Bruce Dern in 'Nebraska' will open this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival

Bruce Dern chases a million dollar prize in the new black and white film Nebraska

We now know the more notable films to look for at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. Nebraska is the gala opener and The Face of Love is the closer. Their place in those two most prestigious slots was announced at VIFF’s press conference Wednesday.

More details at the VIFF site, and I’ve got some early recommendations below. 

Nebraska is the latest from Alexander Payne who made the Oscar-winning films The Descendants and Sideways. It won ecstatic reviews at the Cannes film festival as well as the best-actor award for Bruce Dern.

He plays a senior who sets out to claim a $1 million prize he thinks he has won.

The Face of Love is also celebrated for great acting. Annette Bening plays a widow who falls in love with a man, played by Ed Harris, who looks exactly like her late husband. She can’t bring herself to tell him what attracted her.

Elsewhere among the 341 films screening you’ll find:

--the big Cannes winner: Blue Is the Warmest Color described as a masterpiece about a lesbian love affair. Apparently the sex, enacted by Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos is highly graphic.

--The Blind Detective, Hong Kong’s Johnnie To directs superstars Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng in a “romantic/detective/horror/thriller/comedy”.

-- Le Week-End, a British film getting awards buzz with Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as academics trying to renew their marriage on a trip to Paris.

--Heli, another Cannes highlight about brutality and corruption in Mexico.

--Watermark a Canadian documentary about the use and abuse of water. Filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal and photographer Edward Burtynsky, who made the stunning Manufactured Landscapes six years ago, travel the world and parts of B.C. to tell their story.

--locals Mina Shum and Anne Wheeler are both back with new films. Wheeler’s is a documentary about a trip she took to India with her friend, the late actress Babz Chula, who is also celebrated in a drama. Ben Ratner was inspired by her friendship to create Down River...

starring Helen Shaver, Jennifer Spence,  Gabrielle Miller and Jay Brazeau. The film also has a prestigious spot: the Canadian Images gala.

The film also has a prestigious spot: a B. C. films gala. VIFF director Alan Franey announced it as part of a new program called BC Spotlight to promote films from here. There will be two cash awards and a peoples’ vote for the “must-see BC film”.

For regular VIFF filmgoers the big question this year is: how will it work now that the Granville Theatre is gone? Pass holders used to line up in the morning and get their tickets for the whole day.

Now they’ll have to line up at seven separate venues, some of which are close together (SFU downtown, International Village, The Playhouse, The Centre for the Performing Arts) but others are not. The Rio on Broadway is the most far out. Expect to do a lot more walking this year. You'll have to plan your schedule extra carefully.

Details are promised in the new and improved sneak preview guide expected to be available Thursday.

The Centre is a beautiful and large new venue but now owned by a church. For a time it wasn’t clear whether VIFF could screen there. Franey says the deal was finalized only a few weeks ago and does not put restrictions on what kind of films they can show there. “It’s a straight business arrangement,” he said.

I wonder though: what if it was Blue is the Warmest Color, not Nebraska, he had scheduled in there.

I’ve seen a few of this year's films already and will have daily recommendations throughout the festival. “l'll definitely be telling you about The Rocket, Rap is War, A Gun in Each Hand, Desert Runners,  Wolf Children, Good Vibrations, The Last Ocean and La Jaula de Oro.

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