Vine and Screen: Napa Valley Film Festival

Kevin Costner and Michelle Monaghan will be honored at the mega movie party.

Napa Valley Film Festival

THAT CINEMATIC SETTING: Where a film will take place -- outdoors, indoors, an old winery, a quaint cottage -- is typically one of the first things mentioned in a script. Because the setting? Well, it's setting the scene and serving as the wider backdrop. And film settings don't come more film-setting-ish than a particular wine-blessed valley that's not too far from San Francisco and kind of far from Hollywood, though not in spirit and certainly not in the middle of November. For that's when the Napa Valley Film Festival spreads out to a quartet of cities along Highway 128 -- Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga -- and that's when a whole caboodle of Tinseltownian movie stars make their way north for socializing, Q&A-ing, screening-watching, wine-drinking, and the accepting of honors. It's quite the party, a bash so large it takes four towns to hold the whole darn thing, and five days in all to play out. That's because that meals and libations are as much a part of the scene as the cinema during the NVFF, and attendees discuss crush as much as their crushes on the big screen. What to see and where to land? You have to start with...

THE GRID: A good grid is at the sort-out-your-schedule heart of any larger movie gathering, and the Napa Valley Film Festival's is up and full of treats, from "Big in Japan" -- about the real band, the Tennis Pros -- to "Teacher of the Year," starring comedian Keegan-Michael Key. The Vintner Circle Dinners, the celebrity honors, and a panel on Women Behind the Camera are a trio of highlights on the jam-packed Special Events calendar. (It would be fig jam-packed, of course, this being Napa.) One can imagine that most foodie film lovers strike a tasty balance between popcorning it up during a feature and Chardonnaying it up during a wine event. A movie, a meal, a glass or two, repeat. That's one of the very special things about this special setting's cinematic blowout -- its film-food match-up -- and the reason that Hollywood and Napa aren't that far apart at all, at least for a few days in November.

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