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Picking the perfect movie: Your cheat sheet to the best flicks at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival

Picking the perfect movie: Your cheat sheet to Cinema Arts Festival

Living Stars
Living Stars features regular people like this dentist dancing to pop music. Photo courtesy of Dallas VideoFest
Tomato Republic
Tomato Republic won the Special Jury Prize at the 2014 Dallas International Film Festival and lots of statewide rave reviews. Photo courtesy of Dallas International Film Festival
Houston Cinema Arts Festival 2014 Born to Fly
Born to Fly merges dance, acrobatics and maybe a bit of adrenaline fueled insanity. Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival
The Imitation Game, Houston Cinema Arts Festival
The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, looks like prime Oscar bait. Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival
Houston Cinema Arts Festival 2014 Dior and I
Dior and I closes the festival on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival
Living Stars
Tomato Republic
Houston Cinema Arts Festival 2014 Born to Fly
The Imitation Game, Houston Cinema Arts Festival
Houston Cinema Arts Festival 2014 Dior and I

Here’s the dirty little secret of the 2014 Houston Cinema Arts Festival: Unless you possess a time machine with hovercraft capabilities, you can’t see everything. With five days, eight venues and over 50 films, live performances and events, you’re going to have to miss a gem here or there.

The only solution is to treat these films as you would a date search or messy closet: Assess, organize, then prioritize.

Take stock of what kind of movie-goer you are. Ask yourself, “What am I looking for in my ideal film?” Then ruthless toss aside those films that just won’t get you. Finally, check our cheat sheet to find the perfect film for whatever your movie-going needs.  

(Note: If not otherwise noted, click on links to find where and where each designated film will be shown. The festival runs from today through Sunday.)

Movies for Impatient People

It’s not like these films aren’t going to return to Houston soon, probably around Christmas or Oscar season, but if you lack will power and/or want to annoy your friends with your early judgmental proclamations, see them now.

Reese Witherspoon plays the writer Cheryl Strayed. Personal tragedies and struggles send Strayed, an inexperience hiker, on a solo thousand-mile trek across the Pacific Crest Trail.

The Imitation Game
Everybody’s favorite otter-like Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, stars in this Alan Turing biopic. Though not without controversy, it looks like prime Oscar bait.

You might also like: James Franco stars, directs, and probably does the catering for this adaptation of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury

Documentaries for anyone who’s ever wondered: human beings, what’s up with them? 

Cinema Arts is spotlighting a cornucopia of documentary films on a humanity’s-breadth of subject matter. Here are some picks that look the quirkiest or just joyous.

Art and Craft
Brilliant art forger Mark Landis, in true philanthropic spirit, donates his forgeries to museums across the country. He’s pursued by a dogged registrar out to bring him to justice. It’s one of those stories so outlandish, it’s obviously true. Landis and director Jennifer Grausman will discuss the film at the Thursday (Nov. 13) screening at the MFAH.

Living Stars
From Buenos Aires directors Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat comes the dramatic tale of. . .real people dancing in their living rooms, kitchens and work places. That’s it, just people dancing to pop songs as relatives, dogs and innocent bystanders look on. Because sometimes you just got to dance, even if the whole world is watching.

You might also like: the Quidditch rises (on a broomstick) to become a real sport movie, Mudbloods.

Films for Texans who buy local

Support your regional filmmaker and catch these films surveying Texas pride, artistry, weirdness, or pride in our weirdness. You won’t need that time machine to see the majority of these as most will be showing during HCAF’s “Spotlight on Texas” four-day, post-fest Texas Fest.

Tomato Republic
The documentary about small town politics, specifically the mayoral race in Jacksonville, the Tomato Capital of Texas, a supposedly real place, won the Special Jury Prize at the 2014 Dallas International Film Festival and lots of statewide rave reviews.

Texas Filmmakers Showcase
Check out the best Texas short films of the year and get to know an astronaut, a Sammy Davis Jr. impersonator, a 14 year-old dog rescuer, and activist and “Prison Show” host Ray Hill.

You might also like: Sons de L’âme (“Sounds of the Soul”) featuring Houston Ballet’s performance of director Stanton Welch’s choreography set to Frédéric Chopin’s piano pieces.

Live performances for audiences wanting spontaneity with their films

Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow
After the screening of Through a Lens Darkly at the Eldorado Ballroom, audience members can contribute their own family photos that will be copied, discussed and uploaded to the online One World One Family Album.

Revolve on Camera
Revolve Dance Company will perform contemporary dance pieces live at the Museum of Fine Arts. They will be accompanied by Revolve Dance Company on film dancing around Houston and Southern California.

Docs for people into extreme (or even Xtreme) artistry

Some artists lead outwardly boring lives sitting in their room creating wonders. Some artists do lots of drugs while sitting in that room. Others artists jump off bridges to dance. Here are just some of the Fest’s films focusing on the creative process in all its grime and glory.

Born to Fly
Merging dance, acrobatics and maybe a bit of adrenaline fueled insanity, choreographer Elizabeth Streb tests the limits of the human body in a quest for art and flight. Streb and the film’s director Catherine Gund will attend the Saturday (Nov. 15) showing at Sundance Cinemas.

Muse of Fire
Two British actors, Dan Poole and Giles Terera trot the globe to discover the man from the Globe, William Shakespeare. Along the way, they interrogate Ian McKellen, Jude Law, Judy Dench, Julie Taymor, and James Earl Jones to divulge the secrets of performing the Bard.

You might also like: Burroughs: the Movie, the once lost, now newly restored film on the Beat Generation literary giant.

Events for those who always want to know the magicians’ secrets

Each year the HCAF brings in a array of directors, producers, artists and actors to give Fest-goers an insider’s look at the process of filmmaking. Here are just some of the who’s whos headlining the 2014 Fest.

James Ivory
The three-time Oscar nominee for directing will receive the 2014 Levantine Cinema Arts Award on Friday night ( Nov. 14) and will present his most recent film, The City of Your Final Destination. He’s joined by Peter Cameron, the author of the adapted novel. Ivory will appear throughout the weekend for the showings of Mr. and Mrs. Bridge and The Remains of the Day.

Marcelo Gomes
The acclaimed Brazilian director and screenwriter will present both his 2012 award-winning Once Upon a Time Veronica and his latest film based loosely on the Edgar Allan Poe short story The Man of the Crowd.

Frédéric Tcheng
The Fest closes  Sunday (Nov. 16) with the screening of the French-born director’s most recent film, Dior and I at the MFAH. Afterward, Tcheng, who co-produced and co-edited Valentino: The Last Emperor and co-directed Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, will discuss his work with Lynn Wyatt.