Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

There is a scene in the film “The Devil Wears Prada” in which Stanley Tucci, who plays an art director named Nigel at the fictional Runway magazine, is stabbed in the back by Meryl Streep’s character. Streep, who plays the magazine’s editor, has orchestrated a Machiavellian plot that denies Nigel his dream job.

As the camera finds Tucci following the betrayal, there is a quick change, subtle as air, in his facial demeanor. His look, again, without much movement at all, registers surprise, shock, dejection and resignation all within a milli-second. Anyone who has ever been wronged could instantly relate to Tucci’s character, and the pain of being passed over publicly and simply having to take it.

That to me is great acting.

Aspen Filmfest honors Tucci Saturday evening with the Independent by Nature Award and he is certainly an actor whose work deserves the recognition. From his film debut in 1985 in the great John Huston’s “Prizzi’s Honor” to his recent role as Julia Child’s supportive husband Paul in this year’s “Julie and Julia,” he has always been an actor’s actor. Not one to dominate a screen or a story, but an actor who gets a character and understands where that character fits into the totality of the film. He is the kind of actor you see on the screen, recognize him as Stanley, and then promptly begin to see him as the character he is playing rather than as Stanley.

Aspen Filmfest is here again in all its glory. After 30 years the films just seem to get better and the Independent By Nature Awards never seem to be gratuitous or designed to gather publicity. Kudos to all involved over the years for producing one of the “real” reel fests in a world that has become overpopulated by imitators.

It was nice that this year’s Filmfest opened with a film by one of our own. I had seen Michael Marolt’s early version of “High Turns” at the Wheeler a while back, and he explained at the time that it was still a work in progress. Though I missed this showing, word is that Les Guthman’s reworking of the footage gave it a more theatrical air. The charm, of course, for those here, had to be that this was a global film about local boys who became men on the mountains they conquered and rode.

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On Sunday another local will take a turn as Mark Seal, a contributing Vanity Fair editor and Aspen local, will read from his book “Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa” at a screening of “Light, Action, Africa.” The book, which details the life and tragic, mysterious death of naturalist and filmmaker Joan Root, will no doubt be enhanced by the images of films Root shot and produced with her husband, Alan.

Filmfest is a local treasure. Mine it for all it is worth.