January 18, 2013
By John Lopez | Festivals, Films

Stella Artois
Photo by Annie Leibovitz for Stella Artois

The glitz, glamour and indie madness of the Sundance Film Festival descended on Park City, Utah, on Thursday with a quadripartite set of premieres: documentaries Who Is Dayani Cristal? and Twenty Feet from Stardom and narrative features Crystal Fairy, by Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Silva, and May in the Summer from Palestinian-American director Cherien Dabis. Of the openers, Crystal Fairy seems like a particularly intriguing prospect since Silva’s previous films, The Maid and Old Cats, demonstrate a gritty, ironic flair tempered with engaging humanism. Sundance’s official day-one party followed at the Legacy Lodge.

The festival kicks into high gear today as the last bulk of journalists, cineastes and fashionistas hop off early morning flights into the deep mountain freeze. The most pressing question (second only to “Where did I put my jacket?”) is what to line up for first? The advance word and star wattage of Don Jon’s Addiction and Kill Your Darlings secure them as Friday’s main events. The former, directed by indie prince Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and starring himself and Scarlett Johansson), apparently lives up to its celebrity quotient. As for the latter, if industry insiders are to be believed, Daniel Radcliffe pulls it off as Allen Ginsberg ensnared in a murder during his formative years at Columbia. (Also intriguing, based on their synopses on the Sundance app, are Circles and Sightseers, though one hears mixed opinions about Austenland.)

For a guaranteed dose of gripping, thoughtful filmmaking, check out No and The Gatekeepers—both nominated for Oscars this year in the Best Foreign Film and Best Documentary categories, respectively. No stars Gael García Bernal as an advertising wunderkind who helped topple Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet with a peppy TV campaign after the international community pressured Pinochet to put his rule before a plebiscite. In The Gatekeepers, director Dror Moreh interviews the six heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service, offering a compelling and necessary examination into the failure of the Middle East peace process. Both films offer political junkies eye-opening food for thought and grist for many a late-night conversation.

The Parties

Sundance is far from just sobering cinema; there are plenty of parties on Park City’s Main Street. Chase Sapphire sponsors afternoon cocktails with indie godfather/actor/director/writer Ed Burns, and Sony Classics has evening drinks planned in honor of No and The Gatekeepers with García Bernal and Moreh.

Stella Artois, one of the festival’s sponsors and by far the most ubiquitous beer at Sundance, is throwing a party hosted by Noah Huntley to celebrate the launch of its new campaign (a sneak peek is pictured above), which Annie Leibovitz photographed.

Later, club bunnies can warm up from the cold at Hyde Lounge, the venerable L.A. club Hyde’s Park City outpost for the weekend, and the nonprofit Minga will throw a private bash with an appearance by Adrian Grenier + the Skins. As always, too much to do.

November 07, 2012
By Erin Schumaker | Festivals, Films

Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo courtesy of the Napa Valley Film Festival

Move over, Sundance: A little film festival in California wine country is poised to make big waves. In its second year, the five-day Napa Valley Film Festival (November 7 to 11) will show more than 100 independent films and expects to attract nearly 50,000 attendees.

Founder Marc Lhormer and his wife, Brenda, have high hopes for the festival’s success as an end-of-year bookend to Sundance, which kicks off the movie-going season each January in Utah. In addition to paying homage to independent film, the festival also showcases Napa Valley wine culture. Set up like four festivals in one, it features approximately 150 wineries across Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga—towns that directly participate in the event. Best of all, each city has its own wine pavilions, meaning attendees don’t need to drive and are free to slow down and enjoy each other’s company. The festival has an old-fashioned European vibe, according to Lhormer. “You never actually have to leave your town,” he says. 

This year’s highlights include the festival gala, with a gourmet meal cooked by 22 top Napa Valley chefs, and, of course, California wine tastings (November 8). As for film, sommeliers and foodies from all over the world are flying in for the world premiere of Somm, a documentary about four sommeliers preparing for the notoriously difficult Master Sommelier exam (fewer than 200 people have passed the test since 1969). “We look for positive stories about people trying to do great things, or working through challenges and finding hope and inspiration,” says Lhormer of his selection process. “Those are the movies we like and they tend to go better with the wine.” November 7 to 11; day passes, from $50; patron passes, from $2,500; 707-226-7500;

August 28, 2012
By Erin Schumaker | Festivals

An Exercise in the Unorthodox at Chicago Fringe Festival
Amy Bolger

Called “an elaborate exercise in organized chaos and on-the-edge expression” by the Chicago Sun-Times, the third annual Chicago Fringe Festival (August 30 to September 9) delights in the unconventional. Held in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, home to many of the city’s artists and writers, the 11-day event is a mecca for performance art. The shows cover a wide range of genres—from theater and dance to puppetry and spoken word—and organizers praise the festival for its inclusivity (performers are selected by a lottery and include both professionals and amateurs).

Fringe has a long-standing history: In 1947, eight uninvited theater groups arrived to perform at the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland. They did their thing despite crashing the party, and the next year even more uninvited groups tagged along. Journalist Robert Kemp dubbed the interlopers “the fringe,” and the movement was born. Chicago’s fest kicks off with shows like The Alembic by Terra Mysterium, a haunting musical about a goddess and an alchemist, and Handshake Uppercut by Jay Dunn and John Leo, a meandering mash-up of 1920s silent-film style and rock 'n’ roll hijinks, as seen through the eyes of two gentlemanly (to a point) brawlers. August 30 through September 9; performances are held at various venues; 773-428-9977 for more information; 866-811-4111 for tickets;

May 08, 2012
By Jordan Kisner | Festivals

30th Annual Paso Robles Wine Festival
Courtesy Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance

Paso Robles is one of California’s largest and most scenic wine regions, with 26,000 vineyard acres running up the Central Coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Once a year the area comes together to celebrate its 180 wineries and 40 varietals—from heritage Zinfandel to French Viognier. And this year promises to be especially festive as Paso Robles marks its 30th annual Wine Festival, from May 18 to 20. The weekend kicks off with a reserve event on Friday, where the region’s top wineries will showcase their reserves and futures, offering eager oenophiles the opportunity to bid on vintages while they’re still in the barrel.

The festivities continue Saturday with a tasting from 60 wineries in downtown Paso Robles, where holders of premium tickets ($75) can enter early to enjoy a more personal experience. Then there are the events—more than 150 of them in all—at the wineries themselves. Choose from cave tours, live music, a tri-tip barbecue at Eberle Winery (the 2011 Winery of the Year), a four-course, farm-fresh feast (with wine pairings, of course) in the garden at Harmony Cellars (3255 Harmony Valley Rd.; 805-927-1624; and more. May 18–20; reserve admission, $125; vineyard events, ticketed separately;

May 03, 2012
By Ingrid Skjong | New York, Festivals, Cocktails

© Courtesy Jarlsberg & Wild Hibiscus Flower Company

The fascination with cocktails shows no signs of stopping, and the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, from May 11 to 15—a showcase of memorable libations, mixology talent, drinks lore and good times—aims to keep it that way. Tickets are still available for a host of interesting, and appropriately spirited, events held throughout Manhattan. Head to a rum-fueled celebration of Havana, Cuba, at Mother’s Ruin in Nolita, or embark on the Gentleman’s Cocktail Crawl (ladies are also more than welcome to attend)—a black-tie-optional bar crawl involving some of the borough’s finest hotel cocktail spots, like at Andaz Wall Street’s Bar Seven Five (75 Wall St.).

You can also enjoy getting to know boutique alcohol brands from around the world at the classic’s Indie Spirits Expo at Crimson (915 Broadway), which capitalizes on the popularity of all things artisanal. “Bar owners, mixologists and cocktail fans can taste and learn about these fine spirits and the dedicated and passionate individuals who work so hard to bring them to the marketplace,” says expo producer David Schmier. And if you’re in the mood for a real jolt, enjoy The Darkest Night: an evening of whisky punch and a performance of the surreal interactive play Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel (530 W. 27th St.). Bowmore will provide the single malt Scotch; Sleep No More will deliver more than a few chills—and not of the ice-cold-cocktail variety. May 11–15;

February 22, 2012
By Erin Schumaker | Festivals

Festivals: Marrakech Biennale 2012
Barkow Liebinger Architects—work in progress. Photo by Alia Radman.

Morocco has always held a certain artistic allure: Matisse painted open-air portraits in Tangier; William Burroughs’s early novel Interzone was inspired by his time in Morocco; and Talitha Getty became the face of Marrakech during her reign as a ’60s style icon.

The fourth edition of the Marrakech Biennale continues this tradition. This year’s biennale, titled “Surrender,” will be the first major trilingual (English, Arabic and French) festival to highlight contemporary art, literature and film in North Africa and includes more than 60 participants from around the world. In addition to the myriad performances, screenings and talks taking place during the week, the festival celebrates the opening of its main visual-arts exhibition, “Higher Atlas” (on display through June 3). The show will feature site-specific commissions conceived and created on location by local craftspeople and manufacturers. Architect Carson Chan, cocurator of the exhibit, says the exhibition seeks to challenge the traditional methods of biennale-making. “Do we have to show art?” he asks. “Why not commission a novel, a symphony, an album or a prayer?” The Marrakech Biennale runs February 29–March 4;

February 17, 2012
By Jamie Wiebe | Travel, Festivals

Miami Boat Show 2012
Courtesy Miami International Boat Show

Boat aficionados of every stripe—sailors, fishermen, yachtsmen alike—will drop anchor in Miami this weekend for the 71st annual Miami International Boat Show, one of the most prestigious gatherings worldwide. In a rare U.S. appearance, Jimmy Cornell, the accomplished Romanian yachtsman and author, will teach a hands-on lesson and share tales from his three circumnavigations of the globe—once with his wife and children in tow. Miami will host more than 3,000 boats at three locations, including the cutting-edge Beneteau Sense 55, with an innovative joystick-maneuvering system ($2.2 million), and the luxurious custom-wood-hulled Maccarini Navegentes, a 95-footer crafted in Brazil by local artisans ($2.5 million). The five-day pass, which includes admission to Thursday’s VIP Premiere Day, is $80; single-day tickets cost $18; February 16–20;

January 20, 2012
By Alexandra Wolfe | Festivals


From filmmaker dinners at the Montage Deer Valley’s Supper Suite featuring Bravo’s Top Chef alum Marcel Vigneron and the hotel’s own executive chef Shawn Armstrong to the St. Regis’ Film Festival Wine Dinners at Jean-Georges’ J&G Grill to Hyatt Escala’s new $3.5 million restaurant, this year the festival is almost as much about the food as the film. Outside the theater, look out for Frank Langella, Liv Tyler, James Marsden and Peter Saarsgard at the Robot & Frank cocktail hors d’oeuvres reception on Saturday, catered by the Montage’s new Yama Sushi. Then hang out with Olympic medalist Shannon Bahrke at J&G before show time. We talked to two-star Michelin Chef Christopher Lee of Eden Miami and the Huntington
Social who will be cooking three different dinners for the Supper Club at the
Axe Hair Media Lounge, and Celeste Fierro and Liran Mezan of the One Group (STK) about the restaurant scene at this year’s festival. What special events are you working on for Sundance and how did you come up with the menu?

Chris Lee: We are doing dinners for the cast of The Comedy as well as the Playboy Imaginative Filmmakers Spotlight Award. The menus were developed with seasonal ingredients and recipes that highlight my cooking style: combining seasonality with creativity, and inspired by abstract art.

Celeste Fierro: This year we're excited to have our new Corporate Chef Liran Mezan to spearhead the menu. STK comes to Sundance hosting private dinners for Black
Rock, For a Good Time Call
and Lay the Favorite, among others.

Why is Sundance an important market for you, and how did you decide to do the pop-up?

Lee: As a chef, Sundance is full of creative, artistic people who I hope will appreciate that aspect of my food. I am happy to have the opportunity to cook for them. As a business owner, Sundance is one of the most prestigious film festivals that attracts people from all parts of the world. This kind of exposure is priceless.

What are you most looking forward to this year at Sundance? How does the atmosphere fit with your restaurant or image?

Lee: I am looking forward to doing the Showcase dinner on Sunday, it is always nice to be a part of a highly coveted event. There have been a lot of great chefs before me who have cooked for this, and I am happy to add my name to that roster. The atmosphere fits with my concepts very well. From what I have seen, the vibe of Sundance is very much glitz and glamour, but in an approachable way. You have movie stars and the red carpet, but everyone is running around in jeans and snow boots.

Fierro: The One Group, Gansevoort Hotel Group and Direct TV partnered to create a great space on Main Street, the center of the festival, hosting private dinners and a late night lounge. David Mast and Dwell magazine assisted in creating a space that was a combination of both TOG and GHG in a ski lodge setting.

Who would you most like to meet this year at Sundance?

Lee: I am still waiting to meet Mr. Redford. And since we are doing a dinner that is sponsored by Playboy, it would be awesome to meet Hef.

Liran Mezan: J.J. Abrams.

How would you describe the restaurant scene during the festival? How has it changed over the years?

Lee: The restaurant scene is going to be off the hook, full of people who know good food. It is really great that the festival flies in chefs to help celebrate these great accomplishments.

Mezan: There's a greater energy this year. You can already feel it on Main Street. Perhaps it’s an uptick in the economy, or the great films and filmmakers show. Whatever it is, we're excited.

Does the film lineup have any bearing on what you will create?

Lee: Well, I definitely took into consideration who will be in the dining room and tried to design a menu that will amuse, inspire, and impress. I didn’t have a particular film in mind, but I did think about the vibe of Sundance being relaxed and comfortable, and cold, so I went with braised short rib because it is a nice hearty winter dish.

Photo © Brandon Perlman

August 31, 2011
By Marnie Hanel | Festivals

The third dimension. Courtesy of the Telluride Film Festival.

Telluride Film Festival: Now in its 38th year, the Colorado festival never reveals its lineup in advance. Still, it's worth the risk. Three film legends are honored with tributes every year, and the film selection is top-notch. Last year, the festival lifted the curtain on Oscar winner The King's Speech.

Chicago Jazz Festival: In its 33rd year, the festival will be spread throughout the city at Grant Park, Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center. Orbert Davis is the artist in residence this year.

Los Angeles's The Taste: Food Network favorites Giada de Laurentiis and Duff Goldman are among the celebrity chefs anchoring L.A.'s unprecedented four-day food fest, in which nine tasting events will be held throughout Beverly Hills, Hollywood and downtown.

Atlanta's Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival: Look up! Callaway Gardens hosts the 13th annual hot air balloon festival this weekend. Don't miss the balloon burners illuminating the sky during the "Balloon Glow" on Friday at dusk at Robin Lake Beach.

Blue Hill Fair: Get back to basics at the quintessential county fair in Blue Hill, Maine. From the tractor pull to the blueberry pie-eating contest to the Ferris wheel, it's down-home Americana.

What's on your culture radar? Here's what's on ours