Here's the latest Austin film-related news.
- Austin Film Festival has announced that its 2011 Distinguished Screenwriter Award will go to Caroline Thompson, perhaps best known for writing Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. She will be attending AFF this year, which is scheduled from Oct. 20-27.
- Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World has qualified for $1.2 million in film incentives ... in Michigan. The Detroit News reports that Robert Rodriguez's Austin-shot movie will move its post-production from Troublemaker Studios to a Michigan facility for post-production work, including the conversion to 3D.
- The Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund is now accepting applications for 2011. Filmmakers have until June 1. If you are interested in TFPF grants, Austin Film Society has set up several workshops around the state, starting tonight in San Antonio.
Eliot thought April was the cruellest month but this year it has some very kind signs for parents (and kids) who love movies.
Notable Theatrical Releases in Austin (April)
Hop (In theaters now, PG, wide release) -- This movie has been flying pretty low under my personal radar but Russell Brand -- who voices the teenage son of the Easter Bunny in this animated/live-action hybrid -- has been making the talkshow rounds and my curiosity is piqued. I'm curious to see whether Kaley Cuoco shows promise outside of the sitcom world of Big Bang Theory, and even more curious to see what the film does with a cast that includes Hank Azaria, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, David Hasselhoff, and Hugh Laurie. Hop opened on the first of the month and should be around until Easter at least.
I didn't get to see many SXSW short films this year, but I made sure to find time for Pioneer, the latest from Dallas-area filmmaker David Lowery, which won the Narrative Shorts Jury Award at SXSW. Lowery did most of the SXSW 2010 bumpers (the micro-shorts promoting the fest that play before each film), and also directed one of my favorite features of SXSW 2009, St. Nick.
Pioneer premiered at Sundance this year. It's minimalist in setup -- theoretically, a simple bedtime story scene between a father and son. But the film is beautifully shot by David Blood, and the outcome of the short itself will have you thinking for awhile afterward. Myles Brooks plays the little boy, and Will Oldham the dad. It's Brooks's first time onscreen, but Oldham has acted in a number of indie films (Wendy and Lucy, The Guatamalan Handshake) but is also a musician under the name Bonnie Prince Billy.
I've never thought of Whole Foods as a film distributor, but I may have to think again, as the Austin-based grocery chain has started a film series that will premiere six documentaries in 70 U.S. cities during April, aka "Earth Month." The Whole Foods Do Something Reel Film Festival, which focuses on movies with environmental themes, starts in Austin tonight at Alamo Drafthouse Village.
The Do Something Reel website includes descriptions and trailers for the half-dozen films, along with screening information for all the cities in which the movies will be shown. Although most of these documentaries have been on the film-fest circuit in the past year or two, as far as I can tell none of them have played Austin yet.
After the jump, check out the schedule for Austin for each film in the series. All screenings in Austin are at Alamo Village.
To say this week's new movies are an eclectic mix is an understatement. Read on ...
Movies We've Seen:
The Concert -- Mélanie Laurent stars in this comedy about a once celebrated conductor who intercepts a invitation for his former orchestra to perform in Paris. Read Debbie's review for more details. (Arbor)
Source Code -- Duncan Jones' sophomore feature also deals with classic science fiction themes, although this time there's a much larger cast, and much more at stake as Jake Gyllenhaal tries to stop a terrorist attack and save the girl. I agree with Jette's review -- put this on your must see list. (wide)
The King's Speech (PG-13 version) -- Honestly, I haven't seen this new censored version of the film reworked to remove the (therapeutic) profanity in the original release version. But hey, if it means 13 year olds won't act like 3-year-olds repeating what they've heard before, more power to 'em. Read Elizabeth's review of the original R-rated version. (wide)
When you've made an amazing first feature, it's hard to live up to it with your next movie. I am already hearing people fuss that Source Code, the new film directed by Duncan Jones, isn't as good as Moon, his feature directorial debut. Let's be frank: It's not. But you know what? It doesn't matter. Judging this movie on its own terms, it's a terrific ride.
It's hard not to think about other movies while watching Source Code, though. One of my colleagues described it as "Deja Vu meets Groundhog Day." Well, I liked both those movies, and while Source Code does fit that description ... what did I just say about judging a movie on its own terms? Thank you.
Source Code opens with wide shots of a train, accompanied by the kind of music that might remind you of a Hitchcock thriller or a Seventies heist movie. Yes, I've just invoked two more movie comparisons. Try to keep up. Jake Gyllenhaal's character wakes up on the commuter train and is terribly confused ... he's getting used to the setting at the same time we are. The woman across the aisle says she's his girlfriend Christina (Michelle Monaghan) and that his name is Sean, but he thinks he's someone else. And while he's trying to work it all out --
As much as I enjoy The Birdcage, the Americanized version couldn't hold a candle to the original classic French farce La Cage Aux Folles, in which the setting of the gay club in St. Tropez lends so well to the atmosphere and mood. I was reminded of this while watching The Concert (Le concert), a dramedy set in Russia and Paris. Writer/director Radu Milhaileanu and his collaborator Alain-Michel Blanc originally envisioned creating The Concert in English with American actors to appeal to a mainstream audience. However, the filmmakers decided that English would render the movie more artificial, and decided to shoot in the original languages of Russian and French -- a choice I wholeheartedly support, especially after watching The Concert.
The Concert focuses on Andreï Filipov (Aleksey Guskov), the janitor at the Bolshoi. He enjoys listening to the famed Bolshoi Orchestra, but not because he's a low-class worker aspiring to greatness that he can never hope to achieve -- in fact, 30 years ago he was the celebrated conductor of the Bolshoi. At the height of his fame he was fired for refusing to expel Jewish musicians in his orchestra as directed by Brezhnev, and several of his friends were sent to and later died in Gulag labor camps. Filipov retreats into his despair and alcoholism, with the painful memories of a concert that was never finished.
The most moving documentary I saw at SXSW this year is from Austinite Heather Courtney, although it's primarily shot in her hometown, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula: Where Soldiers Come From. I had more or less decided after The Messenger that I'd had enough of war-related features and documentaries, but I don't regret seeing this movie, not for a minute. The film had its world premiere at SXSW 2011.
Where Soldiers Come From follows three young men from their decision to enroll in the National Guard after high school, through their deployment overseas, and what happens post-deployment. Dom is an artist, and we see a lot of his graffiti-like art on the walls of an abandoned building in his hometown, before he leaves. He hangs out with his friends Cole and Bodi, and they all end up in the same National Guard unit, sent to Afghanistan to find IEDs (improvised explosive devices; aka bombs).
Here's the latest Austin film-related news:
- IndieWIRE's The Playlist reports that Saturday Night Live actor Bill Hader is working on a movie called Henchman, in which he'll star. The Henchman script was originally drafted by Austin writers Chris Mass (Chalk) and Owen Egerton, as well as UT grad Russell Leigh Sharman. You may remember Hader was here last October for Austin Film Festival, where he participated in a staged reading of The Hand Job, a script written by his wife, Maggie Carey. (via Joe M. O'Connell and this blog)
- Cine Las Americas is looking for volunteers for this year's festival, which takes place April 21-28 here in Austin. They're holding a volunteer sign-up meeting this Thursday, March 31, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Mexican American Cultural Center. They've also posted a list of festival volunteer opportunities and a form for you to fill out if you're interested.
- Next week, UT grad student Robert Lemon's short film ¿Tacos or Tacos? will have its world theatrical premiere at the Sonoma International Film Festival. The short documentary compares Austin's fancy new food trailers with traditional taco trucks. I hope we'll see the film in Austin soon. In the meantime, this SFWeekly article has the trailer and details about Lemon and his movie.
Filmmaker Kevin Smith is currently doing a national roadshow for his latest movie, Red State. Last night, I had the opportunity to catch the screening here in Austin at the Paramount. This is a must-see movie. The most difficult aspect of this movie is describing it. The movie has elements of a dark comedy mixed with intense action thriller sometimes bordering on horror. For what Smith claims to be his second-to-last movie, he has redefined himself.
Red State opens with three high-school boys setting off for a sexual encounter they've arranged via a swinger's website. This encounter takes them to a trailer in the woods inhabited by Sara Cooper, played by 2010 Academy Award winner Melissa Leo. It doesn't take long to learn that Sara is actually a wolf in sheep's clothing.
After consuming drug-laced beer, the boys find themselves prisoners of ultra conservative preacher Abin Cooper (brilliantly played by Michael Parks). Preacher Cooper is based on the real minister Fred Phelps, of the Westboro Baptist Church (better known as the church that likes to protest funerals). The initial scenes of these kids being imprisoned takes you immediately (almost jarringly) from a happy-go-lucky Porky's type adventure to the realization that these kids are in Deep Bandini.