'Practice' wins grand jury prize at festival

LAS VEGAS — “Easier With Practice,” writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s moody dramedy about a long-term phone-sex relationship, won the grand jury prize at the CineVegas Film Festival on Sunday.

The narrative competition jury also presented an award for exceptional artistic achievement to Cory Knauf, Joseph McKelheer and Robert Saitzyk for the Alaskan-set thriller “Godspeed.” Saitzyk directed the pic, which McKelheer and Knauf starred in; all three collaborated on the screenplay.

Writer-director-producer Jeff Mizushima received the Filmmaker to Watch nod for “Etienne!,” a road-trip comedy about a young man and his terminally ill pet hamster.

Fittingly enough for the Vegas-based event, the documentary jury dealt its top prize to “All In: The Poker Movie,” helmer Douglas Tirola’s in-depth look at the card game’s history. “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo,” Jessica Oreck’s meditation on Japan’s fascination with insects, drew a special docu jury prize for artistic vision.

Closing-night kudos wrapped a slimmed-down year for the 11th annual fest, which ran six days instead of the usual 10 at Palms Casino Resort and Brenden Theaters.

The narrative jury included Indiewire editor-in-chief Eugene Hernandez, “Observe and Report” writer-director Jody Hill, Associated Press film critic Christy Lemire and film journalist Glenn Whipp. Docu jurors were “Frozen River” producer Heather Rae, Variety senior editor of features Sharon Swart and Reuters editor-in-charge of entertainment Bob Tourtellotte.

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