On Friday, the movie Upstream Color opened in Austin and is currently screening at Violet Crown Cinema and Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter.
While at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, I sat down for a conversation about the film with writer/director Shane Carruth, pictured above with producer Casey Gooden, production designer Tom Walker and editor David Lowery. This psychological science-fiction narrative is Carruth's long-awaited second feature.
Carruth also stars in the film with Amy Seimetz as a couple reluctantly brought together by forces of nature and fate beyond their control. Together they must piece together their lives and come to an understanding of their connection to one another and other people.
For me, days two and three of Cine Las Americas were spent at Alamo Drafthouse Village, indulging one too many times in items from the wide menu selection (I'm certain I've already gained ten pounds). I tried to make it a point to not only see films from different countries, but from different genres as well. Here's what I got to check out.
Wednesday afternoon gave me I Am a Director, a hilarious comedy about Carlos, a guy trying to make a Hollywood film with no money and no past experience. It reminded me of being in film school and meeting those dummies who thought they were the son or daughter of Spielberg himself, but didn't even know how to turn on a camera. Carlos is a lovable character, but you want so much to just slap him because he is so naively ignorant. Everything was spot on humor-wise though, and I imagine film students will probably laugh the hardest at this movie.
The evening then brought me 3 -- a story of a mother and daughter dealing with the consequences of the man who walked out on them years ago. Ironically, the father/husband, Rodolfo, wants to come back to be a part of their lives again many years later. The two women obviously felt the sting of his leaving and have dealt with it by not caring about what happens to them, living as roommates more so than as a family. Rodolfo cannot see that they hurt and act this way all because of his moving on with his life. There was a sadness to the story I hadn't seen before: the reality of losing trust and how we cope with the remaining scars. A very moving film, to say the least.
Here's the latest in Austin and Texas film news.
- Two Austin-based theater chains are expanding their reach in the U.S. Violet Crown Cinema will open a second location in Santa Fe at an undisclosed date, according to Austin 360. The arthouse theater, owned by Bill Banowsky, co-founder of the Austin-based Magnolia Pictures, will be part of the Santa Fe Railyard development. Austin Business Journal reports that Alamo Drafthouse will open its first Lubbock area location next year, with construction currently underway.
- The inaugural Q Fest, celebrating queer cinema, began yesterday at the Josephine Theatre in San Antonio, the San Antonio Current reports. Festivities include a short films package and documentaries, such as San Antonio Four, about four Latina lesbians from San Antonio who may have been wrongfully convicted of sexually assaulting two children in the early '90s.
- The latest movie by former Austinites Joel and Ethan Coen, who filmed the 2010 remake True Grit in-and-around Austin, has been chosen as an official selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival, according to IndieWire. Inside Llewyn Davis, starring Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, tells the story of an aspiring folk singer-songwriter (Oscar Isaac) in 1960s Greenwich Village.
Tom Cruise stars as Jack in the movie Oblivion, director Joseph Kosinski's (Tron: Legacy) cinematic reinterpretation of his own graphic novel. The year is 2077. Jack keeps drones in maintenance; these drones protect ginormous "hydrorigs," which suck in seawater to create fusion power for the removed citizens of Earth. Attacking the hydrorigs and drones are alien-like "scavs," who, Jack tells us, are behind the destruction of the Earth. "We won the war, but lost the planet," he states during some fairly trite narration.
In this post-apocalyptic film, Tom Cruise is onscreen fourth-fifths of the time. If you don't care for Cruise, odds are you won't care for Oblivion. Still, Cruise isn't really the complete problem with the movie. Let me count the ways I was disappointed.
- The hollow depiction of women in Oblivion. Jack works and sleeps with teammate Victoria (Andrea Riseborough, Happy Go Lucky, Made in Dagenham), who has large pupils (especially obvious on an IMAX screen) and no personality. She looks forward to going back to their home on Titan and has sex with Jack in a pool. Jack goes out to check on his drones in his functional clothing, while Vicka, as communications manager, hangs around their pad in tight sheath dresses and stiletto heels.
I'm not one to issue ultimatums, but this week's cinematic circumstances force me to do so: If you don't see It's a Disaster (pictured above), I'm afraid we can't be friends. I'll accept no lame excuses, people; we both know you can find the time to watch this indie comic masterpiece with strong ties to the Austin film industry. You must see it -- and don't think I won't ask to see your ticket stub next time we meet.
If you'd rather pick your own movie than be my friend, you have lots of other choices. The Cine Las Americas International Film Festival continues through Monday; passes and individual tickets still are available for the remaining films. If you're in the mood for a totally different sort of festival, the beer-centric and aptly named Off-Centered Film Festival also continues through Saturday. (Refer to Jordan's overview of the festival for more information.)
French New Wave fans shouldn't miss the Austin Film Society's screening of Zazie Dans Le Métro, Louis Malle's 1960 satirical fantasy about a 12-year-old girl who escapes the watchful eye of her uncle to explore the sights of Paris. Presented as part of the AFS Essential Cinema series, Zazie Dans Le Métro screens on Tuesday at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre.
Too much of anything is not good, except maybe it can be. Starbuck is a lighthearted comedy that explores a fresh take about the serious side of what it means to be a father through the lens of someone totally unprepared not just for one child, but for 143 of them.
David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) is a perpetual screwball who has never managed to make the right choices in life. In his forties, working as a delivery driver for his father's butchery, with thugs shaking him down for $80,000 in unpaid debts, David learns of his girlfriend's pregnancy. At the same time, he is confronted by a lawyer with some surprising news.
The lawyer represents a fertility clinic where, during his twenties, David was the most prolific donor, having made deposits over 600 times. It's explained that he has very high-quality sperm, and the doctor who operated the clinic was a little crazy and thus used David's material in the impregnations of over 500 women. Now 142 of his progeny have gathered to form a class-action suit to force the clinic to reveal David's identity.
Until the case is settled, they've prepared profiles of themselves, because they want "Starbuck" (the alias under which the donor is listed) to know something about his children. Faced with a choice between continuing his irresponsible ways or taking control of his life with his girlfriend and new(est) child, David finds himself unable to resist the urge to involve himself in his other children's lives, and thus learn the extent of his own strength.
Ken Scott and Martin Petit have written an extraordinarily original script that is both charming and hilarious, and Scott's direction displays a flair for comedic timing that brings the story to life. From the opening shot, he sets up a scene just enough for the audience to get comfortable with a situation before pulling the rug out from under them to hilarious effect. It's a surprising and effective tool Scott wields when the mood grows too serious.
When you hear "crowdfunding for film," you may automatically think about producers and directors raising money for a movie they want to make. Or perhaps even post-production costs to finish the film. But plenty of other fundraising endeavors cover film distribution, exhibition and other aspects of the film world.
For example, you might have seen local filmmaker Stephen Belyeu's drama Dig at Austin Film Festival a couple of years ago, where it won the Narrative Feature award. Texas Independent Film Network also screened the movie (which I moderated locally, which is why I remember). But one does not simply walk up to studio reps and magically land a distribution deal. Belyeu is ready to seek distribution for his film and there are costs involved: transferring the film into a high-resolution format, creating the materials to send to industry reps, paying legal fees.
So Belyeu has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to make Dig distribution-ready. The perks include DVDs of the movie, posters, sneak peeks at the filmmaker's new project ... and for enough money, an Executive Producer credit. The campaign has a little more than two weeks left and hasn't yet reached its goal.
Tuesday night not only marked the opening night of the highly anticipated Cine Las Americas International Film Festival, but also the first festival that I get to attend as press. I arrived early, around 5:30, to get my badge and ticket to the opening-night film, Blancanieves.
In an effort to kill time, I met up with my friend Samantha Lopez for a drink and early dinner. Sam has screened films for CLAIFF for some time now, and filled me in on what to expect. The best part, she said, is not knowing what to expect, as each film was as different as the next. And with each of the films only screening once, one must choose wisely.
The screening kicked off with an encouraging speech from CLAIFF Executive Director Eugenio del Bosque Gómez, explaining what the team had planned and some small changes implemented this year. Film Program Director Jean Anne Lauer then joined him on stage to say how she knew that the movie we were about to see was their opening-night film immediately upon watching. I think this gave the audience and myself hope for what we were about to encounter.
Delaware-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema have teamed up again for the sixth annual Off-Centered Film Fest (Debbie's 2012 coverage). Beginning Thursday night, the three-day beer and food feast -- with a hip-hop theme this year -- will feature a sing-along, rap battle competition, DJs and a short film competition. Most events are at Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane, and proceeds will benefit the nonprofit Texas Craft Brewers Guild.
The homegrown festivities kick off with a 6 pm screening at Republic Square Park of Friday, a movie so ripe with wisdom and wit it'll make you say "daayymmnn!" The Ice Cube, Chris Tucker-fronted stoner comedy tells the day-long adventure of two neighborhood buddies in L.A.
Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Debbie's interview with Calagione), and Tim League, Alamo Drafthouse co-founder, have added more hip to their hops with Friday's first ever Jiggy Crunk Sing-A-Long. Calagione and League will both be in attendance throughout the festival.
Homegrown cinema will get its chance in the sun during Saturday's short film competition event. The competition's top films will be screened theatrically and the top three winners will receive their awards.
The Capital City Event Center was abuzz last Wednesday night with Austin Film Festival's Conversation in Film with Brian Helgeland, writer and director of 42, which hit theaters two days after the event. Moderated by AFF Executive Director Barbara Morgan, the conversation focused on Helgeland's career as a writer. I'll admit I'd seen many films Helgeland wrote but never realized he was the man behind the curtain.
Helgeland opened the conversation by letting the audience know he started his career by writing horror movies, his most notable (in his opinion) being 976-EVIL. It was through horror films that he began to get involved with other writers, eventually working on some television series episodes as well.
The screenwriter then jumped into the process of adapting L.A. Confidential, which I was astounded to hear took three whole years to write. His biggest challenge was trying to transform a 496-page book into a two-hour film, the plot of the film ultimately being much different than the book. Helgeland won an Academy Award (along with director Curtis Hanson) for the adapted screenplay in 1997.
He then went on to talk about writing and directing Payback, the 1999 adaptation of a Donald Westlake novel, starring Mel Gibson. Off all of his works, this seemed to present the most hurdles, the final straw being that he was fired as director by Gibson himself. Helgeland said after that he felt like he was in "movie jail" and the only escape was to write his way out.
He did just that, with the following year's A Knight's Tale putting him back on the map. This was perhaps my most favorite part of the talk, as he discussed the research he did for the film. The biggest obstacle? Finding people who could joust, and were also willing to do it!