Only in Aspen (and N.Y. and L.A.) – sneak film previews | AspenTimes.com

Only in Aspen (and N.Y. and L.A.) – sneak film previews

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

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ASPEN – “Barney’s Version,” featuring Paul Giammatti in a Golden Globe-nominated role as a larger-than-life TV producer, probably isn’t coming to a theater near you anytime soon. Neither are director Peter Weir’s “The Way Back”; “The Company Men,” with a cast of Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Kevin Costner; nor the edgy romance “Blue Valentine,” starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, both in Golden Globe-nominated performances.

Unless the theaters near you happen to be Aspen’s Harris Hall and the Wheeler Opera House.

Aspen Film’s annual Academy Screenings series, which opens Wednesday, presents 19 films, a handful of which aren’t scheduled for wide release for several weeks. “Barney’s Version,” with a supporting cast of Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver and Rosamund Pike; “The Way Back,” starring Ed Harris and Colin Farrell in a true-life tale of escape from a Soviet gulag; “The Company Men,” a story of the current economic malaise; and “Blue Valentine,” the first feature by Colorado-bred director Derek Cianfrance, are among the films that will have a narrow release – in New York and Los Angeles, to make them Oscar-eligible – before opening in more theaters in January. Other films in the series which will only be in limited release when they are screened here include “Biutiful,” a Spanish film starring Javier Bardem; the animated French movie “The Illusionist”; and “Somewhere,” by director Sofia Coppola.

Laura Thielen, a devout film enthusiast, as well as the artistic director of Aspen Film, said that Academy Screenings let her feel as if she is in the midst of Hollywood at its high season – without having to fight the traffic on the 405. Thielen recently watched interviews with Affleck and Coppola, and was grateful to know she could see their films, on the big screen, before the reviews prejudiced her thinking – or even worse, if she had to see them by putting them on her Netflix list.

“I don’t have to wonder and wait,” she said. “We get to see them on the big screen right as they’re happening. I can see them for myself.”

The Academy Screenings series runs through Jan. 1, with most screenings at Harris Hall, and two events at the Wheeler. There are no screenings scheduled for Friday or Saturday, Dec. 24-25.

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The series opens Wednesday with “The Fighter,” at 5:30 p.m. David O. Russell’s film, starring Mark Wahlberg as a struggling boxer and Christian Bale as his half-brother and coach, has earned a Golden Globe nomination for best drama, with Wahlberg and Bale, as well as co-stars Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, up for acting Golden Globes. Also Wednesday, at 8:15 p.m., is “Fair Game,” based on the real-life political thriller involving undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) and her husband, retired ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn). Both films are at Harris Hall.

The program for Thursday features “Get Low,” starring Robert Duvall as a hermit in rural, 1930s Tennessee who emerges to throw himself a funeral party; and “True Grit,” a remake of the 1969 Western, that reunites filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen with their “Big Lebowski” star Jeff Bridges. Both films are at the Wheeler.

Other leading Oscar contenders showing in Academy Screenings include director Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller “Black Swan,” starring Natalie Portman as a ballerina engaged in a twisted rivalry; “The King’s Speech,” starring Colin Firth as the stuttering King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as the unorthodox therapist who treats him; “Biutiful,” with Javier Bardem as a man fighting cancer and living in the shadow world of Barcelona’s immigrant community; “Rabbit Hole,” starring Nicole Kidman as a woman trying to rescue her marriage; and “Casino Jack,” with Kevin Spacey as the crooked, real-life lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

For a full schedule of titles, dates and times, go to aspenfilm.org.

stewart@aspentimes.com

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