Stars Shine Bright at the 34th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival – Part 2

“My Week with Marilyn” & Screening and Q & A

Greetings everyone and welcome to part 2 of my experience this year at the 34th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival. As the festival hit it’s mid point by no means, did it slow down. Originally, when I first saw the list of movies for this year’s festival one film got my attention immediately. “My Week with Marilyn” an upcoming British drama film directed by Simon Curtis and stars Michelle Williams, as the starlet Marilyn Monroe. The film focuses on an assistant to the director on the British set of “The Prince and the Showgirl” which starred Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. I got to the theatre and was able to get some pictures of the director Simon Curtis. He introduced the move and returned for a Q & A. I had the feeling that Williams, would look the part but I wondered how else she would transform herself into Marilyn. She ended up amazing me, not just with her look or her dialogue but her facial and body expressions. I truly felt that I was transformed back to 1957. The other thing that surprised me was not the amazing acting or directing but how good and at times funny the screenplay was. This movie is a must see when it comes to your town in the next few weeks.

Spotlight on Ezra Miller – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

This was one of the Mill Valley Film Festivals  Spotlights with up and coming actor Ezra Miller (City Island & Californication) and a screening for with highly talked about film “We Need to Talk About Kevin”. The film is based on a novel about The mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree tries to deal with her grief — and feelings of responsibility for her child’s actions by writing to her estranged husband. I ended up needing to cover another film “Miss Bala” and did not get to see the film. From what I hear it was emotionally powerful and I’m looking forward to seeing it when it comes out.

“ Miss Bala” Screening & Q & A with Director Gerardo Naranjo

This was another unplanned photo assignment originally. As I got to the theater in Mill Valley, I took sometime looking the film up on the internet. I saw that “Miss Bala” was going to be Mexico’s selection for the 84th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. “Miss Bala”, was written and directed by Gerardo Naranjo. The film tells the story of a a Baja California beauty queen caught up in a maddening cycle of drug cartel violence in Tijuana. I’m going to be checking this film out at AFI Fest next month.

“A Few Best Men” World Premiere Screening & Q & A

This was suppose to be a special premiere, but ended up actually being the World Premiere of the Australia film “A Few Best Men” the latest film from director Stephan Elliott ( The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). The film stars Xavier Samuel as the soon to be married groom who goes to Australia with his three best friends and best men for the wedding. His soon to be Mother in-law is played by Olivia Newton John (Grease), who gives her funniest performance of her career. She almost steals the movie with her performance. The films co star Kris Marshall (Love Actually) also gives a hilarious performance. Marshall and director Stephan Elliott attended the premiere at the Rafael. The staff of the Mill Valley Film Festival did a wonderful job setting everything up and created a great atmosphere for the premiere. The film is written (Dean Craig), directed, and acted magnificently. This was my biggest surprise at the film festival.

Spotlight on Elizabeth Olsen “Martha Marcy May Marlene” Screening & Q & A

The other film and spotlight I was eagerly waiting for was the festivals Spotlight on Elizabeth Olsen  who in only her “Martha Marcy May Marlene”. Olsen now 22, made her acting debut at 4 in a film with her sisters (Mary Kate and Ashley), has 3 soon to be released films, in the near future. “ Martha Marcy May Marlene” is in limited release and will be coming to more cities soon.  The film is about a young woman who escapes a cult leader played by Oscar Nominee John Hawkes ,(who was also in attendance at the Rafael) and tries to readjust to life living with her sister and brother in-law. I covered Elizabeth’s Red Carpet arrival. She looked stunning and looked like she had been doing Red Carpets for years.

I ended up getting a tip,from a festival person that Grateful Dead & Furthur member Bob Weir , was doing a guest performance at a benefit. The Play Like a Lion Live: Benefit concert honoring Ali Akbar Khan at the  Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley. Being the Deadhead I am, I missed the film and
Q & A to see the concert.

I did see “Martha Marcy May Marlene” opening day in San Francisco, at the Kabuki Theatre. Elizabeth, gives an amazing performance. Like Close and Williams performances, her facial and body movements are of an actor, far past her years and experience. I’m hoping to see all three women get nominations this Awards Season. I feel that Miss Olsen, is going to be one of the leading actors, for years to come.

Closing Night Part of the 34th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival –  San Rafael Community Center

After 11 wonderful days this years festival ended with a screening and a
Q & A, of the much talked about French Writer/Director Michel Hazanavicius  “The Artist”. The film has already gotten Oscar buzz and won the Audience Favorite Award of the Year.  More winners from the festival can be found here: I’ll be at the Los Angeles Premiere screening of the film, as part of the 2011 AFI Fest in Los Angeles next week.

The festival closed with a fun and entertaining evening at the San Rafael Community Center. Festival members shared drinks, food, and conversation with filmmakers and the staff and volunteers of the festival. The entertainment for the night was provided by Los Angeles band The dAKAH Symphonic Hip Hop Orchestra had the guests dancing and clapping their hands. It was a real nice diverse way to close out a festival that had such diversity in it. Once again, the Mill Valley Film Festival not only picked amazing films but with their Q & A’s, Panels, Spotlights, and tributes they give you an inside look to what film making is all about.

I want to thank Mark Fishkin, Zoë Elton, Kevin Heverin, Richard Peterson, Jeromy Zajonc, Natalie Martens, all the volunteers, and the staff of the California Film Institute. The Institute has  screenings and special guest all year long. For more information and to become a member of the California Film Institute go to:

Thanks for joining me me for this edition of “The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood”. I’ll be in LA next week to attend AFI Fest 2011 and also will be covering 2 major studio movie Red Carpet premiere’s.


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About Jonathanshensa

I'm a Celebrity Event Photographer, producer and Screenwriter. I also worked with promoting bands and spent 5 years in music management. In my younger days, I was also an Actor, News reporter, DJ, and have worked at Talent, and Management companies. I love the mass media but also love to talk about everyday topics. I want to have a positive and creative impact on the entertainment business. Check out my entertainment blog, "The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood".
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