Some must-sees at Philly Film Fest this year

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@KevinTustin on Twitter

It really can be a daunting task to organize your movie-watching schedule for a film festival. Hundreds of selections and only so many days, times to see them. And if a film is only showing once, it can easily dictate your schedule, and then prevent you from seeing something else.
I may be considerably new to this wild world of theater hopping all day to watch moviesFriday7 at a festival, but boy is it a thrill. It’s the first chance, especially in Philadelphia, where we can see films before their (sometimes long-awaited) theatrical release, if they get released at all.
According to the festival’s artistic director Michael Lerman, people will actually take time off from work and watch five movies every day for 10 days.
But I, however, just binge watch on the weekends and see a few films during the week.
It’s great to see what buzzed about films will get their first local showing at the Philadelphia Film Festival, especially when they’re winners from Cannes, the most prestigious film festival in the world.
This year is no different.
Plenty of films have moved their way from the palais to Center City, including this year’s Palme d’Or winner, “Dheepan”, and one of the films that won the best actress prize, “Carol” (Rooney Mara was co-winner of the award). Many others from the Cannes official selection are being shown, and then there are picks from the Berlin, Toronto and Venice film festivals.

Courtesy of The Weinstein Company. "Carol", staring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, is a brilliant 50's love story. Plays at PFF on Oct. 25.

Courtesy of The Weinstein Company.
“Carol”, staring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, is a brilliant 50’s love story. Plays at PFF on Oct. 25.

Opening and closing films aside, “Anomalisa” and “Where to Invade Next”, how do you pick what to see with over 130 options, including a new section recently added called the Charlie Kaufman Retrospective which adds six more titles to the slate?
Of the more than 20 films I’m allowing myself this year – which, seriously, pales in comparison to how many others will see – here are a handful of options that I’m most anticipating this year.
45 Years
Screen legends Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling play a couple on the verge of their 45th wedding anniversary when Geoff (Courtenay) receives a letter saying the missing body of his first love has been found. Can their holy union make it to 45 years, or will it fall apart? Director Andrew Haigh (“Weekend”) is a master of understanding people and relationships, and I can’t wait to see how that understanding shifts from the gay narratives of his first two feature length films to this tale of senior, straight love. “45 Years” plays at the Ritz East on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 1 at 5 p.m.
One of, if not the most, critically acclaimed film at Cannes, Cate Blanchett portrays the titular character opposite the aforementioned Mara, a young woman whose relationship with Carol hopes to bring her to better things in 50’s New York City. Based on the novel “The Price of Salt”, the Todd Haynes-directed piece was called “filmmaking craft of the most sophisticated yet accessible order” by Variety’s Justin Chang. The film, Blanchett and Mara are getting strong Oscar buzz, and deservedly so. Brilliant acting and sumptuous sets really propels this film. “Carol” lays at the Prince Theater on Oct. 25 at 7:15 p.m.
Kilo Two Bravo
I’m not a fan of war films, but this modern day story about a group of British soldiers trapped on a minefield in Afghanistan sounded too cool. According to the festival program guide, not a single shot is fired from a gun in the “excruciatingly tense” film that gives a sense of reality about the “procedural nature of war”. Over 100 minutes of guys figuring out how to escape from a surrounding trap sounds remarkably gripping. “Kilo Two Bravo” plays at the Ritz East on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 1 at 12:10 p.m.
The 3D love story by the always provocative Gasper Noé is a non-stop sex romp with the glorious addition of having it all pop out at you. No one makes more divisive films than Noé, and “Love” is surely not to be an exception. I’ve always liked Noé for being unforgivably forward with his depictions of love, violence and life. The PFF says it’s proud to present “Love” in all of its “graphic glory” for the city’s only 3D showing. “Love” plays at the Prince Theater on Nov. 1 at 7:35 p.m.
The Program
You can’t go wrong with Stephen Frears, you just can’t. His direction on real stories and figures, most notably with Queen Elizabeth II and Tony Blair in “The Queen”, is uncanny and so sharp and clean. “The Program” takes a stab at Lance Armstrong, the disgraced former seven-time winner of the Tour de France and the journalist that exposed the fraud of an American icon. Ben Foster portrays Armstrong in the film and also stars Chris O’Dowd, Lee Pace and Dustin Hoffman. Can’t wait to see what Frears does with this controversial figure in sports history with a script by British screenwriter/playwright John Hodge. “The Program” plays at the Ritz East on Oct. 24 at 2:30 p.m. and Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. A third screening is set for the Ambler Theater on Oct. 27 at 8 p.m.
Of course, these are just some of the films I’m looking forward to. I may have strayed away from some higher profile picks, but the point of the festival is to “see something you’ll never forget.”
For tickets, schedule and a complete program guide, to go filmadelphia.org/festival.

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