December 2012

Houston Filmmakers Bring 'GLOW' Documentary to Austin

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GLOW The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling By Susan LaMarca

The documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling screened at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on December 4 with Houston filmmakers Brett Whitcomb and Brad Thomason in attendance. Alongside an 80s commercial featuring Hulk Hogan in his most terrifying prime, pre-screening bumpers featured a clip of classic women's wrestling from the 1950s: Blond Ballerina vs June Adair with commentary from two male announcers who "sure do love to see a ladies' wrestling match." Then an Alamo programmer took the stage and asked the audience: "Who is your favorite GLOW lady?"

GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was the first ever all-female wrestling show, recorded in Las Vegas and airing for four seasons in the late 80s. Aspiring actresses, stuntwomen and models went face-to-face in wrestling matches staged before a live audience and remained in character to perform sketch comedy throughout the show. Although some of the participants speculate that the show was originally conceived as a vehicle for product placement and Vegas spectacle, GLOW became wildly popular among adults and children all over the world. The audience response to GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling proved many of the characters of GLOW continue to be very revered.

Longtime GLOW fans, director Whitcomb and writer Thomason were inspired to make the documentary by "childhood memories, idle time at work and YouTube." Their film celebrates the wrestlers of the television show. For many of the Ladies, being part of GLOW was an unexpected experience that they are proud to have been a part of.

During the Q&A portion of the evening, Whitcomb and Thomason discussed how almost all the performers were thrilled to be a part of the documentary. The Ladies remembered the sisterhood that developed backstage and felt regret that many of them lost touch since the show was cancelled. Former GLOW Lady Little Egypt was even inspired to organize a reunion that the filmmakers were able to capture for the documentary.

Review: Les Misérables

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Les MisérablesA giant beautiful flawed mess is the best description I can give for the Tom Hooper-directed big-screen adaptation of Les Misérables, itself a musical theater adaptation of the 1862 Victor Hugo novel. The story is a sweeping epic, and people unfamiliar with the material may find they are swept off their feet by the spectacle. But for longtime fans of the musical, the movie is a bumpy ride more full of downs than ups.

Hugh Jackman takes on the lead role of Jean Valjean, a convict released after 19 years imprisonment for the loaf of bread he stole to feed his sister's starving child. The film opens with a stunning shot of hundreds of prisoners, Valjean among them, struggling with lines to pull a ship into dock. This is one of the strongest images Hooper presents us and a dazzling introduction to Valjean's world. As he is released, Valjean is confronted by Russell Crowe's Javert, who presents him with his release papers, and we begin to see the largest of my problems with Hooper's take.  

The characters throughout Les Misérables break out of song into speaking their lines, unlike in the stage musical. Verses that were written to carry enormous emotional weight through their melodic lines are instead spoken, as the actors attempt to express those emotions as if they were acting in a non-musical work. Some characters with only a line or two never actually sing. Jackman and Crowe are accomplished singers, but they don't have the appropriate range for these roles, and are forced to sing many lines an octave lower, virtually killing their impact.

Anne Hathaway's role as the tragic Fantine is perhaps the most dramatic performance, as we see her fall into disgrace and eventually death trying to care for her daughter Cosette. As with Jackman and Crowe, Hathaway's vocal performance takes a backseat to her acting, but that acting is so outstanding that she has become a strong contender for an Oscar.

Movies This Week: December 28, 2012 - January 3, 2013

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My Neighbor Totoro

I'm not even sure why I'm writing a Movies This Week for a week that has no new movies opening in Austin, so far as I can tell.

Oh, yes, I know why: Because this IS Austin, and there are plenty of special screenings and events. All the ones I could find this week are at Alamo Drafthouse -- feel free to leave a comment or let me know if non-Alamo special screenings are happening within the week.

Alamo Kids' Camp, revived for the winter holidays, is showing the dubbed version of My Neighbor Totoro for free daily at 10 am, from Saturday through Thursday, at the Lake Creek location. And Sunday through Thursday, Alamo South Lamar will screen the dubbed Castle in the Sky, also for free. These movies are first-come, first-served. Hop on the catbus and head over.

For a less family-friendly option, Alamo Ritz has weekend screenings of Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Nathan Christ, 'Twin Peaks'

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Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.

This installment comes from Nathan Christ, director of the Austin music documentary Echotone. Here's his pick:

This holiday season, I'm re-watching Twin Peaks.

It's not a film per se, but a series of one-hour films, and it's pure cinema. It speaks about society in a magical and mysterious way. It's the story of a community and is bursting with melancholy romance, spirituality, and battling archetypes. Most of its characters seek to be good but are frequently disrupted by shocking bursts of evil and violence, which takes on a visceral and chilling significance for me in our recent times.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Kim LeBlanc, 'The Thin Man'

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Myrna Loy and William Powell in The Thin Man

Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.

Kim LeBlanc, location scout for the Texas Film Commission and recent newlywed, tells us about her pick:

Don't get me wrong, I could watch George Bailey run up and down the idyllically snow-covered streets of Bedford Falls joyfully shouting "Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old building and loan!" until the cows come home. There's a reason why the classics are the classics. And no matter how many times I've seen it and no matter how hard I try, every time a bell rings, not only does an angel get its wings but invariably, a Kim also has to finish off a box of Kleenex. That's just the way it is.

Yet aside from the more obvious holiday fare out there -- i.e. It's a Wonderful Life and White Christmas (oh those fabulously festive dance numbers!) -- as of late I have to say my favorite flick to watch during the holidays is quickly becoming The Thin Man (1934).

Holiday Favorites 2012: Brandon Dickerson, 'Millions'

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Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise. 

This installment comes from Brandon Dickerson, director and co-writer of Sironia.

Seeing a film on Christmas Day has been a tradition since I was a kid and one we've continued with our own family the past few years. We started early with special Alamo Drafthouse screenings of Gremlins and It's a Wonderful Life with our kids and I'm certain that Elf and Love Actually will be enjoyed at home in the few days leading up to Christmas celebrations.

Whereas all of those films would make my "Holiday Favorite" list, along with A Christmas Story, my absolute favorite movie to enjoy during the winter holidays is Millions. Danny Boyle's playfully directed story of a seven-year-old boy who discovers a bag of English pounds just days before the currency is switched to euros, grabs me every time I see it. It's also at the top of my "man-I-wish-I-somehow-directed-that-film" list.

Slackery News Tidbits, December 26

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Bob Byington, 'Bad Santa'

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Bad Santa

Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.

Austin filmmaker Bob Byington brings us today's Holiday Favorites. Byington's unique comedies include Harmony and Me and [RSO] Registered Sex Offender. His most recent film, Somebody Up There Likes Me, premiered at SXSW 2012 (Don's review), will be released in theaters in February 2013 ... we hear it will open in Austin on February 22 at Violet Crown, and will keep you posted. Here's what Byington has to say about his favorite movie at this time of year:

The first time I saw Bad Santa it didn't play for me, and like some of my other favorite movies, the second viewing went really well.

The chemistry between the kid (Brett Kelly) and Billy Bob Thornton is great. And the scene where Billy Bob talks about how hitting a kid gave him the strength to go on living -- there's nothing like that.

Review: Django Unchained

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Django Unchained

Django Unchained is every bit a Quentin Tarantino film.

Whether this is a compliment or a criticism depends, of course, on your opinion of Quentin Tarantino films. If you adore Tarantino's cinematic trademarks -- the sometimes incongruous mix of oddball humor, seemingly endless conversations, horrific violence, and soundtrack music so unlikely that it somehow works perfectly – you will adore Django Unchained.

If you don't adore such things, you probably already know enough to skip Django Unchained in favor of saner and more easily digestible fare such as Lincoln or Les Miserables. Which is just fine; Tarantino is an acquired taste, and even some devout Tarantino fans have yet to fully acquire it. (I love all things Tarantino, except the violence when it exceeds my tolerance for gore and the conversations when they exceed my tolerance for people who don't know when to shut up.)

Django Unchained is arguably Tarantino's most ambitious film, a sprawling, 165-minute (sigh) period piece set in the South in 1858. The story opens as German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), encounters Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who can help Schultz identify his quarry: the Brittle brothers, three fugitive murderers who had brutalized Django in the past. Schultz acquires Django, promising to free him when he and Schultz capture the Brittles.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Andrew Disney's 'Clause'

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The Santa Clause

Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise. 

This installment comes from Andrew Disney, writer/director of Searching for Sonny, the Fort Worth-shot detective-movie spoof that screened at Austin Film Festival in 2011 (Mike's review). Here's his pick:

I started writing with the intention to impress everyone. First I thought Gremlins, but it was already taken. Then I thought Kiss Kiss Bang Bang because I do love films set during Christmas that have little to do with the holiday. But deep down inside I knew it would all be false. There's one Christmas movie I've watched every Christmas Eve since I was nine. Of course, I'm talking about the 1994 hit movie starring Tim Allen ... The Santa Clause (with special emphasis on the "e").

I distinctly remember sitting in the theater listening to my dad try to explain the legal definition of "clause" to me and my younger sister. The entire movie hinges on this pun, and I don't think I quite got it as a kid. As a nine-year-old, where would I ever encounter a "clause"? But now that I'm older and I'm looking back, I love how wonderfully bizarre this movie is.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Stephanie Puts a Little 'Scrooged' Love in Her Heart

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Scrooged
Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.

I've watched Bill Murray in the 1988 classic Scrooged every year since its release. Directed by Richard Donner (known for a few other favorites of mine: The Toy, The Goonies, Ladyhawke and Radio Flyer), Scrooged holds a special place in my heart for many reasons.

For one, the movie has quintessential late 80s New York City charm. I had never visited NYC before moving there from small-town West Texas, and I lived there for 12 years. When I arrived off the turnip truck, the only images I had in my head were from childhood movies and TV shows. Scrooged was one of them, along with Sesame Street, Baby Boom, When Harry Met Sally, Wall Street, etc. It turns out Scrooged was closer to the truth, but in a good way.

Review: This Is 40

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This Is 40

Viagra, flatulence, misbehaving children, troubled businesses, aging parents -- this list could describe late-night infomercial topics, but for our purposes it describes the litany of topics brought to the fore in this winter's charming comedy This Is 40 from filmmaker Judd Apatow.

This Is 40 explores the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), two characters we met in Apatow's 2007 hit comedy Knocked Up. Pete and Debbie are a typical suburban couple with a house, two precocious young daughters, a pair of struggling businesses, difficult relationships with aging parents ... and life clocks striking 12 on that most dreaded age: 40!

The film starts in the bedroom where Pete and Debbie are about to have "relations" when Pete confesses to Debbie his recent ingestion of Viagra. Oops! Debbie has a negative reaction to this and conflict begins. The story then proceeds to take us through the successes and difficulties of the couple's complicated lives. Pete's record company is experiencing difficulties, his father is a drain on family resources and he is afraid of admitting failures to his wife. Debbie is experiencing similar difficulties. One of her business's employees is stealing from her, her relationship with her father is strained at best and worst of all: She is turning 40. The movie is spent dealing with the realities of life, accompanied by some good heartfelt laughs.

Movies This Week: December 21-27, 2012

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A Christmas Story

Like the family members you may be visiting for the holidays, this week's new releases are an odd assortment. Judd Apatow fans can get their comedy fix with This Is 40; Quentin Tarantino fans can get their, uh, Tarantino fix with Django Unchained, perhaps the only Western ever to feature a German dentist. History buffs might check out Hyde Park on Hudson, but are advised to read its tepid reviews first. Also, there is some kind of fancy-pants musical based on an old French novel or something.

Those not interested in the new releases may well stick with DVDs or Netflix; it's not a banner week for special screenings beyond the usual holiday fare. Of course, the usual holiday fare isn't always a bad thing. My favorite Christmas film -- naturally, the snarky A Christmas Story (pictured above) -- screens Friday through Sunday at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. And Elf fans will enjoy quoting along with Buddy and his friends at screenings at the Ritz on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. To stay on good terms with Jette, I must also plug the Alamo Kids' Camp presentations of The Muppet Christmas Carol, showing all week at the Alamo Lake Creek.

Movies We've Seen

Hyde Park on Hudson -- Bill Murray stars as Franklin Roosevelt in this story about FDR's love affair with his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley. The film focuses on a weekend in 1939 when Queen Elizabeth and King George VI visited the Roosevelt home in upstate New York. Elizabeth isn't impressed -- as she says in her review, "On paper, Hyde Park on Hudson seems bursting with promise, but the lazy screenplay, uncomfortable acting, and other factors ruin it." (Arbor)

Review: Hyde Park on Hudson

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Bill Murray, Olivia Colman & Samuel West in Hyde Park on Hudson

It's that time of year when studios put highbrow films in theaters in hopes that these prestige movies will be celebrated and appreciated. I'm sure many expect Bill Murray to be nominated for some award for his role of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson. Certainly this is very likely, but I don't think it would be right or deserved; he's done far better work in previous outings. While Murray attempts to pull off FDR's speech pattern in one scene, I found myself thinking, "It's about time to watch Scrooged!" In other words, this movie is a big disappointment.

I hadn't previously seen Laura Linney in anything in which she wasn't wonderful, but there's a first time for everything, I guess. She awkwardly plays FDR's single cousin five or six times removed, Daisy, who becomes one of his lovers. FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson is a player, see? His wife Eleanor, played unconvincingly by Olivia Williams (tiny Rushmore reunion!), rarely visits the estate, and he's got some other ladies on the side. 

Holiday Favorites 2012: David Gil, 'Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas'

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Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.

This installment comes from David Gil, Marketing Manager for the Violet Crown Cinema:

There are a number of films that I enjoy re-watching when the holiday season rolls around. I never really thought about which ones were my favorite until I was asked to pick one to write about. Immediately I thought of films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, which may top the list though Love Actually (I’m not ashamed to admit it) is gaining momentum with each passing year. Yet, as I sit down to write this, there seems to be one title that I keep going back to: Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas.

Jim Henson adapted the Russell [and Lillian --ed.] Hoban book into a television special the year I was born, which may explain in part my connection to it. The story is about Emmet Otter and his Ma, who, despite having no money, dream of buying each other the perfect Christmas gift. Think O. Henry’s "The Gift of the Magi" but with a twist… and the wonderful music of Paul Williams. This film was a staple on early HBO during the holidays and I would watch it every chance I got because once Christmas was over, I wouldn’t see it again for another year. The sets, the songs, the puppetry were all classic Henson on par with the creativity and originality of the first three Muppet films.

'Killer Joe' DVD Release: The Forbidden Threshold

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Killer Joe Still Photo

Just in time for the holidays, Killer Joe (my review) is available on DVD and Blu-ray this Friday. With its NC-17 rating, however, this dark and often violent Texas-set film written by Tracy Letts and directed by William Friedkin is not family-friendly viewing. Starring Matthew McConaughey in the title role, along with Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church, the movie portrays a dysfunctional family dealing with betrayal and greed.

I participated in a roundtable interview with Thomas Haden Church when Killer Joe was released, and he had some additional comments about the NC-17 rating of Killer Joe, which you can read below.

What are your thoughts on the NC-17 rating for Killer Joe, was it justified?

Thomas Haden Church: I think it is, but certainly you don't go into a room with investors and say, "We're going to make the best damn NC-17 movie ever to hit theaters in America" -- that's a death sentence. Just like you don't go in and say, "We're going to make an amazing black-and-white film." You go in thinking this could be an R, but when you go get the money as they did in early 2010 -- you have the play, you know what's in the play and you know how the play was put up at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, or the Goodman Theatre and then Broadway and the West End of London.

Texas Production Dispatch: December 2012

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Shooting The Bounceback

Welcome to Texas Production Dispatch, a new monthly(ish) column from Ryan Long with updates about various film and TV productions in the Lone Star State, particularly Austin.

What do Nicolas Cage, Jessica Alba, Robert Duvall, Paul Giamatti, Paul Rudd, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender all have in common? They all were (or soon will be) shooting films in Texas. The last few months have seen a flurry of activity, with numerous television shows and feature films shooting across the state, with more great projects on the horizon.

Feature films have been in full swing with some iconic Texas filmmakers shooting their latest movies on their home turf.

  • The suddenly prolific Terrence Malick has assembled an all-star cast for his as-yet-untitled Austin music film starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Don't Feed Aaron Malzahn After Midnight

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Gremlins

By Aaron Malzahn

Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.

They don't make movies like Gremlins anymore. It is one of those rare holiday films that manages to successfully combine the warm, fuzzy holiday feeling of family togetherness with the strange, bizarre and gruesome humor of cheesy horror flicks. It does this so well in fact that most people, just like Die Hard, forget that Gremlins is a Christmas film. But it is, and the first time I ever saw this loveable gem of a movie was wrapped up next to a roaring fire when I was a kid and sipping a big glass of egg nog witnessing a gremlin explode in the microwave. This movie, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have the PG-13 rating.

Produced by Steven Spielberg and his company Amblin entertainment back in 1984 hot off the heels of his blockbuster film ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Gremlins opened on the same day as Ghostbusters, and came in second in the box-office draws. Originally written as a spec script by Chris Columbus, Spielberg bought it when it came across his desk and hired Joe Dante (coming off of a hiatus after The Howling) to direct. It was a critical and commercial hit during its lifetime in the theatre and went on to spawn a sequel and a massive marketing campaign.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Elizabeth and 'Meet Me in St. Louis'

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Margaret O'Brien and Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis

Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.

I wrote about a few of my favorite holiday classics last year, but neglected to include Meet Me in St. Louis! The 1944 film can be paired with 1949's In the Good Old Summertime for a Judy Garland turn-of-the-century Christmas double feature. These are two of my favorite Garland roles, but Meet Me in St. Louis has an edge because it contains her splendid performance of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (as well as "The Trolley Song," yay).

The year is 1903, and the multi-generational Smith family is upper-middle-class, living in their Victorian home and eager for the World's Fair in St. Louis. Esther (a 22-year-old Garland) is in her late teens, pining for her pipe-smoking young neighbor ("The Boy Next Door"). Oldest sister Rose (Lucile Bremer) is a senior in high school, long-distance dating a college man. Brother Lon is about to enter Princeton, and the two youngest daughters Agnes and Tootie (Margaret O'Brien) are in grade school.

Austin Critics Honor 'Bernie' and Matthew McConaughey

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Matthew McConaughey in Bernie

While other media outlets want to let you know which movie the Austin Film Critics Association picked for Best Film, and how many awards other notable movies won, here at Slackerwood we like to lead with  Austin news. So I'm happy to tell you that the AFCA announced its 2012 awards this morning and Bernie, the Richard Linklater dark comedy starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine (not to mention Sonny Carl Davis), won Best Austin Film. Read Don's review and then watch the movie if you haven't already.

In addition, the critics group recognized Austin native Matthew McConaughey with a Special Honorary Award for his excellent acting in four movies this year -- not just Bernie but also Magic Mike, Killer Joe and The Paperboy.

Zero Dark Thirty won Best Film, in case you were wondering, and Paul Thomas Anderson was named Best Director for The Master (Don's review). Zero Dark Thirty won't open in Austin until January, unfortunately, so you'll just have to take our word that it's a very good movie.

The full list of awards plus the Top Ten, which includes one film from a native Texan, is after the jump. (Full disclosure: I am President of AFCA and Debbie Cerda is a member.)

Tim Heidecker and Rick Alverson on 'The Comedy'

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By Kaliska Ross

It’s Thursday night and Theater #2 at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar is filled to the brim with eager moviegoers and a palpable excitement over the special guest, Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, arriving at any moment, for the sneak peak of Rick Alverson’s latest film. While we waited for the lights to dim and the film to begin, clips of Tim and Eric were playing in the theater to set the mood. After a bit, the director Rick Alverson took the stage to briefly introduce his film, The Comedy.

The Comedy is about Swanson, played by Heidecker, a 30-something well-to-do Williamsburg hipster, and his group of friends, grappling with their privileged lives and ultimately trying to make meaning where seemingly none exists. Rick describes the main character as having a creative desire to reclaim language from banality. While a positive goal, Swanson’s methods -- berating those around him and completely ignoring political correctness -- often leave the more open-minded audience member feeling uncomfortable and the easily offended patron possibly even angry.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Katy's One (Golden) Ring

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The Fellowship of the Ring

Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.

Nerd alert: My family has a holiday tradition based around The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Beginning in 2002 with the release of the extended cut of The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD and The Two Towers in theaters, we started a tradition of watching the films back to back. Santa brought us the DVD and Peter Jackson brought us the new release. Perfect synergy.

In 2003, Santa brought us The Two Towers extended edition on DVD and Jackson, The Return of the King. You can see how this tradition progressed. Since 2002, we have managed to watch the trilogy in some form or fashion every Christmas season. Clearly other Americans have this same tradition, since TNT tends to run the films ad nauseam during December.

Slackery News Tidbits, December 17

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Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • Take a trip back in time with the screening of Amos Poe's film Unmade Beds at 7 pm on Wednesday in the Austin Film Society Screening Room. It's 1976, New York City, and "Rico," a photographer, is searching for reality down the barrel of his camera lens to fulfill his innermost fantasies in this No Wave classic, starring Debbie "Blondie" Harry
  • The Austin documentary Trash Dance, which premiered at SXSW 2012 (Mike's review), is up for a Cinema Eye audience award ... and you can vote for it online right now. The film is about choreographer Allison Orr's project to create a "dance" performance based around Austin Department of Solid Waste staff and vehicles. The results will be announced at Cinema Eye's awards ceremony on January 9.
  • The 2013 Sundance Film Festival has added a few more features to its lineup ... including El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez's first feature from 1992. The movie joins a long list of features and shorts with Texas connections screening at the Park City festival next month.
  • Congratulations to Austin Film Festival 2010 Screenplay Finalist Chris Cantwell, whose script Halt & Catch Fire has been ordered by AMC as one of four projects to get the pilot greenlight. The AFF newsletter reports that filming is scheduled to begin next year. The drama unfolds during the personal computer boom of the early 1980s in Texas.

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyNine years have now passed since the last entry in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King, was released. The series was so wildly successful it seemed obvious that J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to the series, The Hobbit, would receive the Jackson treatment, but scheduling and rights issues among many other problems almost put an end to the production repeatedly.

Now here we are with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey -- the first in a trilogy that brings to life the original tale, Tolkien's first book of Middle-earth, not only in 3D but in the new high frame-rate (HFR) 48 frames-per-second presentation.

Though only 5% of movie theaters will be outfitted and presenting in HFR, no review can fail to mention this gimmick. Some people view it as perfectly lifelike. Another camp sees it as the end of cinema. Based on my own experience watching the film, the technology has potential, but it practically will require more practice to perfect the art. Like an artist used to working in oils who suddenly finds himself using Photoshop, new skills are needed, and this feels like an experiment not quite perfected.

I won't go into specifics on the problems I saw with HFR. You can watch in either or both formats and decide for yourself. Unfortunately, there are other problems with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey that can't be solved as simply as choosing which theater to watch it in.

Foremost, the majority of the film suffers from an excess of campiness or silliness. The source novel is more light-hearted in tone than the trilogy, but time and again the line is crossed beyond light-hearted to feeling as if Jackson took a cue from George Lucas' handling of Episode I: The Phantom Menace and made a film for much younger audiences. There are some pacing issues, especially at the beginning, but the tone is the most negative factor.

Movies This Week: December 14 - 20, 2012

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Unmade Beds Still PhotoThe anxiously anticipated prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens today, and moviegoers have a choice of watching in standard 24 frames per second (fps) or 48fps and 3D at a few select theaters in Austin. The Hobbit is the first major studio release shot in 48fps. Supporters claim that the new technology adds sharpness and realism to the film, but I found the projection distracting. Characters with makeup and prosthetics are quite obvious and the movement appears jerky at time. I look forward to seeing the movie again soon at 24fps so I can focus on the epic story itself.

Austin Film Society Essential Cinema presents the 1962 film Only Two Can Play on Tuesday, December 18, 7 pm at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Peter Sellers plays a henpecked Welsh librarian who is propositioned by the wife of a local councillor. I encourage fellow Sellers fans to check out this rare screening. Tickets are $5 for AFS members and students with ID, and $8 for general admission.

AFS also presents a special screening on Wednesday, December 19, 7 pm at the AFS Screening Room of the 1976 film Unmade Beds, starring Deborah Harry and Duncan Hannah (pictured above), described by director Amos Poe as an "European film made in New York City, a reinvention of the nouvelle vague in the context of New York." Poe will be available for a Q&A via Skype. Tickets are $5 for AFS Make and Watch members, free to AFS Love and Premiere members, and $8 general admission.

A Delicious Evening With 'Amelie' and Chef du Cinema

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By Kaliska Ross

Walking into the Central Market Cooking School for a Chef du Cinema class felt like walking into a French café. Well, sort of. There was wine and French bistro music was playing. I guess the similarities end there.

Unlike a French café, the cooking class had bright lights, a televised demonstration table, and an effervescent instructor who was very personable and greeted us when we walked in. You certainly won't find that in a French café. He made small talk while the participants trickled in. I took that time to look over the menu. Tonight we'd be making Artichoke and Tomato Tartlets, Warm French Green Lentil Salad, French Style Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Endives au Gratin, and Maple-Pumpkin Crème Brûlée. Naturally, I was starting to get excited.

Next came a brief introduction of the chef, Ron Deutsch, and his assistants. He then went on to explain the dishes being prepared and how they related to the evening's movie, Amélie. The appetizer (Tartelette d'artichauts et tomates) appeared on the menu because a line in the movie is "At least you'll never be a vegetable -- even artichokes have hearts." The dish was a puff pastry topped with artichoke hearts, sun-dried cherry tomatoes, shallots and melted Gruyère. Let me tell you, those little pastries were good!

Review: In Our Nature

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In Our Nature

What's the nature of In Our Nature? Smart but rather dull, like a sophisticated person who needs better stories to tell.

I had hoped the producers of Meek's Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy -- two of my favorite quiet little movies -- would deliver another entertaining and keenly observant film with In Our Nature. But while Vincent Savino and Anish Savjani's new film says some compelling things about human relationships, it suffers from a plodding pace and only mildly interesting narrative.

In Our Nature is set entirely in an upstate New York weekend home, where young Brooklynites Seth (Zach Gilford) and Andie (Jena Malone) hope to spend a romantic weekend. Shortly after they arrive, Seth's long-estranged father, Gil (John Slattery), who owns the house, shows up unexpectedly with his much-younger girlfriend, Vicky (Gabrielle Union). Tempers flare immediately, as Seth and Gil blame each other for the scheduling mix-up.

Win Tickets to See 'In Our Nature' Next Week

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In Our Nature posterThe indie drama In Our Nature, which premiered at SXSW in March, returns to Austin on Friday for a theatrical run. The movie stars Jena Malone, Gabrielle Union, Zach Gilford and John Slattery.

Look for Don's review this afternoon -- among other things, he's says it's "an astute film with much to say about family dynamics." It's about a father and son spending a weekend with their respective partners at a vacation home in upstate New York.

We have two pairs of tickets to give away to see In Our Nature at Regal Arbor 8. You can use these tickets to attend any screening of the movie at the Arbor from Monday 12/17 through Thursday 12/20. Tickets must be redeemed at the box office and seating is subject to availability.

If you can't wait for Monday and want to see the movie this weekend, I recommend going to the 7:30 pm screenings on Friday and Saturday night at the Arbor. In Our Nature writer/director Brian Savelson and producer Anish Savjani will hold post-film Q&As at those screenings. Savjani is a former Austinite who has produced locally connected indies such as The Taiwan Oyster, Mars, Harmony and Me, I'll Come Running and You Hurt My Feelings -- not to mention Meek's Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy.

Now, here's how to win one of these pairs of tickets. Tell us in the comments about a parent/child movie you particularly like. Make sure you include your email address, which only I will see, and will use only to contact the winners. Post your comment by 11:59 pm today (Thursday, Dec. 13). I'll pick two people at random who will each win an admit-two pass, which will be available for you at the Arbor box office. Best of luck!

Ready, Set, Fund: Winter Heroes

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Chosin ArtworkReady, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.

Winter has finally arrived in Austin and with the holiday season upon us, it's easy to get wrapped up in the hectic shopping and festivities. It's also a great time to give back to community and to reflect on sacrifices made by others during winters past.

One major event that took place this time of year and is often forgotten is the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, an epic and decisive battle of the Korean War that took place between November 27 and December 13, 1950. In a freezing winter, thousands of United Nations troops -- "The Chosin Few" -- including U.S. Marines were outnumbered and trapped by Chinese forces in the mountains of North Korea. Despite the odds, the Marines refused to surrender and fought their way 78 miles to the sea and rescued 98,000 civilians. Seventeen Medals of Honor, 73 Navy Crosses, and 23 Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded, making Chosin one of the most decorated battles in American history.

Brian Iglesias and Anton Sattler produced and released an award-winning documentary film titled Chosin that has screened across the US and South Korea -- and is now available on EPIX, Netflix, Amazon Video, DVD, and iTunes. The team is currently funding CHOSIN: An Animated War Film through Tuesday, December 25, on Kickstarter, co-directed by Austinite Richard Meyer with animation by local artist Stephanie Hogue.

Lone Star Cinema: North Dallas Forty

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North Dallas Forty

Better football through chemistry.

This four-word quote from North Dallas Forty says nearly all you need to know about the film. Uttered by aging, battered wide receiver Phil Elliott (Nick Nolte) as he receives a numbing injection in his knee -- thus allowing him to limp through another game -- it's one of many cynical quotes in an entirely cynical movie.

The cynicism about professional football is well deserved, at least if you believe novelist Peter Gent's take on his years as a Dallas Cowboy in the 1960s. Gent was none too charitable toward the Cowboys in his 1973 novel North Dallas Forty, on which the film is based. (Gent also co-wrote the script.) He tells a sordid tale of professional football's win-at-all-costs mentality, with greedy team owners and victory-obsessed coaches doping up players so they can play with crippling injuries. It's also a tale of brutish machismo; the players live in a testosterone-fueled, disgustingly misogynistic world where the biggest and meanest among them make the rules.

Unsurprisingly, most Cowboy fans -- ever a blindly faithful lot -- considered Gent's novel nothing short of blasphemous. The NFL was no less outraged, condemning the story as grossly exaggerated and dismissing it as little more than an act of revenge by a disgruntled former player. (If Peter Gent wanted to be a pariah, he succeeded.) Released in 1979, the film version of North Dallas Forty fanned the flames of outrage once again, despite being a somewhat sanitized and more comic version of the original story.

Buy Tickets Today to See 'Qwerty' in Austin

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Qwerty poster

Updated: The Tugg screening of Qwerty met its initial ticket goal, so the screening will indeed take place. Plenty of tickets are still available!

I tend to avoid big Hollywood romantic comedies these days -- too formulaic, too mean-spirited, too dumb. (And let's not get started on the sexism.) I get my romantic-comedy fix from film festivals, because the indie films in this genre are often witty and smart and fun to watch, with well-written characters.

So it was with Qwerty, which I caught at Dallas International Film Festival this year. After the jump, you can read what I had to say about the film back then.

Qwerty is finally getting an Austin screening -- but it's via Tugg, so a specific number of tickets must be sold in advance for the screening to take place. Right now, they've got to sell about 30 tickets before 7:30 pm today (December 11). If enough tickets are sold, the screening will happen next Tuesday, December 18, at 7:30 pm at Barton Creek. Director Bill Sebastian and lead actress Dana Pupkin will be at the screening for a post-film Q&A.

So read my comments below and I hope they will persuade you to buy a ticket right now. If you like a good quirky romantic comedy that isn't formulaic or patronizing or full of poop and vomit jokes, you won't want to miss Qwerty.

"Klingon!"

The second I heard that from the main character in Qwerty, I knew I was going to like this movie. Or at least I hoped so. Zoe (Dana Pupkin) is just the kind of nerdy woman I would identify with -- fairly ordinary looking, solitary, somewhat shy, and in love with the written word. Her day job is at the DMV, making sure vanity license plate requests aren't dirty. She's a huge Scrabble fan who doesn't have the nerve to play with other people, she doesn't fit in with her family. While shopping one day, she meets cute (I can't resist) with Marty (Eric Hailey), another shy and solitary type, but somewhat more lonely and melancholy. 

Holiday Favorites 2012: Chale and the Noir Side of 'Scrooge'

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Alistair Sim in A Christmas Carol

Christmas was the most wonderful holiday for my mother. Not for religious reasons, since she adamantly avoided organized religions, but for the opportunity to decorate the house. Her specialty was "the village," covering two long tables with a wintry scene of miniature buildings, people, animals, ponds and my small train set. Some of our most joyful moments were spent setting up this miniature idealized community.

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was also part of that season's celebration, first with my mother reading it aloud over several nights and later by listening to a radio version (Lionel Barrymore's). Having spent six of her teenage years in a Texas State orphanage in the 1920s, my mother loved and understood Dickens in ways I could not yet fathom. When the British film production of A Christmas Carol arrived in Dallas in December 1951, my parents took my niece and me to see it. I honestly can't remember my initial reaction, but I have thoroughly enjoyed repeated viewings over the intervening 60 years. Putting nostalgia aside and ignoring the awkward special effects of the time, I still consider it a remarkable film.

One might have expected David Lean, the master of Dickens adaptations, to have brought A Christmas Carol to the screen. With Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), Lean had revealed an eye for the grimmer aspects of Dickens' view of industrial Britain. Perhaps the Christmas story wasn't really big enough for Lean's imagination. Instead, a less sparkling director, Brian Desmond Hurst, received a contract with Renown Pictures Corporation to turn Noel Langley's screenplay of A Christmas Carol into Scrooge.

Slackery News Tidbits, December 10

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Here's the latest in Austin and Texas film news.

  • Former Austinite Elizabeth Mims' film Only the Young made the National Board of Review's Top 5 Documentaries, IndieWire reports. Austinite Richard Linklater's Bernie and Texas native Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom were on  the group's Top 10 Independent Films.
  • In distribution news, Tribeca Films has acquired the North American rights to sometimes-Austinite actor/filmmaker Alex Karpovsky's films Rubberneck and Red Flag, with plans to release both in select theatrical and VOD platforms this February.
  • Following the success of Boneboys, Texas filmmakers Duane Graves and Justin Meeks are back in the saddle again with a dark Western, Red on Yella, Kill a Fella, according to The Austin Chronicle. Joe O'Connell visited and took photos on the film's set. The six-week shoot took place at various locations in Texas, including the Northeast Austin living history site Pioneer Farms. Inspired by true events, the film follows an outlaw gang in 1900 who travel from western Texas to the Gulf of Mexico in search of lost treasure. But the adventure is cut short when something mysterious starts killing the men one by one.
  • Congrats to former Austinite and DFW-area resident, David Lowery, who has been named one of Variety's 10 Directors to Watch, the entertainment-trade magazine reports. Lowery's latest feature film, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, will screen in the dramatic competition at next month's Sundance Film Festival. You can watch his previous feature, St. Nick, for free online until December 13.

Movies This Week: December 7 - 13, 2012

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Hitchcock still photoThe opening of Hitchcock today is not only renewing interest in but also introducing unfamiliar viewers to the groundbreaking 1960 horror film Psycho. In honor of Sacha Gervasi's dramatization of the life, love and challenges of Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma during the making of Psycho, Violet Crown Cinema presents a special one-week engagement of the classic suspense movie in a newly released digital cinema print. In addition, Violet Crown will offer a special lunch and movie combo for just $15 during the noon shows Monday through Thursday. 

Flix Brewhouse celebrates the winter holidays with their Holiday Film Series, featuring favorite movies paired with special menus of holiday drinks and desserts. A dollar from every $5 ticket purchased will be donated to the Round Rock Operation Blue Santa Program. Screenings are at 7:20 pm as follows: It's A Wonderful Life on Sunday; Christmas Vacation on Monday; and Gremlins on Tuesday.

If you're really in the festive mood, catch the Alamo Drafthouse Action Pack Xmas Pops Sing-Along at Alamo Drafthouse Village and Slaughter Lane tonight. The evening includes videoke with old favorites and new videos as well as trivia -- don't forget your dancing shoes. Tickets are sold out for the Thursday, December 13 event at the Alamo Ritz, but you can still buy tickets for other upcoming dates so don't delay!

Movies We've Seen

A Royal Affair -- This period piece is not the typical drama of a love affair between two people from different classes -- young queen Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander) and the royal physician Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) -- but also an intriguing history lesson into the pair's pivotal roles in introducing Denmark to the Age of Enlightenment. Abundant with brilliant performances especially by Mikkelsen and Danish actor Mikkel Boe Folsgaard as the mad King Christian VII, this tightly executed film is my personal favorite foreign film of 2012 and rightly Denmark's official submission for the Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards. (Regal Arbor)

Hitchcock -- Centered around the making of Psycho, this biopic sheds the spotlight not only on the master of suspense himself but also Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) uncredited formidable partner and wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren).  A refreshing and intimate portrayal strengthened by the genuine performances of Hopkins and Mirren. Rod states in his review, "In all honesty, seeing how Psycho's shower scene was shot is worth the prices of admission alone." (Arbor, Violet Crown)

Review: Hitchcock

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Hitchcock

One of the greatest horror films of all time is Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Just a few short months ago I hadn't seen this classic movie. I wrote up my experience watching it for Horror's Not Dead: Sins of Omission: Psycho. Little did I know then that a biopic was being filmed that would document the process of making this classic film. The biopic is called Hitchcock, and it opens in Austin theaters today.

Possessing a great cast and strong story, Hitchcock tells the story of Alfred Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville and the difficulty they experienced bringing Psycho to the big screen. While still under contract to Paramount Studios, one of Hitchcock's assistants brings a book to the director's attention: Robert Bloch's Psycho. Psycho is a fictional story based loosely on the life of the infamous serial killer Ed Gein. Soon after reading the book, Hitchcock decides it will be the foundation for his next film. When Paramount refuses to finance the film, Hitchcock decides to produce the film himself. After the director mortgages his house, production begins. The remainder of the movie is spent with Hitchcock as he's producing, casting, shooting and ultimately promoting his horror masterpiece.

The performances delivered by the film's lead actors are remarkable. Anthony Hopkins delivers a perfect representation of one of the world's greatest and most well known directors. Accompanying Hopkins on his journey are Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson. Mirren plays Hitchcock's wife and uncredited film making partner Alma Reville, and Scarlett Johansson plays Psycho's lead actress Janet Leigh. Both of these actresses deliver amicable performances in their respective roles.

Interview: Sacha Gervasi, 'Hitchcock'

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Sacha Gervasi on IMDbI recently had the pleasure of interviewing director Sacha Gervasi, who was in Austin promoting his new film Hitchcock, based on Stephen Rebello's book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. The movie provides an intimate look behind the scenes of Psycho, where the greatest influence was not from a Hollywood blonde but the formidable woman in Hitchcock's life -- his wife, Alma Reville. The film opens in Austin on Friday.

Gervasi -- seen above at a post-interview lunch -- chatted with me about Hitchcock's influences and the challenges he faced during the making of Psycho, as well as Gervasi's own method of portraying such an iconic subject.

Slackerwood: Your film Hitchcock demonstrates an intimacy that audiences normally wouldn't associate with Alfred Hitchcock.

Sacha Gervasi: I think it's interesting for audiences seeing his films -- clearly we are very intimate with his psychological neuroses, but we aren't necessarily intimate with the man himself. My perspective on it was that over the years, Hitchcock has been maligned at times. He's been painted as either a creative genius on one level, or some sort of monster who is unspeakably cruel to his actors and actresses. I think that's probably true at different times and we have that in our film.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Tim League, 'The Silent Partner'

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Elliot Gould in The Silent Partner

Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.

Tim League, the founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse, tells us today about his movie choice for holiday-time, the 1978 thriller The Silent Partner (for which Curtis Hanson wrote the screenplay!):

I'm actually quite fond of quite a few Christmas classics: Silent Night Deadly Night, Black Christmas, The Magic Christmas Tree, Santa Clause Vs. Satan, etc. My favorite, though, is a movie I was introduced to via Alamo programmer Lars Nilsen: the Canuxploitation classic The Silent Partner.

I went to a Weird Wednesday screening of this years ago with no knowledge of the film and no expectations. The film popped right away with tight storytelling, complicated twists and turns, well-fleshed-out characters, a really black humor and a demonic, intense performance by the normally normal Christopher Plummer. He portrays a sadistic, misogynistic unstoppable force, a villain dressed sometimes as Santa Claus, sometimes in very smart business-casual drag.

Lone Star Films Will Shine at Sundance in 2013

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Before Midnight Still PhotoThe Sundance Film Festival has announced most of its 2013 film program, which includes a pleasantly surprising number of films from the Lone Star State. Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater will premiere Before Midnight, the sequel to Before Sunset (2004) and Before Sunrise (1995), with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (pictured above) reprising their roles as their characters cross paths again. Local company Stuck On On was involved in the movie's post-production.

Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols' new film Mud, starring sometimes-Austinite Matthew McConaughey, native Texan Joe Don Baker and Reese Witherspoon will have its North American premiere at the Utah festival, having wowed audiences and critics alike at Cannes earlier this year. Young actor Tye Sheridan (Tree of Life) from Elkhart, Texas, stars as one of the young boys who befriends McConaughey's title character. As with Take Shelter, Nichols utilized Stuck On On for sound post-production and Austin composer David Wingo for Mud.

Writer/director Andrew Bujalski's locally shot movie Computer Chess features man versus machine during a chess tournament in the 80s. To create a more authentic look, Bujalski located old computers through local hobbyists as well as Austin's Goodwill Computer Works Museum, which features more than 100 working vintage computer systems. The cast includes Wiley Wiggins.

Dallas filmmaker Yen Tan's Pit Stop, shot in Austin, features local actors John Merriman, Heather Kafka and Jonny Mars as well as native Texan Amy Seimetz (Tiny Furniture, Sun Don't Shine). David Lowery co-scripted; he first worked with Yen Tan on the 2005 dramatic anthology Deadroom, which Lowery edited and both he and Tan produced and directed. As you'll learn below, this is not the only Sundance 2013 film in which Lowery is involved. Nor is it the only Sundance film involving Mars and producer Kelly Williams.

Join Us at the Make Watch Love Austin Party!

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Make Watch Love Austin party graphic

Attention Austin film-lovers and filmmakers! An event is taking place this Saturday evening with you in mind. Austin Film Society is hosting their Make Watch Love Austin party, offering an opportunity for community members to mingle with other movie-loving folks (including some AFS board members) at Austin Studios. 

You can network (if you want); KingsIsle Entertainment will have representatives there accepting resumes for open creative positions.  SAG-AFTRA will have handy information available about filming in Central Texas. AFS board members will be there for you to meet and chat with. If you'd rather just party, there will be video games to play, food and drink to buy and enjoy, and a chance for you to enter to win some nifty prizes! You'll also be able to see more of AFS's plans for expansion into the former National Guard Armory.

Make Watch Love Austin kicks off at 5 pm Saturday at Austin Studios (Stage 7). Tickets are free for AFS members, but it's $10 for anyone else.

You can read more about the event on the AFS website.

Paramount Has Naughty and Nice Movies This December

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Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen in White Christmas

To celebrate the 2012 holiday season, Austin's Paramount Theatre will be showing four movies this month. These include three of our Holiday Favorites past! (But not new Paramount programmer Stephen Jannise's Holiday Favorite, sadly for him at least.)

On the naughty list are dark comedy Bad Santa and 1980's-era classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, playing Sunday, Dec. 9 and Monday, Dec. 10. Agnes Varnum chose Bad Santa as her holiday favorite last year, saying "If you ever feel like commercialism and sentimentality have overtaken the holiday, Bad Santa is the cure."  Local filmmaker David Hartstein wrote about Christmas Vacation; he loves how the film "manages to pull off the near impossible feat of maintaining traditional Christmas movie sentimentality while skewering it at the same time." 

Win Tickets to See Glenn Close at the Paramount

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Glenn Close in The Stepford Wives

I love watching movies at The Paramount -- the ambience and responsive audiences more than make up for the, er, austere theater seats. I still remember the fun of watching Office Space there. But the theater also hosts a number of film-related events throughout the year. Earlier this year, Spike Lee showed up to screen Summer of Sam. Next year's performances include one-person shows from William Shatner and Oliver Stone.

And on Thursday night (Dec. 6), the Paramount is bringing us "An Evening with Glenn Close," in which the actress will tell stories about her life and career. Looking at Glenn Close's filmography, it can't help but be fascinating. And if you haven't bought tickets yet, Slackerwood has a pair of tickets to give away!

I'll make this super-easy: Simply post a comment below mentioning your favorite Glenn Close movie role: Dangerous Liaisons, 101 Dalmatians, Hook ... whatever you like best. (Mine may be the photo at the top, from a film I consider underrated.) Make sure you include your email address, which only I will see, and will use only to contact the winner. Post your comment by 11:59 pm today (Tuesday, Dec. 4). I'll pick one person at random to win a pair of tickets, which will be available for you at the box office.

Best of the Fests: Oslo, 31 August

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Anders Danielsen Lie in Oslo, 31 August

Oslo, 31 August (titled Oslo, August 31st for American audiences) premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where the drama scored many accolades. The Austin Film Society is hosting the movie's first big-screen outing in our town on Wednesday, December 5 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village [tickets].

Spoken memories and reminiscences begin the Norwegian film, as scenes of Oslo past and present flicker on the screen. Then Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) wakes up and begins his day -- the 24-hour-period in his life which Oslo, 31 August encapsulates. Anders is currently in rehab with two more weeks to go. He is given an evening pass to go to town for a job interview and plans to meet up with his sister afterwards.

Anders Danielsen Lie's multilayered performance is the true base of Oslo, 31 August. His character is deeply troubled and abashed; he tends to keep a stoic facade, but emotion cracks through. He persistently leaves voicemail messages for his ex-girlfriend Iselin (whom we never see), which vary in tone as his story plays on. He knows he has failed his parents, and yet is dismayed when his sister lets him down. Even though the ending seems nigh inevitable, Lie still had me holding out hope for Anders. I became so attached to the protagonist through my watching that I sighed with disappointment when he started searching through coat pockets at a party for money to spend on drugs.

Slackery News Tidbits, December 3

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Here's the latest in Austin and Texas film news. 

Review: Anna Karenina

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Anna Karenina

My high-school class once spent an afternoon watching the 1956 movie War and Peace, and we susceptible sophomores fell hard for the Hollywood-ized love story with Audrey Hepburn, swoony Mel Ferrer and Henry Fonda (despite that flat drawl of "Nataaaahsha," all I can remember about the film now). I decided it would be fun to read Leo Tolstoy's novel (I was also show-offy, but never mind). I found out quickly that the story we adored in the movie was only a small, stripped-down part of a far more complicated novel, which included more of the war and much less of the romance. Plus, everyone had 10 names. The epilogues in particular were quite disappointing. At age 15, I preferred Hollywood over epic Russian literature.

The latest lavish adaptation of Anna Karenina, like that version of War and Peace, focuses is on love and romance and passion, although at least this time the accents are harmonious and the tragic ending remains. The tagline is "You can't ask why about love" and some press materials I received call it "A bold new vision of Tolstoy's epic of love." I'm not sure how Tolstoy would feel about the implication that Love Is All, but if he were going to turn over in his grave he would have done so decades ago. Besides, how many people watching this movie have actually read the novel? (I haven't.) I'd believe that filmmaker Joe Wright would focus on the romantic aspects, judging by his 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation, but the script is written by Tom Stoppard, who I hoped would be more subtle.

Anna Karenina is about a woman who falls prey to True Love and decides to follow it no matter what happens to her or anyone else, and then realizes that the price she is paying is pretty damn harsh. Kiera Knightley plays the title character, who not only cheats on her dull, older husband (Jude Law) with the dashing and passionate Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) but violates social mores by being public about it. If they'd only just hidden their affair, things might have been fine, but their love is just too passionate and amazing and strong to be kept hidden, especially by Anna.