Don Clinchy's blog

Review: The Revisionaries


The Revisionaries

The Revisionaries is yet another documentary I find difficult to review. Like last year's gripping Incendiary: The Willingham Case, The Revisionaries is so politically charged -- and so completely infuriating -- that it's hard to set aside my political beliefs and objectively review the film's cinematic qualities.

I'll do my best to be objective, but I'm sure my political views will sneak into this review at some point. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The Revisionaries takes a generally painful look at the Texas State Board of Education, long notorious as a haven for extremely conservative Christians whose mission is to rewrite textbooks to reflect their beliefs in creationism, America's Biblical origins, sexual abstinence, unregulated free enterprise and so on. A clever lot they are, hoping to win the culture wars over the long term by influencing what children learn in classrooms throughout Texas.

Movies This Week: October 19 - 25, 2012


American Werewolf in London

The Austin Film Festival dominates the local movie scene through next Thursday. Not that this is a bad thing, of course; the festival always features plenty of great films. (I'm skipping most of the festival due to other commitments, but I will see It's a Disaster on Saturday night at the Paramount. Let me make it perfectly clear that I'll be at the screening not because It's a Disaster stars America Ferrera, who coincidentally will be at the screening also. No -- I'm reviewing the film because writer/director Todd Berger is a former Austinite, and I do all I can to promote Austin-related films. You're welcome, Austin film industry.)

If AFF or this week's entirely forgettable new releases don't interest you (Paranormal Activity 4? Seriously?), the Alamo Drafthouse is kicking the Halloween season into high gear with creepy, monstery screenings for every taste. Among the highlights: The Mummy and Creature from the Black Lagoon are at Alamo South Lamar on Saturday and Sunday, and An American Werewolf in London (pictured above) is at Alamo Slaughter Lane Monday through Thursday. Also on Saturday and Sunday, the Master Pancake folks take a bite or two out of Night of the Living Dead at Alamo Lake Creek. See the Alamo Drafthouse calendar for complete listings.

Why do I keep plugging the Austin Film Society Essential Cinema series? Because it offers consistently interesting and high-quality films like That Uncertain Feeling, screening on Tuesday at Alamo South Lamar. In this 1941 comedy starring Merle Oberon, Melvyn Douglas and Burgess Meredith, a happily married woman sees a psychoanalyst about her hiccups. She's soon confused and disillusioned about her marriage, and one day in the doctor's waiting room, she meets a pianist who's even more confused than she is.

Movies This Week: October 12-18, 2012


Man on a Mission

Attention, fans of Kevin James or Ayn Rand (or both!): This is your week at the movies! Enjoy your moment, for the rest of us -- at least those who aren't into action or horror films -- must settle for a middling group of new releases. (Question of the day: Is Atlas Shrugged Part II a horror film? Discuss.)

As always, there are some interesting alternatives. The Texas Independent Film Network presents Man on a Mission (pictured above), a terrific documentary about Austin billionaire Richard Garriott's 2008 trip to the International Space Station on a Russian rocket. This inspiring film by Austin filmmaker Mike Woolf -- which the Austin Chronicle calls "a first-class seat to stargazing" -- screens at the Violet Crown on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, The Austin Film Society presents a film that's a bit more down to Earth: the 1939 classic Ninotchka, featuring Greta Garbo as a Russian woman sent to Paris on official business. While falling for a man who represents the decadence of Western luxuries, she also falls for the Western luxuries. The film screens at the Alamo South Lamar as part of the AFS Essential Cinema series.

Looking for something with a bit more action and impressive hardware than a 1930s romantic comedy? On Sunday and Wednesday, the Alamo Village presents a film rather unlike Ninotchka: Robocop. Now 25 years old -- and still one of my favorite sci-fi movies -- the Dallas-made Robocop is the classic dystopian story of a terminally wounded cop who returns to the Detroit force as a cyborg haunted by violent memories of his former life. (We should be thankful that 25 years after Robocop's release, there still are no cyborg cops.)

Also on Sunday, Alamo Drafthouse brings the second meeting of the Sprocket Society, at 1:45 pm at Ritz. This month's theme is "Monster Mayhem" and features 16mm unearthed goodies plus a special guest. The last event drew a nearly full house, so buy tickets now.

Movies We've Seen

Argo -- In this Ben Affleck-directed action thriller based on a true story from the Iranian revolution, a CIA operative plans to free six Americans hiding at a Canadian diplomat's home by claiming they are filmmakers considering Iran as a setting for a sci-fi film. In her review, Elizabeth calls Argo a very intense movie: "Even though I knew how things were going to come out (it is based on a true story, after all), I was still biting my knuckles through a large part of the film." (wide)

aGLIFF Polari Review: Fourplay



Kyle Henry's movie Fourplay was among the most anticipated films of aGLIFF Polari, and with good reason: It promised to be the sort of sex comedy that aGLIFF Polari audiences have adored in years past, and has strong hometown connections. One segment of the movie, Fourplay: San Francisco, screened at aGLIFF in 2010 as a short film.

Does Fourplay deliver on its promises? It played to a large and often wildly enthusiastic audience at the Paramount on Friday night; based on the audience's reaction, I'd say Fourplay does deliver, although I wasn't quite as impressed as many in the crowd were.

A compilation of four sexually oriented shorts set in four cities (Skokie, Austin, Tampa and San Francisco), Fourplay plays sexual intimacy mostly for laughs, although the movie does have some darker moments. The sexual encounters are as varied as the cities where they occur, from a woman's dogsitting adventure in Skokie to a public restroom orgy in Tampa. Fourplay is nothing if not sexually adventurous, which makes for a very interesting (if sometimes farfetched) examination of human sexuality.

aGLIFF Polari 2012 Dispatch: Talkin' Bout My Generations



My final screening at aGLIFF Polari had an irresistible title: "Talkin' Bout My Generations: Multi-Generational Shorts." Being a fan of short films and The Who, how could I resist this collection of shorts spanning every stage of life? And I'm happy to report that the films were invariably terrific and a great way to wrap up my festival experience.

The shorts collection opened with The Devotion Project: #1 -- More Than Ever, a documentary in which an elderly New York gay couple recounts their 54-year relationship. William Campbell and John Hilton hit the highlights of their years together, from their 1950s meeting at a bathhouse to John's conscription into the Army (obviously, he didn't tell) to their careers and old age, when John helps the ailing William, who speaks only in a whisper.

More Than Ever is dripping with poignancy, but it's never cloying. It's a solid piece of documentary filmmaking, one that demonstrates that no matter the stage of life, gay relationships are no different than their straight counterparts.

Following More Than Ever was Deflated, a look at a young boy's gender crisis. Left in a discount store to find a cheap toy while his father shops elsewhere, the boy encounters a giant basket filled with pink inflatable balls, along with a half-deflated green one. Torn between his preference for the color pink and society's expectation that he take the green ball, he suffers a gender identity crisis over something as simple as choosing a toy.

aGLIFF Polari 2012 Dispatch: Bring on the Swedish Lesbians!


Sunset Stories

aGLIFF may have rebranded itself "Polari" and changed venues this year, but the vibe remains the same: enthusiastic crowds, interesting films and some familiar indie film celebrity faces wandering around the Alamo Drafthouse. (Look -- there's PJ Raval! Look -- there he is again!)

My festival adventure began Friday night at the much-anticipated headliner screening of Kyle Henry's Fourplay at the Paramount. The hilariously raunchy compilation of four sexually oriented shorts set in four cities (Skokie, Austin, Tampa and San Francisco) was a hit, as expected. The crowd wildly cheered Henry's film and asked lots of great questions at the post-screening Q&A with Henry, co-writer Carlos Trevino, cinematographer PJ Raval (who seemed to be everywhere at aGLIFF Polari) and a host of cast and crew members. The Q&A included some unexpected revelations; I was surprised to learn that my favorite of the four shorts, the one set in San Francisco, was based on a true story of a transgendered prostitute and her quadriplegic client. (Look for my Fourplay review this week.)

The festival had lots of competition for parking spaces on Saturday. Apparently some sort of major sporting event was happening near downtown. (That is, I assume the madding crowds sporting West Virginia University t-shirts were not attending the film festival. Their team won the game, but not seeing Fourplay was their loss.) My day was off to a good start, however, when I found a parking space immediately. (Hint: The St. David's Episcopal Church garage is usually the best deal in town.)

Movies This Week: October 5-11, 2012



Decisions, decisions this week -- attend the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (rebranded "Polari" this year), or see Tim Burton's outstanding new animated film, Frankenweenie? Watch a comedy about butter sculpting -- there's much more to the movie than you'd think -- or check out the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival? See what you will; you'll find me at aGLIFF Polari, where I'm looking forward to former Austinite Kyle Henry's new film, Fourplay (pictured above), on Friday night.

Now in its ninth season, the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival is recognized as the top film celebration of disability in the arts in Texas, and presents animated, international and documentary short films. The festival -- at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar on Friday and Saturday nights -- also features interviews with the filmmakers, actors and writers who create the films.

If you haven't seen David and Nathan Zellner's latest feature, Kid-Thing (my SXSW review), the Austin Film Society is screening the movie Monday night at Alamo Village.

Race is a major factor in politics, and always has been. There may be no better cinematic look at this issue than George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire, a 2000 documentary about the race-baiting Presidential candidate who profoundly impacted American politics. The Austin Film Society presents this award-winning documentary (co-produced and co-directed by Paul Stekler, chair of the University of Texas Radio-Television-Film Department) on Wednesday at Stateside at the Paramount. Be sure to stick around after the screening for a Q&A with Stekler and co-producer/director Daniel McCabe, along with Wallace biographer Dan Carter.

Movies We've Seen

Beauty is Embarrassing -- This documentary tells the life story of artist Wayne White, who (among his many and varied artistic endeavors) was the set designer for Pee-wee's Playhouse. Jette enjoyed the movie, saying in her SXSW 2012 review that first-time director Neil Berkeley "has beautifully captured White's personality and his artistic sensibilities ... This is the kind of movie that energizes and inspires me as I leave the theater, to create artistic things for my own enjoyment and to add art to the world." White will attend select Friday and Saturday night screenings of the film at Violet Crown. (Violet Crown)

Butter -- In this comedy set in small-town Iowa, a girl discovers her talent for butter carving and competes against an ambitious woman in their town's traditional contest. Jette strongly recommends this film: "Butter may seem like a cute comedy about Midwestern butter-sculpting rivalries, but it is in fact the perfect movie to watch during the Presidential campaign season. Trust me." (Also, see J.C.'s glowing review from the 2011 Austin Film Festival.) (iPic, formerly Gold Class Cinema)

Frankenweenie -- In Tim Burton's latest feature, young Victor Frankenstein faces unintended consequences when he brings his dead dog Sparky back to life. Rod says all you need to know about Frankenweenie in his Fantastic Fest review: "With a vision that began many years ago, Burton proves that great ideas transcend time. Frankenweenie is a must-see in this fall film season." (wide)

Movies This Week: September 28 - October 4, 2012


Red Flag

In another week chock full o'new releases, Austin's cinephiles have plenty of choices at the local arthouse or multiplex. I may suspend my usual boycott of megabudget Hollywood fare and see Looper, which is getting great critical buzz. [Editor Jette butts in here briefly to say yes, Don, go see Looper. Go.]

There are, of course, irresistible alternatives. Austin film-scene favorite Alex Karpovsky is gracing us with his new comedy Red Flag (pictured above), in which he plays an indie filmmaker (named Alex Karpovsky) who takes his film (Karpovsky's actual film Woodpecker) on tour after a bitter breakup with his longtime girlfriend. Pursued by an ardent groupie and his own demons, he encounters what the film's press materials describe as "a twisting constellation of fear, sex, and tortured illumination." How could this movie not be interesting? Read Jette's review for details. The screening, presented by the Austin Film Society and Cinema East, is on Sunday at Cheer Up Charlie's at 8 pm. Karpovsky will be in attendance for a Q&A after the film.

What could be better than watching a Presidential debate? Watching it at the Alamo Drafthouse with your fellow Austinites, of course! Lake Creek and South Lamar are showing all three debates; the first one is on Wednesday. The screenings include food specials based on the candidates' favorite dishes. (The food specials are fodder for at least a hundred political jokes, but for once I'll refrain.)

Had enough of politics? Cine Las Americas presents a film starring neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama: Chinese Take-Away (Un cuento chino), an Argentinian/Spanish import about an unlikely friendship between a cranky  Buenos Aires hardware store owner and a Chinese immigrant he offers to help. Presented as part of the Cine Las Americas Signature Series, Chinese Take-Away screens at Alamo Village on Sunday.

Movies We've Seen

Looper -- In this sci-fi actioner set in 2072, the target of a mob hit is sent 30 years into the past, where a killer awaits. In this case, the killer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) must execute his future self (Bruce Willis). Apparently Mike likes the film somewhat; in his Fantastic Fest review, he says writer/director Rian Johnson "has executed a master class performance and realized a classic of science fiction that will join the ranks of other classics at the pinnacle of the genre." (wide)

Movies This Week: September 21-27, 2012


Forrest Gump

It's another film festival week in Austin. But if you don't find Fantastic Fest so fantastic, this week offers some interesting special screenings and nine new releases. (Hint: Your life will be incomplete until you see The Master. My man-crush on Philip Seymour Hoffman continues unabated.)

On Monday at the Long Center, the 48 Hour Film Project will screen and award the best films of its 2012 competition in Austin. As the name implies, the shorts were written, cast, scouted, shot, edited and submitted in 48 hours in late August; the impossibly tight schedule made for some interesting and often hilarious exercises in time's-a-wasting filmmaking. The always entertaining Rebecca Havemeyer (aka Paul Soileau) emcees the event.

The Austin Film Society presents The Father of My Children, a French drama about an acclaimed filmmaker whose dedication to his art and lack of financial success strain his relationships with his wife and children. The film screens on Tuesday at the Alamo Drafthouse Village as part of the AFS Essential Cinema series.

In the mood for something slightly less serious than a French drama? The Master Pancake guys will subject the beloved but overrated Forrest Gump (pictured above) to their usual Master Pancakery on Friday and Saturday at Alamo Village. Run, Forrest, run -- preferably away from the Master Pancake guys.

Movies We've Seen

2 Days in New York -- Julie Delpy co-wrote, directed and stars in this comedy (a sequel to her 2007 comedy 2 Days in Paris) about a Manhattan couple whose family dynamic is strained when relatives visit. Debbie liked the film, saying in her review that "2 Days in New York will appeal to a much wider audience than its predecessor, while still adhering to the standards of traditional French farces." (Violet Crown)

End of Watch -- This acclaimed thriller is the story of two cops marked for death after confiscating money and firearms from a notorious cartel during a traffic stop. Rod found End of Watch gritty and realistic, saying in his review that it "does an admirable job of capturing the realities of the police officer lifestyle, from simple locker-room banter to mundane conversations in the front seat of a patrol car, and more pressing concerns like backing up fellow officers in danger." (wide)

The Master -- The Church of Scientology may not be happy with Paul Thomas Anderson's stylish new drama, in which Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an L. Ron Hubbard-like character who founds a cult-like organization called the Cause. But I highly recommend The Master in my review, calling the film "the sort of visceral film we would expect from Anderson, a potent mix of bold characters, stunning visuals and a sometimes hallucinogenic vibe." (wide)

Review: The Master


The Master

On the strength of its lead performances alone, The Master may be Paul Thomas Anderson's best film ever.

A bold statement, I know. Anderson's strong body of work includes the Oscar-winning There Will Be Blood, as well as Punch-Drunk Love, a film in which he somehow coaxed great acting from Adam Sandler. And The Master isn't even my favorite Anderson movie; that would be the rollicking and surprisingly poignant Boogie Nights. But The Master tops them all for its powerhouse portrayals of a lost soul and his charismatic mentor.

Not-so-loosely based on the early career of Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, The Master explores the relationship between the Hubbard-like Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), an alcoholic drifter who becomes Dodd's right-hand man. After meeting at a shipboard party circa 1950, the two quickly discover a shared willingness to drink most any intoxicant (potentially poisonous or not) and develop an odd friendship -- actually, less a friendship than a tenuous relationship based on Dodd's exploitation of Quell's weaknesses.

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