This Year’s Mill Valley Film Festival Announced

As summer closes, the superhero blockbusters dry up. In their place comes a whole other genre–Oscar bait. That’s okay, because these are usually the best films of the year.

And if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, your first chance to catch the Oscar bait is usually the Mill Valley Film Festival. The two most recent Best Picture winners, The King’s Speech and The Artist, both had their Bay Area premieres at Mill Valley.

The festival was officially announced this morning, at the same time and not far from Apple’s big announcement. Rather than try to turn a press conference into a narrative, I’ll just list some of the more interesting nuggets discussed.

And yes, I know that Mill Valley is only one of 13 festivals coming up in the Bay Area. I’m sorry I can’t cover all of them in detail, so I’m concentrating on the most important one.

As I write this, the Festival Web site is not yet complete, so I can’t provide links to many of these films.

  • Mark Fishkin delighted the press by not reading off a list of sponsors. But he pointed out that ticket sales bring in a fraction of what it costs to run this event, and that we should be thankful to the corporations that make the festival possible.
  • The stats: The Festival will screen 92 features, 62 shorts, and 32 US premieres.  They expect some 45,000 people toi attend and buy about 60,000 admissions.
  • Most of the films will not be on film at all, but screened digitally. The Rafael installed a digital projector in one screen some time ago, and has recently installed another, leaving only one more waiting for the change. They’ve kept their 35mm projectors, as well. The Sequoia has already converted to digital.
  • The two opening night films are On the Road (yes, based on Jack Kerouac’s novel) and David O. Russell’s Silver Lightings Playbook.
  • Tributes will go to Dustin Hoffman, Mira Nair, and Billy Bob Thornton. Hoffman’s tribute will include the local premiere of his directorial début, Quartet.
  • In a tribute to actor John Hawkes, the festival will screen the Bay Area premiere of The Sessions.
  • The Italian Caesar Must Die sounds fascinating. It’s a reworking of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, filmed in a prison with the prisoners and guards performing.
  • Ken Burns will teach a master class.
  • The Festival will screen the world premiere of The Sinners, a murder mystery from Iran with a victim who has just returned from the United States.
  • On Monday, October 8, the Festival will screen Star Wars (AKA A New Hope) on the giant, curved screen at the Corte Madera. This year is the film’s 35th anniversary, but I’m sure they’re not showing the original version.
  • The Festival will close with Ang Lee’s first 3D film, Life of Pi.