While the American Film Market takes Santa Monica, the 26th annual AFI Fest brings diverse cinematic life to Hollywood Thursday night with the world premiere of "Hitchcock." The Sacha Gervasi film starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson is one of only two world premieres at the festival, and the second has technically already had a "secret screening" at the New York Film Festival: Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln."
World premieres are not what make AFI Fest special. Not only does it offer free tickets for the cream of the year's international fest faves to LA moviegoers, it turns famed Hollywood Boulevard locations such as Graumann's Chinese and The Egyptian and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel into hot spots for film buffs.
TOH has checked out a number of the festival entries. David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" is deliriously enjoyable with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in top form. Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" is an exquisite melodrama with two actors in their own leagues--Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts (good luck to anyone who wants to argue against Cotillard deserving her second Oscar for this one).
Walter Salles' flawed but brilliantly acted "On the Road" finally arrives in Los Angeles after making its festival rounds. Lovers of the Jack Kerouac novel will be able to see for themselves just how well stars Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams met the task. Here's our review out of Cannes, as well as for Ang Lee's gorgeous adaptation of "Life of Pi" which also gets a gala screening at the fest.
"Starlet," starring Dree Hemingway and Besedka Johnson, has been a busy festival bee leading up to its theatrical release on November 9. It is a surprising, unexpected and refreshing study of friendship and connection. We interview director Sean Baker ("Prince of Broadway") here.
Of the AFI Fest's twelve Foreign Language Oscar entries, we admired tense cold war drama from Germany "Barbara" (Christian Petzold), Romania's "Beyond the Hills" (Cristian Mungiu), South Korea's Golden Lion winner "Pieta" (Kim Ki-duk) and Austria's "Amour" (Michael Haneke), which could be a major factor in the Oscar race. We interview Danish "A Royal Affair" star Mads Mikkelson here (he also talks about "The Hunt," another must-see AFI Fest title for which he won Best Actor in Cannes).
Other Oscar submissions we need to catch include Mexico's "After Lucia" (dir: Michel Franco), Canada's "War Witch" (Kim Nguyen), Belgium's "Our Children" Joachim Lafosse, Italy's "Caesar Must Die" (Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani), Norway's "Kon-Tiki" (various directors) and Portugal's “Blood of My Blood” (João Canijo).