coaster ride – a cinematic achievement that few directors and actors have pulled off as successfully as Poyser, Doubek, Karpovsky and Kafka have done here.”



    “Skateland is a fun coming of age period piece albeit with a relatively thin narrative – there is a sheer avoidance of providing any character depth – and dialogue that is as bland as white bread. However, I am truly a sucker for a great soundtrack, kitschy set/costume design (there’s even an El Camino and Firebird) and lush cinematography – and Skateland offers all three in spades.”



    “Pixar is the studio that can’t seem to go wrong. Everything they do is hailed by critics and ticket holders alike. Eye candy and great story telling are a staple of Pixar Animation Studios, and something that they have built their solid reputation on. This time they strike more emotional chords than ever. With UP we are given a standard of what films for the whole family should be. They give us something more touching and with more character depth than most of the live-action dramas of recent memory. This successful Pixar formula of quality continues and excels with the tale of UP.”



    “All in all, this is one of those movies (like Shutter Island) that are nearly impossible to write a worthwhile review without revealing spoilers. Some of the thrills are thrilling and some of the plot twists twist perfectly well, but there are also a few too many coincidences that seem a bit lazy on the part of the script. Several directorial decisions throughout Wake really irked me. For example, writer-director Chad Feehan – on multiple occasions (the security video, the frat party video) – opted to disregard any resemblance of realism in the name of getting more cinematic camera angles. And unfortunately, the final reveal is really heavy-handed; but Wake is still a much more intelligent and complex thriller than most of the other thrillers being released these days. Nonetheless, Chris Browning’s performance is quite amazing – and is reason enough to give Wake a gander.”


    Winter’s Bone

    Winter’s Bone is the film adaptation of the 2006 novel Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell and premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, taking home the honors of the Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting awards. Being its second stop in the Film Festival circuit, SXSW was my chance to see this buzzed about film which was technically sound and full of great performances. Winter’s Bone can pretty much be approached as backwoods film noir, and Jennifer Lawrence has made her film presence known by leading the demanding task of the detective in the role of Ree. Lawrence lends the talent you’d expect from an old weathered Hollywood pro and will gain further attention moving forward. The other notable performance is from the antihero of the story Teardrop, played by John Hawkes. Though his screen time is spotty, Hawkes gives us a fully developed character that takes us in several different directions.”

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