Here's the latest Austin film news, with a great short film at the end.
- Production company Parts and Labor, founded by former Austinites Jay Van Hoy and Lars Knudsen, has signed an output and development deal with German-UK sales and production group K5. The agreement covers all current productions in development, such as Red Light Winter, set to star Kirsten Dunst, and The Womb. Parts and Labor produced the movie Beginners, for which Christopher Plummer has received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination. (Before being known as Parts and Labor, Van Hoy and Knudsen also produced local films Gretchen and I'll Come Running.)
- The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, a Texas Film Commission production incentive, distributed $25 million in state funds to 177 film, television, commercial, and video game projects last year, such as Friday Night Lights and Predators, according to an Austin American-Statesman article. To qualify for incentives, production companies must submit documentation of spending and meet eligibility standards. The Texas Legislature approved $30 million to use toward the incentive program this year and next, down from $60 million in the previous session.
- The local hip-hop musical feature Camp Kickitoo won the Best Comedy award at the recent San Diego Black Film Festival. Shot in Central Texas and starring an Austin-area cast and crew, the movie centers around Alvin, a young man who takes a job as a summer camp counselor when he can't find a job. No word yet on when the movie will screen in Austin; you might keep an eye on the film's official website.
If there's one trend in Hollywood that has worn out its welcome pretty quickly, it's the "found-footage" genre of filmmaking. Since The Blair Witch Project in 1999, Wikipedia lists 79 other film projects in the genre. In the grand scheme of things, 79 films in 13 years may not seem like that many, but when you consider that the biggest problem with the genre is that the movies are on some level all the same, therein lies the issue. We need something different, and we need it badly.
Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity deviated from the formula a little bit but at the heart, they weren't that different. Chronicle promises something different, but can it deliver on that promise? Director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis certainly have had a hard task before them.
The plot of Chronicle is pretty simple. Andrew (Dane DeHaan), an unpopular loner, decides to document everything in his life as a way of opening up. Naturally, everyone thinks it's weird, including his cousin Matt (Alex Russell). One day while at a party in an abandoned part of town, Andrew, Matt and their friend -- the popular Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) -- discover a weird hole in the middle of a field. Of course, in abandonment of all sensible logic, they go down the hole and discover something mysterious. The next day after their discovery, they've figured out that they have the ability to move things with their mind, and that they're getting stronger by the day.
The KLRU co-sponsored Community Cinema Series at APL Windsor Park Branch is showing More Than A Month on Tuesday. This free series features light refreshments and post-film discussions with relevant organizations. But if you're looking for some classic sci-fi, you can see Blade Runner for free over at the APL Milwood Branch.
Normally we keep Movies This Week focused on what's playing in the coming week, but since that dreaded sappy holiday is nearly upon us, I thought I should mention that the Blue Starlite Drive-In is showing a special double feature of The Princess Bride and Breakfast at Tiffany's -- and if you're at all inclined to do something on Valentine's Day and see a movie, you might want to book your reservation now. Especially since the highlight of Alamo Drafthouse's romantic fare for Feb. 14 -- also The Princess Bride, with a quote-along/feast -- unsurprisingly sold out already (there are non-feast versions later that week).
Movies We've Seen:
We Need to Talk About Kevin -- Bleak and relentless and starring the always-mesmerizing Tilda Swinton, one of the few actors out there who can deliver a provocative performance that's equally sympathetic and repulsive, although as Elizabeth points out, "The viewer has to piece together why she's now living alone in a town full of people who detest her so strongly." Read Elizabeth's review for more. (Alamo Lamar, Arbor)
The Woman in Black -- Life after Harry Potter for Daniel Radcliffe includes the legend of a vengeful spirit terrorizing a remote village. Debbie found that Radcliffe's omnipresence left her "a bit de-sensitized." Read Debbie's review for more. (wide)
I've mentioned before Stephen King's nonfiction Danse Macabre, in which he delineates three levels of the horror genre: terror, horror and revulsion. He states that terror is the "finest element," the suspenseful moment before the actual monster is revealed -- horror occurs when we actually see the monster. He equates revulsion with the gag reflex, a bottom level that he considers a cheap gimmick. With films like Human Centipede and other visceral gory films pushing the boundaries of revulsion, fans of the classic horror of H.P. Lovecraft are welcoming the latest film in the horror genre, The Woman in Black, based on the novel by Susan Hill.
Opening with the death of three young girls, The Woman in Black is one tragedy after another for the entirety of the movie. Young and nearly penniless lawyer and widower Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) reluctantly leaves his four-year-old son with his nanny in London to travel to an isolated village to settle the estate of a deceased recluse. Kipps learns quite quickly that his presence is not welcome in the village, and despite warnings he travels to the remote estate surrounded by the sea during high tide.
While at the estate, he learns of the death of a young boy who was trapped in the family carriage during a rising tide. Kipps spots a mysterious woman dressed in black, and upon his return to the village a young girl dies after intentionally drinking lye. Local superstition believes that whenever the woman is seen, a child's death will soon follow.
What if you were scared of your own child? We Need to Talk About Kevin, based on Lionel Shriver's award-winning novel, is an intense glance at the relationship between Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton) and her son Kevin (played in teenage form by Ezra Miller). The editing is stream-of-consciousness style, as memories of Eva's pre-motherhood life mix with Kevin's childhood mixed with her current life as a social outcast. The viewer has to piece together why she's now living alone in a town full of people who detest her so strongly.
Through glimpses/flashbacks, we see Kevin's antipathy towards others start at a young age. Try as she might, Eva cannot connect with him. She rolls a ball to her toddler son and he just blankly stares back at her. Her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) seems to have no problem getting along with their son, and is oblivious to Eva's worries. They later have a daughter Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich) who is much freer with her affections and easy to please.
As he grows older, Kevin displays more antisocial tendencies, killing his sister's pet (we assume) and orchestrating an attack at his high school. Unlike in Gus van Sant's Elephant, we don't see the violent acts being carried out against fellow students. The movie is from Eva's POV, so we see her having to deal with the fallout of Kevin's actions.
SXSW announced its film lineup today, which is full of all kinds of features and documentaries. The big splashy Hollywood news is that the movie 21 Jump Street, starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, will premiere at the fest as its Centerpiece Film. In addition, the closing-night film will be the music documentary Big Easy Express from Emmett Malloy.
One marquee movie with a Texas connection is the Dallas-set Killer Joe, reuniting Bug filmmaker William Friedkin and playwright Tracy Letts, and starring Matthew McConaughey (and that's not the only film he's in that will play SXSW). Other notable movies playing the fest include Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America, the Will Ferrell-starring Casa de mi Padre and Guy Maddin's Keyhole ... among many many others announced.
SXSW Film has no Lone Star States category this year, but the overall lineup of narrative and documentary features includes many local and state connections. We'll have a full list later this month of all the Austin and Texas features and shorts screening at the fest this year. In the meantime, here are some Lone Star-connected films that stuck out in today's announcement:
- Gayby (Narrative Feature Competition)-- Jonathan Lisecki has expanded his popular 2010 short of the same name. It stars Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas (from the short) as well as Dule Hill and Samantha Buck. The cast also includes Austinites Alex Karpovsky and Anna Margaret Hollyman. Dallas-to-Austin filmmaker Clay Liford (Wuss) is director of photography.
- Somebody Up There Likes Me (Narrative Spotlight, pictured at top) -- The latest feature from Bob Byington (Harmony and Me) will have its world premiere at the fest. The movie stars Keith Poulson, Nick Offerman (also in Casa de mi Padre), Jess Weixler and Kevin Corrigan. The cast also includes local actors Chris Doubek, Andrew Bujalski, Allison Latta, Anna Margaret Hollyman (also in Gayby) and Jonny Mars ... and once again, Bob Schneider as a wedding singer. The trailer is already available on the film's website.
To celebrate our new partnership with Austin Film Society, Slackerwood and AFS are having a happy hour tonight and we hope you'll join us.
Date: Wednesday, Feb. 1 (tonight!)
Time: 6-8 pm
Location: Red's Porch, 3508 S. Lamar (in the back)
Many Slackerwood contributors will be there -- I'm not sure so many of us have been in one place at the same time before. We'll have snacks and beer, so get there before we run out. (Sadly, we won't have any Duff, I just thought that would grab your attention.) And a special thank you to Red's Porch and North by Northwest for sponsoring the event.
Austin-based documentarian Heather Courtney chronicles four years in the lives of small-town childhood friends in the award-winning movie Where Soldiers Come From. The film begins with their decision to enlist in the U.S. National Guard after graduating high school, and continues through their deployment to Afghanistan and their adjustment back to civilian life. Jette reviewed the movie after its premiere at SXSW in 2011.
The Texas Independent Film Network, an Austin-based statewide coalition of film societies, universities and independent theaters, sponsored the San Marcos screening of Where Soldiers Come From on Jan. 25 in the Texas State University- San Marcos Theatre Center. Courtney attended the Texas State screening.
Setting out to make a documentary about rural America, Courtney said she changed her mind after reading an article in her hometown newspaper -- in Michigan's Upper Peninsula -- about the recent return of National Guard soldiers from Iraq. She said she didn't know there was a National Guard unit there until reading the article.
Here's the latest Austin film news:
- Austin is getting a new festival -- not a film fest but a television festival, something new and a bit different. The ATX Festival will take place June 1-3 this year. The fest organizers are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise start-up funds, and some of the giving levels will earn you discounted badges for the festival.
- One of my favorite films from Fantastic Fest 2010, Sound of Noise, is finally getting theatrical release in the U.S. soon thanks to Magnolia Pictures. The quirky movie about "musical terrorism" opens in limited release on March 9. No word yet about an Austin release date, but I hope they open it here at least a week later because, you know, SXSW. Read my review from Cinematical and you might understand why I'm excited and impatient.
- Sundance ended this weekend but I still want to point you to this enjoyable profile in The New York Times of Austin filmmakers Nathan and David Zellner as they brought their feature Kid-Thing to Park City. I find it funny that the Variety review says the feature should be "potentially broadening their loyal fanbase," but the IndieWIRE review says it's "too irreverent for any kind of mass market." The movie will play Berlin Film Festival next and I hope SXSW after that (fingers crossed).
- Local filmmaker Don Swaynos will also have a film at Berlin this year at the same time, although not at the same festival. His short Six Hundred and Forty-One Slates will premiere at the Berlin International Director's Lounge, which focuses on experimental film and media.
Busy tonight? Blue Starlite Urban Drive-In has a triple-feature of 80s teen films for you: Pretty in Pink, Say Anything and Sixteen Candles.
On Sunday, you can join the TXMPA SAG Awards party, including a red carpet and pre-show mixer at ND at 501 Studios. On Monday, if you think "the Dude abides" you can check out the Big Lebowski Quote-along at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar.
Then on Tuesday, you can catch a classic cautionary tale of love, lust and the consequences of confusing the two in F.W. Murnau's 1927 epic Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans as part of the AFS Essential Cinema Series. And the Paramount Winter Comedy Series continues this week, including a special Shaun of the Dead Pub Run and screening on Tuesday.
Movies We've Seen:
Man on a Ledge -- J.C. saw this thriller and says it's a combination of "some original thought, mixed in with some fun clichés that will only serve to give you a harmless chuckle." Read his review for more. (wide)