Festivals and Films Abound

Rejoice! A wonderful weekend jam-packed with jam, I mean fun and entertaining things to do, is upon us. After a bit of a slowdown we're experiencing a glut of terrific looking, intelligent films. Corpse Bride opens as does Flightplan and Everything is Illuminated. The National Book Festival is this weekend as are other some other tasty looking book fests.

Flightplan is a Hitchcockian suspense film about a woman whose child vanishes at 37,000 feet on a flight from Berlin to Long Island. I watched a seven-minute sneak preview, (which may be gone from the website by the time this column goes to press) and I am quite impressed. When Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) wakes up from a nap on the plane to find her daughter missing, she is told her daughter is dead and that she boarded the plane on her own. Kyle is bringing the body of her recently deceased husband home for burial. The flight crew treats her as though she is delusional and dangerous. The tagline of the film is "she designed the plane from top to bottom. Now she'll have to take it apart." She escapes into what looks like a vent system and does start taking the plane apart. Is she a crazy mother who is endangering the entire plane full of people or is she a woman doing everything she needs to do to get her daughter back?

Everything is Illuminated is a film from the hauntingly beautiful book by the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer (appearing at the Washington Book Festival). Elijah Wood stars as Jonathan, a self styled collector who goes to the Ukraine to fill in the missing pieces in his family history. His translator in the Ukraine is bizarre, but friendly, in fact too friendly, his driver is blind, or at least thinks he's blind, and he can't find anything to eat. From these ridiculous beginnings comes a heartbreaking story as Jonathan discovers secrets that have been buried since the Holocaust when an entire Ukrainian village was utterly destroyed by the Nazis. Bring a box of tissues to the theater with you because I cried for days after finishing the book.

I've talked about Corpse Bridebefore and I don't want to bore my readers so I'll just say it looks like loads of fun and you should go and visit the official website. It's finally been updated and is eerie and cool. You have to be somewhat patient because it loads slowly but it's worth the wait. I found some hidden content and won various items I could download to my hard drive. W00t!

The Baltimore Book Festival runs from the 23rd to the 25. Enough people are expected to attend that several streets have been closed so check your route before you leave. There will be an entire stage devoted to "Dummies." There are a lot of jokes I could make about that but they all seem to be in poor taste so instead I'll tell you that Alan Dershowitz and Art Buchwald will be there on Sunday. Smokin' Word: The Ultimate Slamma Jamma takes place Friday from 6:30 - 8:30 with registration beginning at 5:30. The Baltimore Theatre Alliance has events running all weekend long ranging from African folktales to improv.

The Artelibro Art Book Festival in Bologna is running until the 26th. If you happen to be in Italy and have an interest in Italian architecture you should absolutely attend. I recommend a panel convening Monday at 10 am that will discuss Leonardo's machines, secrets and inventions.

The National Book Festival takes place on the National Mall in Washington, DC between 7th and 14th streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are some wonderful authors again this year, including John Irving, Tom Wolfe and Diana Gabaldon. Mystery fans will be pleased to know that Karin Slaughter, Pulitzer Prize winner John Sandford and Sandra Brown are attending. The festival is geared towards families with lots to do for children. Arthur, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Maya and Miguel will be wandering around interacting with the kids. Last year was terrific and I expect this event will be also. I'll be there with the rest of the Quality Time team so if you see us be sure to say hello.

The festival will also host the launch of Book Relief, a program designed to bring five million books to people displaced by hurricane Katrina.

Finally, Monday is National Pancake Day. How are you going to celebrate? I'm thinking something with raspberries, which are seasonal this month, and whipped cream, which is always seasonal and always, always deluxe. If you think carbs are the devil's work and pancakes are evil, you might prefer to celebrate Ask a Stupid Question Day on Wednesday, the 28th. In fact if you want to ask me I'll do my best to answer you in next week's column. Just be sure to make the deadline of midnight Wednesday. This is a rare opportunity; don't let it pass you by.