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Up in the Air flies highest with southeastern film critics

by Mark Burger

The critics have spoken. The members of the Southeastern Film Critics Association, more commonly known as SEFCA, have deliberated long and hard — and watched an awful lot of movies the last few weeks — and have once again determined their selections for the best films of 2009.

(SEFCA members have also watched a lot of awful movies in 2009, I can attest to that, being a member myself.)

Jason Reitman’s comedy/drama Up in the Air dominated the awards with three wins: Best Picture, Best Actor (George Clooney) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Reitman and Sheldon Turner). No other film received more than one award from the association this year.

Meryl Streep won Best Actress for her performance as renowned chef Julia Child in Nora Ephron’s comedy Julie & Julia; Christoph Waltz was named Best Supporting Actor for his turn as a ruthless Nazi officer in Quentin Tarantino’s The Inglourious Basterds; and comedienne Mo’Nique won Best Supporting Actress for her performance as an abusive mother in director Lee Daniels’ adaptation of Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire; and Kathryn Bigelow was selected Best Director for the Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker. The latter film rated high with SEFCA voters, capturing the runner-up spots for Best Picture, Best Actor (Jeremy Renner) and Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal). The Best Original Screenplay award went to Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for the critically acclaimed romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, which was the opening-night selection at this year’s RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem in April.

Other runners-up included newcomer Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe in Precious (Best Actress); Woody Harrelson in The Messenger (Best Supporting Actor); Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air (Best Supporting Actress); Jason Reitman for Up in the Air (Best Director); and Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach for Fantastic Mr. Fox (Best Adapted Screenplay).

Writer/director Olivier Assayas’ L’eure d’ete (Summer Hours) captured the Best Foreign-Language Film prize (Germany’s The White Ribbon was the runner-up); Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc. took Best Documentary (Louie Psihoyos’ The Cove was the runnerup); and Pixar’s summer blockbuster Up won the Best Animated Feature award, although Fantastic Mr. Fox nearly scored an upset and was a close runner-up.

The Gene Wyatt Award, a citation awarded for a film that best exemplifies the essence of the South and named for the late film critic, went to screenwriter/director Scott Teems’ adaptation of That Evening Sun. Writer/producer/ director Ramin Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo, which was lensed in and around Winston-Salem (and was also a featured selection at RiverRun this year), was the runner-up.

SEFCA’s Top 10 list for 2009 is as follows: Up in the Air, The Hurt Locker, Up, The Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man, (500) Days of Summer, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, Fantastic Mr. Fox and District 9. I saw all of those 10 films this year. Some I voted for, some I didn’t… but it’s a pretty diverse list any way you look at it — and all of these films are worth looking at. There’s nary a lemon in the bunch.

SEFCA is comprised of journalists from nine states representing the Southeastern section of the United States. This year, 44 members participated in the voting process.

Hot on the heels of Christmas and New Year’s, the Revolve Film & Music Festival will celebrate its second anniversary with an exclusive screening of the North Carolina premiere of Jim Granato’s award-winning documentary feature D Tour, which will be screened at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21 in the Drama Workshop of the Salem Fine Arts Center, located on the campus of Salem College (601 S. Church St., Winston-Salem).

Combining both film and music, D Tour focuses on Pat Spurgeon, a member of the indie pop band Rogue Wave, which is just starting to make waves in the international music scene. Just when it appears that Pat and his bandmates are about to embark on an important tour, he suffers kidney failure — the result of a long-standing condition. Suddenly, the pursuit of his dream becomes, in a very real sense, a matter of life and death.

Producer/director/cinematographer/ co-editor Granato is a long-time friend of Pat Spurgeon and his fellow Rogue Wave performers (Zach Rogue, Evan Farrell and Gram Le Bron), which gave him immediate and intimate access to fashion a rock documentary like no other.

“Revolve is excited to present the North Carolina premiere of this compelling and unusual documentary,” said Shalini Chatterjee, founder of the Revolve festival. “You have to see it to understand why it’s gaining so much attention in festival circuits.”

The film has already won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival and the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the BendFilm Festival (located in Bend, Oregon).

Showtime is 7 p.m. Admission is $5.

For tickets or more information, see www.revolvefestival.com.

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