Local Cast and Crew

Ready, Set, Fund: Animation Love and Movie Geekiness

Is There Anyone Out There?

Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.

I've had a passion for animated films for as long as I can remember, having grown up with Disney classics such as Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty ... and as an adult, enjoying The Iron Giant. A short animated film project that's currently funding on Kickstarter through September 10 caught my interest -- Is There Anyone Out There?

Texas writer/director Jonathan Reynolds has brought together a talented creative team to support this family-friendly film, which addresses the universal question in a whimsical manner. 

The score for Is There Anyone Out There? has already been performed and recorded in Austin by British composer Andy Dollerson and Austin's own Tosca String Quartet. San Antonio-based voice actor Terry Anderson is providing the narration for the tale of two boys questioning their fathers whether there's life beyond their own planet.

Mike Blizzard Tracks Local History in 'Also Starring Austin'

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Bus station in Slacker

For those of us who get our kicks seeing how many locations in locally shot films we recognize (see my Miss Congeniality review), producer/political consultant Mike Blizzard (No No: A Dockumentary) is currently working on a project along those lines entitled Also Starring Austin

Still in the works, this documentary will include clips from feature films, TV shows, shorts or music videos filmed in town to show the changes in Austin through the years. Slackerwood has already reviewed some of the movies (Don's review of Roadie is another example), but some are a bit harder to find. Also Starring Austin will also include interviews with people from the Austin film community.

In an interview we conducted by email, Blizzard, a current member of the Austin Film Society Board of Directors, explained more about the project.

Review: Ain't Them Bodies Saints

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Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Critics often urge readers to see a particular film in a theater, noting that the movie looks and sounds so amazing on a big screen, they'll miss something valuable by watching on a TV or worse yet, a laptop or tablet. I've said it myself any number of times. I'm certain that if I'd seen Ain't Them Bodies Saints in a movie theater, that is exactly what I would tell you.

And yet, watching the movie from a studio-watermarked DVD on a laptop, sitting on my bed, I was entirely absorbed by the beauty and intensity of this movie, struck by the subtle soundtrack, as mesmerized as I might have been if I'd seen it projected from 35mm at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

It's not an unfamiliar story, enriched by unexpectedly nuanced characters. Ruth (Rooney Mara) discovers she's pregnant with Bob's child, and shortly after, they're caught by police after committing a crime in their small Texas town. Bob (Casey Affleck) ends up imprisoned while Ruth waits and cares for the child. Bob can't bear to be penned up away from his family, and meanwhile Sheriff Wheeler (Ben Foster) and retired criminal Skerritt (Keith Carradine) are keeping an eye on Ruth in different ways.

Interview: Maggie Carey, 'The To Do List'

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AFF 2010

When interviewing filmmakers and actors for upcoming new releases, journalists like me usually get ten minutes. It can be very limiting. There are the interviews where the subject has his/her answers down pat and will launch into answers when you've barely asked the questions. There are the assembly-line interviews where the actor is getting bored because you're the dozenth person he or she has spoken with that day. After some of these, I wonder if I'm bringing anything different to an interview feature than the 40 other articles that will appear in print and online around the movie's release.

But some interviews feel like real conversations, and 10 minutes aren't enough. I wish Maggie Carey and I could have easily taken a half-hour to chat about Austin and indie filmmakers and strong female characters in film (I had some great questions we never got to). I wish we could have chatted at Kerbey Lane (but not at 4 am), which you will understand if you read this whole article. What I needed was 20 more minutes and a couple of beers.

As a result, this interview doesn't feel like the same one a dozen other people had with the writer/director of The To Do List, which opened in Austin on Friday and which I found delightful (my review). I think you'll enjoy the read, especially if you live in Austin.

Film on Tap: 'Crafting a Nation' Here in Texas

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Courtney Cobb of Crafting a Nation

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

Registration for breweries participating in the 2013 Great American Beer Festival held annually in Denver opened last week, and the 600-plus slots sold out in a record time of less than two hours. Despite the efforts of host organization Brewers Association to increase the number of participating breweries for this year's three-day event, over 300 breweries and brewpubs are currently on the waitlist. This overwhelming demand is indicative of the incredible growth of craft beer across the United States.

Two beer documentaries that capture this growth, featuring Central Texas craft breweries I covered in my January 2012 Film on Tap column, are finally screening in Austin. Chris Erlon hosted a cast and crew screening of his Brewed in Austin in June, and is in discussion about more screenings as part of the Alamo Drafthouse's "Meet the Brewers" special event series.

Alamo Drafthouse continues to support local craft brewers with the Austin premiere of beer documentary Crafting a Nation as the opening feature for this summer's Rolling Roadshow series at Jester King Craft Brewery on Thursday, July 18. This film features many craft beer-related individuals and businesses in Central Texas as well as across the nation that are part of the current American craft beer movement.

Lone Star Cinema: Terms of Endearment

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Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment

Terms of Endearment really scored at the 1983 Academy Awards, winning Best Picture plus statues for actress Shirley MacLaine, supporting actor Jack Nicholson and director James L. Brooks (in his feature-film debut). Along with the award for direction, Brooks also won for his screenplay, based on the novel by Texas author Larry McMurtry. 

Widow Aurora (MacLaine) is all frills and composure, whereas her only child Emma (Debra Winger) is goofy and nonchalant. Before Emma's marriage soon after high school, Aurora warns her daughter, "You are not special enough to overcome a bad marriage." Which probably isn't the best way to tell your daughter to look more closely at her choices, but there you go. Terms of Endearment covers a span of about 15 or so years in the lives of mother and daughter.

Aurora stays in Houston, where she has gentleman callers (including Danny DeVito with a not-great attempt at an accent) and flirts/argues with the past-his-prime astronaut (Nicholson) next door. The fact that she is aging bothers her no end. Meanwhile, Emma and young hubby Flap (Jeff Daniels) move from Texas to Iowa to Nebraska, wherever Flap can get a quality teaching position at a decent college. Wouldn't you know it, Emma starts doubting Flap's fidelity. Even with two boys and a baby, she heads into her own affair with a small-town bank worker (John Lithgow).

Interview: Brad Bell, 'Husbands'

"Husbands" 

Since its 2011 premiere, the online series and recent CW Seed addition Husbands, a twist on the classic newlywed sitcom that's been dubbed the "world's first marriage equality comedy," has been gaining a loyal following. And its showrunner and star, Dallas native Brad Bell, has been making a cheeky name for himself in L.A. and beyond.

Bell recalled an instance where he was sitting at a coffee shop doing the usual headphone/laptop thing when an attractive man approached him. Sadly, he said, the man didn't want his phone number, but ended up boosting his ego anyway by asking him if he's the person who plays Cheeks, the controversial tabloid personality in the show who can wear sparkly necklaces like it's no one's business. 

I might have guessed it: the name for Bell's alter ego spawned from what he described as people's "polite" way to describe him.

"I was a little unrefined then," he said. "...Depending on how people know me, people tend to see different aspects of Cheeks." 

The character of Cheeks has given Bell a platform to satirize celebrities while showcasing his writing talent. All of this for some reason made me nervous to talk to him. 

But it's all for the cause. 

Lone Star Cinema: Rush

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Rush

Gregg Allman has had a fabulous career as a musician, but he could have been just as successful as a drug dealer.

That is, if he could be as intimidating as his drug-dealing character in the crime drama Rush. Allman portrays dealer William Gaines in an almost wordless performance; Gaines rules his seedy empire with quiet, menacing stares, making customers, rivals and cops think twice about crossing him.

Allman's performance is terrific, as are several others in Rush. Set in 1975 and released in December 1991, the Houston-filmed movie Rush is a gritty, tragic tale of two small-town Texas cops who go undercover to infiltrate the town's drug scene. It's an unnervingly realistic film about the morally murky world of drug trafficking and narcotics enforcement, where the line between right and wrong isn't always clear.

Rush's story is gripping if not original. Assigned the difficult and dangerous job of bringing down Gaines, veteran narc Jim Raynor (Jason Patric) chooses young officer Kristen Cates (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as his partner. Cates has no experience with drug enforcement or undercover work, so Raynor's first job is to teach her to be a convincing junkie, to the point of doing drugs with the dealers to establish credibility.

What's Streaming: Hometown Heroes

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[Welcome to What's Streaming, a new column about movies available online, with a focus on Austin and Texas.]

For someone to not have the chance to see a film these days is rare. I'm not saying that every person on Earth should see every film ever made (although that sounds like a good challenge!), but it has become easier than ever to watch or rent films than in years past.

Especially here in high-tech Austin, many people (myself included) use forms of online streaming to watch their favorite films and television shows. If you're like me, you might not even have cable just because you think Netflix is enough. But with so many options and ways to watch movies these days, you might find yourself asking a not-so-uncommon question: What is worth watching?

After talking with friends and almost always getting myself into a conversation of "Seen any good movies lately?", I decided it might be worthwhile to share some picks each month of films (old and new) that are available to watch online. Since this column is the kickoff to this series, I figured I would start with our hometown heroes. The below films/filmmakers have ties to Texas and, in some specific cases, to Austin.

See 'Shepard & Dark' in Austin on Sunday

Shepard & Dark film poster

The Austin Film Society is hosting a screening of Shepard & Dark at Alamo Drafthouse Village on Sunday afternoon at 4 pm. [ticket info]

Treva Wurmfeld's documentary has received good buzz on the festival route, but hasn't had a theatrical release date yet, so this is a rare opportunity to catch the film.

During Sandra Adair's conversation at AFS in March, she showed us a clip, since it was a recent movie she edited. She, director Wurmfeld and producer Amy Hobby will be in attendance at Sunday's showing.

Sam Shepard, actor/playwright, and Johnny Dark, comedian/actor, had a long epistolary relationship during their on-again-off-again friendship. The two met in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. In the early years of their acquaintance, they lived together, even becoming in-laws as Shepard married Dark's stepdaughter. Dark kept all the letters Shepard wrote him and a university is interested in acquiring them -- the Wittliff Collections at Texas State, which explains the local ties to the film.

Shepard & Dark offers an unvarnished look at these two men, deliving into their family histories. In the clip Adair showed us, Shepard recalled memories of his alcoholic father and his dad's death in New Mexico. Even as time and location have separated these men, they still share a connection, strained though it may be.

Austin/Texas connections: Several Austinites were involved, including Sandra Adair, who edited the film, and Graham Reynolds, who composed the score. The Wittliff Collections (which also retains Sam Shepard's papers) are at Texas State University in San Marcos.

[Poster via Shepard & Dark Facebook page]

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