Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings begin | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings begin

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen, CO Colorado

Denzel Washington is Mel Tolson in The Great Debaters.

This weekend at Aspen Film’s Academy Screen­ings (all screenings this weekend are at Harris Concert Hall):

(Friday, 5:30 p.m.) Denzel Washington made his directorial debut with “Antwone Fisher,” the true story of a troubled black Navy sailor. He reaches again into African-American history for his next film, “The Great Debaters,” about the real-life 1935 debate team at the traditionally black Texas school, Wiley College, which went on to challenge Harvard for the national championship. Washington, up for a Golden Globe award for best actor, stars as professor, poet and coach Mel Tolson in a film about the power of words in the struggle for civil rights.

(Friday, 8:30 p.m.) Jason Reitman, who earned acclaim for 2005’s “Thank You for Smoking,” takes another stab at satire with “Juno,” about the unusual decisions made by a pregnant teenager. The film is up for a Golden Globe for best musical or comedy, and Ellen Page, as the 16-year-old Juno, is nominated for best actress.

(Saturday, 5:30 p.m.) Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh star as bickering sisters in Noah Baumbach’s (“The Squid and the Whale”) film. Leigh’s insecure Pauline is about to marry an underachiever (Jack Black); Kidman, a brainy but neurotic novelist, arrives to offer criticism and inject an unneeded dose of angst to the proceedings.

(Saturday, 8 p.m.) Marion Cotillard, nominated for a Golden Globe, stars as doomed, delicate French chanteuse Edith Piaf in director Olivier Dahan’s biopic.

(Sunday, 5: 30 p.m.) Grace Phillips ” the mother of two girls, and the wife of John Cusack’s Stanley ” has died in battle in Iraq. But this debut from writer-director James C. Strouse stays away from politics entirely, and doesn’t dwell in tear- jerking sentiments about a family’s loss. Instead, “Grace Is Gone” focuses on Stanley’s awkward struggle to relate to his daughters, and his bumbling effort to protect them.

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(Sunday, 8 p.m.) Ang Lee returns to the Chinese language and a Chinese setting for the first time since 2000’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Set in World War II- era Shanghai, it is an espionage thriller pitting Chinese patriots against their countrymen who are collab­orating with the Japanese forces occupy­ing the city.

The Academy Screenings series runs through Jan. 2, with screenings daily except Monday, Dec. 24. Most screenings are at Harris Concert Hall, with two scheduled for the Wheeler Opera House.

Among the films scheduled after this weekend are: “The Bucket List,” a buddy comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Mor­gan Freeman (Wednesday, Dec. 26, at 5:30 p.m.); director Julian Schnabel’s French-­language drama “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Thursday, Dec. 27, at 5: 30 p.m.); ” Youth Without Youth,” the first film in a decade by Francis Ford Coppola (Fri­day, Dec. 28, at 8 p.m.); “There Will Be Blood,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s adapta­tion of the Upton Sinclair novel, “Oil” (Sat­urday, Dec. 29, at 8:15 p.m.); and “Atone­ment,” an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s best-selling novel ( Monday, Dec. 31, at 6:15 p.m.).

For a full schedule of Academy Screen­ings, go to http://www.aspenfilm.org.

stewart@aspentimes.com