VAIL — Attention film buffs: This is our guide to get the most out of your festival pass. Seeing every movie on this list might be a challenge, and we didn’t factor in bathroom breaks or meal times, but that’s what the concession stand is for. Get ready to sit back, relax and enjoy the shows. All screenings take place at Four Seasons Vail unless noted otherwise.
See the opening night film “Before I Disappear” at 7:30 p.m. at Vail Mountain School.
Sean Christensen’s debut feature just won the Audience Award at South by Southwest Film Festival, held in Austin, Texas a few weeks ago. The film is based on Christensen’s short film “Curfew”, which won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film in 2013. Christensen not only wrote and directed the film but also stars as Richie, a depressed down-and-out guy living in New York City. One day Richie gets a call from his sister asking him to take care of his eleven-year-old niece Sophia. “Before I Disappear” takes place in one day and critics are calling it an “emotional” journey, which means bring some Kleenex. If audiences down South liked it, chances are you will too.
See “Shorts Program 1” at 12 p.m.
It’s good to start a movie marathon with a little warm up, so begin your day by checking out the first of three short film programs, which includes a Q&A with some of the filmmakers.
See “Obvious Child” at 2 p.m.
“Obvious Child” is a romantic comedy about an abortion. Wait, what? Donna, played by comedian Jenny Slate, discovers she’s pregnant and decides to get an abortion on Valentine’s Day. On her way to the clinic, she runs into Max, the guy who knocked her up in the first place. It’s a meet cute without the cliches and the film focuses on laughs, not politics.
See “A Birder’s Guide To Everything” at 4 p.m.
Some teenagers take selfies, but the kids in this charming comedy are all about taking photos of birds. Fifteen-year-old David and his friends in the Young Birders Society take a journey in search of a rare duck. Sir Ben Kingsley is in it, so it must be good. Q&A with filmmakers follows screening.
See “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden” at 6 p.m. or see “BFF’s” at 6:30 p.m.
“The Galapagos Affair” blends voiceovers by Cate Blanchett and other well-known actors with real footage to tell the story of a 1930s murder mystery. This will be the only screening of the whodunit documentary.
If you’re more into comedy, see “BFF’s”, a tale about two best female friends who pretend to be lovers in order to attend a retreat for couples at a luxury resort. Q&A with filmmakers following the screening.
See “Confessions of a Womanizer” at 8:30 p.m.
Written and directed by Vail local Miguel Ali Hasan, Andrew Lawrence plays Ritchie, a guy who loves the ladies, maybe a little too much. Gary Busey and C. Thomas Howell play supporting characters, making this comedy the best, or worst, casting decision of all time. A Q&A with Hasan and others takes place immediately after.
See “Shorts Program 2” at 11 a.m. or “Student Oscars” at 11:30 a.m.
Saturday morning gives you two different short programs to choose from, one showcasing Oscar-nominated student shorts.
See “Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind” at 1 p.m.
Set in New Orleans, a neuroscientist studying Alzheimer’s disease encounters jazz singer Una Vida, who might be suffering from the disease. This visually vibrant drama attempts to look at Alzheimer’s in a new way.
See “The Case Against 8” at 4 p.m.
Take a break from fiction and see this documentary about those who fought to overturn California’s same-sex marriage ban, taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
See closing night film “Locke” at 7:30 p.m. at Vail Mountain School
Even though you’ve been on your bum all day, you’ll be on the edge of your seat while watching “Locke”, a suspenseful thriller starring British actor Tom Hardy. The entire movie takes place in a car, so be prepared for a little paranoia while driving home. Better yet, stay for the award show and closing night party after the screening.
See “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia” at 11 a.m. or see “McConkey” at 12:45 p.m.
Gore Vidal and Shane McConkey don’t have much in common. One is a famous writer with a sharp wit and keen eye on life in America, and the other is a skier and base jumper who pushed the limits and died tragically at the age of 40. However, both of the documentaries about their lives explore how just one man can impact a sport or a nation.
See “The Retrieval” at 5:30 p.m. or see “Enemy” at 6 p.m.
“Enemy” will only be screened once at the festival, so if you want to catch it before it’s theatrical release, then you have to do it on Sunday. Jake Gyllenhall stretches his acting chops by playing a character who spots an exact lookalike of himself and tries to uncover who he is. This sepia-toned suspense film offers an alternative to the bland action movies currently crowding the cineplex.
Set at the end of the Civil War, “The Retrieval” is about a black boy who must go looking for a wanted man on orders from his own bounty hunter. Although it’s been compared to recent Oscar winner “12 Years A Slave” and called the anti-“Django Unchained,” the film offers a more nuanced portrayal of the time period. Infused with a true independent spirit, “The Retrieval” will have you leaving the theater feeling good about the future of film, and looking forward to next year’s festival.
For a full list of film screenings and events, visit www.vailfilmfestival.com.