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Overheard at CineVegas 2002:
Just before the screening of Michell Gallagher's Strange Hearts, the film's star Robert Forster noticed an elderly lady seated behind him and offered this disclaimer -- "I say some bad words in this film. I'm sorry, but they made me say them."

by Susan Royal

This year's new and improved CineVegas had much to recommend it. Worth the airfare to Vegas alone was Augustin Diaz Yanes' No News From God for its take-no-prisoners performances from Penelope Cruz and Victoria Abril. Lola (Abril) hails from Heaven which looks like a black-and-white postcard Paris of the '20s. Carmen (Cruz) resides in Hell -- a complex of nightmarish workplaces -- where she currently serves time as a waitress in a men's prison mess hall. The two women are sent to Earth for the ultimate battle between good and evil. The film is unpredictable and wickedly funny.

Among the noteworthy documentaries was a film that's been getting great buzz on the fest circuit recently -- Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) -- a movie about They Might Be Giants. You don't need to be a fan of these guys, John Flansburgh and John Linnell, to like this film. Director AJ Schnack shot new concert footage for this film and interviewed more than 50 notables about TMBG. His film contains historical performance footage, animation by Tony Millionaire and Kevin Kobasic, and guest actor readings of TMBG lyrics interspersed throughout the film. (Michael McKean's segment is particularly outstanding.) Fan or no fan, this film will make a believer out of you. A truly terrific documentary.

Other audience favorites included Don Coscarelli's Bubba Ho-tep, which envisions Elvis as an elderly resident of a haunted rest home in East Texas, and Mars Callahan's Poolhall Junkies, starring Chazz Palminteri, Rick Schroeder and Christopher Walken. Perhaps because the opening night film
-- John Sayles' Sunshine State -- was showing at several other festivals, only one member of the excellent cast (and no John Sayles) were present that evening. So veteran actor Bill Cobbs spoke before the film. Afterwards, as he slowly made his way with a cane back up the steps to his seat, aware all eyes were on him and that the film couldn't start until he was seated, he devilishly pretended to lose his balance by flailing his arms and gasping "Aaaah." After making the entire audience return his "Aaaah!" in alarm, he smiled and said "Gotcha."

CineVegas awarded its Critics' Award to G, directed by Christopher Scott Cherot and starring Richard T. Jones, Blair Underwood and Andrew Lauren. Two special mentions were awarded: Grand Prix Directing Prize to Face, directed by Bertha Bay-Sa Pan, and an Honorable Mention to Draftdodging, directed by Wendall Adams.

CineVegas has hands-down the best nightlife of any film festival. Right now its greatest resource is the city setting itself. But if the festival continues to grow in the direction its current leaders are taking it, people will be drawn to the fest predominantly by the quality of films and spend less time partying and more time in a dark theater watching great films.

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