Contributors's blog

'Now, Forager' Brings Food and Film to the Butterfly Bar


By Olivia Calderon-Stucky

It was an unsurprisingly hot summer night at Butterfly Bar last Monday evening, but neither the heat nor the mosquitoes could diminish the pleasant ambience of the Austin Film Society's "Meet the Filmmakers" event, featuring excerpts from the movie Now, Forager. With proceeds benefiting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund, the never-before-offered event had 40 or so people mingling in the backyard-like setting and indulging in two of the greatest things on Earth: food and film.

Six dinner tables were prepared for a family-style meal of locally sourced food from Farmhouse Delivery. The menu was lovingly prepared by chef Sonya Co, executive chef of Hillside Farmacy, and included a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

Dishes inspired by selected film clips began with hen yolks in mushrooms basted with shallot butter and herb. After this intoxicating appetizer, diners moved onto a wild cornbread soufflé, followed by a cold and sour soup with summer greens and sliced egg white. The pièce de résistance came just as dusk emerged: fresh redfish, the entirety of the fish grilled to perfection and served on a bed of smashed potatoes.

Diners settled even further into their seats to watch selected clips from Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin’s Now, Forager, a narrative ode to food and fungi. Now, Forager follows main characters Lucien and Regina, who make a living gathering wild mushrooms and selling them to New York restaurants. Their marriage as well as their unstable but simple lifestyle is threatened after Regina seeks stability in a restaurant job, while Lucien devotes himself wholeheartedly to nomadic foraging.

Selections ranged from luminous and poetic sequences of the main characters foraging in the woods, to a birds-eye view of the artistry involved in catching and flaying a fish. Audiences saw close-up shots of white mushrooms while accompanied by voice-over of Lucien saying their esoteric scientific names. We saw the quiet tension between the couple after Regina takes a daytime job, throwing the order of their uncomplicated universe into disarray.

The film is minimalist, simple — a love letter to the kind of small-scale sustainability that seems very hip with the foraging and local food going community. AFS's Austin Culp was on hand to ask keen questions of the filmmakers giving us all insight into the movie and its production. We learned why the filmmaking duo decided to choose this subject. They wanted to pay actual tribute to the food in a food film, versus using fake food or not really focusing on the food and cooking.

A Look Back at the History of Austin's Movie Houses


By Lishann Johnson

The reception held at the Austin History Center earlier this month for the exhibit "The First Picture Shows: Historic Austin Movie Houses" was wonderful.

The evening began as musician Tim Mueting performed and talked a bit about what this exhibit means to him. Mueting shared stories of growing up behind his parents' drive-in and having to get up in the morning to clean up from the night before. No, he didn't have to use his hands. My favorite memory that Mueting shared was about his mom and dad busting kids for sneaking into the drive-in in the trunks of cars and banging to be let out.

AHC was filled with items that would be interesting for seasoned film aficionados as well as more casual fans of the medium. The exhibit itself consisted of a rundown of all of Austin's old theaters, including information on when they opened and what they are now (if they haven't been torn down).

A few things that I saw that really stood out were the original blueprints of the Majestic Theater and a drive-in display that showed original speakers that used to be hung on car windows. One display was really enlightening, about the end of segregation for Austin theaters. Until I saw that display, I didn't understand how the end of segregation in Austin theaters came to pass, or the lengths that had to be taken to make it happen.

I have to say my favorite display was the "Movie House Memory," a station where you could share a memory that you have in one of the many movie theaters in Austin.

After enjoying the exhibit itself, the group was escorted by Austin History Museum manager Mike Miller to the State and Paramount theaters. Miller was quite knowledgeable about the theaters, and was extremely helpful in answering questions.

The Show! Delivers Memorable Films and Comedy


By Sara Grauerholz

Going into The Show! I didn’t exactly know what to expect, but after reading that the evening would be filled with stand-up comedy, sketch comedy and short films, I knew I'd have to check it out.

Austin comedian Ramin Nazer acted as emcee throughout the night, which started with some stand-up comedy, and also introduced sketch team Spirit Desire. Several Spirit Desire video clips played on a large screen, and the group also performed live sketches. The group did some fake advertisements, including a reimagining of the characters from Peanuts in their adult years, living on the streets with Pig-Pen, the local drug dealer. Another bit imagined what it would be like if Ray Romano had a dinosaur for a child. These, of course, were all extremely funny, but let’s get into what we want to know more about: the films.

After all of the comedy that started the show, I assumed the films would be in the same style, but they were surprisingly serious. The first one up was Benny, which was a finalist in the Student Academy Awards this year and screened at a number of fests, including Austin Film Festival. Huay Bing Law shot the film while a student at The University of Texas at Austin.

The Intergalactic Nemesis: A Discourse on Destiny


By Stefan Gill

"Do you believe in destiny, Miss Sloan?"

Even if I didn't believe in destiny, my path to the opening night of The Intergalactic Nemesis - Book 2: Robot Planet Rising seemed written in somebody's stars. As many a fan of this fast-growing phenomenon knows, Jason Neulander and his gang took an ever-so-Austin concept -- a graphic novel performed live! -- and found their way on a national tour and showcasing their talents with comedy legend Conan O'Brien.

I found myself working on said comedy legend's show last fall, and when Mr. Neulander left a handful of tickets for the June premiere of Book 2: Robot Planet Rising, I took a chance on a show I barely understood. Which is easy when it's free, and easier when it's Austin.

So many a month later, I found my way to the Long Center, a pretty snappy joint. (I think my language for this piece is very old-time-radio influenced right now. Thanks, Intergalactic Nemesis!) My seat awaited me, right in the middle, which was a perfect way to experience a show so unique, it's like four shows in one.

Right out of the gate, it was clear that this was an experience based on so many levels of retro that if it wasn't crafted and acted to smooth perfection, it could burst out of a million different seams.

Every inch of the Book 2: Robot Planet Rising production tasted of a time that few in the audience really truly experienced: a time of sitting by the fireplace and the 800-pound radiobox, expecting to be transported to strange new worlds with nothing but the sound of fuzzy voices spewing dialogue like it's going out of business, and the mere suggestion of a distant planet or strange creatures was enough to spark the imagination of millions. Did this time ever exist? I couldn't say for sure, but in the world of The Intergalactic Nemesis, it is the supreme joy of a long-lost entertainment resurrected for a new generation that propels every layer of its old-timey fabric.

Amy Heckerling Brings Clueless to the Paramount


By Josiane Amezcua

If there was a film I watched about a dozen times growing up, it probably had to be Clueless, the popular 1995 comedy based on Jane Austen's novel Emma. From quoting lines to discussing scenes, the movie became a favorite of mine to watch with friends over the years.

When I discovered the Paramount Theatre was going to be holding a screening of Clueless at the Stateside as part of its Summer Classic Film Series, I knew I had to take the opportunity to see one of my favorite movies on the big screen. The opportunity seemed even more exciting when I learned that it also included a Q&A with the film's writer and director, Amy Heckerling.

When I arrived at the event, the theater was packed. From groups of friends to mothers with their daughters, the screening brought out a large crowd. There was a lot of energy and excitement in the room, which only grew more once the first scene began to play. I had only seen Clueless on a TV set before, so viewing it on the big screen with an audience made the experience feel a lot different and more enjoyable. Laughter filled the theater from the beginning to end, as Clueless is one of those films where you could find the same scene funny even after watching it countless times.

Following the screening, the Q&A with Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Look Who's Talking, European Vacation) took place. She was welcomed to the stage with loud applause, as everyone was very thrilled to see the person behind the classic. When the moderator asked for questions from the audience, it felt like almost everyone raised their hand.

One of the first questions Heckerling was asked focused on how Clueless came to be. Heckerling explained how she was asked by one of the studios to write a TV pilot about "the cool kids." However, when she wrote one, they ended up passing on it. Luckily, another studio had faith in making it into a film instead.

Cinema East Kicks Off Summer Screenings with Help from Nick Offerman


By Whitney Pyterek

Cinema East kicked off its third season of outdoor summer screenings last Sunday with a screening of Austin filmmaker Bob Byington’s feature Somebody Up There Likes Me, which had premiered earlier this year at SXSW (Don's review, Jette's interview). Byington and lead actor Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) were there with the film.

Just as the sun began to set, Yellow Jacket Stadium filled up with lawn chairs and picnic baskets. I fell in love with the atmosphere almost instantly. People were dancing to the live DJ, and the weather was absolutely perfect. Local vendors like Good Pops and Frank were selling hot dogs, beer and popsicles. It was a large audience for the series -- people seemed excited to kick summer off with an outdoor movie.

As it got dark, the screenings began. There was a surprise short called Mouthful, a crowd-pleasing film about manhood and all boys' insecurities. Mouthful was a good warm up for the feature. Somebody Up There Likes Me was a quirky comedy with just enough cute to go around. It was about beginning relationships, marriage, divorce, parenting, life and growing old ... or not growing old. The mystery of the blue suitcase is never really revealed.

Duplass-a-Thon: Reflections on the Unexpected


Kevin movie posterBy Zach Endres

You often hear that life takes strange turns, and you don't realize how true this is until you think back to a year ago and realize the old you would never see the new you coming. So much can happen in so little time. Your normal commute to work ended up in a wreck, which led to life-altering injuries or a fancy new car purchased self-indulgently for once. You moved to a new city when you were all but set on staying in a rut on familiar turf. You got your dream job. You got a job you didn't even know was your dream job until you got it. You lost your job. You dyed your hair. Someone you know died. You died.

It's often hard to notice these turns when they're isolated incidents, because not all of them are painfully obvious. Sometimes it takes an impromptu post-screening concert outside the Alamo Drafthouse Village for the reality of the statement "Life takes strange turns" to sink in, something small but memorable to prod you to think back and discover how far you've come or how far you've fallen, and to get you thinking about what the next year might hold.

The Austin Film Society's Duplass-a-Thon -- a screening of former-Austinites Mark and Jay Duplass's most recent feature, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, and a couple of their shorts -- provided an unexpected convergence of life and art, as the subject of Jay Duplass's short documentary Kevin played a set of original songs for an intimate crowd in the muggy Austin night. We came for the Duplasses, but we stayed for Kevin Gant. Who would have thought?

Jay's debut documentary covers Gant's career as an Austin musician in the '90s, his subsequent, unexplained disappearance and his re-emergence in 2009 (when Jay discovered him working at UPS). Strange turns, indeed. With the help of Jay's documentary and its festival rounds -- it premiered at SXSW 2011 -- Kevin's muse suddenly reignited. He picked up his guitar once more, and it didn't take long for him to end up in front of the Drafthouse, gaily playing songs for us all.

A Double Dose of Texas Filmmakers: Kelly Sears and Karen Skloss


By Mike Fleming

Last week at the 29th Street Ballroom, Houston animator Kelly Sears screened some of her work for the latest installment of Experimental Response Cinema. The room, decorated with Seventies mansion kitsch and lit with an oversized disco ball, was a good match for an animation style that made use of found footage, discarded periodicals, books and archival images.

Sears showed a refreshingly varied selection of works that explored dilemmas like the desire to be connected with one another and the relationship between technology and privacy (Voice on the Line, 2010; The Drift, 2007), as well as what she describes as "the darker side of working out" (The Body Besieged, 2009).

Another piece, Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise (2011), used images harvested from discarded yearbooks to tell a story about a high school in the middle of being consumed by some unknown force. The work, like most of her others, features an interwoven narrative detailing the drama that unfolds. While in some instances, the narration in her work is spoken, this piece features a written narration that allows more room for the ominous audio to augment her images.

An Evening at SEEFest Austin with 'Hello! How Are You?'


Buna Ce Faci poster

By Dillan Harris

Director Alexandru Maftei's 2010 film, Buna! Ce Faci? (Hello! How Are You?) screened recently as part of the Austin Film Society's Essential Cinema series "SEEFest, Films of Southeast Europe." SEEFest Los Angeles founder and director of programming Vera Mijojlic was on hand to share some thoughts about the movie.

AFS Director of Programming Chale Nafus gave a brief introduction to the film and guest curator before the microphone stopped working. A few awkward moments passed before the problem was solved. "I think God was telling me to shut the (bleep) up," Nafus explained.

Nafus' candidness was reflected in the film itself, which was refreshingly, awkwardly and sometimes comically honest. Mijojlic mentioned that the film is the first comedy to come out of Romania in the last 20 years, and it is not without a subtle sense of melancholy. The story of Gabriel and Gabriela’s passionless marriage and their curiosity for something more becomes comical when the two, independent of the each other, learn to use a computer and explore the anonymous confines of chat rooms. Only this anonymity hides the fact that they are actually chatting with one another.

Get Ready for the ATX Television Festival This Weekend


ATX Television FestivalBy BethAnn Harper

It’s no secret that the film scene in Austin has taken off over the last couple of years. We are home to many interesting film festivals such as SXSW, Austin Film Festival, Fantastic Fest and Cine Las Americas. Starting this weekend, we will also be home to something a little different: the first annual ATX Television Festival. For those interested in a career in television -- or those who just love watching it -- this is the festival for you. Meet writers, creators, showrunners, directors, music supervisors and many other people that help make TV great. 

Syndicate content