Academy screenings pick up pace |

Academy screenings pick up pace

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

For many in Aspen, this is the busiest stretch of the year, packed with parties, friends, shopping, skiing and dining.

The smart moviegoer, however, has cleared his calendar. This weekend, Aspen Filmfest’s Academy Screenings presents six films: two a day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 26-28. The series, at Harris Hall, continues with daily screenings of Oscar hopefuls through Jan. 2.

Here’s what’s on the screen this weekend:

“The Company,” Friday, Dec. 26, 5:30 p.m.

Writer-director Robert Altman pulls back the curtain for a fictionalized look at a year behind the scenes at the Joffrey Ballet. Neve Campbell, drawing on her experience with the National Ballet of Canada, stars as a promising young ballerina, and Malcolm McDowell plays the company’s authoritarian director.

Even though it features actual Joffrey dancers, “The Company” is presented as fiction. But in a three-and-a-half star review, Roger Ebert says there is an enormous autobiographical element to the film. In its view of the creative process, says Ebert, “The Company” mirrors Altman’s own artistic struggles and vision.

“Calendar Girls,” Friday, Dec. 2, 8:15 p.m.

Faced with the need to raise some fast cash, an unlikely group of Brits peel off their clothes in public with comic results.

“The Full Monty,” right? Actually, it’s “Calendar Girls,” a comedy about a group of proper, not-young English women ” including Julie Walters and Helen Mirren ” who make a nudie calendar to raise funds for a charitable cause. The calendar, sagging boobs and all, is a major success and the ladies become momentary international celebs.

Unlike “The Full Monty,” “Calendar Girls” is based on reality. And director Nigel Coles seems to be working on a theme here. His last film, “Saving Grace,” also focused on a British woman finding an unusual way to make money ” growing dope ” and getting naked in the process.

“Big Fish,” Saturday, Dec. 27, 5:30 p.m.

Tim Burton can’t help himself from working on a stunning visual scale, from “Batman” to “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” But he is at his best when the story takes center stage, as with the great “Ed Wood.”

Here, Burton seems to be focusing on story like never before. “Big Fish” examines a story-telling old man, Edward (Albert Finney) reuniting with the estranged son (Billy Crudup) who only wants to know the real story ” the truth ” about his dad. The tale unfolds as a series of flashbacks, with Ewan McGregor playing the young Edward, and Danny DeVito and Helena Bonham-Carter as characters in the tall tales.

“The Statement,” Saturday, Dec. 27, 8:15 p.m.

“The Statement” stars Michael Caine as Brossard, a former Nazi executioner in France’s Vichy regime who has been protected for decades by the Catholic right wing. As a new investigation is being launched in present-day France, Brossard tries to both avoid capture and atone for his past. Directed by Norman Jewison, the film co-stars Tilda Swinton and Charlotte Rampling.

n “Fog of War,” Sunday, Dec. 28, 5:30 p.m.

Subtitled “Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara” and structured as a catalog of life lessons, this documentary of the Cold War-era Secretary of Defense sounds as though it might be a yawner. But “Fog of War,” directed by famed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (“Thin Blue Line”), is earning raves for its examination of an elderly man rethinking the influential decisions he made years ago.

“The Barbarian Invasions,” Sunday, Dec. 28, 8:15 p.m.

“The Barbarian Invasions” has Canadian filmmaker Denys Arcand revisiting the characters from his 1986 film “The Decline of the American Empire.” One of those characters, history professor Remy Girard, is nearing the end of his life and has drawn his family and friends to his side for further entanglement.

[Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is]

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