The Dallas International Film Festival is just underway, and its lineup of close to 200 films can be daunting to even the heartiest of moviegoers. So what's the best way to get the most out of the fest?
The first rule of thumb is to plan ahead. Your most-anticipated film could be anticipated by many others, so if there's a movie you really want to see, it's best to buy a ticket in advance (passholders are guaranteed tickets so long as get there at least 15 minutes ahead of time).
But the other thing to keep in mind is to not overdo it. The vast majority of films will have two screenings on different days, so there's no need to do a full-day binge. The festival lasts until April 14, giving you plenty of time to set your schedule.
But what films should you see? While 42, showing at Cinemark West Plano on Thursday, is arguably the biggest film of the festival, we prefer those that you might not otherwise see if not for festivals like this. Here are our best off-the-beaten-path picks for every day remaining in the festival.
Friday, April 5
Mud - The film voted by CultureMap Dallas readers as their most-anticipated film of the festival is one of the few films that will only have one screening. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and two precocious newcomers, it's earned raves at Cannes and Sundance, and will likely do the same here.
The Rambler - One of DIFF's midnight specials, this one stars Dermot Mulroney as a man known simply as "The Rambler" who meets people like "The Scientist" and "The Girl" in his journey across America. It promises to be an eccentric and violent romp that has as many secrets as those anonymous names suggest. (Also playing on Saturday, April 6)
Saturday, April 6
Good Ol' Freda - The Beatles have been one of the most documented bands in history since they took over the world in the 1960s, so you'd think all their stories would have been exhausted by now. But this documentary about a secretary to the band and their fan club is an enthralling look at one person's inside look at the Fab Four. (Also playing on Sunday, April 7)
Sweetwater - They have an ebb and flow like any genre, but Westerns will never go out of style. A star-studded cast including Ed Harris, January Jones and Jason Isaacs, the film pits two struggling landowners against an area preacher and a big-city sheriff. (Also playing on Sunday, April 7)
Sunday, April 7
The Bounceback - A film about breakups and obsession, two couples experience a wild night in Austin when one ex-boyfriend decides to track his ex-girlfriend to Texas' capital city. It's a comedy that will have anyone who's ever broken up with someone - aka all of us - cringing with sympathy. (Also plays on Saturday, April 6)
Buck Wild - Another midnight special, this one involves a hunting trip gone awry when four friends run afoul of local gangsters, the sheriff and, naturally, zombies. Almost anything can and does happen in this Texas-set film. It also plays on Saturday, April 6, but we're choosing this one since it's at the somewhat friendlier time of 10 pm.
Monday, April 8
Dirty Wars - If you're able to get away during the day, this documentary is definitely worth your while. A look at the state of warfare today, it shows how things like drone strikes, night raids and torture have completely changed the game when it comes to America engaging its enemies. (Also plays on Saturday, April 6)
Rushlights - Josh Henderson has made a big impact in the television world the past two years as the diabolical John Ross Ewing on Dallas, and this film will have him facing more intrigue and murder. The thriller has his character trying to run scams in small town Texas, with the local sheriff and others trying to prevent his schemes. (Also playing on Tuesday, April 9)
Tuesday, April 9
Decoding Annie Parker - We've been following this film for a while now, so it's no surprise it's on our list. Telling two stories - one of a woman with breast cancer, one of researcher looking for genetic links for the cancer - it's a heartfelt drama that has the added bonus of having a local connection. (Also playing on Thursday, April 11)
The Dirties - With the school shooting in Newtown still fresh on our minds, The Dirties takes on the topic in an unexpected way. Two high schoolers turn to making a movie to release their anger about being bullied, but where does the fantasy of the movie end and real life begin? (Also playing on Wednesday, April 10)
Wednesday, April 10
Good Night - If you had a life-threatening illness, how would you go about saying goodbye to your family and friends? That's the premise behind this film, where the reaction to one character's announcement turns into a night of sadness, questioning and celebration. (Also playing on Thursday, April 11)
The Kings of Summer - Two teenagers, sick of their home lives for different reasons, concoct an idea to build their own house in the woods. Joined by an eccentric schoolmate, they set out to become their own men, with unexpected consequences. It's a funny look at rebellion taken to a whole new level. (Also playing on Thursday, April 11)
Thursday, April 11
Chasing Shakespeare - This Bard-related film, starring Danny Glover, parallels the star-crossed duo of Romeo and Juliet. Glover's character his character's love for a Native American woman knows no bounds, not even death. The film is highlighted by beautiful visuals and a haunting score. Does love truly conquer all? (Also playing on Friday, April 12)
C.O.G. - David Sedaris is an author and humorist who's semi-well known for his work and for his famous sister, Amy. This film is the first time his work has been adapted for the big screen, telling the story of a guy who does some deep soul-searching after going to work on an Oregon apple farm one summer. (Also plays on Wednesday, April 10)
Friday, April 12
Twenty Feet from Stardom - We know all about music headliners, but what exactly does it take to be a backup singer? That's the thrust of this documentary, which intersperses interviews with big names like Bruce Springsteen and Bette Midler with those who toil in the background. An invaluable look at these unsung musical legends. (Also playing on Sunday, April 14)
The Discoverers - Most teenagers have been forced to endure a trip they'd rather not have gone on, but this one may take the cake. A writer drags his children along to a conference in hopes that he will get inspiration, only to find the whole family being dragged in unexpected directions when his father goes missing while on a wildlife expedition. (Also playing on Sunday, April 14)
Saturday, April 13
Smashed - The perils of alcoholism have often been portrayed on screen, but it's not often a film delves into the intricacies of recovery. That's mainly what this film is about, as stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul fearlessly portray that ugliness when Winstead's character gives up alcohol. Winstead will be on hand to speak about the film afterward.
The Exorcist - There are not many horror films that can stand the test of time, but William Friedkin's 1973 masterpiece is one of them. It's still as freaky now as it was 40 years ago to see poor Linda Blair speak in tongues, crawl up the stairs backward or projectile vomit green nastiness. Friedkin will be on hand to speak about the film afterward.
Sunday, April 14
Life is Beautiful - Roberto Benigni's 1997 Oscar winner is being shown as part of a tribute to Italian cinema, and it still retains its poignancy. Set in a Nazi concentration camp, a father must protect his son from the horrors going on all around him by convincing him it's all one big game.
Unfinished Song - When Vanessa Redgrave's character is no longer able to sing in her beloved choir, her husband (Terence Stamp) reluctantly takes her place. But his grumpiness is soon replaced by something akin to joy when the music awakens parts of him he thought were long gone. (Also plays on Tuesday, April 9)