Aspen Film scores top-tier lineup for 30th Academy Screenings
December 9, 2022
Aspen Film announced the lineup last week for its 30th annual Academy Screenings. From dramas to crowd pleasers and international Oscar contenders, the 17-film showcase promises viewers a journey.
This year’s festival runs Dec. 19-23, with screenings and events taking place at the Wheeler Opera House and the Isis Theatre in Aspen. Single tickets to all of the films go on sale today at noon, and full-access festival passes are available to purchase exclusively through the Aspen Film website.
Aspen Film Executive and Artistic Director Susan Wrubel curates the Academy Screenings lineup each year — this year, Wrubel scored bigtime.
And it’s not just the reputable names and titles of which Wrubel secured that excites her about this year’s festival. The quality of storytelling coming to the screen is of the highest the director has seen, and she’s thrilled to be able to expose Aspen audiences to this cinema experience, she said.
“Quality-wise and acting-wise, this is one of the strongest lineups we’ve ever had,” Wrubel said. “All of these films are powerful in their own ways and the acting … the acting stands out.”
The Academy Screenings marks the regional debut for all 17 films, as none of them will have been shown in the area prior to the Aspen festival — some have never been shown before at all, Wrubel said.
“I’ve learned over the years that our audiences want fresh films that aren’t readily available elsewhere,” Wrubel said. “And so when I curate the festival, I always keep an eye out on what’s upcoming for the end of the year. We got lucky this time with certain films opening at the end of the year.”
To kick off the festival on opening night is “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” the comedy-drama sequel to director Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out.” The screening will be followed by a live Q&A with actress Kate Hudson.
On the following Tuesday night, the festival will feature another in-person Q&A with director Scott Cooper of “The Pale Blue Eye,” after the film’s showcase at the Wheeler Opera House.
“The fact that we have Kate and Scott coming is phenomenal for us,” Wrubel said. “This is something we have not been able to do in a while.”
In addition to locking in these two prominent industry players, Wrubel has secured a handful of foreign films that are official 2023 Oscar entries up for Best International Feature. These submissions include “Saint Omer” from France, “The Quiet Girl” (Ireland), “Cairo Conspiracy” (Sweden), “Corsage” (Austria) and “EO” (Poland).
“The foreign films are the crème de le crème of this season; the International Feature race is competitive this year,” Wrubel said. “I really encourage people to check out these foreign-language films.”
Iranian drama “No Bears” will also be featured. The foreign film is not an Oscar contender but won the Special Jury Prize at its Venice Film Festival premiere. Writer, director and star of the film Jafar Panahi was imprisoned in Iran prior to his film’s release. Wrubel noted the power behind this cinematic storytelling.
Another noteworthy narrative on the Academy Screenings lineup is Laura Poitras’ documentary, “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” which follows activist and photographer Nan Goldin’s fight and rare footage in holding the Sackler family accountable for the opioid crisis.
The other documentary film coming to the festival, titled “Turn Every Page” — which is being presented in partnership with Aspen Words — explores the 50-year relationship between writer Robert Caro and his editor, Robert Gottlieb, as they race to complete their shared life’s work.
Wrubel noted the two documentaries’ opposition in terms of subject matter. Yet she said both films are fascinating in how they inform the public and give viewers a deeper understanding on two really niche topics.
Wrubel emphasized the caliber of acting throughout the five-day festival this year. For instance, Darren Aronofsky’s psychological drama, “The Whale,” starring Brendan Fraser, received standing ovations at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals, she said. Fraser and supporting actor Hong Chau have racked up award nominations for their performances.
“In general, the performances are outstanding — the acting on the screen throughout this five-day festival is top tier,” Wrubel said. “These characters are very reflective of the world we’re living in right now.”
Timely storytelling is something Wrubel considers when curating the Academy Screenings lineup. She pointed out how a good amount of the selected films this year deal with relevant political matters, mentioning all of the foreign films, as well as “The Son” — which serves as a prequel to “The Father” and brings forth serious issues surrounding mental illness.
Balancing the group of harder-hitting, thought-provoking films, Wrubel ensured the festival would promise levity. The director said she’s excited to present “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” as an animated option this year. Catered toward youth, the film will be screened at the Isis Theatre on Monday, Dec. 19 — the first day of winter break for kids, Wrubel said — and Paradise Bakery will provide cookies and hot chocolate.
In terms of general crowd pleasers, Wrubel mentioned “Glass Onion,” “The Pale Blue Eye” and “White Noise” — which is a “fun and stylized” comedy, Wrubel said, that isn’t launching until around the New Year.
Written and directed by Noah Baumach, “White Noise” dramatizes a contemporary American family’s attempts to deal with the mundane conflicts of everyday life. Its screening on Friday, Dec. 23, will close out the festival.
“I hope people have the opportunity to see a whole variety of films,” Wrubel said. “They all stand on their own, and there is something for everyone.”
General admission tickets to individual festival events are $25 ($30 for opening and closing night) and can be purchased at aspenshowtix.com. For more information on this year’s Academy Screenings lineup and schedule, visit aspenfilm.org.
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