It's a wrap: Scenes from the 25th Virginia Film Fest

The badge-wearing moviegoers and filmmakers have cleared out of town and the curtain has gone down on the November 1-4 Virginia Film Festival, with all signs pointing to another record year for the 25th moviethon.

Over 100 films were screened, and by 7pm Sunday, publicist John Kelly said 39 films had sold out, topping last year's record.

The Hook has watched the Virginia Film Festival evolve over the years from when its existence was in doubt to become, at 25, a Charlottesville institution. What hasn't changed is the chance to catch actors and directors discussing their work and every once in a while, a great film that you wouldn't be able to see anywhere else.

Another given: The Hook weighing in on the fest's highs– and lows.

Things we liked: No screenings were held at Culbreth, the most uncomfortable theater in Charlottesville, in our humble opinion. Although we found ourselves struggling to find legroom in Hour Two of movies shown at the Paramount.

Things we missed: The Friday morning/early afternoon screenings. Veteran festival-goer Rick Sincere notes that in the past, hardcore attendees already could have seen two films by 3pm Friday, when things kicked off this year.

Mark Johnson really has kept this festival afloat: The UVA grad and Film Festival Advisory Board chair has been steering movies and stars to Charlottesville since 1988, when the Festival began, which is also the same year the producer's Rain Man won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. He brought 12 films this year, according to Kielbasa, including opening night's Not Fade Away, the first feature film of Sopranos' creator David Chase. Johnson is such a favorite son of Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation honoring his efforts.

"It sounds like an obituary:" Johnson's response to the extolling of his achievements, which include more than 50 films and the critically acclaimed series, Breaking Bad.

There's sold out, and there's sold out: Although tickets at the Paramount were "sell-outs" every night, the theater was way more packed November 2 for All the President's Men than the preceding or subsequent evenings, like the Sunday night screening of the touching and uproarious The Sessions, when the balcony was kept empty.

How to tell it's a period film: "It's an accepted convention that everyone speak with a British accent," explains Keith Carradine, who decided to use a mid-Atlantic accent in the 1977 film, The Duellists, with a very young Harvey Keitel.

Then there's the costumes: At first, their Napoleonic Wars Hussar attire was made from authentic materials, but had to be changed to more modern fabrics. "You'd make a thrust and your pants would split," says Carradine following the November 3 screening of The Duellists.

Carradine dishes on difficult actors: He cites wisdom from his father, character actor John Carradine, who said, "Temperament at work is nothing more than bad manners." He also notes that Keitel "has mellowed considerably."

What cineastes notice in The Duellists: In the proposal scene, NYU film prof Harry Chotiner asks Carradine, "Is your wife laughing because your horse had an enormous erection?"

Note to filmmakers: Audiences like short films, at least the crowd did at the 32-minute screening November 4 of Julian Bond: Reflections from the Frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement by local Eduardo Montes-Bradley. One guy complained about sitting through two 90-minute documentaries that "just dragged." And we turned away from a film we wanted to see after noticing a 147-minute running time.

Feedback filmmakers love to hear: "I thought it was a superb film because I wasn't annoyed or bored at any point," legendary local activist Jane Foster tells Montes-Bradley about Julian Bond.

In the category of old-people movies: It was a tossup between the end-of-days debilitation of Amour by director-we-love Michael Haneke, or Dustin Hoffman's lighter-touch fairy tale of the musicians retirement home, Quartet, with Maggie Smith. We went with utterly predictable– and utterly charming.

This year's disturbing theater behavior: "Coating," the subtle ploy typically used by subversive seniors who place outerwear on the seat in front of them to discourage anyone from sitting there and blocking their view, which kept us from getting an aisle seat at Quartet.

You know those earnest, reverential discussions that you have to sneak out of? The loose-cannon panel following Fat Kid Rules the World November 4 with director Matthew Lillard, Charlottesville-raised actor Billy Campbell, and WVTF reporter Sandy Hausman, all sitting on the edge of the stage, was nothing like that, and probably was the most hilarious post-film discussion we've ever seen.

Billy Campbell's shocking confession about what really went on at Fork Union Military Academy: The star of The Killing says his six years at FUMA provided the military experience for playing a former-Marine dad in Fat Kid. "What were you doing there?" asks Hausman. "A lot of masturbating," replies Campbell.

Film that really should have distribution: Fat Kid Rules the World, which is based on the popular K.L. Goings young-adult novel about a suicidal, obese teen saved by a junkie musician– and punk rock– has several fans of the book on hand at the screening, but Lillard predicts that could be the film's last showing in a theater.

How you get an R rating: "That's really disgusting," complains Lillard about the rating that will bar his target young-teen audience from Fat Kid. He says he didn't show shooting up, he didn't show sex, but got dinged because the junkie steals drugs three times, and because "there's boobs and simulated masturbation."

Our favorite question after audience queries have gone on a little too long: "How do you moisturize?" quips Lillard, ending the 2012 Virginia Festival of Film on a perfectly irreverent note.

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1 comment

Well done Lisa!