What's Streaming: Things We Don't Speak Of


This month's list of films available online was all over the place. I was watching ridiculous Craig Robinson comedies and intense documentaries about the struggle to make art. "How the hell do I tie these together?" was the question, as my themes usually come to me quite easily. When I thought back about all of these stories, though, I finally found one kernel within each movie that linked them: topics we don't like to talk about.

What does or does not making something "taboo" is different for each of us. Some are universally obvious, but some might not strike us right away. We have to learn more and try to understand a situation before writing it off as totally unthinkable. Several of the films I watched this month explore topics that are hard to talk about, let alone make a movie about.  When you get to know these characters though, you start to see where they are coming from.

I'm not saying they're right, or that they're even heroes.  But they're people.  They're human, just like you and me.  Give their stories a shot this month.

Spend an Animated Sunday Afternoon with AFS and the Hubleys


Still from A Windy Day

This year marks 100 years since animator John Hubley's birth. To celebrate the work of this man and his wife/collaborator Faith Hubley, Austin Film Society will be hosting an afternoon of shorts by the team as part of the Hubley Centennial.

Their daughter Emily Hubley, an animator and creative force in her own right, will introduce the screening and then participate in an AFS Moviemaker Dialogue afterwards (a separate ticket).

You may not think you've seen any of the Hubleys' work before, but given that they worked on TV ads and public television programs such as Sesame Street and The Electric Company -- along with their singular short films -- you most likely have.  The shorts included in the Centennial programming are new 35mm prints from the Hubleys' oeuvre between 1956-1970.  Their Oscar-winning Moonbird will be screened, as well as Windy Day (still above, includes voices of daughters Emily and Georgia) and Tender Game (features music from Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson) among others. You can view the list of the shorts in the program here.

Slackery News Tidbits: May 5, 2014


Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news. 

  • An open casting call for various non-speaking background extras for the feature My All American, chronicling University of Texas football player Freddie Steinmark and the 1969 National Champion Longhorns, will take place on Monday, May 12 from 2-8 pm at Smithville Recreation Center (106 Royston St.) in Smithville. The movie, directed by Angelo Pizzo (Hoosiers and Rudy), will be shooting in Austin and surrounding areas this summer. myallamericantx [at] gmail [dot] com (Email Brock/Allen Casting) for more info.
  • The Austin Latino Film Association will have its soft launch party tonight (May 5) at 7:30 pm at Baby Acapulco (5610 N. IH-35). The nonprofit organization is dedicated to Austin-based Latino filmmakers, Latino-themed movies and local Latino youth. 
  • Join the Austin Film Festival for a conversation with Emmy-nominated actor Robert Walden through the nonprofit's On Story series this Wednesday, May 7 at 7 pm at the Texas Spirit Theater in the Texas History Museum. 
  • Cast members of the notorious 1974 horror film Texas Chain Saw Massacre will reunite at this year's Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin. The horror and heavy-metal event will celebrate this seminal Central Texas-shot movie's 40th anniversary during the festival from Oct. 23-26.

Movies This Week: May 2-8, 2014


 The Retrieval

If you're a member of Austin Film Society, tonight marks the first event in a new monthly series called FREE Member Fridays! Actor Thomas Haden Church and director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais will be at the Marchesa for a special screening of their new film Whitewash. It is free for AFS members and general admission tickets will also be available for $15 at the door subject to capacity. AFS also is presenting the new release Hateship Loveship on Sunday afternoon. While this IFC Films release is available on VOD, this (along with a second showing next Friday) is your only chance to catch it locally on the big screen. The movie stars Kristen Wiig and Guy Pearce and is an adaptation of a story by Alice Munro. Richard Linklater's Jewels In The Wasteland series returns on Wednesday night with a 35mm print of Coppola's 1983 feature Rumble Fish. Finally, the week in movies at the Marchesa wraps up on Thursday with Essential Cinema presenting Paul Mazursky's 1970 film Alex In Wonderland.

Violet Crown Cinema continues their Criterion Presents series this week with Steven Soderbergh's beautiful depression-era drama King Of The Hill on Tuesday night while the Paramount 100 series heads next door to the Stateside for a double feature of Renoir's Grand Illusion and Jean Vigo's L'Atalante

If you've never seen it on the big screen, William Wyler's 1959 epic Ben-Hur is debuting in a brand new 4K digital restoration at the Alamo Lakeline tomorrow and Sunday afternoon. The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is delivering more Marx Brothers for you this weekend with A Night At The Opera from 1935. It plays tomorrow afternoon only. There are some great 35mm rep screenings at the Ritz this week including Arthur Penn's Night Moves on Monday, Bachelor Party with Tom Hanks on Tuesday and a Cinema Club screening of David O. Russell's truly hysterical Flirting With Disaster on Wednesday.

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2


The Amazing Spider-Man 2Swinging into theaters this weekend is the sequel to 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man. Scripted by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and directed by Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 picks up shortly after the reboot with returning stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Sally Field as well as Dane DeHaan and Jamie Foxx, both new to the series. The sequel exceeded my expectations as Garfield fell comfortably back into the title role.

Peter Parker is just a teenager still trying to find his way less than a year after his powers have been thrust upon him. He has no school for gifted youngsters such as himself to provide peer support. He hasn't had a lifetime to come to terms with his powers under the guidance of a moral compass like Jonathan Kent. Only after the events with The Lizard has he had a chance to ponder the life ahead of him and its effects on those he loves.

Though some would say his on-again/off-again relationship with Gwen Stacy isn't true to the final shot of part 1, in which he throws caution to the wind, I think that reads too much into the scene. Sworn by her father to keep Gwen out of danger by avoiding her altogether, Parker is torn between his love and fear for her. Though like most any teenage boy he often feels invincible, self-doubt and uncertainty frequently win out as he is constantly reminded of the death of her father and his guilt over being unable to prevent it. Being Spider-Man provides his escape from or justification for his feelings over the death of Uncle Ben. Being with Gwen provides his escape from the responsibility of keeping an entire city safe.

Dane DeHaan is perhaps typecast as the rebellious, misunderstood teen vaulted into a position of power while suffering the mental ravages of abuse and neglect. His time on screen as Parker's childhood friend, Harry Osborn, is only background filler as he treads water until assuming his role as one of the seminal Spider-Man villains, Green Goblin. This is not Green Goblin's movie, however, and though the character's actions are pivotal, Green Goblin takes a back seat to the Electro storyline. 

AFS Will Host First Austin Sundance #ArtistServices Workshop


sundance logoOn Saturday, May 10, Austin Film Society will host a day-long workshop geared toward independent filmmakers and featuring over a dozen film industry experts and creative pros. Sundance #ArtistServices Workshops began in 2011, and this will be the first installment held in Austin.

Topics to be covered during the event include licensing and distribution, creative marketing, digital cinema mastering, key art, crowdfunding, and all the other details that make releasing a film into the world an exciting but often completely overwhelming endeavor.  

The Sundance Institute is known for supporting developing artists with bold new stories to tell, and in similar ways AFS has worked to assist local filmmakers as they try to master the skills required to stand out in a marketplace mostly dominated by big-budget fare. As you know if you follow our monthly Ready, Set, Fund column, it's an exciting time for indie filmmakers due to all the technology and resources available, but no one can make it without a little help. 

World War I Series Combines Forces of Ransom Center, AFS and Paramount

Still from Grand Illusion

100 years after the start of World War I, three Austin organizations are teaming up to showcase cinema of or about the conflict. The Paramount Theatre and Austin Film Society are joining the University of Texas Harry Ransom Center, which is holding the current exhibition "The World at War, 1914-1918," to host a combined total of 13 films running May through July.

The screenings at the Ransom Center are free (bear in mind it's not a large theater), but tickets are required for the AFS at the Marchesa and Paramount/Stateside shows. Here's the schedule, which concludes with Lawrence of Arabia shown in 70mm:

Mon, May 5, 7 pm, Stateside at Paramount
Grand Illusion (pictured above), 1937 [tickets]
This moving French classic from director Jean Renoir features Jean Gabin among others at a German POW camp.  Screens as a double feature with L'Atalante as part of Paramount's 100th birthday celebration.

Cine Las Americas 2014: Closing Weekend


My schedule unfortunately prevented me from seeing everything that I wanted at Cine Las Americas (CLAIFF) last  weekend, but I was still able to catch films here and there. Saturday morning took me to Alamo Drafthouse Village for Bobô, a Portugese film from writer/director Inês Oliveira. The movie is about Sofia, who has nothing in her life but the memories of her deceased brother and son. Things change when her mother sends her Mariama, a maid who helps make Sofia's life a little easier. The more these two women get to know one another, the more their friendship blossoms, each helping the other in a way they didn't think possible.

It was refreshing to see such a female-driven film, particularly in the writing. I have to hand it to CLAIFF for saluting female filmmakers during this festival, both in their programming and celebration of film. I was able to attend their Women In Film party on Saturday night, and was so excited to talk with fest staff members Keeley Steenson and Jean Lauer. We not only discussed the films we'd seen during the festival, we also talked about our views on female representation in Latino culture.  It certainly made for a fun and educational Saturday night (two words I don't often combine to describe a Saturday night.)

AFS Essential Cinema Examines 'The Creative in Crisis'


Alex in Wonderland

By Erica Todd

For May, the Austin Film Society's Essential Cinema series turns to the topic of creative block. "After 8 1/2: The Creative in Crisis" is guest curated by Kimberley Jones, the Austin Chronicle's managing editor. The five films she programmed delve into the creative process for writers and directors of stage and screen. The real-life directors of each movie present elements of their past experiences in show business via the protagonists who are, to varying degrees, their alter egos.

The series begins with 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963) this Thursday, May 1. The acclaimed film about filmmaking centers on director Guido Anselmi, played by Marcello Mastroianni, one of Fellini's frequent collaborators. Melding fantasy, memory and reality, Guido attempts to navigate his director's block and figure out how to proceed with his next work. Fellini's autobiographical work was commended at the time of its release for its depiction of the moviemaking process and its widespread influence is ongoing. As the remaining four films in the series demonstrate, 8 1/2 has inspired subsequent expressions of creative block in tone, content and cinematographic style.

Slackery News Tidbits: April 28, 2014


Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • Austin filmmaker C. Robert Cargill (Jordan's profile) is co-writing the sequel to 2012's micro-budget horror flick Sinister, which stars native Texan Ethan Hawke, with the original movie's director Scott Derrickson, according to The Wrap. Irish director Ciaran Foy will direct Sinister 2, scheduled to begin production in July.
  • Speaking of Cargill (Rod's interview), the sequel to his debut novel, Dreams and Shadows, will be released by Harper Voyager on May 13. The sequel, Queen of the Dark Things, follows the protagonist six months after the events of the first book as he's forced to turn to aid from forces even darker than those he once battled.
  • The Austin Film Festival's early-bird deadline for film submissions is Wednesday. The deadline to submit to the screenplay and teleplay categories is also Wednesday. Late submissions for the screenplay and teleplay categories is May 31, while film submissions will be accepted until July 15.
  • In more AFF news, the Austin-produced romantic dramedy, For Serious, about a lawyer who decides to make a movie to get closer to his indie-actress crush, will screen on Wednesday at 7 pm at Galaxy Highland as part of the organization's Austin Premieres series.
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