The American Cinematheque at the Aero is thriving. In its new incarnation, the theater has brought a lot of Hollywood to Montana Avenue. This November, it’s positioned as one of the more visible ways to screen films with Oscar potential. In-person tributes and sneak previews are becoming the norm. Bringing big name stars within reach of the paying public gets people talking. And getting people talking is what getting nominated for Oscars is all about.
The first big fall roll-out (besides the tribute to George Clooney this past month) will be a sneak and in-person appearance by Emilio Estevez on November 10 with his new film Bobby. It will be an Estevez double bill, along with his 1996 film, The War at Home.
Bobby features an all-star cast and has already been generating Oscar buzz on the festival circuit. Estevez is a local boy, having grown up in Malibu as Martin Sheen’s son. The Cinematheque is a coming home of Estevez in a way, but it is also the best place to show the very political, very left-leaning film. The film stars Harry Belafonte, Joy Bryant, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Brian Geraghty, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Joshua Jackson, David Krumholtz, Ashton Kutcher, Shia LaBeouf, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Svetlana Metkina, Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Jacob Vargas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Elijah Wood.
The Estevez tribute and sneak preview sums up what the Cinematheque has come to mean in the Oscar race and how it will ultimately be one of the prime launching pads for smaller, but pointedly aimed films. In other words, it will no doubt have its Arclight screenings, and its Academy screenings, but the Cinematheque will be like a pep rally for the film, giving it lots of momentum before Academy members prepare to fill in their nominations.
The next day, November 11, George Miller brings his animated musical Happy Feet to the Cinematheque. It is considered the strongest contender for Animated Feature. The film will be presented as a family matinee, at 10 a.m. Miller will be there, and there will even be a “penguin party” at Every Picture Tells a Story, a few steps away from the Aero.
They’re not done with Miller yet, however. Saturday evening, the Miller tribute continues with Mad Max and The Road Warrior, certainly some of Miller’s finest work. The evening tribute is a nice way to remind audiences that, while Miller may be more interested in talking pigs and tap dancing penguins, he is a formidable director from back in the day.
Sunday, November 12 offers up yet another sneak. Steven Soderbergh’s eagerly anticipated film, The Good German, a black-and-white WWII movie. Naturally, Soderbergh will be there for the Q&A. The Good German stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Tobey Maguire.
On the same bill with The Good German will be the incomparable Casablanca.
November 16 brings a sneak of Marc Forster’s Stranger Than Fiction, starring Emma Thompson and Will Ferrell. Ferrell seems to be taking a cue from the Jim Carrey school of not getting stuck in only funny roles. Stranger than Fiction is about an author (Thompson) who decides while writing her finest book that she wants to kill off her main character (Ferrell). But he turns out to be alive and well and doesn’t much take to being offed. Or to being a fictional character, for that matter.
The last screening in November is the union of Harvey and Bob Weinstein with director Anthony Minghella. They took The English Patient all the way to Best Picture once upon a time and now they’re back on the scene. The Weinstein Company, the newly formed Miramax replacement, seems to be right back on the horse and ready to ride. Breaking and Entering stars Jude Law, Juliet Binoche and Robin Wright Penn.
Choosing Santa Monica to launch their movies is the best way to get them not only noticed but celebrated by a community that is not nearly as jaded as Hollywood.