This is an abbreviated, pre-Thanksgiving edition of Movies This Week. While everything pretty much got out of the way of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire this weekend, some new movies will open mid-week to take advantage of the holiday. As such, we're just going to cover what is playing over the next few days and then return on Wednesday with a new post so you can plan your moviegoing accordingly.
The Austin Film Society only has one event lined up before the holidays and that is tonight's special presentation of The Unspeakable Act. It's happening at the AFS Screening Room and online ticketing closes at 3pm, so you'll want to plan ahead to attend.
The Alamo Ritz has a couple more screenings of To Kill A Mockingbird for their "Tough Ladies" series happening this Saturday and Sunday. On Monday night, you can catch a very rare screening of Taxi Zum Klo (also at the Ritz) for this month's installment of Homo Arigato and Anime fans will want to head to the Alamo Lakeline on Tuesday for a 25th anniversary celebration of Akira on the big screen, although you should be aware that the distributor is only providing the English-dubbed version.
It's been almost a year now since Jennifer Lawrence has captured the collective hearts of America with her adorable quality and humility paired with her humor. To look at anything Lawrence did in early 2013 you'd think she could do absolutely no wrong. As is typical of American culture, her illustrious shine is still amazingly bright, but now we're ready to see what she can do onscreen again. Can she impress us, still? Her first major release of 2013 is the sequel to the hugely successful franchise, The Hunger Games.
In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Lawrence's character Katniss Everdeen remains a polarizing figure in the dystopian society of the future. Her success in the previous year's Hunger Games, a competition held annually in which a tribute from every district is randomly selected to participate in a fight to the death where only a single winner is to remain, elevated her status as a living example of the type of courage that is present in the poverty stricken districts of the country.
Her victory didn't come easily, and without controversy though. Her male counterpart, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) also came away from the previous year's Hunger Games as a victor due to some clever posturing by Katniss. Now that she has fully grabbed the attention of President Snow (Donald Sutherland), forces are conspiring to eliminate Katniss from causing any more trouble, but there are also forces looking to join Katniss and her fight for survival and survival of her people.
The strengths that were present in the first film are more pronounced in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Lawrence's character seems to carry the world on her shoulders now, and it's appropriate since, on a weird parallel scale, Lawrence seemed to always be on everyone's mind in the last year in a way similar to Katniss in the film's universe. Her combination of ease and uneasiness with the burdens that are now ever present is handled beautifully. When Katniss has to act confident and complacent, she does so with a smile on her face that seems genuine, but is able to maintain that uneasiness in her eyes.
If you've not had a chance to attend a Comic Con, this year would be a great opportunity to check out this jam-packed multi-day event right here in Central Texas this weekend, from Friday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Nov. 24. Wizard World has not only expanded the number of Comic Cons held each year, but also the content to include more television and film-related programming.
This weekend at Austin Comic Con, stars available for photo and autograph sessions range from Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Readus of The Boondock Saints fame to The Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno -- seen above at the 2012 Austin Comic Con. Star Trek captains William Shatner and Scott Bakula will also be in attendance, with Shatner accepting his "Honorary Austin Citizenship" from Mayor Leffingwell on Friday evening at 5:30 pm at the Austin Convention Center.
Speaking of The Hulk, Marvel will be debuting its new animated film Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United on Saturday, with a special appearance by Hulk voice actor Fred Tatasciore as he introduces the film and hosts a Q&A.
Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.
Local nonprofit festival Lights. Camera. Help. is changing it up a bit for the 2014 Reel Change Film Frenzy through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to support their ten filmmaking teams in sharing stories about local nonprofit organizations. Backers can become a producer of their very own cause-driven film by donating as little as $10. The goal is to raise $10,000 to be split between the teams to cover their costs.
At higher levels, backers are eligible to receive tickets to the Reel Change Film Frenzy screening at the Alamo Drafthouse, a cameo appearance in one of the films, or video coaching sessions by Lights. Camera. Help. educators. Even if the campaign does not reach its goal, the filmmakers have agreed to split evenly any funding received through January 4.
Stuntwoman Patty Dillon has taken on a new role in the film industry as a documentary filmmaker with There Will Be No Stay, the personally intimate story of the men faced with the unbearable act of taking another person's life on behalf of the criminal justice system. Austin-based Arcanum Pictures (Grow Up, Tony Phillips) producers Paul Gandersman and Peter Hall support this salient documentary, which was filmed across the nation from South Dakota to Texas and North Carolina.
The film, which provides a rare glimpse into a difficult profession, is currently funding through Wednesday, December 11 on Kickstarter, for funds to cover post-production including final film and sound editing as well as music licensing and film festival application fees.
Watch the thought-provoking preview of There Will Be No Stay after the jump.
Oliver Stone isn't known for subtlety. From the sledgehammered anti-greed message of Wall Street to the relentless nihilistic violence of Natural Born Killers, the director seldom is guilty of understatement.
Stone's most ambitious film, JFK, is no less over-the-top than his other works. Released in 1991, JFK is an orgy of Stone's signature style, a movie saturated (really, oversaturated) with visual and sound effects, artsy segues, and themes repeated too often. It's also one of the most important films made in Texas, a hugely successful and controversial movie by one of the most popular directors of its era.
As its title implies, JFK is about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but it's less about the tragic event than the countless conspiracy theories surrounding it. The film is based on the real-life story of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), whose suspicions about Kennedy's murder led him to conduct a years-long investigation.
Updated Nov. 18, 2013.
The Slackerwood team was all over Austin Film Festival this year. Here's our coverage, including guides, reviews, interviews and fest dispatches.
Austin Film Festival may be well behind us, but I am still thinking about some older Texas films at the fest that I stumbled upon almost accidentally. As I was planning my schedule for the Sunday of the fest on Saturday night, I noticed some oddly named films at the Rollins with descriptions that included "Texas independent film." I ended up skipping My Man Godfrey (which I can watch any time) to see what this screening was about.
All I knew about Invasion of the Aluminum People (1980) and Speed of Light (1981) were that apparently Jonathan Demme liked them, since he was going to "present" them. I assumed "presenting" meant he would do a nice intro, then scoot, as is typical at many such events.
The theater was about halfway full and I was one of the younger audience members. Later I would learn that many people in the audience had worked on one of the two films, or provided music, or been in a band with someone involved with the film. Both films employed a lot of musicians as their cast and crew. Well, it was Austin in 1980, I kind of assumed most of the people living here were musicians (or claimed to be). Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater sat a couple of rows in front of me, and I took that as a good omen -- this must be worthwhile.
By Philip Fagan
The latest Austin Film Society Essential Cinema series, "Troubles and Paradise: The 'First Wave' of Irish Cinema," starts Thursday, Nov. 21 and runs through Dec. 19 at AFS at the Marchesa. Fagan is guest curator of this series.
It may at first glance seem curious to refer to films produced between 1982 and 2004 as among those comprising an Irish "First Wave" of cinema. However, as with the island's tempestuous political and social landscape throughout the years, the Irish cinema, to the extent that it has existed, has suffered a long and curious journey that is bound up with the same issues of Irish identity that continue to divide the Republicans and Loyalists of the North. The cinema of Ireland that began emerging in the 1980s can be assessed as part of a long, ongoing intellectual mission of examining and forging a cohesive national identity, a battle that continues to be waged on various other fronts.
Irish identity continues to be inherently fractured and debatable and the Irish themselves often tend to self-identify through the lens of well-worn stereotypes, or "Paddywhackery." Is Ireland one country or two? Are its peoples Irish or British? Catholic or Protestant? Or Christian or Pagan even? Is Ireland's "closest cousin" Great Britain or the United States? Has "Irishness" become so closely tied to America on one hand and the struggle against England on the other that maintaining an indigenous Irish identity has become impossible? Are the Irish at heart a race of saints, scholars, poets, and geniuses; or are they inherently uncivilized, atavistic, violent, racist, intolerant alcoholic criminals? And more recently, how are the changing roles of women and the rise of immigrant and gay subcultures impacting a conceptualization of a modern Ireland?
Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.
- Texas-shot We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (Mike's review) took home an audience award in the American Independents category at this year's AFI Fest, IndieWire reports. The drama, about three Texas teens who unintentionally become involved in an organized crime ring, also screened at Fantastic Fest 2013. The German drama Nothing Bad Can Happen, which has U.S. distribution through Drafthouse Films, took home the New Auteurs critics award.
- UT lecturer Kat Candler's upcoming feature Hellion received $70,000 for post-production costs from the San Francisco Film Society, according to IndieWire. The indie drama, starring Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis, stems from Candler's award-winning short film of the same name, about a seven-year-old who falls prey to his older brother's mischievous ways in a small Texas refinery town. Fellow Austinite Jonny Mars, who appeared in the SXSW 2012 short, is returning for the feature, along with Austin producer Kelly Williams. Other local connections include executive producers Jeff Nichols (Mud) and Sarah Green (The Tree of Life).
- The Austin Film Society's retrospective of Czechoslovakian filmmaker Jan Nemec kicked off Friday and continues on Sunday, December 1 with 2005's previously unavailable Toyen at the Marchesa (6226 Middle Fiskville), according to The Austin Chronicle. The series runs through Dec. 6.
It's a relatively quiet week for new releases and rep screenings, but with the F1 crowd making traffic through Austin a slow-moving experience, maybe that's just as well. You can venture away from downtown to join the Austin Film Society at the Marchesa over the next week for some top-notch bookings that would have otherwise skipped over our fair city completely. On Saturday afternoon, they've got Andrew Dosunmu's Mother Of George, an acclaimed film that debuted at Sundance earlier this year about a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn who cannot have a child of their own.
At Berkeley is another movie that nobody else would dare to bring to town. This 4-hour documentary from legendary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman details four months on campus at the University of Southern California at Berkeley. It has one screening only on Sunday at noon and it will feature a Skype Q&A with Wiseman after the film. On Thursday evening, a new Essential Cinema series called "Troubles And Paradise: The 'First Wave' Of Irish Cinema" will kick off with December Bride. It's a 1991 drama that the AFS website lists as a "masterpiece [that] has been largely unseen by American audiences."
The Fantastic Fest Tour is happening this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane. Popular titles from this year's festival (many of which won't see a proper release until next year) are showing through Sunday including Grand Piano (Jette's review), Borgman, Big Bad Wolves and Why Don't You Play In Hell. The Alamo Ritz has Fargo in 35mm on Saturday and Sunday as part of this month's "Tough Ladies" series, Sophie Fiennes' The Pervert's Guide To Ideology screens on Sunday and Tuesday and a rare 35mm print of one of my favorite 80s movies, The Legend Of Billie Jean, is playing Monday night.