After several years of expanding its programming to The Paramount, Fantastic Fest is returning to its roots and limiting its film-fest screenings to Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, as it was in the fest's early years. Some special events and parties may occur at The Highball and the Fantastic Debates are scheduled for South Austin Gym, but these are all in the same strip mall at Alamo South, making transportation much easier for festgoers. Parking, on the other hand ... well, at least the out-of-towners tend not to need to park cars.
Therefore, this year's Fantastic Fest Venue Guide is going to be fairly short. I debated whether we even need one, but if you haven't been to Alamo South before, it's pretty handy. Even if you have, we might have a few tidbits of info about the venue that you hadn't caught before. If you haven't been to Alamo South in awhile, I suggest checking the menu online ... some selections (and prices) have changed. We hear rumors that a party tent of some kind will be constructed outside the venue, but I have no info on that yet.
Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments for places to eat or visit near the venue, or other helpful hints. And keep an eye out later this week for this month's "Insider's Guide" column, which will offer plenty of tips for the fest from various fest veterans and other people you might recognize. I also suggest taking a peek at last year's Survival Guide, since most of the info is still quite useful. Finally, if you're visiting for the fest, don't forget Debbie's advice on How To Drink Like an Austinite.
I'm generally not a fan of action films, but I bear no grudge against them in the conceptual sense. I appreciate a good car chase, gun fight or calamitous explosion, as long as these elements aren't the entire point of a movie. My beef with most action films is that violence and mayhem usually are the point; a typical mainstream action movie is mindless eye candy, lacking the plot surprises, sharp dialogue, character development and real-world relevance found in my usual arthouse fare.
And so I had high hopes for Drive, a film billed as a thinking person's action film, a smart crime thriller with indie sensibilities. But while Drive is better than most movies of its ilk, its cardboard-cutout characters, gratuitous gore and clichéd ending render it little more than a stylish and only occasionally fresh take on a tired genre.
Drive starts promisingly enough, with a simple but intriguing premise. A Hollywood stunt driver billed simply as Driver (Ryan Gosling) earns a little extra cash as a getaway car driver, with help from his boss, custom car builder and small-time hoodlum Shannon (Bryan Cranston). When not engaged in on-camera or off-camera high-speed chases, Driver spends his time in a not quite romantic relationship with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is in prison.
As horror/thriller film fans, we must come to grips with the fact there will be remakes. There will be remakes of widely known horror movies, and there will even be remakes of the some of the more obscure films that we may hold more dear than the iconic films of the genre. It's always a pleasant surprise when these remakes turn out to be pleasant surprises that provide a fresh perspective and added nuances to the originals. It doesn't happen often nearly enough.
Straw Dogs, directed and co-written by Rod Lurie, is an example of a remake that is not a pleasant surprise, and that is a fact that shouldn't come as a surprise to any of the original Peckinpah classic film's fans. Not overall terrible, but when something like this is remade and is simply a halfway decent thriller with a bit of a misguided focus, why remake it in the first place?
David Sumner (James Marsden) and his wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) move to Amy's hometown of Blackwater, Mississippi where David can have some peace and quiet to work on his next screenplay and Amy can get back in touch with her roots. Tensions rise as some of the locals around town, particularly Charlie (Alexandar Skarsgard) and his group of cronies, begin to express their displeasure at David's unfamiliarity with the area.
I'm really excited to see that The Happy Poet is playing again in town tonight at Austin Film Society. Presented in part by Texas Independent Film Network and Screen Door Cinema, Paul Gordon's comedic tale brings us a man with a dream, a hot dog stand, and a desire to provide near-vegetarian fare to the world. Heartfelt and funny and filled with local talent, The Happy Poet is one of my favorite movies of recent years, and with the explosion of the food-truck phenomenon, a must-see film. And if you miss the AFS screening, it'll play in San Marcos on Sept. 28.
On Sunday, Cine Las Americas has a free screening of Un Mundo Maravilloso (A Wonderful World) at Takoba. This 2006 satire from Mexico juxtaposes poverty and political ambition -- the Minister of Economy declares the end of poverty just as a homeless drunkard stumbles on the scene.
Geoff Marslett's Mars is playing at Spider House on Monday. This animated space fantasy played SXSW 2010 along with Gordon's The Happy Poet (and includes a cameo by Paul Gordon). Marslett is currently filming Loves Her Gun around town.
Then on Wednesday, Cinema41 screens Zero Effect starring Bill Pullman at The Hideout. Admission includes a free Tab soda, and the movie is followed by a Q&A with a local private investigator. I have to say that's not what I'd expect from most Q&As, but sounds interesting.
Movies We've Seen:
Drive -- I've been judging this one by the trailers, particularly the Miami Vice-esque font used (I'm a shameless font geek, and I got over Mistral in the 80s). Don says "it's a stylish, atmospheric thriller that starts very promisingly but goes nowhere, and Ryan Gosling's immense talent is wasted." Read his review this weekend for more. (wide)
I Don't Know How She Does It -- Elizabeth saw this adaptation of the Allison Pearson book, and says it "half-heartedly attempts to depict how gender roles have changed, and isn't very convincing." Read her review for more. (wide)
Several times during this movie, miscellaneous characters talking about fund manager and mother Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker) admit, "I don't know how she does it." Just in case you were unsure what the title of the comedy was or hadn't read the original 2002 novel by Allison Pearson!
In I Don't Know How She Does It, Bostonite Kate is constantly pulled between the business and domestic spheres. It's the age-old story, simplified for film. Kate loves her job, but feels like she is missing her children's formative years. When she's home with her two kids and husband Richard (a handsomely bespectacled Greg Kinnear), she worries that her jerky male officemate Chris Bunce (SNL's Seth Meyers) will claim that all her hard work was really his.
If you're not planning to spend the weekend ACL Fest-ing (or hiding from ACL Fest in another city), local filmmaker Richard Linklater is offering you the chance to see his latest movie as a benefit for groups helping with the Bastrop wildfire disaster.
Linklater's movie Bernie was partially shot in Bastrop, and in fact Linklater owns some property there himself. As the Austin Chronicle reports, he decided to turn what was originally a private cast-and-crew screening of Bernie into a fundraiser to help fire relief efforts in Bastrop. He enlisted Austin Film Society and j.k. livin (Matthew McConaughey's production company) to co-host this event, which will take place on Sunday at the Paramount.
Linklater and one of the film's stars, Jack Black, will be at the Bernie screening on Sunday. I hope to be on the red carpet to get a few photos of them. Linklater and Black were last at the Paramount together about 8 years ago -- the Austin premiere of The School of Rock was in September 2003. The above photo is from that event. I've posted a few more fun pictures from that premiere after the jump, including one with Roky Erickson. Austin Film Society has a Flickr set you can view.
aGLIFF 24 is over and strangely I’m not experiencing my normal post-fest-depression. I usually feel a little low after a film festival, after immersing myself in films and all the socializing between films. I think it’s because I not only ran into several old friends I haven’t seen in a long time, but I made even more new ones hanging out at the Subaru Lounge, which was a great place to hang out and chat, especially the first few nights during our brief respite from triple-digit heat.
By sheer coincidence I saw several intense films and programs. aGLIFF gambled on starting the festival with The Lulu Sessions, which was surprisingly as entertaining as it was illuminating. Closing-night film Cancerpants was a very different documentary despite a very similar subject; a woman’s very personal journey after a cancer diagnosis. The packed house included director Nevie Owens and some of the local musicians included on the soundtrack, and it was truly a communal experience to see the movie with that particular crowd. Actually there were two closing-night films, but how could I not go to the one with so many local connections.
Every year the Alamo Drafthouse serves up Fantastic Fest film programming to satisfy a diverse and eclectic range of tastes amongst festivalgoers, and this year is no exception over eight days and nights. Similarly, visitors to Austin for the festival can experience an equally diverse selection of adult libations to satisfy any palate.
This year's Fantastic Fest beer sponsor is Shiner Beers from the Spoetzl Brewery, which was founded about 100 years ago in Shiner, Texas. Shiner is best known for their flagship brew, Shiner Bock, which makes up over 80 percent of the brewery's sales. In addition, Central Texas has experienced a welcome growth of local craft breweries. Find out what's new on tap at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar as well as nearby watering holes, and what you don't want to miss after the jump.
The final day of aGLIFF was much like the days before it: moderate crowds, the usual broad mix of films and the continued comforting presence of Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann welcoming us to the festival before each screening.
I started the day with the My Queer Movie Competition shorts, a just slightly eclectic collection of 13 films in every conceivable style. Kudos to the aGLIFF programmers for presenting a shorts program with something for every taste, from David Goldstein and Jeff Keith's beautifully romantic Now & Forever to Eliane Lima's dark and striking (if somewhat impenetrable) Leonora to one of my favorites, Austinite Zach Green's hilarious The Green Family Elbow, about a family enduring anti-gay bullying although no one in the family is gay.
Another favorite short is Christopher Peak's Looking, a poignant documentary about men who use Craigslist to meet other men for secret sexual encounters. The five men interviewed in Looking are amazingly candid about their activities, telling us that such liaisons are very common, and many of the participants are married or have girlfriends. I also enjoyed Kate Lefoe's Under Pressure, an Australian import about two high-school girls who reveal their secret sexual desires while hiding from a shooter at their school.
If you're a parent, September rolls in and BAM! Fall begins instantly. There's a similar jolt as the theatrical releases for kids dry up until Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas, so it's slim pickings for kids at the movies this month.
Notable Theatrical Releases
The Lion King 3D (September 16, rated G) -- I think I'm already on the record as being bored (if not outright offended) by the 3D movie hype. Lion King is a marvelous movie, but I don't think it will be helped much by the injection of 3D. I suppose it's an opportunity to see this Disney classic on the big screen though, even if you have to order some 2-D glasses.