This article is the seventh in Slackerwood's second series about the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) video library. For an overview of the TAMI site, refer to this article in the first series.
"Mary doesn't look like a pusher, and surely doesn't think of herself as one."
-- Narration from the workplace drug use training film Everything Looks So Normal!
Ah, but Mary most certainly is a pusher. She and her co-worker Sue, both hooked on tranquilizers, are among the drug-addled employees of an unnamed corporation in Everything Looks So Normal!, a video long overdue for a TAMI Flashback skewering. Drug abuse in the workplace (or anywhere else) is a serious matter, but cheesily dramatic corporate training films like Everything Looks So Normal! make it hard to take all the toking, snorting and pill popping very seriously.
Made in Houston in 1983, the video centers on two managers at a company that manufactures and sells, well, something. When the bosses notice declines in productivity, one suspects drug abuse. The other dismisses his suspicion; after all, everything looks so normal! The employees don't look like drug users!
The 2014 Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) runs from Thursday, April 3 - Saturday, April 13, and features over fifteen films that originated in the Lone Star State. From Texas musicans to epic Southern fables, there's plenty of great Texas-based content stretching from Dallas to the Piney Woods of East Texas to the coastal towns of Taft and Port Neches.
Austin-based writer and director Eric Hueber made his feature directorial debut at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2011 with his documentary Rainbow's End. Originally from Nacogdoches, Hueber studied film at Stephen F. Austin State University and has worked as an editing assistant for director Terrence Malick. Hueber returns to DIFF with the touching family drama Flutter (screening times).
Flutter focuses on nine-year-old Johnathan (Johnathan Huth Jr.), who loves sea monsters and his massive pet pig Wee Wee. His eyes flutter and he is also going blind as a result of nystagmus and severe glaucoma. Johnathan's mother JoLynn (Lindsay Pulsipher) raises him on her own with some help from her husband David's parents. David (Jesse Plemons) is absent, out on the road in search of musical fame as a singer/songwriter. JoLynn makes personal sacrifices for her son that jeopardize her own safety.
Here's some exciting news for Texas filmmakers: The Austin Film Society has announced that the 2014 AFS Grant Cycle is now open, and the deadline for applications is June 2, 2014. Filmmakers who live in the state can apply for up to $15,000 to cover production, post-production or distribution of their independent narrative, documentary, experimental and short films.
To help grant hopefuls through the application process, AFS will hold free and open to the public workshops during April and May in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth. Register to attend an AFS Grant Workshop here and take a look at the details below.
AFS Grant Workshops
- Austin -- Monday, April 21 at 7 pm in the AFS Screening Room (1901 E 51 Street, Austin, TX 78723).
- Houston -- Tuesday, April 29 at 6 pm at the Aurora Picture Show (2442 Bartlett St., Houston, TX 77098); co-presented by SWAMP.
- Dallas -- Monday, April 28 at 7 pm at KERA, Public Television and Radio for North Texas (3000 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75201); co-presented by the Video Association of Dallas.
Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.
- Gravitas Ventures announced that it has acquired native Texan writer-director Matt Muir's Austin-lensed movie Thank You a Lot, which premiered at this year's SXSW. The sale includes North American VOD rights. The company plans to release the drama, about a struggling manager whose job is threatened if he doesn't sign his dad and reclusive Texas country music singer, in June on cable and digital platforms. The filmmakers are planning a summer tour of screenings and music concerts in which musicians that star in the movie will play.
- In more acquisition news, Netflix has acquired the rights to this year's SXSW recipient of the Special Jury Recognition Award for Editing and Storytelling, Print the Legend, The Wrap reports. The feature documentary goes behind-the-scenes of the top American 3D printing brands as they fight for dominance in the field.
- SXSW acquisition news continues: Magnet Releasing, the genre arm of Magnolia Pictures, has acquired the world rights to Honeymoon, which premiered at the fest this year, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The thriller follows a young newlywed couple during their visit to a remote cabin in the woods for their honeymoon. Magnet will release the movie later this year, following its screening at next month's Tribeca Film Festival.
The Austin Film Society will begin a series this weekend spotlighting the best in New Romanian Cinema with Child's Pose, which won the Golden Bear for best film at last year's Berlin Film Festival. The film stars Luminita Gheorghiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) and plays tonight and again Sunday afternoon at the Marchesa.
Meanwhile, Richard Linklater's incredible Jewels In The Wasteland series continues this week with Godard's Every Man For Himself on Wednesday night. Linklater will introduce the film and lead an audience discussion after the screening.
On Monday night, Tiger Tail In Blue is screening at the Marchesa thanks to AFS. Local filmmaker Andrew Bujalski will moderate a post-film Skype Q&A with director and lead actor Frank Ross. The indie film was nominated for a Gotham Award for "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" and we're lucky to have a theater to bring movies like this to town.
The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is launching their new Complete Marx Brothers retrospective this weekend with 1929's The Cocoanuts. They'll be doing this every Saturday afternoon for the next few months! They'll also be paying tribute to the late Mike Vraney of Something Weird Video on Saturday with That's Sexploitation! and a marathon of rare 35mm titles they're dubbing The Weird World Of Weird. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Lung Cancer Alliance in Mike's name.
The 12th annual Austin Jewish Film Festival will run from Saturday, March 29 (tomorrow!) through Friday, April 4 at Regal Arbor, with a great lineup of feature narratives, documentaries, and shorts. Some of the films will be followed by Skype interviews with the filmmakers. Many of the movies are free to the public.
Austin Film Society and Cine Las Americas will be co-sponsoring a chilling fictional film about the infamous Dr Josef Mengele, the Nazi "doctor" who conducted non-Hippocratic experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz before fleeing to undeserved survival in South America at war's end.
For the narrative film The German Doctor (Argentina, 2013), writer-director Lucía Puenzo adapted her own novel about an Argentinean family running a hotel in remote Patagonia. They innocently welcome a German doctor as a guest and only become concerned when they detect his inordinate interest in their young daughter. There will be a Skype-facilitated Q&A with Lucía Puenzo following the film.
Lars Von Trier's sexually explicit epic has been edited into two different versions. There is a 4-hour "international" version (which is what Magnolia is currently releasing here in the U.S.), split into two halves for distribution around the world. A 5.5-hour "hardcore" version contains even more exposition and explicit footage. While it's hard to imagine that the hardcore version would ever see the light of day in America, Magnolia has stated that they'll eventually release it domestically, although that may be exclusive to home video.
Despite its occasionally explicit nature, anybody who is familiar with Von Trier's work will not be surprised to know that the film is not at all sexy. If Nymphomaniac had been submitted for a rating, the movie would certainly have earned an NC-17, but I suspect that if two or three brief shots of penetration and/or oral sex had been removed that it could have earned an R. I was not shocked in the least, even when I occasionally felt that I was being prodded to be shocked.
For most audiences, even the 4-hour version will push boundaries too far, but perhaps it is a little more palatable when the story is split up into two installments. Both sections are available to rent on VOD now, but if you want to see what the fuss is all about on the big screen, Nymphomaniac: Vol. I is hitting Austin this weekend. It's difficult to asses Von Trier's work when you've only seen half of it, but Volume I is well acted and highly compelling.
Filmmaker Matt Wolf's Teenage, a glossy video collage about the growth of youth culture in the early to mid-20th century, is inspired by author Jon Savage's Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture, 1875-1945. Austin Film Society hosted a screening of the film (with Wolf in attendance) last August, but Teenage returns to Austin this weekend for a theatrical run.
Opening in 1904, scenes of children at factories are shown as narrators explain how child-labor laws led to further schooling for kids. Jena Malone (Contact, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and Ben Whishaw (Bright Star, Skyfall) are two of the four voices who speak from a specific point of view.
Amid the vintage photos and footage are live-action sequences -- with color adjustments and added graininess to blend in with the older stock -- used to illustrate singular stories representing significant movements. These silent scenes, scored with ambient music and narrated by the four speakers, make Teenage appear less revolutionary and more like something you might find on PBS's American Experience. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but it’s not as original a project as the movie wants to be.
Austin was filmmaker Alex R. Johnson's "something better" from the hustle and bustle of New York City life. Johnson had searched for a city that wouldn't necessarily compete with his memories of the Big Apple, but for a community of like-minded individuals that weren't worried about their role on Law & Order. His dear pal and composer Andrew Kenny, aka Kenny, also made the move with his wife last year after an extended SXSW trip. The house that Kenny and his wife bought became the fictional home of a character in his and Johnson's latest movie Two Step (Don's review).
"I didn't really know what I was getting myself into," Kenny said.
That may have been an understatement. Once a truck and generator showed up at the Kenny home, they knew they were in for surprises. Memories of the ten-day shoot at their house continue to show up in the form of fake blood droplets.
"Still finding blood but no damage," Kenny said. "There's a little bit by the front door... it's gonna stay there." To Kenny's wife, it's kind of like Christmas, finding needles from the tree months later, Johnson said.
Working a film festival, selfies and internet privacy. These were just a few things that writer/director Nacho Vigalondo and actors Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey chatted about regarding their latest film, Open Windows, shot partially in Austin.
The movie premiered at SXSW (my review), and I was beyond eager to hear firsthand what went into the making of this film. Check out what they had to say about what drew them to the idea, as well as the technological hurdles they had to overcome.
Slackerwood: Congratulations on the premiere of your film here at SXSW. How does it feel to bring it back to Austin?
Nacho Vigalondo: It's amazing, but I prefer to come here [to this festival and others] without a movie because I enjoy movies -- I love watching them. I love other people's movies more than mine. I enjoy making my films, but I don't enjoy watching my own films. I hate to be a critic to myself.