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Tribute in cinema city

Fest celebrates hustlers, showgirls and a mix of honorees in a lineup that's quintessential Las Vegas.

June 10, 2005|R. Kinsey Lowe | Times Staff Writer

Cannes. Venice. Toronto. TriBeCa. Park City. Telluride. Las Vegas. These dissimilar destinations known for one thing or another all have at least one one thing in common: They have film festivals.

Cinevegas, the festival held annually since 1998 in the original sin city, may not have the same aura as Cannes or the high hip factor of TriBeCa. But for the next nine days it will host a diverse group of movies new and old, some that celebrate Las Vegas and others that may not celebrate anything other than the power an individual has to change his or her circumstances.

Things get under way tonight -- the festival theme is "100 Years of Las Vegas, 100 Years of Film" -- with a movie that garnered one of the highest prices a studio ever paid for a film at the Sundance Film Festival -- director Craig Brewer's "Hustle & Flow," which MTV and Paramount Classics snapped up for $9 million this year. It seems appropriate that a film on which a studio is betting heavily, about a character attempting to change his fortunes would be selected to open a festival that calls Las Vegas home.

From now until the "world premiere" of George Romero's "Land of the Dead" brings down the curtain on the festival, there will be highlights and lowlifes and things in between.

There will be the requisite screenings of "Viva Las Vegas" and "Leaving Las Vegas" with the requisite stars -- Ann-Margret and Nicolas Cage, for example -- on hand for discussion of their work. For extreme camp, the NC-17 "Showgirls" will screen midweek with a big party.

The festival also will be highlighting films about Las Vegas or by Las Vegas filmmakers that don't have distribution -- among them "Turning Green," directed by Michael Aimette and John Hofmann and starring Timothy Hutton and Colm Meaney, and "Standing Still," directed by Matthew Cole Weiss and starring Amy Adams, Colin Hanks, James Van Der Beek and Mena Suvari.

A festival should not be without honorees, and this one has an eclectic group. In addition to the aforementioned Cage, Romero and Ann-Margret, the festival will pay tribute to Christopher Walken, Samantha Morton, Wim Wenders and Rhonda Fleming, the latter picking up a Centennial Legend Award.

Other films headed to theaters screening at Cinevegas include Gus van Sant's "Last Days," Miranda July's "Me and You and Everyone We Know," Michael Winterbottom's "9 Songs," David LaChapelle's "Rize" and "The Aristocrats," Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette's unusual documentary about a particular joke told by many comedians in as many different ways but all with astonishingly foul language, to which the punch line is the film's title. You either know about this and get it or don't and probably won't.

Sort of like Las Vegas.

*

Cinevegas runs tonight through June 18, with screenings at the Brenden Theatres at the Palms Casino resort. For information and tickets, go to www.cinevegas.com.

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