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.
The Brewers Association proclaimed May 13 - 19 as this year's American Craft Beer Week, which means film-and-beer events are taking place across the nation. Just down the road in San Antonio, the documentary Crafting a Nation premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse Stone Oak last evening. Unfortunately I missed the screening, but I did get to the premiere after-party at Freetail Brewing Company. There I caught up with producer Courtney Cobb and a couple of the featured subjects in the film: Scott Metzger of Freetail and Davis Tucker of North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery (pictured above with Cobb).
The Crafting a Nation filmmaking team has been traveling across the U.S. this week with their film -- director Tom Kolicko hosted the San Diego screening. Cobb reports that the team is holding off on the Austin premiere so that they can "do it up really big" since central Texas was a featured region of the film. I heard a few of the audience members got a bit teary-eyed during a couple of scenes, and hope to see the movie for myself in Austin soon.
Tickets are currently on sale for a special screening of Frank Capra's 1933 film Lady for a Day at the Paramount. On hand to introduce the movie, and to talk more about classic films in general, will be film critic and historian Leonard Maltin. Maltin was one of the proponents for making this movie available on Blu-ray, and the event will include a rare 35mm projection of the classic, thanks to a loan from the Capra estate.
Lady for a Day is early Capra, made before he really burst on the scene with his big hit It Happened One Night. It's adapted from a Damon Runyon story by Robert Riskin, who continued to team up with Capra on many other movies in the 1930s and early 1940s.
The movie stars May Robson (whom I know best for her role as the daunting Aunt Elizabeth/Mrs. Carlton-Random in my favorite Bringing Up Baby) as Apple Annie, a poor apple seller who tries to convince her daughter overseas, via her letters, that she is really a wealthy woman in high society. But what happens when her daughter comes to visit with her royal fiance? It's sure to be Capra-corn as the director did it best.
"Leonard Maltin: In Conversation" will take place next Friday night, May 24. All seats are the same ticket price, but they are reserved, so if you're planning to go, get your tickets soon.
In related news, the schedule for the annual Paramount Summer Classic Film Series will be announced later this week. You can expect the usual showing of Gone with the Wind at the end of the series.
We already know a few of the selections: The opening night party on Thursday, May 23 (that's the night before the Maltin event) will kick off with Casablanca and Annie Hall. Among the other summer movies, I assume there will likely be a couple of screwball selections, at least one Katharine Hepburn film, and perhaps some Marx Brothers -- maybe even a Thin Man?
You can be assured I'll publish a full post on Slackerwood with my recommendations/favorites from the bunch when the slate is announced!
For the second year in a row, I spent a lovely spring weekend in Fredericksburg for the 2013 Hill Country Film Festival. This is not one of those film fests where you get up early to get a good ticket reservation/spot in line and then proceed to watch four or five films, and then at 2 am collapsing in exhaustion (or going into overtime with karaoke) before getting up early to do it again, downing Red Bull and energy bars for sustenance.
This is a film festival where you watch a movie, and then go have some brunch, and then watch another movie, and perhaps go shopping, and enjoy cocktails with filmmakers, and maybe watch another movie or have a leisurely dinner, then go to a party and talk about the movies you watched while enjoying more cocktails. There was a screening in a winery (pictured above) on Sunday and yes, there was wine as well as sausages from Austin restaurant Frank. I took it very easy, which is why my dispatches are coming to you after the fest and not during.
Look for my capsule reviews/descriptions of many of the shorts and features I saw later this week. In the meantime, I thought I'd share some photos from my time at the fest.
The most highly-anticipated Austin film news question has finally been answered. No, not the name of the villain Benedict Cumberbatch plays in Star Trek Into Darkness. On Friday morning with this blog post, Fantastic Fest announced that its 2013 location will be the as-yet-unfinished Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, which opens in July. Construction at South Lamar won't be complete in time to host the fest that's called that Alamo Drafthouse home for its eight-year history.
Reactions have been mixed but generally positive. Local festgoers most affected by the venue change will be those who live and work in south Austin, some of whom have already begun to plan sharing hotels and rides. Other Austinites, confusing Lakeline for the existing Alamo Lake Creek (which Lakeline will replace) have mistakenly complained about the inappropriateness of that spot.
In fact, Alamo Lakeline will have 10 screens, making it the largest Drafthouse to date -- and will have 35mm projection, which is necessary for many titles that screen at Fantastic Fest. As with The Highball and 400 Rabbits, Lakeline will have an adjoining bar, though a location for Fantastic Arcade and other festival events is still in the works. Hopefully there will be an adequate substitute for the much-beloved porch at South Lamar (pictured at top).
Here's the latest Austin film news.
- Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols is slated to write and direct Midnight Special, described as a "contemporary science-fiction chase film," for Warner Bros, Deadline announced. Fellow Austinites Sarah Green and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (Sinister) will serve as the movie's producers. The project, currently in development, will re-team Nichols and actor Michael Shannon, who has been in all Nichols' features to date.
- The Alamo Drafthouse is scheduled to open its largest theater yet, with 10 screens, in north (very north) Austin. The theater will open sometime this July in the new Lakeline Market Shopping Center adjacent to Lakeline Mall. Nearby theater Alamo Lake Creek will remain in business this summer until after the new Drafthouse opens.
- In more Drafthouse news, the company’s film distribution arm has acquired the North American rights to British director Ben Wheatley’s latest movie, A Field in England, according to IndieWire. The horror film, which is scheduled for a theatrical and VOD release later this year, follows a group of soldiers during the English Civil War in the 17th century. They're captured by an alchemist to assist in his search for treasures hidden in a giant mushroom field.
- London-based Eureka Entertainment's Masters of Cinema Series has bought the UK distribution rights to Austinite Andrew Bujalski's (Jordan's interview) comedy Computer Chess (Jette's review), Bleeding Cool reports. Bujalski's feature revolves around chess players and computer programmers at a computer chess tournament in the 1980s. The Austin-shot film premiered at Sundance 2013, then screened at SXSW. Kino Lorber is distributing the movie in the U.S.
Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rich Boy
This often-repeated quote begins F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story Rich Boy, but it could be from Fitzgerald's magnum opus The Great Gatsby, a novel about the very rich. And the latest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby brings to mind a twist on the quote: Let me tell you about Baz Luhrmann's films. They are different.
Different, of course, can be wonderful. Luhrmann's proudly over-the-top style -- a mix of grand scale, busy, color-saturated visuals, daring anachronisms, hyperactive pacing and general excess -- works very well in his most successful features, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!.
Luhrmann's brand of filmmaking, however, doesn't work so well in The Great Gatsby for two reasons: The story is character driven, not visually driven. And Luhrmann doesn't realize that a little 3D goes a long, long way.
The Great Gatsby and Luhrmann should be a great match, as the filmmaker and the novel's central figure, the Jazz Age millionaire Jay Gatsby, share a love of artifice and excess. Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) lives in an ostentatious mansion in the fictional Long Island village of New Egg, where he leads a life of leisure, self indulgence and extravagant parties, punctuated with the occasional shady business deal that finances his lifestyle.
It's not a banner week for new releases. Ardent Baz Luhrmann groupies may revel in his loud and gaudy take on The Great Gatsby. But the other new films -- a draggy period piece about Renoir, an artsy but lackluster comic drama about escaping one's past and a rom-com that bravely goes where many have gone before (don't they all?) -- make for a yawning time at the cinema.
Not to worry, film fans. As usual, Slackerwood's friends at the Austin Film Society offer some interesting alternatives. The AFS Spotlight on John Cassavetes series kicks off today with A Woman Under the Influence, the great director's 1974 drama starring a devastating Gena Rowlands as a woman who breaks down under life's pressures and Peter Falk as her well-meaning but loutish husband. The film screens tonight and Sunday at the Marchesa Hall and Theatre.
AFS also presents an Essential Cinema screening of revered Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert on Tuesday at the Marchesa. One of Antonioni's most memorable films, this classic 1964 drama captures an alienated woman's existential angst as she tries to survive in a bleak industrial landscape.
As the crème de la crème of the film industry begins invading the French Riviera for the 2013 Festival de Cannes, it is quite apropros for a movie about one of the Impressionist masters who spent his last days in the lush French countryside to open this week at the Regal Arbor here in Austin.
Based upon Jacques Renoir's work Le Tableau Amoureux, director and screenwriter Gilles Bourdos' drama Renoir paints a lush vignette of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) at the age of 74. Arthritis wreaks havoc on his body, and his middle son Jean (Vincent Rottiers) is dealing with his own combat wounds from his World War I mobilization.
The pair are both enamored and inspired by Renoir's latest model, the fiery headstrong young Andrée (Christa Theret). Pierre-Auguste's grief over the death of his wife Aline is lightened by Andrée's free-spirited nature and graceful body. Despite Jean's determination to rejoin his comrades once he's recovered from his injuries, his love for Andree inspires him to plan for a future in cinema as a filmmaker.