As throngs of musicians check-in at Lincoln Center and downtown music fans start planning the best way to hit five venues a night through Saturday and survive on only a few hours sleep, it's important for this space to make note of that other, smaller, but no less fun part of the CMJ Music Marathon, namely the CMJ Film Fest. The Film Fest regularly does its best to present a combination of music-themed films as well as regular motion pictures that, for lack of a better description, would be most appreciated by the CMJ audience. I have to say, that while they always seem to get a few decent titles here or there, the program of screenings this year seems, better than ever, to truly satisfy that goal.
This year's Film Fest program kicks-off tonight with what must be the most anticipated comedy of the fall: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron Cohen's big screen transformation of his hysterically politically incorrect Kazakhstanian "journalist." The film received raves at the Toronto Film Festival, and people who've seen it have told me that it's not just brilliantly funny, but also quite tasteless. Sure you can wait until Friday when it opens nationwide, but Borat himself will be on hand at tonight's Film Fest screening.
If there is a second most anticipated comedy of the fall, it's probably Tenacious D in "The Pick of Destiny", with Jack Black and Kyle Gass teaming up as their legendary greatest rock band in the world to create, finally, "the greatest motion picture of all time." (Screens on Friday at 12 PM at the DGA Theater on 57th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.)
Other big name studio films getting advance screenings at Film Fest are Reno 911! Miami, in which the cops from the Comedy Central TV series must save the day at a Miami police convention threatened by a terrorist attack (let's call it, Police Academy for the 21st Century); Stranger Than Fiction (screens Thursday at 5:30 PM at Tribeca Cinemas), which looks fantastic in a Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonze sort of way but unfortunately is directed by Marc Forster; and Darren Aronofsky's long-awaited Fountain of Youth sci-fi drama, The Fountain (Thursday at 4 PM at the Walter Reade).
Music fans get some direct concert and documentary footage in two titles both showing on Saturday at the DGA Theater. At noon is Okonokos, a movie featuring the band My Morning Jacket live. As great as My Morning Jacket is recorded, the buzz has always been that they're an even better live band, and this film finally gives the rest of a chance to see. Following at 2 PM will be Oasis -- Lord Don't Slow Me Down, a documentary which follows Oasis on its seven month "Don't Believe the Truth" tour. After the screening, Noel Gallagher will be on hand for a Q&A session moderated by Matt Pinfield.
And then come the rest ... a nice selection of more indie-minded fare and special programs including Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Thursday at 1 PM at the Walter Reade), a cool looking thriller from the director of Run Lola Run and Fuck (screening tomorrow at 3:15 PM at the Walter Reade), Steve Anderson's documentary exploring all the meanings, connotations and usage of yours and my favorite word.
One special video-related program of interest takes place at MoMA on Thursday and Friday: Chuck Statler: Before MTV will feature a collection of clips in a retrospective of the innovative music oriented filmmaker's work. At the 8 PM screening on Thursday, Statler will be in attendance for a discussion and q&a session as well.
Film Fest has always flown a bit under the radar at CMJ. It's easy, no matter what the titles are, to be overshadowed by, as the Music Marathon boasts, 120 non-stop hours of music. If you have a CMJ badge, attendance is easy ... show up (maybe a little early), and you get in. This year for the first time, CMJ also sold a badge at a discounted rate for Film Fest events only -- $50 for unlimited attendance; $25 for five screenings. These passes can be purchased at CMJ Registration at Lincoln Center starting today. Individual tickets may be available at the venue box offices before the screening.