Get Ready for Fall Film Fests, Old and New

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Mignola Bride of Frankenstein posterAustin's getting fest-y (and the rising summer temps aren't to blame) with recent news about two new fall film festivals, plus some updates from a longtime local favorite fest.

The fest-o-meter will get turned up a few notches as the weather (hopefully) starts to cool beginning in September with the inaugural MondoCon. Sponsored by the Austin-based art-and-media company/gallery Mondo, MondoCon is scheduled to take place smack dab in the middle of Fantastic Fest, the city's annual genre festival, from Sept. 20-21 at the Marchesa.

MondoCon will be more than a poster show -- with panels, screenings, special guests from various disciplines and good food options. Single and full-weekend tickets are on sale while supplies last. All VIP badges for Fantastic Fest get full-weekend admission.

Fan favorite artists and legends like Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and award-winning comic book artist Bernie Wrightson, among others, are expected to be in attendance at MondoCon. In celebration of the festival, Mignola created a sold-out movie poster for The Bride of Frankenstein (pictured at right).

MondoCon will be accepting volunteer applications in conjunction with Fantastic Fest. Volunteer information will be available next month.

The holidays can, indeed, be out of this world. And a group of local filmmakers and science-fiction enthusiasts are pushing those boundaries with the launch of Austin's first dedicated science-fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin, from Dec. 4-6 at Galaxy Highland 10 (6700 Middle Fiskville Rd.).

Bears Fonte, former director of programming for Austin Film Festival, founded Other Worlds Austin as a shorts program after discovering the number of excellent sf movies that other fests just didn't seem to have room for. Now that he's no longer with AFF, he expanded his idea into a full weekend festival for science-fiction shorts and features alike.

Summer Film Series Updates: Cinema East, Sound and Cinema, Cinema 41

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i believe in unicorns still

The lineup for this year's Cinema East series has been announced, and once again the programmers have selected a solid slate of indie films to fill a few summer Sunday evenings. The outdoor screenings begin around 9 pm at the French Legation, admission is $3-$5, and food and drinks are available to buy. Also important: The BYOB policy is once again in effect this year. 

We've seen a few of the scheduled movies and are excited about the rest, and filmmakers are scheduled to attend five of the seven screenings. If you're not one to let the Texas heat get you down (it's not so bad after the sun sets and you have a beer in your hand), this is the perfect chance to stretch your weekend to the fullest while checking out a few recent independent films.

Here's the schedule:

I Believe in Unicorns (6/22) -- This fantasy-tinged coming-of-age story (pictured above) explores an imaginative young girl's first encounter with troubled love. Director Leah Meyerhoff will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening. 

Summer Indies to Catch: June 2014

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PING PONG SUMMER

By Frank Calvillo

This month, the multiplex looks to deliver audiences Clint Eastwood's take on a hit Broadway musical, yet another Tom Cruise sci-fi/action vehicle and four, count 'em four sequels. Yet for anyone wishing to look a little deeper, beyond the icons and the franchises they'll find a collection of thrills, laughs, drama, conflict and tension from both renowned and up-and-coming filmmakers. 

Words and Pictures (now in Austin theaters)

Australian director Fred Schepisi's filmography is a peculiar one, consisting of a collection of solid films (A Cry in the Dark, Six Degrees of Separation), which seem to resonate with cinephiles, but fail to become classics. His latest offering, the romantic dramedy Words and Pictures, may indeed follow suit, but its definitely one of his warmest and sincerest efforts to date. At a private school, a snarky English teacher (Clive Owen), is taken by a caustic art instructor (Juliette Binoche) new to the faculty. A love story at heart, Words and Pictures takes two actors, unknown for their romantic comedy chops, and throws them into said genre with two fun, meaty characters to play. Though the romance will be the draw for most audiences, its the film's debate of writing versus art, and the overall question as to which is the greater form of human expression, that actually make Words and Pictures intriguing.

ATX TV Fest 2014: 'Orange Is The New Black' and Writing Lessons

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This weekend took me all over Season 3 of the ATX Television Festival. Don't worry: I may have heard or seen some show spoilers these past few days, but I won't post any of them here. It was my first time attending the fest, so I tried to make the most of my time as both a writer and an avid fan of television.

Friday quickly became "fangirl Friday" for me, as I had the opportunity to interview cast members from both Orange Is The New Black, and Archer cast members/writer (you can check out that full interview later on this week). OITNB had its Season 2 premiere episode at the Stateside Theater that morning, bringing Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes), Danielle Brooks (Taystee) and Lea DeLaria (Big Boo) in for a post-screening panel discussion.  

I sat down with all three of these actresses after the panel, and quickly heard about what playing these roles has been like for them. Although I wasn't able to ask all of my questions, the main thing I wanted to know was what initially sold each of them on playing these specific characters.  After DeLaria joked, "A steady paycheck," they walked us through the casting process and how they read for Jenji Kohan (the show's creator) and the casting department.

Slackery News Tidbits: June 9, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater's latest feature, Boyhood, swept the top three awards categories at the Seattle International Film Festival on Sunday. The movie, shot over a dozen years in the Austin area, won Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress (Patricia Arquette). Boyhood premiered at Sundance (Debbie's review) screened at SXSW and opens in Austin next month.
  • Actor Kevin Corrigan, who appeared in the Austin Film Society's project Slacker 2011 (and most of local filmmaker Bob Byington's features) and can be seen in Austinite Terrence Malick's upcoming Knight of Cups, will discuss his experiences in the industry during AFS's Moviemaker Dialogue on Monday, June 23 at 7:30 pm at the Marchesa Hall. 
  • Matthew Weiner, creator/executive producer/writer/director of AMC's Mad Men, was recently announced as this year's recipient of the Austin Film Festival Outstanding Television Writer Award. Weiner is scheduled to speak at this year's festival, where he will accept the award. 
  • An Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline employee has sued the Austin-based company, claiming the theater chain isn't paying a sufficient minimum wage and is including the wrong employees in tip pools, Austin Business Journal reports. The suit alleges that all of the servers employed with Alamo Lakeline, which opened last summer, are entitled to recover unpaid minimum wages, damages and other fees. 

Review: Cold in July

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Cold in July

Joe R. Lansdale is such a prolific and successful author, it's surprising we don't see more of his work on the big screen.

A native Texan, Lansdale has published more than 30 mysteries and crime novels set mostly in the Lone Star State, as well as novellas, comic books, graphic novels and many short stories. But only a few of his works have been adapted for film or TV; the 2002 cult film Bubba Ho-Tep is based on a Lansdale novella, and a handful of his short stories have inspired short films. He's also written a few screenplays.

But if the gripping new thriller Cold in July is the success it deserves to be, we may see a lot more movies based on Lansdale's books and stories. Adapted from Lansdale's novel of the same title, Cold in July is a solid bit of Texas noir, a taught and satisfying crime film that delivers in most ways.

Set in East Texas in 1989, Cold in July opens as small-town frame shop owner Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) finds an intruder in his home and shoots the man, Freddy Russell (Wyatt Russell), to death. When the police assure Dane that his actions were in self defense and no charges will be filed, he and his wife, Ann (Vinessa Shaw) assume that's the end of the matter.

Movies This Week: June 6-12, 2014

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Night Moves

Austin Film Society continues their "Rebel Rebel" film series this weekend with a rare 35mm screening of Getting Straight at the Marchesa. This 1970 film from Richard Rush stars Elliott Gould as a Vietnam vet who attempts to go back to college amid the countercultural revolution. Also starring Candice Bergen and shot by legendary cinemtographer Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider, Paper Moon), it's playing tonight and again on Sunday afternoon. Doc Nights is booked for Wednesday evening and will be spotlighting the story of a young ballerina who was diagnosed with polio at 27. Read more about Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq in our preview post here. On Thursday evening, you can view Stanley Kubrick's Paths Of Glory as part of this month's Essential Cinema series about World War I. 

The Paramount Summer Classic Film Series has a wide variety of flicks to choose from this week. Saturday and Sunday at the Paramount, they'll be featuring "Discoveries from the TCM Classic Film Festival." Two rarely screened films, Bachelor Mother and a 1949 version of The Great Gatsby that's been holed up for years due to rights issues, will play in a 35mm double feature. The Shop Around The Corner and Arsenic And Old Lace are also featured in a 35mm double feature there on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Thursday night is a tribute to John Candy and John Hughes. Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains and Automobiles play in 35mm at the Paramount while National Lampoon's Vacation and Stripes screen digitally next door at the Stateside. 

The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz has a very special guest coming to town this weekend with legendary filmmaker William Friedkin stopping by for screenings of his recently restored Sorcerer and also an AFS co-sponsored screening of To Live And Die In L.A. on Saturday. The theater's Russ Meyer tribute continues on Monday night with another 35mm print straight from Meyer's estate, Wild Gals Of The Naked West and there's more Dietrich and Von Sternberg on Wednesday night with a 35mm screening of 1931's Dishonored. 

Review: Night Moves

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night moves still

Kelly Reichardt is a deliberate filmmaker. The scenes she writes, directs and edits rarely feel hurried or careless, and the stories she tells, incredibly focused, have a way of slowly building towards bigger and (usually frightening) truths about society and the people who exist on its fringes. 

Two of Reichardt's earlier films, Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, portray melancholy wanderers with uncertain future prospects, and in many ways Night Moves does this, too. Though more overtly suspenseful than her previous work, her latest effort still maintains a measured restraint as the story advances towards a clearer view of the ambiguous situation at hand. 

It's tough to describe the plot of Night Moves without giving too much away, but it's fair to say that eco-terrorism, paranoia, simmering frustration and CSA boxes all come into play. Set in gray, moody Oregon amongst co-op dwellers and vaguely rebellious idealists, the story follows three particularly ambitious outsiders as they work to carry out a law-breaking and attention-grabbing plan. 

Review: Edge of Tomorrow

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Edge of TomorrowHow do you fight an enemy that already knows exactly what you’re going to do? You throw a Tom Cruise missile at them, someone who doesn’t know himself what he’s going to do. That’s what Brendan Gleeson's General Brigham does in Edge of Tomorrow, the first and possibly best blockbuster action film this summer.

Directed by Doug Liman (Jumper, Mr and Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity) and scripted by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) based on the Japanese comic All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow begins at the end of a war to save the planet from a mysterious alien invader. General Brigham is ready to lead a concerted push from every nation to encircle and destroy the enemy, and he calls Lt. Col. Bill Cage (Cruise), a US Army talking head public-relations officer who’s never seen a day of combat in to cover the D-Day style invasion.

A pathetic attempt to blackmail his way out of putting boots on the ground lands Cage busted to a rank of private and branded an attempted deserter, where he is put under command of Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton), outfitted with a mechanized combat suit, and dumped on the deadliest beach ever to see an invasion. In less than five minutes, Cage is dead, and that ends the first of countless times he must repeat the day, Groundhog Day-style, due to a one-in-a-million accident.

He meets up with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) aka "Full Metal Bitch," the war hero responsible for Earth’s lone victorious battle at Verdun, and learns from her that he must improve his skills through innumerable deaths as he is the only hope for humanity’s survival.

McQuarrie’s script is intelligent and tight, providing just enough information and leaving just enough unsaid to encourage the audience to read between the lines. Great cinematography and crisp editing keep the action going at a brisk pace, so none of the repeated scenes grows stale.

Summer Viewing: Linklater Follows Up 'Jewels in the Wasteland' with Early 80s Film Recs

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Eating Raoul

By Richard Linklater

[Editor's note: Austin Film Society co-founder and filmmaker Richard Linklater recently curated "Jewels in the Wasteland," a series focusing on films of the early 1980s. Today, as a guest columnist for Slackerwood, he recommends other movies he was unable to include in the series.]

We're looking forward to continuing the "Jewels in the Wasteland" series at some point with films from 1984-1986! Below are various titles that would have fit nicely in this first section of 80s films. Before we get going again, we'll likely have some one-off screenings (hopefully Pixote and Baby It's You) that represent additional titles from the first part of the 80s, so keep an eye out for them.

In the meantime, please feel free to check out the below suggestions:

  • Last month's Atlantic City begs you to continue with both Louis Malle's My Dinner with Andre and Bill Forsyth's Local Hero with Burt Lancaster. If you love Local Hero like I think you will, please check out an earlier film of his, Gregory's Girl. I noticed Danny Boyle included a clip from it during his Olympic opening ceremonies.
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