The Austin Film Society continues their terrific Godard vs. Truffaut series with a 35mm print of Godard's 1965 Pierrot Le Fou (pictured above). It plays at the Marchesa tonight and again on Sunday afternoon. New release Symphony Of The Soil plays on Wednesday night for Doc Night and current Essential Cinema series on contemporary Russian films has a 35mm print of Brother on Thursday.
Specialty programming at the Alamo Ritz this week includes Terry Gilliam's Brazil, which is playing in a 35mm theatrical print at the Ritz on Saturday afternoon and Wedneday evening. FYI - there are additonal screenings this month at other Alamo locations that are playing in a DCP of the extended European cut. The Cinema Cocktails series has concocted some special beverages to go along with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Top Hat on Sunday night. Music Monday also serves up their annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day screening of James Brown Live at the Boston Garden, recorded less than 24 hours after King's assassination.
You may be looking to catch up on the nine nominated films for Best Picture over this holiday weekend. If so, you can still find American Hustle, Her and The Wolf Of Wall Street playing wide in most local theaters. The other nominees are still on the big screen in the area, but they're playing in far fewer locations. Here's where you can find them:
You don't have to travel to Park City to enjoy great content from the 30th annual Sundance Film Festival. YouTube is offering quite a bit of content for film fans to view online via the Sundance Film Festival YouTube Channel.
As the presenting sponsor of the Sundance 2014 shorts program, YouTube is showcasing several of the official shorts in competition. Fifteen films were selected from this year's competitors, including two short films from Texas: Rat Pack Rat and Dig. The Austin-shot Rat Pack Rat is directed by Todd Rohal and produced by several Austinites including Zack Carlson, Clay Liford, and Ashland Viscosi. Dig is written and directed by DFW-area producer Toby Halbrooks.
The YouTube Audience Award will be presented at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony on Saturday, January 25, to the short film in official competition that receives the most views on YouTube between January 16-24, 2014. And Slackerwood has both Texas shorts embedded for you to watch after the jump.
Dig, which stars Mallory Mahoney and Jonny Mars, was produced by Sailor Bear, a production company that includes David Lowery, James Johnston, Shaun Gish and Richard Krause. Sailor Bear also has a feature at Sundance, Listen Up Philip. Mahoney plays a young girl who is intrigued by the large hole her father (Mars) is digging in their backyard.
I spoke to Halbrooks about the selection of Dig for the YouTube Channel. He was pleased the Sundance Institute chose his short film for the spotlight.
"Any exposure is good for short film, as there are not many outlets," he noted. "Typically if you put a film on YouTube not many people would see it and it's hard to find an audience."
The 20th annual Slamdance Film Festival will run concurrently with the 2014 Sundance Film Festival -- January 17-23, 2014 in Park City, Utah. Last year I stumbled into Slamdance a couple of days before the fest wrapped up, but this year I've placed it at the the top of my "things to do in Park City when not at Sundance" above things like skiing, sleeping and eating.
The infectious and dynamic vibe throughout the sole venue of the Treasure Mountain Inn, in the historic Old Town portion of Park City, makes it a great place to enjoy the well-rounded programming and social events. As the only festival programmed by filmmakers, Slamdance's film slate this year features 93 selections from emerging independent talent all over the world.
In honor of its anniversary, Slamdance will host a special premiere of DIY, a short documentary directed and produced by Slamdance president and co-founder Peter Baxter along with Slamdance TV's Ben Hethcoat and Eric Ekman. This short film focuses on the historical development of the "do-it-yourself" independent film movement that has fueled the festival for two decades.
Slamdance alumni films will also be featured, including Bill Plympton’s Cheatin’ and Lise Raven’s Kinderwald. Alumnus Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight) will be honored with the inaugural Founder's Award. Nolan's first film, Following, which screened at Sundance in 1999, was shot with friends for a budget of $6,000.
Editor's note: Welcome to Slackerwood's 2013 in Review series. As in previous years, we aren't just posting standard Top 10 lists but also will highlight other aspects of 2013 that stood out for us. Keep an eye out all month for these features.
Because end-of-year top ten lists are a dime a dozen, I have decided this year to take a different approach. Often it is too easy to overlook the "film" in film criticism, and one refrain I occasionally hear from my fellow critics is that we should work to promote good movies. This year, I would like to take a look back at some of the better films you may have missed and explore upcoming releases worth noting in the next several months.
Released at the end of February in Austin and available from Magnet Releasing on DVD and Blu-Ray John Dies at the End is an insanely paced sci-fi/horror comedy that I gleefully reviewed after repeat viewings. This independent genre darling had a limited theatrical run, but is currently available on Netflix Watch Instant. (my review)
With 121 feature-length films representing 37 countries screening at the festival between January 16-26, it's been quite a treat putting together this year's "must-see" list at Sundance this year.
A lot of interest is building for Austin Film Society (AFS)-supported films at the fest, but the latest buzz is focused on filmmaker and AFS founder Richard Linklater. Special preview screenings of the anxiously anticipated movie Boyhood, written and directed by Linklater and featuring Ellar Coltrane (seen at top), will take place at this year's festival with a premiere on Sunday, January 19.
Boyhood follows 12 years in the journey of Mason (Coltrane) from childhood into adulthood. He is influenced and supported by his parents, portrayed by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, and his sister Samantha, portrayed by Lorelei Linklater. What makes Boyhood so unique and captivating is that this drama was filmed over several short periods from 2002 to 2013.
There is much movement to be made as far as diverse representation of women on the big screen, as well as getting more women behind the camera, but last year was not lacking in opportunities to see brilliant performances by females in film. So without much further ado, here are my top ten ladies of 2013 film:
10. The sisters of Frozen -- I certainly didn't expect much from this movie after reading how "difficult" Frozen's head of animation found it to animate women. It was a happy surprise to find the main relationship in the film is between the two sisters, Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) and not a male/female romance. The sisters share tentative affection, with Anna determined to restore the close friendship they shared as kids. If you can watch the "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?" sequence and remain dry-eyed, more power to you. [Mike's review]
Had the stylish thriller D.O.A. been more plausible, it might be more than a footnote in the history of Austin film.
Released in 1988, the murder mystery had much promise. After all, it was a loose remake of an iconic Fifties whodunit of the same title. Its leads were Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, two sexy Hollywood darlings on the verge of megastardom. At the helm were Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, co-directors of the innovative, critically acclaimed and quintessentially Eighties TV series The Max Headroom Show.
But for all its potential, the movie D.O.A. is mostly forgettable mix of crime thriller clichés and farfetched plotting. It's a watchable bit of neo-noir, but nothing more.
Here's the latest Austin film news.
- SXSW Film 2014 has announced its first film and programming lineup selections, including former Austinite Rob Thomas's highly-anticipated Veronica Mars; the horror comedy Creep, co-written and starring University of Texas alum Mark Duplass; and "A Conversation with Alejandro Jodorowsky," the subject of the Fantastic Fest 2013-screened documentary, Jodorowsky's Dune. The bulk of the rest of the film-fest lineup will be announced on January 30.
- In distribution news, the horror flick You're Next (Jordan's review), which screened at Fantastic Fest and SXSW, will be released on DVD, On Demand and Blu-ray Tuesday.
- Austin-based graphic designer and filmmaker Yen Tan's SXSW 2013-screened Pit Stop is now available On Demand. The drama tells the parallel stories of two gay men living in a small Texas town.
- Enjoy an evening of the best and worst that Texas westerns have to offer Thursday at 7 pm during the Bullock Texas State History Museum's B Movies and Bad History. Movie clips will be screened while historians, authors and media experts expose the historical facts and inaccuracies portrayed on screen. Former Texas Film Commission Director Tom Copeland, who teaches at Texas State University, and Joe Dishner will also discuss their time on the Walker, Texas Ranger production team while screening clips from the series and the movie that served as its inspiration.
Filmmaker Spike Jonze doesn't make it easy in his latest film Her. He takes a fairly simple story, dresses it up in a realistically futuristic setting, and with the help of superb casting, creates a movie with such emotional impact that it feels like a kick in the head. More than once.
The film opens on an extreme close-up of Theo (Joaquin Phoenix), speaking directly into the camera, reading a love letter that sounds poignant and sweet. We come to realize that he's writing the letter on behalf of someone else -- he's a kind of professional Cyrano -- and that we've been watching him from the POV of a computer monitor, as though it were another person.
And that factors in heavily later, as lonesome Theo buys an operating system advertised as having artificial intelligence and the ability to learn. The OS assumes a female voice (Scarlett Johansson), and names herself Samantha. At first she is simply an efficient helper, but as she learns more about Theo and the world around him, she develops a personality as complex and emotionally rich as any human being. It follows naturally that Theo and Samantha build a strong attachment to one another.
The first thing one might expect in a film called The Legend of Hercules would be that it actually recounts some or all of the story of Hercules. Instead, Renny Harlin presents a derivative hodgepodge of several sword-and-sandals film mashed up with select Biblical imagery in a tale bearing little to no resemblance to the Hercules of mythology.
Scott Adkins appears as power-hungry King Amphitryon, who, after conquering his latest kingdom in single combat against its ruler, returns to his bedchamber where he finds his wife Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) bemoaning his cruelty. Alcmene flees his unrepentant presence to the temple of Hera and prays to the goddess for a child that will put an end to Amphitryon's cruelty.
Twenty years later, Kellan Lutz is cliff diving into the arms of Hebe (Gaia Weiss) who has already been unknowingly betrothed to his older brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), who spends his time stalking the two lovers and taking credit for his brother's great deeds.
Except for the brief interaction with Hera and an impressive bit of special f/x with a lightning bolt later in the film, The Legend of Hercules dispenses entirely with the "myth" portion of the Herculean mythos. The man with the strength of a god is powerless until he opens himself to his feelings, and this so-called legend features only one feat of strength.
The predictably boring events of the ensuing story share equal blame, however, with astoundingly bad camera work. Poorly-lit scenes fail in their masquerade as the result of a stylistic choice when they cut to other scenes that are perfectly bright. It's as if not just the story but also the visuals were cut and edited from more than one film. The presentation in 3D was equally bad, or perhaps even worse, as the action shots in every fight scene looked like they were ripped from a video game.
All this is compounded by nausea-inducing technical glitches that frequently cloud the vision in one eye or cross both. Perhaps the worst-looking movie ever shot on Red Epic cameras, that company should consider a demand to have its name removed from the credits.