In anticipation of the The Paramount Theatre's 100th birthday next year, The Paramount and Stateside theaters are presenting the year-and-a-half-long "Paramount 100: A Century of Cinema" film series, which celebrates the history of movies from the silent film era to the present day. Movies have been screened in chronological order starting in January. This month marks a shift to the talking pictures of the 1930s.
Movies from the 1930s will screen this and next month as double features, showcasing the emergence of the gangster and monster genres, "while telling stories that range in upper-class highs to Great Depression lows":
- Dracula: Bela Lugosi's iconic performance as the Transylvanian nobleman, based on Bram Stoker's novel of the same name. The success of this film ushered in a golden age of Universal horror films and continues to define the look and feel of American horror movies.
- Frankenstein: This equally iconic monster, played by Boris Karloff, may be darker and more controversial than Lugosi's.
2015 will be the 100th anniversary of Austin's Paramount Theatre... October 2015, to be exact. What better way to celebrate than with a special film series? Starting in January 2014, the Paramount100: A Century of Cinema series will chronologically screen a history of film.
"As I began to think about how we could celebrate the classic film tradition at the Paramount, I realized this would be the perfect opportunity to present a chronological tribute to film history at the Paramount and Stateside Theatres," Stephen Jannise, film programmer for Paramount and Stateside, said in a press release about the series.
"With the screenings spaced out over a year and a half, we’ll be able to really dig into these silver screen classics and marvel at the steady progression of cinematic language, one landmark at a time. A once-in-a-lifetime celebration like the Paramount’s 100th birthday deserves a once-in-a-lifetime film series, and I can't wait to get started!"
The schedule for the first segment of the series, running January through May, hasn't been released yet, but badges for the full series are already available for purchase. Some of the planned screenings include silent shorts to kick the series off, 35mm screenings of Chaplin's The Kid, Harold Lloyd's Safety Last, Nosferatu, Metropolis, and digital restorations of Intolerance and The Thief of Baghdad.
Now that it's Thanksgiving week, it's time to get to watching holiday movies! Here to help, the Paramount Theatre is showing a variety of films during the month of December. As you watch these older and more recent Christmas classics, you can imbibe the free hot chocolate provided (discounted "extra toasty" beverages will also be available).
For something different this year, the downtown Austin landmark will be running a special deal for marriage proposals on Sunday, December 8. In between the Love Actually showtimes that day, the marquee will read "Will you marry me?" and couples can reserve times to pop the question in front of the theatre.
I asked Paramount programmer Stephen Jannise how this idea was conceived and whether this is the first time something like this has been done at the historic venue. His response:
"One of my coworkers actually came up with the proposal idea after I had already programmed Love Actually. Apparently we get tons of calls from people wanting to use the marquee to propose, and of course we just can't accommodate all those requests (a majority of the time we're using that marquee to promote our shows). So we figured we'd take a whole day to give people an opportunity to get photos with the marquee, along with all the other awesome benefits of that package. And what better movie to pair that experience with than Love Actually! To my knowledge, this has never been done at the Paramount."
Here's the schedule for seasonal movies at the theatre:
It is always a bittersweet occassion when the Paramount Theatre's Summer Classic Film Series comes to a close, if anything because it symbolizes that summer is over in Austin. Nonetheless, the theatre is closing the series properly with its traditional screening of the cinematic epic Gone With The Wind.
These past few months have brought in film critics and lovers alike, with presentations from Leonard Maltin (who kicked off the first Friday night screening of the series) and musical group Iron and Wine. So it should come as no surprise that the series will close with the screening, an in-depth discussion of the film, and a Q&A with Turner Classic Movies host/film historian Robert Osborne. Osborne has been the primetime host and anchor of TCM since it made its on-air debut in 1994. He is the official biographer of "Oscar" (which discusses the history of the Academy Awards), and hosts the annual TCM Classic Film Festival at the legendary Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Paramount Film Programmer Stephen Jannise told me about his excitement of having Osborne here for this special event. "I think those of us who have really appreciated Osborne's introductory comments before TCM films over the years have always wished we could see more of him. On Friday, he'll have close to an hour to talk about Gone With The Wind, so we'll get a chance to hear him at length. I'm sure our audience will come with some really great questions; Osborne certainly has a wealth of experiences to talk about."
It's like Christmas in May for Austin classic film fans. Last week the schedule for the summer classic film series at Paramount and Stateside was announced. Movies from various decades will screen in 35mm at Paramount and digital HD projection at the Stateside from late May through early September. The lineup this year is lighter on the screwball genre than I would prefer, but there is still oh-so-much to choose from. There's sure to be something for everyone.
Tickets for each film are $8 (this covers double features as well) online. If you expect to see many, buying Flix-Tix or becoming a Film Fan could be a worthwhile investment. [Pro tip from Jette: The higher-level Film Fan memberships include free garage parking during the movies.]
Here are some of the selections we Slackerwood contributors find noteworthy:
- Bonnie and Clyde (1967) -- Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty rob banks in Arthur Penn's game-changing crime romp that blazes through north Texas [my Lone Star Cinema post]. (Wed 5/29 at 10 pm, Stateside)
- The Wild Bunch (1969) -- Sam Peckinpah's brutal Western stars William Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Robert Ryan. You all know I'm squeamish about violence and yet this is one of my very favorite films. I refuse to listen to any news about a remake involving Will Smith. (Wed 5/29 at 7:15 pm, Stateside) -- Jette Kernion
Tickets are currently on sale for a special screening of Frank Capra's 1933 film Lady for a Day at the Paramount. On hand to introduce the movie, and to talk more about classic films in general, will be film critic and historian Leonard Maltin. Maltin was one of the proponents for making this movie available on Blu-ray, and the event will include a rare 35mm projection of the classic, thanks to a loan from the Capra estate.
Lady for a Day is early Capra, made before he really burst on the scene with his big hit It Happened One Night. It's adapted from a Damon Runyon story by Robert Riskin, who continued to team up with Capra on many other movies in the 1930s and early 1940s.
The movie stars May Robson (whom I know best for her role as the daunting Aunt Elizabeth/Mrs. Carlton-Random in my favorite Bringing Up Baby) as Apple Annie, a poor apple seller who tries to convince her daughter overseas, via her letters, that she is really a wealthy woman in high society. But what happens when her daughter comes to visit with her royal fiance? It's sure to be Capra-corn as the director did it best.
"Leonard Maltin: In Conversation" will take place next Friday night, May 24. All seats are the same ticket price, but they are reserved, so if you're planning to go, get your tickets soon.
In related news, the schedule for the annual Paramount Summer Classic Film Series will be announced later this week. You can expect the usual showing of Gone with the Wind at the end of the series.
We already know a few of the selections: The opening night party on Thursday, May 23 (that's the night before the Maltin event) will kick off with Casablanca and Annie Hall. Among the other summer movies, I assume there will likely be a couple of screwball selections, at least one Katharine Hepburn film, and perhaps some Marx Brothers -- maybe even a Thin Man?
You can be assured I'll publish a full post on Slackerwood with my recommendations/favorites from the bunch when the slate is announced!
Stateside Independent will screen The Happy Poet -- which premiered at SXSW 2010 -- Monday, May 6 at 7 pm [ticket info]. Cast members Jonny Mars, Chris Doubek and Liz Fisher, and producer David Hartstein, will be there for a Q&A following the movie.
In The Happy Poet, a comedy filmed in Austin, unemployed writer Bill (writer-director Paul Gordon) dreams of running a cart that sells local/organic vegetarian snacks: eggless egg-salad sandwiches, basil pesto pitas and the like. There's just a slight hitch in his plans: He's practically broke and has to insinuate to the man selling him the food cart that he will be selling hot dogs instead. He makes the snacks at his apartment in the morning (my baker friend would be distressed to see his lack of plastic gloves) and stakes out a spot to sell his wares.
Bill, bespectacled and hesitant, is aided in this venture by friends who help him advertise and come up with a name for his business -- The Happy Poet. Ironic, because Bill seems only slightly satisfied at times. He lacks much of a backbone and has to deal with disappointment. Thankfully, Bill grows through his experience with the food cart and all it entails.
Shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011, the movie War Witch spins the tale of Komona (new actress Rachel Mwanza, who won a few awards for this role), a young girl abducted at the age of 12 by rebels during an attack on her village. The film is narrated by Komona, telling the story of her past two years to her unborn child.
After she is forced by the rebels to commit atrocious acts, Komona comes to be valued and esteemed for her intuition and preternatural ability. The "milk" the fighters drink causes her to see visions, ghosts of the dead. Still, amid Komona's horrific situation, we see small glimmers of hope in her budding relationship with a fellow child soldier, a search for a white rooster, and her ingenuity.
Writer/director Kim Nguyen's film is made up of memorable, haunting imagery and subtle, powerful performances (especially from Mwanza) that keep it grounded. Despite the violence obviously implied in scenes, War Witch never veers into gory territory. We are seeing the story through Komona's eyes, and for her, bulletholes in a cloth are as stark a reminder of death as any blood shed.
Stateside Theatre offers you a chance to see War Witch on the big screen. On Monday evening, April 1, the movie will be shown as part of their new Stateside Independent series. This Austin premiere will be screened in HD digital presentation on Blu-ray. [ticket info] If you decide to go (and you should!), it might be a good idea to pack some tissues.
War Witch was Canada's submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the recent Academy Awards, and ended up as one of the five final nominees. You can see the trailer after the jump.
By Barbara Cigarroa
It was a packed house at the Paramount Theatre. Sitting in the uppermost row of the balcony, I looked down and watched as hundreds of people took their seats below me, waiting for the Captain himself, William Shatner, to appear on stage and take them for a ride. Minutes later, the lights dimmed and there he was doing just that, a rolling chair with him as his sole prop for life -- toilet, ship, bus, table, and, coffin. From where I sat, the 81-year-old actor looked tiny, but as the words rolled out of him and as his gestures became grander and grander, the distance between us disappeared and I was right there with him. The title of the show suggested it and Bad Billy delivered: he transported me right into his world, "Shatner's World."
I went into the Paramount Theatre that night expecting to be entertained by an entertainment icon; I came out of there having experienced, yes, a hilarious, but also, a heartfelt look back at this man's thrilling, legendary and sometimes lonely career as an actor.
Shatner began his professional trajectory in a Shakespearean theatre ensemble – no, not as the lead, but as the lead's understudy. Even though he probably would not be but an extra on stage, he took it upon himself to study every syllable and inflection of that other William's iambic pentameter, memorizing and rehearsing those 16th century lines in the one place he ever felt truly confortable: the toilet.
Last week a new program was announced at Stateside at Paramount Theatre (formerly known as the State). "Stateside Independent" will screen a different independent film -- festival fare, documentaries, local premieres, etc. -- each Monday night.
In his blog entry on the Paramount website, programmer Stephen Jannise said, "I couldn't be more excited about providing a fresh new platform for independent filmmakers to showcase their work, and my greatest hope is that this series proves to be a valuable addition for the growing community of Austin film lovers."
The first movie will show on Monday, Feb. 18 and Tuesday, Feb. 19. Director Michael Apted's 56 Up is the 2012 update to the series he began in 1964 with Seven Up! Every seven years he checks in with the children he met while making that original 30-minute TV special.
The 1964 film included British kids from different class backgrounds. It's been 48 years since that special. How have the lives of those people -- now in late middle-age -- evolved? If you've been keeping up with the series (49 Up came out in 2005), you may have some idea of the trajectory their lives have taken, but there's likely to be some surprises here.
The following Monday, February 25, Stateside will host the Austin premiere of the Texas-shot indie film Far Marfa, co-hosting with the Texas Independent Film Network. Writer/director Cory Van Dyke is scheduled to attend. The movie received a Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund grant in 2011. Look for Debbie's preview next week.
You can read more about Stateside at Paramount's new program and critical reception of 56 Up on the Paramount's blog. Watch the 56 Up trailer below: