Following Wednesday night's pre-festival screening of "Man of Steel," the Los Angeles Film Festival kicks off in earnest Thursday night with the North American premiere of Pedro Almódovar's "I'm So Excited!" The 19th edition of the festival runs through Sunday, June 23, when it closes with the comedy "The Way, Way Back," starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell and Maya Rudolph.
"I'm So Excited!' features cameo appearances by Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, who starred in films in Spain for Almódovar before their international breakthroughs. A freewheeling sex farce set amid a trans-Atlantic airline flight, the film finds Almódovar returning to the bawdy comedy of earlier films such as "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" and "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down." Almódovar won an Academy Award for screenplay for his 2002 film "Talk to Her."
In a statement when "I'm So Excited!" was announced as the festival's opening night selection, artistic director David Ansen declared: "Pedro Almódovar is the cinematic gift who keeps on giving."
The festival will also feature three gala screenings. On Monday there will be the local premiere of writer-director Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station," which won prizes at the Cannes and Sundance film festivals for its retelling of the story of Oscar Grant, a young Oakland man fatally shot by transit police in the early hours of New Year's Day 2009.
Thursday, June 20 will see two gala screenings. Filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn again partners with actor Ryan Gosling for "Only God Forgives," a moody crime drama set in Thailand, following their collaboration on "Drive." At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will be the world premiere screening of Doug Pray's "Levitated Mass: the Story of Michael Heizer's Monolithic Sculpture," a documentary on the artwork exhibited at LACMA. The 340-ton rock captured the attention of many when it was transported to the museum.
Aside from the films showing in the narrative and documentary competitions, which include many world premieres, the LA Film Fest will also be screening films that have already made a splash on the festival circuit. Those include the dramas "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" and "Short Term 12," the comedies "Crystal Fairy" and "In A World..." and the documentaries "The Act of Killing" and "Our Nixon."
More information on tickets and showtimes can be found on the festival's website at lafilmfest.com. And for anyone concerned whether the '80s Pointer Sisters song from which the film takes its name -- and which may already be stuck in your head -- the American trailer for "I'm So Excited" puts those fears to rest.
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