There are those who claim the Dallas International Film Festival seemed to lack some of the star power of last year. Perhaps to those who watch E or read the “National Enquirer,” this was the case. But to the true cinema devotees, it was an adventure of new and established movie talents. The highlight of the 10 days of movie watching and talking was the red carpet gala at the Palomar. Unlike last year’s spread at Union Station, the April 21 red carpet, dinner and presentation of awards were lean and mean. That’s not to say that it lacked pizzazz. No, the movie types were there, but they weren’t the Larry Hagman and Peter Fonda types. Instead, the big names were indie poster kids (Laura Linney and Gabourey Sidibe) and behind-the-scenes (Glen Keane, Eric Pleskow and Bernie Pollack) legends. More about them later.
Of course, the night started out with a red carpet and reception. Hey, movie people think of red carpet the same way that normal folks think of welcome mats. Only problem was the red carpet meet-and-greet area was about as big as a welcome mat and as hot as a 4th of July barbecue. But what could you expect? A mob of photographers, videographers and reporters vying for the attention of red-carpet strollers under a brighter-than-a-super-nova bunch of lights. Alas, poor Dallas Star Award recipient Gabourey felt the pain as she glistened. Despite the beads of perspiration, she said this was her first visit to Dallas and, “I just want to hang out. I don’t know — go line dancing, eat some barbecue. I want to enjoy Dallas while I’m here.”
On the other hand Dallas Star Award Recipient Bernie looked totally unruffled and cool as a Slurpee. But then he’s an expert on appearances. That’s why Robert Redford, Harrison Ford and Dustin Hoffman have relied on him for their costuming. He admitted, “What’s great about it is, they’ve got great bodies. Obviously it’s great to dress people like that. You’re always trying to create characters … that move the story along.”
Academy Award-winning/Dallas Star Award recipient Eric admitted that the film industry had changed since he was in his heyday: “Most of the studios have disappeared and now are part of conglomerates. Today there is sameness — car chases and shootouts. I was interested in the human condition. Film festivals have become ever more important to show interesting new work.”
Presenting sponsor Arthur Benjamin went against the old movie rule — never appear with kids or animals — when he was accompanied by two service dogs. No, they weren’t the stars of a movie showing in the festival. Rather, animal-loving Arthur wanted to take the opportunity to promote his television program “For the Love of Dogs” that airs at 7 p.m. on Saturday nights in Dallas.
And speaking of youngsters, Peter Weller, who was on hand for the 25th anniversary of “RoboCop” and its showing, appeared on the red carpet with a baby within arms’ reach. Who was the little fella? RoboCop Sequel? Nope. He was Peter’s and wife Shari Stowe‘s son, who was born in November. Cute baby, beautiful mother and proud papa.
Eventually, the red-carpet session started winding down. As media types and VIP’s ventured into the reception area, they realized that the hot times extended beyond the red carpet hallway. One woman crumpled to the ground and was quickly administered to.
Luckily, the Palomar ballroom was cooler and emcee Gary Cogill got things rolling right along. Highlights of the presentations included:
- Arthur of Eric: “Last time I saw him, I was 8 years old, sitting on his knee in an office at United Artists.” Eric had worked closely with Arthur’s late uncle Robert Benjamin.
- TXU’s third student contest prizes were given out. “Zap!” won for grand prize college; “No Blackout!” won grand prize for high school. TXU’s Michael Patterson reported that the films can be seen online and are worth a check out. He was right! You’ll wish you had Zap!
Glen Keane/Animator and Writer, accepted the Tex Avery Animation Award. His father Bil (yes, that’s how you spell it) drew the “Family Circus” comic strip. Glen resigned from Disney after 38 years just recently. Some of the audience seemed surprised by the resignation.
- The Embrey Family Foundation Silver Heart Award went to “The Invisible War,” about ongoing assault on women in the military. The filmmaker accepted saying the award was “a shock. Usually it’s a dog on a skateboard with emphysema.” Gary returned to the podium saying: “I kind of feel bad. Because Lascaux Films (Gary’s production company) just made that film about a dog on a skateboard with emphysema.”
- After scenes being shown on screen from “Precious,” Gabourey said she hadn’t seen “Precious” since 2009. “I feel really bad now, so thanks!” But the Dallas Star award helped her recover. Then she thanked everyone for making her “wrong” (in not believing in herself initially).
Oscar-winning producer of “Ordinary People,” Ronald L. Schwary introduced ever-dapper Bernie, whom he had known for more than 40 years. A video was played with Redford joking, “Bernie, what the hell happened to you?” No sooner had that concluded than Harrison Ford appeared via video saying, “Bernie and I did nine movies together. I haven’t had a wife who lasted that long.” Bernie arrived on stage, nodded toward Ron and said, “Schwary, you little shit!” The audience learned that Ron and Bernie have an ongoing poker game. Bernie was genuinely stunned by the videos: “They’re pretty busy people. I’m a little guy, trying to make a living.” He then gained the audience’s love by saying he had wanted to make a speech like making a dress for a beautiful woman: Long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep things interesting. Of Redford, he said: “He believed in me before I believed in myself.” Reminding the group that his brother, the late Sydney Pollack, won the same award in 2007, Bernie claimed that he was receiving the award is “just in the nick of time, at my age!”
Dallas Film Society President/CEO Lee Papert introduced Linney, who graciously said, “I love film festivals, because they stimulate debate; you meet friends; you’re always surprised. … I was surprised by meeting my husband at a film festival. So never say, ‘No,’ to a film festival!” Responding to Cogill offstage, she said she and her future husband exchanged letters after their first meeting.
- Earlier in the evening one of the speakers claimed that their table had been playing a drinking game —every time the words “film, sponsor or Dallas” were mentioned, they had to take a shot. DFS Chairman of the Board Lynn McBee wrapped things up, saying, “But I don’t want to use those three words!”