Austin filmmaker James Christopher is directing Twitchy Dolphin Flix's new mockumentary-style features The XXXX Saga: Rise of the Beaver Slayer and The Porn Movie Massacre (no, they're not pornos). Check Slackerwood for his updates as the production continues.
Since variety is the spice of life, it was a blast on the Quad-X set this past weekend. Scenes dealing with the attempt to shut down the porn company and scenes dealing with some of the more "horror" aspects were shot during three days of crazy shooting.
We welcomed actress Allison Wood back on set. Allison, a fixture in Austin indie film, has been in Twitchy films since the very beginning. She and Twitchy owner Nathan Bybee took a turn as married senators bent on saving the world from non-Christians. Nothing like poking some fun at the politicians who are trying to push us in a more restrictive direction. That's the core of why were doing the movie.
I've seen Somebody Up There Likes Me twice now -- once at SXSW 2012 with a lively local-heavy audience, once via screener with no one else but the cat -- and found the movie terribly funny both times. In fact, after I watched it the second time, I restarted the film so I could to see how the beginning tied into the end (it does, so pay attention) ... then had to stop myself from watching it a third time. The movie opens Friday at Violet Crown Cinema and I'm sorely tempted to go.
I liked it a lot, obviously. But I don't know whether you'd like it. Local filmmaker Bob Byington's universe is not for everyone.
Somebody Up There Likes Me is a comedy, but not in a broad sense -- its humor is very specific. I don't mean that it's full of obscure pop-culture references, either, because the movie could be set in any time or place. (You'd have to know Austin fairly well to recognize it was shot here.) The movie is off-center and your brain has to squint and tilt sideways and around the corner a little to appreciate it. Once you're in the universe of the film, however, it's wonderfully fulfilling.
At the heart of this movie is the relationship between Max (Keith Poulson) and Sal (Nick Offerman), although the focus is ostensibly on Max. Max and Sal work together in a fancy restaurant, along with Lyla (Jess Weixler), who catches Max's eye. Eventually Lyla and Max marry, and ...
You know, recounting this story does no good. It's not important what the characters are doing as much as how they're changing, or not changing, through the years. Because Somebody Up There Likes Me spans decades, although some characters never seem to look any older. Is this a reflection on how much they've matured inside? Possibly. The characters do a number of things externally that might be symbolic of their inner lives.
For example, during Max and Lyla's first date, their conversation is full of misses -- someone mishears, someone misspeaks. It's funny, it's a little awkward, and it's an apt representation of how relationships work (or don't). Lyla loves breadsticks ... and how does her enjoyment of them factor into the film? Lyla's father (Marshall Bell) appears to be an almost tangential character, but what is the extent of his influence on the events in the movie? Kevin Corrigan appears in a single scene, but his advice to Max might be critical. On my second viewing, I wondered fleetingly if Sal and Max were actually different aspects of a single character. And I haven't even mentioned the suitcase.
By Marcelena Mayhorn
[Please welcome our newest contributor, Marcelena Mayhorn. She's a freelance writer in Austin who's also contributed to CultureMap Austin, and who previously worked for Austin Film Festival.]
Learn some tricks of the trade from the Austin Film Festival ongoing Conversations in Film Series. A year-round collection of film workshops and script readings, the series has three notable events coming up in the next couple of months.
The next Conversations in Film will take place this Saturday, April 6 with "A Conversation with Larry Wilmore" at the Harry Ransom Center. Having written for shows such as In Living Color and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Larry Wilmore (currently a correspondent on The Daily Show) will discuss how to maximize a writer's comedic potential, breaking into the industry and marketing your work.
The series continues Wednesday, April 10 with "A Conversation with Brian Helgeland" at the Capital City Events Center (6700 Middle Fiskville) and an advance screening of the writer-director's latest movie, 42, starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford. Brian Helgeland, who directed Payback and scripted Man on Fire, Mystic River and other films, will discuss his process of writing and adapting screenplays. Attendees can then head to Galaxy Highland for the screening, which will be followed by a Q&A about the making of 42.
Gearing up for the summer, AFF will also host "A Conversation with David Magee" on May 22. David Magee, who adapted the novel Life of Pi into the acclaimed 2012 feature, will discuss writing visionary stories and his philosophies about the process. The discussion will be followed by a retrospective screening of Magee's first film, Finding Neverland.
Tickets for all three sessions are on sale now through the AFF website, with a discount for AFF members.
A title card at the beginning of Austin-based filmmaker PJ Raval's documentary Before You Know It (Don's review) states that an estimated 2.4 million self-identified gay, lesbian and transgendered senior citizens live in the U.S. Throughout the course of the movie, Ty Martin, Robert "One of the Ugliest Girls in the South" Mainer and Dennis Creamer transcend this statistic as we follow them from Rainbow Vistas in Gresham, Oregon, across to Harlem and south to Galveston. Raval's years-long research for the film brought him face-to-face with his own immortality and the discovery that LGBT seniors are half as likely to have health insurance and five times less likely to access social services than their heterosexual counterparts.
But Raval's subjects are more than just a number: They seek to educate audiences on a personal level and connect with them through their life stories. Like Creamer, a widower who didn't identify as gay until his 70s. Before You Know It follows him on dates with people he met on the Internet as he explores his "new" female identity under the name Dee. Or, Martin, who is an LGBT activist who lives in Harlem with his longtime partner Stanton. And Mainer, who struggles to retain his gay-friendly bar, Robert's Lafitte in Galveston, when confronted with legal troubles and his failing health.
I spoke with Raval, Before You Know It director/co-producer, and the documentary's cast an hour before its world premiere at this year's SXSW Film Festival. The film can next be seen at the 11th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston, which takes place April 24-30.
This year's Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) kicks off tomorrow night and runs through April 14. Many familiar faces and movies have made their way there from Sundance and SXSW, not to mention Austin Film Festival. In addition, the film festival will debut movies with local and state connections, some as part of the Texas Competition, a juried competition of films either shot in or relating to the Lone Star State.
Austinite Jeff Nichols' movie Mud screens on Friday, April 5, as part of the Premiere Series at DIFF -- read my review from Sundance. This engaging and mystical tale features Austin native Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan from Eckhart, Texas, with music by local composer David Wingo and sound by Austin's Stuck On On.
Here are all the other films we found with Austin and Texas connections -- let us know if we're missing anything.
- The Bounceback (Don's review) (screening times)
Austin filmmaker and two-time Independent Spirit award nominee Bryan Poyser's latest feature shows us that breaking up can be even more difficult if your ex hasn't given up and is willing to travel many miles in the hopes of making up. It's even harder when your friends who are breaking up try to keep you apart as well. (Elizabeth's interview)
The documentary Continental faces a tough challenge: Very little film footage or still photos exist for the legendary NYC bathhouse in its heyday. It's understandable -- this was not a place where many people wanted their pictures taken. But it means Continental has to drum up visual interest in other ways.
The movie takes us along on a breezy historical tour of the Continental Baths, one of the most well known and innovative bathhouses in New York in its prime. Steve Ostrow invested in the facility when it was a dark, dank warren of gay sex, and transformed it into a sophisticated gathering place and much cleaner, safer warren of gay sex. Eventually the Continental even drew a straight nightclub crowd for its concerts -- this is the place where Bette Midler launched her career.
Midler isn't one of the interview subjects -- she's represented only by still photos -- but many of the Continental's former employees and regulars happily recount tales of their time there. Interviews with Ostrow are the backbone of Continental, and in fact at times the story is not the history of the bathhouse as much as it is the history of the man who made it great, his work with the gay community, and his lifelong ambition to be an opera singer. He's such a magnetic interview subject that it's understandably why filmmaker Malcolm Ingram would focus on him.
To keep the documentary from being nothing but talking heads, Continental includes many contemporary shots of the hotel that used to be the home for the Continental, as well as the neighborhood surrounding it. It gets a little visually dull after awhile, but then I'm not sure what else Ingram could have done, unless he wanted to totally re-create the premises, a la Errol Morris? Which would have made for a very different movie. The rare footage and stills that do appear onscreen are fascinating -- I wish there were more.
By Sasha Esquivel
Along with a few lucky others, I recently had the opportunity to be a part of the hustle and bustle of a real film set in town. Thanks to the City of Austin, the Austin Film Society and local chapters of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, I got to intern with the props department on the set of Parkland.
The movie is described on IMDb as being about "the chaotic events that occurred at Dallas' Parkland Hospital on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated." The cast includes current/former Texans Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Duplass, and Marcia Gay Harden; plus Billy Bob Thornton (who won the Tom Mix Honorary Texan Award at the Texas Film Hall of Fame in 2009), Zac Efron and Ron Livingston, among many others.
This was my first time on a film set and the entire experience taught me a lot about the filmmaking process. From the moment I arrived on set I felt welcomed, and everyone was extremely helpful.
Here's the latest in Austin and Texas film news -- no April Fooling here.
- The 16th Annual Cine Las Americas International Film Festival has announced its opening and closing-night movies. Blancanieves will open the festival April 16 at the Stateside Theatre. The drama, a twist on the Snow White fairy tale that centers on a female bullfighter in 1920s Seville, was chosen by Spain as its Foreign Language Film Academy Awards nominee in 2012. 7 Cajas (7 Boxes), about a boy's journey transporting unknown cargo, will close the festival April 21, also at Stateside.
- In celebration of April Fools' Day, the Austin Film Festival will screen the fest's 2012 audience award-winning comedy Junk at 7 pm at Alamo Drafthouse Village as part of its Best of Fest series. Junk follows two B-movie co-writers through their film's festival debut.
- Ryan Long, former Austin Film Society programs and operations manager, has been named director of programming at Tugg, Austin 360 reports. Tugg, co-founded by Austinites Nicolas Gonda and Pablo Gonzalez, allows people to bring the movies they want to see to their local theaters. Long joined AFS in Nov. 2010 and co-founded the Texas Independent Film Network, a statewide tour of independent movies, which concludes its spring run with Hands on a Hard Body.
- Hands on a Hard Body documents an annual endurance competition in Longview, Texas, in which 24 participants attempt to keep their hands on a Nissan Hard Body pickup truck for as long as possible. The last person with their hand on the truck gets to drive away with it. Director S. R. Bindler will be in attendance at select TIFN screenings throughout the month, which begin Tuesday in McAllen, Texas. It reaches Austin on Friday, April 26 -- more details as they're confirmed.
Texas singer-songwriter Buddy Holly was immortalized onscreen in Steve Rash's 1978 movie The Buddy Holly Story, brilliantly played by Gary Busey (pictured above). The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz presents a special screening of a new 35mm print for this week's Music Monday as well as an additional screening Sunday afternoon.
On Sunday at Alamo Village, Cine Las Americas presents Anita as part of their Signature Series, co-presented by the Austin Jewish Film Festival. Anita is a young Argentinian woman with Down syndrome who lives with her mother Dora (Academy Award nominee Norma Aleandro) until tragedy strikes nearby. Anita must then fend for herself as she ventures out across Buenos Aires and encounters other survivors of the deadliest bombing in Argentina's history. After viewing the opening clip, I can't wait to see what happens next.
Elizabeth already covered the Stateside Independent special screening of Academy Award foreign film nominee War Witch on Monday but I want to reiterate -- don't miss this powerful story about a young female child soldier.
The Austin Film Society's Essential Cinema presents the Turkish film Toll Booth on Tuesday at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Introverted toll booth officer Kenan may seem to live a humdrum life but his imagination more than makes up for it in this darkly humorous drama.
As a fan of Quentin Dupieux's delightfully Dadaistic 2010 feature Rubber, I had high hopes for his new film, Wrong. I envisioned a movie just as quirky as Rubber, but with a more mainstream plot about a man searching for his lost dog.
I was, well, wrong. (Sorry -- I couldn't resist.) Wrong certainly is quirky and absurd, but it lacks the endearingly odd humor, cool factor and narrative originality of Rubber. It's weird, but not engaging.
Wrong is the story of Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick), who awakens one morning to find that his dog, Paul, has gone missing. What happens next probably will make no more sense in written form than it does on screen, so I'll just say that while looking for his beloved pet, Dolph embarks on journeys both physical and mental.
Along the way, Dolph encounters a host of strange situations and oddball characters, among them a flaky pizza restaurant employee, Emma (Alexis Dziena); his Hispanic gardener with a French accent, Victor (Eric Judor); a hot-tempered pet detective, Ronnie (Steve Little); and the mysteriously metaphysical pet-care book author, Master Chang (William Fichtner). All of them interact with Dolph in off-kilter ways, some of which make more sense than others in the context of the story.