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Hollywood Heavyweights Hit Houston

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Tilda Swinton, Tommy Lee Jones, and Richard Linklater amp up the Cinema Arts Festival.

TildaSwinton
Tilda Swinton.

Outshined by perennial Cannes, innovative Sundance, and achingly close SXSW, Houston makes a bold move to increase the film festival wattage this month with the Cinema Arts Festival. Oscar winners Tilda Swinton and Tommy Lee Jones are just two of the avant artists descending on Space City next month for the classy celebration of cinema and cutting-edge verite. Indie idol Swinton graces several events during the five-day fest, including a screening of her documentary on gay painter and filmmaking auteur Derek Jarman, and unveiling a preview of her latest independent feature. Jones will appear with gifted scribe Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel) at the MFA, who will also be making the rounds with a reading and the much-anticipated “Setting the Scene” workshop for all would be Orson Welles.

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Zac Efron in the film Me and Orson Welles, by Texas maverick filmmaker Richard Linklater.

Speaking of Welles, the festival will feature two headline-grabbing premieres, one being the buzzworthy new film from Dazed and Confused director Richard Linklater. Me and Orson Welles is Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron’s grand bid to go beyond Disney dance mannequin to serious actor, which isn’t such a stretch, given Linklater’s uncanny gift to discover and nurture young talent (see: entire D&C cast). The festival will also bring Oscar sure-fire Precious to Houston, a brutal tour de force based on the breakthrough novel Push by Sapphire. The film, skillfully directed by Lee Daniels, has been the subject of countless news items of late, much due to the involvement of Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey. The film hardly needed the hype, not with shocking performances by Mo’Nique as a horrifically abusive mother, a heartbreakingly nuanced turn by newcomer Gabourey Sidebe in the title role, and a gasp-inducing supporting role by a dressed-down and mustached Mariah Carey, who with one role will make all Glitter jokes a thing of the past. Precious, with its lesbian schoolteacher character played with tender sincerity by Paula Patton, as well as the documentary Who’s Afraid of Kathy Acker?, illustrate how the CAF isn’t shying away from the LGBT angle, either.

But queers, premieres, and stars aren’t the only attractions the festival is offering. The innovative H BOX, a futuristic, traveling screening room, will draw crowds at the newly re-acquired Alabama Theatre, while Discovery Green hosts a closing night performance by the Houston Ballet in conjunction with a viewing of the classic The Red Shoes. The event will bring attention to Tilda Swinton’s The 8½ Foundation, so in case you miss seeing her around town, this will be your best chance to witness the porcelain beauty in action.

For years, any Houston film festival has been an admittedly who-knows/who-goes/who-cares venture. But this fete is sure to bring out the powerful rich and plain old movie lovers alike, so be sure to snag your tickets fast and plan your cinematic excursion early by logging on to the Cinema Arts Society website at cinemarts.org.

The 2009 Cinema Arts Festival Houston, at various venues around the city, is held from November 11–15.—Steven Foster
 

A Man, A Camera and A Mission
Patrick McCutchan sets out to document the various tribes of all 50 states

Photographer Patrick B. McCutchan’s All Fifty State Photography Tour is an interesting concept, to be sure: travel to major cities of every state in America, snapping portraits of people from all walks of life, including LGBT’ers. But it’s his message that puts a uniquely bohemian spin on the project. McCutchan started out in Minneapolis and took to the road with just his camera and his dream, opting to let the very subjects he’s photographing support the tour. His message is quite simple—to prove that “prosperity lives in America.” McCutchan’s in Houston now and, much like the WPA and traveling artists before him, he’s willing to sing—or rather snap a pic—for his supper. (We see a book deal in the future.) You can follow his journey by adding him as a friend, visiting his website, or even sponsoring McCutchan along the way. Of course, you can also get some pretty hip portraits of yourself in exchange for your support. INFO: www.patrickmccutchan.com.

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H BOX Rocks

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H BOX portable screening room at Houston’s Alabama Theatre

H BOX is the portable screening room designed by Portuguese artist/architect Dider Fiuza Faustino and sponsored by the Hermès Foundation. It is stationed at Houston’s historic Alabama Theatre through the close of the Cinema Arts Festival on November 15 and features a rotating, diverse program of videos by 10 internationally renowned artists, including Matthew Buckingham (USA), Kota Ezawa (Germany), and Cao Fei (China). Curator Benjamin Weil, who commissioned the works for H BOX, attends the festival to speak in the festival’s “Meet the Makers” series on November 15. H BOX is open Wednesday through Friday 1–6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Admission is free.

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