Cine Las Americas Offers Free 'Master Classes'

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Cine Las AmericasWith the 14th annual Cine Las Americas looming on the horizon, we thought there is something you should know. Not only do they have another schedule packed full of films encompassing the breadth of Latin American and indigenous American cinema, this year Cine Las Americas also has four "Master Classes" available to the public.

That's right -- available to the public, as in free, gratis, no dinero, won’t break your piggy bank. Of course there is a slight catch: If you have a film pass for Cine Las Americas, you get priority seating, so if you do want to attend, get there early to be at the front of the line. Or spend a few bucks and get a pass for one of the best kept secrets in film in a movie-hungry town (get one now and save on full price).

The four classes run from Monday, April 25 to Thursday, April 28, and take place at 4 pm in the Black Box Theater at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC). The MACC has been a venue for Cine Las Americas for a while now, and this year more films are screening there, meaning you can easily catch a master class then make the evening's films.

  • Monday, April 25 -- Carmen Marron, writer/director/producer, Go For It! talks about getting U.S. distribution for her inspirational dance film. Go For It! Opens theatrically on May 13, released by Pantelion Films (Lionsgate).
  • Tuesday, April 26 -- Andrés Martínez-Ríos, founder and director of Aatomo Rentas/Chemistry Cine. This case study of the film Jean Gentil (dir. Laura Amelia Guzmán and Ismael Cárdenes) will be a discussion of current state of international cooperation in production and post-production, with a focus on Mexico and the United States.

SXSW 2011: All Our Coverage

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Updated April 12, 2011.

Slackerwood had eight contributors in Austin covering aspects of SXSW Film Festival this year: movie reviews, photos, interviews and daily recaps. The following list (after the jump) links to all our SXSW 2011 coverage.

SXSW 2011 Wrap-Up: Sensory Overload and Monsters

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Attack The Block

We created a monster ... It's just sensory overload ... like the first day of school times twenty thousand people.

Prophetic words from Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW, Alan Berg's documentary about how four guys living on next to nothing created one of the largest benchmarks of alternative culture. Check out my interview with director Alan Berg for an insight of how it all began for South by Southwest.

Everything was bigger this year -- the number of attendees and campuses for SXSW Interactive, the crowds of people lining up at the Paramount Theatre for movie premieres, and the swell of music fans filling the streets of downtown and beyond for SXSW Music. Despite years of volunteering in "the belly of the beast" as I call downtown Austin during SXSW Music, I found it overwhelming. I joked that I'm no longer a SXSW veteran, I'm a SXSW old-timer as I no longer care about where the free food, drinks or parking are -- I just wanted to find a seat in a theater and a clean bathroom.

In an attempt to avoid the maddening fray, I went with a light schedule this year. I didn't have every moment planned as I've done in the past, which I found myself regretting only slightly. I didn't regret unplugging from the sensory overload of SXSW Interactive in an effort to balance Film and Interactive simply by cutting back on both.

In retrospect, I had some wonderful serendipitous moments that would never have happened had I stuck to a planned schedule. I also realize that it would have taken me several weeks of research and planning to filter through the hundreds of panels, films and events at SXSW this year, and then fit them into the scheduling tool du jour -- some worked, some didn't and some were often wrong. Here are my favorite aspects of SXSW Film 2011:

SXSW Review: Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW

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Outside Industry

Twenty-five years ago, four guys organized what they expected to be a small gathering for local musicians to perform and get some exposure. Running it from the offices of the Austin Chronicle, the four -- Louis Black, Louis Meyers, Roland Swenson and Nick Barbaro -- didn’t expect that 700 people would show up for that first fest. Since then, South By Southwest has grown into the largest annual event in Austin and one of the largest and most recognized of such festivals in the world.

In Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW, producer/director Alan Berg chronicles the rise and history of SXSW through photographs, old footage and interviews not only with the founders, but also writers Michael Corcoran and Joe Nick Patoski, Creative Director Brent Grulke, entertainer Mojo Nixon and many others.

Set to a rocking soundtrack, the movie begins with a nostalgic look back at shows at Liberty Lunch and the birth of the Austin Chronicle and credits Louis Meyers with being the driving force behind the creation of the festival. It covers the explosive debut and growth of SXSW, the launch of wristbands, the theme of industry vs. consumers and how that led to the arson of the festival offices. A sizable portion of time is spent detailing influence of major record labels on SXSW as they sponsor events and push their latest acts as well as how free events and parties outside the official festival have sprung up in protest.

As someone who has only ever experienced SXSW through the film festival, I was disappointed that Film and Interactive, which have grown to equal the music festival in prestige (and in the case of film, exceed it in length by three days), were barely a footnote. Still, this was an interesting and educational documentary and enough fun that I watched it twice. The older footage provides a haunting glimpse of Austin-that-was, which brought a flood of memories of my first years here. This is a must-watch for anyone who has spent two decades or more in this city as well as anyone who enjoys the live music scene.

Visit the Outside Industry website for more information about upcoming screenings, etc.

Off-Centered Film Fest Expands for 2011

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Strange Brew

Anyone who has read my Fantastic Fest 2010 Guide "How to Drink Like an Austinite" will know I'm a craft beer enthusiast, but it goes beyond just drinking great brews -- I also homebrew and volunteer at local brewpubs and breweries. I was extremely excited when Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder Sam Calagione came to Austin in 2008 to host the Off-Centered Film Fest along with a beer and cheese pairing at the Alamo Lake Creek, and have never missed his annual events. His passion for craft brewing and film is contagious, and his annual rap "East Coast versus West Coast Brews" can't be missed.

Calagione will be back in Austin to host this year's Off-Centered Film Fest starting Thursday, April 14 through Saturday, April 16. He's partnered with the Alamo Drafthouse to expand the beer-meets-film festival to multiple venues and events to please both craft beer and film fans alike. The special screening of Wet Hot American Summer with Joe Lo Troglio sold out quickly, but find out what events are still available after the jump:

Review: Arthur

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Arthur

My sister once made me a low-fat chocolate pie from a Weight Watchers recipe. It looked mouth-wateringly delicious, but when I took a bite, I was taken aback by the lack of any taste whatsoever. It wasn't bad, it was simply the most flavorless food I'd ever put in my mouth. It was an illusion of pie, and I stopped after a second bite and decided that pie time is a time when calories should not be considered.

I felt the same way watching Arthur, the remake of the 1981 frothy romantic comedy, which opened Friday in wide release. Even as a remake, it looks so promising, especially if you have a guilty fondness for Russell Brand (like I do) or Helen Mirren. The casting is fabulous, the New York setting is lovely, the rich-boy premise means potential scenes of cinematic decadence ... and yet its humor and romance have no flavor whatsoever. Arthur has little to savor or enjoy, and it borders on the puzzling, since wit contains no calories or fat. (Or perhaps it secretly does. This would explain a lot about the loss of my girlish figure, instead of blaming pie.)

Movies This Week: Hanna Highness Born to Win

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New movies in Austin this week include big goofy Hollywood comedies as well as some indie gems.

Movies We've Seen:

Born to be Wild -- Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this documentary is the story of orphaned and rescued orangutans and elephants. Read Debbie's review for more. (The Story of Texas IMAX Theater)

Hanna (pictured above)-- A girl who's trained her entire life for a deadly confrontation with a mysterious woman from the CIA sounds like it would be a great thriller, but it tries too hard and too loudly to be clever to the point not even Cate Blanchett, Saoirse Ronan and Tom Hollander can save it. Although they certainly try. Read my review for the whole scoop. (wide)

Win Win -- A small-town lawyer barely making ends meet takes in a teenager with unforeseen consequences to his life and family. If you liked The Station Agent and The Visitor, you'll like Tom McCarthy's latest which was also a SXSW Selection.  See my review for details.  (Arbor)

Your Highness -- The Pineapple Express team takes on medieval times with a lowbrow comedy twist.The more trailers I see for this one, the less I want to see it. Mike has seen and enjoyed it, so check out his review.  (wide)

Review: Your Highness

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<em>Your Highness</em>Growing up in the 80s, I was a fan of many popular films and franchises of the time such as Ghostbusters, Star Trek, The Goonies and of course Star Wars. But the films that most captured my imagination were always swashbuckling "sword and sandal" films that set cold steel against fiery magic. Legend, Beastmaster, Clash of the Titans, Dragonslayer and Krull were some of my favorites, watched on endless repeat ... meaning of course we'd stop the videotape, rewind and play it again.

Writers Danny McBride and Ben Best and director David Gordon Green have brought back a glimpse of that silver age this week with Your Highness, a comedic romp through fantasy that sells itself as a stoner comedy but is surprisingly (and refreshingly) solid.

Prince Thadeous (McBride) is dealing with a serious case of second-child syndrome, yearning for the approval and pride his father heaps on older brother Fabious (James Franco). Seemingly unable to do anything right and unwililng to do anything as expected, Thadeous is ordered to accompany Fabious on a quest to rescue his fiancee Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) from the clutches of evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) and hopefully become a man in the process. They find help along the way from Isabel (Natalie Portman), who is on a quest of her own.

It would be easy to dismiss this movie for the lowbrow toilet and sexual humor, but all of the above-mentioned films include a smattering of comic relief. Even Shakespeare's plays were written with a bawdy humor that appealed to the masses of the time that when read literally may appear subtle but when performed would become painfully obvious. While some of the jokes in Your Highness are of the least-common-denominator variety, they are mostly hilarious, and unlike some of the more family-friendly comedies (Shrek comes to mind) the humor doesn't rely on current events and references that will soon become dated.

Review: Born to Be Wild

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Born to Be Wild

While growing up in the late Sixties to early Seventies, one of the favorite television shows in our house was Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom with host Marlin Perkins. We loved watching wild animals in their natural habitat along with the challenges faced by Perkins and his field correspondents Jim Fowler and Peter Gros. Similar in nature was the classic film Born Free (1966), which told the story of female lion cub Elsa raised to maturity by a Kenyan game warden. Elsa is re-educated so that she can be released back into the wild. Both Wild Kingdom and Born Free left out the violence experienced in the wild, a pattern followed by IMAX documentary Born to Be Wild.

Directed by David Lickley and narrated by Morgan Freeman, Born to Be Wild focuses on two inspirational women, primatologist Birute Galdikas and elephant expert Daphne Sheldrick, who both work with orphaned animals to re-educate and release them into the wild. Galdikas works with orangutans in the rainforests of Borneo who have been orphaned as a result of clear-cutting, while Sheldrick rescues young elephants in Kenya whose mothers are killed by poachers. In both situations, staff help to fill the maternal and family void that help the orphans survive. Their shared mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and return these animals safely back to the wild. The scenes of young orangutans playing and a young elephant sleeping with his keeper are heartwarming.

Review: Win Win

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Writer-director Thomas McCarthy knows that even the smallest of choices can have a profound impact on ordinary lives. His latest movie Win Win, which played SXSW and returns to Austin theaters on Friday, proves McCarthy is a master filmmaker, taking an otherwise ordinary life into another profoundly moving film.

Paul Giamatti stars as Mike, a mostly content family man with a struggling law practice. Like everyone else these days, he's just one bad month away financial disaster. When Mike seizes an opportunity to ease the strain, the consequences include an unexpected addition to his household in the form of  teenager Kyle (Alex Shaffer).

Like other McCarthy protagonists, Mike's quiet existence is interrupted by a stranger's intrusions and reluctantly embraces the change. Kyle simply wants to see his grandfather (Burt Young), who now resides in a senior care facility, so Mike and wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) take him in until they can talk to his mother (Melanie Lynskey).

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