Marcelena Mayhorn's blog
It's hard to begin to review a film like Still Alice. I was warned that this movie might be considered a modern horror film, as it depicts the life of one woman with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Although the film doesn't shed any positive light on getting older, it does take a deeper look at the importance of memory and family.
Alice (Julianne Moore) has just celebrated her 50th birthday surrounded by a loving husband (Alec Baldwin) and three grown children. She thrives on both her family and teaching at Columbia University, reknowned for her work in linguistics and communication. Life seems on track until she begins to forget words and people's names rather suddenly. A trip to the doctor reveals a rare form of familial Alzheimer's Disease and a life of slow but sure decay for Alice.
Still Alice is painful to watch; not because the film is poorly done, but because it's so truthful all the way through. Alice's decline in memory and basic functioning evokes a real fear in its audience, especially when you realize it's capable of happening to you or someone you know. Perhaps the saddest truth is watching Alice's frustration at her everyday loss, little by little. Her character is most relatable in the way that she tries so hard to cling to her memories, as many of us often do as we age.
No other actor could have played this role like Moore. Others could have portrayed it, but Moore brings a depth to Alice that is both hopeful and heartbreaking. A pleasant surprise is the complex relationship Alice has with her youngest daughter Lydia, played by Kristen Stewart. The role sheds a new light on Stewart, one of a larger acting scale not previously seen. It's perhaps the first role I've actually enjoyed her in.
The best bit of hope the story provides is learning to live in the moment. In a heartfelt speech midway through the film, Alice explains that although having this disease is a struggle, she must learn to live with her loss. What a difference it makes, she explains, to learn to be present in a single moment. That speech, that thought, echoed in my head long after the credits rolled.
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.
Although working at this year's Austin Film Festival had many great perks, one of the not-so-great parts was missing out on some of the highly-anticipated marquee films. This is why I jumped at the chance to see The Imitation Game, though I now see that maybe I didn't need to jump so quickly.
It's clear that Benedict Cumberbatch (famously known for his role on Sherlock) carries this film -- not just because the story focuses on his role as Alan Turing, but because his performance stands out amongst all of his famous castmates, including Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode and Charles Dance.
That said, it seems that Cumberbatch's snarky demeanor as Sherlock Holmes is what got him cast in this role. The Imitation Game seems a fitting title because his performance is not unlike the role he's portrayed for the last three seasons on Sherlock. If you're unfamiliar with the show, then perhaps you will not notice this similarity; being a big fan myself, it stood out almost instantly. In fact, most of the cast seemed to be cookie-cutter replicas of characters they have played before: stale, expired and certainly not fresh.
The story is strong, yet it doesn't know which theme it relies on. Focusing on Turing's famous crack of the Enigma coding machine during WWII, the film stays on course -- until it takes a few pit stops to reflect on Turing's struggle with homosexuality. Although it's a powerful performance, I felt confused on what emotion to resonate with throughout. It seems as if the filmmakers were taking on some sort of studio note to try and make Turing more sympathetic. Although it does achieve this, it feels forced.
It surprises me that The Imitation Game is making its debut on Christmas Day. Perhaps a marketing team felt that Cumberbatch and Knightly would draw in ticket sales, but the film itself doesn't have that grandiose feel most holiday releases have. It does seem that this role will probably draw some Oscar buzz for Cumberbatch -- it already seems to have drawn an 8.4 rating out of a scale of 10 on IMDb. Maybe I'm just a holiday release Scrooge; maybe a box-office Christmas miracle will happen after all.
Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and fundraising endeavors related to Austin and Texas independent film projects.
'Tis the season for love, joy, and helping your friends get their films funded. With the holidays fast approaching, most of us have Christmas shopping and decorating on our mind. We're bringing you this month's "Ready, Set, Fund" with the hope that you'll spread a little extra holiday cheer, perhaps to some filmmakers in need of that extra $5 to meet their fundraising goal. Here are a few that are finishing up in the month of December...
Leslie is a project that's now been going on for almost ten years. Following the infamous Albert Leslie Cochran (known to veteran Austinites as just "Leslie"), the movie is described as an independent documentary that tells the untold story of Leslie and how his bizarre approach to activism catapulted him into becoming an unlikely civic symbol in Austin, Texas. Filmmakers Tracy Frazier and Ruby C. Martin are seeking funds to now complete the project all the way through post-production; their deadline is December 21. You can see more about the film in the video below:
Take the theory of relativity, theories about space and time, and quantum physics; combine them with intense emotions and exploration of relationships, both personal and familial; write a 169-page screenplay about it all, then bring said screenplay to life. While this task sounds like something way over my film-school brain, Christopher Nolan makes it seem easy as cake with his latest movie, Interstellar.
I've watched many a film buff get into heated debates about Nolan's work. There are those who argue his work is flashy, dazzling you with inexplicable knowledge and plot while melting your eyeballs with IMAX cinematography. On the other hand, there are those who argue his work is brilliant, each camera move and plot point an intricate dance filled with depth and emotion. I tend to fall into the middle of this arguement.
The basic premise is this: Cooper (played by Texas favorite, Matthew McConaughey) is a former-engineer-turned-farmer living with his young daugher Murphy and teenage son Tom. We understand right away that Earth is in trouble: All its resources have been utilized and the world is running out of time to find food and water. By some happenstance of the universe, Cooper finds his way over to a secret NASA location, learning about a secret mission to find another planet for humans to live on ... and of course, Cooper is the only man to pilot said ship to save the human race.
While there is no doubt that Nolan's work is (inter)stellar, it can definitely be cumbersome. I found myself losing focus toward the middle of Interstellar, unsure of what the end result of this 169-minute saga would be. Thankfully, the story reeled back around and left for a compelling (and quite thought-provoking) third act.
One of the few downsides to the movie was the scientific jargon thrown around between characters. Poor line delivery made me wonder (in just a few instances) what the final theory actually was. This film also features a fun game of "Guess how many Hollywood celebs you can spot in space!"
It's so hard to not know what a film is about these days. Trailers, social media, even overhearing a conversation can ruin a film in an instant for a person. But one thing that caught my attention about The One I Love is that I not only had no clue what it was about -- no one else seemed to know either. It's hard for me to figure out how to review this film without giving too much away, because I feel that that is what makes it so unique. The element of surprise is one that can so easily be ruined, so I'll try my best to watch my details.
Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) have been married for several years. The film opens with a lovely anecdote by Duplass about how the two met, and how they fell in love instantly. But, like most couples, they've hit a wall in their relationship. They need something to "renew" their spark. Per the suggestion of a marriage counselor (Ted Danson), they seek out a long weekend retreat in the mountains of California. Just the two of them... or so they believe.
The day Melissa McCarthy stops cracking me up will be a cold day in hell. She always plays her roles with gross honesty and wit, and doesn't take guff from anyone. With her latest film Tammy hitting theaters today, it's clear that McCarthy has a knack for less-than-glamorous, ball-busting female characters. That said, however, this movie could have done a lot better on all accounts.
Tammy is the directing debut of McCarthy's husband and actor Ben Falcone (Air Marshall Jon from Bridesmaids), not to mention the first screenplay McCarthy and Falcone have penned together. Although McCarthy's humor shines through (complete with a cameo by Falcone), it falls flat due to bizarre casting choices, a faulty plot line, and downright unrelatable characters.
The premise is that Tammy (McCarthy) is having a pretty crappy day, week and life. She loses her job (at which she doesn't seem to work too hard), she catches her husband in flagrante with the neighbor, and her mother won't let her borrow the family car to leave town. Her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) comes to her aid and sets the story in motion when she suggests they go on a little road trip together to leave everything behind.
Although Tammy is loveable, she's a complainer. It's as if Falcone and McCarthy wanted to create a more sympathetic version of Megan, her character in Bridesmaids. The cast is full of great cameos; I was beyond thrilled to see Toni Collette, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh and many other great names in the opening credits. But most of them are onscreen for such a short amount of time, I wondered why such big names are in such little, minuscule roles. I also found myself wondering why not-even-70-year old Sarandon was playing the role of a grown woman's grandmother, when she easily could be playing McCarthy's mother (who was instead played by Allison Janney).
Although the story moves forward, it's hard to stay focused. Much like Tammy, we find ourselves lacking interest in the things she's after, including love interest Bobby (Mark Duplass). The redeeming quality of the film is the handful of funny jokes and one-liners peppered throughout the story though, sadly, most of them are in the film's trailer.
The effort is there with Tammy. McCarthy can do no wrong in my eyes, and I'll of course look forward to whatever she and her husband come up with next. I just hope to soon see the actress in a role where she doesn't have to wear Crocs with socks and Hawaiian shirts for a change.
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.
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.
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.