It's been a stellar year for music documentaries. Twenty Feet From Stardom, A Band Called Death and Sound City have all managed to tell important stories and still be crowd-pleasing films. Much like Dave Grohl's warm and friendly portrait of the Sound City studios out in Southern California, the movie Muscle Shoals invites us to take a closer look at a studio where some of the most important recordings of all time have been created.
Rick Hall opened FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1960 after establishing a music publishing business. With a life-altering personal tragedy behind him, he focused all of his energy into the studio and truly got hooked by producing local and regional artists. Shortly after Percy Sledge recorded "When A Man Loves A Woman" at FAME in 1966, the floodgates opened and the studio become a destination for Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records to bring his artists to ensure they'd have hit singles.
Continued from Part One, here's the rest of my interview with Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and Machete Kills star Danny Trejo, pictured above at the Fantastic Fest red carpet with actress Alexa Vega.
Slackerwood: It seems like you enjoy revisiting your characters in multiple movies -- why do you think you want to keep bringing the characters back?
Danny Trejo: Well, they're good actors.
Robert Rodriguez: I was very much inspired by George Lucas. He wanted to do a Flash Gordon movie, but couldn't get the rights, so he wrote his version instead, which is called Star Wars. I thought, that's such a cool thing. Instead of going and doing a James Bond movie, go and make your own James Bond series, and put things in it that you love -- base it on my family, call it Spy Kids. Or do a guitar-player series of movies.
You know, actually El Mariachi was designed to be a low-budget series, so I started with the genesis in the very first movie. He doesn't become the guy with the guitar case full of weapons until the last scene in the movie. Spy Kids -- they don't become "spy kids" until the last scene in the movie. And Machete doesn't really become that iconic icon holding up the machete and leading the people until the last scene of the movie.
If you haven't seen Machete Kills yet (Don's review), the best way to see it is with a large and enthusiastic audience -- or even a small group of lively friends. It's such silly fun that audience reactions are a must. Robert Rodriguez shot the sequel to Machete in the Austin area, whether you recognize it or not, with a cast that includes Mel Gibson, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Charlie Sheen and Lady Gaga. It even includes a fake trailer for a third Machete film ... set in outer space.
And of course, Danny Trejo returns in the title role, which he's been playing since Uncle Machete appeared on the scene in Rodriguez's 2001 movie Spy Kids.
I sat down with Rodriguez and Trejo shortly before the movie opened Fantastic Fest this year -- the photo of Rodriguez, Alexa Vega and Trejo above is from its premiere that evening. Here's what they have to say about James Bond, film franchises, Texas film incentives and shooting in Austin, among other things. There may be minor spoilers if you consider Machete Kills spoilable, which it isn't, really.
Slackerwood: So about 15, 20 minutes into the movie, I realized I was watching a James Bond film -- definitely when I saw the speedboat.
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, the speedboat! You're like "Wow, he's a secret agent. He's a Mexican secret agent."
Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.
Two local movies that were well received at their SXSW 2013 premieres are now crowdfunding for distribution: The Bounceback and Before You Know It. Local filmmaker Bryan Poyser has a Kickstarter funding campaign through Sunday, November 17, for his romantic comedy (with air sex!) The Bounceback -- check out Don's review as well as Elizabeth's interview with Poyser.
PJ Raval -- director of photography for The Bounceback -- is also seeking funding for his feature-length documentary Before You Know It through October 30. This insightful and thought-provoking film reveals the discrimination, neglect and exclusion faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual senior citizens. Raval tells the story through several inspirational individuals who have found the strength to form communities where they and others can be comfortable and accepted.
Check out the pitch video for the Before You Know It campaign, which includes some of the film's subjects, after the jump.
This article is the second in Slackerwood's second series about the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) video library. For an overview of the TAMI site, refer to this article in the first series.
"You're not a Texan unless you're for segregation." –-- Indignant White Citizens Council leader Bobby Joiner
Although Texas cities weren't as newsworthy as Little Rock, Selma or Birmingham, the state was very much a battleground during the civil rights era. This TAMI Flashback article highlights three intriguing videos about the fight for racial equality in Texas. One is a slickly produced film about desegregation in Dallas. The others aren't slick at all; they're collections of raw news footage shot in Austin -- and they're far more powerful statements about race relations in Texas.
Dallas at the Crossroads is a film with noble intentions. In 1961, a federal court ordered Dallas to desegregate its schools. To discourage the violent opposition that happened in other cities, the Dallas Citizens Council produced Dallas at the Crossroads to defuse racial tension and encourage Dallas citizens to accept desegregation peacefully.
Something happened on September 27 that you should all know about. If you were at the Austin Film Society event "Our Dinner with the Danger Gods," you don't need me to tell you that it was a night for the ages. Those who witnessed it won't forget it. We welcomed a panel of some of the greatest stuntmen in the world to sit down at a table with no prepared material, eat steaks, drink whiskey and tell stories, jokes, lies, whatever. It was an event designed not only for the audience but for the legends themselves.
If you weren't at the event, our friend Brandon Grey filmed it, and it looks beautiful. Zack Carlson, who hosted the Danger Gods the previous evening at Fantastic Fest, and I moderated.
Here's the latest Austin film news.
- Austin filmmaker Emily Hagins's fourth feature film, Grow Up, Tony Phillips won't be released on VOD and DVD until October 2014, according an update on the movie's Kickstarter campaign page. The independently produced comedy, starring AJ Bowen (A Horrible Way to Die) and Tony Vespe (Hagins's My Sucky Teen Romance) as the eponymous character, tells the story of a Halloween-loving teenager who refuses to grow up. It was shot in and around Central Texas and premiered at SXSW this year (Elizabeth's review, my interview).
- Former AFS staffer Bryan Poyser's (Elizabeth's interview) latest feature film The Bounceback (Don's review) -- which also premiered at SXSW -- won a best writing award at the 18th Annual Genart Film Festival last week, which celebrates emerging filmmakers in North America, IndieWire reports. Poyser co-wrote and directed the romantic comedy, starring Sara Paxton (The Innkeepers), about a group of friends trying to bounce back from heartache during a weekend in Austin.
- The Austin Chronicle chronicled the filming of Butcher Boys, originally titled Boneboys, to celebrate its DVD release last week. Writer/producer Kim Henkel, who co-wrote the 1974 horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, teamed up with two former Texas A&M University- Kingsville students, co-directors Duane Graves and Justin Meeks, on the low-budget horror comedy about a family of cannibals. The film, which was shot in Austin and Taylor, previously screened here at Austin Film Festival 2012.
If Don Draper had taken Betty and the kids to Disneyland (circa season two, let's say), and had been fortified by something mysterious from Roger Sterling, and the whole thing had been shot covertly on film by Smitty and Kurt, the result might have been Escape from Tomorrow.
For those of you who don't watch Mad Men, let's just say the movie takes a Disney trip by your average All-American family and turns it completely on its head, with a few kicks in the teeth for good measure. Unfortunately, it moves slowly and ultimately relies too much on weirdness for weirdness' sake. The movie premiered at Sundance, screened at Fantastic Fest and is now available on VOD. It's screening in Austin this week as well.
Escape from Tomorrow potentially offers pleasure to its audience on two levels. The first is the traditional moviegoing experience, natch. But in addition, the movie is controversial -- and interesting -- because much of it was covertly shot at Disney World (including Epcot) and Disneyland. The filmmakers and actors would buy tickets to the parks and pretend to be regular visitors shooting family home video of their vacation antics. In reality, they were shooting a feature film, and had to manage all kinds of tricks to get the shots they needed, like racing around right when a park opened to get shots of deserted rides, and so forth.
If I had to pick one bright new talent this year, it would be Carlos Estevez.
As the boozing, gun-worshipping, horndogging President Rathcock in Machete Kills, Estevez delivers a powerhouse performance destined to carry him -- a first-time actor whose face is oddly familiar -- to the heights of stardom.
Oh, wait -- IMDb says Carlos Estevez is, in fact, Charlie Sheen. No wonder I'd seen him before. But whatever his name, his performance is ... well, no. I led you astray, gentle Machete fans. To be honest, his performance isn't all that great. It's not awful, and at times it's entertaining and funny. But it's nothing special.
In other words, Estevez/Sheen's performance is like everything else in Machete Kills -- more meh than memorable.
In Robert Rodriguez's follow-up to Machete, President Rathcock recruits the titular ex-Federale (Danny Trejo) to slip into Mexico to take down crazed revolutionary arms dealer Mendez (Demian Bichir). With help from a fellow agent posing as Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard), Machete crosses the border and finds his quarry quickly -- but only after a rather violent encounter in a Mexican cathouse with wicked madam Desdemona (Sofía Vergara) and a bevy of heavily armed hookers.
I'll be out at Zilker Park this weekend for the second round of the Austin City Limits festival, but you can avoid the crowds (and potential thunderstorms) by hitting the movies. For those of you who missed out on Fantastic Fest this year, take note that several of this year's titles are opening or being featured with select screenings in town over the next week.
I am truly saddened that ACL is going to keep me away from Austin Film Society's 35mm booking of Peeping Tom, but it's one that you won't want to miss. It's the movie that basically destroyed Michael Powell's reputation upon release, but has since gone on to be recognized as one of the greatest thrillers of all time. It's playing tonight and again on Sunday afternoon at the Marchesa. An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story had its world premiere at SXSW earlier this year, and on Tuesday night AFS is bringing it to the Marchesa. Director Al Reinert, Michael Morton and Morton's long-time pro bono counsel John Raley will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. Kurosawa's High And Low will also screen at the Marchesa in a glorious 35mm print from Janus Films on Thursday night as part of this month's Essential Cinema series.
My top Alamo picks for the weekend are the killer 70mm bookings happening at the Ritz (Star Trek IV and 2001: A Space Odyssey). The downtown location also has a rare 35mm screening of Elaine May's A New Leaf on Monday, Girlie Night serves up Hocus Pocus on Tuesday, and Ricky Jay will be appearing live for a Q&A on Wednesday night for a new documentary about him called Deceptive Practices. Fantastic Fest Presents The Dirties at Alamo Slaughter tonight and tomorrow for late shows. Debbie caught the film at Dallas IFF this year and strongly recommended it in her review. You can also head to Slaughter for a special showing of Robinson Crusoe On Mars tomorrow afternoon to go along with this month's space programming theme.