Elizabeth Stoddard's blog

AFS Doc Nights Preview: Koch


Ed Koch in Koch

It seems timely that Austin Film Society (along with the Austin Jewish Film Festival) is screening the movie Koch this Wednesday, February 13 [details]. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch died on the first day of this month; this documentary about his life and times in office from 1978-89 pulls no punches, yet had his approval and participation.

Director Neil Barsky incorporates interviews with members of the media and New York community leaders along with interviews with Koch himselfKoch zeroes in on his mayoral tenure, but we also learn about his childhood (his family barely got by running a hat-check station) and his post-mayoral doings. He's even shown puttering alone around his apartment. Songs of the period punctuate the documentary, with Oliver Nelson's bouncy jazz work "Complex City" setting the tone from the start. 

Austin at SXSW 2013: All the Features (Part Two)


 Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd in Prince Avalanche

Continued from earlier today, here are the rest of the SXSW 2013 films with Austin or Texas ties: documentaries and films that have already been hits at other festivals.

Documentary Spotlight:

  • An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story -- If you watch the local news, you are likely quite familiar with the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton in Williamson County. This documentary looks further into his story and the years of work by his attorneys to get him released.
    Jette butts in: Filmmaker Al Reinert (screenwriter for For All Mankind, Apollo 13) lives in Houston. The film is produced by local filmmakers Clark and Jesse Lyda (who also own Monument Cafe) and Marcy Garriott -- all three worked previously on The Least of These (SXSW 2009). Jason Wehling (The Retrieval) is credited as a consulting producer. One of the composers is Chuck Pinnell, brother of the late Texas filmmaker Eagle Pennell. (screening times)
  • Before You Know It -- PJ Raval's (our Slacker 2011 interview) film depicts a year in the life of gay retirees in three different senior care facilities. Raval received Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund grants in 2009 and 2010 for this one (as Untitled Gay Retiree Documentary). Filmmaker/former Austinite Kyle Henry (Fourplay) edited; he's among several UT RTF grads in the crew. (screening times)

Austin at SXSW 2013: All the Features (Part One)


Garrett Graham, Brock England, Sam Eidson, Vincent James Prendergast, and Brian Losoya in Zero Charisma

The feature-film selections for the 2013 SXSW Film Festival were announced last week and boy, are there a lot of movies with Austin connections on the program -- so many that we had to split this article in two! We'll start with the narrative feature films, and the second half will highlight the documentaries and "festival favorites." These lists don't include the short films or the midnight movies, which will be announced later today.


Narrative Spotlight:

  • The Bounceback -- Bryan Poyser's comedy, which follows the travails of two former couples mixing things up around Austin (including Alamo Drafthouse Ritz), makes its world premiere at the fest. Rebecca Campbell visited the set last year.
    Jette butts in
    : The cast includes Heather Kafka, filmmakers Yen Tan (Pit Stop), David Zellner and Clay Liford; Poyser's former AFS coworkers Chale Nafus and Sarah Ann Mockbee, and Ashley Spillers (also in SXSW 2013 films Zero Charisma, Loves Her Gun and Pit Stop). The director of photography is PJ Raval, who directed another SXSW film, Before You Know It. Editor Don Swaynos also edited Pit Stop. It's like Three Degrees of Separation, geez, we should just draw a graph. (screening times)

Review: Quartet


Tom Courtenay and Maggie Smith in Quartet

If there really is a place like Beecham House, I want to go to there someday. In the Dustin Hoffman-directed film Quartet, the site is a home for retired classical music performers and opera singers. As the main four characters wander about the beautiful grounds, a solo clarinetist plays, or a string quartet performs in a gazebo. How wonderful would it be to be surrounded by amazing instrumentalists constantly playing music (well)? It seems like a slice of heaven to me. The movie itself, however? Not so much.

The plot is a bit of a muddle, but here goes: Flamboyant Cedric (Michael Gambon, wearing Dumbledore-esque caftans) is putting on the home's annual concert, which, from the number of times he asserts that the home could be closed if the event is not a success, I infer is a fundraiser. It's reminiscent of the classic-musical plotline where the gang would put on a show to save a farm (Summer Stock, anyone?).

A trio of friends -- serious Reginald (Tom Courtenay, TV's Little Dorrit), naughty Wilf (Billy Connolly, Mrs. Brown and Brave), and dotty Cissy (Pauline Collins, Albert Nobbs) -- sit around reminiscing about the days when they once sang together in Rigoletto. Then the fourth of their quartet moves into the home. Jean (Maggie Smith) was the diva of the group and once had an ill-fated romance with Reg. Cedric wants them to perform the quartet from Rigoletto at the annual concert, but Jean is wary.

Lone Star Cinema: Before Sunrise


Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise

In 1995, I saw Before Sunrise at the Highland movie theatre (now Galaxy Highland) with a couple of friends. I recall a discussion between us afterwards about whether we enjoyed the open, yet hopeful, ending of the Richard Linklater film (I believe the consensus was yes). The continuous dialogue between the two main characters in the film reminded me of the type of conversations I had with my own friends at the time -- so like my life. But I didn't watch the movie again ... until just recently.

In this romance, young American twentysomething Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Sorbonne student Celine (Julie Delpy) meet cute on a train. They lunch together, then Jesse asks Celine to get off the train with him in Vienna; he's heading back to the States the next morning, can't afford a hotel room and would love to have someone to chat with while walking around the Austrian city. And there you have it. Celine is fairly easily convinced (Jesse is very attractive, despite his scruffy facial hair) and spends the rest of the day and night with him.

Cine Las Americas Series Showcases Contemporary Comedies


Still from Bolivar soy yo!

Austin's Cine Las Americas will run a free weekly film series from the last two weeks of January through the month of February. Films from Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay incorporate the mix of comedies from the previous decade. The series kicks off this Wednesday, January 23.

In their press release, Cine Las Americas calls the movies in this series "some of the finest comedies to emerge in Latin America in recent years, and each one of them defines a special moment in the cinema of their country. Dark humor and irony abound, with a sharp edge for social, political and cultural commentary."

Each of the screenings will be held at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) at 600 River Street [map].  The movies will have English subtitles.

Review: Zero Dark Thirty


Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

In the first moments of Kathryn Bigelow's new Zero Dark Thirty, the audience faces a black screen as heartbreaking distress calls from September 11, 2001 are heard. Then we are thrust into a gritty scene of a Saudi prisoner being tortured by the CIA for information. A few minutes in, our intrepid protagonist, CIA analyst Maya (Jessica Chastain) is revealed.

Bigelow's film fictionalizes the search for Osama bin Laden, with periods of time during the hunt split into titled vignettes. The multi-year hunt is condensed to about 2.5 hours, which still tends to feel long. Some say the movie is pro-torture, some say it is not. I'd say a realistic depiction of the story would include torture since it was indeed used by the agency (although it hardly seems effective). However, these scenes in Zero Dark Thirty are too long and arduous and only serve to slow the narrative. Just as the agents are frustrated at the lack of information they get through these sadistic and arcane methods, I was slightly peeved that the story might never get moving.

2012 in Review: Elizabeth's Film-Fest Favorites


Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass in Safety Not Guaranteed

Sometimes if you randomly choose a movie at Austin Film Festival or SXSW, you stumble upon a great find. In 2012, using my typical method -- whichever movies are within walkable distance from free/cheap parking downtown and showing at times that I feel up to being around festival crowds -- I saw some sweet, memorable movies. Here are my favorites:

5. Wolf, dir. Ya'Ke Smith

This tense drama, depicting the effects of sexual abuse by a community leader on an adolescent boy, provides an intimate look into how the boy's close-knit family deals with the fallout. When I watched this at SXSW, it turned out I was sitting next to some of the actors. Luckily I had nothing bad to mutter to myself about the film. Wolf is illuminating, a film that gives great consideration to its subject matter and the characters involved. Even the character of the abuser is treated with dimension and depth. And it was filmed in San Antonio! (Mike's review)

Wolf was still making the festival rounds in November.

AFS Essential Cinema Focuses on Recent Asian Film


Still from 2046

From January through mid-February, Austin Film Society will be screening contemporary movies from Asia for their latest Essential Cinema series. "Asia: Hot or Cool" includes a selection of films from Japan, Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Taiwan.

All of these screenings will be at the Alamo Drafthouse Village location. Tickets are free for AFS members at the LOVE level, $5 for members at the WATCH or MAKE level, and $8 for general admission.

Here's the lineup:

Untold Scandal (Joseon namnyeo sangyeoljisa, 2003)
Tues, Jan. 8, 7 pm
A South Korean take on Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Untold Scandal places the familiar tale of love and deception at the end of the Chosun dynasty in 18th Century Korea.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Kim LeBlanc, 'The Thin Man'


Myrna Loy and William Powell in The Thin Man

Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.

Kim LeBlanc, location scout for the Texas Film Commission and recent newlywed, tells us about her pick:

Don't get me wrong, I could watch George Bailey run up and down the idyllically snow-covered streets of Bedford Falls joyfully shouting "Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old building and loan!" until the cows come home. There's a reason why the classics are the classics. And no matter how many times I've seen it and no matter how hard I try, every time a bell rings, not only does an angel get its wings but invariably, a Kim also has to finish off a box of Kleenex. That's just the way it is.

Yet aside from the more obvious holiday fare out there -- i.e. It's a Wonderful Life and White Christmas (oh those fabulously festive dance numbers!) -- as of late I have to say my favorite flick to watch during the holidays is quickly becoming The Thin Man (1934).

Syndicate content