The Flick Chicks

06/18/07 - CineVegas 2007

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Judy Thorburn

CineVegas Film Festival 2007 at the Brenden Theatres in the Palms Resort and Casino

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CineVegas Film Festival 2007 at the Brenden Theatres in the Palms Resort and Casino

 9th Annual CineVegas Film Festival draws film buffs, filmmakers, and film stars.

The 9th Annual CineVegas Film Festival kicked into gear on June 6 and ran through June 16th at its usual host location, the Brendan Theatres at the Palms Resort Casino. This year’s lineup included more than a dozen highly anticipated world and U.S. premieres, independent films seeking distribution, a series of shorts, and several entertainment icons (Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, Charlize Theron, Mike Newell and Ocean’s producer Jerry Weintraub) appearing in person to be honored with a special award and tribute.

While this year lacked the usual celebrity panel discussions, something new was added to the schedule; La Próxima Ola, which showcases the next “wave” of upcoming films and talented filmmakers coming out of Mexico. Of course, attendees with the right credentials also looked forward to the fabulous evening after parties at some of the top nightclubs and venues that Las Vegas has to offer, including Revolution Lounge at the Mirage, the plush Foundation Room upstairs at Mandalay Bay, the Observation Deck high above the strip at the Stratosphere, and the topping on the cake, the exciting final night bash that was also a celebration of Vegas magazine’s 4th anniversary. The party was held at the “beach” at Mandalay Bay and featured a star studded Red Carpet event, entertainment by American Idol runner up, Katherine McPhee and lots of scrumptious food and drinks.

Pauley Shore

Mark Philippoussis

Caroline D'Amore and Kim Kardashian

Kelly Carlson and George Maloof

Katherine McPhee

Johnny Brenden

Ivan Kane of Forty Deuce

Frank Marino

The Fantasy Girls

Criss Angel

Nathan Burton and Brittany Palmer

Bei Ling

Stormy Daniels

As always, it was great to see my buddies from Utah, fellow film buffs/critics Adam and Kevin, of

. who would not have missed this festival for the world.

The festival started off on a high note with plenty of glitter and star power when The Palms Casino Resort laid down the Red Carpet in front of the main entrance for the opening night premiere of Ocean’s 13 to benefit International Rescue Committee For Not On Our Watch, a charitable group whose goal is to support the humanitarian relief efforts in Darfur and help stop the ongoing atrocities and genocide in that region. Hundreds of fans arrived early, only to be huddled together behind barricades to try and get a glimpse of the arriving film’s stars Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Ellen Barkin, Andy Garcia and producer Jerry Weintraub as well as Carrot Top, Wayne Newton, CineVegas chairman Dennis Hopper and CineVegas artistic director Trevor Groth. After the screening veteran producer Jerry Weintraub was honored with the 2007 Vanguard Producer Award and Festival President Robin Greenspun presented him and Not On Our Watch with a check for $1,000,000 representing the proceeds of the festival’s fundraising efforts.

Matt Damon and wife
photo by Jill Ann Spaulding

Jerry Weintraub
photo by Jill Ann Spaulding

Ellen Barkin
photo by Jill Ann Spaulding

Don Cheadle
Photo by Rob Goald

Andy Garcia
photo by Jill Ann Spaulding

Wayne Newton
photo by Jill Ann Spaulding

George Clooney
photo by Jill Ann Spaulding

Brad Pitt
Photo by Rob Goald

Last year the slogan for the 2006 CineVegas was the World’s Most Dangerous Film Festival. This year’s festival catchphrase was “you’ll sleep when it’s over”. I, for one, can vouch for that. In order to take in as many films on the schedule as possible, as well as attend the tributes and after parties, there is very little time for serious attendees to get some shut eye.

Since many of the movies being screened co-incide with each other, I was forced to make a decision and pick from those I considered to be the crème of the crop. This year rather than just showing our badge for entry into the screenings, the press had to submit a list of movies we wanted to see and hopefully get tickets for those we requested. As it turned out, I wasn’t granted tickets to all on my “wish list” but for the most part, I was happy to have sat through enough screenings before my body became glued to the theatre seats. I can honestly say that there were many films that I would highly recommend. The following, in my opinion, were the best of the bunch.

The first was the Thursday night screening of The Devil Came On Horseback, a haunting documentary by Annie Sunberg and Ricki Stern, that details what former Marine, Brian Steidle experienced during the six months that he spent in Darfur, the Sudan, as a neutral observer and monitor with the African Union. Twenty seven year old Steidle had no idea of what he was in for when he became eye witness to the horrible crimes perpetrated on the citizens of the country by its own government in the name of ethnic cleansing. Through Steidle’s recollections, horrendous images he captured through photographs, and interviews with survivors and other natives, the true story unfolds with his camera revealing evidence of undeniable war crimes against humanity in a far off third world country. Steidle was so emotionally shocked by what he saw first hand that he took it upon himself to try and wake up the conscience of people and put pressure on political leaders to put a stop to this ongoing reign of terror. Rather than entertaining, this important, gripping and harrowing film works to bring attention to a worthy cause that involves saving the lives of our fellow human beings.

Brian Steidle and Annie Sunberg

Following the movie I went downtown to an after party being held poolside at the Golden Nugget where I mingled with other invited guests and the stars of The Grand, (set in the world of poker tournaments – I missed this film, because I didn’t have a ticket) Ray Romano, Richard Kind, Jason Alexander and former Saturday Night Live performer Chris Parnell. I didn’t get a chance to chat with the guys who were busy playing blackjack at a poolside table, but I managed to get a few moments with co-star Chris Parnell who let me know what he has been up to since leaving SNL. Chris, who was very personable and took some time out to chat with me, said he appears in two movies that will open in the near future; Hot Rod (slated for an early August release) which co-stars present SNL cast member Andy Sanberg, and Walk Hard (to be released in February) that co-stars John C. O’Reilly. After we spoke, I headed back home since it was already very late, and I hoped to get enough rest so I would to be bright and ready for day two.

Chris Parnell and Judy Thorburn

My numero uno 2007 CineVegas film was the Mexican import, Bad Habits (Malos Habitos), written and directed by up and coming director Simon Bross. Bross made such a brilliant impression with this, his first feature film, that mark my words, he is going to be a major force in the world of feature films. Don’t let the title fool you. Although one of the major characters is a nun, the film’s premise is about personal sacrifice involving food, what we know as eating disorders, and the toll it takes on the lives of the protagonists who are hungry for meaning in their own world. Everything about this film is spectacular beginning with the fabulous acting by all three female stars. The story chronicles the lives of a nun who believes that denying herself of food is payment to God in exchange for miraculous cures; an anorexic wife and mother obsessed with being skinny, and her daughter, a chubby preteen forced to follow her abusive mother’s strict eating habits. Each scene is exquisitely crafted using water or light, camera angles and superb editing, to convey exactly what Bross sets out to invoke.

After the screening Bross spoke about the movie and why he made it. As a cancer survivor, he said that “given another chance at life, I wanted to make a movie that comes from the heart, from a very honest point of view, something that was very important for me, eating disorders which was not in the news at the time. I knew two models that I worked with in commercials that died (as a result of eating disorders). But it is also about faith, not as a solution or trying to be scandalous. I am not against or pro church. 98% of Mexicans are Catholic. I was inspired by the true story of a 17th century Spanish nun who was sure she could make miracles happen by fasting. I asked 300 nuns if their prayer could stop quakes, etc. and they said yes”.

Indeed the power of the mind and one’s belief are very strong forces. Bross explores how those powers, taken to the extreme and as delusions can be disastrous.

Eagle vs. Shark, from New Zealand, is an offbeat little flick directed by Taika Waititi, that took me by surprise, in a good way. The charming and very quirky romantic comedy is about a couple of odd characters, Lily, a sweet natured, lonely cashier at a fast food burger joint who is fired from her job but takes it in stride using her free time to go after the man of her dreams, nerdy video game clerk Jarrod by crashing his “dress as your favorite animal” party. In costume as a shark with video game prowess she gets the attention of Jarrod, adorned as a fluffy headed Eagle. Loren Horsely as Lilly and Jemaine Clement (who looks like a cross between John Travolta and Mick Jagger) as Jarrod are splendidly in character. It’s a match made in geek heaven until Jarrod announces that he must leave town, and embark on a mission to seek revenge on the bully from his high school years. Needless to say, Lilly tags along where she endures some trials and tribulations, the inevitable heartbreak and of course, reconciliation. Reminiscent of Napolean Dynamite in its oddball nature, this wacky tale of socially inept misfits is endearing and the zany and hilarious moments will cause you to walk out of the theatre with a smile on your face.

Another memorable film was writer/director Adam Rifkin’s innovative and provocative film, Look, which follows images of unsuspected American’s going about their business as captured through the lens of surveillance cameras. Although told through a written narrative with actors portraying the characters, Look is filmed as close to reality as possible with in your face interweaving storylines from the point of view of a hidden camera that will make you think twice about what you are doing at any time and any place, since you never know if you are being watched. The result is a mixture of funny and at times shocking revelations that will stay in your mind long after the movie is over.

On Sunday I saw director Amir Mann’s, The Fifth Patient starring Nick Chinlund, which is about a man who wakes up with amnesia in a hospital in Africa and in a desperate race against time must find out his true identity before his captors, the local regime, executes him for being a spy. I would have cut about 15 minutes to move up the pace and there were some plot devices concerning the unexpected twist at the end that was questionable, but all in all, the film is an ambitious effort that kept my interest.


Nick Chinlund

I liked Throwing Stars starring Jason London, Michael deLouise, Scott Michael Campbell and Kevin Durand as three childhood buddies who bind together to help their fourth buddy get rid of the body of a crazed meth/animal porn impresario that he unintentionally killed in an act of self defense. The dark comedy is very funny, involves wacky situations, and a little monkey that almost steals the show.


Cast of "Throwing Stars"
Photo by Judy Thorburn

In another totally different genre Have Love Will Travel offers an inside look at the world of private dancers and their drivers. Do I have to say more?

On the subject of sex, Viva is a throwback to the sexploitation films of the 1970’s by first time director and the film’s star Anna Biller. Intentionally bad acted, the film works as an off the wall spoof of the 1970’s sexual revolution from the point of view of a suburban housewife who is trying to discover herself and in turn become liberated. It was a hoot, to say the least.

Cast of "Viva"

The following Wednesday I saw La Vie En Rose, the life story of legendary French singer Edith Piaf. I wasn’t crazy about the way the film occasionally shifts back and forth in time in a non linear fashion, but Piaf's singing, and tour de force performance by a young actress I had never before seen, Marion Cotillard, who embodies the ever suffering, temperamental chanteuse made up for any filmmaking flaws that seem minor by comparison. Cotillard portrays Edith from her teen years through her last. Her physical transformation, including mannerisms, hair and makeup to age her is perfection. This is the best female performance of the year, so far. If she doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for her powerful work in this film, the Academy desperately needs a wake up call.

Blue State stars Breckin Meyer and Anna Paquin in the story about a disillusioned young Kerry campaign worker named John Logue who decides to move to Canada after George W. Bush is re-elected for a second term. Paquin is the young woman who answers his ad to share the ride. The well crafted story centers on their journey and what they encounter after reaching their destination. It turns into a learning experience, about self discovery, and finding out that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Broken English marks the very impressive screen debut of writer/director Zoe Cassevetes, daughter of late actor/filmmaker John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowland. Parker Posey is Nora, a thirty something single young woman anxious to find love. In her quest, she somehow always winds up picking the wrong guys, jerks for one reason or another. That is until she meets Julian, handsome Frenchman that refuses to take no for an answer in his pursuit to get her to give him a chance. Call it a chick flick, if you must, but there is no reason guys won’t enjoy this refreshing flick and maybe grasp a thing or two about women. Posy is simply fabulous. She uses her face and body to speak volumes without uttering a word. Her chemistry with Melvil Poupaud is sizzling, the dialogue is how people really speak to each other, and I know plenty of women can relate to Nora in more ways than one.

Thursday evening’s after party was held inside Planet Hollywood where CineVegas badge holders had the choice of attending any or all of the parties taking place at the Extra Lounge, Heart Bar or the upstairs more luxurious Living Room. The Extra Lounge was also the setting for the judging of the best five VEGAS.COM TV commercials. Actor Dennis Hopper, comedy magician Nathan Burton, Phantom star Brent Barrett, impressionist Gordie Brown, Pres. Howard Lefkowitz and V.P. Brian Allison, acted as judges as they, along with guests, including director David Lynch, got to view commercials by the finalists who were flown in from all over the country. After careful consideration, Brian Lazzaro was chosen the winner for his clever and memorable TV ad called the All Nighter. Lazzaro was presented with a $5,000 prize and an opportunity for the creative genius to direct a multi-million dollar spot for

Judges award $5000 prize to Brian Lazzaro

Director David Lynch

Tao Beach above the Tao Restaurant in the Venetian Hotel and Casino was another party setting. I had never visited this fabulous rooftop outdoor venue with its beautiful pools and surrounding white leather couches and lounging areas and I was blown away by the breathtaking environment. The place is so luxurious as to be fit for royalty. This party started at 9pm and although I didn’t get there till 11 it was still going strong with several CineVegas film stars and other celebrities in attendance. I passed Bobcat Goldthwait as I was making my way in to the party. Later I made my over to Mexican screenwriter/director Simon Bross, the creative genius behind Bad Habits, my favorite film at this year’s festival, who was accompanied by his friend, Babel and 21 Grams screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, and Clifton Collins Jr. who has co-starred in Traffic and Capote. I had to let Senor Bross know how much I loved his film and that he was a brilliant director with a great future in cinema.

Guillermo Arriaga, Judy Thorburn and Simon Bross

Judy Thorburn and Clifton Collins Jr.

Getting to see and listen to A-list movie stars and top filmmakers discuss their craft in person is a highlight for most fans who attend CineVegas. This year actress Charlize Theron was honored as the recipient of 2007’s CineVegas Half Life Award, which is given to an actor in the prime of their career with an already impressive body of work.

At 3pm on Friday, June 15, Charlize sat down in front of a packed theatre for an informal discussion with Pete Hammond of Maxim magazine to talk about her career and to show clips from several of her upcoming movies. Charlize first said that when Dennis Hopper called her to say she was going to be honored with this award she “couldn’t believe it and that it really means a lot” to her. She reflected on her early years in South Africa where was born, and how she got started as an actress. “I was a ballerina. It was my life. At 16, my friends entered me in a modeling contest, which I won and then went on to Europe and then New York. At 18, my knees said no more. My career was over. I went to Hollywood and here I am today. I didn’t speak English. I had this thick Africanz accent, but was thrown into the deep end. I had to either swim or drown. I met a guy in a bank who sent me on auditions which was great, but I needed to speak English. My roommate, who was from Bosnia but came to America at the age of six, helped me learn English. I also picked it up from watching American TV shows like Dynasty and Dallas, nothing but the best”, she said jokingly. Charlize recollected on her first film, “Children of the Corn", either 3 or 4, can’t remember which one, but I thought this is it. I called my Mom and said I made it, although I had no knowledge of the film industry and was raised with the philosophy that I was ready to pay my dues".

Charlize went on to say that “I feel blessed to work with people I consider a mentor, who keep feeding my thirst for knowledge". She mentioned working with Woody Allen and Dennis Hopper as examples. But, Hopper was taken by surprise and blushed when she looked at him and stated, “He is more yummy than ever.”

Regarding her Oscar winning role of real life serial killer Aileen Wournos in Monster, Charlize said, “I had an instant connection with Patty Jenkins who wrote the script. Her drive and intelligence came from a place so hard to find. Who are we? What is our nature? There is a lot of ugliness in us that we don’t want to look at. I wanted to make this film so someone can look in the mirror and understand who this woman is. Funny thing, I had a vivid dream during the shooting of the film where Patty said I was being replaced by another actress. I had paranoid moments. There is nothing subtle about this character. She was in your face."

Dennis Hopper added, “I don’t think a man could have made this movie with all its sexual encounters and rape. Charlize responded with “Patty said never think of yourself as a victim. A man would have said pucker up and stop your wining."

When questioned about the possibility of directing, Charlize said “I don’t think I want to direct”. But, producing is something else with two projects under her belt. She is very proud of the documentary she produced called East of Havana and was eager to show a clip and discuss the film’s subject, an underground youth movement in Cuba that consists of rappers who express their views as a fight against censorship.

I was surprised that Monster or any of her other movies wasn’t screened at the festival. Instead she brought along clips from three of her upcoming films, In The Valley of Elah which co-stars Tommy Lee Jones, Sleepwalking (formerly titled Ferris Wheel) in which she co-produced and co-stars with Dennis Hopper (who joined her on the couch) as her father, and Nick Stahl as her brother (who was in the audience but was called down to sit with them), and Battle In Seattle written and director by her boyfriend actor Stuart Townsend. “People will think I am biased because I sleep with him (referring to Townsend). But I was blown away by how well he wrote the script. He was incredibly passionate about it. I am glad I kind of cast myself in the film. It is incredible and very powerful film. He (Townsend) would have been here with me, but he is busy in the editing room."

Charlize Theron, Nick Stahl and Dennis Hopper
Photo by Judy Thorburn

I was very impressed by how smart, down to earth, sweet, and genuinely humbled Charlize Theron appeared to be. This, plus beauty and talent, she seems to have it all.

Later in the day 2007 Marquee Award recipient Anthony Hopkins, who is considered to be one of the best living actors today, sat before a packed house to give some insight into his background that entails almost 50 years as an actor. Hopkins revealed that 40 years ago Peter O’Toole asked him to do a screen test. He went on, “It was a unique experience having never made a movie”. Not many people are aware that Hopkins was Lawrence Olivier’s understudy. He does such a good impression of Olivier’s voice (which he gave us a sample of) that when Spartacus was re released years later director Stanley Kubrick asked him to dub in Olivier’s voice on the soundtrack in a scene with Tony Curtis because due to sound problems in the old soundtrack, Olivier’s dialogue was lost.

Anthony Hopkins

In Magic, Hopkins played a ventriloquist driven mad by his dummy. The actor said he was not thrilled about working with a dummy. “I had to learn to throw my voice and did the basics. But I got so involved (in this role) that I said “cut” to the camera as Fats (the dummy). It was very difficult to co-ordinate the stuff.”

In the late 80’s and early 90’s Hopkins career was not going great. But being cast in Silence of the Lambs changed everything. “I thought Nick Nolte would get the Oscar. It was a great honor for me to win the award. There is no way of mapping out your career. Things take you by surprise. Funny thing, I originally thought the movie was a children’s story. I was finishing off a contract in the theatre. Sometimes, you disappear for a few years and come back again. You get to a certain stage in life and I think, just go with the flow. Nowadays, I also like to paint and write music.”

When asked what role seemed effortless, Hopkins said, “Hannibal Lector. Villains are easier to slip into. I knew this guy. I don’t know why, but I am drawn to morbid interests. I felt the tone in my muscles. I was very specific how I wanted him to look. The villain in Fracture was very much like someone I knew”. Would he come back and play Hannibal in another sequel? Hopkins responded, “Having the character locked in a glass booth is more powerful; walking the streets not so.”

Regarding is role as President Nixon, Oliver Stone “Wanted me because he thought I was an outsider, thought I didn’t belong. I thought I would make a complete ass of myself, or stay in theatre in wrinkled tights for the rest of my life. I thought after reading with some of the great American actors Stone would make fun of me. But after putting on the clothes in wardrobe, I felt a breakthrough and went with my intuition. As far as wearing prosthetics, you can either work from the outside or the inside."

The worst theatre experience he ever had was when he was appearing with Judi Dench on stage in Anthony and Cleopatra. “It was three weeks into the run and a voice went off in my head. It said you THINK you are really good. I felt naked, vulnerable and really open.”

After the conversation, Hopkins’ film Slipstream was screened. Before closing he discussed how the film, in which he wrote directed and stars in, came to be. “Three to four years ago, I sat down at the computer to see if I could write. The story is very personal from my own life. Three times it has happened to me, a strange stream of consciousness; it comes during a crisis, that I lost contact with my immediate memory and all sense of time. It was the worst feeling I ever had – most frightening. I get carried away and tend to get a bit manic when the brain gets overloaded. In this film it is like eight seconds of your life that you go through in an hour and a half. Relax and let it happen. I wanted to see the breakdown, how it comes in strobes. I wanted the film to bring real terror and anxiety. I am proud that it was accepted at Sundance and played there.”

The fact is Anthony Hopkins is a brilliant actor. But his movie Slipstream is like one big confusing hallucination. He should stick with what he does best, acting! This effort doesn’t pay off.

On Saturday afternoon, 2007 Vanguard Award winner, Mike Newell, the British director of Enchanted April, Four Wedding and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, just to name a few of his critically acclaimed box office hits, had his turn on the couch. After showing short clips from some of his best films, Newell took part in an insightful discussion about the wide range of films, from nice romantic comedy to a mafia film that he has directed. ‘It is simply the stuff I get interested in. There is no master plan. I am interested in the characters; the notion of a fading mafia man, a commitment phobe, or even Harry Potter, a classical thriller. In talking about the difference between British and Hollywood movies he sees British filmmaking as a “cottage industry. In England the mindset is what does the audience know that I don’t? Does it (the film) please me and more, does it please my friends. In Hollywood it is all about discovering what the audience wants. We think the audience doesn’t matter. It’s the same delusion. If I can inject pleasing myself into the Hollywood way and put that trick over, that is an interesting process.”

Director Mike Newell

Newell then talked about “needing an antidote after Harry Potter. I lobbied shamelessly for the film adaptation of the classic novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera. I went to screenwriter Ron Harwood. Yes, it was frightening to put such pressure on myself, but you are compelled by the material or not. This was the most humane piece of work I had seen in a long time. I had to go a dangerous route and cast incredible actresses Americans were not familiar with. It doesn’t have a hook like Angelina Jolie to hang a hat on. The movie becomes the star. The buzz starts here (at the festival) before the film is released. It has great actors but not commanding world stars. The novel itself is a series of intricate flashbacks. Ron Harwood had to make the story comprehensible and tell it as a compelling forward moving narrative. The intricate stitchwork comes through the narrative with help from the editor and camera work so that it forms a texture, patina.

What I could tell from the extended clip that was shown, Love in the Name of Cholera starring Javier Bodem looks to be an engrossing and beautiful love story that should satisfy both the director and his audience.

Another British actor, Sir Ben Kingsley was honored with the Vanguard Actor Award. Dennis Hopper introduced Kingsley as one of the greatest living actors and said it was a privilege working with him. The audience was surprised to find out that he had music aspirations as a young man back in England. In the 60’s he wrote songs for a play, was asked to sing a chorus and The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein who was also a theatre impresario asked him to come along as part of the show. One night John Lennon was in the audience and I got to meet him. The story got exaggerated as years went by to the extent that word spread that he was almost signed to be a rock star. “I wanted to pursue and acting career. The Royal Shakespeare Company provided me with a career craft. I would have fallen off the rails a rock star”, he laughed.

Dennis Hopper, Sir Ben Kingsley and Elvis Mitchell

You could tell that music is still much a part of his soul as he described acting in musical terms. He said, “Tea Leoni is this generation’s Katherine Hepburn and that working with her in his new movie “You Kill Me” (that was going to be screened shortly after this tribute/conversation) was like two instruments in a duet. Another great actress I have worked with is Lauren Becall, a strong, archetypal woman.”

The actor gave some insight into his acting technique and how he sets the tone for his character. “The first scene is very important. You have to look, speak and set a form for the rest of the film. It’s a device that you use judiciously and not to wear out. My first experience was with director Lord Attenborough. My character expands over 50 years. I had to identify what would sustain me throughout. Anger and indignation was my spine for the character. As Ghandi, I was first introduced as an angry man being thrown from a train. I connected every gesture to that moment, its cause and affect. If the cause is racist violence, the affect manifests as resilience of the man thrown off the train. The effect is residual. All the characters do what they had to do. Each man finds their own place in destiny doing what they had to do. In House of Sand and Fog, as Anne Franks dad, and as Meyer Lansky I approached them as patriarchs that had to do deals to survive. In Oliver Twist, I used a memory of an old man in an antique shop that I knew as a young child as a model for portraying Fagan. He hunched down to be at the same level as me when he spoke to me, and I used that posture with Fagan and the kids. Hopefully, there is redemption in all the characters I portray, with maybe a few exceptions. Actors have to show vulnerability, to be able to love and be loved.”

He also wanted to make it clear that the camera has to be in the right place or actors are wasting their time.

I certainly did not waste any time listening to one of my favorite actors. I have always admired Ben Kingsley’s acting ability, but I now am also impressed by his intelligence and eloquence. I stayed afterwards to see his flick, the closing night film, "You Kill Me". Again, I think he is a superb actor, but I thought he was miscast as a Polish hit man from Buffalo with a drinking problem who falls for Tea Leoni and makes an effort to become a changed man. They have zero chemistry and although the story is quirky and humorous at times, I was underwhelmed.

On Friday night an Award Reception was held outdoors, poolside at the Palms. Maria Menounos (who earlier in the week received a star on the floor of lobby of the Brendan Theatres and is the producer of the CineVegas screened, Land of the Merry Misfits) was hostess for the 2007 honoree’s award presentation. Charlize Theron, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley and Mike Newell all made their way down the red carpet before coming on to the stage where they each graciously accepted their award.

Maria Menounos presented with Brenden Celebrity Star by Johnny Brenden
Photo by Jill Ann Spaulding

Maria Menounos hosting Awards Ceremony

The final event was held on Saturday afternoon. In a ceremony helmed by Artistic Director Trevor Groth, festival President Robin Greenspun and Chairman of the Creative Advisory Board Dennis Hopper, awards were presented to festival winners that included, among others, Adam Rifkin’s LOOK which received the Grand Jury Prize, Tie a Yellow Ribbon which received a Special Jury Award for Best Director, as well as All God’s Children Can Dance which was acknowledged with a Special Jury Award for Distinctive Visual Expression.

Additionally, the Jury Prize for the fest’s new program block focused on Mexican cinema, La Próxima Ola, was awarded to Bad Habits (Malos Hábitos). Crowd pleasers I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal and Throwing Stars picked up the Audience Awards for Documentary and Narrative Features. The Heineken Red Star Award was presented to The Living Wake.

Jennifer Aniston and Andrea Buchanan’s Room 10 received the CineVegas Short Film Jury Prize while David Schmoeller’s Spanking Lessons received the CineVegas Nevada Short Film Jury Prize. The jury also acknowledged BITCH, Equal Opportunity, Year of the Dog and the local film Danuta with Honorable Mentions.

This concludes my coverage of 2007 CineVegas, the little festival that has grown into a major showcase for some of the best up and coming filmmakers and to honor those Hollywood entertainment icons that have made an indelible impact on audiences and the industry. I want to thank all of the hardworking CineVegas staff, the PR mavens at Kirvin Doak, and offer a special acknowledgment to the volunteers, especially Alberta Gogle, Suzanne Bugg and Jackie Mussa who always greeted me with a big friendly smile and warm personalities.

As exhausting as it is fun, I look forward to next year. Finally,  as the 2007 CineVegas slogan suggests, I can get some sleep.



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