By Frank Calvillo
In the midst of all the excitement over the Texas Film Awards and SXSW 2014, another film-related event took place recently: the first annual Noir City Austin. While free of a red carpet and movie stars in the flesh, this festival celebrated its inaugural weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz from Feb. 28 to March 2.
Hosted by the Film Noir Foundation, Noir City Austin screened 10 films straight from the genre’s heyday, and featured many faces familiar to devoted noir fans, such as Shelley Winters, Peter Lorre, Ray Milland and Lizabeth Scott.
Yet rather than screening such noir staples like The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep, the foundation chose lesser-known titles that, though unknown to the majority of those in attendance, still contained all the necessary ingredients essential to any noir. More than that though, the movies selected tended to go beyond the conventions of the standard noir by incorporating elements of faith, surrealism and the supernatural within its plots.
Almost exactly one year ago, I was standing at the intersection on Guadalupe Street outside of the Mondo Gallery, talking with folks who didn't let their all-nighter in line diminish their excitement for the newest Mondo show. Last year, it was all about Tyler Stout and Ken Taylor. This year, Mondo partnered with Disney's blog Oh My Disney to create the same fervor.
Aptly named "Nothing's Impossible," the exhibit drew fans from all over the country, who lined up at the gallery as early as 48 hours before the doors opened. Distance, time and weather could not stand in the way of Mondo's loyal fans. When checking in with the line-dwellers an hour before launch, I heard, "Things are getting exciting. We're all standing now!" The wall of folding chairs and sleeping bags were gone, and if you didn't know better you'd have thought the queue had just formed.
By Frank Calvillo
There’s usually very little to look forward to at the movies during the uneventful dog days of winter. This weekend, apart from the release of what looks like a passable popcorn thriller called Non-Stop, starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore, it seems like there’s nothing in the way of big-screen entertainment to get jazzed about.
The game changed, though, when The Film Noir Foundation announced the First Annual Noir City Austin, a three-day film festival taking place at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz from February 28- March 2. The weekend features ten lesser-known film noir gems starring the likes of John Garfield, Shelley Winters, Peter Lorre and Robert Cummings, among others, and promises to be the ultimate gin-swilling, cigarette smoking gift from the movie gods themselves.
The lineup is as follows:
Too Late for Tears (1949) -- Friday 2/28
Through accidental circumstances, Alan and Jane, an average married couple, come into possession of a satchel full of money and quickly find themselves at odds about what to do. When Jane decides to keep the money, she finds herself going down a dark path from which there is no return.
Try and Get Me! (1950) -- Friday 2/28
Based on a sensational crime story from the 1930s, Try and Get Me! tells the story of down-on-his-luck family man Howard, who is pulled into a life of crime by ruthless criminal Jerry. Though lucrative as their life of crime is, it's their final caper that proves to be their most deadly.
What are your five favorite movies, the ones you can watch over and over, that you would pick to watch if you were stranded on a desert island with nothing else to do for the rest of your life? That's what the Alamo Drafthouse asked fans this week in a question that hinted at the subject of a secret event and announcement last night by Tim League and the Austin Alamo programming team.
That announcement was the creation of the Alamo 100, the essential list of films as selected from the top 100 favorites of each of the Drafthouse programmers: Sarah Pitre, Greg Maclennan, Joe Ziemba, Tommy Swenson, RJ Laforce, and Tim League. Intended as a celebration of the best movies to watch, the list is not bound by genre, nor is it stuffy and limited to "classics." It begins, alphabetically, with 10 Things I Hate About You and ends with You've Got Mail, but includes many titles one would expect, such as Casablanca, The Godfather (Part I and II) and Pulp Fiction.
As a celebration of the list, Drafthouse theaters nationwide will screen seven of the titles in January -- Brazil, The Goonies, Raging Bull, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Sixteen Candles, City Lights and Monty Python and the Holy Grail -- with more to come throughout the year. Those who attend these screenings will receive custom buttons created for each film, which included the secret title from last night's screening, the 1931 Charlie Chaplin film City Lights -- Tim League's #1 pick, which also made the lists of three other programmers.
I still have so much more to tell you about my time at Forever Fest. O-M-G. At the halfway mark on Saturday (read part 1 of my Forever Fest experience here), we were treated to the fierce spectacle that is Danceoke. Think karaoke, but for dancing.
This weekend I met my new BFFs - the Forever Fest audience! We laughed together, danced together and became one in our love of girlie pop culture. With pink streamers and feather boas, the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz was a welcoming sight on Friday evening, signaling that Forever Fest attendees were in for something truly, truly, truly outrageous. And Diary, IMHO it was GR8.
"Cheer when something romantic happens." These were our instructions from our fabulous leaders Brandy Fons and Sarah Pitre when introducing the opening-night film, Empire Records. We were treated to a 35mm print of the 1995 movie, which meant that we saw the theatrical cut, not the longer (more verbose) director's cut. Empire Records' perfect blend of laughs and angst still holds up today, making it a perfect starter to the festival.
When I say, "Rex Manning," do you smile in recognition or stare in confusion? This is a test of whether you are Forever Fest's target audience (Rex Manning is, of course, the obnoxious yet idolized pop singer from the movie Empire Records). The new film festival, which takes place November 1-3 at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, celebrates all things "girlie" pop culture ... I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it.
Slackerwood: How was Forever Fest first conceived?
Brandy Fons: Forever Fest was, in many ways, born during Fantastic Fest 2012. I had just seen and loved Pitch Perfect [a rather girlie film about college glee clubs], but I didn't allow myself to indulge because it was Fantastic Fest time and not many attendees were super interested in sharing my Pitch Perfect love. I was thinking about all the film festivals that Austin had to offer, and there really wasn't an option for the Pitch Perfect audience.
Then I started talking with Sarah about her audience that she had already built with her website Forever Young Adult for YA literature fans and the Girlie Night events at the Alamo Drafthouse, and I wondered if she wanted to partner. Some have called it the "little sister of Fantastic Fest," although I'm not quite sure I like "little."
The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD) hosts its tenth annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival and Short Film Competition this November 1 and 2 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village.
The Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival was founded in 2004 by CTD staffer William Greer, with the goal to counter negative stereotypes about people with disabilities and to celebrate positive portrayals of disability culture. Since its inception, the festival has twice been awarded the Barbara Jordan Media Award for Special Contribution by an Organization.
Events from previous years have included a 2005 screening of What's Eating Gilbert Grape preceded by an interview with star Darlene Cates, an exclusive interview with Dr. Temple Grandin screened in conjunction with the 2009 feature Temple Grandin, and numerous other special guests.
You can buy tickets now for Friday, November 1 featuring the documentary Getting Up: The TEMPT ONE Story -- about graffiti artist Tempt One -- and for Saturday, November 2 featuring The Crash Reel -- a documentary about professional snowboarders. In addition to entry, the $10 tickets are vouchers you can redeem for $10 of food and drink from the Drafthouse menu. Both evening events also include short films from the competition and Q&As.
Last month Mondo announced a new venture into soundtracks produced on vinyl, starting with the limited edition release on black 180-gram vinyl, and randomly-inserted milky yellow/clear vinyl of the score created by "Chucky Namanera" for the science fiction thriller Timecrimes. This film about an ordinary man whose life is changed -- repeatedly -- by the consequences of traveling back in time by just one hour debuted at Fantastic Fest 2007 and found U.S. distribution shortly afterward.
Austin composer and writer Brian Satterwhite collaborated with Mondo on the project for this previously unreleased soundtrack, and hosted a special screening and Q&A of Timecrimes during this year's Fantastic Fest at the new Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline. A limited number of the LPs with artwork (pictured at right) including the cover by Australian artist and commercial illustration studio We Buy Your Kids was available for sale at the screening and online.
Namanera is actually the nom de plume of filmmaker Eugenio Mira (Grand Piano, Agnosia), who attended the special screening along with Timecrimes writer/director Nacho Vigalondo and producer Nahikari Ipina. Mira said he prefers to use an alias for his musical accomplishments to keep them separate from his work as a writer and director.
The Dwight Tilley Band's 1977 single "Looking For The Magic" played on repeat in my mind after last Monday's preview screening at Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter of the horror flick You're Next, which first screened locally at Fantastic Fest 2011. It was life imitating art because the song played repeatedly throughout the movie. I even felt kind of bad that I was jammin' out to the song in my head while characters were being slaughtered left and right on screen.
I had to work to shake myself out of the power-pop stupor when two of the film's leads, Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and A.J. Bowen (A Horrible Way to Die and Austinite Emily Hagins' Grow Up, Tony Phillips) appeared on stage after the movie to discuss experiences on set and their feelings about each other, whiskey (thanks A.J. for sharing) and the film's Aug. 23 theatrical release. Some members of the large audience were wearing fox, tiger and lamb masks freakishly similar to those worn by the film's murderers.