Based on the 1973 George Romero movie by the same name, the 2010 version of The Crazies, adapted by screenwriters Ray Wright and Scott Kosar, strips away the social and political aspects that were rampant in the original. Nowadays moviegoers don't need much convincing to believe that the military could seize a town and cover up bioweapons. Director Breck Eisner seems to pride himself on using as little exposition as possible to keep the plot cruising along. The result is a rollercoaster ride, as building tensions keep viewers on the edge of their seats and then out of them when the insanity and horror takes over.
The basic plot of The Crazies remains: Residents of the small Iowan town of Ogden Marsh are suddenly plagued by insanity and death after their water supply is contaminated. When the town drunk Rory Hamill (Mike Hickman) shows up to a high school baseball game with a rifle, he's shot dead by local sheriff David Dutton (Tim Olyphant) when he fails to respond and drop his weapon. It's assumed that Rory was heavily intoxicated -- only he's been on the wagon for two years and his blood alcohol content confirms it. While Sheriff Dutton along with Deputy Russell Clark (Joe Anderson) tries to find an explanation for Rory's strange behavior and also investigate reports of a plane crash in the local creek, his wife Dr. Judy Dutton (Radha Mitchell) attempts unsuccessfully to identify what's wrong with another resident. The man is almost catatonic, and later that night he sets fire to his house after locking his wife and son in a closet.
Here are the movies opening in Austin today:
Cop Out -- Kevin Smith's latest didn't screen in advance in Austin. Considering his local popularity, that's surprising -- his last two movies had gala Paramount screenings, in fact. Buzz is mixed about his detective tale, so go check it out for yourself and let us know. (wide)
The Crazies -- Timothy Olyphant may be the star of this reimagining of George Romero's 1973 viral outbreak, but Joe Anderson (Across the Universe) as Deputy Russell Clank owns the film. Not perfect, but very memorable, with some great scene compositions, and I swear they held off the "scared ya" noises for at least a microsecond, making this creepy tale even creepier. Debbie will tell you more in her review this weekend, and hopefully she'll share some of the Q&A with director Breck Eisner from Thursday night's Austin screening. (wide)
Among the many world premieres at SXSW in just two weeks is Geoff Marslett's Mars, a sci-fi rom-com indie brimming with local and nationally known talent. Earlier this week, Jette and I caught up with Marslett and talked about Austin, film and food over a long brunch at Olivia on South Lamar.
Marslett is a veteran of short films, and a self-taught animator on faculty at The University of Texas at Austin. His films have been featured at CinemaTexas, SXSW, and even in Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Film Festival (vol. 7). Perhaps best known for the award winning Monkey Versus Robot as well as Bubblecraft, Marslett has worked on 14 of his own shorts as well as contributing to other films such as Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style. In 2009, Marslett was named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker magazine.
Three years ago, Marslett started working on Mars, with a 17-day live-action shoot followed by two years of animation work. This was a labor of love and obsession, with Marslett and his team of animators and interns working impossible hours to complete the film over the last two years while he also juggled a teaching schedule at UT's RTF program.
The Vimeo Theater in the Austin Convention Center (ACC) is a temporary setup on the ground floor of the convention center during the SXSW Film Festival. It's in ACC Exhibit Hall 2. During the film conference, this is the most convenient theater of the festival. During the music festival, I sometimes feel weirdly out of place here, but it's even easier to find a seat at most screenings.
Pros: ACC may be the best downtown venue for passholders or individual ticket buyers to see SXSW films. The location is unbeatable during the film conference -- you're right in the heart of the festival. The seats are on a good incline and short people should have no problem viewing the screen. And it's right on the SXSW Film Flyer shuttle route.
Cons: You don't get the movie-theater vibe that you would with other venues. Also, once the music festival starts, the area outside the theater gets even more crowded than usual, although the theater itself almost always has seats.
Screens and capacity: The Vimeo Theater holds 645, making it the second-largest SXSW film venue (after the Paramount). Lines are always indoors, which is nice on a wet day.
Parking: If you get downtown early enough, you can pay to park in the garage next to the convention center, or the big surface/dirt lot closest to Cesar Chavez. If not, try the ACC secondary garage at Brazos and 2nd Street.
Public Transportation: While three bus routes come close to ACC (#17, #21/22), you'll save time by walking to/from this venue unless you have non-film departure/destination points. Still if you have a multi-day bus pass and see a bus approach, it might be worth hopping on. Just make sure you know you're going the proper direction, so ask the driver. If you're relying on MetroRail, you're in luck because the stop is right outside ACC (but check the schedule for the latest time the train leaves so you're not stuck).
Distance: You can walk without much effort to the Paramount, Alamo Ritz, and Violet Crown. and you're smack in the middle of the film conference.
Food and Beverages: Skip the convention center itself unless you're dying of hunger or in need of (not-so-terrific) coffee. Outside, you'll find affordable spots like Iron Works, PF Chang's, and Mongolian BBQ. These places will be super-swamped at lunchtime, so walk a few blocks more and explore Austin's many downtown lunch options. Local food trailers will be stopping by ACC throughout the fest: we recommend checking Austin Food Carts if you're interested in specifics.
Last year, Slackerwood featured a Guide to Austin Summer Film Camps that listed local day camps for kids interested in making movies. Although Tuesday's snowfall might make you think that summer's far away, it's never too soon to enroll in these highly sought-after programs.
Here are a couple of Austin summer film camps that have already opened registration for this year ... for kids a bit older than the budding filmmaker pictured at right.
Austin Film Festival's Young Filmmakers Program is proud to present the eighth annual Summer Film Camp. The camp offers students unparalleled access to in-depth, personal instruction on screenwriting, filmmaking and claymation from local industry professionals. This year, the camp's workshops and panels will take place at Austin High School.
Welcome to the first in Slackerwood's series of SXSW 2010 guides. Keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks for the Film Fest venue guide (now in its fourth year), a guide to restaurants near festival venues, tips for local film passholders and potential ticketholders, and a general survival guide.
Updated 2/25: See the "SXSW Panels" section for new info about access for Film and Interactive badgeholders.
Every year, South by Southwest (SXSW) Festivals and Conferences offers an overwhelming amount of amazing content from film to interactive to music. One challenge is that the Film and Interactive conferences take place at the same time, from Friday, March 12 through Tuesday, March 16. The film festival starts at the same time and continues through Saturday, March 20.
This guide will hopefully serve as a walkthrough of how to balance both Film and Interactive, whether you have a badge for either conference, or the Gold or Platinum badges that provide you access to both.
Local band The Invincible Czars will present their live score to Tod Browning's (Freaks, Dracula) silent film The Unknown, starring Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford, on Sunday night at Alamo Ritz. From the press release:
"What can you do with your feet? In Tod Browning's 1927 silent film The Unknown, Lon Chaney plays Alonzo, an armless sharpshooter and knife thrower in a Spanish gypsy circus. Alonzo smokes cigarettes, shoots a rifle, plays guitar, and throws knives with his feet, an effect Chaney produced with the help of a real-life armless double (Paul Desmuke). Alonzo's lovely assistant Nanon (Joan Crawford) is the object of his secret affection, but he is not without competition -- circus strong man Malabar (Norman Kerry) is also in love with Nanon, but it seems she cannot bear to have a man's hands touch her. This beautiful and macabre film features Chaney in what is arguably the best performance of his career.
Texas Independence Day is March 2, and local PBS station KLRU will commemorate the day with "Texas Independents' Day," an event involving several local filmmakers whose work has reached a national audience. For the first time, three Austin-based projects have been selected for this season of the PBS Emmy-award winning series Independent Lens: The Eyes of Me (my review), Sunshine (pictured above) and The Horse Boy (my review). All three films premiered in the Lone Star States category at the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival. PBS estimates that 2 million viewers will tune in to Independent Lens this year.
On Tuesday, March 2, UT professor/local documentary filmmaker Paul Stekler (Last Man Standing) will moderate a panel discussion at the Austin City Limits studio with directors Michel O. Scott (The Horse Boy), Karen Skloss (Sunshine) and Keith Maitland (The Eyes of Me). Following the discussion, KLRU will host a live screening of the Independent Lens broadcast of The Eyes of Me at 9 pm. Doors are at 7 pm, with the panel discussion at 8 pm before the screening. Space is limited, so be sure to RSVP here.
Cine Las Americas is hosting the series "The Mexico of Emilio Fernández and Gabriel Figueroa," which features five films from the "Golden Age of Mexican Cinema." Admission is free. This week's selection is the 1947 film La Perla, adapted from John Steinbeck's The Pearl.
Cine Las Americas is hosting the series "The Mexico of Emilio Fernández and Gabriel Figueroa," which features five films from the "Golden Age of Mexican Cinema." Admission is free. This week's selection is the 1949 drama Pueblerina.
Cine Las Americas is hosting the series "The Mexico of Emilio Fernández and Gabriel Figueroa," which features five films from the "Golden Age of Mexican Cinema." Admission is free. This week's selection is Las Abandonadas, a 1944 film starring Dolores del Rio.
Here's what Lars has to say about this week's Weird Wednesday selection, the 1975 film Delinquent Schoolgirls:
"Not just politically incorrect and inexpedient, this movie is wrong. We won't attempt any grand pronouncements about its great sociohistorical merit. There are no excuses offered. It's a movie about three violently insane criminals who escape from an asylum and take refuge in what turns out to be a reform school for girls. The three psychos, a failed nightclub impressionist, a muscular baseball player and a comically mincing homosexual, are funny in a 'so unfunny it's funny' way and the actresses playing the students vary from somewhat competent to obvious cue-card readers. It's one of those movies that makes audiences ask afterwards, 'was that a real movie?' Strange, stupid, oddly amusing, really a one of a kind piece. The three convicts are played by busy actor Michael Pataki, pioneering black stuntman Bob Minor and Stephen Stucker, the funny gay guy from the AIRPLANE movies. AKA CARNAL MADNESS, BAD GIRLS, THE SIZZLERS and SCRUBBERS 2."
Character actor Beth Grant, who has appeared in everything from Rain Man to Crazy Heart, was in Austin last fall for the world premiere at Austin Film Festival of Herpes Boy, a film she both co-produced and starred in. Herpes Boy returns to town as an AFF special screening this week at Alamo Lake Creek. You can read our Herpes Boy review -- better yet, listen to this interview for Grant's perspective of this quirky comedy. She also discusses what it was like to work with Mike Judge in Extract and with "Sandy" (Bullock), Donnie Darko and the role of myths in film, and offers advice to women who want to get into filmmaking.
From the Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek web site:
2/25- Herpes Boy
Rudolph Murray (writer Byron Lane) hates his life. He has a large purple birthmark on his upper lip and everyday he finds someone staring, pointing, or calling him names-like Herpes Boy. He makes videos for the Internet in which he rants about his quirky life and zany family, including his New Age mother, emotionally distant father, and grumpy grandmother. When his "actress-slash-model-slash-dancer" cousin re-edits his videos to make herself more popular, it attracts a huge new audience and makes Rudolph an unlikely-and unwilling-cyber-celebrity at the worst possible time in his life. Lane has written a very original comedy with a hilarious and memorable performance by himself in the lead role. Also starring Beth Grant (No Country for Old Men), Ahna O’Reilly (Forgetting Sara Marshall) and Octavia Spencer (Drag Me to Hell). Directed by Nathaniel Atcheson. Winner of the 2009 Comedy Vanguard Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival!
Read Debbie Cerda's review of Herpes Boy.
Austin Film Society is rolling out a new Essential Cinema series starting on Tuesday night: "Smashing the Rules: Films of Oshima Nagisa." The films span a nearly 20-year period in the Japanese director's career. The most notorious in the series is probably the 1976 film In the Realm of the Senses -- I remember being shocked in college when someone told me about a certain explicit scene. But as AFS Director of Programming Nafus tells us, "Every one of his films is like a roller coaster ride through the subterranean areas of the human psyche."
All the films in the Essential Cinema series are on Tuesday nights at 7 pm at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. (Notice the series skips a week during SXSW.) You can get tickets online through the AFS site. While admission is free for AFS members, definitely get your tickets in advance because Essential Cinema screenings tend to fill up quickly. I've listed the films after the jump.
It was just yesterday that Jenn Brown and I were plotting our SXSW coverage strategy for Slackerwood (and other outlets) and hoping B-Side would host a Festival Genius site for scheduling SXSW Film. All of us at Slackerwood who have covered film festivals have loved the scheduling application from B-Side and found that it made fest planning vastly easier.
So we were very sad to learn that Austin-based B-Side Entertainment will be closing its doors this week. Filmmaker Magazine's blog is reporting that the company has been unable to find new investors and is out of funds. B-Side employees have all been laid off, many of which we've become familiar with at local film festivals -- including occasional Slackerwood contributor Chris Holland -- and we are obviously personally unhappy about the news as well. Back at SXSW 2007, I interviewed B-Side founder Chris Hyams (pictured at right) for Studio SX (sadly, SXSW no longer seems to have it archived) and his company sounded like an exciting business model.
Here's what Hyams has to say about the closing on the B-Side website: "I am sad to have reached the end of this chapter, but am incredibly proud of what we've achieved. I am confident that our efforts will have a lasting impact on this business. I am also confident that the B-Side team will bring their experience to new ventures that will pick up where B-Side is leaving off."
SXSW may have a lot of splashy marquee films from all around the globe, but some of us here in Austin want to see what our hometown is bringing to the film festival this year. I'd say it's a good year for Austin and Texas at SXSW but I say that every single year.
Here's the annual Slackerwood list of features playing SXSW 2010 that have Austin connections of one kind or another. The list begins with films shot in Austin, then moves onto other local ties. If we left your film off the list and it was shot here or includes local cast or crew, post a comment or drop us a line and we'll be happy to include it.
- Dance with the One -- This feature was produced by the University of Texas Film Institute (UTFI). Director Michael Dolan and many cast/crew members are from Austin. It's set in Texas, but I don't know yet if/how much it's set here in town.
- The Happy Poet -- I don't know much about this film by Paul Gordon, except that more than one filmmaker going to SXSW this year has told me to see it. But many of the film's stills (like the one pictured above) show recognizable local spots, and a movie about a poet who opens his own organic food trailer sounds very Austin-ish to me.
It's another slow release week, with the Olympics stealing the attention of most potential audience members, and with many limited-release films yet to make their way to Austin. Still, there are choices, and diverse ones at that.
2010 Oscar Shorts Live Action Program -- The annual programming of the two Oscar shorts reels at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar is very popular, giving local cineastes a chance to see the shorts that might not have played local festivals. The Live Action program tends to be more serious. The 92 minute reel includes five 17-20 minute shorts from around the globe. (Alamo Lamar)
2010 Oscar Shorts: Animated Program -- While both Oscar shorts reels are popular, the animated reel is usually more so, not just because it's animated but because it's generally sillier. This year's 80-minute reel includes five films including one with no dialogue. If you go, don't wait until the last minute to get your favorite seat, or you'll likely be disappointed. (Alamo Lamar)
Shutter Island -- I was impressed with the rough cut at BNAT, but I'm not sure what's changed since December. Thankfully it's not The Departed, although it does get too clever at times. Still, it's visually gorgeous, and there is one particular scene with essentially headshots that is a lot more interesting than it has a right to be. Read Jette's review to find out more. (wide)
If you hadn't told me that Shutter Island was a Martin Scorsese-directed film, I wouldn't have guessed. I would have thought it was some lesser-known director who wanted to be Christopher Nolan, and who was also a huge Hitchcock fan. Maybe if you'd shown me Scorsese's Cape Fear first, I might have believed they were from the same filmmaker, someone who wants to revisit and rework classic thrillers, but who loves spending time with his characters so much that he doesn't tighten up the thrillers enough for maximum suspense.
The plot seems straightforward enough at first: In 1954, two U.S. marshals who are brand-new partners, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), travel from Boston to nearby Shutter Island to investigate a woman who has gone missing from a hospital for the criminally insane. However, nothing on Shutter Island or in the movie is that simple. Teddy starts having flashbacks to his WWII days, when he was was one of the soldiers who stormed Dachau, and dreams vividly about his late wife (Michelle Williams), who wants him to find and kill someone named Laeddis.
Michael Haneke's morality tale The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte) is racking up wins and nominations, including two Oscar nods and the Palm D'Or. Yet all the attention seems to be more of a nod to the roots of fascism than to the film itself.
Set in a seemingly bucolic German village prior to WWI, The White Ribbon reveals the town's ugly underbelly. An act of malice fells a horse and lands a village doctor in the hospital. Shortly after, a mill accident results in the death of a mother. The German village is full of secrets and malice, with few true innocents, showing everyone as either victim or culprit ... or both.
The director of Caché and Funny Games (both versions) enjoys deconstructing the bête noire in idyllic settings. The film covers roughly a year in the life of the village, but at 144 minutes, the observations are diffused and obscure instead of focused and observant. With long, silent, black-background opening credits, The White Ribbon is not a movie for the average movie fan. In fact, it will challenge even the cineastes among us to sit still through what feels like real time. While it's been nominated for cinematography awards, if seen on a less than perfect screen, The White Ribbon is hard on the eyes.
Here's the latest Austin-related film news. We saved the Quentin Tarantino bit for last, so don't forget to keep reading after the jump.
- Tickets are now on sale for Alamo Drafthouse at Lake Creek's Evil Dead triple-feature on Friday, March 26. Did the tickets actually go on sale starting on Ash Wednesday? I can't verify that but if it's true, that's pretty cool. In fact, it's groovy. If you haven't ever watched all three movies back to back (to evil back), I highly recommend it, especially in a theater full of fans.
- Over at The Auteurs, you can now watch five films -- for free -- that have played the True/False Film Festival. One of those films is The Order of Myths, directed by then-Austinite Margaret Brown, about Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama. Get yourself a Moon Pie and settle down to see this one -- here's my review from when it played SXSW 2008.
- SXSW 2009 feature The Square is set to open in U.S. theaters on April 9. Apparition picked up Australian actor/stuntman Nash Edgerton's feature directorial debut for U.S. distribution shortly after it had built up some good buzz during SXSW.
Tomorrow at Birds Barbershop, two of the stars of the new film She's Out of My League are expected to make an appearance. So guys, if you need a haircut, you might want to head down there around lunchtime.
Alice Eve (Crossing Over) and Krysten Ritter (Confessions of a Shopaholic) will provide male grooming tips to four lucky Austin gentlemen on Thursday from 1-2 pm at the Birds Barbershop on 1902 South Congress to promote the romantic comedy, which also stars ubergeek Jay Baruchel. It's only an hour, guys, so I recommend getting there early. And perfect timing if you need to de-scruff before SXSW.
The plot centers around Baruchel as Kirk, stuck in a dead-end security job when the gorgeous Molly (Alice Eve, pictured above) falls for him, stunning Kirk and everyone he knows.
She’s Out of My League opens in Austin on March 12.
You are going to love the guides we are writing here at Slackerwood for SXSW Film 2010. Of course we are updating the traditional Venue Guide (now in its fifth year), and we're bringing back a few other guides from last year, but there may be some new surprises, too. We are all about helping you figure out where to eat between movies and find decent wireless access and get a late-night cup of coffee and a doughnut.
We are having loads of fun with these (you won't believe what I've been buying on eBay and why) but could use your help. Check out our 2009 guides for SXSW Film Fest Venues and for local passholders and ticketholders, and Jenn's SXSW Survival Guide, and let us know what we're missing. Post a comment right here. Is there some new late-night restaurant you love near the Paramount? Some tactics for getting the most out of film passes? Parking strategies? Yeah, I figured you wouldn't share your secret parking schemes but it couldn't hurt to ask.
And keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks for our guides and other pre-SXSW coverage, which should be even bigger and better than last year.
Here's the latest Austin-related film news:
- The SXSW Film schedule for 2010 is now available. Get ready to try to cram as many films and events into eight days as you can. We are putting the final touches on our annual SXSW Film Festival Venue Guide as well as some other guides, so keep an eye out.
- Speaking of local film festivals, Cine Las Americas has just unveiled their poster for the 2010 fest, which takes place from April 21-29 this year.
- Busy tonight? I'm planning to head over to the Harry Ransom Center around 7 pm, myself. Steve Wilson, the Associate Curator of Film, will lead a free tour of the HRC's current "Making Movies" exhibit. The HRC has all kinds of movie-related goodies archived, and while I don't know exactly what they're displaying now, it's all good.
On the From Mexico with Love DVD box cover, E Latino Weekly describes the film as "a modern-day Rocky." The comparison is probably inevitable, as both films are about scrappy underdog boxers. Sadly, From Mexico with Love has as much in common with Sylvester Stallone's poignant masterpiece as Dear John has with From Here to Eternity; both films involve beach-related wartime romance, but that's where the similarity ends.
To be fair, the creators of From Mexico with Love probably had good intentions. The film -- released today on DVD -- attempts to meld a crowd-pleasing sports story with serious commentary about the plight of migrant farm workers living on the U.S.-Mexico border. (Think Rocky meets Lone Star.) Unfortunately, the film delivers its political messages with jackhammer subtlety, and any sincere attempt at social relevance is no match for a thoroughly clichéd plot and dialogue apparently lifted from the lesser works of Dolph Lundgren.
The film's protagonist, Hector (Kuno Becker), is an impoverished Laredo farm worker who supplements his meager income by boxing in unsanctioned and unruly low-rent prizefights. Hector's world includes the expected characters: cynical immigrant smuggler Tito (Steven Bauer), grizzled boxing trainer Billy (Bruce McGill), and the conveniently beautiful love interest, Maria (Danay Garcia). Hector is a devoted son to his ailing mother, who labors alongside him in the fields despite her persistent coughing and wheezing. When the callous farm boss (apparently, there are no noncallous farm bosses, at least in movies about migrant workers) cuts mom's pay because she can't pick the required daily amount of vegetables, Hector brawls with the boss and soon finds himself unceremoniously dumped on the Mexican side of the border.
Perhaps to prepare us for Stephanie Rothman's upcoming appearance with some of her other films at Alamo Drafthouse in April, this week's Weird Wednesday film is her 1973 film Terminal Island. Let's take it to Lars:
"'Where society dumps its human garbage!' At some indistinct point in the very near future, which looks suspiciously like the early '70s, America has outlawed capital punishment. So murderers are sent to a blockaded island to fend for themselves. A new Darwinian social order asserts itself and the few women on the island have a pretty rough go of it -- until they decide to fight back. This is very likely the first women-in-prison movie directed by a woman, but it's hardly a chick flick. Stephanie Rothman, like so many other talented people in the movie business, was given her start in films by the great Roger Corman, who certainly deserves a statue in Hollywood, albeit an inexpensive one. Her films, while every bit as sweaty and violent as those of her male counterparts, always contain fascinating touches of feminine insight. Featuring the glistening naked torsos of Phyllis Davis, Barbara Leigh and Marta 'Lost In Space' Kristen. Plus, look for Tom Selleck as a coke-snorting doctor."
Catch Doug Pray's 2009 documentary Art & Copy about advertising and creativity. Your ticket to this movie will also get you admission to AMOA's upcoming exhibit American Letterpress: The Art of the Hatch Show Print.
Catch Doug Pray's 2009 documentary Art & Copy about advertising and creativity. Your ticket to this movie will also get you admission to AMOA's upcoming exhibit American Letterpress: The Art of the Hatch Show Print.
This month's Girlie Night selection at Alamo Drafthouse is the 1999 film Cruel Intentions, a contemporary teen version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe, and Reese Witherspoon. Girlie Night has been selling out in recent months so we recommend you get tickets in advance.
As someone who closely follows Austin film news, it's impossible for me to talk about Whip It -- or to watch it -- without facing the issues of its setting and production. The rollerderby movie was written by a former Austinite, is set in Austin and a nearby small town, makes Austin practically a character ... and apart from a few days of shooting scenes of notable locations here, was shot in Michigan. Should we count it as an Austin film? Does it matter, especially for non-locals?
Regardless of where it was filmed, Whip It -- now available on DVD and Blu-Ray -- is a charming film, aimed at a teenage crowd but enjoyable by grownups as well. I don't need to tell you how refreshing it is to watch a movie written and directed by women, in which the girls and women are all fairly strong and well-rounded characters who do much more than dream about or follow the menfolk.
Bliss (Ellen Page) is a high-school girl in small-town Central Texas. Her mom (Marcia Gay Harden) has pushed Bliss and her younger sister into the regional beauty pageant circuit, insisting that it will help them later in life. Bliss is also working part-time with her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) at a local diner with a giant pig on it. While in Austin shopping for clothes, Bliss finds out about rollerderby and is fascinated. She decides to sneak off to join a banked-track rollergirl team, the Hurl Scouts, lying about her age. A whole new world opens as she becomes Babe Ruthless.
The soundtrack to Stingray Sam, the Fantastic Fest fave that had people singing for days afterwards, is now on sale. Written and performed by director Cory McAbee and co-produced with Robert Lurie, it's full of delightful absurd and often deconstructed songs like "Lullaby" or the progeny naming song "Fredward."
The episodic interplanetary adventure musical is still on the festival circuit, wowing crowds with its old-school serial wrapped in Western sensibilities. Both the soundtrack and the movie itself are available for purchase online at corymcabee.com, as digital media downloads or as discs.
To celebrate, we're giving away DVDs and soundtrack CDs. Find out how to win after the jump.
Lots of SXSW news -- 119 features, 80 panels, and 130 shorts, with plenty of local representation. But we have a whole month to go until we get to see them. It's going to be a long month, isn't it? In the meantime, here are this week's new films opening in Austin theaters.
The Last Station -- Turn-of-the-century historical drama about Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and his family and legacy starring Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy and Paul Giamatti. The cast alone (pictured above) makes it worth a watch. We missed the press screening, but see what Kimberley Jones has to say over at the Austin Chronicle. (Arbor)
My Name is Khan -- A Mumbai Muslim with Asperger's is detained at LAX after 9/11 because of his "suspicious" behavior. The movie was not pre-screened. (Tinseltown South)
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief -- Another "teen is the chosen one" type of movie, only this the kid is the descendant of a Greek god. Based on the book by Rick Riordan, directed by Chris Columbus. This film didn't pre-screen in Austin so we haven't seen it, but try James Rocchi's review over at MSN. (wide)
Being a single twentysomething gal sucks on Valentine's Day. Right? Because you spend the day wailing and whining, planning anti-Valentine's Day parties that no one RSVPs to, and scarfing down candy, since that candy is the closest thing to a soulmate you will find for the day. Or so the Garry Marshall-helmed Valentine's Day would have us believe, by having Jessica Biel's character do just this. Despite the ginormous cast, don't look for self-confident women in this film ... unless you count the all-too-brief appearances by Queen Latifah as a sports agent.
The main story -- what there is of it -- tends to focus on the plight of a confident, happy-go-lucky flowershop owner, Reed (Ashton Kutcher). Reed's best friend is an elementary-school teacher, Julia (played by a chipper-despite-all-odds Jennifer Garner). Both of them are dealing with their own relationship issues; it's Valentine's Day, after all -- at least that's what somebody seems to say every five minutes throughout the film. There are also various subplots: a football player (Eric Dane) making a big life decision, an army captain (Julia Roberts) flying home to see a loved one after 11 months overseas, a little boy trying to express his love for his valentine, an office temp/phone sex worker (Anne Hathaway) dealing with the possibility of a new relationship, an older couple (Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo) taking care of their grandson, and more!
The Blanton Museum of Art occasionally hosts special screenings in the Blanton Auditorium, which seats 299. The museum is on The University of Texas campus facing MLK, very close to the Texas History Museum. The auditorium is on the second floor of the museum's Smith building.
No food and drinks are allowed in the auditorium -- bear that in mind if you buy something from the museum concession stand downstairs.
UT students, faculty and staff often receive discounts for movies screened at the Blanton.
You can park in a pay garage across the street from the museum, or on the street across MLK.
What better film for anyone to watch on Valentine's Day than Pedro Almodovar's crazy, chaotic comedy from 1988, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, starring Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas. If only the Blanton allowed drinks in the theater, they could serve gazpacho.
When I was a kid, every Saturday afternoon I loved watching classic horror films -- the Hammer Horror films of the late '50s and early '60s, including repertoire actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and Roger Corman and American International Pictures pulp flicks with Vincent Price. The predecessors that paved the way were the Universal Pictures horror films of the 1940s, most memorably The Wolf Man featuring Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. Dark and suspenseful, full of beasts and gypsies, the original Wolf Man identified many concepts about werewolves that extended beyond traditional folklore.
Directed by Joe Johnston (Jumanji, The Rocketeer), the 2010 version of The Wolfman embraces many of these concepts -- silver bullets, power of the full moon -- in what I'd hoped would be a true homage to the classic. The script written by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self contains threads of the 1941 screenplay, but with a few added twists for this modern large-scale version.
Steve Buscemi's obvious love for indie film coupled with his often fearless role choices means that on occasion his choices end in a miss, not a hit. In the case of Saint John of Las Vegas, it's more miss than hit.
A quirky near-morality tale of a recovering gambler on the verge of a change in luck and love, insurance agent John Alighieri (Buscemi) is up for a promotion if he helps prove fraud on an insurance claim. While he leaves a budding romance with a smiley-obsessed co-worker (Sarah Silverman) behind, he embarks on a surreal journey to the outskirts of Las Vegas with Virgil (Romany Malco), his new mentor in insurance fraud investigation.
Here's the latest Austin-related film news this week:
- Cinematical has posted a teaser trailer for Simon Rumley's Austin-shot horror film Red White & Blue, which is playing SXSW next month. I do believe a great deal of that trailer is set at the Broken Spoke. And Debbie, is that your house where all the, er, shenanigans are occurring? (Speaking of shenanigans, this is not a G-rated trailer by any means.)
- Over at The Dallas Morning News, Joe O'Connell tells us that a new TV pilot is shooting in Austin next month called Gen Y. Two other pilots will be shooting soon in Dallas, too.
- On the other hand, Chris Garcia reports that Waxahachie native and UT alumnus Robert Benton's biopic of Lyndon B. Johnson may not get to shoot in Texas. Apparently HBO prefers the film incentives in Georgia or Louisiana over the Lone Star State. (What would LBJ think?) It's weird, because HBO shot Temple Grandin here in Austin a couple of years ago when the incentives weren't as good as they are now. Go figure.
- On a related note, the film The Texas Killing Fields, starring Sam Worthington, will start filming in April ... in Louisiana. Could be worse. Could be Michigan.
Alamo Ritz and Harry Ransom Center have teamed up for a special screening of the 1939 classic film Gone with the Wind, accompanied by a five-course feast. Which you'll need for this lengthy movie. HRC is will have some costumes and production materials from the film on display as well.
This month's aGLIFF brunch selection is the 1999 film Criminal Lovers. Here's what brunch host Rebecca Havermeyer has to say about it:
"I'm hittin' ya' hard in the heart with CRIMINAL LOVERS...a film where the two main character's idea of foreplay is a locker room sex induced murder that leads to a situation involving things going on in the woods that would make Nancy Grace shit a brick. Who better than tha' French to teach us all about real love, huh?"
Admission is free for aGLIFF members.
The SXSW Film Festival has just announced its conference lineup, as well as its short films for 2010. I can't pick out all the Austin connections for you yet -- I'm working on that now, and we should have a list posted soon.
You can read the full list of panels and shorts on the SXSW Film website. Here are some of the highlights:
- "A Conversation with Michel Gondry," moderated by Elvis Mitchell
- "Directing the Dead: Genre Directors Spill Their Guts," moderated by my Cinematical colleague Scott Weinberg, with an amazing lineup of panelists: Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Ti West and Ruben Fleischer
- Jeffrey Tambor's Acting Workshop, one of the highlights of previous conferences
- Quadrangle, the short documentary from local filmmaker Amy Grappell about a couple-swapping experiment, which won an award at Sundance this year
- Short films from Bradley Beesley, Bill Plympton, Steve Mims and Guy Maddin; and a music video from local cinematographer/filmmaker PJ Raval
On Thursday, HBO and Austin Film Festival (AFF) teamed up for a special regional premiere of the locally shot HBO's new docudrama, Temple Grandin, the story of a woman who pioneered changes in cattle management and turned into a powerful advocate for understanding autism.
The reception was held in the same exhibit hall as SXSW at the Austin Convention Center, but used the entire space, with one half a reception area with open bar and several food stations. The stations included some film-specific themed concoctions, including Jello shots (shown above) and sliders. The sliders were tasty, and I hate to admit it, but so was the Jello.
The red carpet was very casual, with Grandin frequently approached by people thanking her for her work, making it less of a spectacle than normal, especially since it was an indoor red carpet. All were grateful for that, as it was a rainy night. Despite the rain, there was a high turnout; the reservation list was closed a week early as the response was so strong. Several groups were invited, not just AFF members and those associated with the production, but a local autism group and cattle association as well.
It's barely February, and Fantastic Fest 2010 already has news! A few days ago, John Bullington let the cat out of the bag about a feast event -- or should I say the cow -- when he mentioned on Facebook he is going to be cooking a local, grass-fed, 600-pound cow for Fantastic Fest in September.
Bullington, the executive chef at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, has been enticing palates at the Alamo for years, with movie feasts that sell out in hours. He also flexes his culinary skills a bit with special events at Fantastic Fest, particularly the annual filmmakers luncheon and dinner events like the Truffe truffle feast in 2009. A lot of planning goes into these events, and now he's got less than eight months to plan a carnivore's delight of a feast.
In the picture on the left, Bullington, along with Fantastic Fest co-founder Tim League, may very well be discussing another crazy plan for the festival. Be assured that when these two pair up and mix film and food, no holds are barred.
Chef Bullington's plan for the 2010 fest is not just a roast beef. He intends to roast the cow whole, which will take 17 hours over a huge firepit, "Argentinian style." The cow has already been picked out, and when I spoke with John on Friday, he joked about getting pictures of the cow and putting it on t-shirts.
Based on the already overwhelming response, pigs and lamb will probably added to the menu to make sure there will be plenty of meat to go around.If you remember the feast at the premiere of Seventh Moon at Fantastic Fest 2008, despite having two whole roasted pigs, that ran out quickly, so Fantastic Festers are definitely carnivorous.
Here's the latest Austin film-related news:
- The newest additions to the 2010 Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards: actor Lukas Haas (Witness, Convicts), who used to live in Austin; and Waiting for Guffman, filmed in Austin and Lockhart. Catherine O'Hara will accept the award on behalf of the Christopher Guest film. Tickets are still available for the award ceremony at Austin Studios on March 11.
- Local filmmaker John Bryant's feature film The Overbrook Brothers, which played SXSW 2009, will be released on IFC On Demand on Feb. 17. (Bryant is second from left in the photo above, taken during an Overbrook Brothers Q&A.) That link includes a trailer, which I feel doesn't quite do the comedy justice. You'd do better to watch Bryant's 2006 short Momma's Boy, now available on Atom, which was remade as the first part of The Overbrook Brothers. The short co-stars Steve Zissis, who was also in the Duplass brothers' film Baghead, which leads us to ...
It is a very, very light week for movie releases, folks, at least in Austin. There are several movies getting limited release, but only two new regular-run films in town that I can see. And with the SXSW features lineup announced, we're all distracted anyway.
Here's what's opening in Austin theaters this week:
Dear John -- A serviceable romance about a serviceman and the coed who loves him. It's Nicholas Sparks through and through, but despite that, it's not bad. Channing Tatum does big and broody sensitive guy well, and he and Amanda Seyfried have solid chemistry. It's a little romance that despite tripping up at the start of the third act, is an entertaining journey. And it has a refreshing twist I won't spoil. Read Debbie's review for more details.(wide)
From Paris with Love -- Am I the only one tired of John Travolta playing the same foul-mouthed tough guy? Every time I see the trailer, I am reminded of Broken Arrow, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Swordfish. That's not an endorsement.
Dear John is a romantic drama directed by Oscar nominee Lasse Hallstrom (Cider House Rules, My Life as a Dog) and based on the bestseller by Nicholas Sparks, best known for The Notebook. Screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall) collaborated with Hallstrom to adapt Sparks' story of a quiet young soldier who falls for an idealistic college girl.
The story begins during spring break in 2000, when Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) meets John Tyree (Channing Tatum) while staying at her parents' beach house. John is home on leave from Army duty with Special Ops to visit his coin-collecting obsessed father (Richard Jenkins). It's love at first sight for Savannah and John, who spend two weeks together before the lovers are parted as he returns to duty. They continue their romance through letters exchanged as she makes her way through college and he fulfills his tour of duty in Africa and the Middle East. Just as John prepares to return home 9/11 occurs, and he chooses to join his outfit in extending his enlistment. His choice of duty over love adversely impacts their relationship, and Savannah makes decisions that change the course of both their lives.
This week, the Blanton Museum of Art opens a new exhibit, "Desire," featuring work by contemporary artists on that theme. Austin Film Society is teaming up with the museum to show four films this month about desire.
The movies will be shown at the Blanton, with discounted admission for AFS members, museum members, and UT students/faculty/staff.
The four movies:
- Sunday, Feb. 7 at 3 pm: L'Avventura, Michelangelo Antonioni's 1960 film
- Sunday, Feb. 14 at 3 pm: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Pedro Almodovar's crazy, chaotic comedy from 1988, starring Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas
- Sunday, Feb. 21 at 3 pm: She's Gotta Have It, Spike Lee's first feature film, from 1986
- Sunday, Feb. 28 at 3 pm: Happy Together, the 1997 film from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai
Let's see what Lars has to say about this week's Weird Wednesday selection, Cry of a Prostitute:
"American tough guy Henry Silva carved out quite a career in Italian crime films. His inscrutable, masklike face could suggest a gamut of emotions from rage to merciless psychosis. Here he adds another portrait to his gallery of unstoppable super killers as Tony Aniante, a Sicilian thug trained in the efficient crime methods of the U.S. mafia. When rogue mobsters develop a new technique of smuggling heroin in the bodies of dead children, Silva is brought in by the syndicate to clean up. He insinuates himself into the households of two rival Sicilian capos, then waits for is opportunity. By the time the blood finally stops flowing, both families are crippled and Silva reveals his true motivation. If you think the plot has very little to do with crying prostitutes, you're correct. The title refers to the wife of one of the bosses, a former streetwalker from the Bronx played by the beautiful Barbara Bouchet. Her brutal mistreatment at the hands of Silva pretty much destroys any audience sympathy for him, but he doesn't seem to mind. He still kills everyone in sight and looks cooler than Chet Baker smoking menthol cigarettes in a red Ferrari. From the director of BURIAL GROUND, STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER and MALABIMBA: THE MALICIOUS WHORE."
This month's Austin Film Society Documentary Tour selection is a 1996 film from the Netherlands, O Amor Natural. It's about the 20th century Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade. His erotic poetry is a good fit for Valentine's Day.
Only Terror Tuesday programmer Zack Carlson could tempt me to see something with a title like Devil Fetus. Here are his notes on the 1983 film:
"Sometimes two simple words -- like 'true' and 'love' -- can combine to create a spellbinding, lyrical beauty that transcends mere language and touches the human heart. Such is the case with DEVIL FETUS!! A blazing bedlamathon that had no right to ever be made, this cinematic felony is fortified with enough unrepentant wildness to challenge the fortitude of even the most stalwart exploitationeer. Incestuous transvestitism, countless beheadings, featherweight bestiality, white-knuckle black magic showdowns and hardline electrofunk-powered rumpshaking are among the delights unearthed when a woman has consensual relations with the supernatural beast that lives in a vase she bought at a swap meet. Gird your loins for an epic whirlwind of lust, gore and animal cruelty in this 200-ton barrel of lowbrow DYNAMITE! Could this be the most offensive Hong Kong movie of the 80s? YES! Honestly, the only possible reason you would NOT watch DEVIL FETUS would be that you are a complete ass. Well? ARE YOU AN ASS??!"
The SXSW 2010 Film Festival feature-film lineup was announced Wednesday night, and it's full of goodies. I am still sorting through them all with lots of "oooh!" noises. Some of these are films I wished I could have caught at Sundance (but I'm allergic to snow), some are films I've been hearing about for awhile, some are very cool-sounding surprises.
You can find the whole feature lineup over at the SXSW Film website -- the shorts haven't been announced yet -- but here are a few of the highlights:
- Headliners include the Duplass brothers' film Cyrus (I told you so); MacGruber, starring Val Kilmer, Jason Bateman and the underrated actress of 2009, Kristen Wiig; Jean-Pierre Jeunet's film Micmacs -- which played BNAT in 2009 along with Kick-Ass, the fest's opening-night film; Mr. Nice, which stars Rhys Ifans (and Christian McKay in a small role ... don't swoon, Debbie); and Sundance favorite The Runaways.
- Spotlight premieres include Audrey the Trainwreck (edited by St. Nick director David Lowery), Aaron Katz's Cold Weather, and Tim Blake Nelson's Leaves of Grass.
Here's some of the latest news from the Austin film community. Don't forget to check the Austin Film News Mega-Feed for even more news from a variety of sources.
- Reel Women has put out a call for entries for its annual SXSW showcase. The deadline for members to submit short films is February 10, 2010.
- The Austin-shot feature Red White & Blue premiered this week at the Rotterdam film festival. Reviews of Simon Rumley's horror/suspense movie are starting to come in from Variety and Time Out ("Rumley is too fond of blood"), and IndieWire has a profile of the film.
Not everyone is aware that SXSW features several free events that are open to the public, including Flatstock. Co-produced by SXSW and the non-profit organization American Poster Institute (API), this annual poster event displays the works of more than 100 national and international artists. API co-founder and Austinite Geoff Peveto co-organized the inaugural Flatstock in 2002.
Two screenings will be held on Friday, February 5, and this event will feature:
- Q&A with director Merle Becker and poster artists Jay Ryan, Geoff Peveto and Rob Jones.
- Mini poster expo in the lobby featuring several local poster artists including Billy Perkins, Clint Wilson and Billy Bishop.
- Print demo by Billy Bishop. The first 50 customers to each screening will receive a FREE custom screen-printed event poster.
Local restaurant owner Sandra Bullock (Bess Bistro) scored an Oscar nomination this morning for her performance in the sports drama The Blind Side. Bullock has already won a Golden Globe, a Broadcast Film Critics Award, and several other critics' group awards for her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy. The Austin Film Critics Association gave their Best Actress award to Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds), who is not nominated for an Oscar ... well, I suspect our demographic makeup is different than the Academy's. The Blind Side, written and directed by Longview native John Lee Hancock, also received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. I reviewed the movie for Cinematical last year.
Bullock isn't the only Austin representative in the Oscar nominees today. Local musician Ryan Bingham teamed up with T-Bone Burnett on the song "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart, which received a nomination for Best Original Song. I'm not seeing any other local connections but if I missed something, please let me know. ETA: Victor Diaz reminds me that Wes Anderson is a UT grad and Houston native, and his fantastic movie Fantastic Mr. Fox is up for Best Animated Feature. The Academy Award ceremony takes place on March 7.
If you were paying close attention to Slackerwood last week, you may have noticed something new in the left sidebar. If you hadn't ... well, that's why I'm telling you now. Slackerwood has created the amazing and awesome Austin Film News Mega-Feed. You have to imagine monster-truck-show echo effects whenever I say it, it is that awesome.
Like many things about Slackerwood, the Austin Film News Mega-Feed (echo, echo) was born out of sheer lazy slackerhood. I was complaining to Chip, who not only performs great technical feats on Slackerwood but also is my husband and often tolerates me fussing about stuff, that I was tired of rewriting the same news items every other local outlet publishes, especially if a) I'm later than they are and b) I have nothing new to say. I sighed and wished that I could just publish one big conglomerate news feed of all these news items on Slackerwood and not have to worry about reporting on every single little bit of news, so I can focus on finding interesting news that isn't available everywhere else.
Chip nodded and sympathized .... and went to his computer and created the Austin Film News Mega-Feed, possibly out of a sense of community, but I suspect also so he wouldn't have to hear me whine anymore. Look over in the left sidebar (you may need to scroll down a bit) and you can see all the headlines from major sources of film-related news in Austin, like the Austin Chronicle's Picture in Picture blog, the Statesman's Austin Movie Blog, and Austinist. We've also added RSS feeds of blogs from local film festivals and theaters.