January 2015

Movies This Week: January 30-February 5, 2015

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 Amira & Sam

After a successful run last of week of "In Case Of No Emergency: The Films Of Ruben Ostlund," the Austin Film Society is adding an encore screening of last year's acclaimed Force Majeure this evening at the Marchesa. This is likely your last chance to catch it on the big screen, so don't miss out before the film is released February 10 on home video.

On Sunday evening, fans of Euro exploitation will want to head to the AFS Screening Room where longtime film collector Fred Frey will screen a secret double feature of rare 16mm films from his private collection. The films "will interest those who relish obscure delights." The Jacques Rivette "Essential Cinema" series closes out on Thursday at the Marchesa with a 35mm print of 1981's Le Pont Du Nord. 

Over at the Violet Crown Cinema, the "'Round Midnight" series continues this weekend with Danny Boyle's stylish debut Shallow Grave, which screens tonight and tomorrow. The theater will be offering $2 off all draft beers starting at 11 pm each night before the film begins at 11:30. 

The Alamo Drafthouse is having several Groundhog Day dinners on Monday night. You can buy tickets for Lakeline, Ritz or Slaughter Lane and enjoy a menu of "Pie Three Times." The theater chain is also offering several free screenings of Blade Runner: The Final Cut this week exclusively for Alamo Victory members. Get details here.

Review: Amira & Sam

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Amira and Sam 

Romantic comedies are not exactly known for being rooted in realism. Movies in this genre always include an element of fantasy, whether it is minor or major, to make viewers wonder if it could ever happen to them. There are elements to Amira & Sam that feel surprisingly authentic and even when it begins to feel a little contrived, I do think its heart is in the right place. 

Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks) is Sam, an army solider who has recently returned home and is struggling to reassimilate. He returns to civilian life by working security as a doorman for a highrise apartment building. One night, he makes the mistake of chastizing an elevator full of privileged assholes after seeing one of them urinate outside the front door. They mockingly call him a "redneck cop" and dare him to do something about it. Sam lets the elevator doors close, but quickly shuts down the elevator banks, trapping them while he grabs a mop to clean up the mess. 

Sundance Review: Tangerine

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Tangerine Still Photo

Tangerine captures a seedy side of Los Angles rarely seen on film, in the bowels of a subculture that was not of personal interest until I watched this crudely engaging tale at Sundance Film Festival.

Transgender prostitute Sin-Dee (Kiki Kitana Rodriguez) has just been released from jail on Christmas Eve when her best friend and fellow sex worker Alexandra (Mya Taylor) reveals that Sin-Dee's pimp boyfriend Chester (James Ransone) has been sleeping with a meth addict "fish," Dina (Mickey O'Hagan), during Sin-Dee's incarceration. Sin-Dee strikes out with Alexandra in tow to find both Chester and Dina so she can settle matters.

"There is nothing out here but the hustle," states Alexandra, and that's what the pair do as they embark on a fast-paced journey through the streets of Los Angeles. Their stories are intertwined with that of Armenian cab driver Razmik (Karren Karagulian), who has a weakness for transgender prostitutes, and especially for Sin-Dee. Days spent dealing with difficult customers and nights with his overbearing mother-in-law have Razmik desperate for his own release through carnal pleasure.

Slamdance Review: Bloodsucking Bastards

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Bloodsucking Bastards Still PhotoThe 2015 Slamdance Festival opened on Friday night with a splash -- or rather copious amounts of blood -- in Bloodsucking Bastards, a horror comedy directed by Brian James O'Connell and penned by Ryan Mitts and the Dr. God comedy group. The well-attended opening-night party included the cast and crew in attendance, and plenty of complimentary libations for attendees.

Not since the Spierig brothers' 2009 vampire horror movie Daybreakers have I witnessed such a deluge of fake blood, but the action and humor keep the gag reflex at bay in this film that has been aptly described as "Office Space meets Shaun of the Dead," but with vampires instead of zombies.

Fran Kranz stars in Bloodsucking Bastards as Evan, the acting sales manager in a regional office of a big corporation. He is frustrated with his current work situation with his co-worker and ex-girlfriend Amanda (Emma Fitzpatrick), as well as his slacker buddy Tim (Joey Kern) and the rest of the underperforming sales team. When his boss (Joel Murray) brings in his old nemesis Max (Pedro Pascal) to take on the sales manager position, officemates begin acting strangely and some even go missing. It's up to Evan to convince everyone that an evil force is taking over the office and more than just their jobs are at stake.

Lost in the Awards Rush: Nine

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"Lost in the Awards Rush" is a new weekly series Slackerwood is running during the awards season, to suggest lesser-known but excellent alternatives to popular frontrunners for big movie awards.

Upon its Broadway debut in 1987, Into the Woods was praised as an innovative, dark, bold and musically astounding work that, to this day, remains unequaled. Naturally, a movie version had to follow of this re-imagining of classic fairy tales and what happens after "happily ever after." Though there were plans for a Rob Reiner-directed movie adaptation featuring Cher, Goldie Hawn, Elijah Wood and Robin Williams in the early '90s, that sadly fell apart -- the notion of bringing a project so well regarded and towering in both story and scope seemed virtually impossible.

Enter Rob Marshall, who successfully brought Chicago (2002) (another seemingly un-adaptable Broadway sensation) to the screen and had set out to work similar wonders with what was possibly the most daunting project of his career. Though there were some gripes by theater purists concerning changes that made the story more Disney-esque, Into the Woods proved a smash hit with critics and audiences, while earning Oscar nominations for the film's costumes, production design and supporting actress Meryl Streep.

The film added much-needed luster to Marshall's movie musical resume when recalling his lavishly mounted yet unfairly dismissed adaptation of the Broadway musical Nine (2009). Nine follows celebrated Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he prepares to shoot his eagerly awaited ninth film. However, Guido finds himself in a creative and personal crisis, which prevents him from creating the grandiose masterpiece everyone is expecting. At the heart of Guido's turmoil are the frustrating relationships he has with various women in his life including his wife (Marion Cotillard), mistress (Penelope Cruz), mother (Sophia Loren), muse (Nicole Kidman), costume designer (Judi Dench), an American journalist (Kate Hudson) and a scandalous woman from his childhood (Fergie).

2014 in Review: Frank's Alternative Oscars

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It seems like every year, I see more and more Oscar-hungry campaigns for films and performances than the year before. This past year especially saw an excellent crop of actors and filmmakers contribute above-stellar work to the art of moviemaking. However, in the rush to place the ads, view the screeners and attend the parties during this most high-profile time in the film world, a large amount of first-class work has been forgotten. As a result, I have put together an alternative Oscar list featuring films and performances, which struck me as some of the best of the year and more than worthy of some well-earned recognition.

Best Picture: The Two Faces of January (2014)

How could the writer of Drive and the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley NOT conspire to create perhaps the most captivating thriller of the year? Featuring three complex characters and a multi-layered plot full of suspense and intrigue, this tale of an American guide (Oscar Isaac) who encounters a mysterious couple (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst) in sun-drenched Greece was pure Hitchcockian and one of the most gripping films of 2014.

Watch Texas Films from Past Sundance Festivals

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Before You Know ItThe Sundance Institute Artist Services program recently announced the availability of 14 independent films through digital video on-demand platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu. Launched in 2011, Sundance Institute's Artist Services is designed to connect consumers directly with films associated with the Sundance Film Festival and Institute through partnerships with key online distribution platforms.

Four films in this new collection are from Texas, all of which received support from the Austin Film Society. For details on the additional titles available in this new collection, visit the Sundance Institute's "Now Playing."

Before You Know It -- Three gay seniors (pictured at top) "navigate the adventures, challenges and surprises of life and love in their golden years." Check out Don's SXSW review and Jordan's interview with director PJ Raval. The documentary is available for purchase at this new website featuring bonus extras including Gary and Ose's wedding video and behind-the scenes-material. (on iTunes)

Movies This Week: January 23-29, 2015

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A Most Violent Year 

The Austin Film Society is launching a new series this weekend that arrives in town straight from New York and Los Angeles. "In Case Of No Emergency: The Films Of Ruben Ostlund" aims to turn American audiences on to the work of the Swedish writer/director who earned rave reviews for 2014's Force Majeure. That breakout hit, which was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globe, screens tonight at the Marchesa and is followed by Ostlund's 2011 feature Play. The series continues on Sunday afternoon with his 2008 film Involuntary and closes out on Tuesday night with his 2004 debut film The Guitar Mongoloid. All films are screening from 35mm prints except for Force Majeure, which is digital.

On Wednesday night, the AFS Screening Room (1901 E. 51st St.) is hosting a selection of scenes from "Avant Garde Cinema of the 1920s" from the Soviet Union. You'll see work from Pudovkin, Eisenstein, Kuleshov and Dovzhenko. AFS closes out the week back at the Marchesa with another "Essential Cinema" selection focusing on the work of Jacques Rivette. The Duchess Of Langeais, his 2007 film that was released stateside by IFC Films, is screening Thursday night in 35mm. 

Violet Crown Cinema launches the "'Round Midnight Film Series" this weekend with 11:30 pm screenings of Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys tonight and tomorrow. The theater also has another installment of "Arthouse Monthly" with Johanna Hamilton's political documentary 1971 on Wednesday night. Over 40 years before the recent NSA scandal, this movie examines illegal spy programs by the FBI against American citizens. 

Review: A Most Violent Year

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Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year

We may currently be in the midst of a pop-cultural infatuation with the antihero archetype, but A Most Violent Year presents us with a more elusive figure. Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis) is surrounded by those who want to bring him down to their level, where firearms and shady business practices abound. A wealthy owner of a heating oil company in 1981 New York, his trucks are carjacked, his workers attacked, and his business investigated by a power-hungry DA (David Oyelowo, Selma). Morales is determined to stay above it all, working hard to respond in a way that’s legal and yet still gets results.

TAMI Flashback: Hondo Crouch and Luckenbach, Texas

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Hondo Crouch

This article is part of a series about the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) video library. For an overview of the TAMI site, refer to this article.

The Texas Hill Country town of Luckenbach may be little more than a few buildings, including a general store and a dance hall. But few places are more symbolic of mythic Texas than this honky-tonk mecca, party venue and tourist destination a few miles south of Fredericksburg.

Luckenbach owes much of its fame to Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, of course; their 1977 hit "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)" introduced the tiny town to a vast audience and made it an essential part of Texas pop culture. But modern Luckenbach might not exist at all if not for another legendary Texan -- Hondo Crouch.

A satirist, writer, rancher, musician, artist, swimming coach and self described "imagineer," Crouch bought the nearly deserted Luckenbach in 1970. He proclaimed himself mayor (the three residents apparently didn't object) and pursued his grand vision for the place. Along with partners Kathy Morgan and actor Guich Koock, he quickly transformed Luckenbach into a popular hangout and venue for all manner of quirky events: no-talent contests, hug-ins, a mud dauber festival, a women-only chili cookoff and the Luckenbach World's Fair. Crouch also turned Luckenbach into a storied music venue; the town's association with country music was cemented in 1973, when Jerry Jeff Walker and the Lost Gonzo Band recorded their classic live album Viva Terlingua in the Luckenbach Dance Hall.

2014 in Review: Elizabeth's Favorite Women Onscreen

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Top: Gugu Mbatha-Raw in BEYOND THE LIGHTS, Bottom row: Reese Witherspoon in WILD, Jenny Slate in OBVIOUS CHILD, Essie Davis in THE BABADOOK

Jette asked me to reprise the theme from my post last year, so here are the female characters I found most memorable in 2014 film:

8. Mom, Boyhood

I may not have adored this Linklater movie as so many of my colleagues do, but I do find the mother played by Patricia Arquette the most layered in this cast of characters (and the best part of the film, IMHO). She stumbles through marriages, survives an abusive partner, works her way through an advanced degree, and questions her decisions all the while. (Debbie's Sundance review)

7. Mason, Snowpiercer

Tilda Swinton escapes deeply into this sadistic martinet, hungry for power and not as in control as she would like to be. (Matt's review)

Sundance/Slamdance 2015: Austin and Texas Connections

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Results Still Photo

The Sundance Film Festival begins tomorrow -- Thursday, January 22 -- and runs through Saturday, February 1. Although Texas isn't as heavily represented as the last two years I've attended, I see plenty of Texas-related content to choose from.

Local filmmaker Andrew Bujalski (Computer Chess) wrote and directed Results, which was shot in Austin and stars Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce. The comedy is about two incompatible personal trainers who experience more challenges than usual from a wealthy client's demands.

Texas actor Tye Sheridan (Mud, Joe) continues his run of Sundance appearances with a pair of movies premiering at the festival this year. Sheridan co-stars in the historical drama Last Days in the Desert, an addition to the trials and tribulations of Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness. Jesus (Ewan McGregor) struggles with the Devil for the fate of a family in crisis that he encounters in the desert.

2014 in Review: Elizabeth's Top Scores/Movie Music

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Still from The Hundred-Foot Journey

I made up this list before the Oscar nominations (grr) came out, and strangely enough, none of my picks for Best Score received a nod, even the one I assumed was a sure thing. Nevertheless, some movies this year featured phenomenal music, and I'd like to recognize them here.

I'll repeat my standards from a 2010 post: "The best film score complements the film perfectly and doesn't distract from the action onscreen, but is still distinct enough to stand on its own. Shoddy film music can ruin a movie (for me, at least), but a great film score serves to make a good movie even better."

5. Birdman, Antonio Sanchez

It seemed a given that, along with the other recognition this frenetic film received from the Academy, the percussion score would make the cut, but alas. The music by Sanchez adds so much to the Michael Keaton film (frankly, it's the only part of the movie I could appreciate) and easily adds to the frantic feel of the story (Mike's review). Here's a taste:

Lost in the Awards Rush: Hollywoodland

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"Lost in the Awards Rush" is a new weekly series Slackerwood is running during the awards season, to suggest lesser-known but excellent alternatives to popular frontrunners for big movie awards.

From the instant the first trailer debuted this summer, there was never any doubt that David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestselling mystery novel Gone Girl would be one of the year's breakout movies. With Fincher at the wheel, Flynn's gripping tale of a missing suburban wife (Rosamund Pike) and her accused husband (Ben Affleck) was exquisitely transferred to the silver screen and resulted in huge box-office receipts as well as critical praise for Fincher, Flynn, producer Reese Witherspoon and Pike (who also collected an Oscar nomination).

While Gone Girl finally provided Pike the perfect showcase for her continuously untapped talents, it seemed a shame that her brilliant work overshadowed Affleck's quietly intense turn as a man slowly losing his already shaky hold on reality. Affleck's first-rate work in Gone Girl ranks close to what some might consider his best and certainly most acclaimed performance to date: that of late actor George Reeves in Hollywoodland (2006).

2014 in Review: Don's Top Ten and Other Lists

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Boyhood

Here are my top ten and other notable films of last year.

To be eligible for my lists, a movie had to release in the U.S. in 2014 and screen in Austin in 2014 also. Some well-reviewed 2014 releases have not yet screened in Austin.

10. Joe

Nicolas Cage is at his understated best as an ex-con who hires a desperately poor teenager (Tye Sheridan, also terrific) to help clear a forest for development. Shot in Central Texas, David Gordon Green's haunting film explores the ravages of poverty and the nature of redemption. (Jette's review)

9. Thank You a Lot

Every year, I hope to discover a low-budget local indie that deserves a place on my top 10 list. This year's honoree is Austin filmmaker Matt Muir's Thank You a Lot, a poignant tale of a hard-luck music manager who will lose his job unless he signs a reclusive country music singer who's also his estranged father. In his acting debut, Austin music legend James Hand gives one of the year's best performances as a fictional (mostly, that is) version of himself. (my review)

Movies This Week: January 16-22, 2015

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 Blackhat

With the announcement of the Academy Award nominations this week, those of you who want to catch up on the nominated films are probably wondering where you can see them. The following list should help you narrow down your choices and let you know where they're playing in town or what their home video availability is:  

  • American Sniper - playing wide locally 
  • Birdman - Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, Regal Arbor, Regal Metropolitan, Violet Crown Cinema
  • Boyhood - Regal Arbor, also available on home video and VOD
  • Foxcatcher - Alamo South Lamar, Cinemark Hill Country Galleria, Regal Arbor, Violet Crown Cinema
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel - available on home video, also airing this month on HBO
  • Ida - streaming free on Netflix and Amazon Prime, also available on home video
  • The Imitation Game - playing wide locally
  • Inherent Vice - playing wide locally, exclusive 70mm screenings at the Alamo Ritz 
  • The Judge - Digital HD now for purchase, rental and home video on January 27
  • Mr. Turner - currently scheduled to open only at the Regal Arbor on January 23
  • Selma - playing wide locally
  • Still Alice - expected to open in Austin on February 6
  • The Theory Of Everything - Regal Arbor, Regal Metropolitan
  • Two Days, One Night - expected to open in Austin on January 30 
  • Whiplash - Regal Arbor, Violet Crown Cinema 
  • Wild - Alamo Lakeline, Alamo South Lamar, Cinemark Hill Country Galleria, Regal Arbor, Tinseltown South, Violet Crown Cinema  

Review: Blackhat

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BlackhatAs someone whose alter-ego has a career in IT, I approach a film about hackers with lowered expectations. I don't want to dislike it, but I certainly have a heightened expectation that I will dislike it due to glaringly inaccurate portrayals of people doing things that to a trained eye are utterly ridiculous. What I never expected was that Blackhat would maintain an above-average level of accuracy in its portrayal and that my problems would mostly be the more mundane complaints a critic might have for any film that is just not very good.

My largest complaint is a technical problem that has little enough to do with computers. The film is, even to a lay person,  unfinished. A subpar audio mix makes dialogue at times difficult to understand. Poor or incomplete color correction results in inconsistency in the picture, which in the final action scenes looks exactly as if we're watching at home on a television with a 120fps frame rate enabled. This was the first movie that director Michael Mann shot completely without film, but his first digital outing is no excuse for failure to remove the "stock footage" watermark from a shot in the first five minutes of the film.

Reflecting on the experience, it seems as though Mann must have been in a tug-of-war with writer Morgan Davis Foehl, as he takes a methodical, largely boring script with uninteresting paper-cutout characters and tries to pull from late 80s and early 90s influences to liven it up. The camera zooms past a technician onto a keyboard and then inside a computer to a circuit board and then still deeper to a microscopic level where we see pulses of energy travelling through individual transistors in a chip. I could have almost thought for a moment I was watching Lawnmower Man or Electric Dreams.

"Blackhat" is a term applied to computer hackers who use their skills for good instead of nefarious purposes, staying on the right side of the law, a fact not mentioned in the film. The fact is also not precisely applicable to star Chris Hemsworth's character Nicholas Hathaway, a felon convicted for hacks that cause millions of dollars in damages to several banks. Actually, Hathaway, with skills that supposedly make him the only man capable of helping the FBI (in the form of Viola Davis) track down the bad guys, doesn't really do much in Blackhat that even qualifies as hacking. His biggest feat is tricking a director of security at the NSA into clicking an email attachment that wouldn't fool my mother.

What's Streaming: We're Back!

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A new year, a new you and a new Slackerwood! I took a break from this article for a while, but now I'm back and ready to bring you  recommendations of films you might have overlooked.  

In looking through my Netflix history, I discovered that 2014 was a big TV year for me. It seems like the website stepped its game up this past year, cranking out the latest season of current shows faster than before. (Except for Downton Abbey -- get on it, Netflix!) Here are a few television shows that came across my radar these past few months.

Twin Peaks -- When I learned writer/director David Lynch was creating a new season for the now 25-year-old show, I saw this as the sign to bring it up from the bottom of the list. FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is sent to the town of Twin Peaks to investigate the mysterious death of a teenage girl. His journey along the way takes him through a slew of oddball characters, creepy places and out-of-this-world situations. Although a little confusing towards the end, the story leaves you wanting more. I'm excited to see what Lynch will bring back in the new season! Available on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant and Hulu Plus.

The Stars at Night: Desk Set

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Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill, Sue Randall and Katherine Hepburn in DESK SET

By the 1950s, Texas-raised actress Joan Blondell (see earlier column) must have resigned herself to filling supporting roles in film. In 1952, the former Miss Dallas received her lone Oscar nomination for her work as supporting actress in The Blue Veil. Five years later, she appears as Katherine Hepburn's wisecracking best friend, Peg Costello, in Desk Set. Her character may not be the focus of the comedy, but Blondell helps make the movie memorable.

I chose Desk Set for this month's column as a sort of counterbalance to the hoopla surrounding the 2014 film The Imitation Game (Marcie's review). This movie is a more humorous take on the early days of computing machines, and actually includes more than one woman in its plot -- whereas the British biopic ignores the many women who worked at Bletchley Park.

In the 1957 film, four reference librarians work for the fictional Federal Broadcasting Company, answering random questions that come up in TV productions. Hepburn’s Bunny Watson is the managing librarian, stuck in a static years-long relationship with a network executive (Gig Young, That Touch of Mink, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?). Spencer Tracy plays a curious older man named Sumner whom the women assume is preparing to cancel out their jobs and replace them with a machine.

Lost in the Awards Rush: Grand Piano

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"Lost in the Awards Rush" is a new weekly series Slackerwood is running during the awards season, to suggest lesser-known but excellent alternatives to popular frontrunners for big movie awards.

Whiplash's journey to the big screen is the kind of stuff indie dreams are made of. From a short at Sundance to one of the most acclaimed films of 2014, writer/director Damien Chazelle's passion project about a young drummer (Miles Teller) at a prestigious music academy and his tyrannical instructor (J.K. Simmons, in a career best performance) who pushes him beyond all limits, has been hailed by critics' groups everywhere.

In the rush to praise the near-perfection that is Whiplash, its easy to forget Chazelle's script for the taut and stunning thriller Grand Piano (2013), which was released earlier this year and screened at Fantastic Fest 2013 (Jette's review). Directed by Eugenio Mira from Chazelle's original screenplay, Grand Piano stars Elijah Wood as Tom Selznick, a once-revered concert pianist who entered semi-retirement after a crippling bout with stage fright. Shortly after beginning his comeback concert, Tom discovers a note on his sheet music stating that unless he gives a flawless performance, the note's author (John Cusack) will shoot him.

Ready, Set, Fund: Life and Death in the New Year

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

It's a new year, which means resolutions, like finally writing that screenplay or making that movie you've been talking about since college. (Trust me, your family and friends will thank you when you stop threatening to defame your hometown in a movie.) This month's "Ready, Set, Fund" recognizes a few Texas filmmakers who are asking you, the general public, to help make their New Year's Resolutions come true, whether that's through financial support or promotion, as their crowdfunding campaigns come to a close. (If not for the filmmakers, then for their family and friends.)

Help bring Mr. Meow to life by contributing to his Kickstarter campaign. The plush rabbit is the costar of The Adventures of Dr. Blah-kman & Mr. Meow, an Austin-made animated series that could become a reality if its campaign goal is reached by Jan. 31. If the campaign is successful, a 22-minute pilot episode will be created, along with the first batch of Mr. Meow plush toys. How purrrfect.

Movies This Week: January 9-15, 2015

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 Selma

As we head into a chilly weekend, it may be tempting to curl up at home with a stack of rented movies or fire up Netflix streaming. That would be a great idea if it weren't for the fact that two of the most acclaimed films of 2014 are getting nationwide releases and hitting area theaters: Selma and Inherent Vice.

As if that wasn't enough, Austin Film Society is ramping back up with their January programming and it starts in fine fashion this evening with phenomenal Canadian documentarian Ron Mann (Grass, Comic Book Confidential) visiting the Marchesa with his movie Altman (which recently premiered on Epix). Several rare Robert Altman shorts will play before the feature and then you're also encouraged to buy a ticket for a 35mm screening of Altman's California Split, which follows.

Speaking of incredible documentary filmmakers, National Gallery focuses on the London-based museum and is the latest effort from Frederick Wiseman. AFS is featuring it Sunday afternoon and then has a sneak preview screening of Two Days, One Night exclusively for AFS members in the evening. Marion Cotillard is getting a lot of awards buzz for this new drama from the Dardenne Brothers, which isn't opening in town until January 30. Essential Cinema closes out the week with a 35mm screening of Jacques Rivette's 1974 French classic Celine And Julie Go Boating

Review: Selma

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Colman Domingo, David Oyelowo, Andre Holland and Stephan James in SELMA

"What we do is negotiate, demonstrate, resist."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma

Director Ava DuVernay and a combination of other talent create in Selma a deeply emotional, standout work about a short moment in history: the early months of 1965. The historical drama, attributed to screenwriter Paul Webb although DuVernay herself rewrote most of it, revolves around Martin Luther King, Jr. (British actor David Oyelowo, Lincoln, Middle of Nowhere) and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as they plan nonviolent protest in Selma, Alabama.

At this point in history, segregation had been outlawed, but county clerks continued to turn away black Southerners who attempted to register to vote through "literacy" tests and other deceptive means. In the movie, activist and preacher King pleads with President Lyndon Baines Johnson (British actor Tom Wilkinson, Belle, Michael Clayton) to enact voting rights legislation.

Sounds Like Film: The Cinematic Legacy of KVRX

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KVRX 20 Years on FM Radio Logo

Last month, current and alumni volunteer staff of 91.7 KVRX, the University of Texas at Austin's student-run radio station, gathered for a reunion to celebrate 20 years the station began broadcasting on the FM dial. Part of Texas Student Media, KVRX streams online 24/7 and is on the air from 7 pm-9 am weekdays and 10 pm-9 am on weekends, sharing the frequency with KOOP community radio.

Over the years, KVRX has provided opportunities for students to receive practical experience in radio news, sports and entertainment programming and in broadcast management, and served as a source of campus information for students, faculty and staff as well as an outlet for alternative programming unavailable in the Austin market. Any UT student can volunteer at the station.

Quite a few KVRX alumni have gone on to careers in television and film industry. The reunion provided the perfect opportunity for me to chat with them about how their student-radio experiences impacted their careers.