Again this year, Starz Denver Film Festival artistic director Brit Withey is offering his must-see picks for each day of the fest -- including many flicks that movie lovers might otherwise miss amid the flood of silver-screen goodies.
A Late Quartet Directed by Yaron Zilberman 8 p.m. Thursday, November 1 Ellie Caulkins Opera House
As artistic director Brit Withey points out, movie lovers can experience the Denver Film Festival in a variety of different ways. "People can go to the high-profile films on the program -- the ones they've heard about, or that may be nominated for Oscars," he says. "But for the vast majority of films on the program, this may be people's only chance to see them, because they'll never come around again."
The Opening Night, Big Night and Closing Night offerings fall into the former category. Take A Late Quartet, screening this evening at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The film features an impressive cast headed by Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman in a story about making beautiful music even after one member of the title ensemble (fellow Oscar winner Christopher Walken) reveals that he's been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
To Withey, the primary attributes of A Late Quartet are "the performances. You've got two of the greatest actors we've got -- actors who've not only given some of the best performances we've seen, but also had some of the best careers. Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of those actors who can do anything in any film, and Christopher Walken is the same way. He's just an amazing actor."
He also singles out Catherine Keener for praise. In his view, "this is a performance piece -- a film where you get to watch a group of really great actors do their thing."
By the way, actor Mark Ivanir and director Yaron Zilberman are scheduled to attend the screening.
Quartet Directed by Dustin Hoffman 8 p.m. Saturday, November 3 Ellie Caulkins Opera House
Although similarly titled, Quartet, the directorial debut of veteran actor and fellow Oscar magnet Dustin Hoffman, which is featured as this year's Big Night presentation, represents a tonal shift from A Late Quartet, Withey says.
"It's a lot of fun," he says of this look at a collection of retired theater vets (played by luminaries such as Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Billy Connolly) who confront aging with a decided lightness of spirit. "It's always really interesting to get to see somebody who's been an actor his whole life" -- Hoffman -- "have a chance to go behind the camera. It's a looser, wittier, really fun piece that I think people will really enjoy in the end."
Silver Linings Playbook Directed by David O. Russell 8 p.m. Saturday, November 10 Ellie Caulkins Opera House
Silver Linings Playbook, the Closing Night flick, unspooling on November 10, has already generated big buzz, with Oscar nom predictions aplenty thanks to the pedigree of director David O. Russell (recently lauded for The Fighter) and cast members Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro.
The subject matter -- Cooper plays a man just released from months in a psychiatric facility trying to readjust to life on the outside -- seems heavy, Withey concedes, "but David O. Russell is an amazing director, and he always gets great performances out of his actors. It's an intense story that really draws you into the character's relationships. It's gripping."
Look below to see the trailers for A Late Quartet, Quartet and Silver Linings Playbook.
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