Aspen Filmfest turns focus on new voices | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Filmfest turns focus on new voices

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Contributed photoDirector Jason Reitman will be honored with the New Directions Award at Aspen Filmfest 2009, which opens later this month. The festival will include a screening of "Up in the Air," Reitman's follow-up to 2007's Academy Award-winner, "Juno."

ASPEN – Laura Thielen, executive director of Aspen Film, says she likes the idea of paying tribute to movie figures who are at various stages of their careers.With Aspen Filmfest 2009, she thinks she has gotten her wish, as the 30-year-old organization honors a director who has emerged over the last four years as a distinctive, satirical voice; an actress who is poised to start earning wide recognition; and an actor/writer/director who has been around long enough to make a mark in both indie and big-budget films, TV and on stage.Filmfest 2009, opening later this month, will see awards bestowed on Jason Reitman, director of 2007’s Oscar-winning “Juno”; Paula Patton, who is spotlighted in “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire,” which won multiple awards at the Sundance Festival; and Stanley Tucci, who is featured in the current blockbuster, “Julie & Julia.”Reitman will be the recipient of the inaugural New Directions Award on Friday, Oct. 2. Reitman’s appearance will include a screening of his new film, “Up in the Air,” starring George Clooney as a corporate downsizer whose life revolves around airplanes, airports and airline miles. Patton will be given another new honor, the Artist to Watch Award, on Oct. 1, prior to a screening of “Precious,” a drama about a Harlem teen finding her way out of a miserable existence.Tucci is set to receive the Independent by Nature Award on Oct. 3, in an event that includes a reel of clips from his career. Tucci’s big screen credits include “The Terminal,” “Road to Perdition,” “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” and is set to appear later this year in “The Lovely Bones,” directed by Peter Jackson. Filmfest will also present, as a free community screening, “Big Night,” an award-winning independent film co-written and co-directed by, and starring, Tucci.He will join past Independent by Nature honorees Michael Douglas, Anjelica Huston, Rob Reiner, the late Sydney Pollack and Aspenite Bob Rafelson.”For our 30th anniversary, he’s a perfect honoree,” said Thielen of Tucci, “because he’s straddling indy and Hollywood movies. And TV. And stage. Yeah, he’s a movie star. But he’s also an artist. He’s a character actor and in lead roles, and I love the way he inhabits his roles.”Thielen added that “Big Night,” about two brothers who stake their struggling restaurant on one special dinner, was an appropriate choice: “It’s the film that introduced him to the independent world.”Patton, said Thielen, plays a vital role in “Precious,” portraying a teacher, Ms. Rain, who reaches out to a troubled teen. “Paula plays the pivotal character who helps Precious turn around,” said Thielen. “She doesn’t have the most dramatic, outrageous role, but she is pivotal to Precious’ emergence.”Reitman, unlike Tucci and Patton, has a long-standing tie with Aspen Film. He and his regular producer, Daniel Dubiecki, have said they developed their filmmaking skills during their frequent appearances at Aspen Shortsfest. Reitman, the son of producer/director Ivan Reitman, appeared at Shortsfest 2005 for a screening of his feature debut, “Thank You for Smoking.””I love Jason. We love Jason,” said Thielen. “We’ve been following [“Up in the Air”] for a while.”Filmfest 2009, which runs Sept. 30-Oct. 4 with programs in Aspen and Carbondale, presents features, documentaries, foreign-language films and live events.Among the features to be screened are “Amreeka,” about a Palestinian woman who moves to the U.S.; “The Boys Are Back,” an Australian film about a father and sons starring Clive Owen; and “Mary and Max,” an animated film featuring the voices of Toni Colette and Philip Seymour Hoffman.Documentaries include “Capitalism: A Love Story,” by provocateur Michael Moore; “After the Storm,” about a theater production mounted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; “Nomad’s Land,” about a man’s Asian travels; and “High Turns: Skiing Aspen to Everest,” a mountaineering film by Aspenite Mike Marolt.Foreign titles include the Italian comedy “Mid-August Lunch”; “Snow,” a gentle story set in the aftermath of the Bosnian-Serbian war that won the Grand Prix at the Critic’s Week at Cannes; “For My Father,” an Israeli film about a Palestinian looking at his life while in Tel Aviv; and “Shameless,” by Czech director Jan Hrebejk.Film critics John Powers and Mark Olsen will appear in Critic’s Choice: Clips and Conversation, which will use movie clips to look at the role of film criticism; and Wildflower: Naturalist Joan Root on the Page and in the Bush will feature Aspenite Mark Seal reading from “Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa,” his new book about Root, a Kenyan conservationist and filmmaker.The full Filmfest program will be posted at aspenfilm.org this weekend. Tickets go on sale Sept. 21.stewart@aspentimes.com

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