Documentary films often tell us the facts about a particular subject. They can be political or religious, or perhaps based on an idea that most people cannot wrap their minds around. But sometimes, you get lucky and see a film that lets you behind the scenes of something most people only dream about. That's how I felt about Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's, opening Friday in Austin.
I may not know much about fashion, but having a fashion merchandising major/style guru for a sister, I had a little bit of knowledge under my belt -- certainly enough to appreciate a good movie about fashion. The trailer had enticed me, clearly riddled with various designers talking about how getting to show their line at the esteemed Bergdorf Goodman's was the highlight of their career. Writer/director Matthew Miele takes his viewers not only into the heart of the store, but to some areas that you would not have thought twice about -- for example, the elaborate window displays the store produces every few months.
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's spotlights some well-known names in fashion, such as Vera Wang, Michael Kors, and Dolce & Gabanna, giving us their opinion on the glory that is Bergdorf's (or "BG's", as some designers lovingly call it). Even though these designers are everywhere in retail, they all talk about how their one goal, the Academy Award of their career, was to be sold and showcased at Bergdorf's. The story then goes on to talk about the history of the store, as well as how fashion has evolved over the past century. A few new designers when the film was shot in 2011 are followed, and we as the audience get to sit in on a few meetings with them and Bergdorf's executives such as Linda Fargo, who is compared in status to the well-known Vogue editor, Anna Wintour.
In addition, cosmetics, shoe and purse designers also share their tales of getting into the store. Bobbi Brown talks about how she hoped that she could sell at least 100 tubes of lipstick her first month at Bergdorf's; she ended up selling over 100 tubes on her first day alone.
Here's hoping you haven't seen the first trailer for Before Midnight, which is basically a big spoiler. There seems to be a shared thought among fans of Richard Linklater's "Before" films that one wants to be surprised when they walk into the theatre and see how Celine and Jesse work out this time. Before I caught the SXSW screening in March, I did read Debbie's review because I was too excited and had to know. That being said, is it possible to review this movie without giving too much away? I will try.
Before Midnight takes place during one long day in Greece. First we see Jesse (Ethan Hawke) at the Kalamata airport, talking to his adolescent son before the kid has to fly back to the States where he lives with his mom. Jesse's face during this scene is periodically pierced with regret, as he wishes his son could stay longer. After Jesse is picked up from the airport, he and Celine (Julie Delpy) talk while driving through Greek countryside -- after the SXSW screening, Linklater noted during his Q&A that this car scene is over 13 minutes long, with no cuts. He also commented that every location they used in Greece was found during a two-day visit.
Although he now lives in Brooklyn, filmmaker Terence Nance was born and raised in Dallas, where his movie An Oversimplification of Her Beauty premiered at the Dallas International Film Fest in 2012. The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz will host two screenings of this art film over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, including a Skype Q&A with Nance after both showings.
Nance's feature-length debut has received much attention, with pop culture figures such as Jay-Z, Joy Bryant and Wyatt Cenac jumping in as producers (Questlove is listed as an associate producer). The film is narrated in part by Reg E. Cathey (Square One, y'all!), but Nance is all over this movie. He wrote, edited, directed, produced, scored and even worked on some of the animation for this picture.
Kids aren't the only ones who look forward to summer. With sky-high temperatures and the last day of school approaching, Slackerwood brings you some suggestions of great summer film camps in the Austin area -- perfect for parents searching for fun summer activites for the kids.
A film or movie camp is a great tool for kids interested in the filmmaking or creative process. Many of the workshops start with the basics, taking your child through the pre-production, shooting, and post-production stages of a film set. Classes are also geared towards other crafts such as acting, editing, animation and writing for the screen. At the end of many of these camps, friends and family are invited to attend a screening of the movie(s) that campers helped make, or campers can bring home a DVD to hold their own private screening party.
We've listed the camps below according to age, meaning the classes accepting the youngest students are listed from the top to bottom of the page. Many camp sessions begin in early June, so act quickly to sign up for classes. They typically run for one to two weeks at a time, although a few are longer. A few camps around town (such as the Austin Film Society's Summer Filmmaking Camp) already have sessions that are sold out, but do have waiting lists available.
It's like Christmas in May for Austin classic film fans. Last week the schedule for the summer classic film series at Paramount and Stateside was announced. Movies from various decades will screen in 35mm at Paramount and digital HD projection at the Stateside from late May through early September. The lineup this year is lighter on the screwball genre than I would prefer, but there is still oh-so-much to choose from. There's sure to be something for everyone.
Tickets for each film are $8 (this covers double features as well) online. If you expect to see many, buying Flix-Tix or becoming a Film Fan could be a worthwhile investment. [Pro tip from Jette: The higher-level Film Fan memberships include free garage parking during the movies.]
Here are some of the selections we Slackerwood contributors find noteworthy:
- Bonnie and Clyde (1967) -- Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty rob banks in Arthur Penn's game-changing crime romp that blazes through north Texas [my Lone Star Cinema post]. (Wed 5/29 at 10 pm, Stateside)
- The Wild Bunch (1969) -- Sam Peckinpah's brutal Western stars William Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Robert Ryan. You all know I'm squeamish about violence and yet this is one of my very favorite films. I refuse to listen to any news about a remake involving Will Smith. (Wed 5/29 at 7:15 pm, Stateside) -- Jette Kernion
Here's the latest Austin film news.
- The New York Times profiled the Austin film scene in Sunday's edition and interviewed locally based industry heavy hitters like Richard Linklater, Elizabeth Avellan, Bryan Poyser (Elizabeth's interview) and Andrew Bujalski (Jordan's interview), among others. Worth a look for the photos alone.
- Speaking of Linklater, he has now filed suit against his insurance company, alleging breach of contract, The Austin Chronicle reports. His Paige, Texas property, near Bastrop, which housed scripts, production materials, publicity information, among other movie memorabilia, was damaged in 2011's wildfires.
- More more Linklater: Filmmaker Gabe Klinger has created a Kickstarter campaign for his documentary about the Austin filmmaker and director James Benning, according to Filmmaker Magazine. The project will only be funded if at least $25,000 is pledged by June 8. More than $8,000 has been raised so far.
- More than 65 research fellowships have been awarded by The University of Texas Harry Ransom Center for the 2013-2014 academic year to support humanities projects that require substantial onsite use of HRC collections of manuscripts, art, films, and other resources. Austin author Alison Macor (Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids) has received a research fellowship for her work about the life and career of HRC.
In 2009, J.J. Abrams accomplished the impossible and successfully negotiated an unwinnable scenario by rebooting the Star Trek franchise with a new cast in a story that maintained continuity -- yet also broke somewhat -- with the establish Trek universe. This reset gave him license to play with the characters in entirely new ways; for instance, the relationship between Uhura and Spock. With the newly released Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams plays with the entire character of the Federation itself, playing out logically the results of events that created his alternate universe and arriving at a colder, harder conclusion that doesn't sit well with many hardcore fans.
Based on his Daily Show appearance this week, in which Abrams explained his goal was to make a movie for moviegoers and not just Star Trek fans, some have said he is only concerned with his film making as much money as possible. My own feeling was that Abrams again succeeded in bringing to life a story that is true to the characters on the Enterprise, but a disturbing departure from Gene Roddenberry's vision of The United Federation of Planets.
This is not the first time Trek fans have seen a darker vision of the future: The clandestine agency known as Section 31 mentioned in Star Trek Into Darkness has appeared a number of times in the various TV shows, which have also hinted at a much darker future for the Federation in centuries to come.
But the events on screen now, in this movie, are the darkest we've seen for the classic Trek characters, aren't they? As much as we might want to blame the effects of Christopher Nolan's Batman films for the darkening of comic-book and sci-fi films, there is precedent for a darker side of the Federation scattered through classic episodes. A 13-year-old Jim Kirk witnessed the massacre of 4,000 colonists by Governor Kodos during a food shortage on Tarsus IV (episode "The Conscience of the King"). The Federation also was known to have violent criminals and treated the criminal behavior as a sickness to be cured via therapy in one of several installations known as asylums ("Whom Gods Destroy").
It is also very well established that pre-Federation history included a series of wars that nearly destroyed civilization on Earth, and that but for the civilizing influence of the Vulcans, the UFP would have been a much more warlike body. In fact, classic Trek includes a mirror universe in which events did play out differently, resulting in a fleet where starship captains murder their way into command.
While we wait for various summer movie series to begin, Austin still has lots of interesting alternative film choices this week. And of course the summer blockbusters have begun and you already have your choice of the new movie with the Star Trek gang or the movie that released last week (and therefore is practically ancient) with the man in the iron suit.
Tickets are still available through the Austin Film Society website for Sunday's triple-feature of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and the sneak peek of Before Midnight, with director Richard Linklater in attendance after the first movie.
On Tuesday, Violet Crown Cinema presents Holiday Road, a comedy in which 13 filmmakers each devote a short film to a different American holiday. UT alum Todd Berger tackled January and October, and Austin's own Kelly Williams was a producer for this anthology.
If you're interested in young filmmakers, AFS presents the 2013 Film Club Spring Festival screening (pictured at right) on Saturday at 10:30 am at the Marchesa, showcasing student projects. The AFS Film Club is an afterschool program that teaches AISD students about filmmaking and other digital media techniques to promote self-expression and creativity. Schools presenting work in the Spring Festival range from elementary to high school.
Some movies simply aren't going to be for everyone. That's not to say that they aren't good movies, or that the director didn't try hard enough to make a great film -- the problem only lies with you. Upstream Color fits that bill with every frame of its being. From the writer/director of Primer, Shane Carruth this time takes his audience through a strange world of interweaving storylines and has constructed a strange, but beautiful film ... one that is incredibly well made and acted, especially by lead actress Amy Seimetz.
Upstream Color is told in several different parts, but they all interweave in some form or fashion. Seimetz plays Kris, who's gone through some hardships -- her story involves drugs, kidnappings and a cute little piglet. That's all fine and dandy, but it can be confusing at times. The story starts to make a little more sense once Jeff (played by Carruth himself) comes along. As a love interest/threat to Kris, his turn onscreen is a fascinating one.
To be vague in a film review is often the mark of an incomplete review, but in this case it would suffice. What can be plainly seen and heard while watching Upstream Color is an extremely well-made film, one that deserves to be studied and rewatched. It is impeccably acted -- Seimetz is quickly becoming a legend in her own right in the indie film circuit. The amazing score was written by Shane Carruth. There are moments where you're enveloped in some truly fantastic sounds. A good comparison to how essential the score feels is Cloud Atlas.
Despite all that praise, I am someone that this film was not made for, although it did benefit from a rewatch. Movies like Upstream Color tend to stand the test of time, and while it's a little early for a film like this to make that distinction, it could get there. It would have been nice if this combo DVD/Blu-ray package, released by New Video Group/Cinedigm, would have had some special features. However, the disks have great visuals and at times perfect quality sound. The DVD/Blu-ray is still a great purchase for Shane Carruth fans or fans of Upstream Color.
The second annual Oak Cliff Film Festival seeks to showcase the best of independent filmmaking of all genres from Oak Cliff (a Dallas district), Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth and Austin. From June 6-9, these films will be screened in the heart of the city's burgeoning Bishop Arts District and in some of its most historic movie theaters, like The Kessler Theater, which is said to have opened in the spring of 1942. The fest's home theater is the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, which hosts eclectic repertory film programming year-round (and which has a colorful history).
The nonprofit fest, which donates a portion of all ticket and badge sales to the North Texas Food Bank, announced its lineup earlier this week. Highlights include movies screened at this year's SXSW Film Festival, like Oak Cliff's opening night films Drinking Buddies (Rod's review), about the relationship between two co-workers at a Chicago brewery, and the documentary Pussy Riot: a Punk Prayer, that follows three members of a Russian art collective who were arrested on charges of religious hatred after performing a 40 second "punk prayer" inside one of the country's main cathedrals.
In addition, the fest's closing-night film is the regional premiere of Bobcat Goldthwait's latest movie, Willow Creek, a horror film starring Alexie Gilmore. And DFW-area filmmaker David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) will present some short films, a secret screening, and a not-so-secret screening of McCabe and Mrs. Miller.