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Movies This Week: Crazy Immortals Jack and Edgar

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It's a busy week for special screenings. On Saturday, Austin-shot film Mars plays the Austin Film Society Screening Room as part of the Texas Independent Film Network's touring series. On Sunday, the Paramount is screening two Chris Marker films, Sans Soleil and La Jetee, in conjunction with Arthouse/AMOA's current exhibit "The Anxiety of Photography."

Wednesday is especially crazy: Cinema 41 is showing Agnes Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7 at the Hideout. Doc Nights is screening Nostalgia for the Light at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. At Alamo Village, Best of the Fests brings Berndt Mader's Five Time Champion back to Austin, and Slackerwood's Don Clinchy will moderate the Q&A. And Cine Las Americas wraps up its "Literature in Mexican Cinema" series with Santa, based on Federico Gamboa's novel.

And if that's not enough, Don Hertzfeldt will be at Alamo South Lamar on Wednesday and Thursday to screen a number of his shorts, including his entire "Bill" trilogy that ends with his latest film, It's a Beautiful Day. Read Marc Savlov's profile of the animator/filmmaker in the Austin Chronicle.

Movies We've Seen:

J. Edgar -- This biopic "delves deeply into Hoover's personal life, skillfully walking the line between established facts and unsubstantiated rumors," according to Don's review. (wide)

Like Crazy -- This romantic tale of young lovers separated is "beautiful to watch, almost entrancing at times, and John Guleserian's cinematography and Doremus' direction have a lot to do with that," according to Elizabeth. Read her review for more. (Arbor)

The Skin I Live In (pictured at top) -- Pedro Almodóvar's latest is based on a Thierry Jonquet novel. I found it overly contrived and melodramatic, but Debbie says in her review, "It's quite easy to understand why this film has been nominated for its production design and composer in the upcoming European Film Awards."  (Alamo Lamar, Violet Crown, Arbor)

Review: J. Edgar

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J Edgar Hoover

Justice is incidental to law and order. -- J. Edgar Hoover

There are few more controversial figures in American history than J. Edgar Hoover. The longtime FBI director (he served from 1924 to 1972) was credited with building the bureau into a modern and successful crime-fighting agency. But he is probably better remembered for abusing his power by harassing political dissenters, collecting evidence using illegal methods, and amassing secret files on politicians and activists. Hoover's private life was no less intriguing; thanks to widespread rumors of his closeted homosexuality and penchant for cross-dressing, he remains a larger-than-life figure decades after his death.

It's little surprise, then, that the enigmatic Hoover has been portrayed in many movies. But few if any cinematic depictions of Hoover can match Leonardo DiCaprio's stellar performance in J. Edgar, Clint Eastwood's equally stellar new biopic of America's most famous G-man. The film is everything you would expect in an Eastwood-DiCaprio collaboration, an artful study of Hoover's public and private lives.

Review: Like Crazy

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Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones in Like Crazy

It's fall of 2006 -- or perhaps it's spring of 2007, dates are unclear -- and British exchange student Anna (Felicity Jones, Brideshead Revisited) leaves a note on a windshield for her crush Jacob (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek). Thus, the romance that forms the basis for Like Crazy is initiated.

Jacob is an aspiring furniture designer, Anna wants to be a journalist, and they both love Paul Simon's Graceland. The sparks between these two are, umm, crazy as we see their relationship bloom. Suddenly it's the end of the school year and Anna's visa is up, and the decision she makes at this point leads to the immigration debacle that keeps the lovers apart for months at a time.

Years pass, I think (like I said, dates are unclear in this movie) and Anna and Jacob break up and get back together because long distance relationships are hard, y'all. Especially when communication is so difficult -- well, at least between these two twentysomethings, it is. Yelchin and Jones are destined for great things, and this film serves as an excellent showcase for their talent. While their characters make stupid mistakes (as we humans are wont to do), Anna and Jacob remain likeable and relatable.

Review: The Skin I Live In

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The Skin I Live In still photo

Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is internationally known for his darkly humorous and often perverse explorations into gender and sexuality, but even more so about relationships between women and the men who love (while still often hating) them. His latest film, The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito), is no different in its general themes, but is the most stylized and visually and emotionally impacting of all his movies. Based on the novel Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet, The Skin I Live In effectively blends so many genres -- thriller, erotica, drama, horror and sci-fi -- that it will hopefully appeal to a wide audience.

Secured in his operating lab at his isolated home El Cigarral, plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) has made a breakthrough in his research to improve methods of repairing disfigurement of burn victims. Through transgenesis -- the process of introducing an exogenous gene, from a hog in this case -- Dr. Ledgard has created an extremely resilient skin that can be grafted onto damaged tissue. However, colleagues and superiors are horrified, proclaiming his research as a violation of their bioethics. They prefer the less controversial practice of using El Cigarral's operating room for transgender operations from well-paying clients who require discretion. 

Dr. Ledgard isn't prepared to welcome his colleagues into his home, however, as he has a private patient locked in the premises. A young woman known as Vera (Elena Anaya) spends her days in solitude, reading and creating figures out of torn scraps of fabric, watched over by Dr. Ledgard's fiercely loyal housekeeper, Marilia (Marisa Paredes). When Marilia's brutish criminal son Zeca (Robert Alamo) arrives, demanding his mother hide him from law enforcement, violence explodes the idyllic calm and exposes the true horrors hidden within. No one is safe from the madness and destruction, including Ledgard's daughter Norma (Bianca Suarez) and her suitor Vicente (Jan Cornet).

Old Murder House Theatre Re-Creates 'Aliens' ... On Ice

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Old Murder House TheatreA very lucky few people in Austin have seen very unique renditions of movies like Home Alone, Die Hard and Robocop. Those few who've witnessed The Old Murder House Theatre and their hilarious brand of comedy can attest to seeing something they won't soon forget. Well, their next act is no different.

If you're reading this, it must mean you love movies, and chances are you at the very least tolerate the classic sci-fi film Aliens. As great as it would be for them to perform their usual prop driven comedy on a stage as they usually do, they're stepping up their game and taking this act not to a stage, but to a rink. That's right, Aliens On Ice. I'll say it again because it's just that damn good: Aliens On Ice. You can catch this production next weekend at the north location of Chaparral Ice.

The Old Murder House Theatre is headed by local actor Sam Eidson, whom you might have seen in Austin films such as My Sucky Teen Romance and Natural Selection. You might recognize some of the other cast and crew involved too.

We've reprinted the press release about the show below ... followed by some videos from the troupe that you won't want to miss.

Slackery News Tidbits, November 10

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Here's the latest Austin and Central Texas movie news.

  • Drafthouse Films, the distribution arm of the Alamo Drafthouse franchise, recently announced the company has entered a U.S. distribution deal with Image Entertainment, Inc. This will make it easier for Drafthouse Films to release new movies and repertory films via a number of platforms (home video, TV, etc.). The California-based company is considered a leading licensee and distributor of North American independent entertainment programming. Image Entertainment's library of licensed movie titles includes the Criterion Collection, various horror movies (they're releasing SXSW 2011 selection Little Deaths soon) and classic films like 12 Angry Men and Design for Living.
  • In addition, Drafthouse Films has acquired the North American rights to a pair of movies that played Fantastic Fest this year: the Oscar-nominated Belgian drama, Bullhead (Debbie's review), and the international hit comedy, Clown: The Movie. While Bullhead concerns itself with a shady deal between a young cattle farmer and a West Flemish beef trader, Clown is about two relatives and their wild adventure through the Danish countryside. Drafthouse Films' acquisition of the North American rights for the 1980s 3D cult film Comin' At Ya is a third Fantastic Fest 2011 selection the company will release next year.
  • The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum will host a Les Blank retrospective from 6-10 pm on Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20 at the museum's Texas Spirit Theater. The event, co-sponsored by the Austin Music Film Festival, will showcase award-winning documentarian Blank's films about music and musicians. Live music performances will be held each evening
  • The latest issue of Wholphin, a quarterly DVD magazine published by McSweeney's, features short films by several Texas directors: Amy Grappell, David Lowery, and David and Nathan Zellner. The DVD includes Grappell's Quadrangle, a documentary about her parents' relationship with the couple next door; Lowery's Pioneer, about a father's epic bedtime story told to his son (starring Will Oldham), and the Zellner brothers' short but unforgettable Sasquatch Birth Journal 2.

Shorts Wanted for Faces of Austin 2012

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Faces of Austin

The City of Austin is asking for short film submissions for 2012 Faces of Austin. Faces of Austin is a program of the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office. This is the fifth year of the city's program; entries that are chosen show at City Hall, online, on Channel 6, and at other screenings throughout the year. This year's shorts will also be featured as part of a Community Screening during SXSW in March 2012.

Local filmmakers of all ages and experience-levels are encouraged to submit their original entries on DVD by January 16, 2012 to the City of Austin along with the completed application form (.pdf). The films -- no longer than 10 minutes -- should incorporate local flavor by depicting Austin characters, voices, stories, organizations, landscapes, music, events, landmarks, etc. Documentary, student film, music video, narrative film based in town -- anything along these lines is welcome. The call for entries (.pdf) has more information.

Film on Tap: From Almodovar to Mr. Creosote

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

Since 1997, Alamo Drafthouse has set the bar high for Austin in offering moviegoers the option of enjoying libations and food during screenings. For several years this local favorite has also offered themed film-and-food pairings through their feast events, such as the Julie and Julia Feast, and Sommelier Cinema, which offers wine flights to complement classic movies. This month, Alamo Drafthouse executive chef John Bullington has joined forces with Drafthouse beverage director Bill Norris to delight the palate and test the fortitude of film fans who crave an unique and memorable film, food and drink experience.

This partnership is most notably responsible for a Spanish tapas and wine menu available at Alamo on South Lamar for the first two-week run of Pedro Almodovar's new movie, The Skin I Live In. Local media were invited to a sneak preview of the menu items last Sunday -- seen above is the tapas of tomato, leek, almonds and manchego in sherry vinegar with herbs, paired with the '06 Marques de Gelida Cava Brut Reserva Ecologico, a 100 percent organic Methode Traditionelle sparkler. I was so impressed by the wines Norris paired with Bullington's tasty tapas that I not only bought a bottle of the '09 Juan Gil Monastrell on the way home, but I plan on seeing The Skin I Live In for a third time just for the Spanish menu experience.

Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek also has some special events this month -- a beer dinner featuring Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and another "Meet the Brewer" event. Find out more after the jump about both events, as well as events taking place on the auspicious 11/11/11.

Lone Star Cinema: Dear Pillow

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Dear Pillow

Society has long had a love-hate relationship with pornography. We often condemn it for reasons both moral and aesthetic -- but the porn industry has been thriving for decades, so somebody (not us or anyone we know, of course) must be buying all those dirty magazines and movies.

This often hypocritical relationship is the subject of Dear Pillow, one of my favorite Austin-made films of the last decade. Writer and director Bryan Poyser's engaging story about a friendship between an awkward teenager and a middle-aged writer of erotica is a frank, unflinching look at how adult entertainment reflects human sexuality.

Released in 2004, Dear Pillow is the story of pudgy, mop-haired teen Wes (Rusty Kelley), whose love life (okay, his sex life) isn't exactly on fire. He's your basic flop with chicks; the closest he gets to any real action is eavesdropping on the wireless conversations of a woman selling phone sex somewhere in his apartment complex. Wes's home life isn't much better; he shares a tiny apartment with his divorced father (billed only as Dad and wonderfully played by Cory Criswell), a loving but boozy and mostly inept parent whose idea of a suitable birthday present for his son is an evening at a local strip joint.

Eenie Meenie Miney Movies: November 2011

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The Muppets

It's official: the holidays are here, and that means time spent with the kids. It's good to have some entertainment in your pocket -- especially if you can con a grandparent or other visiting relative into taking your urchins to the cineplex for you.

Notable Theatrical Releases

Happy Feet Two (November 18, rated PG) -- Remember when a film other than Pixar's latest release won the Best Animated Film Oscar? No? Well, it was 2006 and that film was Happy Feet, up against Pixar's Cars and Monster House. We saw the sequel to Cars this past summer and sure enough, here comes Happy Feet Two to make sure our holiday quota of dancing (and flying?) penguins is filled.

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