Debbie Cerda's blog

Holiday Favorites: Jarod Neece Loves His 'Christmas Vacation'

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National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

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

Today's favorite movie recollection comes from SXSW Film Festival and Conference Producer and Senior Programmer Jarod Neece. He is also the co-founder and editor of the popular Austin food blog Taco Journalism, and co-writer of the new book, Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day. His pick is also a favorite of mine:

The holidays are a special time for me and always have been. Living in the South my whole life it's the one time of year we get a little cold weather, I love the smells, the lights, the sounds, the traditions -- I'm a certifiable holidork! I love so many holiday films but the one movie I watch each and every Christmas season is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I am a fan of all the Griswolds' adventures (even Vegas Vacation!) and they each hold a special place in my heart.

Christmas Vacation has so many memorable scenes and so much funny and snarky commentary. From the nostalgic "trapped in the attic" scene to the hilarious and epic "Christmas lights aren't working" scene. From Cousin Eddie to Aunt Bethany to everyone in between -- I can't get through a holiday season without it!

Holiday Favorites: Alvaro Rodriguez, 'Ball of Fire'

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Ball of Fire

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

This installment comes from Alvaro Rodriguez, who's cowriting El Rey cable show From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series and who's been my favorite Austin Film Festival panelist. Here's his pick, which is also a favorite of Jette and Elizabeth:

Ball of Fire (1941), directed by Howard Hawks, with screenwriters Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder. Slough off the winter doldrums with a classic comedy, whydoncha? Surely one of the greats in so many genres, Barbara Stanwyck makes words sexy in Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire, a jazzy update of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and one of my favorite go-to holiday flicks. Here, Babs is Sugarpuss O'Shea (oh, hell, yes), a nightclub artiste who hides out from the mob in a house full of stuffy professorial types (including Gary Cooper) struggling to put together the definitive encyclopedia of slang.

Austin 2013 Comic Con Wrap-up: The Costumes

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Spiderman and Friends

Meeting special guests, attending the panels and shopping for comics, graphic art and movie memorabilia may be the biggest attraction of Wizard World Austin Comic Con, but it's the costumes that really grab the attention on the Austin Convention Center floor at this year's convention. Throughout the weekend, attendees showed off their costumes on the main stage as well as at special cosplay meet-ups. Also this year, Comic Con added multiple Sci-Fi Speed Dating events to the schedule -- I peeked inside and observed several participants of both sexes, all in full costume.

Watching the young kids interact with their favorite superheroes was quite entertaining-- clowns and Santa might be frightening to youngsters, but Spiderman had a constant entourage of young kids eager to interact including Spidergirl, Thor and another girl whose costume was not as easily identified (seen at top).

Check out more of the great costumes at this year's Austin Comic Con after the jump.

Austin Comic Con 2013: Family Fun

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Paul Alvarado-Dykstra and Bethany Rhoades at Wizard World Austin Comic Con

My perception of fantasy conventions in the past was that they tend to be more adult-oriented with anime and cos-play, but the Wizard World Austin Comic Con provides a well-rounded experience for families to enjoy together. Until this weekend I had never seen children attending a panel, yet there were several young kids in the Tailchaser's Song Animated Film Sneak Peek session on Sunday. The movie is an animated adaptation of Tad Williams' popular novel about a group of feral cats who journey through the treacherous world of humans and other animals.

Local producer Paul Alvarado-Dykstra and associate producer/writer Bethany Rhoades (pictured above) talked about how this project came to fruition and provided a "behind-the-scenes" look at the concept art of the film. Local animation artist and voice actor Samantha Inoue-Harte -- who was unable to attend due to illness -- brought in Animetropolis, which she co-owns with Alvarado-Dykstra. Rhoades had initially approached Inoue-Harte for a consultation on how to adapt Williams' novel to the screen, and Inoue-Harte was enthused enough to also join as a producer for the project.

Austin Comic Con 2013: Familiar Faces Everywhere

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Michael Rooker at Austin Comic Con

Despite the cold and rainy weather this weekend, massive crowds turned out for the Wizard World Austin Comic Con for a chance to see their favorite television and film stars as well as experience the "Day of The Doctor" 50th Anniversary with a well-attended BBC America simulcast screening. The most popular costumes at this weekend's event were obviously Doctor Who related, with scores of "Weeping Angels," various incarnations of the Doctor and sonic screwdrivers held high.

Oddly another costume that I saw frequently was that of Kevin Smith's recurring character, Silent Bob, which was even more popular than The Walking Dead Daryl and Merle Dixon. Speaking of the Dixon brothers, the lines in the autograph pens were quite long for Norman Readus and Michael Rooker (pictured above). I chatted with Rooker briefly -- he spoke of enjoying the rooftop scene of The Walking Dead episode "The Prologue," especially the aspect of "manipulating the audience in understanding what Merle is about."

Austin Comic-Con 2013: Previewing the Films

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Lou Ferrigno at Austin Comic Con 2012

If you've not had a chance to attend a Comic Con, this year would be a great opportunity to check out this jam-packed multi-day event right here in Central Texas this weekend, from Friday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Nov. 24. Wizard World has not only expanded the number of Comic Cons held each year, but also the content to include more television and film-related programming.

This weekend at Austin Comic Con, stars available for photo and autograph sessions range from Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Readus of The Boondock Saints fame to The Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno -- seen above at the 2012 Austin Comic Con. Star Trek captains William Shatner and Scott Bakula will also be in attendance, with Shatner accepting his "Honorary Austin Citizenship" from Mayor Leffingwell on Friday evening at 5:30 pm at the Austin Convention Center.

Speaking of The Hulk, Marvel will be debuting its new animated film Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United on Saturday, with a special appearance by Hulk voice actor Fred Tatasciore as he introduces the film and hosts a Q&A.

Ready, Set, Fund: Producing for a Cause

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Reel Change Film FrenzyReady, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.

Local nonprofit festival Lights. Camera. Help. is changing it up a bit for the 2014 Reel Change Film Frenzy through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to support their ten filmmaking teams in sharing stories about local nonprofit organizations. Backers can become a producer of their very own cause-driven film by donating as little as $10. The goal is to raise $10,000 to be split between the teams to cover their costs.

At higher levels, backers are eligible to receive tickets to the Reel Change Film Frenzy screening at the Alamo Drafthouse, a cameo appearance in one of the films, or video coaching sessions by Lights. Camera. Help. educators. Even if the campaign does not reach its goal, the filmmakers have agreed to split evenly any funding received through January 4.

Stuntwoman Patty Dillon has taken on a new role in the film industry as a documentary filmmaker with There Will Be No Stay, the personally intimate story of the men faced with the unbearable act of taking another person's life on behalf of the criminal justice system. Austin-based Arcanum Pictures (Grow Up, Tony Phillips) producers Paul Gandersman and Peter Hall support this salient documentary, which was filmed across the nation from South Dakota to Texas and North Carolina.

The film, which provides a rare glimpse into a difficult profession, is currently funding through Wednesday, December 11 on Kickstarter, for funds to cover post-production including final film and sound editing as well as music licensing and film festival application fees.

Watch the thought-provoking preview of There Will Be No Stay after the jump.

Review: About Time

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About Time Still Photo

From Aristotle to Einstein to Hawking, much debate has occurred over the structure of time and the possibility of time travel. If time travel were possible, where would you go? More importantly, how do you prevent the paradox of destroying your own identities -- or the worse fate of your own existence and others -- in the process?

The most widely talked-about moments in time to change often leads to an assassination of Hitler or saving of the Titanic. But a more personal use drives the time-travel paradigm in the romantic comedy About Time by writer/director Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill). On his twenty-first birthday, lovelorn Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) receives extraordinary news of a special gift shared by his father (Bill Nighy). The men in their family have the ability to travel through time within their own lives -- "You can't kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy" -- Tim decides what he wants most is a girlfriend, so he sets forth to secure the love of his life as he begins his professional career as a lawyer in London.

One fateful night, he meets and becomes enamored with the beautiful yet insecure American girl Mary (Rachel McAdams), but his use of time travel to resolve a failed performance for his landlord and playwright Harry (Tom Hollander) results in unintended consequences. It is as if he and Mary have never met, and he must find a way to place himself in the right moment to win her heart. However, his efforts impact the lives of his loved ones, including his sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), and he is faced with the critical decision of letting those he cares about most learn life's lessons on their own.

Review: Shepard & Dark

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Shepard and Dark Still Photo

As much as I'd admired Sam Shepard as an actor for decades, I was not familiar with his writing until I read a collection of his short stories, Cruising Paradise. This anthology of 40 short tales written between 1989 and 1995, set mostly in remote reaches of the U.S. and Mexico, depicts the loneliness of a man who grew up in with familial discord brought on by alcoholism. Some of the stories are fictional, but several come straight from Shepard's personal diary.

The poignant documentary Shepard & Dark by filmmaker and part-time Austinite Treva Wurmfeld reveals even more of the life and loves of Shepard, told through both personal interviews and archival footage and letters exchanged between himself and Johnny Dark. The pair met in the Sixties during an off-off Broadway play in Greenwich Village that Shepard had written. One playwright from California, the other an odd-jobber from Jersey City, talked about their childhood of airplanes and dogs and found a connection when they shared stories of their fathers.

Film on Tap: Austin Takes the Gold and Beer Week Begins

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Austin Beerworks Team

Film on Tap is a column about the many ways that beer (or sometimes booze) and cinema intersect in Austin.

Over 49,000 beer enthusiasts descended upon Denver, Colorado for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) earlier this month, and Texas craft beer was well-represented. This year’s festival competition featured 732 breweries from around the United States entering 4,809 brews to be judged and distinguished as the best of American craft ales, lagers and specialty libations. Texas brewers received 10 awards this year with four gold, two silver and four bronze medals, including a gold to Austin Beerworks (seen at top with Brewers Association President Charlie Papazian) for their Black Thunder German-style schwarz beer.

In addition to Texas brewers, several Austin film-related projects and businesses took part in the festivities surrounding GABF. Alamo Drafthouse's Beverage Director Bill Norris and Creative Director John Gross made the trip to Denver, with Gross moderating "The Business of Fun: Beyond The Beer" panel. North by Northwest founder Davis Tucker was on the panel along with representatives from Odell's Brewing and Oskar Blues, discussing how craft beer goes beyond just drinking and brewing and supports many other business sectors including marketing and design.

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