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Filmfest offers stockings full of major movie action

Stewart Oksenhorn

Aspen Filmfest must think that its audience has been good ladies and gentlemen this year. Filmfest sure is stuffing the stocking this holiday season.Filmfest announced the schedule for its 10th annual Academy Screenings program, and it is packed. The series, which begins Dec. 18, will bring 18 films, almost all highly regarded, featuring major stars and directors, to Harris Concert Hall for single screenings. Many of the films will only see limited releases; others will not get a wide release until next year. Filmfest has been presenting the Academy Screenings series in the hopes that any members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences vacationing in Aspen for the holiday season will get the opportunity to see the films before voting for the Academy Awards.The Academy Screenings opens on Dec. 18 with “All the Pretty Horses.” Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, the Southwestern romance stars Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz. In “Tigerland,” showing Dec. 19, director Joel Schumacher, known for such films as “Batman Forever,” breaks from the blockbuster mold to tell a story of young soldiers training for service in the Vietnam War.”The Claim,” director Michael Winterbottom’s love story set in the 19th-century California Gold Rush, is set for Dec. 20. On Dec. 21, the series presents Gus Van Sant’s “Finding Forrester,” starring Sean Connery as a literary recluse who surfaces thanks to the intrusion of an aspiring young writer.”Dancer in the Dark,” from Danish filmmaker Lars Van Trier, stars Icelandic pop singer Björk as a factory worker going blind, and shows Dec. 22. Phillip Kaufman’s “Quills,” a sexual comedy about the later years of the Marquis de Sade starring Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet and Michael Caine, is scheduled for Dec. 23.The Academy Screenings take a two-day break for Christmas Eve and Christmas, resuming on Dec. 26 with “Pollock,” starring Ed Harris as the American painter Jackson Pollock. “The Gift,” also on Dec. 26, is a supernatural thriller directed by Sam Raimi, written by Billy Bob Thornton, and with a cast that features Cate Blanchett, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank and Keanu Reeves.”You Can Count On Me,” a realistic drama that earned the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, shows on Dec. 27. Also on Dec. 27 is painter-turned-director Julian Schnabel’s “Before Night Falls,” based on the autobiography of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas.”The House of Mirth,” an adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel starring Gillian Anderson, shows on Dec. 28. “Malena,” a coming-of-age story set in 1940s Italy by “Cinema Paradiso” director Giuseppe Tornatore, will be screened later that day.”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” a drama directed by Ang Lee that explores family and the martial arts, is set for Dec. 29. On Dec. 30 is “Chocolat,” a romance set in France by “The Cider House Rules” director Lasse Halstrom and starring Juliette Binoche and Jonny Depp. “Traffic,” a thriller by director Steven Soderbergh and featuring Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, is also scheduled for Dec. 30.”Cast Away,” starring Tom Hanks as a plane crash survivor marooned on a tiny island, shows on Dec. 31. Jan. 1 brings “Vatel,” a lavish French costume drama starring Gérard Depardieu, Uma Thurman and Tim Roth. The Academy Screenings conclude on Jan. 1 with “State and Main,” a David Mamet comedy set in a small New England town and starring William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin and Sarah Jessica Parker.All Academy Screenings presentations are at Harris Hall. Tickets for all screenings go on sale at the Wheeler Opera House box office on Dec. 11.


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