The more the merrier.
That's the ticket for the 10th annual CineVegas film festival's closing weekend at the Palms, highlighted by tributes to a half-dozen stellar performers today and Saturday.
The festival applauds Oscar-winner Anjelica Huston with its top honor, the Marquee Award.
Oscar nominees Don Cheadle and Viggo Mortensen, meanwhile, join Rosario Dawson and Sam Rockwell as recipients of CineVegas' Half-Life Award for mid-career achievement.
And James Caan, whose made-in-Vegas projects range from "Honeymoon in Vegas" to TV's "Las Vegas," accepts a special Vegas Icon Award at tonight's poolside awards ceremony at Planet Hollywood.
Why a half-dozen honorees? "We invited more people than we thought would accept," admits Trevor Groth, CineVegas' artistic director. "But they all said yes."
Besides, "we loved all of them," Groth adds, noting that the honorees "represent what the festival's all about." That is, a mix of "really interesting roles" in movies ranging from international blockbusters to quirky independents.
"It's nice to be asked to do the big movies, too," says Huston, who won an Oscar (under the direction of her legendary father, John Huston) as a deadly, deadpan Mafia princess in 1985's "Prizzi's Honor." Yet, "as my dad always said, 'If you do one for money, you'd better do one for love.' "
The offbeat "Choke" -- which screens at 6:30 p.m. today at CineVegas -- definitely qualifies as the latter, meeting Huston's interest in "daring, interesting" projects that "run against the grain."
Based on a novel by "Fight Club" author Chuck Palahniuk, "Choke" stars Huston's fellow honoree Rockwell as a con man who finances his mother's hospitalization by playing on the sympathies of those who save him from choking to death. Huston portrays his mother at two different ages: her 30s and her 70s.
"That was challenging," Huston acknowledges. In "Choke," her character also has Alzheimer's disease -- to say nothing of "a peculiar relationship with my son. There was a lot to do for me."
And such projects don't come along that often, she says, especially because "women of my age don't get meaty roles to do -- on film."
As for "Choke's" overall appeal, "I don't know whether it's an enjoyable viewing experience," Huston acknowledges, "but I think it's an interesting movie. And I think Palahniuk is a very profound thinker."
Mortensen qualifies as another CineVegas honoree who's successfully mixed blockbuster roles (Aragorn in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) with lower-profile projects, including his acclaimed collaborations with director David Cronenberg in 2005's "A History of Violence" and 2007's "Eastern Promises."
Not that "Alatriste," which screens today as part of Mortensen's 6 p.m. tribute, has a low profile in Spain, where it was "a huge hit" at the box-office, according to the actor. (It also won three Goya Awards, Spain's Oscar equivalent, and captured 12 other nominations, including one for Mortensen's lead performance.)
Despite a successful bow at the Toronto film festival, however, it never received a North American release, Mortensen says.
So when CineVegas officials asked him which movie they should screen in conjunction with his award, Mortensen chose this "beautiful and thought-provoking" epic, in which he plays the heroic title role, a soldier fighting for Spain's 17th-century global empire.
"It deserves to be seen -- and I'm glad it will be, in Las Vegas," says Mortensen, who delivered the movie's print to CineVegas officials in person earlier this week "because I want to make sure it gets here."
In addition to its pictorial strengths and emotionally engaging story, "Alatriste" also offers a view of Spanish imperialism that echoes the United States' dominant role in the second half of the 20th century and into the beginning of this century, Mortensen contends.
From a centuries-old perspective, "you see your own family or your own country with different eyes," he reflects. And, after talking with Iraq and Vietnam veterans, "there are parallels," Mortensen adds. "Trying to learn from history is always worthwhile."
That includes Las Vegas history, which surfaces in a variety of closing-weekend screenings, including a pair of documentaries: "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson" (1 p.m. Saturday), about the "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" author (who made a memorable CineVegas visit for a screening of the 2003 documentary "Breakfast With Hunter"); and "Women in Boxes" (3:30 p.m. Saturday), which focuses on magician's assistants.
Magic also plays a role in CineVegas' closing-night feature, "The Great Buck Howard" (7 p.m. Saturday), with John Malkovich as the title illusionist.
"It represents a lot of the charm of Las Vegas," Groth says of the movie, when "people were open to believing in something pure and magical."
Including, of course, the magic of the movies.
Contact movie critic Carol Cling at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0272.