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December 20, 2012
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A Hollywood insider party in Aspen - and you're invited

ASPEN - Congrats, you've hit the big time: the holidays in Aspen. But you want more, you want to be in the inner circle. You want to tell the folks back home you rubbed elbows with the fabulous people, you saw some movie stars, you got to experience something that just doesn't happen everywhere, you were among the exclusive crowd.So here's a cool things about Aspen during the Christmas/New Year's week: One of the most singular happenings is open to the public.Aspen Film's Academy Screenings series, the 21st edition of which opens this week, bringing a few handfuls of Oscar-contending movies, is aimed at the Hollywood crowd. The thinking goes that the movie industry gathers in large numbers in Aspen over the holidays, and the studios and distributors want to give these people every chance to see their films on a big screen, among an enthusiastic audience (rather than at home, on the couch, alone, watching from a DVD, flipping the channel every so often to check the score of the Lakers game)."We primarily do this as a service to people in the film industry - members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the Screen Writers Guild, the actors guilds, who are here," said Laura Thielen, artistic director of Aspen Film.But the Academy Screenings series - 17 films this year, being shown between Tuesday, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, at the Wheeler Opera House - opens its doors to the average cinemagoer. "This kind of screening is generally closed to the public," Thielen said. Not only is the ordinary film fan allowed in, but Aspen Film actively encourages all movie lovers to partake in the film bounty. The marketing departments who allow Aspen Film to present these special screenings aren't only interested in big screens; they also want full theaters, giving their films the most hospitable atmosphere. "These screenings provide an enthusiastic, festival-style audience," Thielen said. "It's an event, and that casts the film in a special light."This year's series gets a change of venue. With Harris Hall unavailable this winter, the Academy Screenings return to the Wheeler Opera House, where they were held for a couple of years when the series was starting up. The relocation should add to the cheer, with moviegoers gathering in the center of downtown Aspen, rather than driving to Harris Hall in the West End.On the downside, the venue switch reduces the number of screenings, from the usual 20-plus to 17. Still, film fanatics will likely consider this year's series, which includes a handful of movies that won't be in wide release for several weeks, a sufficient feast.Topping it off, the Academy Screenings has built an impressive track record. The last three winners of the Oscar for best picture - "The Artist," "The King's Speech" and "The Hurt Locker" - have all been presented in the series.A look at this year's lineup:"Zero Dark Thirty," about the hunt for and capture of Osama bin-Laden, is director Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to "The Hurt Locker," another contemporary military story. The film, nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, shows here Jan. 1, 10 days before its national opening. "Silver Linings Playbook," a portrait of romance and bickering in an offbeat Philadelphia family, has earned a handful of awards for lead actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and for screenwriter/director David O. Russell. "Promised Land," by director Gus Van Sant, stars Matt Damon as a salesman for a natural gas company who encounters opposition in a small town. "The Sessions" stars John Hawkes as a man in an iron lung who contacts a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) about losing his virginity.Among the leading Oscar contenders that have already been in wide release are "The Master," "Lincoln" and "Argo." "The Master," director Paul Thomas Anderson's story of a World War II veteran's relationship with the charismatic leader of a social movement, stands nominated for three Golden Globe Awards for its three lead actors, Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the president during his effort to abolish slavery, is nominated for seven Golden Globes. "Argo" is a thriller about the rescue of hostages from 1979 Tehran, directed by and starring Ben Affleck.The Academy Screenings series will offer an early look at "Not Fade Away," a rock 'n' roll coming-of-age story set in 1960s New Jersey, directed by "Sopranos" creator David Chase; and "Quartet," the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman, about a group of musicians in a retirement home preparing for their annual concert.Other new films to be screened include "Hyde Park on Hudson," starring Bill Murray as President Franklin Roosevelt, having an affair with his distant cousin (Laura Linney); "Ginger & Rosa," starring Elle Fanning and Christina Hendricks as teenagers in 1962 London balancing their ambitions and realities; "On the Road," director Walter Salles' adaptation of Jack Kerouac's 1957 novel, featuring Kristen Stewart, Steve Buscemi, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen; and "Anna Karenina," an adaptation of the Tolstoy novel, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law.Foreign features in the Academy Screenings lineup include "Amour," a story of late-in-life romance by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, which earned the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival; "Rust and Bone," French filmmaker Jacques Audiard's gritty look at family and romance, featuring Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose"); the Danish historical drama "A Royal Affair," which earned two awards at the Berlin Film Festival; and "The Intouchables," a French film about an aristocrat who hires a man from the housing projects to be his caretaker.For further information on the Academy Screening series, including dates and times, go to aspenfilm.org.stewart@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 21, 2012 05:52AM Published Dec 20, 2012 02:49PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.