Getting paid to watch movies sounds like a great job. First, you can sit down the entire time. Second, you won't get in trouble if you have a beer or a glass of wine while doing so. Third, you get to see many of the films before the audience does, allowing you to give off a self-important air only Roger Ebert can relate to.But then there's this annoying little thing called time. Did you know that most feature and documentary films are a full hour and a half long? Think of how many tweets and Facebook messages you could send in that amount of time. Short films keep their promise, typically being less than 15 minutes. But do the math: 12 short films at 15 minutes each equals ... actually, we didn't do the math. There's a reason we became writers. Needless to say, trying to fit in the time to watch every film selected for the Vail Film Festival this year was a challenge. But it was a fun challenge, filled with watching movies that entertained us, surprised us and maybe even brought a tear to our eye. (We're cynical journalists; it takes a lot to make us cry.) As this year marks the festival's 10th anniversary, we picked 10 films we think are worth staying with until the credits end. This weekend's lineup includes everything from a documentary about bruised mountain bikers racing down dangerous cliffs to a comedy about drinking on the job, literally. We took the time to watch 'em. We hope you will, too.
"The Only Real Game"Located in northeast India, Manipur is a crime-ridden area whose citizens have much to fear and little to hope for. Despite this they spend their time playing baseball, using the sport as a way to spread goodwill and give the younger generation something to root for. Even if you're not a baseball fan, this captivating documentary will make you look at our great American pastime in a whole new light. See it: At 4 p.m. Friday and again at 4 p.m. Sunday. Both showings at Piney Theater at Four Seasons."Drinking Buddies"Coworkers Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson), freely drink and flirt on the job at a Chicago craft brewery. The only problem is they're both dating other people, played by Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick. "Drinking Buddies," the festival's closing-night film, has already generated a lot of buzz after premiering at the SXSW Film Conference & Festival a few weeks ago, and director Joe Swanberg's improvisational style always provides a few surprises. A comedy about how drinking can lead to some bad decisions? If you can't relate to that, then you must not have ever spent a night out in Vail, or any town anywhere, ever. See it: 8 p.m. Saturday at Vail Mountain School.Shorts: "The Crocodile" and "If You're Serious"With so many good short films this year, it was hard to choose just one. "The Crocodile" follows a Mexican man on the run with his son. The film's shocking ending will stay with you much longer than its actual run time. In "If You're Serious," three members of an Internet Suicide Group meet to end their lives together. Set in China, the film manages to take a depressing subject matter and make it both touching and beautiful. See it: "The Crocodile" screens at 11:15 a.m. Friday at the Cadillac Theater at Four Seasons. "If You're Serious" screens at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Piney Theater at Four Seasons."Sweet Talk"One night a lonely writer calls "Sweet Talk," a phone sex line run by a woman bored with the typical fantasies her clients request. A night of imaginative romance ensues, made more interesting by the fact that the characters are talking in separate rooms the entire time. Originally a play, the performances from the actors in this feature film help keep your attention. See it: 11:30 a.m. Friday at Cinebistro."Elephant In The Room"Set in a boxing gym, there's little actual fighting in this hour-long documentary. Wha t you get instead is a look inside the lives of four women, two high school girls, Emily and Zaneta, and their two boxing coaches and mentors, Devonne and Tabbi. The subjects in this film aren't afraid to reveal the truth, or acknowledge how much harder it is to fight for someone rather than against them. See it: 3 p.m. Saturday at Piney Theater at Four Seasons.
"Spinning Plates"Food as a roof over your head. Food as art. Food as community. Director Joseph Levy profiles a trio of restaurants from opposing corners of the triangular dining spectrum in this documentary. The camera pans from a literal mom-and-pop Mexican joint in Tucson; to Chicago's Alinea, the seventh best restaurant in all the world where the head chef is battling a devastating diagnosis; and over to a tiny town in Iowa where a 150-year-old family restaurant is resurrected from the ashes not once, but twice. Though each restaurant is very different, at root, the st ruggle is the same: Survival. See it: 5:30 p.m. Friday at Cinebistro; 2:45 p.m. Saturday at Cadillac Theater at the Four Seasons."Where the Trail Ends"Utah, you now officially have some competiton. This 120-minute documentary follows a group of adrenaline-hungry freeride mountain bikers around the world, to locations like Fraser River Canyon, British Columbia; Cafayate, Argentina; China's Gobi Desert; and the Mustang Region in Nepal, all in search of trails that likely have never been hiked let alone biked. At points, the footage in this film will make you squeeze your eyes shut and gasp out loud. It's the closest thing to an adrenaline rush you're likely going to get (sitting in a movie theater) at this year's festival. See it: 11 a.m. Saturday at Piney Theater at the Four Seasons."Disconnect"The 10th year of the Vail Film Festival kicks off tonight with this dramatic thriller from Murderball director Henry Alex Rubin. In the spirit of full disclosure, we only saw the trailer for this film, but if that's any indication, we think this thriller will be worth 115 minutes of your time. "Disconnect" follows three story threads of people all struggling to connect despite increasingly wired lives. We depend on technology for so much, but at what cost? Jason Bateman stars in the film, alongside Hope Davis, Paula Patton, Alexander Skarsgrd, Michael Nyqvist and others. And as a weird aside, this movie is the acting debut of fashion designer Marc Jacobs who plays a porn kingpin. Wait, what? See it: 7:30 p.m. tonight at Vail Mountain School."Climb to Glory"This is the only film at the festival with an entirely local bent. "Climb to Glory," produced by Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum in partnership with Warren Miller Entertainment, tells the story of the 10th Mountain Division Ski Troopers and how they transformed skiing as a whole. Unless you've been living in a hole, you likely know we have the 10th Mountain Division to thank for championing the U.S. ski industry post World War II. This is local Warren Miller athlete Chris Anthony's baby and you can expect to see him at the showing where he'll lead a Q&A session after the film.See it: 2 p.m. Saturday at Vail Mountain School."While We Were Here"Some people will dig this movie, others will hate it. First off, it's a black and white film, which always seems to divide folks. Second, it's a bit slow. But those things aside, it's an honest look at what can happen to a relationship where two people have stopped communicating, favoring silence over honesty until it's too late. If anything, it will teach you to never venture to Italy with your spouse if your marriage is on the brink.An uber-skinny Kate Bosworth, who was honored at the 2011 Vail Film Festival, stars in this depressing-but-certainly-artistic indie film, written and directed by Kat Coiro, also no stranger to the festiva l.See it: 4:45 p.m. Saturday at Cinebistro.