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Cinephiles unite: STL Film Fest is here

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Attention cinephiles, the 21st Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) begins this week.

Running from Thursday, Nov. 8 through Sunday Nov. 18, SLIFF provides hours of programming and an opportunity to see independent and foreign films that may be hard to find at the local multiplex. In case the long lineup is overwhelming, here are six films not to miss:

1. “Silver Linings Playbook” plays Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tivoli Theatre and Saturday, Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Plaza Frontenac Cinema.
This screwball comedy stars Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”), Jennifer Lawrence (“The Hunger Games”) and Robert DeNiro (“Raging Bull”. Cooper plays a man suffering with an emotional disorder and struggling to readjust to his life after discovering his wife cheated.
He meets a woman (Lawrence), and an unexpected bond forms between the two that changes their lives. “Silver Linings Playbook” won the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film received high critical praise and even an early Oscar buzz, especially for Lawrence. “Silver Linings Playbook” kicks off the festival on opening night, which is always fun and exciting.

2. “A Late Quartet” shows Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Hi-Pointe. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener are three members of a quartet torn apart by death and egos.
This film is a special presentation at SLIFF. Even though it has suffered middling reviews, the film should be interesting for the cast alone.

3. “Caesar Must Die” makes its SLIFF debut on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 4:15 p.m. at Plaza Frontenac Cinema. This intriguing Italian film blends fact and fiction, performance and reality, gray scale and color, to tell the tale of inmates in a high-security prison in Rome as they prepare their own production of “Julius Caesar.” The film is Italy’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards.

4. “Struck By Lightning” shows Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tivoli Theatre. This one goes out to “Glee” fans. Chris Colfer (Kurt from “Glee”) writes and stars in this comedy about a young man who blackmails his fellow students into contributing to his literary magazine. Somewhere in the plot, the assumption is he gets struck by lightning. Rebel Wilson (“Bridesmaids”), Allison Janney (“The West Wing”), and Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”) co-star.

5. “This Is Not a Film” plays Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 1:45 p.m. at Plaza Frontenac Cinema. Yes, this is indeed a film, and a great one, according to reviews. Jafar Panahi is on house arrest, awaiting a return from the Iranian appeals court. Panahi, one of Iran’s most celebrated filmmakers, crafts this introspective, pseudo-documentary and explores issues facing contemporary Iranian cinema. In 2010, Panahi was banned from making films for 20 years. The documentary, shot with a digital camcorder and an iPhone, was smuggled out of the country on a USB drive inside of a cake. So, if anyone asks, this is not a film.

6. “Starbuck” shows Saturday, Nov. 10 at 6:15 p.m. at Plaza Frontenac Cinema. A lot of buzz surrounds this French-Canadian comedy about a man who finds out his significant other is pregnant. Actually, a significant amount of others: 142 women, as a result of artificial insemination, are claiming he is their baby-daddy. Hilarity ensues. The comedy hit was a crowd-pleaser in its native land, and plans for a Hollywood remake are already in the works. Catch the original before it’s too late.

These are just six of the films that should feature on any film fan’s “to-see” list. For the complete lineup, visit www.cinemastlouis.org. And, as Roger Ebert was wont to say, I’ll see you at the movies!

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