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A guide to picking films

February 5, 2009

barton-and-busBarton stars in “Double Decker Confidential” – the fest opening film. 

As published in the Oxford Town

I feel terrible for you. Having to decide between movies at the festival this year will be a difficult choice. The good news friends is that you can’t go wrong in whatever you choose.

Some quick tips to selecting films:

Read the schedule ahead of time.

Make a plan A and then a plan B. Why do this? If you miss the plan A film or it is full, you have something to fall back on. The films are first come first serve and there are times when the theater fills. It is not a bad thing, filmmakers appreciate having an audience.

With over 95 films to watch this weekend, be ready to stretch those back muscles as they may get sore when you are glued to a theater chair for hours at a time.

Below is a rough guide of what’s in store. For the full schedule go to www.oxfordfilmfest.com.  

Thursday -The Kick off

There is no better way to kick off a film festival in Oxford than to present a comedic crime thriller by local filmmaker Thad Lee starring the one and only Barton Segal. Get ready to laugh with “Double Decker Confidential” as Thad and Barton set out to save us all.

You are bound to recognize a few faces and places in this laugh out loud comedy. Those not from here may not get a lot of the inside jokes but will still be able to enjoy the campy fun.

Afterwards, a special treat is the dramedy “Sunshine Cleaning” starring Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin and Steve Zahn. From the producers of “Little Miss Sunshine” comes a less sunny story about two sisters that begin a crime clean up business. A great cast leads this film and will be a nice way to open the fest. See it now before it opens in theaters in March.

Afterwards, B-movie lovers may want to stickaround for a late night showing of “Psycho Sleepover.” Much less scary than funny, the story centers around a girl with a psychotic past trying to make new friends that is thrust into a maddening situation as the town nuts escape their cell. I love bizarre movies, and this one definitely fits that category.

Friday – First Full Fest day

Moviegoers have 12 hours of movies to choose from with a variety of interests covered. At noon, begin either with some amusing foreign language shorts or a documentary on beer pong. At 2 p.m., either see “Bama Girl” a documentary on University of Alabama African American girl’s homecoming run or enjoy a handful of amusing shorts ranging in stories from tenure to pigeon racing along with a documentary about putting on an elementary school play.

Or, you can skip both and hit “Rattle Basket,” an amusing feature about dysfunctional friendship. The director, Thomas Phillips will be on hand to discuss making the film.

At 4 p.m., “Fauborg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans,” a documentary on the African American New Orleans is pitted against a group of some of my favorite short films that range from Civil War reeanactors to finding a book that has all of life’s answers.

Or skip both and go for another feature comedy, “The Stanton Family Grave Robbery.” With witty dialogue and some hilarious scenes, this is a pleasant feature.

At 5:30 p.m. is the regional premiere (they had their world premiere in January at Sundance) of “Prom Night in Mississippi,” the documentary on Charleston and Morgan Freeman’s efforts to help integrate the prom. This is definitely one to see.

The only problem is that two of my favorite movies at the fest are playing against it, “Visioneers” and “The Last Lullaby.”

More great films compete for the next time slot. “Gospel Hill” by Giancarlo Esposito is a traditional feature about Civil Rights and is a moving story. “Good Dick,” starring Jason Ritter is a quirky story of a boy fascinated by a semi-shut-in that rents a lot of pornography. But if you are a food freak, the documentary “Food Fight” about the slow food movement is a must see.

The night ends with two choices – “Chasing The White Dragon,” a story about meth addiction filmed in Tupelo, starring local actor Johnny McPhail – or “Interplanetary,” a fun sci-fi made by Alabama filmmakers that appear to have had a blast combining office corporate dread with living on Mars.

Saturday – Full Day

Saturday ranges from a sneak preview of Craig Brewer’s new MTV series “$5 Cover” to the award winning “Ballast” along with a host of great documentaries. Some fun blocks include the music videos, experimental and animation today. A way to see quite a few films in a short period of time.

There are a few great features to catch today. “Make Out With Violence” is a unique blend of teenage angst and zombies. Not your typical zombie film, the Deagol Brothers have created a stunning film.

“Luke and Brie’s First Date,” from writer/director Chad Hartigan hits upon the awkwardness of getting to know someone new. Then don’t miss your chance to finally see “Ballast,” the Mississippi film nominated for six Spirit Awards. The cast and most of the crew are from Mississippi, including McPhail.

But the highlight of Saturday is the variety of great documentaries. Elvis fans, the blues, video games, college hook ups, drug wars, Civil Rights cases, a D.J. born without hands to the world premiere of “Crude Independence,” the story of oil beneath North Dakota. Produced by Sam Howard and Executive Producer Jonathan Demme, the director of “Rachel Getting Married” and the “Silence of the Lambs,” the film is the directorial debut by Noah Hutton, the son of Timothy Hutton and Debra Winger. Hutton and Howard will be on hand to discuss his documentary.

Sunday – Last Chance!

You may have missed a film or two that you wanted to see, and if so check them out today at the Malco. All winners of the Saturday Awards Ceremony, along with select nominees will replay on Sunday. A schedule will be available online and at the theater.

On top of that, a replay of “Ballast” and “Prom Night in Mississippi” is happening early afternoon. But, one new movie will also be available, “Trucker,” starring our local Joey Lauren Adams, Michelle Monaghan, Nathan Fillion and Benjamin Bratt. A truck driver looks to change her life after she takes in her 11-year-old son. Cinematical film critic Erik Davis said Monaghan’s performance made her come to life and that it is her film. I am definitely looking forward to this one as it is one of the few I have yet to see.

—melanie@oxfordeagle.com

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