Elizabeth Stoddard's blog

See 'Shepard & Dark' in Austin on Sunday

Shepard & Dark film poster

The Austin Film Society is hosting a screening of Shepard & Dark at Alamo Drafthouse Village on Sunday afternoon at 4 pm. [ticket info]

Treva Wurmfeld's documentary has received good buzz on the festival route, but hasn't had a theatrical release date yet, so this is a rare opportunity to catch the film.

During Sandra Adair's conversation at AFS in March, she showed us a clip, since it was a recent movie she edited. She, director Wurmfeld and producer Amy Hobby will be in attendance at Sunday's showing.

Sam Shepard, actor/playwright, and Johnny Dark, comedian/actor, had a long epistolary relationship during their on-again-off-again friendship. The two met in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. In the early years of their acquaintance, they lived together, even becoming in-laws as Shepard married Dark's stepdaughter. Dark kept all the letters Shepard wrote him and a university is interested in acquiring them -- the Wittliff Collections at Texas State, which explains the local ties to the film.

Shepard & Dark offers an unvarnished look at these two men, deliving into their family histories. In the clip Adair showed us, Shepard recalled memories of his alcoholic father and his dad's death in New Mexico. Even as time and location have separated these men, they still share a connection, strained though it may be.

Austin/Texas connections: Several Austinites were involved, including Sandra Adair, who edited the film, and Graham Reynolds, who composed the score. The Wittliff Collections (which also retains Sam Shepard's papers) are at Texas State University in San Marcos.

[Poster via Shepard & Dark Facebook page]

Review: Before Midnight

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight

Here's hoping you haven't seen the first trailer for Before Midnight, which is basically a big spoiler. There seems to be a shared thought among fans of Richard Linklater's "Before" films that one wants to be surprised when they walk into the theatre and see how Celine and Jesse work out this time. Before I caught the SXSW screening in March, I did read Debbie's review because I was too excited and had to know. That being said, is it possible to review this movie without giving too much away? I will try.

Before Midnight takes place during one long day in Greece. First we see Jesse (Ethan Hawke) at the Kalamata airport, talking to his adolescent son before the kid has to fly back to the States where he lives with his mom. Jesse's face during this scene is periodically pierced with regret, as he wishes his son could stay longer. After Jesse is picked up from the airport, he and Celine (Julie Delpy) talk while driving through Greek countryside -- after the SXSW screening, Linklater noted during his Q&A that this car scene is over 13 minutes long, with no cuts. He also commented that every location they used in Greece was found during a two-day visit.

Prepare for 'An Oversimplification of Her Beauty' at Alamo Drafthouse


Still from An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Although he now lives in Brooklyn, filmmaker Terence Nance was born and raised in Dallas, where his movie An Oversimplification of Her Beauty premiered at the Dallas International Film Fest in 2012. The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz will host two screenings of this art film over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, including a Skype Q&A with Nance after both showings.

Nance's feature-length debut has received much attention, with pop culture figures such as Jay-Z, Joy Bryant and Wyatt Cenac jumping in as producers (Questlove is listed as an associate producer). The film is narrated in part by Reg E. Cathey (Square One, y'all!), but Nance is all over this movie. He wrote, edited, directed, produced, scored and even worked on some of the animation for this picture.

Our Favorite Films in the Paramount Summer Classics Series


Some selections from the 2013 Paramount Summer Classics Series

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

Leonard Maltin and 'Lady For a Day' at the Paramount


Lady for a Day posterTickets 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!

See All Three Films in Linklater's 'Before' Trilogy

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise, Before Sunset & Before MidnightBefore Before Midnight opens in Austin on May 23, Austin Film Society will host a special screening of all three of Richard Linklater's movies: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and the latest installment.

On Sunday, May 19 at Marchesa Hall & Theatre, you can view the trilogy in order.  See Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) meet cute on a train in Before Sunrise (my Lone Star Cinema review), run into each other in a Paris bookstore and have trickier discussions in Before Sunset (my Lone Star Cinema review), and have far more personal talks about life and relationships while ambling around Greece in Before Midnight.

Tickets for either Before Sunrise or Before Sunset are $10 for AFS members or $20 general public.  You can watch all three for $20 (AFS members) or $40 (general public) [more ticket info].

Individual tickets aren't available for the May 19 Before Midnight screening; however, there's a separate special event for the May 23 theatrical premiere of Before Midnight at the Violet Crown Cinema [ticket info]. At the VCC, Linklater, Hawke and Delpy will be in attendance and take part in the pre-screening cocktail party.

During the week between these two festivities, AFS and Ain't It Cool News have teamed up with local restaurants and bars offering special deals and themed specials.  If you go to one of the spots (the list hasn't been released yet) and tweet a photo of you and your sweetie to @afs1985 using the tag #AFSBeforeMidnight, you're eligible to win an AFS dual LOVE level membership.

'The Happy Poet' Returns to Austin at Stateside Independent


Paul Gordon in The Happy Poet

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.

AFF Announces 2013 Honorees


Jonathan Demme at SXSW 2009

Jonathan Demme, director of such feature films as Rachel Getting Married and Philadelphia, and such documentaries as Jimmy Carter Man from Plains, will receive the top award at the 2013 Austin Film Festival this fall. Demme is being honored with the fest's "Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking" Award.

Demme won an Oscar for his direction of The Silence of the Lambs.  Recently Demme has done directing work on TV shows such as HBO's Enlightened.  His Fear of Falling, based on a screenplay by Wallace Shawn, is currently in post-production. The photo above is from SXSW 2009, when Demme brought the concert documentary Neil Young Trunk Show to Austin.

AFF also announced its "Outstanding Television Writer" for 2013: Vince Gilligan, acclaimed for his creation of and work on the AMC series Breaking Bad. Gilligan also served as executive producer for The X-Files, and wrote screenplays for Hancock and the Texas-shot movie Home Fries. (Does this mean we might see Home Fries at AFF in October?)

Lone Star Cinema: Silkwood


Meryl Streep in Silkwood (with a blurry young David Strathairn in the background)

When writer/director Nora Ephron died months ago, I was surprised to see Silkwood mentioned along the many other credits in her obits. Little did I know Ephron co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for this 1983 drama alongside Alice Arlen.  Then I found out via IMDb searching that the movie was filmed in Texas! Obviously, I had to move it up my Netflix queue.

Silkwood is based on the true story of the woman of the same name, Karen Silkwood, who was born in Longview and spent some time in Beaumont. When we meet her in the film, however, she's a gal in her mid-twenties, played by Meryl Streep, working at a nuclear facility in small-town Oklahoma. Karen lives with boyfriend Drew (Kurt Russell) and best friend Dolly (Cher), who both work in the plant as well.

There are many other recognizable faces in this movie. David Strathairn and Fred Ward (who I know best from my childhood favorite Big Business) play co-workers in Silkwood's division, Craig T. Nelson appears as a smarmy guy at the plant, and I even spied Bill Cobbs (I'll Fly Away, Go On) in a lunchroom scene.

Review: Oblivion


Tom Cruise in Oblivion

Tom Cruise stars as Jack in the movie Oblivion, director Joseph Kosinski's (Tron: Legacy) cinematic reinterpretation of his own graphic novel. The year is 2077. Jack keeps drones in maintenance; these drones protect ginormous "hydrorigs," which suck in seawater to create fusion power for the removed citizens of Earth. Attacking the hydrorigs and drones are alien-like "scavs," who, Jack tells us, are behind the destruction of the Earth. "We won the war, but lost the planet," he states during some fairly trite narration.

In this post-apocalyptic film, Tom Cruise is onscreen fourth-fifths of the time. If you don't care for Cruise, odds are you won't care for Oblivion.  Still, Cruise isn't really the complete problem with the movie. Let me count the ways I was disappointed.

  1. The hollow depiction of women in Oblivion. Jack works and sleeps with teammate Victoria (Andrea Riseborough, Happy Go Lucky, Made in Dagenham), who has large pupils (especially obvious on an IMAX screen) and no personality. She looks forward to going back to their home on Titan and has sex with Jack in a pool. Jack goes out to check on his drones in his functional clothing, while Vicka, as communications manager, hangs around their pad in tight sheath dresses and stiletto heels.
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