Local Cast and Crew

Sundance Review: Before Midnight

Before Midnight Still PhotoNot many details were given in last month's announcement that Before Midnight would premiere at Sundance, which left many wondering what the latest episode between Jesse and Celine would entail. So I was interested to see how the movie would fare, the follow-up nine years after Before Sunset and 18 years after Before Sunrise. I am pleased to report that Before Midnight is by far my favorite of this Richard Linklater trilogy.

It's been nine years since Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) were reunited while he was on a book tour, and they now live in Paris with their twin daughters. Although Jesse is a successful writer and Celine still works for an environmental organization, they still have difficulties. Jesse is conflicted by the distance between himself and his son Hank, who resides with Jesse's ex-wife in Chicago. Celine struggles with her own identity, both in her work as well as dealing with fans of Jesse's books who are convinced she is the woman in his stories. While vacationing in Greece with their children, they engage in philosophical conversations about love with both friends and one another.

Sundance Review: Mud

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Mud Still PhotoAwardwinning writer/director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories) pays homage to the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and a dying way of life on the Arkansas river in Mud. Nichols began working on the story in the 1990s, and delivers an engaging and mystical tale of broken hearts and strong friendships.

When teenage boys Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) venture to an island in the Arkansas River to investigate a boat stranded in a tree by floodwaters, they discover an inhabitant -- a fugitive named Mud (Matthew McConaughey). Shrouded by mystery and full of odd superstitions, Mud awaits a reunion with his childhood sweetheart, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). A hot pursuit is underway for him by both police and bounty hunters on the payroll of the powerful King (Joe Don Baker), whose son was killed by Mud.

At 135 minutes, Mud may seem a bit long as it meanders like the river it takes place on but it's hard to identify where to trim.The cinematography and production design effectively captures the slow-pace of the Arkansas River delta. Full of subplots and interesting characters, Nichols conveys personal stories including experiencing young love and dealing with rejection and divorce.

Lone Star Cinema: Before Sunrise

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Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise

In 1995, I saw Before Sunrise at the Highland movie theatre (now Galaxy Highland) with a couple of friends. I recall a discussion between us afterwards about whether we enjoyed the open, yet hopeful, ending of the Richard Linklater film (I believe the consensus was yes). The continuous dialogue between the two main characters in the film reminded me of the type of conversations I had with my own friends at the time -- so like my life. But I didn't watch the movie again ... until just recently.

In this romance, young American twentysomething Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Sorbonne student Celine (Julie Delpy) meet cute on a train. They lunch together, then Jesse asks Celine to get off the train with him in Vienna; he's heading back to the States the next morning, can't afford a hotel room and would love to have someone to chat with while walking around the Austrian city. And there you have it. Celine is fairly easily convinced (Jesse is very attractive, despite his scruffy facial hair) and spends the rest of the day and night with him.

Sundance 2013 Dispatch, Day Two: Spectacular Mud and Sunken Treasure

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James Ponsoldt

The most important rule of any film festival is to treat it as a marathon rather a sprint, to prevent hitting the wall. Don't get me wrong -- I'm still indulging free drinks at parties and late-night conversations about film and music -- but with the fear of altitude sickness and flu, I've been sleeping at least seven hours. My "sleep is the enemy" mantra is only effective for short-timers who are here for a long weekend.

My second day was fairly light as I continued to deal with the commute into Park City. I attended the press screening of Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols' feature Mud, which seemed well received and which I thoroughly enjoyed. Afterwards I headed down to the Library for my first Sundance red carpet for The Spectacular Now, with a quick stop by the Stella Artois Studio for complimentary beer and a glimpse of spokesperson and British actor Noah Huntley.

The Spectacular Now red carpet featured director James Ponsoldt (seen above), lead actors Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Winstead also appeared in Ponsoldt's film Smashed, which debuted at Sundance last year, and appears in the comedy A.C.O.D. that also debuts at Sundance. She also produced the dark comedy Cub -- a short film also premiering at Sundance as part of the Midnight Film Series.

Ready, Set, Fund: Love and History in Texas

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Phil Collins and the Wild Frontier

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

At first glance it might seem rather odd to feature English music icon Phil Collins in this month's column, but Collins has quite a personal connection to Texas history. Due to his interest in the Battle of the Alamo of 1836, his personal collection of artifacts related to the Alamo numbers in the hundreds, and he's narrated at a sound and light show about the Alamo. While on a publicity tour across Texas to promote his new book, The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector's Journey, Collins was interviewed by Texas Filmmakers Production Fund recipient filmmaker Ben Powell about his obscure collection as well as his retirement from music.

Phil Collins and the Wild Frontier, which is currently funding on Kickstarter through Sunday, January 20, focuses on Collins' attempt "to redefine his public persona." Powell further states that "observing the impact his music career has on his life and the more painful realities of being a celebrity, what unfolds is an examination of mankind's obsession with artifacts. Mr. Collins, a man absorbed in a collection of objects from a bygone era, is himself a relic of 80s pop culture and objectified by his stardom."

Awardwinning filmmaker and local film instructor Steve Mims (Incendiary: The Willingham Case) is seeking funding on Kickstarter through Wednesday, January 23, for his feature-length comedy Alex & Ash, which he wrote specifically for the humorously talented Alex Dobrenko (Hearts of Napalm) and Ashley Spillers (The Bounceback, Saturday Morning Massacre). The pair portray a couple so obsessed with a puzzle that they become not only disconnected from the real world but also from one another.

Texas Production Dispatch: December 2012

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Shooting The Bounceback

Welcome to Texas Production Dispatch, a new monthly(ish) column from Ryan Long with updates about various film and TV productions in the Lone Star State, particularly Austin.

What do Nicolas Cage, Jessica Alba, Robert Duvall, Paul Giamatti, Paul Rudd, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender all have in common? They all were (or soon will be) shooting films in Texas. The last few months have seen a flurry of activity, with numerous television shows and feature films shooting across the state, with more great projects on the horizon.

Feature films have been in full swing with some iconic Texas filmmakers shooting their latest movies on their home turf.

  • The suddenly prolific Terrence Malick has assembled an all-star cast for his as-yet-untitled Austin music film starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman.

Early-Bird Special on 'Cinema Six' Austin Premiere

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Cinema Six

So have you bought your tickets to see Cinema Six yet on Friday night at Blue Starlite Urban Drive-In? As you might remember, Slackerwood and Austin Film Society are presenting the Austin premiere of Cinema Six, and we'd love to see you there at Austin Studios. So would Mark Potts, one of the filmmakers, who will be at the screening and will hold one of his infamous post-film Q&A sessions. Who knows what he might do? Who knows who else might be there from the Central Texas-shot movie? Show up and find out.

But wait, there's more: You can buy a double-feature ticket and see both Cinema Six and A Movie To Be Named Later. Josh Frank at Blue Starlite has kept this title a surprise even from us! But he promises something good that we won't want to miss.

Blue Starlite is currently running an Early Bird Special discount on car prices for both Cinema Six and for the double-feature on Friday night. You can get three people in a car (well, more if you stuff some folks in the trunk, but we don't condone that behavior) so it's a great deal. But you have to buy your ticket by Wednesday, yes, that's tomorrow. So do it now. You can always buy a single-admission ticket, but you'll need to bring a lawn chair or blanket or you'll end up like those two characters in the above photo.

Texas is Everywhere: Florence Bates in 'Rebecca'

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Florence Bates in Rebecca

I participated in this week's Criticwire Survey by writing about one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films, Rebecca. On a whim, I was looking over the cast list and clicked the name of the actress who played Mrs. Van Hopper, the unforgettably crass American social climber at the beginning of the movie. The actress's name was Florence Bates, and what I expected to find was a long list of credits starting in the early 1930s, or perhaps even the silent era, in which she'd played imperious dowagers and fussy schoolteachers and ambitious wives.

I got the kind of surprise that felt right at home regarding the Daphne Du Maurier novel that started this whole chain of thought. First, I learned that Bates was a native Texan. But that was just the beginning.

Through various internet rabbit holes I eventually found an article about Florence Bates from Handbook of Texas Online, which is published by the Texas State Historical Association. Please go read the article -- this biography is not what you'd expect from a character actress in 1940s Hollywood.

Wittliff Collections Honors New 'Lonesome Dove' Book

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Bill Witliff

The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University hosted a panel discussion last month that included writer/filmmaker Bill Wittliff to celebrate the launch of the second volume in its Lonesome Dove book series with the University of Texas Press.

Wittliff, Lonesome Dove screenwriter and co-executive producer, joined other contributors of A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into both Lary McMurtry's novel and its adaptation into the 1989 Western television miniseries.

"Bill (Wittliff) told me several times on the set, 'If you just take care of Lonesome Dove, Lonesome Dove will take care of us,'" said miniseries extra Stephen Harrigan, who moderated the panel. Harrigan is an author and screenwriter in his own right.

John Spong wrote A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove, which includes photos from the set from Jeff Wilson and Witliff. Spong and Wilson, also panelists, recounted their experiences with McMurtry's dusty Texas border town.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning miniseries tells the tale of two aging former Texas Rangers, who, in their pursuit of one last adventure, set out on a 3,000-mile cattle drive from the Lone Star State to Montana.

"The best stories don't just survive, they become enriched as they are retold," said David Coleman, Wittliff Collections director.

AFF Review: Spring Eddy

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Spring Eddy

If you were to mash up No Country for Old Men with equal parts The Getaway and any romantic comedy, you'd have Spring Eddy. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but one can't help but think about that while watching this movie. Making his feature film debut, Spring Eddy was written and directed by George Anson. It's got all the markings of a complex crime dramedy, complete with a lot of notable Texas landmarks and some funny performances.

Eddy (Gabriel Luna), a small-time Chicago criminal who commits some dim-witted schemes, is on the run. He ripped off his boss, and now he's heading to Mexico ... but gets distracted by a pretty hitchhiker on the way. What started as a normal everyday hookup ends with Eddy beaten up, broken down and penniless somewhere in Texas.

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