Six degrees of separation at the Vail Film Festival |

Six degrees of separation at the Vail Film Festival

Nate Peterson
Special to the Daily Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy star in "Before Sunset," a Richard Linklater film that was featured at the inaugural Vail Film Festival this past weekend.

My roommates in college always said if I didn’t have a job after graduation, that I should apply to be on Comedy Central’s “Beat the Geeks,” because of my encyclopedic knowledge of films.

At least they thought it was encyclopedic.

I never really thought that being able to link Katherine Hepburn to Britney Spears through films in three degrees of separation in fewer than three minutes was a talent.

I also knew that there were bigger geeks out there who had seen more movies than I, who had longer Netflix queue lists than I, or a really good art-house theater nearby, or had made the rounds on the film festival circuit.

I met one of these geeks on Saturday at the Cascade Theatre in Vail while waiting for the start of director Richard Linklater’s new film, “Before Sunset,” at the inaugural Vail Film Festival. My good friend Andy and I were sitting there, engaged in a discussion about the documentary we had just seen called “Breakfast with Hunter,” a smart, absorbing documentary about America’s greatest writer Hunter S. Thompson, when the geek leaned over and said,

“So do you think Linklater is gonna be here? I heard he’s coming.”

The conversation that ensued proved my earlier hypothesis, since this geek – a cheery, motor mouthed Linklater fanatic, who had dropped 90 bucks and driven two hours from Denver to see the film, even if it meant rent money – was more of a cinema wacko than both Andy and I combined.

I couldn’t beat this geek for sure, nor half the other geeks in Vail who were there to screen their films, but then again I wasn’t at the film festival to beat geeks anyway.

I was just there to join them.

Noise and laughter

Needless to say, Vail’s inaugural film festival was a hit. As to whether it was a financial success – I don’t know – but it was a rocking good festival, stocked full of great independent films and overflowing with free booze.

In three days, Andy and I – two 23-year-old snowboard bums – got to see five fantastic movies, eat and drink free at two swanky parties, and meet one former alum from our high school who was starring in one of the festival’s best films.

It was bliss.

We started off the weekend by going to see New York director Tony Spiridakis’ “Noise,” a brooding psycho-thriller starring Ally Sheedy, Giancarlo Esposito and supermodel Trish Goff.

It was our least favorite movie of the festival, but still a better film than half the major large-studio releases I’ll see this year. And, after the screening, Spiridakis and the screenwriter stood up front to answer questions about how the movie got made, what it was like working with Ally Sheedy and most importantly why the principle noises of “Noise” were showtunes.

Seeing a dark, slow murder movie was the perfect lead-in to our next film, writer and director Wally Wolodarsky’s upbeat romantic comedy, “Seeing Other People,” starring Jay Mohr, Lauren Graham, Josh Charles, Julianne Nicholson and Andy Richter.

Wolodarsky’s original story about an engaged couple who agree to a sexual free-for-all with other people before settling down to get married was both hilarious and endearing.

I’ll admit, I liked “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” but this movie, which could have been called “How to Lose Your Fiancee in 10 Weeks,” was heaps better – so funny at points that you couldn’t hear the dialogue because of the audience’s laughter.

There was one sequence in the film where Alice’s fiance, Ed, played by Jay Mohr, gets ditched in the ghetto by his 20-something crackhead girlfriend after he fumbles up a threesome opportunity with her and a friend.

There’s hard proof here that seeing other people isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Believe me, if you happen to be in one of the four major cities that the film will be released in later this year – New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas – run out and see it.

Baptisms, blotter acid and ‘Before Sunset’

Saturday was all about variety.

Andy and I spent the morning riding the snowboard park before we wandered into the Cascade to see “When Zachary Beaver Came to Town,” a sweet movie about three kids dealing with big issues in a sleepy Texas town.

Based on Kimberly Willis Holt’s award-winning novel, but set in the present, instead of during the Vietnam War, the movie follows pals Toby and Cal on their summer vacation as they make friends with Zachary Beaver, a 14-year-old side show attraction billed as the “Fattest Boy in the World.”

Zach is left behind in Granger, Texas by his business associate and is dealing with the possibility of being taken away by social services, but not before his newfound friends decide to give him a baptism in the local lake, so that he can meet his late mom in heaven someday.

Jonathan Lipnicki, more commonly known as “that kid in Jerry Maguire,” turns in a strong performance as Toby, a little boy coping with too much – an absentee mom, the death of Cal’s brother in the war, and his first love.

The only thing better than the flick was getting to listen to Lipnicki talk about the film afterwards. The kid never ceased to impress.

After that heart warmer, Andy and I got pitched into the rabbit hole that is Hunter S. Thompson’s life in “Breakfast with Hunter.”

You can get the movie on DVD now, so I won’t say anything about it, other than seeing Dr. Gonzo up close in the film after reading his works was a real trip – a candid piece of cinema verite.

Then, the pinnacle of the festival, the North American premiere of “Before Sunset.”

Andy and I thought it was the best movie we’d seen all year, better than “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” or “Lost in Translation.”

I’m biased of course, being that I majored in French in college and spent a half a year in Paris, during at which time I fell in love with a beautiful French girl named Aymeline, and spent numerous afternoons with her entrenched in conversation while walking the streets of the city.

The film, which takes place in Paris, nine years after Jess (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) met on a train to Vienna in the 1995 film “Before Sunrise,” is one long stream of dialogue, but it is never boring.

In fact, it’s a harder film to keep up with than most, being that in between catching up with one another, Jess and Celine delve into deep philosophical conversations about romantic love, human nature and the false, but possibly true pretense that there is only one soul mate in the world for each of us.

Afterwards, at the awards party across the street at the Centennial Lodge and Spa, Andy and I tried to be social, but both of us were still replaying the movie in our heads – too intellectually stimulated to try and make small talk with the other people, too hungry to want to wait for the free hors d’oeuvres.

We had one drink, spent five minutes talking to Nicole Hansen, who we had heard was from Boulder and was married to Spiradikis, before heading out for a pizza and then calling it a night.

Turns out Hansen – who graduated from Fairview like Andy and I – had first got started in music videos and played the live-action Marilyn Monroe painting in Billy Idol’s “Rock the Cradle of Love” video.

I always thought I went to a good high school – a real factory for future geeks – but I never realized that one of our own had turned out one of the seminal babe performances in MTV history.

But, that’s a whole other story.

And in case you were wondering…

As for a Vail Film Festival’s six degrees of separation, well, it’s pretty easy.

Ethan Hawke, who was in “Before Sunset,” was also in the great ’90s film “Reality Bites,” with none other than Janeane Garofalo.

1. Garofalo starred in a movie Andy and I missed at the festival called “Ash Tuesday” with Hansen and Spiridakis, along with Giancarlo Esposito.

2. Esposito was also in “Noise” with Ally Sheedy, playing a quirky shop owner downstairs in the apartment building.

3. Sheedy, as everyone knows, starred in the classic “The Breakfast Club,” with Emelio Estevez, Molly Ringwald and, of course, Anthony Michael Hall.

4. Hall played Winona Ryder’s boyfriend in Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands,” which starred Johnny Depp.

5. Depp, who was in a large portion of “Breakfast with Hunter,” also had a star turn with Mary Stuart Masterson in “Benny and Joon.”

6. As for Mary Stuart Masterson, she played alongside Eric Stoltz in the forgettable 1987 movie, “Some Kind of Wonderful.”

And Stoltz, well he played Toby’s dad in “When Zachary Beaver Came to Town,” which starred Lipnicki, who began his movie career in Jerry Maguire, with you guessed it…Jay Mohr.

That’s more than six, but then again, I’d love to see you try and beat it.

Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555 ext. 608 or via e-mail at

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