Blogs

Review: Birdman

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BirdmanAlthough Michael Keaton has stated the personality of his character Riggan Thomas is the most dissimilar to himself of any he has ever played, Birdman, it could be argued, is his JCVD. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Biutiful) and scripted by Iñárritu along with Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, it chronicles the efforts of a former Hollywood superhero to reignite the spark of his ailing career.

Hoping to regain relevance, pay homage to the hero who inspired him, and put his family life back together, Riggan Thomas is in the final days of launching a Broadway play he has written, directed, produced and stars in. Guided by an inner voice that sounds not unlike the growling baritone of Beetlejuice, Thomas confronts innumerable internal and external crises that threaten to crush the production.

Behind the scenes, his daughter (Emma Stone), fresh out of rehab, is intent on punishing him for being an absent father. On stage, he must deal with the antics of Mike (Edward Norton), the Broadway darling who is not only perfect for the role but will also bring legitimacy and more importantly, ticket sales to the production. Internally, he struggles with remorse, self-doubt, anger, desperation and an angry flirtation with being a drunken asshole.

So, Thomas has a completely different personality. Keaton may not bare his soul in this, but he bares nearly everything else. He and Norton spend a sizable amount of time in Birdman performing in tighty-whiteys, both for shock value and comedic effect. He doesn't stop at shedding his clothing, however, as even his hairpiece is stripped away. Layer after layer, we peek behind the stage, through the dressing room door, and beneath the clothing and pretense to explore the psyche of an A-list actor.

AFF 2014: Saturday Film and Panel Picks

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aff logoIt's another full day at the Austin Film Festival -- are you ready? If your brain is starting to lag a little and you need some direction, here are a few promising film and panel picks to help you plan the next few hours.

Saturday Panel Picks:

Independent Filmmaking Track: The Climate of Indie Film -- Local director Kat Candler is one of the indie filmmakers on this panel geared towards aspiring creatives. Texan (and former AFF staffer) Ryan Piers Williams, Frank Hall Green and Jeffrey Brown (co-producer of No No: A Dockumentary) join Candler for this discussion, which aims to help attendees make sense of a changing industry. (Saturday, Oct. 25, 9 - 10:15 am, Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Assembly Room)

Scribble to Screen: My So-Called Writing Process -- If you're here to perfect your craft or learn how the experts work, sit down with Winnie Holzman, the creator of My So-Called Life and writer of Wicked and Thirtysomething, as she discusses her storytelling methods. (Saturday, Oct. 25, 9 - 10:15 am, Driskill Hotel Citadel Room)

A Conversation with the 2014 Awardees -- If you don't have time to make it to the individual conversations with this year's festival honorees, see all three at once at this panel led by AFF Executive Director Barbara Morgan. Jim Sheridan, Matthew Weiner and Edward Zwick will draw on their impressive histories to discuss their careers and offer advice to developing writers and directors. (Saturday, Oct. 25, 10:45 am - noon, Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Ballroom)

Movies This Week: October 24-30, 2014

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Dear White People 

The 21st Annual Austin Film Festival and Conference is in full swing. Movies are taking place from now through Thursday at venues across town including the Paramount, Stateside and Hideout theaters downtown, Rollins Theater at the Long Center, both theaters at the Texas State History Museum and Alamo Drafthouse Village. Badges are still available to purchase for you procrastinators. Keep an eye out here on Slackerwood for daily reports and reviews from the fest.

The Alamo Ritz is going to be hosting a special event tomorrow afternoon with author Anne Helen Peterson, celebrating the release of her new book Scandals Of Classic Hollywood. She'll present a special double feature of 1927's It starring Clara Bow (35mm) and 1954's Carmen Jones starring Dorothy Dandridge (DCP) and discuss the tragic careers of both actresses. On Monday night, you can enjoy another Universal Horror double feature. This week, they've got Murders In The Rue Morgue (35mm) and The Black Cat (DCP). Later on Monday night, Homo Arigato! is delivering the super twisted Blood For Dracula (aka Andy Warhol's Dracula) with Udo Kier.

The recent 4K restoration of Ghostbusters is back at the Ritz on Tuesday night for a standard screening. The movie will also be presented as a quote-along on Thursday. If all that isn't cool enough, a new series entitled "Clint Eastwood: B-Sides" is launching on Wednesday night with a 35mm screening of Eastwood's directorial debut, Play Misty For Me. Also at the Drafthouse this week, Tim Burton's Beetlejuice is screening in 35mm at South Lamar on Sunday and Monday, Lakeline has a free kids' screening of The Secret Of NIMH on Monday night and Slaughter Lane will be hosting a Dazed and Confused Beer Dinner on Wednesday night 

AFF 2014: Friday Film and Panel Picks

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linklater posterFriday is the first full day of the Austin Film Festival (bravo to you if you make it all the way from a 9 am panel to the last film of the night), and whether you plan to wing it or stick to a schedule, here are just a few of the many events worth considering.

Friday Panel Picks:

Short Films, Big Leaps: Story Development in Pixar Short Films -- Pixar panels tend to be pretty entertaining, and today's will be led by Mary Coleman, a Senior Development Executive at Pixar Animation Studios. Her job is a fascinating one, and she's here to share. (Friday, Oct. 24, 9 am - 10:15 am, Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Assembly Room)

Deconstructing: No Country for Old Men -- Walk through this Coen brothers, Texas-filmed classic with Rachel Getting Married writer Jenny Lumet and Noah Hawley, creator and producer of the television show Fargo. Accompanying this panel will be Cormac McCarthy archival material presented by the Wittliff Collections on display in the Jim Hogg Parlor in the Driskill. (Friday, Oct. 24, 10:45 am - noon, The Driskill Hotel Maximilian Room) UPDATE: This panel has been rescheduled for Sunday, Oct. 26, 11:30 am - 12:45 pm and will be held in the Driskill Hotel Crystal Room.

Chicks with Bics -- Hollywood has a long way to go before it can be called female-friendly, and this conversation will check in with a few women working in the industry to find out about the particular challenges they face. The panel consists of writers Jenny Lumet, Tiffany Paulsen, (former Austinite) Pamela Ribon and Liz Tigelaar, who together have an incredible amount of television and film experience to draw from. (Friday, Oct. 24, 3:15 pm - 4:30 pm, St. David's Episcopal Church, Historic Sanctuary)

Friday Film Picks:

The Twilight Zone, Presented by Matthew Weiner -- Peek into the brain of the adored and awardwinning Mad Men creator when he screens and discusses two of his favorite Twilight Zone episodes: "It's a Good Life" and "A Stop at Willoughby." (Friday, Oct. 24, 1 pm - 3:15 pm, State Theatre)

AFF 2014: Thursday Film and Panel Picks

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aff logoBelieve it or not, the 21st annual Austin Film Festival starts today. If you're a procrastinator or chronic second-guesser (that's me) you probably haven't mapped out a definite schedule yet, but you know what? That's okay. To help you along, Debbie has offered her film and panel picks for the entire festival and I'll post a few daily highlights that may help to offer some direction.

If you're into taking it one day at a time, start here with a few Thursday panel and film possibilities.

Thursday Panel Picks:

A Conversation with Cary Fukunaga -- The conference starts out strong with a discussion with the director of True Detective, Jane Eyre and Sin Nombre. How did one person end up behind such different projects? Maybe Fukunaga will tell us here. (Thursday, Oct. 23, 1-2:15 pm in the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Ballroom)

AFF 2014: Vanessa Roth, 'The Texas Promise'

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Vanessa RothAward-winning director Vanessa Roth tends to look deeply into social justice issues in her documentaries -- the effectiveness of the foster care system in Aging Out, the repurcussions of that film in No Tomorrow, equal rights for a lesbian couple in Freeheld (Roth produced), and schools and education in American Teacher and The Third Monday in October. Her most recent film, The Texas Promise, hits close to home as it peers into the state budget cuts to education in Texas. This new documentary from Roth will debut at Austin Film Festival later this week.

Roth answered a few of my questions via email about her work.

Slackerwood: Why is education a recurring theme in your works?

Vanessa Roth: I have so much to say about this that I don’t know where to begin... education as a theme is what all my work focuses on because it is the what holds the key to creating and determining a person’s opportunities in the world. By looking at the system of education and the policies that shape that system, I think we are given an intimate view of our values as a society.

Our country is wrestling with equity, opportunity and the very basic question of what education is supposed to look like at this moment in history. This fascinates me and drives me to find stories about both the system and the lives of those inside it to try to separate rhetoric from real human experience and attitude.

What drew you to this story in Texas for The Texas Promise?

Roth: Equity and opportunity are always themes that I want to explore in my work and when Texas cut so much from its education budget that directly affected the students who needed the resources the most I felt that this story needed to be told.

AFF 2014: Meet the 'Crazy Carl and His Man-Boobs' Filmmakers

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Crazy Carl and His Man Boobs Poster"Keep Austin Weird" isn't just a catch phrase created by some offbeat tourist marketing campaign, but rather a mantra that emulates the quickly diminishing quirkiness that drew me to Austin from the big city of Houston, Texas in 1993. The cast of characters often encountered in the local scene, whether on the Drag or downtown, contributed to the charm and allure of the Capital City.

Any given day or night you could walk down Sixth Street and see street musicians and vendors hawking their talents or wares, including Crazy Carl Hickerson -- is best known for selling and spinning flowers. Crazy Carl's penchant for flashing his man boobs and dancing outside of Esther’s Follies has long been a source of amusement -- and sometimes horror -- for unsuspecting visitors to the intersection of Sixth and Red River.

Beef and Pie Productions filmmakers including director Mike Woolf, producer Karen Yates, and director of photography Andrew Yates have captured the public and personal story of Crazy Carl in their latest documentary Crazy Carl and His Man-Boobs, which premieres at this year's Austin Film Festival. Woolf and Andrew Yates as well as editor Landon Peterson answered questions about the film via email recently, and here's what they had to say:

Slackerwood: Why Carl?



Andrew Yates: He is my neighbor. And he has boobs. Man-boobs.



Landon Peterson: Crazy Carl is Yates and Karen's (our co-director and producer) neighbor in an old neighborhood in central Austin. So they would see this aged hippie doing very noticeable things like checking the mail in his underwear and robe with his boob jars bulging underneath.

Mike Woolf: Yates started this whole film because he saw (partially naked) Carl taking care of his wife Charlotte Ferris who is a polio survivor. Yates said there is a great love story going on over there. I thought he was just enamored with Carl’s man-boobs.

AFF 2014: Debbie's Picks for Films and Panels

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Flutter Still Photo

Seeing filmmaker Eric Hueber at a local film event in August reminded me that I hadn't heard about screenings or distribution of his bittersweet drama Flutter. I'd thoroughly enjoyed his narrrative debut when I watched it back in April at the Dallas International Film Festival (my review), as well as meeting the movie's talented Texas cast and crew.

I'm pleased that this touching film about the relationship between a impoverished young mother (Lindsay Pulsipher) and her imaginative son (Johnathan Huth Jr.) will be featured at the 2014 Austin Film Festival and Conference on Saturday, October 25, 7 pm at the Rollins Theatre and again on Tuesday, October 28, 4 pm, at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Check back later for input from cast members including Dallas-based Flutter executive producer and co-star Glenn Morshower about the making of this family drama.

AFF offers content from around the world and across film genres, as science fiction meets psychological thrillers and international documentaries open windows to problems that we may be contributing to -- or at the very least, can empathize with.

AFF 2014: Jennifer Harlow, 'The Sideways Light'

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Lindsay Burdge in The Sideways Light

The haunting events that occur while a young woman cares for her ill mother are the basis for thriller The Sideways Light. The dramatic feature is Austin writer/director/producer Jennifer Harlow's first full-length film, and screens as part of the Dark Matters content at Austin Film Festival. Before the fest kicks off, Harlow chatted with me via email about her subject matter, directing while introverted, and finding the right cast.

Slackerwood: Why focus on these two women and their intimate conflict? What drew you to tell their story?

Jennifer Harlow: I knew I wanted to write a ghost story. I was hung up on the idea of being haunted by memories. What if I took those three words literally? Who would that happen to? Someone that is losing their memory, someone that lives in a place full of memories. What if Grandma handed down more than her rocking chair?

If people in compromised states of mind are more sensitive to the supernatural, then a dementia patient and her caregiver/daughter are prime victims. Pile on that the fact that women are afraid of turning into their mothers. That was territory I knew I could write about.

Movies This Week: October 17-23, 2014

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St. Vincent 

It's another busy week in area theaters, but as we start ramping up into awards season that isn't going to change too much through the end of the year. We've got a lot of new releases out this weekend along with the ninth annual Austin Polish Film Festival, which got underway yesterday at the Marchesa. The fest will screen new Polish cinema, restored classic films recommended by Martin Scorsese ... even a children's matinee of Disney's Frozen dubbed in Polish on Saturday morning. 

At Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, a 35mm print of John Carpenter's Halloween screens on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. If you're looking for even more vintage scares, check out Night Of The Living Dead (with a live score by Bird Peterson) on Sunday night, Monday night's Universal Horror double feature with The Mummy in 35mm paired with the alternate Spanish version of Dracula, which runs 25 minutes longer than the Tod Browning film and Girlie Night's presentation of Hocus Pocus on Tuesday.

Tonight and tomorrow, Alamo South Lamar has the annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival, which "shines a spotlight on films that positvely and accurately represent disability." This year the fest features award-winning short films along with Musical Chairs tonight and The Little Tin Man, an indie release that screened at the Austin Film Festival last year (Marcelena's review) on Saturday evening.

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