The Cheat Sheet: Los Angeles Film Festival
Roll over photos for a quick look at selected L.A. Film Festival highlights.
High Points
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • Twilight: Eclipse
  • Despicable Me
  • The Leopard (Il Gattopardo)
  • Leopoldo Torre Nilsson spotlight
Also Buzzworthy
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Revolución
  • The Last Exorcism
  • Mahler on the Couch
  • Waiting for 'Superman'
Faves from the Festival Circuit
  • Cold Weather
  • Four Lions
  • Tiny Furniture
  • Welcome to the Rileys
  • The New Year
Top Docs
  • Freakonomics
  • Thunder Soul
  • Red Chapel
  • Marwencol
  • Cane Toads: The Conquest
Events
  • 25th anniversary retros
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Ben Affleck
  • Christopher Nolan
  • Edgar Wright Saves the World
'The Kids Are All Right'
A spot-on choice for opening night, the film examines the lifestyle choices, social manners and décor decisions of people very much like those likely in attendance. Writer-director Lisa Cholodenko looks at the bourgeois-bohemian environs of L.A., as a long-term lesbian couple (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore) find their domestic stability thrown into upheaval by the arrival of the man (Mark Ruffalo) who was the sperm-donor for their now teenage children. (June 17, 7:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Focus Features
'Twilight: Eclipse'
In an unusual move, this screening of the third film in the blockbuster "Twilight" franchise is being held as a festival-branded event, though it is listed as officially "invitation only." Whether having the high-wattage red-carpet publicity ultimately benefits the fest or somehow backfires remains to be seen, as new artistic director David Ansen has already been referring to the event as "festival adjacent." (June 24, 7 p.m., Nokia Theatre) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Summitt Entertainment
'Despicable Me'
The festival has featured a number of family-oriented selections in the last few years, so it makes sense that the closing-night pick should be this animated adventure film about dueling super-villains. If even a fraction of the hip voice cast attends — including Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig and Mindy Kaling — this could be LAFF's most star-studded event. (June 27, 2 p.m., Nokia Theatre) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Universal Pictures
'The Leopard (Il Gattopardo)'
Fresh from its debut at Cannes, this brand-new restoration of Luchino Visconti's staggering 1963 epic of aristocracy in decline should find fresh admirers. One of the looming titles of the golden age of European Art Cinema, "The Leopard" has only grown in stature, thanks to ardent admirers such as Martin Scorsese. The film has a powerhouse (and painfully attractive) cast that includes Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale. (June 26, 6 p.m., Orpheum Theatre) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
Leopoldo Torre Nilsson spotlight
Once among the celebrated elite of world-cinema directors, Argentine filmmaker Leopoldo Torre Nilsson has more recently fallen into obscurity. With prints uncovered from the deepest corners of various archives, this four-film mini-retrospective — spanning 1959 to 1973 with "The Fall," "The Hand in the Trap," The House of the Angel," and "The Seven Madmen" — could restore his position by giving new audiences a chance to see and consider his work. (June 18-June 29, REDCAT) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Animal Kingdom'
With this tight, crackling crime thriller boldly absent much crime, Australian writer-director David Michôd focuses on the domestic dramas behind a family of Melbourne bank robbers. Michôd, part of the Blue Tongue Films collective now cutting a wide swath through the festival circuit, picked up the World Cinema Jury Prize after the film's premiere at Sundance, marking "Animal Kingdom" as one of the year's major debuts. (June 23, 8 p.m.; June 25, 4:45 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Revolución'
An omnibus film in celebration of the centenary of the Mexican Revolution, "Revolución" brings together some of the finest talent working in Mexico today. Compiling new short films by Carlos Reygadas, Fernando Eimbecke, Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, Gerardo Naranjo, Patricia Riggen and others, the film looks to capture the diverse energy of contemporary Mexico. (June 22, 8 p.m.; June 23, 5 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'The Last Exorcism'
With horror auteur Eli Roth producing and Daniel Stamm directing in faux-documentary style, it's the story of a fraudulent exorcist who finds himself faced with an apparently real demonic possession. Playing at the outdoor John Ansen Ford Amphitheatre, where screenings often takes on a rollicking, rock-concert energy, this world premiere of could be one of the festival's most explosive events. (June 24, 8:30 pm, John Ansen Ford Amphitheatre) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Mahler on the Couch'
Trumpeted as one of the main "gets" for the festival, "Mahler" is the world premiere of a film co-directed by the father-and-son team of Percy and Felix Adlon, with music conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. The apparently true tale of composer Gustav Mahler being treated by Sigmund Freud for anxieties stemming from Mahler's wife's infidelities, this may prove as good a signpost as any of David Ansen's taste and ideas for the festival. (June 24, 8 p.m.; June 26, 1:45 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Waiting for 'Superman' '
Though many think of the Oscar-winning climate-change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" as "the Al Gore movie," the film had an actual director, Davis Guggenheim, who has returned with this look at the American public school system. Attempting to balance guarded hopefulness with the rather obvious and obligatory sense of confused rage at our declining educational system, Guggenheim looks to again ignite a national conversation. (June 21, 8 p.m.; June 22, 5:15 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Cold Weather'
A mélange of detective mystery, personal discovery and sibling relationship story, "Cold Weather" just may be the film to take writer-director Aaron Katz from the niche fest-circuit crowd to broader audiences. Affectionate, funny and at times genuinely suspenseful, the film follows a college dropout who teams up with his sister and new co-worker to uncover if his ex-girlfriend has really gone missing. (June 19, 10 p.m., Downtown Independent; June 21, 7:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Four Lions'
So far, no U.S. distributor seems to want to touch this volatile British comedy, alternately smart and incisive, scary and sobering, about four bumbling wannabe jihadists. Christopher Morris, a fixture of British television, makes his feature debut with this film that will have audiences roaring with laughter and then feeling oddly guilty and morally unsettled for having done so. (June 24, 7:30 p.m.; June 27, 1:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas)
-- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Tiny Furniture'
Anyone looking for insight into the emotional lives of a certain sliver of today's young people — Generation TMI — should see this acclaimed second feature from 24-year-old Lena Dunham. The filmmaker stars (and casts her own mother and sister in supporting roles) in this comedic portrait of a recent college grad's search for what comes next, capturing the ennui of fading youth. (June 19, 7:30 p.m.; June 21, 10 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Welcome to the Rileys'
Something of a multigenerational class in thoroughly invisible, transparently natural acting, director Jake Scott's debut is worth checking out simply for the trio of performances by James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo. A lonely businessman deserts his wife after he meets a 17-year-old New Orleans prostitute, but it's unclear exactly who is taking care of whom, as a new family is created from the unlikeliest of components. (June 25, 7:30 p.m.; June 27, 4 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'The New Year'
Rejected by Sundance and others, this delicate drama has nevertheless been picking up momentum since winning a prize after its premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival, and these screenings in L.A. could provide a crucial lift to the film's future. Actress Trieste Kelly Dunn (also in "Cold Weather") could be this year's LAFF It Girl, starring as a young woman who puts her life on hold to care for her ailing father. (June 18, 10:15 p.m.; June 22, 4:45 p.m.; June 23, 7:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Freakonomics'
A veritable Justice League of top documentary filmmakers — Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Rachel Grady, Eugene Jarecki and Morgan Spurlock — comes together to adapt the bestselling book of the same title into a nonfiction film informed more by a spirit of bemusement than outrage. (June 24, 7:30 p.m.; June 26, 4 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Thunder Soul'
Funky, fun and heartfelt, this is a split-focus look at the 1970s Kashmere Stage Band from Houston, Texas, which took the idea of a high school jazz band to a whole other level, playing originals and startlingly arranged contemporary tunes that gave the staid form a deep soul. More recently, former members of the band reunited to play a show for their elderly, ailing bandleader. (June 26, 8:30 p.m., John Ansen Ford Amphitheatre) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Red Chapel'
Hilarious and shockingly touching, it's pretty much a guarantee you've never seen a film quite like "Red Chapel" — imagine Lars von Trier directing "Borat." Danish filmmaker Mads Brügger tricked his way into an invitation from the North Korean government to visit the country as part of a cultural exchange program, arriving with two Danish-Korean comedians in tow and subversion on his mind. (June 19, 7:30 p.m., Downtown Independent; June 24, 7:45 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Marwencol'
When Mark Hogancamp suffered brain damage after a bar fight, he recuperated by building a scale model of a World War II Belgian town in his backyard. His photographs of the town in time made him an "outsider art" sensation, but the carefully constructed world in which he had been living was soon turned upside down by his newfound acclaim. Jeff Malmberg's documentary shows a remarkable sensitivity to its subject, pushing and prodding while maintaining dignity and respect. (June 18, 10 p.m.; June 24, 7:45 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
'Cane Toads: The Conquest'
This documentary, made in 3-D, tells of how Cane Toads were brought to Australia to save a sugar crop from beetle infestation and subsequently multiplied exponentially, creating problems of their own. Witty, playful and mischievous, director Mark Lewis' documentary would be unusual in two dimensions; with the addition of 3-D, it becomes quite the showstopper. (June 18, 10:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Film Festival
25th anniversary retros
"Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" and "Desperately Seeking Susan" will screen to celebrate their 25th anniversaries. (How's that make you feel?) Pee-Wee creator Paul Reubens is also one of the festival's guest artists, choosing to screen Frank Capra's "You Can't Take It With You." And even besides Madonna in the energetic first flush of her fame, director Susan Seidelman's "Desperately Seeking Susan" is a wonderful time-capsule of post-punk, pre-Giulianai New York. ("Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," June 26, 1 p.m., Orpheum Theatre; "You Can't Take It With You," June 25, 8 p.m., REDCAT; "Desperately Seeking Susan," June 19, 8 p.m., Ernst & Young Plaza) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Universal Pictures
Sylvester Stallone
Though Stallone may not seem at first glance the film festival type, he has returned to his roots as an indie-oriented writer-director focused on character-driven stories that just happen to also have thrillingly full-bore action. Stallone will be talking through his career with moderator extraordinaire Elvis Mitchell, while also previewing some clips from his upcoming "The Expendables." (June 23, 8 p.m., Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Getty Images
Ben Affleck
With his upcoming "The Town," Affleck may be completing his transition into this era's Warren Beatty, trading off his pretty-boy looks to transform himself into a fearsome writer, director and producer as well as performer. (And it's worth remembering Affleck has a screenwriting Oscar.) Affleck will be in conversation with actor Jeremy Renner, which should provide for some freewheeling manly dish. (June 21, 8 p.m., Grammy Museum) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Associated Press
Christopher Nolan
The auteur of the recent "Batman" reboot and the much-anticipated dreamscape espionage thriller "Inception" will host a screening of Alan Parker's "Pink Floyd's The Wall." Nolan is one of the smartest, most thoughtful directors working at the top-tier budget level today, and fans will obviously be hoping he'll drop some "Inception" clues along the way. Of course, given his penchant for secrecy and surprise, he may not. (June 18, 7 p.m., REDCAT) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times
'Edgar Wright Saves the World'
Consider this evening unofficially subtitled "Revenge of the Nerds," as Wright will be in conversation with J.J. Abrams. Both have turned their affection for geekery into big business, while Wright's upcoming "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" is fast turning into one of the year's last/best hopes for dumb summer fun for smart people. (June 20, 9:30, Regal Cinemas) -- Mark Olsen

Photo credit: Universal Pictures