What to See at the Philadelphia Film Festival

Our fair city played a part — with location and ballerinas — in two of today's suggestions

Tonight is the opening ceremony for the Philadelphia Film Festival. If you haven’t yet checked out the list of more than 100 films playing this year on eight different Philadelphia screens, check it out immediately!

Among this year’s festival features are several sure-to-be Oscar nominees, superlative foreign films, some local features, and original documentaries. The festival will continue through Sunday, October 24th. Here are just a few of my recommendations for this weekend.

Visit the festival’s website for up-to-date show times, complete film listings, and ticket information. Note: Many screenings will sell out fast!

Black Swan
The newest film from Daren Aronofsky (who directed The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) was selected to open this year’s festival. It stars Natalie Portman as a ballerina chosen to replace the New York City prima ballerina as the lead in Swan Lake. When a new dancer (Mila Kunis) begins to impress the director, Portman sees her as a threat. After opening the 67th Venice Film Festival, the film has already garnered a lot of Oscar buzz — specifically for Best Actress. Try to get a ticket to the, already, hottest film at the festival. [Tickets might still available for the opening screening.]

Special Note: Several of the fourteen dancers from the Philadelphia Ballet who appear in the movie will be available for a Q&A session after the opening night screening.

October 14th, 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Theater in the Annenberg Center
October 16th, 7:30 p.m. at Prince Music Theater

Blue Valentine
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams portray two loving people who fall in and (bitterly) out of love. It is an ordinary, not altogether original plot, but absolutely devastating in its presentation (and wholly more successful and relatable than 2008’s Revolutionary Road). The movie is not simply about the decay of love. Rather, it’s about that gaping hole that remains once love has dissipated.
It is, at times, excruciating to watch, but boasts phenomenal performances from Gosling and Williams. It is incredible to witness the depth and vulnerability from these young, beautiful actors.

Along with The Social Network, this is easily one of my favorite movies of the year. My Grade: A

October 15th, 7:30 p.m. at Prince Music Theater
October 16th, 5 p.m. at Prince Music Theater

It stars Rainn Wilson and Joseph Gordon Levitt. What more could you want?

October 15th, 10:10 p.m. at Ritz Five
October 16th, 10 p.m. at Prince Music Theater

Anthony LaPaglia stars as an older journalist going into East Timor, before the impending invasion from Indonesia, to find five missing Australian journalists. Based on a true story, this haunting film is both shockingly brutal and beautiful. My Grade: B+

October 16th, 4:15 p.m. at International House
October 21th, 4:30 p.m. at Ritz Five

The Best and the Brightest
Upon moving to New York City, a young couple (Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville) begins to unravel as they attempt to find a private school for their five-year-old daughter. When forced to, they lie, they blackmail, and hire a professional (Amy Sedaris) to secure a coveted spot. While at times the movie, which was shot in Philadelphia, is a bit messy and misguided, you can’t help but be charmed by the actors and the occasional shots of our city’s sights. My Grade: B-

October 16th, 7:15 p.m. at Ritz Five
October 18th, 7:30 p.m. at Prince Music Theater
October 24th, 9:45 p.m. at Rave