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Mill Valley Film Festival's 34 year, from October 6 - 16

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Mill Valley Film Festibal

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Showing at the CinéArts@Sequoia, Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center and other venues throughout the Bay Area.

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The Mill Valley Film Festival offers a high-profile, prestigious, noncompetitive environment that is perfect for celebrating the best of independent and world cinema. Considered by many to be a launching pad for the Oscar® campaign, this year’s film festival promises to be no exception.

Opening
and Closing night features major independent releases and galas to follow:
ALBERT NOBBS, starring Glenn Close, who is expected to attend
JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME, starring Jason Segel, Susan Sarandon, Ed Helms and Judy Greer.

Live Performances :
Honoring the great Indian musician and teacher, Ali Akbar Khan subject of the also-showing documentary Play Like a Lion: The Legacy of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan;
Mark Pitta and Friends has evolved into a premier comedy showcase for up-and-coming comedians and established headliners;
The Gonzalo Bergara Quartet plays a modern variant of 1930s Django Reinhardt–inspired Gypsy jazz. Fiery and focused, Bergara and his hard-swinging band take their audience for a thrilling ride.

Children's FilmFest
: a superb selection of children’s international features and shorts, along with kids’ workshops and a costume parade that will be led by a jazz band.

A series of panel discussions, New Movie Labs, with industry professionals.

Tribute: to Glenn Close's stellar career. Enjoy an onstage interview and a review of clips from her films. Then continued to a memorable reception with regional Italian cuisine, house-made pastas, wood-fired pizzas and mesquite-grilled meats at Piatti Ristorante & Bar. And a huge list of guests will be attending.

Films I have seen:

Another Happy Day
We should know by now that family reunion movies are going to be painful psycho-dramas, be they weddings, funerals or holidays. But nothing can prepare the audience for this. A stellar cast, including Ellen Barkin (also producer), Ellen Burstyn, Thomas Haden Church, Ezra Miller, Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth and George Kennedy take this new definition of dysfunctional family through its paces. The wounds among many of them are deep, raw and open -- psychological or physical from heart failure to self-scarring, from domestic abuse to a plethora of brain imbalance diagnoses. Throughout, they are either attacking each other or begging for understanding. And those who are not afflicted, but are just crass and oafish, are pecking at their wounds. A good film to watch to get a better perspective on your own family. It can't be this bad anywhere else!

Day of the Flowers
Rosa is a died-in-the-red-wool Socialist, as her parents were. Her sister, Allie, is a born-to-shop fashionista. Upon their father's death, Rosa steals his ashes from an ignoble fate and decides to take him back to Cuba where he was most happy with his wife, both of whom were involved in the ongoing revolution. Allie insists in joining Rosa and her friend Conway in the hopes of the siblings growing closer. Of course, nothing goes as planned as the three try to spread dad's ashes in the river during the Day of the Flowers celebration. In the course of their adventures, together and separately, their preconceived notions about Cuba, its people, themselves and their belief systems are challenged. It's all in good fun, though sometimes the situations get dangerous. Cuba, which few Americans get to see, is revealed from countryside to beaches to humble homes to 4 star hotels. The music is great and some of the people, at least, are charming.

Eliminate: Charlie Cookson
At first, I thought this would be a very witty, very dry satire of the British secret agent genre. But actually, this film is dead serious. The cold war as long been tepid, but there are still secrets that should be kept. In this case, misconduct by agents at the time who are now old guard administrators at MI6. Charlie Cookson, who as never a very good spy due to his sense of doubt concerning the conduct of agents on both sides and the need for unflinching obedience of directives (echoes of 'Secret Agent' with Patrick McGoohan, who quit for the same reason and ended up 'The Prisoner'). Charlie instead became a linguist, still listening to old reel-to-reel tapes in Russian. One day, a tape shows up at his cubicle. An assassin also shows up, killing everyone in the office but Charlie who wasn't noticed. Charlie is told by his friend that he is going to be killed, but they'd like the tapes first. What's a linguist to do? Charlie's emotions run the gamut from resigned to regretful to angry to hopeful. Will he just give up, unable to fight the forces out to get him, or will he make a stand with the arsenal of techniques of the spy game he was once adept in? This is a dark, convoluted, emotional tale of a spent, over-drinking, near-do-well whose life was falling apart even before the tape incident. One wonders if Charlie even wants the audience rooting for him or if he's too tired to care.

Girlfriend
Evan (played brilliantly by first timer Evan Sneider) wants what everybody else wants -- a girlfriend. Though disabled with Downs Syndrome, he leads a comparatively normal life -- working as a waiter in a restaurant where his devoted mother (Amanda Plummer) is the cook, calling friends on the phone to say hello, following all the social amenities he has learned. But nothing is more tricky and delicate than pursuing a girl (Shannon Woodward), especially a single mother with volatile ex-husband (Jackson Rathbone) lurking about. First time director/writer, Justin Lerner, plumbs the depth of this painful situation with sensitivity and courage.

Hello! How Are You?
(Romanian w/English subtitles)
Gabriel and Gabriella, both called Gabby, have been married a long time. He was once a concert pianist who suffered a finger-damaging accident and is now a page turner for lesser soloists. She was an aspiring psychiatrist who instead gave up her higher education to raise her son, working in a dry cleaners. Both have been saddened by the vagaries of life and see to have taken it out on their marriage. Though they get along well, the ardor is gone; they seem to walk past each other in a trancelike state, either dreaming of something more or regretting their situations. Coincidentally, one evening they both get on a computer chat room for the first time and unknowingly find each other. We, the audience, watch their love bloom online, never suspecting they are committing emotional infidelity with each other. This romantic comedy is so much more meaningful, subtle and reflective of the real human condition than 'You've Got Mail." Added to the mix is their teenage son who records his memoirs into a tape recorder for posterity since he is sure he will one day be rich and famous, though he doesn't know what yet. Full of teen hormones and many opportunities to exercise his sexuality, his growth from egocentric sex machine to maturity is a miracle to watch.

Lotus Eaters
They're all beautiful, young, size 0, vacuous, superficial, and boring. Only Alice seems to have a hint of life behind her perfectly made-up eyes. She feels, she doubts, she even cries. Still, she attends all the parties, goes shopping, listens to all the gossip about her friends, flirts (with downcast eyes), models, and aspires to acting. They are a worthless lot and revel in their uselessness. They are all bored, as well, but not so much as the audience, except for those who aspire to their position in life.

The Planets
John Sanborn's interpretation of the planets, minus Mercury and plus the sun and moon, in modern dance by Margaret Cromwell and Joseph Copley, enhanced by computer effects. Also included in this plethora of eye candy are graphics, NASA animation and photographs, an array of visual images, and original music by octet Relâche, with a sprinkling of Shakespearian poetry to add textual significance to the celestial orbs. Often reminiscent of sci fi TV show opening graphics, 1960's rock concert projected backgrounds and the groundbreaking 13 min short, 'Pas de deux' (1968).

Small, Beautiful Moving Parts
Sarah is more impressed by the electronic and mechanical workings of the pregnancy test wand than the results of the test itself. That's just her nature. She loves and appreciates and trusts machines. Possibly she doesn't have the same affinity for people since when she was a child, her mother quietly drifted away from the family and fell off the grid, so to speak. There has been no contact between Sarah and her mother for many years, but with the coming of her own daughter, Sarah is moved to seek out her mother and get some answers: about mothering and why it didn't work out for her. Thus ensues Sarah's road trip, and the further she goes towards mom, the further she is from her comfort zone of technology. This is as much a discourse on technology versus raw emotionality within the human animal as it is a woman's adaptation to motherhood. It's a learning experience without the aid of Internet, phonic or any other technology. It's not about blame, but change of perspective.

Summerland

I once saw a documentary about how Iclandics believe elves live in rocks strewn around the countryside. Believers included the mayor, college professors, laborers and housewives. Therefore, it was no surprise to me that this belief persists, to vary degrees, as seen in the charming comedy, 'Summerland.' The story revolves around the Oskarsson family. Oskar tries to collect tourists off the street to come ride his ghostly tour bus and enjoy the Ghostly tourist attraction in his rambling house. His wife, Lara, is a real live psychic and medium who conducts seances in the home. She also consults with the city counsel regarding the impact of a highway turnaround on the elf population. Daughter, Asdis, works in the haunted house and their young son is still young enough to play, sometimes with an odd child who seems to always be alone in the junkyard. The family faces a financial crisis which my result in the foreclosure of their home/tourist attraction and Oskar's solution leads to disastrous results possibly caused by angry elves. This is a wonderful family comedy where there can only be a happy ending since the worst that can happy is going to Summerland.

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