Slackery News Tidbits: July 28, 2014

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2014 Texas Book Festival posterHere's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • Slackerwood isn't at San Diego Comic-Con this year but plenty of Austin people are, including local filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. Indiewire has a roundup of the Sin City: A Dame to Kill For panel with Rodriguez, co-director Frank Miller, and several cast members. The article also includes a new (short) red-band trailer for the Sin City sequel, which hits theaters August 22.
  • We don't normally include images with Slackery News Tidbits, but the newly revealed 2014 Texas Book Festival poster (pictured right) featuring the Texas Theatre in Seguin is so gorgeous, I couldn't resist. (Someone tell me how to get one of these, please.) In addition, the festival announced eight authors that will attend -- quite an eclectic bunch, from Martin Amis to Ziggy Marley, and from Valerie Plame Wilson to chef Lidia Bastianich. Texas Book Festival runs from Oct. 25-26 ... as usual, conflicting with Austin Film Festival, and creating hard choices for Austin film/literary fans (start building up your stamina now so you can do both!).
  • Have you seen the 2013 drama Pit Stop yet? The Texas-shot feature from Austin filmmaker Yen Tan is streaming on Netflix Instant now. Debbie reviewed it at Sundance 2013 and said it "provides an intriguing glimpse of love and romance in the small towns that so many of us drive through without a second thought on the lives of its inhabitants." Pit Stop received an AFS Grant for distribution last year. (via Don Swaynos)
  • Over at Paracinema, Bryce Wilson discusses movies adapted from Texas author Joe Lansdale's novels/stories, including the latest film adaptation, Cold in July (Don's review).
  • Finally -- in case you missed it -- last week, Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott released a campaign ad to play before movies at Regal Cinemas, in which he speaks to the camera while sitting with a movie-theater audience. Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League took issue with the ad's seeming endorsement of talking and texting during movies, and the Drafthouse hastily assembled the following Drafthouse "Don't Talk" ad. (Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis responded on Twitter with "I may have spoken for 11 hours, but even I know it's never OK to talk at the movies.")

Movies This Week: July 25-31, 2014

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 Lucy

The Austin Film Society begins a very rare series this Sunday afternoon at the Marchesa called "The Sepia Screen." They'll be spotlighting 35mm "race" films from a special collection at Southern Methodist University from the days when movie theaters were segregated. This weekend, they'll be screening a 1946 short called Vanities, a 1946 feature called Dirty Gertie From Harlem U.S.A. and 1949's feature Souls Of Sin. Elizabeth's preview has details plus some insights on the series from AFS programmer Lars Nilsen.

On Tuesday evening, AFS is hosting Two Step, a locally-shot SXSW 2014 favorite (Don's review). Director Alex R. Johnson and composer Andrew Kenny (The Wooden Birds, The American Analog Set) will be in attendance for a Q&A. The current AFS Essential Cinema series is closing out on Thursday evening with Liv and Ingmar. After filling the Marchesa's screen over the last few weeks with some of their greatest collaborations, now you'll get to see this 2012 documentary that examines the relationship between Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman. The film is presented from Liv's point-of-view, interviewed in the house that she lived in for many years with Bergman. 

Over at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, tomorrow morning you can check out a free Kid's Club screening of the Disney classic Pete's Dragon in 35mm at noon. Later in the afternoon, they'll also be paying tribute to the late James Garner with a 35mm screening of 1964's The Americanization Of Emily, which also stars Julie Andrews.

Review: Lucy

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lucy posterIn Luc Besson's unfortunately dumb latest film, Scarlett Johansson plays a character whose brain is suddenly more powerful than anyone else's on earth. The events that unfold don't require much thinking, though; Lucy is a schlocky sci-fi that never lives up to the talent involved or the sense of anticipation it tries to establish.

The trouble starts when Lucy (Johansson), a young American going to school in Taiwan, gets caught up with an obnoxious cowboy who drags her unknowingly into a dangerous situation. With lightning speed, she's forced to act as a drug mule by a vicious crime boss (Oldboy's Min-sik Choi) aiming to hook people on a new conscious-altering synthetic substance.

Things take a turn when Lucy ends up absorbing a large amount of the strange drug herself, and from there she is no longer a normal human. Increment by increment (noted by in-your-face title cards along the way), she finds herself in possession of more and more of her brain's capacity (regular people supposedly only use 10 percent of their brains, and she's hurtling towards 100 percent). With each step she becomes better able to manipulate her surroundings through telekinesis as her human qualities fall away.

Part revenge fantasy, part science puzzle and a whole lot of nonsense, Lucy never stops to take a breath as it jumps from Taiwan to Paris and picks up speed as the heroine's brain continues to evolve. Terrible one-liners and illogical plot points prevent the movie from being anything close to immersive, however, and even Johansson's confident and dedicated performance isn't enough to save the fact that this movie is a mess of cliches and artlessly violent interactions between robotic Lucy and the cartoonish bad guys.

Over-the-top nature sequences (Tree of Life minus the subtlety) are jarringly intercut with standard action scenes, and the presence of Morgan Freeman as a professor who is Lucy's only hope of explaining what's happening to her is either very cheeky or extremely lazy. His scientist character explains what's going on like he's narrating a PBS nature show, but his booming voice and calm, comforting presence end up feeling like one of a million shortcuts taken to reach a payoff that never materializes.

AFF Adds Panelists to 2014 Conference

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AFF logoThe Austin Film Festival just sent me their latest email newsletter with a list of new panelists for the 2014 conference, and I thought I'd share it with you. And yes, there's a local filmmaker in the list. I should not even have to tell you which one, since we've written about her movies enough that you can figure it out.

Here's the list:

You can read a complete list of 2014 panelists on the AFF website. Austin Film Festival runs from October 23-30 this year.

Also, don't forget that the next film in AFF's "1968" series is Rosemary's Baby, which screens next Tuesday, July 29 at 7 pm at the Texas Spirit Theater in the Texas State History Museum [tickets].

Shorts Break: Meet 'Keith and Heath'

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Keith and Heath

Shorts Break spotlights Austin and Texas short films that you can watch right here and now ... take a break and take a look!

For the inaugural edition of Shorts Break, I decided to go with puppets. You can't go wrong with puppets (just ask John Oliver), especially if there's a catchy tune too.

Keith & Heath is a short comedy from Andy Young, and if I'd written this two months ago, I would have called him "Austinite Andy Young" ... but he's just moved to Los Angeles after graduating from The University of Texas at Austin. Keith & Heath is his undergraduate thesis film. Young also worked on the Austin-shot feature Intramural. Rumor has it (okay, his Facebook page has it) that he's working for some other former Austinites this summer, the Duplass brothers. Besides being a filmmaker, he also contributes to Moviemaker Magazine (check out his recent interview with Richard Linklater).

AFS Screening Preview: Lars Nilsen on 'The Sepia Screen'

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poster for Dirty Gertie from Harlem USASouthern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas owns an archive of 1930s and 1940s-era films -- shorts, newsreels and features -- made specifically for black audiences of the time.  These historic reels were found in a Tyler, Texas warehouse in 1983, and the team at SMU's G. William Jones Video and Collection has restored and digitized the movies.

You can view the films online, or if you're in Austin, watch a selection that Lars Nilsen, Austin Film Society Programmer, has compiled from the collection. "The Sepia Screen" program will play at the Marchesa on Sunday, July 27 at 2 pm [tickets info].

The 35mm films screening this Sunday include the short Vanities (1946), Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946) starring Francine Everett, and Souls of Sin (1949).

I talked (via email) to Nilsen about this upcoming program.

Slackerwood: How did you learn about this specific archive at SMU?

Lars Nilsen: I'm a big fan of these films and I was researching them when I ran across the archive and naturally the wheels turned in my head. I contacted them last year and they told me the films were on tour in South America, but I made plans to eventually bring them here to Austin.

What are your thoughts on the cultural relevance of these forgotten works?

Nilsen: First off, they are not "art films" by and large. They are very low-budget commercial films and plot-wise, they are very similar to their mainstream B-movie counterparts. The interest and value of these films comes from the fact that they are made for black audiences. While the humor is typically quite broad, it's instantly more sophisticated because it need not be slanted to fit a white audience's preconceptions. It can be very "inside" subversive humor.

Slackery News Tidbits: July 21, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin film news (and a very funny video at the end, so keep reading).

  • Filmmaker Magazine has released its 2014 edition of "25 new Faces of Independent Film." The list includes Austin filmmaker Annie Silverstein, whose short Skunk won the Cannes Cinefondation award this year, and former Houstonite/filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe, whose documentary Evolution of a Criminal played SXSW and Dallas IFF.
  • The Central Texas-shot horror movie Found Footage 3D wrapped shooting recently, and Austin Chronicle contributor Richard Whittaker wrote about his visit to the indie film's set. This will be the feature-film debut for writer/director Steven DeGennaro. Producers include Kim Henkel, who wrote The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and film critic/former Austinite Scott Weinberg.
  • Austin comedy Love & Air Sex (formerly The Bounceback) is trying something different to boost online sales. If you go to BitTorrent, you can download -- no, not the whole film illegally, but a legally downloadable bundle that includes a 10-minute clip as well as photos, music and the movie's Kickstarter thank-you video. The idea is that this will then entice you into buying Love & Air Sex from the film's website (not for free, but pretty darn cheaply). (via filmmaker Bryan Poyser)
  • I could not possibly capture all the Boyhood reviews, articles and interviews over the past week (go read Don's review, though), but here's one important piece of news: Filmmaker Richard Linklater announced that Criterion will release the movie on Blu-ray/DVD with extras potentially including interviews taken over the 12-year production.

Movies This Week: July 18-24, 2014

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Boyhood 

Over the next week, your only real duty as a film lover is to see Richard Linklater's Boyhood. Yes, it's almost three hours long. Yes, the reviews are mindblowingly great. Yes, it's the real deal. I attended last weekend's Austin Film Society Q&A screening with Linklater, Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane in attendance and I'm definitely ready to see it again. It's that good. 

Speaking of special screenings, AFS is bringing the SXSW hit Road To Austin (Mike's review) to the Marchesa tonight. The documentary examines how Austin became the "Live Music Capital Of The World" and features live performance footage from Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Joe Ely and over 40 other artists. If that sounds up your alley, so will the Sunday afternoon screening of Tommy Hancock: West Texas Muse. Following the leader of West Texas's premiere western swing band, the film features many Texas musicians including Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Lloyd Maines. Hancock lives in Austin and will be on hand for a Q&A. Thursday night's Essential Cinema brings us Ingmar Bergman's 1973 masterpiece Scenes From A Marriage. This screening will be the 169-minute theatrical version, although if you go and really enjoy it, you should track down the 295-minute television miniseries version as originally aired in Sweden. 

Alamo Drafthouse Ritz has a lot of great music programming on tap again as part of this month's "The Alamo Goes To '11" feature. A new digital restoration of Stop Making Sense plays twice Saturday, with Wattstax in the mix on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and a sneak preview of the new Nick Cave documentary 20,000 Days On Earth. That is sold out at the Ritz on Sunday, but also plays at the Village and Slaughter Lane locations that afternoon, and tickets are still left at the Ritz for Music Monday. A 35mm print of John Woo's extraordinarily violent Hard Boiled screens at the Ritz on Sunday night for Tough Guy Cinema and The Complete David Lynch series enters its fourth week with a handful of Blue Velvet screenings in 35mm. 

Review: Sex Tape

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Sex Tape poster Sex Tape, a goofy new movie from director Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher), teams Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel up again. This time, they're married parents longing for the actively passionate days of their nascent romance. The film opens with narration from mommy-blogger Annie (Diaz), who laments the loss of time and energy for sex with her husband Jay (Segel).

Hoping to shake things up, Annie suggests they make a sex tape for themselves using Jay's new iPad. And thus the trouble begins.  Jay uses an app called Frankensync that  syncs media on any iPad/laptop he's owned (if you're wondering, GQ checked with AppleCare and nope, it's not possible). The whole plot hinging on this fictional tech is laugh-out-loud preposterous, so Segel and Diaz deserve some credit for making it seem even slightly plausible.

The couple tries to delete the video from any iPads they've passed on to others. Their ridiculous romp leads them to the home of their best friends (Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper) and to the mansion of the prospective buyer of Annie's blog (Rob Lowe, whose character is like Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation, if he did coke and loved Eazy-E).

Diaz and Segel are game for whatever the script throws them, be it equal-opportunity nudity, physical comedy or acting frazzled on cocaine. There are a few sappy minutes involving a Jack Black cameo, but until that point, Sex Tape is continuously hilarious. 

Ready, Set, Fund: Be a Patron, Support the Apocalypse

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slate from I Am Jack's Apocalypse

Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and fundraising endeavors related to Austin and Texas independent film projects.

We all have the habit of saying "Kickstarter campaign" as a generic term for crowdfunding, but of course that's not the only site that hosts these types of project. I don't just mean Indiegogo either. In the past, this column has highlighted Austin projects from United States Artists (Computer Chess being the one I remember) and Seed&Spark. (I particularly like United States Artists because it's curated -- no one is raising money for potato salad there.)

This month, I found a new platform (via Bryan Poyser, thanks!) called Patreon. Patreon has a slightly different model, focusing on campaigns for projects with recurring needs, like web series, blogs and podcasts. The donors -- called "patrons" -- support these projects through recurring gifts that correspond with each episode in a series, for example. Instead of giving $25 (or $250 if you're flush), you might give $5 per podcast, or $1 per blog post.

Recurring gifts are a big staple of traditional nonprofit campaigns, so finding a way to do that with artistic crowdfunding is pretty smart. It keeps donors invested in the project, and I think it will strengthen projects in the long term with a steady source of income.

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