Austin film news has been cropping up all week, getting bigger and better as the week progresses. Here are the highlights:
- The biggest news: SXSW Film just announced a half-dozen more titles for this year's festival (two months away!) -- no Austin connections (update! see comments below) but certainly all interesting. Jodie Foster's movie The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson and scripted by Austinite Kyle Killen, will have its world premiere, as will Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, a documentary about the comedian's tour during his recent break from television; Ti West's latest movie, The Innkeepers, about amateur ghost hunters trying to prove a hotel is haunted; It's About You, a documentary on John Mellencamp; and Square Grouper, a movie set in the 1970s about pot smuggling in Miami. The latest movie from Greg Mottola (Adventureland) will also be shown at SXSW -- Paul, a movie about a hitchhiking alien, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. If those aren't enough details, visit the SXSW Film site for more.
- Austin Film Society has just announced the next film in their new, cool Best of the Fests series: local filmmaker Geoff Marslett's animated film Mars, which we mentioned in our 2010 in Review feature earlier this week. Jenn reviewed it after its debut at SXSW last year. Now you have a chance to catch this movie at Alamo Village on Feb. 16. Better still, it'll be shown along with Lucas Martell's delightful animated short Pigeon: Impossible, which you can watch online but looks even better in a theater.
- Speaking of Austin filmmaking: The City of Austin has issued a call for entries in its Faces of Austin multimedia program. Selected short films will be shown on the widescreen video displays in the City Hall atrium. The shorts will also be made available online, and some of them will screen at the opening of the city's People's Gallery exhibit on Feb. 18. The deadline for submitting your short film is January 28. You can watch the previous Faces of Austin selections on the City of Austin YouTube channel.
A five-word line of dialogue near the end of Blue Valentine sums up the film's central relationship. It is a line said with resignation and mild disgust: "Ah...you must be Dean."
A coworker of the film's lead female character, Cindy (Michelle Williams), utters the line when Cindy's drunk and agitated husband Dean (Ryan Gosling) arrives at Cindy's workplace to confront her about their latest marital meltdown. From the coworker's flat and frustrated tone, it's obvious that Cindy and Dean's marriage from hell is no secret, and Dean is taking most of the blame.
But laying all the blame on Dean isn't quite fair, and we know why by this point in Blue Valentine. A brutally honest, harrowingly real and strikingly nuanced look at an unlikely relationship that was probably DOA from the start, Blue Valentine wags a finger at both Cindy and Dean for the bad choices they've made. But it also explains with great empathy what motivated those choices.
In Rabbit Hole, director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) captures a period of time in the life of a married couple in suburban New York, months after their young son has died. Given this set-up, you might expect the film to be maudlin and depressing. Miraculously, even as the film deals seriously with some unhappy issues, it is able to do so without pulling the audience through the emotional wringer.
Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie Corbett's (Aaron Eckhart) son Danny was hit by a car in front of their house. To help cope with his death, they attend support group meetings -- where they meet Gaby (Sandra Oh) and her husband -- but neither seem to benefit from them.
Becca has a rather fraught relationship with her younger sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard, The Good Shepherd), and is annoyed that her mom Nat (a magnificent Dianne Wiest) keeps comparing Becca's current situation to her own. She begins a sort of friendship with Jason (Miles Teller), the high-school student and aspiring comic-book artist involved in the accident that killed her son.
While you might not recognize his name, Chris Doubek has turned into one of the most visible local actors in Austin, and this year he's owned the Austin indie scene with no less than four films featuring his diverse talent. He may be hamming it up in the picture above from SXSW 2010, but Slackerwood has declared 2010 the Year of Doubek for good reason.
If there was an Austin Film Actor of the Year award, Doubek would have annihilated the competition. At SXSW 2010, it was impossible to turn around without bumping into Doubek as he was running around between premieres of his movies including Clay Liford's Earthling, Paul Gordon's The Happy Poet, and Brian Poyser's Lovers of Hate. He's so good, he has had at least one role written just for him.
As a craft beer enthusiast, my favorite show on the Discovery Channel this season is Brew Masters, which follows innovative and always entertaining Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione as he travels across America and around the globe, exploring new ingredients and techniques for the next great brews often based on ancient traditions.
Calagione is no stranger to Austin -- he annually teams up with the the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to host the Off-Centered Film Fest short film competition in Austin every April. This year is no exception and promises to be bigger than ever, with submissions for the festival currently being accepted. The early bird deadline is January 29, with a final deadline of March 1 to enter.
Check out Part One of our collection of Austin-related films that Slackerwood contributors found memorable in 2010. In addition, keep an eye out for Jenn's article later this week focusing on an Austin actor who was especially prolific last year. Here's the rest of our list:
What was the best time to be had at the movies in 2010? Machete, but of course; no other 2010 film kicked ass with more wit, style and subversive glee than Robert Rodriguez’s riotous, Austin-shot homage to '70s exploitation flicks. (Jette's review) From Danny Trejo's glowering take on the anti-hero Machete Cortez to Michelle Rodriguez's heat-packin' halter top, every detail about this exploitation extravaganza is dead on. And beyond all the murder, mayhem and gloriously gratuitous nudity, Machete also has a lot to say about politics, racism and the immigration debate. As I said to Jette after we watched Machete, "Now, that was the movie Eat Pray Love should have been." --Don Clinchy
How you can see it: Available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Fishmonger by day, blues musician by night. Entrepreneur turned astronaut. Notoriously foul-mouthed potential Winnebago salesman in retirement. Loser taking a shower at the Genie Car Wash. Another loser trying to learn to harmonize musically and socially. A third loser who may have found the woman that will help him get over his ex-wife ... but has to deal with her horrible son. Poet with a dream of selling vegetarian sandwiches. The most stubborn, determined 14-year-old girl in the history of American film. A soldier returning from Iraq to West Texas. A machete-wielding ex-Federale fighting bigotry and seeking revenge. A man, a woman, a goat, and a dream of superb cheese.
Austin films don't fall into a predictable genre or pattern, whether they're indies that were shot locally on a shoestring or Hollywood films that happened to be shooting here in town. Amid the banquet of Austin and Central Texas-connected movies that were released in theaters or on video this year, or that hit the film-fest circuit, everyone at Slackerwood has their favorite movies and moments. We'd like to share a few of them with you below -- then head over to Part Two for more.
Artois the Goat
Although Artois the Goat first screened in town during SXSW 2009, the Austin-shot romantic comedy wasn't officially released until its DVD in 2010. In my DVD review, I said that Artois the Goat "shyly sparkles with a little romance, a combination of broad and subtle humor, some delightful characters ... and some mouth-watering cheeses." Jenn Brown called it "a little cheesy, but it's supposed to be, and in the best way." --Jette Kernion
How you can see it: Available to watch online for free on Hulu, or buy the DVD.
Here are my top 10 and other notable films from last year. To be eligible for my list, a movie had to release in 2010 and screen in Austin in 2010 also. (Some well reviewed 2010 releases, such as Blue Valentine, have not yet been released in Austin.)
1. The Social Network
No matter how you feel about Facebook (I love it enough to marry it), this flawlessly crafted yarn about the birth of the world's largest social network is the must-see film of 2010. With its snappy, snarky Aaron Sorkin script and zippy David Fincher direction, The Social Network is a razor-sharp blend of legal thriller, dark comedy, cautionary tale and social commentary. In a crowded field of strong contenders for best film, I give The Social Network the nod because of its relevance to our increasingly hyperconnected times. (Jette's review)
How to see it? Still playing at Regal Metropolitan this week. Will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on January 11.
2. Black Swan
A harrowing psychothriller about artistic rivalry and obsession with perfection, Black Swan is the year's most visually stunning film. Natalie Portman gives the best performance of her career as the neurotic ballerina Nina Sayers, the most memorable cinematic psychochick in many years. Mila Kunis is also captivating as Nina's frenemy and rival, Lily. (Let the record show that while Black Swan's schwangerrific ballerina-on-ballerina action definitely got the attention of my inner heterosexual guy, it in no way influenced my overall opinion of the film. Black Swan is a terrific piece of cinema in every way.) (Jenn's review)
How to see it? Still playing in Austin theaters.
Nicolas Cage continues a string of performances in genre films including Kick-Ass, The Sorceror's Apprentice and Drive Angry with Season of the Witch, which opened on Friday. Along with Cage are Ron Perlman and a strong cast of supporting characters including Stephen Graham (Snatch, Doghouse), Ulrich Thomsen (The World is Not Enough), Claire Foy ... and a fantastic cameo by Christopher Lee. Not unlike Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, this is a swashbuckling Middle Ages action adventure that discards any pretense of historical accuracy. Also like the Kevin Costner romp, this left me walking out of the theater with a smile on my face.
I've never been a Nicolas Cage fan, but I'm starting to warm to him with roles like these, and of course everybody loves Ron Perlman. Together, they make a crack buddy fighting team as they kill and plunder through the various Crusades, until Cage realizes they're not really doing God's work, just killing innocent people. So, they set off to find their own way and return home to find the land decimated by plague and the people in terror.
How 'bout that cedar fever? Me, I've managed to avoid allergies for over a decade, but this week they are kicking my sinuses to kingdom come and back. Thank goodness there are theaters to hide in where the pollen count is hopefully lower.
Movies We've Seen:
Casino Jack -- I wish I liked this biopic from Austin Film Festival better, it's got all the makings: Kevin Spacey in an outrageously real role in a contemporary cautionary tale about a man who helped contribute to the current financial and political climate. Read Don's review for more. (Arbor)
Country Strong -- Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw headline this country music drama. Of all the film formulas, the aspiring country star has got to be one of my least favorite. Will this (along with TRON: Legacy) help Garrett Hedlund become a star? Read Mike's review to find out. (wide)
Made in Dagenham -- This perfect serviceable period piece is about an equal rights strike that brought Britain to its knees in the 1960s, but there are two things you should know. First, the fact that it got made is a testament to its relevance. Second, Sally Hawkins gives an outstanding performance that will be robbed if she doesn't win awards. Read Elizabeth's review for more. (Arbor)