Friday, November 13, 2009

Asheville Film Festival: Day One Recap

Posted By on Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 5:25 PM

In the immortal words of Curly Howard of The Three Stooges: "I'm trying to blog but nothing happens!"
  • In the immortal words of Curly Howard of The Three Stooges: "I'm trying to blog but nothing happens!"

THURSDAY, NOV. 12 – Well, it wasn’t really Day One, since the Seventh Annual Asheville Film Festival didn’t even kick off until well after the sun had gone down. But you get the gist.

This is my fourth consecutive Asheville film fest, and the third as a judge (for the 2007 event, I was only here in reporter/reviewer mode). I’m constantly impressed by the scope of this festival – screenings, panel discussions, special presentations, and more – to say nothing of the overall quality of the films selected to compete for the top prizes. And what’s especially noteworthy about the festival is that it’s presented each year by the City of Asheville, an inspiring example of a city actually recognizing the importance of the arts and throwing its weight behind an event that celebrates culture. (We can only dream that Charlotte would ever consider backing a local film festival.)

As always, the judges stay at the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa. Designated one of the Historic Hotels of America, this world-class location has won countless awards and citations over the years in all manner of categories (Best Hotel, Best Spa, Best Golf Course, Best Food, etc.). As one review posted on the Web site (www.groveparkinn.com) notes, “You don’t really have to die to get to heaven, just drive down Route 40 in [North Carolina] and stop off at The Grove Park Inn Resort.” Honestly, you owe it to yourself to spend one vacation here (you may have to mortgage the house to afford it, but it just might be worth it). To convince you, here are a couple of shots of the skyline and grounds from one of the upper floors. And in the name of full disclosure, these shots are from my trip last year (pictures taken by Natalie Howard); today was too rainy and dark for proper photos (so sue me).

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As mentioned above, the festival didn’t kick off until this evening, since the norm is to open with a Premiere Night Film followed by a reception. The last two openers were 2007’s The Savages and last year’s The Wrestler, both of which went on to earn critical kudos and major Oscar nominations. This year’s flick was the 1960s-set drama An Education, written by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) and starring Carey Mulligan as a 16-year-old British schoolgirl who must decide whether to head to Oxford for college as originally planned or run off with the older man (Peter Sarsgaard) who’s introduced her to a whirlwind life of nightclubs, champagne and other perks of a carefree existence. Hornby’s script (based on Lynn Barber’s memoir) sets up a number of believable conflicts for Mulligan’s character to navigate, and the acting is uniformly splendid. (An Education is set to open in Charlotte Nov. 20; look for a review on our Web site next Friday and in print the issue after that.)

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  • Emma Thompson (far left) and Carey Mulligan (far right) in An Education.

The reception (complete with wine, beer and finger foods) was a low-key affair, the perfect calm before the storm that begins tomorrow with over 50 films being screened at five different venues between noon and midnight. Stay tuned!

(For complete details on the 2009 Asheville Film Festival, go here.)

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