The Philadelphia Film Festival will officially be 25 years strong when "La La Land" opens up this year's cinephile extravaganza on Thursday night at The Prince Theater and ushering in 10 days thereafter of interesting fare.
"La La Land" is one of the top films poached from the big film festivals that have come before PFF, followed up by "Jackie", "Manchester by the Sea" and "Toni Erdmann" just to name a few, closing out with the sci-fi film "Arrival".
Even though I think the festival is just a draw of big films that have trickled down to the region without hosting any big premieres of its own to speak of, the festival is always an entertaining mish-mash of greatness, misery, the befuddling and even audience chaos.
Last year's closing weekend was a wonderful macabre of what a festival should (not) be. When Michael Moore arrived closing night for a Q&A following a screening of his film "Where to Invade Next", journalist Buzz Bissinger heckled Moore for the claims he made in his newest feature. That provided nice banter for the audience to absorb.
But then two days later, on the very last day of the festival in one of the final screenings, the 3D sex romp "Love" screened 80 minutes late. I wrote about it here, but it was probably one of the festival's worst moments in its history. "Love" was the only 3D screening last year, and on the last day, yet they couldn't get the specs right.
Alas, with no Moore or 3D features this year, the festival should go off without a hitch, and I hope it does.
I enjoyed most of the films I saw last year, but I did think the slate (that I saw at least) revolved around a theme of beating a dead horse. Too often was I watching stories that were so familiar, generic. This year, with a lovable teddy bear in "Toni Erdmann", a musical throwback to the Golden Era of film in "La La Land" and a inside look at The New York Times obituary section in "Obit" all seem like a winning batch.
Being cognizant of the changing scoci-political climate, a new sidebar section called State of the Union exhibits four documentaries that tackle cyber warfare ("Zero Days"), police militarization ("Do Not Resist"), prison solitary confinement ("Solitary") and medical care of undocumented immigrants ("Clínica de Migrantes").
There is sure to be something for every one this year, unless you were too late to buy tickets for "Paterson" and "Toni Erdmann" because they're sold out.
For ticket and screening info visit filmadelphia.org/festival.