Slackery News Tidbits, August 16

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Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • The SXSW Panel Picker is now open for voting. You can give a thumbs-up on any panel suggestions you'd like to see at the SXSW Film Festival next March. A number of the 177 SXSW Film proposals are from Austin folks or feature Austinites in the panel. Of course I'll naturally suggest you take a look at Jenn Brown's panel proposal: "Removing Barriers Between Press, PR and Producers" (and vote for it!). If you'd like to promote a panel, feel free to do so in the comments.
  • In case you hadn't noticed, aGLIFF has been slowly releasing their 2011 film festival lineup, with lots of posters and previews available through their Facebook page. We'll have more details on the lineup soon, but in the meantime check out their full schedule. The fest takes place from Sept. 6-11 this year at three venues: Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, Violet Crown Cinema and the Paramount. Not to mention the party venues, and you know aGLIFF has some of the best fest parties in Austin.
  • Speaking of local film festivals, Fantastic Fest is gearing up and their notorious annual bumper contest is now underway. You have until September 5 to submit a very short film with the theme "Altered States" that ends with the fest's traditional "That's fantastic!" phrase. These bumpers always make me wish I had any filmmaking talent (and more time) to try one myself.
  • Another filmmaking opportunity: Drafthouse Films is seeking a 26th short film for their The ABC's of Death anthology. They're accepting submissions for the "T is for ..." slot through October 1. You can see and vote on the current submissions. Let's get some Austin filmmakers in there, please ... better yet, some female Austin filmmakers. You know who you are. Go for it!

Slacker 2011: Geoff Marslett Shoots 20-Plus Shorts in One

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Geoff Marslett

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF). As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project -- check out our interviews so far.

Today's interview is with local filmmaker and instructor Geoff Marslett. Marslett's feature Mars premiered at SXSW 2010 (Jenn Brown's review). Mars is an animated movie based on a live-action green-screen shoot that took two years of hard work to animate. Marslett is currently working on a new feature ... well, I'll let him tell you about it in the following discussion.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you reshoot?

Geoff Marslett: I was responsible for scene 16. This was basically the robber's getaway after he steals a book from the anarchist, all the way through the video backpacker-surreal TV watching sequence. To make my job a little tougher, and because I really enjoyed working on the project, I worked on a short little bit of transition before and after my part of the remake.

Slacker 2011: Stuck On On Puts It All Together

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Slacker 2011In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF). As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project -- check out our interviews so far.

Today's interview is with Allison Turrell of Stuck On On. Stuck On On is an Austin company that specializes in post-production/finishing work for films, such as color correction, music composition, voiceovers, sound design, and digital mixing. Stuck On On worked with Austin Film Society and Alamo Drafthouse to help make a finished feature out of the Slacker 2011 segments from individual filmmakers. They've also worked on local movies such as Winnebago Man, Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission, blacktino and DMT: The Spirit Molecule.

Slackerwood: What got Stuck On On interested in this project?

Allison Turrell: We got involved because we loved the original Slacker and we love and support the Austin Film Society and the Austin filmmaking community. We’ve worked with several of these directors, producers, DPs and editors before and this was an opportunity to work with some new faces as well. We've also worked on previous films that received TFPF funds including The Happy Poet, Where Soldiers Come From, The Eyes of Me and The American Widow Project. We wanted to give back to the community.

What kind of work did Stuck On On do for Slacker 2011?

We assembled the 24 vignettes. We also conformed all 24 projects because everyone shot with a wide variety of cameras. We are dialogue editing, re-record mixing, sound designing, color correcting and making the final Blu-ray that will screen at the Paramount. All of these services vary depending on the scene. Some folks had their scene mixed and/or color corrected.

Watch 'Winnebago Man' Here, Now, Free

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Winnebago Man

In the days before YouTube or viral Internet videos, people were passing around third-rate copies on videotape of the outtakes of a Winnebago commercial featuring one Jack Rebney, whose gift for colorful profanity under pressure was immense. Hearing his outbursts can be oddly uplifting if you're having a bad day yourself. Local filmmaker Ben Steinbauer, intrigued by the lasting popularity of the "Winnebago Man" video, set out to find Rebney and get the whole story behind the videotape in the documentary Winnebago Man.

Winnebago Man premiered at SXSW in 2009 and has enjoyed a fair amount of popularity since then. Don Clinchy calls it "funny and sometimes poignant" in his review. The movie won several prizes on the film-fest circuit, as well as the Austin Film Critics Association award for Best Austin Film in 2010. One of Rebney's catch phrases from the video, "Will you do me a kindness?" turns up frequently in the oddest places ... apparently one of the characters in the recently released movie Crazy. Stupid. Love says it.

If you haven't yet seen Winnebago Man, now's your chance. SnagFilms is making the documentary available to watch online for free for the next two weeks -- until August 19 -- as part of their SummerFest lineup. You can watch the film from the SnagFilms website, on Hulu, on the SnagFilms iPad app ... and I've embedded it below so you don't even have to leave this page. I especially recommend this movie after a difficult day at the office, where you can hear Rebney say all the things you wish you could, and better.

Review: 30 Minutes or Less

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30 Minutes or LessThe movie 30 Minutes or Less (directed by Ruben Fleischer, Zombieland) is the best comedy opening this weekend. That’s not saying much, but maybe it’s enough. I'm of mixed opinion on this one, as nothing about it was particularly bad, but certainly it never rose to any moments of greatness.

The best comedies for me are first and foremost smart, something to which 30 Minutes or Less, like any Danny McBride flick, could never hope to aspire. Failing to be smart, a good comedy could at least hope to be clever and again, that’s out of McBride’s league. If not smart nor clever, some comedies go for silly or outrageous, but this one is watered-down, middle-of-the-road mediocre.

Danny McBride as Dwayne is a complete loser with no redeeming values.  Resentful of his father (Fred Ward) and hoping to inherit his lottery winnings, Dwayne needs a hitman. To pay the hitman, he enlists the help of his best friend Travis (Nick Swardson) to kidnap someone and force them to rob a bank. The victims are unfortunate pizza delivery boy Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) and his best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari). With a bomb strapped to his chest and the threat of a remote detonator if he talks to the police, Nick has just hours to get the money from the bank and to the hitman.

Movies This Week: Help The Devil's Final Future

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The Future

Let's see. We've got one movie about young men preparing for a post-apocalyptic future, one about a couple's last hurrah before they adopt a new family member, one about a man forced to pose as a body double, one about a man forced to rob a bank, one about Mississippi women in the 1960s, and one about the benefits of Auto-Tune.

We've also got lots of special screenings in Austin. Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar will show Fantastic Fest 2010 selection Cold Fish late-night Monday through Thursday. Kyle Newman will be in town for a screening of his film Fanboys, written by Austinite Ernie Cline, on Thursday night at Blue Starlite Drive-In. And Weird Wednesday at Alamo Ritz has an especially good selection this week: The Outfit, an excellent film from 1973, adapted from a Donald Westlake novel and starring Robert Duvall and Joe Don Baker. (I'm already going to be down there to see Slacker ... I should just stick around, now that Weird Wednesday has moved to 10 pm.)

Movies We've Seen:

  • Bellflower --Don calls this SXSW 2011 selection "flawed but intriguing" in his review. He also refers to Evan Glodell's movie as "a cross between Max Max and a typical dating-is-hell indie film" -- like me, he favors the visuals and the cars but not the characterizations and acting. Even though I was divided on this movie, it's a great weekend choice. (Alamo South Lamar)
  • The Devil's Double -- Dominic Cooper "gives the performance of a lifetime," Mike says in his review, with a dual role as Uday Hussein and his stand-in Latif. (Arbor)
  • The Help -- Despite the 2.5-hour running time, Elizabeth says in her review that this movie about Mississippi women and race relations in the 1960s is one of the best she's seen all year. By all accounts I've read, it's worth seeing for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer alone. (wide)

Review: The Devil's Double

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The Devil's DoubleIn the late 1980s, Iraq was plagued by an insane tyrant, a monster at the highest level of government. But the evil creature of whom we speak was not the President. Rather, his older son was, Uday Saddam Hussein. Like his father, Uday wanted a body double both for protection and to portray him in unpleasant public appearances. Thus an old schoolmate with an uncanny resemblance was brought to the palace, and that is where the life of Latif Yahia was to effectively come to an end. The Devil's Double, opening in Austin theaters today, is an account of Latif's experiences as he was forced into service of one of the most evil men on Earth.

Alternately charming, sexy and then terrifying, Dominic Cooper delivers the performance of a lifetime as both Uday Hussein and stand-in Latif. His performance of each character is so strong I thought at first I was seeing two different lookalike actors.

Seen from the point of view of Latif, The Devil's Double is more the story of Uday as he sinks deeper into insanity, driven by a schizophrenic worship/hatred for a cold, distant father: a father whom Uday can't himself tell apart from his double. Uday believes in his father as a national hero who has made Iraq into a world power and himself as a prince of a new dynasty with god-like powers over his people. Even as he lives in a palace surrounded by all the luxuries provided by his father, Uday rebels in every way, sinking ever deeper into sexual depravity and drug abuse while the disapproving Latif looks on.

Latif, meanwhile, is forced to participate by threats against his life and that of his family. Surgically altered, with dental overlays and shoe inserts to make him taller, Latif is indistinguishable from the monster Uday. He grows more unhappy and restless as Uday's madness increases. His only companionship lies in secret trysts with Uday's own favorite concubine, Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier). As Uday begins to demand Latif hurt or kill the objects of his anger, Latif begins to rebel.

Review: Bellflower

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Bellflower

While twentysomething angst is a common theme in indie films, the gritty and violent Bellflower is a unique take on the trials of young adulthood. A flawed but intriguing movie about the post-apocalyptic fantasies of disaffected young men, Bellflower is strong on concept, vision and visuals, if less so in its story and acting.

Writer/director Evan Glodell stars as Woodrow, an aimless Southern California twentysomething who spends his copious amounts of free time fantasizing about vague notions of global destruction. He and his equally aimless buddy Aiden (Tyler Dawson) build a crude but effective arsenal of flamethrowers and other weapons, hoping that post-apocalyptic chaos will allow their would-be gang, Mother Medusa, to rule the day in a spree of incendiary violence.

Waiting for worldwide mayhem, of course, means a lot of waiting. In the meantime, Woodrow meets and falls hard for free-spirited Milly (Jessie Wiseman); in one of many unlikely Bellflower elements, their first date consists of a drunken road trip to Texas in a customized Volvo with a liquor tap on the dashboard. The couple's ensuing relationship is predictably rocky, causing emotional mayhem far more devastating than any of Woodrow's destructive fantasies.

Review: The Help

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Viola Davis in The Help

Kathryn Stockett's novel The Help has been discussed in many book groups since it was published in 2009. Given some of the controversy the book has stirred up, I went into the film adaptation of the novel with some trepidation. I needn't have worried. In the hands of the expert actresses involved, aided by a touching screenplay and dedicated direction from actor/writer/director Tate Taylor, The Help is one of the best movies I've seen this year.

I won't go into much detail about any way the film differs from the book, because I only remembered main plot points and the strong female characters involved in the novel. Although the book is told from three different viewpoints, the movie The Help is narrated by maid Aibileen (Viola Davis). Aibileen works as a nanny/maid to a middle-class family in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. She loves her charge Mae Mobley fiercely, but knows that she can only do so much to make up for the lack of love the girl receives from her mother Elizabeth (Ahna O'Reilly). She lives alone in a small home where a photo of her son holds a place of prominence.

Aibileen's best friend Minny (Octavia Spencer) used to work for dotty Missus Walters (Sissy Spacek), but now suffers under her tyrannical daughter Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) ... until Hilly fires Minny for using the house toilet (instead of her own "special" Jim Crow toilet outside). Minny is down and out until nouveau riche Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) hires her.

Photo Essay: A Night of Sommelier Cinema

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Wine and Cheese at Sommelier Cinema

I finally made it to the Alamo Drafthouse Sommelier Cinema last week to see The Seven Year Itch for the first time. Yes, I'm admitting that I'd failed until now to see the Billy Wilder film that inspired the most iconic image of Marilyn Monroe, standing with her dress being blown up by a subway grate. It was interesting to observe that the full-length image did not actually appear in the film. Despite the hype and humor of The Seven Year Itch, the film is my least favorite of Wilder's work. I found the lead character's habit of verbalizing his internal monologue to be rather annoying and unattractive. By far my favorite Wilder movie starring Marilyn Monroe is Some Like It Hot with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, a rip-roaring funny film that I never tire of watching.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for The Seven Year Itch, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience thanks to the great program put together by Alamo Drafthouse Sommelier Cinema host Daniel Metz. The guest sommelier was Eric Pelegrin of Travis Heights Beverage World, who paired the wines to the film. Pelegrin was joined by Kendall Antonelli of Antonelli's Cheese Shop, who matched tasty American cheeses to the wines. My favorite pairing of the evening was the Caves de Sancerre "Les Rochettes" 2009 with the Uplands Cheese Company Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese. The refreshingly light and modestly sweet Selbach Riesling Kabinett 2008 won me over, and I also enjoyed the Central Coast Creamery Seascape, a firm cow/goat cheese. Check out more photos from Sommelier Cinema after the jump.

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