June 2014

AFS Essential Cinema Preview: Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman, Painfully Connected

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persona still

The next Austin Film Society Essential Cinema Series, "Liv and Ingmar," will run on Thursdays at 7:30 pm from July 3-31 at the Marchesa. The following column from programmer Chale Nafus provides some context for the films.

Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg, John Wayne and John Ford, Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater. Throughout film history there have been directors who frequently work with one particular actor through whom they can realize their cinematic dreams. Familiarity with an actor's face, body, voice, mannerisms and psychological depths can provide a director a preview of how a movie might look and sound even before the cameras roll.

Such was the 12-year relationship between Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann and Swedish writer/director Ingmar Bergman. Together they made eight feature films and one television miniseries, beginning with Persona (1966) and ending with Autumn Sonata (1978). They also fell in love during the production of their first film together.

The filming of Persona (which screens July 3) took place on the remote Swedish island of Fårö, an island off the coast of an island, a place Bergman had loved ever since filming Through a Glass Darkly there in 1961. He was drawn to its solitude and stark natural beauty. It easily served as a setting that forced people to confront their own inner demons as well as those of the people around them. Such would happen with Bergman and Ullmann.

Slackery News Tidbits: June 30, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • The Austin Film Festival's list of 2014 conference panelists grows with the recent additions of writer Lawrence Kasdan (various Star Wars films), writer/director John Patrick Shanley Doubt), writer Randall Wallace (Braveheart), writer Oren Uziel (22 Jump Street) and Ilysse McKimmie, director of the Sundance Labs feature film program. Badges are still available for the conference and festival, which takes place Oct. 23-30.
  • In more AFF news, the nonprofit's Free Family Film Series presents a screening of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey Sunday at 3 pm at the Texas Spirit Theater. The 1993 family drama based on the book The Incredible Journey follows two adventurous dogs and a cat as they escape from a ranch to reunite with their owners. Co-screenwriter of Homeward Bound, Caroline Thompson, will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.
  • AFF news continues: The nonprofit will co-sponsored the film series "1968's Past, Present, and Future" beginning Tuesday, July 8 until Aug. 12 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Screenings of Bandolero!, Rosemary's Baby and 2001: A Space Odyssey will also include Q&As with film historians. This series is free for AFF and Bullock Museum members.
  • The City of Austin's Economic Development Department, in partnership with Mid-America Arts Alliance and the Texas Commission on the Arts, is bringing an Artist INC Live Seminar to Austin. The deadline for artists to apply is tonight at 11:59 pm. The department's Cultural Arts Division will host the eight-week seminar from Oct. 4-Nov. 22. AFF's lead editor for its television series On Story, Roy Rutngamlug, was chosen to be one of six local arts professionals to act as a facilitator and lead a movie training session during the seminar.

Movies This Week: June 27-July 1, 2014

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 Hellion

The Austin Film Series is wrapping up its "Rebel Rebel" series this weekend with a 35mm print of Female Trouble, the raunchy 1974 comedy from enfant terrible John Waters. It screens tonight and Sunday afternoon at the Marchesa. That's also the place to be on Thursday night as a new Essential Cinema series launches featuring some of the best collaborations of Liv Ullman and Ingmar Bergman. The first film of the series is 1966's Persona, screening in a 35mm print. Look for an article about the series on Monday by programmer Chale Nafus.

The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz has another eclectic week ahead of specialty screenings. On Saturday afternoon, you can view the late-era Marx Bros. classic, 1946's A Night In Casablanca. Also this week, there's a Bill & Ted double feature on Sunday that will include two new Mondo posters available for purchase, Russ Meyer's Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls screens in 35mm on Monday night as does a digital presentation of the Whoopi Goldberg classic Sister Act. "The Complete David Lynch" series begins on Wednesday night (and continues through the end of August) with a 35mm print of Eraserhead. Finally, Brooklyn rockers Conveyor will be at the Ritz on Thursday to perform a live score to George Lucas' THX 1138

Alamo Slaughter Lane has a Cinema Cocktails screening of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels on Sunday night and the legendary rock comedy This Is Spinal Tap will play there on Tuesday and Thursday. Alamo Lakeline is featuring an underground Hindi flick called Miss Lovely tonight through Monday for late-night showings. They've also got a special one-off screening of John Cameron Mitchell's genderbending Hedwig And The Angry Itch happening  Thursday. 

Review: Snowpiercer

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Snowpiercer

There was a fair amount of controversy over Snowpiercer long before the U.S. release was decided. Rumors surfaced several months ago that The Weinstein Company wanted to aim for a wide release, but only if the film was trimmed by 20 minutes. South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Mother) wasn't especially interested in altering his English-language debut in order to please a more mainstream audience. After a rather public spat, his 125-minute cut stands, although the film is now restricted to a limited release domestically. This science-fiction oddity is based on the acclaimed French graphic novel Le Transperceneige.

The story takes us into a frighteningly frozen future where the only people left on Earth are circling the planet on a powerful, self-sustaining train where the passengers are separate and far from equal. An experiment to try and stop the effects of global warming failed and forced the entire planet into a new Ice Age that killed the majority of people on the planet. Those who survived made it onto the train, but the amenities vary based on social status. Those who could afford to pay to live in the front of the train are afforded plenty of comfort and food (not to mention drugs and freshly made sushi) while the poor are heavily persecuted in the tail compartment.

Chris Evans, Jamie Bell and Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer are among the citizens who have been barely surviving for 17 years in the back of the train when the film gets underway. They're covered in dirt, stacked like sardines and are frequently rounded up and counted by armed soldiers with short tempers. As the members of the tail start to rise up and plan to riot their way to the front of the train, they're met with great resistance. They battle their way into each new train car and slowly realize that there are plenty of people on board who are not surviving with only a small ration of protein bars to get the through the days. 

Review: Hellion

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Hellion

Jacob Wilson is a troubled kid. Like many teenagers, he's a rebel without a pause, constantly battling the adults in his life while figuring out who he is. But adolescent battles are far worse for Jacob than for most 13 year olds; his life can be as noisy, chaotic and dangerous as the motocross races he enters for a shot at stardom and a little respect from his family and friends.

Jacob (Josh Wiggins) is at the center of Hellion, Austin filmmaker Kat Candler's gritty new feature based on her 2012 short of the same title. We can't really blame Jacob for being the titular troublemaker. His mother is dead; his alcoholic father, Hollis (Aaron Paul), tries to take care of his sons, but needs to try harder. With his father physically or emotionally absent much of the time, Jacob must look after his little brother, Wes (Deke Garner). He also hangs out with a group of budding delinquents who entertain themselves with criminal mischief around their scruffy working-class neighborhood.

Photo Essay: A Hill Country Flyer Jaunt to See 'Snowpiercer'

Snowpiercer

I had little idea what to expect from the movie Snowpiercer, as I had not even seen a trailer. But buzz for the movie had been overwhelmingly positive, and Tim League and the crew of the Alamo Drafthouse throw some of the best parties around -- so I found myself in a line late Saturday afternoon to board the Hill Country Flyer for a trip to Burnet and a Rolling Roadshow presentation of the film with director Bong Joon-ho in attendance for a Q&A.

Lone Star Cinema: Nadine

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Nadine

There were high hopes for the Austin-made comedy Nadine when it was released in 1987.

The filmmaker, Robert Benton, had an impressive track record as a screenwriter (Bonnie and Clyde, What's Up, Doc and Superman) and writer/director (The Late Show, Kramer vs. Kramer and Places in the Heart). Nadine also had two white-hot stars (Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger) and a strong supporting cast (Rip Torn, Glenne Headly, Jerry Stiller and a host of other great character actors).

But sadly, Nadine was a flop -- and for the most part, deservedly so.

Nadine is the story of the titular Nadine Hightower (Basinger), a struggling hairstylist in 1954 Austin. Strapped for cash, she poses for some nude "art studies" but now has second thoughts about the photos. When she visits photographer Raymond Escobar (Stiller) to retrieve them, she witnesses his murder. She also mistakenly steals secret plans for a new road -- valuable plans to anyone wanting to buy land along the roadway.

Ready, Set, Fund: Queens, Teens and Lazer Team

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Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and fundraising endeavors related to Austin and Texas independent film projects.

With summer in full swing, we've happened upon several Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns of films gearing up to shoot over these next few months. Headlining these campaigns is the Lazer Team project, the first feature film to be made by Austin production group Rooster Teeth (Red vs. Blue). A bit elusive in the plot description, the story is described as a live-action sci-fi comedy that takes place in the aftermath of receiving an alien signal on Earth.

The Indiegogo campaign raised an impressive $650,000+ on its first launch day, and has now crossed the $1.5 million mark. I'm sure it's due to not only a large fan base, but the impressive incentives offered. Already sold out of the highest two, perks include 20-second voicemails from your favorite Rooster Teeth personality ($400 donation), a Virtual LAN Party with the RT team ($2,000 donation), and even a walk-on role in the film ($6,000 donation). You can watch the video below for more information. The campaign ends on July 6.

Slackery News Tidbits: June 23, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • Austin will be the setting of two upcoming TV series. KUT reports that HBO is developing God Save Texas, about a freshman Texas legislator wooed by energy lobbyists. Writer/co-producer Lawrence Wright is basing the show on his play Sonny's Last Shot. No word yet on whether it will actually be shot in Austin. And per Austin Business Journal, Amazon is producing Hysteria, a series starring Mena Suvari as a psychiatrist at The University of Texas at Austin who's investigating a teen epidemic related to the title. This series might actually shoot locally, considering a recent casting call.
  • Local screenwriter/author/former film critic C. Robert Cargill has his next project lined up: He's co-scripting The Outer Limits with Scott Derrickson, who co-wrote the horror feature Sinister with him too. The movie will be based primarily on an episode of the 1960s anthology show titled "Demon with a Glass Hand," originally written by Harlan Ellison. (via Hollywood Reporter)
  • Cinema Eye Honors, which recognizes documentary filmmaking, announced its shortlist last week for the Nonfiction Film for Television Award. The ten candidates include All About Ann: Governor Richards of the Lone Star State, the HBO documentary about the Texas governor that screened in an earlier incarnation as Ann Richards' Texas at Austin Film Festival 2012 (Debbie's review). Anyone out there seen both, and can comment on the differences?

Movies This Week: June 20-26, 2014

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Obvious Child

The Austin Film Society has teamed up with Dan Halstead of Portland's Kung Fu Theater to host the 2nd annual "Old School Kung Fu Weekend" at the Marchesa. Three films will screen tonight and three more tomorrow, all directly from rare 35mm prints. The lineup is top secret and most of the movies have never before played in town. Passes are available for the entire series or individual tickets will be sold at the door, capacity permitting.

The AFS Screening Room hosts an Avant Cinema screening on Wednesday night of the 1947 film Dreams That Money Can Buy, created by avant-garde masters Hans Richter, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Fernand Leger, Alexander Calder and John Cage. Thursday night's Essential Cinema selection is Abel Gance's J'Accuse. Presented in a DCP of a recent restoration, this 1919 silent classic presents a love triangle between a soldier, his wife and her lover during World War I. 

After a week off, the Marx Brothers retrospective picks back up this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. The Big Store was their last film for MGM and was originally released in 1941. This rarely-screened film plays from a 16mm print tomorrow afternoon. There are still a few tickets left for Sunday's Merylthon at the Ritz. Celebrating Meryl Streep's 65th birthday, the marathon will feature five secret titles, all screening from 35mm prints. The Ritz also has Russ Meyer's Mudhoney in 35mm on Monday night and The Devil Is A Woman in 35mm on Wednesday, which wraps up their salute to Dietrich and Von Sternberg. 

Review: Jersey Boys

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Jersey Boys

Directing Jersey Boys is an interesting career choice for Clint Eastwood. Did he make the right choice?

Fans of the stage musical Jersey Boys may think so; at its heart, the film is true to the smashingly successful stage version. It's also a safe bet that fans of the Four Seasons (Google them, millennials) will like the movie, which features many of the group's hits.

But fans of the exalted filmmaker's best work may be disappointed. Of course Jersey Boys isn't meant to be another Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby or Gran Torino -- but even by the lightweight standards of crowd-pleasing musicals, Jersey Boys feels a bit empty.

A biography of the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys opens in mid-Fifties New Jersey, where teenage lead singer Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) and lead guitarist Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), perform in New Jersey clubs with an early incarnation of the group, the Four Lovers. Among their fans is neighborhood gangster Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), who isn't a great role model for young Valli and but helps him escape a close call.

Review: Obvious Child

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Jenny Slate in Obvious Child

One of the films I regret missing at SXSW is Obvious Child, which opens in Austin on Friday. Jenny Slate (Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation) stars as Donna, a raunchy stand-up comedian. A one-night stand with cute yuppie Max (Jake Lacy, The Office) leads to Donna's accidental pregnancy, and she schedules an appointment to have an abortion. Unlike many other movies or TV shows (Juno, Sex and the City) where a character wants an abortion and then changes her mind, Donna is resolute in her decision.

What she is uncertain about is pretty much everything else. Her boyfriend just broke up with her in a gross bar restroom (props to the set designers for creating a truly dingy-looking bathroom). The bookstore where she works is closing, and her career in stand-up is far from explosive. Her mother (Polly Draper, thirtysomething) encourages her to make real plans for the future. Max seems too straight-laced to be her type, but Donna really likes him. She's just not sure what his response to her news will be.

Director Gillian Robespierre based her first feature on her 2009 short of the same name, which also starred Slate.  There's a raw feeling to the humor and to Slate's portrayal of Debbie. Her post-breakup, wasted stand-up set is terrifically awkward for all involved. A small complaint would be that this set seems to last longer than it should, but it truly showcases Debbie's feeling of humiliation.

TAMI Flashback: The Roy Faires Collection

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Roy Faires

This article is the ninth in Slackerwood's second series about the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) video library. For an overview of the TAMI site, refer to this article in the first series.

Today's Austinites may not be familiar with Roy Faires. But in the Seventies and Eighties, he was a fixture of local TV news and a household name in the River City.

The University of Texas graduate worked at Austin's PBS affiliate, KLRU-TV, from 1971 to 1976 as a news anchor, reporter and producer, and hosted the Who Knows the Answer? weekly quiz show for high-school students.

Faires then joined Austin's ABC affiliate, KVUE-TV, where he wore many hats and won many awards. In his 13 years at the station (1976-1989), he was a news reporter, anchor, director, editor and producer, as well as an entertainment reporter and film critic for the Good Morning Austin morning show. He also worked on the weekly Crime Stoppers segments, which helped solve local crimes, and Wednesday's Child segments, which helped find adoptive parents for children in foster care.

Review: We Are the Best!

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We Are The Best!

Swedish director Lukas Moodysson's filmography has had a spotty history of even being seen in the United States. His earlier works Show Me Love and Together managed to receive distribution here, but some of his more serious films (like the brutal sex-trafficking drama Lilya 4-ever and A Hole In My Heart) never were even properly released here. In 2009, he made his English-language debut with a film called Mammoth that IFC released stateside and then he fell off the radar for a few years.  

He's finally returned to the big screen with We Are the Best!, a lighthearted adaptation of the graphic novel Never Goodnight, written by his wife Coco Moodysson. Set in 1982 Stockholm, we're introduced to Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), two 13-year-old best friends who don't really fit in socially at school. They're tomboyish and seem to live in their own little world, mostly happy to be excluded by their peers and misunderstood by their parents. When they get the idea to start a punk band, they recruit a shy Christian girl from their class named Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) who is an excellent guitarist. Since Bobo and Klara don't even know how to play instruments, they get Hedvig to help them prepare for a school talent show.

Slackery News Tidbits: June 16, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez's El Rey Network will have its corporate headquarters and production in Austin, becoming the first general entertainment network to have a formal production home in Texas, Deadline Hollywood reports.
  • The Orchard, a pioneering independent music, film and video distribution company and top-ranked multichannel network, has acquired worldwide rights to acclaimed sports feature No No: A Dockumentary (Caitlin's review), directed by Jeffrey Radice (Caitlin's interview). The documentary premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival, then screened at SXSW. The feature, which will be available through The Orchard's documentary imprint Opus Docs, takes an in-depth look at the life surrounding baseball legend Dock Ellis.
  • The completely University of Texas at Austin-staffed feature Arlo and Julie (Elizabeth's review) was profiled in the university's yearlong series, "The Creative Campus." The comedy, about a neurotic couple (former Austinites Ashley Spillers and Alex Dobrenko) who become obsessed with a mysterious puzzle, made its world premiere at this year's SXSW and was directed by UT Lecturer Steve Mims.
  • In award news, Austin-based filmmaker Richard Linklater and the Austin-shot feature Intramural recently won fan-favorite awards at this year's Seattle International Film Festival, according to The Seattle Times. Linklater's latest, Boyhood, which chronicles the life of a child from age six to 18 and stars native Texan Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, won Best Director; fellow Austin filmmaker Andrew Disney's Intramural, about a fifth-year college senior's last-ditch attempt at an intramural football win, won Best Guilty Pleasure.

Movies This Week: June 13-19, 2014

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 We Are The Best!

The Austin Film Society continues its "Rebel Rebel" series this weekend with a brand new 35mm print of Jamaa Fanaka's 1976 film Emma Mae. Tonight's screening at the Marchesa is free to AFS members, and the movie will play again on Sunday afternoon. AFS is also sponsoring a screening of The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, starring Tommy Lee Jones, on Wednesday night at the Texas Spirit Theater (inside the Bullock Texas State History Museum). It's free for AFS members, as well as AFF, Cine Las Americas and Bullock Museum members. Julio Cedillo and producer Eric Williams will be there for a post-screening Q&A. Head back to the Marchesa on Thursday night for a 35mm print of Truffaut's Jules And Jim. The film is part of this month's Essential Cinema series on films Of World War I. 

Alamo Drafthouse Ritz has programmed a weekend of classic biker flicks to celebrate the annual ROT Rally called "Hell's Angels On Reels!" Saturday will feature The Wild Angels, Sinner's Blood and She-Devils On Wheels while Sunday's got Run Angels Run, Hell's Angels Forever and The Losers. All six films will screen from 35mm (or 16mm) prints. Also this week at the Ritz, Russ Meyer's Up! screens on Monday night in a 35mm print from the Meyer estate and 1934's The Scarlet Empress plays on Wednesday as part of this month's "Dietrich & Von Sternberg in 35mm" series. Elsewhere at the Drafthouse, both Alamo Slaughter Lane and Alamo Lakeline have Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade screening digitally on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and Alamo Village will be hosting Muay Thai Warrior on Tuesday night for its "Eastern Fury" martial arts series. 

Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

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How To Train Your Dragon 2It has been five years since Hiccup befriended Toothless and brought peace between the Vikings of Berk and the dragons in How to Train Your Dragon. Now they're back for an adventure with new villains, increased stakes, and of course, bigger dragons in How to Train Your Dragon 2.

All of the original voice cast returns in this sequel by writer/director Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch), and they are joined by Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou (Amistad) and Kit Harington (Game of Thrones). The characters are already well established by the 2010 film as well as two seasons of the Dreamworks Dragons TV series that continued their story, but this film is almost entirely about Hiccup and Toothless, leaving the rest of their friends largely in the background.

A young man now, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) no longer has to struggle for the approval of his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) and is full of confidence as the leader of Berk's dragonriders, but he grows restless, longing to explore and learn about the world as Stoick demands more time of him at home to prepare for his role as the future chief of the island.

On another of his frequent explorations, Hiccup discovers a dragon trapper (Harington) and learns of a terrifying new menace. This sets off a chain of events that takes the characters through a much darker, more grown-up story arc much like the progression of the Harry Potter series, which aged with its viewers. Stronger emotions, good and bad, are brought to the surface and explored through serious themes including duty, war, loss and budding sexual attraction. Strong topics for a kids' film, but weaved skillfully through a powerful action-adventure tale.

Visually, Dreamworks Animation has always held a reputation for producing the top films, but they've set a new bar with How to Train Your Dragon 2. New animation software and touch-screen technology allowed animators to directly manipulate characters by hand, and if you look closely, fans of other dragon-related series may notice some easter eggs including a nod to Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern.

Review: 22 Jump Street

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22 Jump Street

Fresh off the runaway success of The Lego Movie, the directorial team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller returns with what will likely be summer's most satisfying comedy for adults. Even though the trailers didn't inspire much confidence that 22 Jump Street would actually be any good, it turns out that this wholly unnecessary sequel was worth waiting for.

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reprise their roles as Jenko and Schmidt, two cops on the hunt for drug dealers. While the first film followed the inspiration of the original Fox series by having them go undercover in high school, 22 Jump Street sends the guys to college. The movie is 150% in on the joke, repeatedly making fun of movie sequels and encouraging the stars to do everything "just like last time" with a knowing wink to the audience. So often, that's what we all hate about Hollywood movies, but it works perfectly here. 

Photos: Ken Taylor Mondo Gallery Show

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Once again, avid collectors lined up last week to be among the first to see and purchase art from the latest Mondo gallery show. This show, running from May 30 to June 21, presents exclusively prints and original works from perennial favorite artist Ken Taylor.

Review: Ida

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Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska in IDA

Two women are on a journey in Ida, by director Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love, The Woman in the Fifth), opening Friday in Austin at Regal Arbor. Orphaned Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska making her film debut), a novice nun, has just found out she is Jewish and her birth name is Ida. Her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza, Suicide Room, Rose), a listless alcoholic judge, is taking her to find her lost family.

One can assume that since it's the late Fifties or early Sixties in the People's Republic of Poland, and Anna is Jewish and in her twenties, the story of what happened to her family is likely tied to the previous Nazi occupation.

Pawlikowski chose to shoot his film in black and white, which adds to the historical aspect of the narrative, but used a squishy 1.37:1 aspect ratio which almost negates any cinematic feeling Ida might have. Within these limits, the director still captures some beautifully framed shots. The stairs in the hotel lobby, the placement of Anna's head in the frame -- there are artistic touches here. The cinematography -- boxy as it may feel -- reflects how Anna keeps herself apart.

ATX TV Fest 2014: Intense Discussions with the 'Archer' Gang

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When I received my confirmation email to meet writer/producer Matt Thompson and Archer cast members Lucky Yates (Doctor Krieger), Chris Parnell (Cyril Figgis) and H. Jon Benjamin (Sterling Archer) in the Les Paul room of Maggie Mae's, I thought for sure I was being pranked. I've not been to that bar in a while, but I certainly didn't remember it having an upstairs room. Sure enough, as I serendipitously found parking right next to the bar that Friday afternoon, I discovered that the Archer team had found a little spot to beat the humid Austin heat -- a getaway from the growing buzz of 6th Street on a Friday afternoon.

The guys were as I anticipated: laid back, relaxed and quick to make jokes about any topic that came up. We talked about the film scene in Austin and their panel at the Ritz during ATX Television Festival -- and were interrupted from time to time by other fest panelists who knew the guys and wanted to stop and chat.  After chatting with Parnell about being alumni from the same college, a few nut/bear jokes (don't ask) and what kind of pants are appropriate to wear in a recording studio, we finally got down to discussing the creation of the show.

Slackerwood: Where do you draw inspiration for these storylines in each episode?

Matt Thompson: They mostly come from whatever Adam Reed [the show's creator, who also plays Ray Gillette] feels like doing. People think that it's super-well planned out, but it's really not. We did, however, know the big plot points that we wanted to happen in this latest season but other than that, we kind of make them up as we go along.

Get Ready for Fall Film Fests, Old and New

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Mignola Bride of Frankenstein posterAustin's getting fest-y (and the rising summer temps aren't to blame) with recent news about two new fall film festivals, plus some updates from a longtime local favorite fest.

The fest-o-meter will get turned up a few notches as the weather (hopefully) starts to cool beginning in September with the inaugural MondoCon. Sponsored by the Austin-based art-and-media company/gallery Mondo, MondoCon is scheduled to take place smack dab in the middle of Fantastic Fest, the city's annual genre festival, from Sept. 20-21 at the Marchesa.

MondoCon will be more than a poster show -- with panels, screenings, special guests from various disciplines and good food options. Single and full-weekend tickets are on sale while supplies last. All VIP badges for Fantastic Fest get full-weekend admission.

Fan favorite artists and legends like Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and award-winning comic book artist Bernie Wrightson, among others, are expected to be in attendance at MondoCon. In celebration of the festival, Mignola created a sold-out movie poster for The Bride of Frankenstein (pictured at right).

MondoCon will be accepting volunteer applications in conjunction with Fantastic Fest. Volunteer information will be available next month.

The holidays can, indeed, be out of this world. And a group of local filmmakers and science-fiction enthusiasts are pushing those boundaries with the launch of Austin's first dedicated science-fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin, from Dec. 4-6 at Galaxy Highland 10 (6700 Middle Fiskville Rd.).

Bears Fonte, former director of programming for Austin Film Festival, founded Other Worlds Austin as a shorts program after discovering the number of excellent sf movies that other fests just didn't seem to have room for. Now that he's no longer with AFF, he expanded his idea into a full weekend festival for science-fiction shorts and features alike.

Summer Film Series Updates: Cinema East, Sound and Cinema, Cinema 41

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i believe in unicorns still

The lineup for this year's Cinema East series has been announced, and once again the programmers have selected a solid slate of indie films to fill a few summer Sunday evenings. The outdoor screenings begin around 9 pm at the French Legation, admission is $3-$5, and food and drinks are available to buy. Also important: The BYOB policy is once again in effect this year. 

We've seen a few of the scheduled movies and are excited about the rest, and filmmakers are scheduled to attend five of the seven screenings. If you're not one to let the Texas heat get you down (it's not so bad after the sun sets and you have a beer in your hand), this is the perfect chance to stretch your weekend to the fullest while checking out a few recent independent films.

Here's the schedule:

I Believe in Unicorns (6/22) -- This fantasy-tinged coming-of-age story (pictured above) explores an imaginative young girl's first encounter with troubled love. Director Leah Meyerhoff will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening. 

Summer Indies to Catch: June 2014

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PING PONG SUMMER

This month, the multiplex looks to deliver audiences Clint Eastwood's take on a hit Broadway musical, yet another Tom Cruise sci-fi/action vehicle and four, count 'em four sequels. Yet for anyone wishing to look a little deeper, beyond the icons and the franchises they'll find a collection of thrills, laughs, drama, conflict and tension from both renowned and up-and-coming filmmakers. 

Words and Pictures (now in Austin theaters)

Australian director Fred Schepisi's filmography is a peculiar one, consisting of a collection of solid films (A Cry in the Dark, Six Degrees of Separation), which seem to resonate with cinephiles, but fail to become classics. His latest offering, the romantic dramedy Words and Pictures, may indeed follow suit, but its definitely one of his warmest and sincerest efforts to date. At a private school, a snarky English teacher (Clive Owen), is taken by a caustic art instructor (Juliette Binoche) new to the faculty. A love story at heart, Words and Pictures takes two actors, unknown for their romantic comedy chops, and throws them into said genre with two fun, meaty characters to play. Though the romance will be the draw for most audiences, its the film's debate of writing versus art, and the overall question as to which is the greater form of human expression, that actually make Words and Pictures intriguing.

ATX TV Fest 2014: 'Orange Is The New Black' and Writing Lessons

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This weekend took me all over Season 3 of the ATX Television Festival. Don't worry: I may have heard or seen some show spoilers these past few days, but I won't post any of them here. It was my first time attending the fest, so I tried to make the most of my time as both a writer and an avid fan of television.

Friday quickly became "fangirl Friday" for me, as I had the opportunity to interview cast members from both Orange Is The New Black, and Archer cast members/writer (you can check out that full interview later on this week). OITNB had its Season 2 premiere episode at the Stateside Theater that morning, bringing Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes), Danielle Brooks (Taystee) and Lea DeLaria (Big Boo) in for a post-screening panel discussion.  

I sat down with all three of these actresses after the panel, and quickly heard about what playing these roles has been like for them. Although I wasn't able to ask all of my questions, the main thing I wanted to know was what initially sold each of them on playing these specific characters.  After DeLaria joked, "A steady paycheck," they walked us through the casting process and how they read for Jenji Kohan (the show's creator) and the casting department.

Slackery News Tidbits: June 9, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater's latest feature, Boyhood, swept the top three awards categories at the Seattle International Film Festival on Sunday. The movie, shot over a dozen years in the Austin area, won Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress (Patricia Arquette). Boyhood premiered at Sundance (Debbie's review) screened at SXSW and opens in Austin next month.
  • Actor Kevin Corrigan, who appeared in the Austin Film Society's project Slacker 2011 (and most of local filmmaker Bob Byington's features) and can be seen in Austinite Terrence Malick's upcoming Knight of Cups, will discuss his experiences in the industry during AFS's Moviemaker Dialogue on Monday, June 23 at 7:30 pm at the Marchesa Hall. 
  • Matthew Weiner, creator/executive producer/writer/director of AMC's Mad Men, was recently announced as this year's recipient of the Austin Film Festival Outstanding Television Writer Award. Weiner is scheduled to speak at this year's festival, where he will accept the award. 
  • An Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline employee has sued the Austin-based company, claiming the theater chain isn't paying a sufficient minimum wage and is including the wrong employees in tip pools, Austin Business Journal reports. The suit alleges that all of the servers employed with Alamo Lakeline, which opened last summer, are entitled to recover unpaid minimum wages, damages and other fees. 

Review: Cold in July

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Cold in July

Joe R. Lansdale is such a prolific and successful author, it's surprising we don't see more of his work on the big screen.

A native Texan, Lansdale has published more than 30 mysteries and crime novels set mostly in the Lone Star State, as well as novellas, comic books, graphic novels and many short stories. But only a few of his works have been adapted for film or TV; the 2002 cult film Bubba Ho-Tep is based on a Lansdale novella, and a handful of his short stories have inspired short films. He's also written a few screenplays.

But if the gripping new thriller Cold in July is the success it deserves to be, we may see a lot more movies based on Lansdale's books and stories. Adapted from Lansdale's novel of the same title, Cold in July is a solid bit of Texas noir, a taught and satisfying crime film that delivers in most ways.

Set in East Texas in 1989, Cold in July opens as small-town frame shop owner Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) finds an intruder in his home and shoots the man, Freddy Russell (Wyatt Russell), to death. When the police assure Dane that his actions were in self defense and no charges will be filed, he and his wife, Ann (Vinessa Shaw) assume that's the end of the matter.

Movies This Week: June 6-12, 2014

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Night Moves

Austin Film Society continues their "Rebel Rebel" film series this weekend with a rare 35mm screening of Getting Straight at the Marchesa. This 1970 film from Richard Rush stars Elliott Gould as a Vietnam vet who attempts to go back to college amid the countercultural revolution. Also starring Candice Bergen and shot by legendary cinemtographer Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider, Paper Moon), it's playing tonight and again on Sunday afternoon. Doc Nights is booked for Wednesday evening and will be spotlighting the story of a young ballerina who was diagnosed with polio at 27. Read more about Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq in our preview post here. On Thursday evening, you can view Stanley Kubrick's Paths Of Glory as part of this month's Essential Cinema series about World War I. 

The Paramount Summer Classic Film Series has a wide variety of flicks to choose from this week. Saturday and Sunday at the Paramount, they'll be featuring "Discoveries from the TCM Classic Film Festival." Two rarely screened films, Bachelor Mother and a 1949 version of The Great Gatsby that's been holed up for years due to rights issues, will play in a 35mm double feature. The Shop Around The Corner and Arsenic And Old Lace are also featured in a 35mm double feature there on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Thursday night is a tribute to John Candy and John Hughes. Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains and Automobiles play in 35mm at the Paramount while National Lampoon's Vacation and Stripes screen digitally next door at the Stateside. 

The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz has a very special guest coming to town this weekend with legendary filmmaker William Friedkin stopping by for screenings of his recently restored Sorcerer and also an AFS co-sponsored screening of To Live And Die In L.A. on Saturday. The theater's Russ Meyer tribute continues on Monday night with another 35mm print straight from Meyer's estate, Wild Gals Of The Naked West and there's more Dietrich and Von Sternberg on Wednesday night with a 35mm screening of 1931's Dishonored. 

Review: Night Moves

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night moves still

Kelly Reichardt is a deliberate filmmaker. The scenes she writes, directs and edits rarely feel hurried or careless, and the stories she tells, incredibly focused, have a way of slowly building towards bigger and (usually frightening) truths about society and the people who exist on its fringes. 

Two of Reichardt's earlier films, Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, portray melancholy wanderers with uncertain future prospects, and in many ways Night Moves does this, too. Though more overtly suspenseful than her previous work, her latest effort still maintains a measured restraint as the story advances towards a clearer view of the ambiguous situation at hand. 

It's tough to describe the plot of Night Moves without giving too much away, but it's fair to say that eco-terrorism, paranoia, simmering frustration and CSA boxes all come into play. Set in gray, moody Oregon amongst co-op dwellers and vaguely rebellious idealists, the story follows three particularly ambitious outsiders as they work to carry out a law-breaking and attention-grabbing plan. 

Review: Edge of Tomorrow

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Edge of TomorrowHow do you fight an enemy that already knows exactly what you’re going to do? You throw a Tom Cruise missile at them, someone who doesn’t know himself what he’s going to do. That’s what Brendan Gleeson's General Brigham does in Edge of Tomorrow, the first and possibly best blockbuster action film this summer.

Directed by Doug Liman (Jumper, Mr and Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity) and scripted by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) based on the Japanese comic All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow begins at the end of a war to save the planet from a mysterious alien invader. General Brigham is ready to lead a concerted push from every nation to encircle and destroy the enemy, and he calls Lt. Col. Bill Cage (Cruise), a US Army talking head public-relations officer who’s never seen a day of combat in to cover the D-Day style invasion.

A pathetic attempt to blackmail his way out of putting boots on the ground lands Cage busted to a rank of private and branded an attempted deserter, where he is put under command of Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton), outfitted with a mechanized combat suit, and dumped on the deadliest beach ever to see an invasion. In less than five minutes, Cage is dead, and that ends the first of countless times he must repeat the day, Groundhog Day-style, due to a one-in-a-million accident.

He meets up with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) aka "Full Metal Bitch," the war hero responsible for Earth’s lone victorious battle at Verdun, and learns from her that he must improve his skills through innumerable deaths as he is the only hope for humanity’s survival.

McQuarrie’s script is intelligent and tight, providing just enough information and leaving just enough unsaid to encourage the audience to read between the lines. Great cinematography and crisp editing keep the action going at a brisk pace, so none of the repeated scenes grows stale.

Summer Viewing: Linklater Follows Up 'Jewels in the Wasteland' with Early 80s Film Recs

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Eating Raoul

By Richard Linklater

[Editor's note: Austin Film Society co-founder and filmmaker Richard Linklater recently curated "Jewels in the Wasteland," a series focusing on films of the early 1980s. Today, as a guest columnist for Slackerwood, he recommends other movies he was unable to include in the series.]

We're looking forward to continuing the "Jewels in the Wasteland" series at some point with films from 1984-1986! Below are various titles that would have fit nicely in this first section of 80s films. Before we get going again, we'll likely have some one-off screenings (hopefully Pixote and Baby It's You) that represent additional titles from the first part of the 80s, so keep an eye out for them.

In the meantime, please feel free to check out the below suggestions:

  • Last month's Atlantic City begs you to continue with both Louis Malle's My Dinner with Andre and Bill Forsyth's Local Hero with Burt Lancaster. If you love Local Hero like I think you will, please check out an earlier film of his, Gregory's Girl. I noticed Danny Boyle included a clip from it during his Olympic opening ceremonies.

Review: Filth

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FilthMy first thought on how to describe Filth, which opens Friday for a nightly late-night run at Violet Crown, was that it felt something like Trainspotting meets Fight Club. Then I saw the credits and learned indeed it was based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, who also wrote Trainspotting. (I watched the movie before seeing any publicity materials that clearly indicate this fact.) That it stars James McAvoy (who bears some resemblance to Ewan McGregor) following a self-destructive path of crime and debauchery plays into this comparison.

Filth begins with a murder, which Bruce (McAvoy) is assigned to investigate. Success will lead to a promotion, which Bruce is hell-bent on achieving in hope of winning back the love of his estranged wife and eliciting the return of her and their child. Possessed of a mean streak, however, he spends more time pranking his fellow police in hope of ruining their chances of competing for the promotion.

Jon S. Baird, who wrote and directed Filth, is clearly influenced by Stanley Kubrick. The true plot reveals itself as the mystery unfolds over the course of the film, and Bruce frequently has hallucinations where he is transported to the hotel room from the final scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey. There his psychiatrist, Dr. Rossi (Jim Broadbent), berates him for being a pig and hints that his problems are at least in part due to not taking his medicine.

As he continues his downward spiral, scheming and causing trouble for his friends and coworkers, Bruce also attempts to fill the ever-growing hole in his heart with sex everywhere he can find it. He takes his best friend Bladesey (Eddie Marsan) on a brothel tour while also wooing his wife (Shirley Henderson, aka Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter series) as a prank phone caller.

Rarely would I so describe a movie, but Filth is very Scottish. Some of the dialogue was difficult to follow for one not familiar with the vernacular, though the loss of finer nuances did not make the plot unclear.

AFS Doc Nights Preview: Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq

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George Balanchine and Tanaquil Le Clercq, from Afternoon of a Faun

Perhaps, as I was, you are unfamiliar with the name Tanaquil Le Clercq. This skilled dancer, a principal with the New York City Ballet struck with polio at the age of 27, is the focus of Afternoon of a Faun. The documentary about the ballerina's life comes from Nancy Buirski (The Loving Story), and is the Austin Film Society Doc Nights selection for June.

Tanaquil, known to her friends as "Tanny," started dancing at a young age and impressed choreographers such as George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.  A friend says, "Her body created inspiration for choreographers." She would form strong relationships with those two -- going on to marry Balanchine in 1952 and having a decades-long intense friendship with Robbins. Correspondence between Tanny and Robbins is read during Afternoon of a Faun, showing her dark humor and glimpses of her character, as well as the deep affection felt between them.

Along with these letters, director Buirski compiles interviews with friends and fellow dancers, vintage video, old photos, and audio clips from a past interview with Le Clercq to give the viewer a sense of the ballerina's story. Even in the sometimes scratchy video clips included in the movie, Le Clercq's magnificent talent is obvious. Her performance of Balanchine's La Valse is especially haunting. Portions of Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun start and close the film.

Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq will screen on Wednesday, June 11 at AFS at the Marchesa. Ticket information is on the AFS site.

Get Ready for ATX Television Festival 2014

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ATX Television FestivalAustin television fans have been gearing up for the 3rd annual ATX Television Festival (or as the festival likes to say, "Season 3"), running from Thursday, June 5 to Sunday, June 8 in downtown Austin. The relatively new festival features a handful of current television shows as well as a few retrospectives and panels that focus on the behind-the-scenes world of TV. Venues include Alamo Drafthouse Ritz and Stateside at the Paramount.

The full lineup was recently released, and Nineties kids will once again rejoice at the fact that another childhood favorite is coming to ATX. A cast and crew reunion of Hey Dude! is one of the headliners, bringing fan favorites such as Christine Taylor and David Brisbin to town. That's not the only reunion the fest has planned, though. Everwood and Roswell cast members are also coming together again to discuss what it was like to work on these popular shows.

A "Cancelled Too Soon" section is one of the planned series, featuring episode reviews and mini-marathons of the shows My Generation, Enlisted and Men of a Certain Age. These caught my attention because I'm curious to know what a panel discussion about a cancelled show could entail. (I'll try to hit one of these up so I can fill you in.)

Current television shows are also in the mix, including the highly anticipated Season 2 premiere of Orange is the New Black. (The screening takes place the morning of the show's official Season 2 release date on June 6.) Other screenings include episodes from Bates Motel, Archer, Hemlock Grove, Parenthood and many others. A few series premieres are also set to screen, including pilot episodes from the shows Legends, Mulaney, The Night Shift, Reckless and The Strain.

Review: Palo Alto

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 Palo Alto

Twenty-seven-year-old Gia Coppola enters the family business with this hypnotically observational debut feature based on a short story collection by James Franco. She ended up focusing on several of his stories, combining characters and situations into one fleshed-out screenplay that attempts to examine the aimlessness of upper class teenage life in Southern California. Anchored by impeccable cinematography from Autumn Durald and a great score featuring original compositions by Blood Orange's Devonte Hynes and Gia's cousin Robert Schwartzman of the band Rooney, the film takes its time to float around the storyline without feeling unfocused.

April (Emma Roberts) runs with the popular crowd, but she doesn't quite fit in. She's shy, she plays soccer and is shamefully called out at parties for being a virgin. She has a crush on a quiet artist named Teddy (Jack Kilmer in his acting debut), but is being pursued by her single-dad coach Mr. B (Franco himself). As a frequent babysitter for his kid, April ends up having quite a bit of private time with Mr. B, which develops into an infatuation on his part. Roberts, who is herself a few years older than the character she is portraying, adds a believable realism to the relationship as a girl who is flattered and even excited about the attention, but can't really understand why a man who is so much older is attracted to her. 

AFS Essential Cinema Preview: Films of WWI

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paths of glory still

The latest Austin Film Society Essential Cinema series, "Films of World War I," runs on Thursdays at 7:30 pm, from June 5-24, at the Marchesa. The following column from programmer Chale Nafus offers some background on the movies selected to screen.

In August 1914, World War I broke out in Europe, ostensibly because of the assassination of the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But Germany and France had been itching for war, the former to extend her territories, the latter to regain Alsace-Lorraine, lost to the Prussians in 1870. A series of interlocking treaties pulled Great Britain, Italy and Russia into the maelstrom until the entire continent was up in flames and running red with the blood of millions. Each side thought it would win and be home for Christmas.

Four years later, when the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 (because of American military power entering the war in 1917 and exhaustion on the part of all combatants) nearly 10 million people (soldiers and civilians) had died. Three empires (Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman) fell and were carved up by greedy neighbors or ethnic groups with long memories. Monarchies disappeared, to be replaced initially by well-intentioned attempts at parliamentary governments, but many of those would turn fascist in the 1920s and 1930s. Diseases, especially influenza, traveled home with soldiers and decimated civilian populations. The world was forever changed by The Great War, only to begin the entire process over again on an even larger scale 20 years later. 

Motion pictures were in their adolescence when World War I began. Italy started making feature films in 1913 about the glorious Roman empire, and in the US, D.W. Griffith was filming his racist masterpiece The Birth of a Nation (1915). By the end of the war, the feature-length film was the new norm for film producers all over the world. World War I inevitably became a subject for narratives. Many such movies would question the entire endeavor. One of the first to do so was by French filmmaker Abel Gance.

Slackery News Tidbits: June 2, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • The Austin Film Society has teamed up with The Nature Conservancy to present a screening of Hanna Ranch, a documentary about a fourth-generation cattle ranch in Colorado, tonight at 7:30 pm at the Marchesa Hall. 
  • In more AFS news, the nonprofit recently announced the participants of this year's Artist Intensive, a workshop for emerging narrative feature writer-directors in Austin with projects in various stages of development or pre-production. Filmmaking husband/wife team Julia Halperin's and Jason Cortlund's La Barracuda (Jordan's interview), Stephen Belyeu's and Gregory Day's The Father, filmmaker-musicians Karen Skloss's and Jay Tonne Jr.'s The Honor Farm and local filmmaker Clay Liford's Slash (an expansion of his short of the same name; Debbie's interview) were selected by the programming committee of AFS's board of directors. Each writer-director team will be matched with mentors who will provide project feedback later this month. 
  • The Central Texas-shot indie-comedy Cinema Six (Jette's Dallas dispatch), about the hijinks of three longtime small-town movie theater employees, is now available for free on Hulu
  • Bill and Turner Ross's lyrical documentary Tchoupitoulas, which screened at SXSW 2012, is now available to watch for free online at Doc Alliance Films. The film follows three adolescent brothers on a nighttime journey around New Orleans' French Quarter.