Debbie Cerda's blog

Film on Tap: Repeal, Cinema Six and A Very Bad Santa

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

The 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition was marked earlier this month with special events at local bars and brewpubs. Local PBS station KLRU re-aired the 2011 Ken Burns three-part documentary Prohibition. Directed by Burns and Lynn Novick, this fascinating series documents the contributing factors of Victorian-age morality and events that led to the passage of the 18th Amendment that prohibited alcohol.

If you missed the rebroadcast of Prohibition, you can watch this well-crafted documentary on Netflix or iTunes. Prohibition is also available to rent at both locations of Vulcan Video.

Rogness Brewing Company offers a monthly film event at the brewery, and the featured film on Saturday, December 21 is indie comedy Cinema Six, which was filmed in Central Texas. Mark Potts wrote and directed this humorous film, and I'm sure some local cast (seen at top) and crew will be in attendance at this free event. The screening starts at 7 pm, and pints of Rogness Brewing craft beer will be available for purchase in the tasting room.

Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel in The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugI have been quite excited to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug despite my disappointment with last year's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Like many viewers, I was disengaged by the overblown focus created by filmmaker Peter Jackson's technique of shooting and playing back at 48 frames per second (fps), especially upon the practical effects of makeup and the jerky movement in action scenes.

Thankfully, for The Desolation of Smaug, moviegoers will be able to choose for themselves whether to see the film in 24 or 48 fps, as well as in 3D. I watched the 24 fps 3D format, and am pleased to report that the overall viewing experience is much improved. The artificial hair and prosthetics could still be improved upon for some of the dwarves, but it's not nearly as noticeable as in An Unexpected Journey.

In the latest installment of The Hobbit, the journey for Bilbo (Martin Freeman), the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and the band of dwarves led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) to the Lonely Mountain continues. Along the way the group must elude and fight multiple creatures and enemies, as well as escape the dungeons of the Woodland Elves.

Our Holiday Favorites: 'A Christmas Story'

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A Christmas Story Still PhotoWelcome 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

I suspect that when most folks are asked what movie is most firmly ingrained in their lives, many would list The Princess Bride, The Godfather or even Scarface. For me it's my holiday favorite that I can watch the year round -- A Christmas Story. I never asked Santa for an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle like Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), but I did want a pink bunny suit -- even if it would mean that I would look like a "deranged Easter Bunny" in the words of Old Man Parker (Darren McGavin).

One of my little idiosyncrasies is throwing movie quotes into everyday conversation, and this film adaptation of the satirical recollection by late humorist and radio personality Jean Shepherd from his book of essays titled In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash is a cornucopia of memorable quotes. With recent temperatures across Texas dipping below the 40-degree mark, forcing Native Texans like me to bundle up, I've baffled many a companion by stating, "My brother Randy lay there like a slug -- it was his only defense." The word "fudge" has long replaced less appropriate profanity at times of duress.

Ready, Set, Fund: 'Crowd Speak' for Successful Crowdfunding

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Still Photo from Foreign Puzzle

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

Of all the contributions that I've made over the last 4.5 years to Slackerwood, I find this monthly feature, which can be quite rewarding for filmmakers through the promotion of their funding campaigns, to also be personally rewarding. I enjoy following the progress of many of our featured film projects from creation to production to screening at prestigious film festivals including Sundance, SXSW and Austin Film Festival.

Over the last two years, this column has expanded beyond just film projects with the inclusion of television and web media as well as tools to help filmmakers. For example, one of this month's featured fundraising campaigns is for WriterDuet collaborative screenwriting software. WriterDuet is currently available for free online, but this fundraising campaign, which is funding through Thursday, December 19 on Kickstarter, will fund the creation of a desktop version.

We also receive a considerable amount of feedback each month from filmmakers regarding their fundraising efforts. This month's column thus features two new sections: Projects that we've featured in a past column, and tips from the industry to help with fundraising efforts.

First Sundance 2014 Announcement Includes 5 AFS-Supported Films

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Sundance Film Festival 2014Last week, the Sundance Film Festival announced 43 independent films selected for its 2014 fest, in the US Documentary and Narrative Competitions and NEXT section. Among the films selected, five projects have received assistance from Austin Film Society (AFS), including several AFS Grant recipients.

Local filmmaker Kat Candler and producer Kelly Williams received news that their feature Hellion -- based on the short by the same name -- was accepted into the U.S. Dramatic Competition for the fest, which takes place January 16-26 in Park City, Utah. Williams received a fellowship in 2012 to the Sundance Institute's Feature Film Creative Producing Lab for Hellion.

"I am very honored that the Sundance Institute sees the potential in Hellion to get behind it and has the faith in Kat and I to see it through," Williams said about the project in 2012 (source).

"When we got the call from Sundance it was so early, I had this weird pit in my stomach that they were calling to tell us we didn't get in. Y'know, let us down early. I almost didn't want to answer the phone," Candler told me last week via email. "So when Kim Yutani [Sundance programmer] said, 'Kat, we want to play Hellion at Sundance this year,' I just crouched in the empty hallway and couldn't stop saying 'Thank you' over and over again."

This is Candler's third consecutive year getting a movie into Sundance -- her short Black Metal premiered there in 2012, and the short film Hellion  screened in 2011.

"The misconception is that if you've gotten into Sundance once, you have a free pass for life. It's totally not the case. So every time I get that call after weeks of stomach-turning stress, I thank every one of my lucky stars. We were fortunate to have worked with insanely talented people, and the most amazing southeast Texas community who put their heart and souls into this film," Candler said.

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."

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