Hey, speaking of The Hangover (weren't we?), the 11th annual CineVegas Film Festival kicked off last night at Planet Hollywood, on the world-famous, super-classy, not-at-all-gaudy Las Vegas Strip. The setting was a large theater above the casino floor that normally hosts a live production called Peepshow, the posters for which emphasize its primary assets and boobsets.

But the showgirls had the night off, and CineVegas took over. Festival chairman Dennis Hopper kicked off the event in true Vegas style, rising from a trapdoor in the stage to the accompaniment of "Born to Be Wild." I noted that he pronounces the festival's name "sinny-vegas," rather than "sin-uh-vegas." His version sounds more cheerful. Vegas is sinny! Come visit!

The opening-night film, a comedy called Saint John of Las Vegas, was introduced by its writer/director, Hue Rhodes, who reiterated Sinny City's showbiz roots. Good or bad, funny or serious, scary or tame, Las Vegas is all about puttin' on a show. He said that his own film "is not always gonna be a safe ride," but assured us it would be a crazy one.

Which it is. Steve Buscemi (pictured) stars as a former gambler who now works at an insurance agency and must return to Vegas to investigate a possibly fraudulent insurance claim. What's interesting, perhaps, is that the movie is set up as a parallel to Dante's Divine Comedy: Buscemi's character's last name is Alighieri, same as Dante's, and his partner is named Virgil; they encounter people and situations similar to those described in the old Italian poem you were supposed to have read in high school. Buscemi and co-star Romany Malco are good, of course, but the film feels slight and forgettable. I wonder if greater familiarity with Inferno would increase one's enjoyment of it. Curse my inattentiveness in eleventh-grade English!


The after party was at Planet Hollywood's swanky Privé nightclub, sponsored by Stella Artois and Grey Goose vodka, which resulted in every Vegas-goer's two favorite words: OPEN BAR. The DJ actually got some people on the dance floor, too, with an irresistible mix of new stuff and old stuff that included -- flashbacks to freshman year of college! -- "Rump Shaker" ("Check baby, check baby, one two three four"). A glance at the room confirmed that many rumps were indeed being shaken, and they shook well into the night. That's Vegas in a nutshell: glitz, showmanship, hit-or-miss entertainment, alcohol, and parties. Best of all, I still remember everything the next day.