Elizabeth Stoddard's blog

Review: Hyde Park on Hudson


Bill Murray, Olivia Colman & Samuel West in Hyde Park on Hudson

It's that time of year when studios put highbrow films in theaters in hopes that these prestige movies will be celebrated and appreciated. I'm sure many expect Bill Murray to be nominated for some award for his role of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson. Certainly this is very likely, but I don't think it would be right or deserved; he's done far better work in previous outings. While Murray attempts to pull off FDR's speech pattern in one scene, I found myself thinking, "It's about time to watch Scrooged!" In other words, this movie is a big disappointment.

I hadn't previously seen Laura Linney in anything in which she wasn't wonderful, but there's a first time for everything, I guess. She awkwardly plays FDR's single cousin five or six times removed, Daisy, who becomes one of his lovers. FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson is a player, see? His wife Eleanor, played unconvincingly by Olivia Williams (tiny Rushmore reunion!), rarely visits the estate, and he's got some other ladies on the side. 

Holiday Favorites 2012: David Gil, 'Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas'


Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

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.

This installment comes from David Gil, Marketing Manager for the Violet Crown Cinema:

There are a number of films that I enjoy re-watching when the holiday season rolls around. I never really thought about which ones were my favorite until I was asked to pick one to write about. Immediately I thought of films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, which may top the list though Love Actually (I’m not ashamed to admit it) is gaining momentum with each passing year. Yet, as I sit down to write this, there seems to be one title that I keep going back to: Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas.

Jim Henson adapted the Russell [and Lillian --ed.] Hoban book into a television special the year I was born, which may explain in part my connection to it. The story is about Emmet Otter and his Ma, who, despite having no money, dream of buying each other the perfect Christmas gift. Think O. Henry’s "The Gift of the Magi" but with a twist… and the wonderful music of Paul Williams. This film was a staple on early HBO during the holidays and I would watch it every chance I got because once Christmas was over, I wouldn’t see it again for another year. The sets, the songs, the puppetry were all classic Henson on par with the creativity and originality of the first three Muppet films.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Elizabeth and 'Meet Me in St. Louis'


Margaret O'Brien and Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis

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.

I wrote about a few of my favorite holiday classics last year, but neglected to include Meet Me in St. Louis! The 1944 film can be paired with 1949's In the Good Old Summertime for a Judy Garland turn-of-the-century Christmas double feature. These are two of my favorite Garland roles, but Meet Me in St. Louis has an edge because it contains her splendid performance of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (as well as "The Trolley Song," yay).

The year is 1903, and the multi-generational Smith family is upper-middle-class, living in their Victorian home and eager for the World's Fair in St. Louis. Esther (a 22-year-old Garland) is in her late teens, pining for her pipe-smoking young neighbor ("The Boy Next Door"). Oldest sister Rose (Lucile Bremer) is a senior in high school, long-distance dating a college man. Brother Lon is about to enter Princeton, and the two youngest daughters Agnes and Tootie (Margaret O'Brien) are in grade school.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Tim League, 'The Silent Partner'


Elliot Gould in The Silent Partner

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.

Tim League, the founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse, tells us today about his movie choice for holiday-time, the 1978 thriller The Silent Partner (for which Curtis Hanson wrote the screenplay!):

I'm actually quite fond of quite a few Christmas classics: Silent Night Deadly Night, Black Christmas, The Magic Christmas Tree, Santa Clause Vs. Satan, etc. My favorite, though, is a movie I was introduced to via Alamo programmer Lars Nilsen: the Canuxploitation classic The Silent Partner.

I went to a Weird Wednesday screening of this years ago with no knowledge of the film and no expectations. The film popped right away with tight storytelling, complicated twists and turns, well-fleshed-out characters, a really black humor and a demonic, intense performance by the normally normal Christopher Plummer. He portrays a sadistic, misogynistic unstoppable force, a villain dressed sometimes as Santa Claus, sometimes in very smart business-casual drag.

Join Us at the Make Watch Love Austin Party!


Make Watch Love Austin party graphic

Attention Austin film-lovers and filmmakers! An event is taking place this Saturday evening with you in mind. Austin Film Society is hosting their Make Watch Love Austin party, offering an opportunity for community members to mingle with other movie-loving folks (including some AFS board members) at Austin Studios. 

You can network (if you want); KingsIsle Entertainment will have representatives there accepting resumes for open creative positions.  SAG-AFTRA will have handy information available about filming in Central Texas. AFS board members will be there for you to meet and chat with. If you'd rather just party, there will be video games to play, food and drink to buy and enjoy, and a chance for you to enter to win some nifty prizes! You'll also be able to see more of AFS's plans for expansion into the former National Guard Armory.

Make Watch Love Austin kicks off at 5 pm Saturday at Austin Studios (Stage 7). Tickets are free for AFS members, but it's $10 for anyone else.

You can read more about the event on the AFS website.

Paramount Has Naughty and Nice Movies This December


Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen in White Christmas

To celebrate the 2012 holiday season, Austin's Paramount Theatre will be showing four movies this month. These include three of our Holiday Favorites past! (But not new Paramount programmer Stephen Jannise's Holiday Favorite, sadly for him at least.)

On the naughty list are dark comedy Bad Santa and 1980's-era classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, playing Sunday, Dec. 9 and Monday, Dec. 10. Agnes Varnum chose Bad Santa as her holiday favorite last year, saying "If you ever feel like commercialism and sentimentality have overtaken the holiday, Bad Santa is the cure."  Local filmmaker David Hartstein wrote about Christmas Vacation; he loves how the film "manages to pull off the near impossible feat of maintaining traditional Christmas movie sentimentality while skewering it at the same time." 

Best of the Fests: Oslo, 31 August


Anders Danielsen Lie in Oslo, 31 August

Oslo, 31 August (titled Oslo, August 31st for American audiences) premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where the drama scored many accolades. The Austin Film Society is hosting the movie's first big-screen outing in our town on Wednesday, December 5 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village [tickets].

Spoken memories and reminiscences begin the Norwegian film, as scenes of Oslo past and present flicker on the screen. Then Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) wakes up and begins his day -- the 24-hour-period in his life which Oslo, 31 August encapsulates. Anders is currently in rehab with two more weeks to go. He is given an evening pass to go to town for a job interview and plans to meet up with his sister afterwards.

Anders Danielsen Lie's multilayered performance is the true base of Oslo, 31 August. His character is deeply troubled and abashed; he tends to keep a stoic facade, but emotion cracks through. He persistently leaves voicemail messages for his ex-girlfriend Iselin (whom we never see), which vary in tone as his story plays on. He knows he has failed his parents, and yet is dismayed when his sister lets him down. Even though the ending seems nigh inevitable, Lie still had me holding out hope for Anders. I became so attached to the protagonist through my watching that I sighed with disappointment when he started searching through coat pockets at a party for money to spend on drugs.

Holiday Favorites 2012: Stephen Jannise, 'Home Alone 2'


Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2

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.

Our next holiday film pick comes from Stephen Jannise, the new film programmer for the Paramount and Stateside Theatres. His previous position was Film Program Director for Austin Film Festival. Stephen has chosen Chris Columbus' 1992 movie Home Alone 2: Lost in New York:

I recognize this pick probably isn't going to win me any respect points with anyone, yet I find myself compelled to offer a few thoughts in defense of this two-hour commercial for the Talkboy tape recorder. Sure, the narrative lazily regurgitates the story from the original Home Alone film almost verbatim, plot point for plot point, which means that two seemingly well-put-together parents somehow forget to bring their own child on vacation for a second time. Plus, by this point, Macaulay Culkin's smarmy kid act felt about as tired as watching your seven-year-old nephew perform "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" for the eighth time.

Lone Star Cinema: Shut Up and Sing


Dixie Chicks Emily Robison, Natalie Maines & Martie Maguire in Shut Up and Sing

Hard to believe it's been almost ten years since the Bush administration led the invasion of Iraq, and sometime-Austinite/Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines made her controversial comment during a 2003 London concert: "We're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." Documentary directors Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck use behind-the-scenes from that notorious Dixie Chicks concert and others from their 2003 tour, then follow the pop-country trio as they work on their album Taking the Long Way in Shut Up and Sing.

The first time I saw this film was in 2006 at a free screening put on by Norman Lear's liberal org People for the American Way. Those were some angry, frustrated days. Since then I've spotted Natalie Maines at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar (while her dad Lloyd accompanied Terri Hendrix) and the Dixie Chicks have gone on hiatus. 

Review: Silver Linings Playbook


Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook 

In Silver Linings Playbook, the latest film from David O. Russell, Pat (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover) has met a young woman named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games), the sister of a friend's wife. Only a few small things stand in the way of any romance between them: Tiffany's depression and feelings of guilt about her husband's death, Pat's continuing obsession with his estranged wife, and his recent diagnosis as bipolar and reluctance to take his meds. After Pat's mom Dolores (Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom) brings him home from a Baltimore institution, he does things like frustratedly reading through his teacher wife's high-school English class syllabus and exploding into his parents' bedroom at 4:00 in the morning to complain about the ending of A Farewell to Arms.  

A restraining order has kept Pat from his wife Nikki since he attacked her lover, and Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" -- their wedding song -- has served as a trigger for him ever since. Tiffany makes a deal with him. She'll pass on a letter to Nikki if Pat promises to train and participate in a couples' dance competition Tiffany wants to enter. There is much more taking place in the movie as well ... I'll just say that it all works together marvelously. Although it's a movie about a couple dealing with mental health issues, Silver Linings Playbook consistently made me laugh while growing to care for Pat and Tiffany, as well as the supporting characters.

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