March 2014

Slackery News Tidbits: March 31, 2014

in

Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • Gravitas Ventures announced that it has acquired native Texan writer-director Matt Muir's Austin-lensed movie Thank You a Lot, which premiered at this year's SXSW. The sale includes North American VOD rights. The company plans to release the drama, about a struggling manager whose job is threatened if he doesn't sign his dad and reclusive Texas country music singer, in June on cable and digital platforms. The filmmakers are planning a summer tour of screenings and music concerts in which musicians that star in the movie will play. 
  • In more acquisition news, Netflix has acquired the rights to this year's SXSW recipient of the Special Jury Recognition Award for Editing and Storytelling, Print the Legend, The Wrap reports. The feature documentary goes behind-the-scenes of the top American 3D printing brands as they fight for dominance in the field. 
  • SXSW acquisition news continues: Magnet Releasing, the genre arm of Magnolia Pictures, has acquired the world rights to Honeymoon, which premiered at the fest this year, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The thriller follows a young newlywed couple during their visit to a remote cabin in the woods for their honeymoon. Magnet will release the movie later this year, following its screening at next month's Tribeca Film Festival. 

Movies This Week: March 28-April 3, 2014

in

 Nymphomaniac

The Austin Film Society will begin a series this weekend spotlighting the best in New Romanian Cinema with Child's Pose, which won the Golden Bear for best film at last year's Berlin Film Festival. The film stars Luminita Gheorghiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) and plays tonight and again Sunday afternoon at the Marchesa.

Meanwhile, Richard Linklater's incredible Jewels In The Wasteland series continues this week with Godard's Every Man For Himself on Wednesday night. Linklater will introduce the film and lead an audience discussion after the screening.

On Monday night, Tiger Tail In Blue is screening at the Marchesa thanks to AFS. Local filmmaker Andrew Bujalski will moderate a post-film Skype Q&A with director and lead actor Frank Ross. The indie film was nominated for a Gotham Award for "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" and we're lucky to have a theater to bring movies like this to town. 

The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is launching their new Complete Marx Brothers retrospective this weekend with 1929's The Cocoanuts. They'll be doing this every Saturday afternoon for the next few months! They'll also be paying tribute to the late Mike Vraney of Something Weird Video on Saturday with That's Sexploitation! and a marathon of rare 35mm titles they're dubbing The Weird World Of Weird. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Lung Cancer Alliance in Mike's name.

Austin Jewish Film Festival 2014 Starts Tomorrow

in

AJFF logoThe 12th annual Austin Jewish Film Festival will run from Saturday, March 29 (tomorrow!) through Friday, April 4 at Regal Arbor, with a great lineup of feature narratives, documentaries, and shorts. Some of the films will be followed by Skype interviews with the filmmakers. Many of the movies are free to the public.

Austin Film Society and Cine Las Americas will be co-sponsoring a chilling fictional film about the infamous Dr Josef Mengele, the Nazi "doctor" who conducted non-Hippocratic experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz before fleeing to undeserved survival in South America at war's end.

For the narrative film The German Doctor (Argentina, 2013), writer-director Lucía Puenzo adapted her own novel about an Argentinean family running a hotel in remote Patagonia. They innocently welcome a German doctor as a guest and only become concerned when they detect his inordinate interest in their young daughter. There will be a Skype-facilitated Q&A with Lucía Puenzo following the film.

Review: Nymphomaniac: Vol. I

in

NymphomaniacPoster

Lars Von Trier's sexually explicit epic has been edited into two different versions. There is a 4-hour "international" version (which is what Magnolia is currently releasing here in the U.S.), split into two halves for distribution around the world. A 5.5-hour "hardcore" version contains even more exposition and explicit footage. While it's hard to imagine that the hardcore version would ever see the light of day in America, Magnolia has stated that they'll eventually release it domestically, although that may be exclusive to home video.

Despite its occasionally explicit nature, anybody who is familiar with Von Trier's work will not be surprised to know that the film is not at all sexy. If Nymphomaniac had been submitted for a rating, the movie would certainly have earned an NC-17, but I suspect that if two or three brief shots of penetration and/or oral sex had been removed that it could have earned an R. I was not shocked in the least, even when I occasionally felt that I was being prodded to be shocked. 

For most audiences, even the 4-hour version will push boundaries too far, but perhaps it is a little more palatable when the story is split up into two installments. Both sections are available to rent on VOD now, but if you want to see what the fuss is all about on the big screen, Nymphomaniac: Vol. I is hitting Austin this weekend. It's difficult to asses Von Trier's work when you've only seen half of it, but Volume I is well acted and highly compelling.

Review: Teenage

in

still from Teenage

Filmmaker Matt Wolf's Teenage, a glossy video collage about the growth of youth culture in the early to mid-20th century, is inspired by author Jon Savage's Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture, 1875-1945.  Austin Film Society hosted a screening of the film (with Wolf in attendance) last August, but Teenage returns to Austin this weekend for a theatrical run.

Opening in 1904, scenes of children at factories are shown as narrators explain how child-labor laws led to further schooling for kids. Jena Malone (Contact, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and Ben Whishaw (Bright Star, Skyfall) are two of the four voices who speak from a specific point of view.

Amid the vintage photos and footage are live-action sequences -- with color adjustments and added graininess to blend in with the older stock -- used to illustrate singular stories representing significant movements. These silent scenes, scored with ambient music and narrated by the four speakers, make Teenage appear less revolutionary and more like something you might find on PBS's American Experience. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but it’s not as original a project as the movie wants to be.

SXSW 2014: A Different Kind of 'Two Step'

in

 

Austin was filmmaker Alex R. Johnson's "something better" from the hustle and bustle of New York City life. Johnson had searched for a city that wouldn't necessarily compete with his memories of the Big Apple, but for a community of like-minded individuals that weren't worried about their role on Law & Order. His dear pal and composer Andrew Kenny, aka Kenny, also made the move with his wife last year after an extended SXSW trip. The house that Kenny and his wife bought became the fictional home of a character in his and Johnson's latest movie Two Step (Don's review).

"I didn't really know what I was getting myself into," Kenny said.

That may have been an understatement. Once a truck and generator showed up at the Kenny home, they knew they were in for surprises. Memories of the ten-day shoot at their house continue to show up in the form of fake blood droplets.

"Still finding blood but no damage," Kenny said. "There's a little bit by the front door... it's gonna stay there." To Kenny's wife, it's kind of like Christmas, finding needles from the tree months later, Johnson said. 

SXSW Interview: Nacho Vigalondo, Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey, 'Open Windows'

Working a film festival, selfies and internet privacy. These were just a few things that writer/director Nacho Vigalondo and actors Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey chatted about regarding their latest film, Open Windows, shot partially in Austin. 

The movie premiered at SXSW (my review), and I was beyond eager to hear firsthand what went into the making of this film. Check out what they had to say about what drew them to the idea, as well as the technological hurdles they had to overcome.

Slackerwood: Congratulations on the premiere of your film here at SXSW. How does it feel to bring it back to Austin?

Nacho Vigalondo: It's amazing, but I prefer to come here [to this festival and others] without a movie because I enjoy movies -- I love watching them. I love other people's movies more than mine. I enjoy making my films, but I don't enjoy watching my own films. I hate to be a critic to myself.

Upcoming Movies and Special Events from Austin Film Festival

in

aff logoChange is in the air at Austin Film Festival: They recently announced a few major updates to the film and conference staff structure and have also revealed a year-round programming slate packed with special events.

First, former Conference Director and Film Programmer Erin Hallagan has been named Creative Director of the newly-combined Conference and Film departments. Austin Film Festival (AFF) Co-Founder and Executive Director Barbara Morgan describes Hallagan as "an inspired programmer and leader" and calls her promotion "the natural next step."

Also taking on new roles are Elizabeth Mims and Harrison Glaser, both previous festival employees, as well. Mims was a Young Filmmakers Program Director at AFF and also directed Only the Young, a documentary selected to screen during AFF in 2012 (here's Elizabeth's interview with the Austin-based filmmaker). Mims will now act as a Senior Programmer for the festival. Glaser, who served as a Conference Assistant for the last two years, has been named the new Film Program Coordinator. 

The official festival doesn’t happen until October, but several AFF-hosted screenings and panels take place between now and then. Highlights include the On Story conversation series and an ongoing partnership with the Los Angeles-based Writers Guild Foundation

SXSW Review: Road to Austin

in

Road to AustinAustin is called the "Live Music Capital of the World," and a very large influence on it was singer/songwriter Stephen Bruton. In 2007, only a week after completing his treatment for throat cancer and in his final appearance on stage, Bruton led his band through a four-hour, 38-song "Road to Austin" performance in front of 20,000 fans. Director Gary Fortin covers the concert and history of the Austin music scene from 1835 to today in Road to Austin, which premiered at SXSW 2014.

Beginning with Kris Kristofferson and John Paul DeJoria relating their experiences, Fortin weaves photos and film footage from the earliest days of Austin into a vivid tapestry. Artists recount tales of legendary venues, some now gone, including Threadgill's, Antone's, the Armadillo World Headquarters, Broken Spoke, Continental Club and Saxon Pub.

Road to Austin explores how the city became, like a microcosm of the United States, a musical melting pot where country, blues, Latino and psychedelic influences combined and grew, creating a unique scene and a strong community.

The interviews and history serve as an introduction to footage from the concert itself, where Bruton takes the stage with his band and a host of 60 star performers. The festival cut of the film includes eight songs emceed by Turk Pipkin. Blues, country, even an operatic performance by Cara Johnston are represented, but the peak of the concert has to be Malford Milligan's performance. When Milligan sings Bruton's "Bigger Wheel," you can't help jumping and dancing along. The energy is infectious and powerful.

The full concert includes artists Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Joe Ely, Eric Johnson, David Grissom, Bob Schneider, Carolyn Wonderland, Raul Salinas, Bobby Whitlock & CoCo Carmel, Lisa Hayes, Joel Guzman & Sarah Fox, Ian Mclagan, James Hand, Ruthie Foster, and the Tosca String Quartet.

SXSW 2014: Connecting With Local and Indie Music Through Film

in

James Hand and Blake DeLong of 'Thank You A Lot'I've often encountered a false assumption that all Austinites are familiar with every musical artist and band in the self-proclaimed "Live Music Capital of the World." Despite decades of involvement in the local music scene as a college radio station DJ, band manager and "merch girl," I probably only know one-tenth of who's playing the clubs nowadays. Therefore I welcome any films that feature local or unknown musical artists.

Music documentaries really stood out at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, but this year it was the movies that focus on fictionalized characters in the music industry that I enjoyed the most. Not only did I like the narrative aspect of these films, but also the introduction to some wonderful music that I'd not been familiar with prior to my movie-watching experience.

My SXSW film experience began appropriately on opening night with Matt Muir's Thank You A Lot, a project that we've been following since my set visit in the summer of 2012.

Photo Essay: 2014 Texas Film Awards

in

Robert Rodriguez with From Dusk Till Dawn alum on the Texas Film Awards Red Carpet, , by Rick Kern, on Flickr

The red carpet at the Texas Film Awards featured stars from near and far, but the spotlight was mostly on local filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and his cast and crew of El Rey's From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. Iconic supernatural crime movie From Dusk Till Dawn, which originated it all, was awarded the prestigious Star of Texas award. The award was accepted by Rodriguez as well as by Fred Williamson, Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero and Danny Trejo (pictured above).

This year's event was hosted by master of ceremonies Luke Wilson and honored several Texas-related film industry professionals. Country music icon Mac Davis received the Soundtrack Award, presented by Priscilla Presley. SXSW co-founder and senior director Louis Black received a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater and Variety Executive Editor Steven Gaydos. Other honorees included former Austinite Amber Heard with a Rising Star Award and filmmaker David Gordon Green, whose award was presented by Danny McBride.

Following the awards ceremony, attendees enjoyed The Texas Party with great food and libations, as well as the Lady Luck lottery and a live auction of film-related items and local services. According to the Austin Film Society, "$580,000 was raised for programs that support filmmakers, promote film culture and build a renowned film community." These programs include the AFS Grants, community education and artist services.

SXSW Review: Cumbres

in

Ivanna Michel and Aglae Lingow in Cumbres

In the later days of SXSW 2014, I caught the movie Cumbres (English translation: Heights), which made its US premiere at the fest. A quiet film from Mexican writer/director Gabriel Nuncio, Cumbres slowly lets the audience into the world of Miwi (Aglae Lingow) and Juliana (Ivanna Michel). Their parents send the sisters on the road after something horrific happens involving older sister Juliana. We are shown a scar on her arm and told of bloody clothes in the sink. Just like the audience, Miwi is kept in the dark about the true extent of her sibling's troubles. Before they depart, Miwi's father reminds her to keep her thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel as she drives. 

The sisters forge their way to Queretaro, where they've been told a family friend will help them. On the way, they pick up and drop off friend Danny, aka aspiring rapper Danisaurio (Abdul Marcos). Most of the movie is time spent between the two young women as they converse during this road trip. The relationship between the girls is so convincing that during one scene, I wondered if the actresses actually were related. 

Slackery News Tidbits: March 24, 2014

in

Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • The historic Dobie Theatre, located in the Dobie Center mall off the University of Texas campus, is scheduled to reopen after renovations as a first-run movie house by the end of this year, Austin Business Journal reports. The four-screen theater closed in 2010 and was the original home for Austin Film Society screenings.
  • A production company behind last year's Austin-shot, action-comedy Machete Kills filed a request with Travis County District Judge Scott Jenkins for an injunction against the current rules regarding applications for the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, according to The Austin Chronicle. Machete Productions argues that the movie met all reasonable criteria for the fund, and that it should be eligible for a reimbursement from the state for the $10 million in qualified spending. The company's attorney says its application was denied because of "inappropriate content." A hearing date has not yet been set.
  • Machete Kills co-writer/director Robert Rodriguez commented on the lawsuit, posted on Austin Movie Blog. Rodriguez says he is in no way affiliated with Machete Productions and that this financier was made well aware that Machete Kills would not qualify for a production incentive. He goes on to say that he will not be cooperating with the company, does not approve of the lawsuit and stands with Texas. 
  • In festival news, the Hill Country Film Festival recently announced three of its official selections: Austin filmmaker Andrew Disney's comedy Intramural, which makes its world premiere during Tribeca Film Festival next month; the SXSW 2014 world premiere Before I Disappear (Don's review), chronicling a day-in-the-life of a suicidal New Yorker forced to babysit his precocious niece; and the documentary Lord Montagu, co-scripted by Bradley Jackson, who also produced Intramural. The Fredericksburg festival, which takes place April 30-May 4, will announce the remainder of this year's fifth anniversary lineup later today.

Review: Tim's Vermeer

in

 Tim's Vermeer

I'm somewhat embarrased to admit that I never took an art history course in college. My knowledge and awareness of 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer even more embarrasingly begins and ends with Scarlett Johansson portraying the young woman who is the subject of Vermeer's painting in Girl with a Pearl Earring. I felt slightly more knowledgable after watching the documentary Tim's Vermeer, directed by Teller of the comedy/illusionist duo Penn and Teller, which opens in Austin today.

If you take a look at Vermeer's work, it's easy to be struck by how realistic his paintings are. Hundreds of years before photographs, he captures light and his subjects in a way that leaps off the canvas almost as if it's a video image. That's how Tim Jenison sees these classic paintings and, over the years, it has started to become a bit of an obsession. Tim is an internet streaming video pioneer and inventor who lives down the road in San Antonio. He founded a company called NewTek that has developed extensive tools for 3D modeling and animation. That may partially explain his eye for detail, but Tim's Vermeer  shows us just how deep his curiosity about Vermeer's painting technique runs. 

Movies This Week: March 21-27, 2014

in

Cheap Thrills 

Now that we've all had a chance to recover a bit from SXSW, it's time for specialty screenings across town to slowly start ramping back up.

Review: Divergent

in

DivergentIn a dystopian future ruled by an authoritarian government, a young female protagonist with special skills must make personal sacrifices and overcome incredible odds in order to protect her family. That may sound like a plot synopsis for The Hunger Games, but it is equally applicable to this week's release from director Neil Burger (Limitless, The Illusionist). Based on the young adult novel by Veronica Roth, the movie Divergent was scripted by Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Vanessa Taylor (Game of Thrones).

Set in post-apocalyptic Chicago, the society of Divergent is organized into five factions who each perform their own important functions, such as labor, government and military, based on personality type. On the eve of adulthood, teens are given an aptitude test to help them determine which faction will be the best fit for them, and they must then choose their permanent assignment.

Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) stars as Beatrice "Tris" Prior, who learns when she takes her test that she is a rare Divergent, someone who is equally suited to more than one faction, with the gift of creative thought -- and therefore a threat to the established regime. Forced to hide this knowledge as exposure would mean certain death, Tris must choose her faction and do her best to avoid making waves, a task that appears impossible when technology is in use that can display one's very thoughts on screen.

Tris receives help from Four (Theo James), assigned to train new members of the faction. Kate Winslet stars as Jeanine Matthews, the mysterious and dangerous figure who more than anything wants to see Divergents captured and killed.

Even with the formulaic setup I found myself somewhat caught up in the story, which consists largely of Tris's struggles to complete training for her chosen faction, Dauntless, the fearless military protectors of the city. These sequences take the audience on a tour of striking visuals through the ruins of Chicago, including training grounds in an abandoned amusement park, a great wall and fence hundreds of feet high that surround the city (though we never see the reason for the fence), and into the stone quarry where the Dauntless make their home.

Review: Bad Words

in

I've never been the best speller. I often to this day find myself getting tripped up on simple words like "believe," "suburb" and "receive" (that "I before E" rule, man!). When I first saw the trailer for Bad Words, it wasn't the premise of a 40-year-old man competing in grade school spelling bees that interested me, though. It was the fact that lead actor and director Jason Bateman was a total jerk in the preview.

Those who know Bateman are probably most familiar with his role as the lovable, slightly arrogant Michael Bluth, oldest brother in the Bluth family on the television series Arrested Development. His role in this film as Guy Trilby is far from Michael Bluth.  

SXSW Review: Open Windows

in

How close are you to your phone right now? Maybe it's in your pocket, or your purse. And what about your laptop? Best to keep those things on you at all times, right? You might think so, but Nacho Vigalondo's latest film Open Windows could leave you wanting to lock those devices in your closet.

I say this (somewhat) ironically as someone who always has her phone in her hand. I know my way around my own personal electronic devices, but I don't expect someone else to. This is where Vigalondo's writing got me: from the start, we're watching Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) prepare for a date with his celebrity crush, Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey).  He's won a contest online and has flown to Austin to meet her. But we're not just watching as an audience -- we're watching as if we're Nick's laptop camera, observing his every move as if we're on a Skype session with him. And when an unknown caller starts to interfere with Nick's phone and computer, we learn about the scheme he's set to be involved in, realizing that his potential date is actually a setup for blackmail.

SXSW Review: Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater

in

Conversations between artists have always fascinated me. It's one thing to listen to a conversation about someone who has been inspired by another person's work. It's another to listen to two well-known artists (in this case, filmmakers) compliment the other on work that the general public is familiar with. This is how filmmaker Gabe Klinger's film Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater feels to an audience: an intimate meeting and history of some intensely creative minds.

Every Austinite seems to have an opinion on Richard Linklater's films. Maybe you fell in love with Jesse and Celine in the Before series; maybe you could relate to being a stoner hipster like some of the folks in Dazed and Confused.  Either way, Linklater's movies span across genre and style, held together by great stories with an engaging narratives.  One would think his biggest influences would be filmmakers who create fast-paced comedies or heartfelt dramas.  But although one can have many role models, Linklater cites filmmaker/documentarian James Benning as being one of his biggest.

SXSW Review: Yakona

in

yakona still

Filmed in Texas and told "from the perspective of the San Marcos River," Yakona had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival last week and went on to win an Audience Award in the Visions category. This meditative and visually captivating film can't be neatly categorized, and it will surely speak to the hearts of locals, nature lovers and anyone who has ever taken a swim in the San Marcos.

Filmmakers Paul Collins and Anlo Sepulveda chose to use a Pure Cinema stylistic technique, which relies on vision and movement rather than traditional narrative storytelling (not a single talking head is included and there is only minimal speaking). Instead, with footage captured using underwater cameras and reenacted scenes depicting life from prehistoric to modern times, Collins and Sepulveda create a collage of moments and emotions that together capture the spirit of the San Marcos River and the ecosystem of which it is an integral part.

Texas at SXSW 2014: Alan Tudyk, 'Premature'

in

Alan Tudyk - Premature

I interviewed a trio of native-Texas actors at SXSW for the comedy Premature, which premiered at the fest (my review). Alan Tudyk was born in El Paso and grew up in Plano. The veteran of Juilliard has a hefty list of credits in both television and film including roles in Serenity, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Suburgatory, Arrested Development, Firefly, Dollhouse and V as well as voice performances in the animated films Ice Age (and its sequels), Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. Due to time constraints, Laurie Coker of True View Reviews and I interviewed Tudyk together.

True View Reviews: First time at SXSW?

Alan Tudyk: No, I've been here before. I worked in the music festival a few years ago. I have a good friend who lives in town. I used to come to Austin all the time. I used to spend every New Years here. This is where you could find me on New Year's, hanging out, watching music. Not so much these days. My girlfriend had a film here one year.

Slackerwood: Everybody wants to know know if there will be another Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.

Tudyk: There was almost one, but I think it's currently dead. Unfortunately. You know, it could be alive -- hell, what do I know? But it came close and then something happened with the producer-y guys, I don't know what it was, and then director Eli Craig got an offer to do some really big badass movie. [Co-star] Tyler Labine and I really want to do one, and he's starting to make movies now. He's producing movies, and he wants to do a movie with the two of us. We would love to do one.

Texas at SXSW 2014: Carlson Young, 'Premature'

in

Carlson YoungI interviewed a trio of Texans at SXSW for the comedy Premature, which premiered at the fest (my review). One was Carlson Young, who's a native of Fort Worth. Her first role was on the Austin-shot TV series As the Bell Rings, and her career has included among others, roles in Heroes, Pretty Little Liars, True Blood, The League and Key and Peele.

[Note: Due to technical issues, we were not able to see Premature before interviews.]

Slackerwood: Why don't you tell me a little about your part in the film?

Carlson Young: Initially reading the script, I thought I could do something really different with the character, like I feel like she could come off as the stereotypical popular chick, you know? But I saw her as a lot more than that because I think she's the kind of girl who's like "I'm a badass" to be honest, and sees something she wants and she takes it. It's not about being popular or having friends, she's just a go-getter, literally. I really wanted to bring that driven, female-empowerment deal to the character.

Is that why you use the word "slutes" instead of "sluts"?

Young: Slutes, I love slutes. How did you know that?

It's in the press kit.

Young: OK, yeah then I'm a slute. She's a total slute.

How did you come up with that name?

Young: I got it from a friend of mine. She went to school in New Orleans at Tulane. She and her girlfriends had this crazy lingo. They had a different word for everything, and they were some of my best friends. I totally adopted the word from them, and I think it's pretty applicable to this situation.

Texas at SXSW 2014: John Karna, 'Premature'

in

John KarnaAt SXSW this year, I was able to interview three native-Texas actors from the movie Premature, which premiered at the fest (my review). Let's start with Houston native John Karna, who also starred in the 2012 Slamdance audience-award-winning comedy Bindlestiffs (Jette's Dallas IFF review).

Slackerwood: So this is your first big picture?

John Karna: This is, yeah. This is my first paid movie gig, which is awesome they trusted me to do it.

So Bindlestiffs was unpaid?

Karna: Unpaid, it was a passion project with my friends. We just decided when I was in high school, my friends and I -- Andrew Edison who directed and Luke Loftin who wrote it -- we decided to do this improv movie just for fun. And we finished it and submitted it, and it got into Slamdance and won the audience award and Kevin Smith was a huge fan of it, and that was pretty badass.

Did it get distribution?

Karna: You know, it's on Netflix, I think? [It is.] And it's on iTunes, which is pretty hilarious, because we were just a bunch of kids fucking around with a camera. It was a great time, and that kind of made me realize I'd love to do film. I was still going to college. I was studying musical theater, and I love singing and all that, but going to festivals... These people are so excited. I've never seen people more passionate about movies, and it makes you so excited about film and cinema. I love it.

You're from Texas?

Karna: Yeah, I am from Houston, Texas.

SXSW Review: Arlo and Julie

in

Alex Dobrenko and Ashley Spillers in Arlo & Julie

Arlo (Alex Dobrenko, Hell No) and Julie (Ashley Spillers, Loves Her Gun) are your typical young twentysomething Austinites. Arlo works at a software company but writes historical articles about General Grant on the side. Julie is a waitress at a restaurant that looks like Eastside Cafe. They live, love and get by in a fourplex on W. 29th. One day, Julie receives a couple of puzzle pieces in the mail.

Such is the premise for director Steve Mims' adorable mystery-comedy Arlo and Julie. Filmed around Austin -- and on a soundstage at UT's RTF department -- this movie is a quirky look at obsession. As Julie and Arlo become more and more engrossed in this puzzle of puzzles, their lives and goals are ignored. The script, which Mims also wrote, is filled with laughs and bits of Civil War trivia. 

Old jazzy numbers punctuate scenes of Julie and Arlo waiting for the postman (Chris Doubek, The Happy Poet) or chatting with their friends Trish (Mallory Culbert, Saturday Morning Mystery), Rob (Hugo Vargas-Zesati) and Dirk (Sam Eidson, Zero Charisma). The music, witty banter, and backdrop of the downtown skyline bring to mind the best aspects of Manhattan.

SXSW Review: Cesar Chavez

in

Cesar Chavez

Sí, se puede.

A wildly enthusiastic crowd chanted this Spanish slogan, meaning "Yes, it can be done" or "Yes, you can," after the SXSW screening of Cesar Chavez at the Paramount Theatre. In a testament to the film's inspirational power, the post-screening Q&A wasn't a Q&A at all -- it was a rally led by longtime labor activist Dolores Huerta, several cast members and Chavez's youngest son, Paul.

It's not surprising that Cesar Chavez inspired the impromptu celebration of Chavez's legacy. The film is heartfelt and deeply moving, a great tribute to Chavez and the movement he led.

Diego Luna's biopic of the exalted labor leader is tightly focused, following Chavez (Michael Peña) and his family from their move to Delano, California in 1962, the year Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later called the United Farm Workers), until the end of the union's successful grape boycott in the early 1970s. Cesar Chavez centers on Chavez and his wife, Helen (America Ferrera), as they struggle to raise eight children while fighting for farm workers' rights. But the movie is as much about the movement as it is about the man.

SXSW 2014: Mondo Gallery Ansin/Tong Show

in

The Wizard of Oz 

A mere week after their tremendously successful Disney-themed gallery show, the folks at Mondo reset the gallery for a second SXSW exhibit -- this time, featuring works from two of their most popular artists, Martin Ansin and Kevin Tong. As usual, people were lined up around the block waiting their chance to purchase these beautiful limited-edition art prints.

Interview: Wes Anderson, 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

in

Wes Anderson of Grand Budapest HotelThe University of Texas at Austin alum Wes Anderson returned to his home state this month for the premiere of his latest movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival (Don's review). This adventurous story recounted by the elder Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) spans several decades and stars colorful characters including lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who accompanies legendary concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) in a battle for a priceless painting.

Recurring Anderson ensemble cast members are liberally planted throughout this entertaining and often exotic film, including Tilda Swinton as a wealthy lover of M. Gustave, Adrien Brody as her money-grubbing relative Dmitri, Edward Norton as the police captain Henckels hot in pursuit, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman as fellow members of the clandestine fraternal order "The Society of the Crossed Keys."

I joined fellow film critics for a roundtable interview with Anderson while he was in Austin last week. We spoke at length about the production of The Grand Budapest Hotel as well as his personal influences. His unconventional production process lends to the lavishly complex style of his projects including this entertaining film.

SXSW Review: Born to Fly

in

Born to FlyIf you have not heard of Streb Extreme Action Company and have not heard the name Elizabeth Streb, you'll wonder why after seeing the documentary Born to Fly by director Catherine Gund, which made its world premiere at SXSW 2014.

Streb was the recipient of the 1997 MacArthur Foundation Genius Award and is a member of the NYC Mayor's Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission. In 1985, she founded a unique dance company performing her own very physical style of choreography called Pop Action. Testing the limits of human motion, Streb dancers forcefully slam into walls, dive and crash into the padded floor, and dodge flying steel girders or launch themselves high into the air, taking flight as they play with industrial-looking sets populated with heavy machinery.

Not much of Streb's personal life is explored in Born to Fly, but that may likely be because her life is so interwound with her work. Streb has lived most of her life in the same space in which she works. Gund reviews Streb's career with a focus on recent achievements. Her piece "Little Ease," now performed by dancer Jackie Carlson, bridges the span between the years when Streb performed herself and her current work choreographing for the company. 

There is an element of danger in all Streb's performances, which as she states "do not try to hide the existence of gravity." The dancers are heavier and more solid than the traditional image, able to absorb the extreme stresses placed on their bodies by repeated heavy impacts.

At 62, however, Streb herself performed in her exhibition for the London Olympics titled "One Extraordinary Day," which included dancers bungee jumping from the Millenium Bridge, high-wire performances on the spokes of the London Eye, and an abseil down the side of City Hall.

Born to Fly does more than document Streb's work and life. The film elicits excitement about her work. It is at once exhilerating and transcendent. It will leave you wanting to see more, and indeed you can. The home of Streb Lab for Action Mechanics (SLAM) provides videos and information on live rehearsals and performances.

Slackery News Tidbits: March 17, 2014

in

Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

SXSW 2014: 'Wilderness of James' and 'Other Months'

in

The Wilderness of JamesTired of the downtown scene after a weekend of expensive parking, crowds, and shuttle buses, I spent a day at the Alamo Drafthouse Village SXSatellite location. The satellite theaters have been a godsend for their convenience as well as the larger number of films the SXSW programmers can select because of them.

We at Slackerwood only wish the Village and Slaughter satellite locations screened films for the entire festival, instead of just through Thursday. (The Marchesa screened through Saturday, thankfully.)

The Wilderness of James

My first selection was a beautiful exploration of the teen psyche by first-time director Michael Johnson. The Wilderness of James stars Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In) as James Charm, a young man obsessed with death. Living alone with his mother (Virginia Madsen) and bullied by the neighbor kids, he spends his time sketching dead animals and visiting his therapist (Danny DeVito, in one of the warmest roles he's ever taken). When he encounters and befriends Harmon (Evan Ross) on a late-night train ride, he is introduced to a new social world and begins to come out of his shell and conquer his emotional demons as he falls in love with Val (Isabelle Fuhrman).

Johnson's script is meditative, populated with likable and interesting characters, and intelligently written. His film is beautiful, and he treats his characters respectfully, writing believable dialogue in a story with a somewhat timeless quality. From the audience I felt a connection with the James character as the film brought back memories of adolescent fears and longings. As a thoughtful character study, The Wilderness of James is a pleasant experience.

SXSW 2014: An Unexpectedly Musical Finale

in

Kevin Gant, SXSW 2014

My last movie for SXSW this year was the amusing Space Station 76, at Stateside. I planned to walk a little bit around downtown afterward and maybe take some photos of various interesting SXSW sights, if it didn't rain again. I chatted a little outside the theater with local actor Sam Eidson (Zero Charisma, SXSW 2013), who was still planning to see movies that day. I almost literally ran into Austin filmmaker Emily Hagins (Grow Up, Tony Phillips, SXSW 2013) as I walked down Congress to Sixth.

As I was passing Wholly Cow Burgers, a musician was playing a guitar under the awning, a frequent sight during non-rainy SXSW days. He looked so energetic and happy that I snapped his photo a couple of times, and we exchanged waves. I stopped briefly to listen and liked the music -- not a crappy cover pandering to passersby, not someone loudly learning to play. And he looked familiar. Why would a guitarist playing on the street look familiar?

I walked another block and remembered someone on Twitter mentioning they'd seen Kevin Gant playing on the street at SXSW, which at the time I thought was far-fetched. But ... did I just pass Kevin Gant, longtime Austin musician and the subject of Jay Duplass' short doc Kevin, which screened at SXSW 2011? Did I? If only I'd had the following photo with me from the Kevin premiere so I could compare ...

SXSW Review: Butterfly Girl

in

Butterfly Girl Still PhotoAs the main subject of the documentary Butterfly Girl, written and directed by Houston-based writer and director Cary Bell, lovely 18-year-old Abigail Evans appears to be a typical teenager -- moody, stubborn, and sometimes overly dramatic -- longing for her first alcoholic drink and someone to hold her who is not a parent. However, her everyday drama and challenges are far apart from the usual high school experience. Abbie was born with the life-threatening skin disease of epidermolysis bullosa (EB), and has been homeschooled by her mother Stacie so that she can be safer at home or on the road with her father, Austin musician John Evans.

Much of Abbie's life has been spent in hospitals being treated for her genetic disease and the physical damage wreaked upon her hands, skin and esophagus. She depends on her mother as a caregiver, who does her laundry and housework. Unable to eat regularly due to blisters in her esophagus that require multiple surgeries a year, Abbie must supplement her caloric intake through a gastrostomy tube daily.

SXSW Review: Premature

in

Premature

Ferris Bueller meets Groundhog Day in the raunchy teen comedy Premature, from first-time writer/director Dan Beers. Rated R for language and sexual themes, Premature is unafraid to push the boundaries of good taste in the pursuit of laughter.

Beers has assembled a dynamic and talented cast including native Texans John Karna, Alan Tudyk and Carlson Young (look for interviews with these three next week). Karna stars as Rob Crabbe, an average teenager who wakes up on the most important day of his senior year lying in a wet spot on his bed. The events of the day, including his Georgetown college interview with Jack Roth (Tudyk) and tutoring session with sexy vixen Angela (Young), play out until he finds himself in bed with Angela, prematurely climaxes and immediately finds himself again in his bed at home, starting the day over.

Cursed to continue repeating the events of the day, Rob tries to work out a solution with the help of his best friends Stanley (Craig Roberts) and Gabrielle (Katie Findlay). Karna's charisma and naturally keen comic timing help to overlook weaker moments of dialogue where the teens sometimes don't feel like authentic teens as much as people delivering adult lines. Some lines are followed with a touch too much dead silence, as if edited to allow for insertion of a laugh track, but after such stumbles the pace always picks back up and delivers genuine laughs.

SXSW Review: The Infinite Man

in

The Infinite ManTime-travel movies can be so difficult to execute that few filmmakers attempt them. Fewer still can claim success. Of those, I've reserved the highest praise, citing as the only time-travel movie that "gets it right" by being internally self-consistent, playing by its own rules while still being entertaining and managing to surprise the audience, for Nacho Vigolondo's Time Crimes. Until now. Many might ask about Rian Johnson's hit Looper, which is a good film, I agree, but which in the end breaks the rules.

Like Time Crimes, The Infinite Man is a micro-budget sci-fi story with a cast of only three characters. They are Dean (Josh McConville), his girlfriend Lana (Hannah Marshall), and her ex Terry (Alex Dimitriades), who is obsessed with Lana and wants her back.

In addition to being a brilliant crackerjack scientist, Dean is a control freak who can't be satisfied with anything less than perfection. On the anniversary of their first, perfect date, Dean and Lana return to the same location as he attempts to recreate it in every detail. Unfortunately, there are too many variables out of his control, including the sudden appearance of Terry, intent on regaining the love of Lana. After the date falls apart, Dean spends a year creating a time machine and thus begins a loop returning to the fateful weekend as he seeks to put things right.

The ensuing encounters with himself, with Lana, and with Terry, shot from different locations and angles, play out hilariously as the truth of the story is slowly revealed not just to the audience, but to Dean himself. Writer/director Hugh Sullivan's clever script explores the unhealthier aspects of relationships such as self-doubt, co-dependence, obsessiveness, and controlling behaviors metaphorically through the actions of his characters.

SXSW Review: Above All Else

in

Above All Else

East Texas isn't exactly a hotbed of political activism -- at least not the kind of activism that makes the world a better place.

The heavily wooded, mostly rural region of Texas is one of the reddest parts of a mostly red state, a place firmly rooted in Southern cultural tradition, deeply conservative religious fervor, economic libertarianism and anachronistic good ol' boy politics. It's the last place you'd expect a bunch of hippies to pick a fight with a giant corporation.

But a bunch of hippies did. Their battle is the subject of Above All Else, filmmaker John Fiege's engaging and enraging documentary about a group of activists and landowners determined to stop construction of the reviled Keystone XL oil pipeline on their land.

The pipeline is slated to carry tar sands oil -- a particularly dirty, viscous, gritty kind of petroleum -- from Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Pipeline proponents claim it will increase North American energy independence and create jobs; opponents claim it's potentially dangerous and will kill more jobs than it creates. They also oppose the continued burning of fossil fuels, which exacerbates global warming.

Movies This Week: March 14-20, 2014

in

The Grand Budapest Hotel

After such an active SXSW schedule, it's understandable if you need take a few days to recuperate. It will be another week or so before specialty screenings are back at full speed, but there are still a few standout titles to let you know about. Also, two of the biggest SXSW premieres from this week are hitting area theaters. For those of you who got shut out of those, you should have more luck now.

The Marchesa just spent its first year as a SXSW venue, so the Austin Film Society will be springing back to action again this week with some cool events. They've got the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Square as an area premiere on Tuesday night. Richard Linklater is back on Wednesday with Melvin And Howard, a 1980 selection from Johnathan Demme for his "Jewels In The Wasteland" series, and Essential Cinema has the 1997 Arabic film Destiny on Thursday.  

The Alamo Ritz is firing up their 70mm projectors again for Alfred Hitchcock's glorious Vertigo. It screens from Sunday through Thursday as does Wes Anderson's last film Moonrise Kingdom which will be screened from a 35mm print (which is cool because the film only played digitally in town when it was a first-run title and the movie was beautifully shot on Super 16mm film stock). Also on 35mm this week, Christopher Nolan's Memento plays on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday night brings back Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited for one show only. You can also venture up to the Alamo Lakeline for a Cinema Cocktails presentation of Scorsese's Casino on Sunday.  

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

in

The Grand Budapest Hotel

I wish I could say that on the heels of his masterful Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson has outdone himself with The Grand Budapest Hotel. But he hasn't. The Grand Budapest Hotel is not a bad movie. It's just not a great Wes Anderson movie.

Set in a fictional European country just before World War II, The Grand Budapest Hotel is the story of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a prim and elegant concierge at an equally prim and elegant luxury hotel, and his faithful friend Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), a lobby boy who tells the story many years later in flashback. (F. Murray Abraham plays the elderly Zero.)

When Gustave isn't busy catering to the hotel clientele and barking orders at his staff, he finds the time to seduce as many female hotel guests as possible, including the dowager Madame D. (Tilda Swinton). Their liaison spans years; when Madame D. dies, she leaves Gustave a priceless Renaissance painting.

Review: Veronica Mars

in

Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, and Tina Majorino in Veronica Mars

A long time ago, or so it seems to fans of the show, teen detective drama Veronica Mars was cancelled. Since its somewhat abrupt end, the series has grown a larger cult following through people introduced to the show via subscribed streaming services (raises hand) or DVD sets borrowed from friends (the case for my sister). The question high on the mind of these dedicated watchers: When will we get a movie?

Thanks to a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, this weekend the film is being released. Veronica Mars will simultaneously open in select theatres at the same time that digital copies are available for purchase. The film, from Austin director/showrunner Rob Thomas, will be the first to be released in such a fashion. It is apt that this film, funded partially through new media, be the selected title to test this out.

Guided by the exuberant response from fans, Thomas included familiar faces we know and love in the cast, led by Kristen Bell in her lead role as Veronica.  It has been 10 years since she graduated from Neptune High. Veronica has moved to NYC to complete law school and hook up again with college boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell), who now works in public radio with Ira Glass (of course he does!). Former love Logan (Jason Dohring) calls her back to her California hometown to help him fight a murder rap.

SXSW Review: Creep

in

Creep

Jason Blum must be one of the busiest men in Hollywood. With 36 credited projects already, and another 23 currently in production, Blum has proven himself not just hardworking, but also with a keen eye for horror films that use the simplest elements to reach the heart of what unsettles us and play on our innermost fears. Mark Duplass is a veteran of the mumblecore genre, which eschews narrative scripts and focuses on development of character and natural dialogue.

Put these guys together with writer/director Patrick Brice, and you get Creep, a microbudget hackle-raiser as scary as Paranormal Activity.

Brice stars as Aaron Franklin (one wonders if this is a tribute to Franklin Barbecue), who answers a Craigslist ad placed by Josef (Duplass) for a videographer to spend a day shooting his life. The creepiness begins immediately when Aaron arrives to find that nobody appears to be home, and the house and grounds have an ominous feel.

As Aaron prepares to leave, Josef silently appears in a startling reveal that sets the tone for the rest of the day. Josef, with his habit of appearing suddenly, often with an accompanying "rawr" or stomping thump, delights in keeping Aaron -- as well as the audience -- off-balance. Each scare is immediately explained away by the apologetic Josef, whose off-putting actions sound almost completely reasonable when taken in context.

During a Q&A with Brice and Duplass following the Creep premiere, they described the process in which the film evolved as they would shoot and edit scenes, show them to friends and then return to the rented cabin for additional shooting, bringing the script revision process off paper and into the camera. They populated the set with as many lamps as possible to reduce the need for extra lighting equipment, which also allowed for a natural, believable look for the handheld cinematography.

SXSW Review: Before I Disappear

in

Before I Disappear

Shawn Christensen's 2012 short film Curfew was a film-festival darling, winning 15 awards including a 2013 Oscar. I haven't seen Curfew, but certainly want to if it's as good as the feature-length version of the same story, Before I Disappear.

Christensen's debut feature is quirky, but I mean that in a good way. A genre-bending mix of family drama, thriller, love story and surreal fantasy, Before I Disappear is the dark story of Richie (Christensen), a broke and depressed drug addict adrift in New York City. He spends his time hanging out in seedy clubs and earning a meager living as a janitor. His job only compounds his depression when he cleans a restroom and finds the body of an overdose victim, a beautiful woman who reminds him of his dead girlfriend.

One afternoon, a phone call interrupts Richie's halfhearted attempt to kill himself. Long estranged from his family, he's surprised that the call is from his wealthy and far more functional sister, Maggie (Emmy Rossum), who asks him to take care of her daughter, Sophia (Fatima Ptacek), for a few hours after school. A series of bizarre events keeps Maggie busy all night and forces Richie and Sophia to spend the night wandering the streets of New York and visiting Richie's favorite haunts. (They're not places any sane person would take a child.)

SXSW 2014: Enthralled by 'Last Hijack'

in

Still from Last Hijack

Before I attend film festivals, I sketch out an overloaded schedule and give myself multiple options, sometimes based more on where and when a movie is playing than the subject matter of the film itself.  Monday, I had mainly chosen to see Last Hijack because it was playing at Alamo Drafthouse Village. I figured the doc would be a good counterbalance to Cesar Chavez, and I could get my third Alamo pretzel of the fest.*  A friend happened to tweet the trailer for the documentary/animation earlier that day, and it looked terrific. 

The screening wasn't jam-packed, but most seats were full as we watched the real-life drama unfold.  Filmmakers Femke Wolting and former Austinite Tommy Pallotta depict some months in the life of Mohamed, a Somalian man whose tragic life has eventually led him to piracy hijackings at sea. He hopes to marry a young woman, but her family (and his parents, as well) want him to quit his piracy. He plans one last hijack to make money for him and his new wife to live in style. 

What's Streaming: And the Oscar Goes To ...

in

The Oscars have always been my family's version of the Superbowl. We always make it a point to watch the ceremony together, sometimes making bets on who will win in each category. And with my recent viewing of the 2014 awards, it only seemed appropriate to make this month all about past Oscar winners.

Film fans are always going to have their opinion on who won, or who was robbed of the golden statue. Although I have not always agreed with the Best Picture winners, it is always intriguing to see what the Academy feels is "the perfect film" each year. I would encourage anyone to make it a point to see all of the Best Picture winners throughout Oscar history; if anything, it certainly makes for a fun challenge. In the meantime, though, here are a few past winners worth checking out.

SXSW Review: The Dog

in

The Dog

Drafthouse Films is building a strong slate of quality documentaries, and The Dog is a fine addition to that collection.

Filmmakers Allison Berg and Francois Keraudren, who brought their previous film Witches in Exile to SXSW in 2004, have completed an 11-year project to document the life of John Wojtowicz, aka "The Dog," who became famous in 1971 for robbing a Chase Manhattan bank in order to pay for gender reassignment surgery for his lover. The event served as inspiration for the 1975 Sidney Lumet film Dog Day Afternoon.

Beginning with his early years, The Dog covers a journey to Vietnam and a return to post-war Stonewall New York during the birth of the gay rights movement, revealing a fascinating character who refuses to play by any rules but his own. Wojtowicz is a force of nature, who describes himself as "an angel with horns," who does not drink, smoke, or gamble, reserving sex as his only vice.

Through Wojtowicz's eyes we see the Robin Hood story of the failed robbery attempt, the aftermath of his trial, his time in prison, and ultimate rejection by Liz Eden, his lover. Presented as a monster in the news media of the day and largely forgotten since, Wojtowicz presents a charismatic, likable figure in footage which covers his last years, and well before the end of the film, I found myself wishing I could meet this charming scoundrel.

The Dog is humorous, fascinating, and slightly tragic, especially in terms of the fallout for Wojtowicz's family. The loyalty of his mother as well as his former wives serves as evidence of his underlying goodness or of the cult of personality he would build around himself.

You can decide for yourself at the remaining screening tonight -- Thursday, March 13 at 9:30 pm at Alamo Village. If you miss it, The Dog was picked up by Drafthouse Films and is scheduled for an August 2014 release. I sat down with Berg and Keraudren for a few minutes after the film, so look for that conversation following the fest.

SXSW Review: Faults

in

Faults still

I've never been one for films about cults. I suppose it's because they're such a taboo subject within our society, not to mention they flat out give me the creeps, I've never gone out of my way to watch films on the topic. And no, not even when people gave me the nickname "Martha Marcy May Marcelena." But something caught my attention in reading about Riley Stearns' debut feature film, Faults.

The story starts with a deadbeat guy getting kicked out of a restaturant. He is trying to use a free meal voucher, but the manager knows he already used it the night before. The guy downs his food, then tries to eat all of the condiments on the table. After a physical struggle with the manager, he is thrown out of the restaurant. This is Ansel (Leland Orser), our film's protagonist. What I later realized I enjoyed so much about this intro is that it sets up the main character perfectly: a washed up, once-famous public speaker who will do what he can to con people, even for a free meal.

SXSW Review: Two Step

in

Two Step

For decades, law enforcement agencies have been warning people of a common phone scam: An elderly person receives a phone call from someone pretending to be the person's grandchild or other family member. The caller says he's desperate for money, and asks the victim to deposit money in a bank account. This scam is often successful; the elderly victims, feeling lonely and forgotten, want to help their family members and are easily conned.

Normally, the victims lose money but never meet the con artists or suffer any physical harm. But in the stylish thriller Two Step, the scam turns deadly and personal.

In the Austin-made film, career criminal Webb (James Landry Hébert) is part of ring of phone scammers, making his calls from prison. When he's released, he's ready to continue his criminal ways and reunite with his girlfriend and fellow scammer, Amy (Ashley Spillers). But the reunion doesn't go as planned. Fed up with Webb's physical and emotional abuse, Amy leaves him the minute he returns home, taking their ill-gotten cash with her. Even worse, he owes $10,000 to the ringleader, Duane (Jason Douglas), who banishes him from the ring for his erratic and violent ways. But Webb is determined to repay the money and make amends with his boss.

Austin Transforms Into Noir City at Inaugural Fest

in

Too Late for Tears

In the midst of all the excitement over the Texas Film Awards and SXSW 2014, another film-related event took place recently: the first annual Noir City Austin. While free of a red carpet and movie stars in the flesh, this festival celebrated its inaugural weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz from Feb. 28 to March 2.

Hosted by the Film Noir Foundation, Noir City Austin screened 10 films straight from the genre’s heyday, and featured many faces familiar to devoted noir fans, such as Shelley Winters, Peter Lorre, Ray Milland and Lizabeth Scott.

Yet rather than screening such noir staples like The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep, the foundation chose  lesser-known titles that, though unknown to the majority of those in attendance, still contained all the necessary ingredients essential to any noir. More than that though, the movies selected tended to go beyond the conventions of the standard noir by incorporating elements of faith, surrealism and the supernatural within its plots.

SXSW Review: No No: A Dockumentary

in

no no a dockumentary

No No: A Dockumentary was directed by Austinite Jeffrey Radice and came about with much local support and funding (including a grant from Austin Film Society), so it was no surprise that it made its SXSW premiere to a big and welcoming crowd at the Paramount last Saturday.

The film explores the life of Dock Ellis, a Major League baseball player known for his talent as a pitcher as well as for the memorable feat of pitching a no-hitter (aka the "no no" of the title) while high on LSD. He also played at a time rife with racial tension and when illicit but quietly accepted drug use was rampant among players -- and rather than remaining a passive bystander in terms of baseball politics, Ellis was vocal and persistent in sharing his opinions.

SXSW Review: Stage Fright

in

Stage Fright opening scene

This year's SXSW Film Festival has been chock-full of dramatic, emotional features and compelling documentaries, many of which will bring critics to tears, win awards and be remembered for stirring performances.

And then there's Stage Fright.

Stage Fright is the movie you see after one too many features about the fragility of twentysomething love, or docs about serious political issues that have you worried about ever driving again, or eating corn, or using fountain pens. Stage Fright is playing again at SXSW at 11:15 am today, and what I advise is that you stop reading this review and head down to Alamo Ritz right now and get in the line, since it's in the small theater.

It's true that at film festivals, comedies of any worth get undue praise because they are such a relief after weightier films. But Stage Fright is great goofy fun that will hold up in your living room, especially if you invite your musical-theater-loving friends to watch it with you. Writer-director Jerome Sable previously brought us the very funny short horror-musical The Legend of Beaver Dam in 2010 (I notice some of you are rushing out to your cars now and pondering downtown parking), and sustains that level of hilarity in his feature-film debut. 

SXSW Review: The Great Invisible

in

Roosevelt Harris talking to a woman in The Great Invisible

April 20, 2014 will be the fourth anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which caused a spill of an estimated 176 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This horrific incident seriously altered the lives of the men who worked on the rig -- and the families of the 11 who lost their lives -- as well as the communities who once survived off jobs based on healthy waters in the Gulf. In The Great Invisible, director Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths, Be Here to Love Me) explores the aftereffects of the explosion and oil spill from multiple viewpoints.

Doug Brown, the chief mechanic for Transocean on the Deepwater Horizon (owned by Transocean, but leased by BP), gave the director some video he filmed on the rig before the disastrous night. He and another victim of the explosion, along with their wives, talk about their experience that night and their current fragile existence.

Keith Jones, father of one of the men killed in the explosion, comments on America's "insatiable thirst for gasoline" and follows the BP/Halliburton/Transocean trial to New Orleans. Brown gives these interviews intimacy, while framing them against the larger issues of America's dependence on oil and our government's participation through oil leases.

SXSW 2014: Adventures of a Wristbandit

in

The life of a "wristbandit" (or "wristbandito," as Jette calls them) can be a lonely one. While your friends are getting into the coveted ACC film panels, staggering around 6th Street wandering into parties and snagging good seats at the Paramount Theatre, you're left to wonder if the theater capacity will cut off right before you after you waited for 90 minutes in line in the freezing cold rain.

Okay, so... Maybe that only happened one time.  But my first year as a SXSW wristband wearer has been nothing short of exciting and filled with unexpected surprises.

SXSW Review: For Those in Peril

in

For Those in Peril

For all the haunting images in For Those in Peril, the film's most haunting moment isn't a visual, but a song sung by a grieving woman.

The song is "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," an achingly beautiful love song that sounds achingly sad in the movie. The singer is Cathy (Kate Dickie), a weary mother who has lost a son and fears she may lose another. What should be a good time singing karaoke in a pub turns bitter when Cathy is overcome with emotion and can't finish the song. It's a devastating scene in For Those in Peril, a film full of devastating scenes.

Cathy's son Michael (Jordan Young) died along with four crewmates in a tragic fishing boat accident. The sole survivor is Michael's younger brother, Aaron (George MacKay), who suffers crippling survivor's guilt. He gets no sympathy from the residents of the tiny Scottish fishing village where he lives; in a culture steeped in seafaring folklore and superstition, they blame Aaron for the accident, consider his presence bad luck and ostracize him with unbearable cruelty.

SXSW 2014: Starting with 'Space Station 76'

in

 Cast and Crew of Space Station 76

My SXSW Film schedule has kept me moving around a lot more this year than usual. My first day involved a trip to Austin Convention Center for check-in, then to the Mondo Gallery for their Disney exhibition "Nothing's Impossible," back downtown for interviews with the cast of Premature, and then across the river to shoot red-carpet photos for Bad Words.

I thought it would be a good time to try out Car2Go, so I found one of their ubiquitous little cars and checked in for my very first trip. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that when downtown during the fest, you can save a lot of money and shave off a lot of time by walking a couple of extra blocks instead of grabbing the nearest Car2Go. I managed to land in a one-way traffic hell as I was forced to circle the convention center garage in a trip that took over 30 minutes to move a single block. Otherwise, I found the Car2Go service was novel and would have been terrificly convenient under normal traffic circumstances.

My red carpet photos from Bad Words as well as those from "Nothing's Impossible" are already up on the Slackerwood Flickr along with additional sets from Joe (Nicolas Cage!) and the first film I saw, Space Station 76.

SXSW 2014 Preview: Que Caramba es la Vida

in

still from Que Caramba es la Vida

On the nights when mariachi groups amass on Mexico City's Plaza Garibaldi, playing for pesos and stirring the emotions of the crowds, there are a few female musicians in their midst. Prolific German filmmaker Doris Dorrie focuses on some of these women in her new documentary, Que Caramba es la Vida, premiering Tuesday at SXSW.  

Filmed in eight weeks during 2012, the movie introduces the viewer to Maria del Carmen, a thirtysomething woman who financially supports her mother and daughter through her singing with an all-male mariachi troupe; Lupita, a young wife whose husband cares for their son the evenings and weekends she plays violin in a predominantly female troupe, Las Estrellas de Jalisco; and the older women of Las Pioneras de Mexico, some of whom were among the first female mariachis 50 years ago. 

Mondo and Oh My Disney Do Not Disappoint with New Show

in

Mondo's Nothing Impossible Posters

Almost exactly one year ago, I was standing at the intersection on Guadalupe Street outside of the Mondo Gallery, talking with folks who didn't let their all-nighter in line diminish their excitement for the newest Mondo show. Last year, it was all about Tyler Stout and Ken Taylor. This year, Mondo partnered with Disney's blog Oh My Disney to create the same fervor.

Aptly named "Nothing's Impossible," the exhibit drew fans from all over the country, who lined up at the gallery as early as 48 hours before the doors opened. Distance, time and weather could not stand in the way of Mondo's loyal fans. When checking in with the line-dwellers an hour before launch, I heard, "Things are getting exciting.  We're all standing now!" The wall of folding chairs and sleeping bags were gone, and if you didn't know better you'd have thought the queue had just formed.

SXSW 2014: The Party Before the Premiere

in

Ping Pong Summer Fun HubLike Caitlin, I wanted to skip downtown the first night of the SXSW Film Fest and keep the night low-key. A friend and I met at the Marchesa to check out Texas Shorts, and we stuck around for the Austin premiere of Ping Pong Summer.  Well, at least that was the plan.

Michael Tully's '80s-tastic movie had a full house waiting for the film to start at 9:30 pm. We were told there would be a delay because of projection issues. A few people left, but most stuck around as Tully endeared himself to the audience with his self-deprecating humor. Debbie, also in attendance, introduced me to some local film folks as people chatted in their seats. Some time later (and some beers later), it was announced that the Marchesa's digital projector was not going to be working at all that night.*

Austin at SXSW 2014: Gabe Klinger, 'Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater'

Any documentary filmmaker will tell you that the process to make a film takes time. Filmmaker Gabe Klinger will tell you that the idea for his SXSW premiere film, Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater, was an idea that had been with him for many years.

Double Play examines the friendship between filmmakers James Benning and Richard Linklater. Klinger teamed up with local production company The Bear Media as well as the Austin Film Society to help bring this film to life. Through scenes filmed at Linklater's Bastrop home as well as archival footage, we as the audience can quietly observe these artists discussing their lives, art, and what it means to be a filmmaker.

I got the chance to ask Klinger a few questions via email before the film's debut this weekend. See what he has to say about how he approached these two filmmakers, as well as what his influences were in the process.

SXSW Review: Thank You a Lot

in

Thank You a Lot

"Failure."
-- James Hand in Thank You a Lot, when asked what makes a good songwriter

In a single word, the fictional musician James Hand -- played by the real musician James Hand -- sums up a central theme of Thank You a Lot.

The poignant and perceptive film by Austin filmmaker Matt Muir explores many forms of failure: in parenthood, family relationships and artistic fulfillment. But it's also a hopeful film about redemption.

At the center of Thank You a Lot is Jack Hand (Blake DeLong), a bottom-feeding hustler and music manager whose only remaining clients are the hapless indie rock band The Wintermen and struggling hip-hop artist Desmond D (Jeffery Da'Shade Johnson). Jack spends his days trolling Austin's music scene for any deal he can work to his advantage; petty fraud and extortion are his stock in trade, and it's obvious his ethical compass broke long ago.

SXSW Film 2014: Managing Your (Crazy) Schedule

in

SXSW Film logoHere are a few tips for managing your SXSW 2014 Film schedule:

  • Keep track of your schedule through SXSocial.
  • You can add films from the film conference schedule by clicking the star icon next to any title.
  • You can also click any title for an expanded description, and then click More Details for the full page, which includes an Add to my schedule button and alternate showtimes on the lower right.
  • After you have added selections to your schedule, the My Schedule link will show you your schedule day-by-day.
  • Start by scheduling films that only have one screening time.
  • After those are set, look for shows you want to see that are in the same theater that day. This will keep your travel needs to a minimum.
  • If you do schedule shows back to back that are in different locations, keep in mind the travel time between them. 
  • If two or more shows you want to see happen at the same time, add both to your schedule so you have an alternate in case your first pick is full.  

SXSW 2014: Alternative Opening-Night Plans

in

film festival logoAfter a painless badge pickup experience on Thursday (always go on Thursday if you can), I started my Friday fully ready for the festival to get going.

As someone who works downtown, I’ve been witnessing the even more chaotic than usual scene all week -- tons of traffic (due to construction, delivery trucks, extra people, etc.) and the transformation of every empty parking lot and building into some kind of brand platform or other.

This state of affairs helped me make my decision to follow my usual tradition of skipping the opening-night film at the Paramount (no offense to Jon Favreau) to check out something I didn't know much about.

The choice I made, She's Lost Control, is one I'd only heard a little about following its Berlin Film Festival premiere last month. An intense and dark slice of life, the film focuses on a woman who works as a sex surrogate while she finishes a psychology Master's degree in New York City.

Often hard-hitting and true but sometimes a little frustrating, I can't fully call this a "must-see" but I know this movie will definitely stick with me (and that sense of emotional discovery is what film festivals are all about).

With a full Saturday ahead of me (I'm taking the bus downtown and will be around all day), I made my exit after the film ended.

Review: 300: Rise of an Empire

in

300: Rise of an Empire

Eight years after Zack Snyder revived the sword-and-sandal subgenre and inspired millions of men to revisit the gym with his adaptation of Frank Miller's 300, he has scripted a return to ancient Greece. Directed by Noam Murro (Smart People), the movie 300: Rise of an Empire is a self-indulgent video game fantasy at best.

The film opens with a recap of the events of 300 and an introduction to Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), the new lead, who's head of the Greek army. The action proceeds to explain how Themistokles is not just the hero who led the Greeks to victory over Xerxes, but was himself responsible for the enmity held by Xerxes toward the Greeks.

Artemisia (Eva Green) is introduced as the leader of Xerxes' forces, and the two commence with a series of battles consisting of ships crashing into each other as warriors fight to the death on top of the sinking wrecks.

Here are the rules of Greek vs. Persian combat, as gleaned from 300: Rise of an Empire:

  • Rule 1: Like a friendly game of football, bad guys wear shirts, good guys are skins.
  • Rule 2: Every blow of every sword in every battle must be repeated in videogame style slo-mo.
  • Rule 3: Every scene with any of the Greek army present must have floating sparks constantly distracting from the action on the camera, as if from 10,000 campfires, even when the entire army is climbing wet out of the Mediterranean.
  • Rule 4: If it digitally bleeds, it digitally leads.
  • Rule 5: Nobody important dies without an extended death scene in which they deliver a monologue. Everyone else dies immediately upon the slightest injury.

Movies This Week: March 7-13, 2014

in

Grand Piano

Specialty screenings are pretty much off the radar for the next two weekends because the SXSW Film Festival is taking over many of Austin's best venues. If you aren't headed out to the festival, there are still a few free community screenings that are part of SXSW. Most of them are taking place at the Marchesa, including the AFS ShortCase on Saturday afternoon. Programmed by the Austin Film Society, ShortCase is a program of short films created by AFS members and curated by a jury that includes filmmaker Clay Liford, Slackerwood's own Debbie Cerda and Lars Nilsen from AFS.

Aside from that, if you didn't pick up a SXSW badge or wristband, you'll very likely be able to buy your way into some of the encore screenings by the end of the week after the music portion of the festival gets started and the movies slow down a bit. Check out Caitlin's post for more tips on how to make the most of the festival as a local film fan. 

It's also worth noting that Lars Von Trier's controversial film Nymphomaniac, Volume 1 has just been released as a pre-theatrical VOD title. Available from most cable operators, it's also available digitally to rent from Amazon Instant Video, the Playstation Store, Xbox Marketplace and YouTube. Due to its explicit sexual content, the film is not available from iTunes or Vudu. I've confirmed with Magnolia Pictures that the VOD version is exactly the same as what is being released theatrically and is not censored. For those who would rather take it all in (so to speak) on the big screen, it opens locally March 28 at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane and Violet Crown Cinema. Volume 2 will follow in April.  

SXSW 2014: Meet the Slackerwood Gang

in

SXSW 2014 prep

I'm leaving the house in one hour (I hope) to head downtown for SXSW. I've got my tablet, my roasted chickpeas, my auxiliary battery ... and yeah, my antacids. Welcome to the wussy side of SXSW filmgoing.

I'm kicking off the fest by participating in the panel "A Beginners Guide to SXSW Film" at 2 pm in room 16AB of the Austin Convention Center. If you're down there, why not join us? You can ask questions or even offer advice of your own.

The other panelists will be film producer Kelly Williams (Hellion), Austin Chronicle Managing Editor Kimberley Jones, Film School Rejects editor Neil Miller, and filmgoer extraordinaire/Fantastic Fest programmer Brian Kelley. So this should be a hoot as well as very informative.

If you can't attend the panel and are seeking guidance, check out the Slackerwood guide to SXSW theaters and our guide for locals and wristband holders. In fact, check out all our SXSW articles since we have previews and interviews with local and Texas filmmakers.

Texas at SXSW 2014: Daniel Laabs, 'Easy'

in

Still from Easy

Easy is a semi-autobiographical short about brothers from former Austinite/current Dallas resident Daniel Laabs. The director recently completed a successful crowdfunding campaign to cover post-production costs for the film, which will have its world premiere at SXSW. The short he co-directed with Julie Gould, 8, premiered at SXSW in 2011, where it won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Texas Short. 

Easy will be shown as part of the Texas Shorts program at this year's festival. Laabs answered some questions I had via email before SXSW Film.

What drew you to tell the story of the two brothers in Easy?

Daniel Laabs: I tend to write films that come from personal experience. The idea of showing what it is like to be both an older brother and a younger brother was very interesting (I'm a middle child).

SXSW 2014 Preview: 24 Beats Per Second

in

American Interior

Each year, the programmers of the SXSW Film Festival deliver a fresh batch of documentaries and films that focus on music in the 24 Beats Per Second sidebar. With such a wide variety of bands and artists performing all over the city during the festival, it only makes sense that some of them would invade our darkened theaters too. We've taken a look at some of the most promising movies premiering this year to help you prioritize what you should add to your schedule. 

American Interior (pictured above) -- Gruff Rhys, lead singer of Welsh rockers Super Furry Animals, went on a solo tour in 2012 retracing the steps of one of his relatives. Explorer John Evans left Wales in 1792 headed to America on what would be a seven year quest, searching for a lost tribe of Welsh-speaking Native Americans. Rhys followed Evans's path, playing music along the way and then eventually writing a book about what he learned. It was all captured by a documentary crew and the film makes its world premiere on Tuesday, March 11 at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz 1. It will also screen on Wednesday, March 12 at Stateside and on Friday, March 14 at Alamo Ritz 2. 

On the Set of 'From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series'

Zane Holz and D.J. Cotrona as the Gecko Brothers

The Gecko Brothers are back, and attendees of the 2014 SXSW Film Festival can see them first at the world premiere of the pilot episode of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series on Saturday, March 8, 4:30 pm at the Vimeo Theater in the Austin Convention Center. The debut is part of the new Episodic screening category for this year's festival.

The Episodic category was inspired by previous SXSW featured content, including A&E's Bates Motel and the HBO series Girls. Other series featured at this year's fest will include the educational Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, the comedic series Deadbeat, and Austin writer/director Mike Judge's Silicon Valley. The television premiere of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series will be broadcast on Tuesday, March 11, 8 pm CST on El Rey Network.

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is a re-imagined story based upon the original film but with the addition of new characters and storylines. This includes an intertwining of the Mesoamerican mythology that the main characters, bank robber Seth Gecko (D. J. Cotrona) and his volatile brother Richie Gecko (Zane Holtz), encounter while on the run from Texas Rangers Earl McGraw (Don Johnson) and Freddie Gonzalez (Jessie Garcia).

Texas at SXSW 2014: Augustine Frizzell, 'I Was a Teenage Girl'

in

Still from I Was a Teenage Girl

Dallas actress Augustine Frizzell shows up in two films at this year's SXSW, playing roles in both Kat Candler's Hellion and Toby Halbrooks' short Dig. Meanwhile, the short film she directed, I Was a Teenage Girl, premieres at the film festival as part of the Texas Shorts competition. Frizzell's short stars her daughter Atheena Frizzell and Claire Stuart Meiner as two teens having an intense discussion after one of them suffers a breakup.

Frizzell recently answered a few of my questions about her film via email.

Slackerwood: How did you conceive of the idea for your short?

Augustine Frizzell: I wanted to explore some of the issues that girls of this age face that feel (and are) much more mature than what they dealt with maybe a year earlier. We shot three shorts based around this concept, but only the third was finished in time. Each of the three was about these big issues and how they change the girls and impact their futures in unexpected ways.

SXSW 2014: Film Festival Theaters

SXSW marquee at Stateside

Here we are again with another edition of Slackerwood's popular SXSW Film venue guide. Over the years, we've included some of the theaters in every edition, but new venues turn up annually for us to explore. Some of the previous venues have a few changes too.

This guide to SXSW Film theaters will be updated before and during the fest as we get more useful information to add to it, especially relating to the newer venues. Don't hesitate to contact us with tips.

Here are some of the SXSW venue changes for 2014:

  • A new SXSatellite venue has been added: the Marchesa, known to locals as the home of Austin Film Society screenings for the past 9 months-ish. Unlike the other two satellite venues -- Alamo Drafthouse Village and Alamo Slaughter -- SXSW will be screening movies at the Marchesa for the entire duration of the film festival. The Marchesa will be the home for the free/public SXSW Community Screenings, including the AFS ShortCase on Saturday. Check out a photo from the lobby below.

Texas at SXSW 2014: Toby Halbrooks, 'Dig'

in

Toby Halbrooks of Dig

Two Texas-based short films that were in competition at Sundance 2014 are making their Texas debuts at the SXSW Film Festival: writer/director Todd Rohal's Rat Pack Rat and Dig, by Dallas-based filmmaker Toby Halbrooks.

Halbrooks is an integral member of the filmmakers at Sailor Bear, a Dallas-based production company that includes David Lowery, James Johnston, Shaun Gish and Richard Krause. Last year's Sailor Bear feature Ain't Them Bodies Saints received an award for cinematography at Sundance, and this year's festival featured Alex Ross Perry's Listen Up Philip, also produced by the Sailor Bear team.

Dig stars Austinite Jonny Mars and newcomer Mallory Mahoney, who plays a young girl intrigued by the large hole her father (Mars) is digging in their backyard.

I spoke with Halbrooks in Park City during Sundance about Dig as well as other Sailor Bear projects, including the short film Pioneer. Here's what he had to say.

Austin at SXSW 2014: Margaret Brown, 'The Great Invisible'

in

Still from The Great Invisible

Documentarian Margaret Brown's new movie, The Great Invisible, depicts the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and resultant oil spill from multiple viewpoints. Brown has deep ties to Alabama, one of the states hit hard by the oil spill, and used to call Austin home as well. Her previous film work includes the acclaimed 2004 Townes Van Zandt documentary Be Here to Love Me and 2008's The Order of Myths (Jette's Cinematical review), a look at segregated Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile that went on to win an Independent Spirit Award.

The Great Invisible is showing as part of SXSW's Documentary Competition, and will have its world premiere at the fest. (The music is from Austin composer David Wingo.) Director Brown recently participated in this interview (via email) with me.

Slackerwood: Once you chose to document the response to the Deepwater Horizon spill, what was your approach? How did you pick the interview subjects?

Margaret Brown: At first I was interested in the aftermath in the area around Mobile, Alabama, where I grew up. I was curious about what would happen in a big disaster once the cameras went away, and the world's interest waned. I also started the film thinking it was going to be a personal film that was really just about where I grew up, much like my last film, The Order of Myths.

SXSW 2014 Guides: Wristband Info and Tips for Locals

in

paramount line

Paying big bucks for a badge isn't the only way to be a part of the SXSW Film Festival. For locals willing to forego lanyards and the feeling of being first in line, the wristband is another option -- often a good one, but one that requires a little more creative planning and patience.

Sold for $80 at various venues around town -- $75 at the Marchesa before any Austin Film Society event if you're an AFS member-- the wristband (known as the Film Pass before last year) grants access to any film shown during the festival, provided there is space available after badgeholders (Platinum, Film and Gold) have been seated. This means smaller venues like the Violet Crown and Alamo Drafthouse Ritz probably won't be worth trying, but larger theaters like the Paramount will most likely work out just fine (even single-ticket buyers can probably get into the Paramount, but more about that later).

If you're taking the wristband route this year, read on for a few facts, tips and observations that will hopefully help you get the most out of being a wristbandito (that's a term coined by Jette last year that deserves another go, I think).

Austin at SXSW 2014: SXSW Shorts Programmer Claudette Godfrey

in

David Hartstein and Claudette Godfrey An exhaustive amount of time, energy, and effort goes into programming one of the largest film festivals in the United States, and it takes a dedicated team of programmers to carefully select the best program for the SXSW Film Festival each year.

Recently the Austin Film Society (AFS) hosted "An Austinite's Guide to the 2014 SXSW Film Festival," a panel discussion moderated by AFS Associate Artistic Director Holly Herrick and featuring Head of SXSW Film Janet Pierson, Producer and Senior Programmer Jarod Neece, and Short Film Programmer and Operations Manager Claudette Godfrey. And I've been chatting via email with Godfrey as well.

At the panel discussion, the SXSW programming team talked about what's new this year and what films they were excited about. Neece mentioned the new episodic category and is most excited for the new series Silicon Valley, directed and written by Austinite Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky.

Austin at SXSW 2014: Riley Stearns, 'Faults'

in

Still from Faults

Director Riley Stearns now lives in L.A. but was raised in the Austin area (Pflugerville, if you're being picky). His short film The Cub premiered at Sundance last year (and screened locally at the Hill Country Film Festival), and his feature film debut, Faults, will premiere at SXSW this March. This drama, which Stearns also wrote, stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as a young woman whose family hires deprogrammer Ansel (Leland Orser, Taken) to remove her from a cult.

The cast also includes Lance Reddick (from the recently-ended sci-fi series Fringe) and Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite) along with Slackerwood favorite and prolific character actress Beth Grant (here's a podcast interview she did with us a while ago).

Before SXSW starts Friday, Stearns paused to talk to us via email about his new movie, working with his wife, and filming in hotel rooms.

Austin at SXSW 2014: Jeffrey Radice, 'No No: A Dockumentary'

in

dock ellis

In 1970, baseball player Dock Ellis somehow pitched a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates while out-of-his-mind high on LSD. Along with his generally brash and outspoken demeanor, this act helped solidify Ellis' legendary status both as a great player and all-around fascinating person, and it's his life on and off the baseball field that Austin filmmaker Jeffrey Radice explores in No No: A Dockumentary.

Making its regional premiere at the SXSW Film Festival this month, No No earned high marks from many who saw it at Sundance and should be a highlight for anyone looking to catch all the Texas-based movies featured this year.  

Radice was kind enough to answer a few questions via email for Slackerwood about the film and how it came to be. No No: A Dockumentary will have its SXSW premiere on Saturday, March 8 at the Paramount at 11:30 am and screens again the following Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday (find the details here). 

Check Out the AFS ShortCase Lineup for SXSW 2014

in

Whitewash

The Austin Film Society jury has chosen eight selections for the AFS ShortCase program, which annually presents to SXSW attendees a diverse mix of shorts created by AFS members. The 2014 jury included Austin filmmaker Clay Liford (Wuss), AFS programmer Lars Nilsen and Slackerwood contributor Debbie Cerda.

The ShortCase screening will take place during the first weekend of the fest, Saturday March 8 at 2 pm at the Marchesa. (Add the screening to your schedule here.) It's free and open to the public even if you don't have a SXSW badge or wristband -- but get there early, because last year this event filled up fast and a number of people were turned away.

The short features and documentaries include:

Digging for the Water (Joshua Riehl) -- In the hilltop village of Creve, Haiti residents have no electricity or running water. Their only supply, which they must carry by hand from a neighboring village, is contaminated with bacteria. Volunteers from the organization Mountain of Hope and The University of Texas at Austin arrange to help drill a well for the village.

Slackery News Tidbits: March 3, 2014

in

Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • The Austin-shot film Hellion has been acquired for US distribution by Sundance Selections (via Hollywood Reporter). The movie premiered at Sundance this year and will screen at SXSW. Read Debbie's review and her interview with filmmaker Kat Candler.
  • At the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, the Robert Altman Award went to Mud (Debbie's review), from Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols (via Indiewire). The award is given to a director and ensemble cast -- for Mud, the cast includes Austin actor Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan (Joe) and Reese Witherspoon. In addition, McConaughey took home the Best Actor award for his role in Dallas Buyers Club (Caitlin's review).
  • But that wasn't all for McConaughey, who also won an Academy Award last night for Best Actor for Dallas Buyers Club.
  • In Alamo Drafthouse news, Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez's El Rey Network has partnered with the Drafthouse to screen the premiere episode of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, a television adaptation of his 1996 cult film From Dusk Till Dawn, on Tuesday, March 11 at nine Drafthouse markets across the country to coincide with its television premiere at 8 pm that day, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League will host a live Q&A with Rodriguez and the series cast following the Austin screening at Alamo Slaughter. This Q&A will be livestreamed into other participating Drafthouse theaters and on the El Rey Network YouTube channel. The Austin-shot From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series will be the first scripted original series to air on Rodriguez's new cable network.