January 22, 2013
By Erin Schumaker | Films


Courtesy of Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Beginning January 24, Southern California will welcome cinema aficionados from around the globe for the 28th installment of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The city prides itself on being a multifaceted surfing community with an environmentalist bent, but it is also a town of sophisticated filmgoers with a penchant for foreign flicks. “All of those traits make us who we are in Santa Barbara,” says executive director Roger Durling.

The festival—which will screen more than 200 films during its 11-day run, including a spate of independent titles from Colombia, Russia and everywhere in between—reflects these qualities. In addition to screenings, the event plans to honor filmmakers and actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio and host panel presentations on writing, directing and editing. (Christopher Plummer, pictured above, attended last year.)

Celebrities may play a major role, but staying true to the surrounding community is an equally important piece, with several outreach programs rounding out the festivities. AppleBox offers free movie screenings to low-income families, and Field Trip to the Movies busses in nearly 5,000 third- and sixth-graders for educational classes with filmmaking greats like James Cameron and Lee Unkrich. “It’s definitively our pride and joy,” says Durling. Through February 3; festival passes, from $325; 805-963-0023;

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;

October 11, 2012
By Ingrid Skjong | Arts + Culture, Films

Photo Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana

Fellini Satyricon, a film co-written and directed by Federico Fellini in 1969, has a friend in fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who helped facilitate its recent restoration and world premiere on October 13 at the New York Film Festival. The duo fell into the project via a phone call. Edoardo Ponti, a director and son of Sophia Loren, rang to let them know that the Cineteca Nazionale needed some support for the film’s refurbishment, which was curated by noted cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, director of photography at the organization.

“We are longtime admirers of Fellini, and his films have been a constant source of inspiration for us in our collections,” say Dolce and Gabbana. “By enabling the restoration of the film, we are able to protect a piece of history that is so important to the culture of Italy.”

Based on a story by first-century Roman Petronius Arbiter, Fellini Satyricon stars Martin Potter and Hiram Keller, and was nominated for an Oscar for best director in 1971. Though no immediate plans are in the works for another cinematic rescue mission, the designers are thrilled to help ensure that future generations will have the chance to savor—and be inspirited by—Italian movie magic. “If the right opportunity occurs we are always open to consider,” the designers explain. “Especially if it’s about preserving the culture and the beauty of our country.” October 13, 8:30 P.M.; Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th St.;

September 19, 2012
By Andrew Sessa | Films

The San Sebastián Film Festival
Courtesy of The Luxury Collection

Thanks to its five Michelin-starred restaurants, San Sebastián is possibly best known as a gastronomic capital. But this Belle Epoch resort town, the capital of Basque Country and long a retreat for Spanish aristocrats, also likes movies, kicking off the 60th annual San Sebastián Film Festival on September 21.

A top stop on the autumn cinéaste circuit, San Sebastián offers a slightly more tranquilo vibe than the recent to-dos in Venice and Toronto. It opens with the international premiere of the financial thriller Arbitrage, starring Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere, and closes with Quartet, Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut featuring Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon in a the-show-must-go-on plot set at a retirement home for aging opera divas. Hoffman will also receive the festival’s Donostia Award, along with Tommy Lee Jones, Ewan McGregor, Oliver Stone and John Travolta. 

Many of these notable names will be spending time at the Hotel Maria Cristina (rooms, from $325; Paseo Republica Argentina 4; 34-943/437-600;, the city’s turreted, 100-year-old grande dame (now part of the Luxury Collection), which emerged from a $25 million, nine-month renovation just in time for the festivities. Fully booked well in advance of this year’s event, the hotel’s 136 platinum-hued rooms and suites feel light and modern despite classic silk, marble and crystal. (The River View rooms are the ones to reserve.)

Some of the biggest buzz at the hotel surrounds its bar and restaurant. The folks behind Dry Martini, a chic speakeasy in Barcelona, took on the former; chefs from one of Madrid’s top interpreters of Chinese cuisine helm Tse-Yang, the Cantonese-style eatery. Food has a starring role in the festival, too. Its Culinary Zinema: Cinema and Gastronomy section features nine films, including Les Saveurs du Palais, about François Mitterrand’s private cook, and the 1987 Danish classic, Babette’s Feast. September 21 to 28;

September 19, 2012
By Adam H. Graham | Films

Diana Vreeland
Photo © Estate of Horst P. Horst - Art + Commerce

“Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola,” once quipped Diana Vreeland, the former Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar editor, who was known for her bon mots as much as her love of the unexpectedly exotic, both in people and places. The Eye Has To Travel, a new documentary opening September 21 in New York and Los Angeles, peeks into her colorful life.

The film, directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Vreeland’s granddaughter-in-law and a former fashion publicist turned writer/director, is overly sentimental and nostalgic at times, traits the style icon herself did not tolerate. But it remains a must-see for fans and shows a rare vulnerable side of Vreeland via candid interviews with her sons. It is also packed with talking-head testimonials from colleagues and friends, including Manolo Blahnik, Diane von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta and Anjelica Huston, who all note the mark she made on fashion and greater contemporary culture.

No piece on her, however, would be complete without discussing her flair for inducing wanderlust with legendary magazine spreads that transported audiences to faraway places at the dawn of the jet age. The film recounts some of these shoots from her publishing career, which spanned from 1937 to 1971, and reminds us that in a time when many women’s magazines teemed with cake recipes and columns about “fitting in,” Vreeland’s copy stood out with exotic imagery of Egypt, Japan, Morocco and India (of which she once famously remarked, “Pink is the navy blue of India.”). One could argue that today’s magazines sprouted from the early seeds she planted.

Vreeland lived in an era when travel was very much a part of the imagination, and she often loved the ideas of places and cultures more than the reality of them. In one of the film’s final scenes, Simon Doonan recounts an anecdote in which Vreeland confesses that she had not and would not travel to India because the idea of it could never live up to the fantasy in her mind. She, of course, summed up her stance best. “I really wouldn’t know anything about Russians,” she has said. “What I love is Russia!”

August 24, 2012
By Erin Schumaker | Films

Greek painter Konstantin Kakanias has resurrected Mrs. Tependris, his beloved fashion-loving cartoon character, for a seven-minute animated film done in conjunction with the Los Angeles–based fashion label Co. In Tependris Rising—which follows several books by Kakanias, including Mrs. Tependris: The Contemporary Years—our protagonist awakes after being cryogenically frozen and heads into the desert, with dog and assistant in tow, in search of a fashion show. After a chance encounter with an unusually civilized giant spider, Mrs. Tependris lands herself smack in the middle of the Co. fall fashion show, walking the runway in a floor-length black dress and fur jacket. With Kakanias voicing Mrs. Tependris and front-row cameos by the likes of Anna Wintour, Carine Roitfeld and Kanye West, our stylish heroine makes a fashion comeback—though not before a slip on the catwalk has her literally swimming in eveningwear. Whimsical and winning, this could be Kakanias’s best interpretation of Mrs. Tependris yet.

August 22, 2012
By Ingrid Skjong | Films

The Film <em>Samsara</em> Opens
Still from SAMSARA. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.

Shot on 70mm film over the span of five years throughout 25 countries, Samsara—which opens August 24 in New York and Seattle—is a transfixing journey pegged to a theme of birth, death and rebirth. The conceit is familiar, but the parade of breathtaking images, made all the more powerful by the film’s complete lack of narration, is an immersive, sensory treat.

Samsara, which means “the ever turning wheel of life” in Sanskrit, is presented as a “guided meditation,” according to director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson. (The two are also behind 1992’s Baraka, a similar globe-spanning spectacle.) Original music ushers the scenes along, but the visual experience is as rich as they come. “You don’t want to leave stones unturned,” says Fricke, who traveled with Magidson and their crew to more than 100 locations. “You don’t want to have regrets.”

That diligence paid off. Sweeping vistas of Bagan, Myanmar, and other natural wonders contrast with buzzing, overdeveloped urban landscapes and factories churning out everything from poultry products to sex dolls. The hallowed halls of a cathedral bleed into the equally reverential spaces of undulating rock formations. Children are baptized at Divino Salvador Church in São Paulo, Brazil; teeming crowds of worshippers at Mecca swirl and churn like flocks of birds.

Samsara is a thought-provoking trip and a lot to take in (broader messages on the state of our society and the world as a whole aren’t lost amid the images). But, ultimately, it will make you want to see it all first-hand—experiences that the filmmakers couldn’t forget if they tried. “We’ve learned a lot doing this,” says Fricke. “It’s made us fearless.” Opens August 24 in New York and Seattle;

July 19, 2012
By Ingrid Skjong | Films

W Downtown Residential Lounge
Photo courtesy of the W

New York does summer movies in a style all its own. So, too, does the W New York Downtown, which continues its New York in Film summer screening series this month with 1969’s Midnight Cowboy, presented by esteemed director Spike Lee. (New York in Film is a collaboration between the W and the film series Grand Classics.) Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi and fashion writer and editor Derek Blasberg led the first film of the season, Sweet Charity, in June. Held in the private residential lounge at the hotel, which offers stunning outlooks of lower Manhattan, two screenings of Midnight Cowboy will illustrate the film’s indomitable New York spirit: Lee hosts an invite-only private viewing on July 26, and a public showing ($30) on July 31 features a cocktail reception (7:30 p.m.) before showtime (8 p.m.). Treats—what’s a movie without them?—will include a cocktail bar, ’60s-themed candy and spiced popcorn. 123 Washington St.; 646-281-2540;

January 17, 2012
By Alexandra Wolfe | Films


When the 28th annual Sundance Film Festival opens this weekend in Park City, Utah, some of its most anticipated films will chronicle corporate greed, economic plight and, of course, Occupy Wall Street. From Finding North, Tom Colicchio’s documentary about hunger in America, to Queen of Versailles, Lauren Greenfield’s movie about a Florida real estate developer’s failed quest to build a 90,000 square-foot, personal state-side Versailles, to Nicholas Jarecki’s feature film Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere as a troubled hedge fund manager, the official film schedule will stand in stark relief against its unofficial scene: the parties.

According to Christopher Ryan, the talent manager in charge of the Sundance party list, this year’s Sundance will see nearly 100 more events this year than last year. With dozens of new corporate sponsors descending on Park City to create the biggest event spaces in the festival’s history, and venues like STK and Tao opening pop-up spots to rival the real thing, one can only hope the films’ frightening forecast isn’t. We interviewed Chris Ryan to hear his top picks for opening weekend.

How do you come up with the list and who gets it?

First I go through all the films and see who the talent is, then I go to their publicists and find out what events they’re doing for the talent, and then build out a list of that. I send it to select actors, directors, publicists and press and they get great marketing out of it.

How is the 2012 party schedule different than last year’s?

It’s much bigger than last year. Last year there were 270 listings and this year it’s already at 350 and I still haven’t included two lounges on that list. Maybe the economy is recovering, or brands are looking to spend money. It’s not hard to spend $50,000 on an event and get enough filmmakers and media there to make it worth it.

Where did those extra 100 events come from? Who’s new on the scene?

A lot of sponsors who dropped out in recent years have returned, like GenArt came back with the Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet. Sundance’s official sponsors are hosting new events. And the Fender Music Lodge moved to a bigger center. Axe Hair Media Center and Groom Room is all new. And Issey Miyake Sport is new and sponsoring The Supper Club. There are new vendors in the Village at the Lift, like the Miami Board of Tourism. There are also new corporate-sponsored houses on promontory point, like the Sundance Collective, who are all hosting private events and dinners.

Where will all the celebrities be during the day? Where do you go to people watch?

Good hangout spots during the day will be the Fender Music Lodge, where live music will play all day long and there will be Chopin Vodka and Monster Energy drinks, and the Miami Oasis at the Village, where there will Patron drinks. The Element Electronics Apres Ski House and the Axe Media Center will also be full of celebrities.

Which evening events have the hottest tickets so far?

The exclusive cast dinner parties are all really good, like the Supper Suite at the Montage on Friday night. The HBO party on Sunday night at the LIVEstyle Film Lounge will be a hard one to get into. The 7 for All Mankind party at the Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet is always really good too. Then after-hours at the new STK space, Hyde and Goodnight Gansevoort will be the toughest places to go. Then, the TAO space is really cool because they use the lift parking lot and redecorate it to look like Tao Vegas. Most of the celebrities will be around the Village at the Lift or the Supper Clubs that Issey Myake Sport is hosting. Then Bing has some pretty good acts performing in their space on Main Street. They just added a third floor so it will be one of the bigger venues.

Photo © Brandon Perlman