Elizabeth Stoddard's blog

Holly Herrick on Film Programming, Moving to Austin and Charles Durning's Little Sidestep


Holly Herrick

Holly Herrick joins the staff of Austin Film Society this week as Associate Artistic Director. Herrick's most recent work was with the Hamptons International Film Festival where she served as Programming Deputy Director. She has also written for film site Hammer to Nail (her filmmaker husband Michael Tully, also new to Austin, contributes to the site as well).

She took a break during her move from Brooklyn to Austin over the weekend to answer some questions for us (via email).

Slackerwood: What drew you to Austin and this new position with the Austin Film Society?

Holly Herrick: The Austin Film Society always stood out to me as an organization that took an original, creative approach to developing local and regional film culture. As a festival producer and programmer, I was positioned between the film industry and communities that felt they could benefit from a greater emphasis on film programming and filmmaking in their region.

Lone Star Cinema: Varsity Blues

Amy Smart, James Van Der Beek & Ali Larter in Varsity Blues

Varsity Blues is truly of its time. When the film was released in 1999, star James Van Der Beek was riding high on his fame from popular teen soap Dawson's Creek. This was the first movie produced by MTV Films, and the soundtrack includes such late '90s hits as Collective Soul's "Run" and the Foo Fighters' "My Hero." Buzz Bissinger's influential book Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream had been published nine years previous, but had yet to be dramatized for either the big or small screen.

Filmed in Austin -- as well as Georgetown, Elgin and Taylor -- Varsity Blues follows Mox (Van Der Beek), a high school senior in fictional small-town West Canaan, Texas. He dates his friend's younger sister, Julie (Amy Smart), who works at the Top Notch. He dreams of going to Brown University, and only plays football because his dad makes him. During games, Mox sits on the sidelines reading Vonnegut behind his playbook. Then Julie's brother, game-winning quarterback Lance (Paul Walker), is seriously injured and the evil Coach Kilmer (Jon Voight) calls Mox off the bench.

AFF Celebrates 'On Story' Second Season Premiere


On Story title shot

Earlier this week, Austin Film Festival hosted an event to fete the second season premiere of On Story at KLRU's famed Studio 6A. This locally-produced TV series focuses on writing for the big and small screen, using interview clips from past Austin Film Festivals.

Before the show got started on Wednesday, I snacked on some amazingly spicy creamed corn from Ranch 616 and sipped a mixed drink (courtesy of Tito's) as I chatted with new friends and old. Among the folks I met were local filmmaker Clay Liford, Maya Perez (AFF conference director, soon leaving that position to attend the Michener Center), and Tom Copeland (former director of Texas Film Commission and current Texas State professor).

Then we took our seats as AFF Director Barbara Morgan introduced the show. She told us that On Story is now on 50 percent of the nation's PBS stations. The program is broadcast locally on KLRU-Q on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm. There's a new title sequence for the second season (embedded below), created by Shiny Object.

Review: First Position


Gaya Bommer Yemini and Aran Bell in First Position

First position is one of the first things you learn in ballet class, placing your feet heel to heel in as straight a line as possible. In the case of the documentary First Position, the directorial debut by former dancer Bess Kargman, this position is not only in frequent use among the dancers involved, but also the goal they hope to attain in the Youth America Grand Prix.

Kargman's film follows six young ballet dancers in their many months of preparation for the Grand Prix. Eleven-year-old Aran comes from a supportive American military family. His dad took a tour in Kuwait so they could be placed closer to a city with a good ballet program for Aran (they currently live in Italy). Aran meets Israeli Gaya (both pictured above) in ballet class and they are inseparable during competitions. These pre-teens are proficient dancers, and their facial expressions throughout their interactions with each other and on stage are fun to watch.

A Classic Movie Fan's Dream: 2012 Summer Film Classics at the Paramount


Doris Day listens in as Rock Hudson chats up a lover in Pillow Talk

One of the best things about living in Austin is getting to attend some of the classic films that screen each summer at the Paramount Theatre. The full Paramount Summer Classic Film Series schedule has just been released, with movies screening at Stateside this year, too.

Here are some from the bunch I find worth noting:

  • Pillow Talk (1959), pictured above, helps start the summer series off -- screening with the far more serious To Kill a Mockingbird. Although I've been a fan of classic movies since elementary school, it is only in recent years that my love and admiration for Doris Day has grown. This comedy, featuring Day as an interior designer forced to share a party line with playboy Rock Hudson, is now one of my favorite movies, and I can't wait to see it on the big screen! (9:35 Thurs, 5/24; 7 pm Fri, 5/25)
  • An Affair to Remember (1957) -- Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, and pink champagne! If you love Sleepless in Seattle and haven't yet seen this drama (dramedy?) referenced throughout that '90s film, here's your chance. (7 pm Fri, 6/1)
  • Hooray for a focus on female filmmakers! Films by Ida Lupino (Outrage), Amy Heckerling (Clueless), Claire Denis (35 Shots of Rum), and more are included in this short series screening Tues-Sun, 6/5-10.
  • Ishtar (1987) -- One of the biggest box-office bombs, this road-trip comedy directed by Elaine May gets a bad rap. True, I've only seen it once, and that was years ago, but I enjoyed it. You just might, as well. (7 pm Tues, 6/12; 9 pm Weds, 6/13)

Review: Dark Shadows


Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer in Dark Shadows

I've only seen about 7 minutes of the first episode of the original series of Dark Shadows, so I cannot compare the TV show to Tim Burton's new take on it. I'll admit the only reason I tried watching the show was because an older woman asked me during a training session in 2001 whether I was named after the character in the late '60s supernatural soap. Up to that point in my life, I'd never heard of the show. When I heard this movie was coming out, I told Jette that I had to be the one to review Dark Shadows; how often do you get to watch a character who shares your name on the big screen?

Johnny Depp stars as Barnabas Collins, a powerful Maine businessman cursed by a witch in the late 18th century to be a vampire. For reasons too silly to explain, Barnabas finds himself in 1972 and discovers distant cousins are residing in the family estate. Elizabeth (Collins) Stoddard -- an unflappable Michelle Pfieffer -- is the (divorced? widowed?) family matriarch, living with her 15-year-old daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), brother Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) and his haunted son David (Gulliver McGrath). Also residing in the house are psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham-Carter with a Tang-colored wig, as seen below), groundskeeper Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) and the new governess with a secret past, Victoria (Bella Heathcote).

Texas is All Over Los Angeles Film Festival 2012


Still from It's a Disaster

The 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival will run June 14-24, 2012, and included in the schedule are more than a few movies with ties to Austin or Texas. As Matthew Odam points out in his Tuesday post on Austin Movie Blog, the feature films Saturday Morning Massacre and Magic Mike are both in the lineup. Magic Mike is a Steven Soderbergh film starring Austin actor Matthew McConaughey.

Saturday Morning Massacre was directed by former Austinite Spencer Parsons and was shot locally. Cast members include Jonny Mars and Paul Gordon from The Happy Poet, Heather Kafka and Chris Doubek from Lovers of Hate and veteran character actor Sonny Carl Davis (The Whole Shootin' Match, Bernie). It's a horror movie that references a popular 70s cartoon about crime-fighting teens in a van with a dog.

Here are some more films with Austin/Texas connections scheduled to show during this year's fest:

  • Big Easy Express, dir. Emmett Malloy -- This documentary follows a cross-country train concert tour by Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show. The tour includes a stop in our fair city!
  • Gayby, dir. Jonathan Lisecki -- I caught this one at SXSW (my review) and loved it. Austinite Clay Liford served as cinematographer on this comedy about best friends who want to have a baby together.
  • It's a Disaster (pictured at top) --  A comedy from UT alum Todd Berger about a brunching group of folks so self-involved that they might miss the impending end times. Berger's film is having its world premiere at the festival.

Review: The Five-Year Engagement


Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, Chris Pratt and Alison Brie in the Five-Year Engagement

The Five-Year Engagement is from the same writing team that brought us The Muppets: Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. Stoller also directs, while Segel plays part of the main duo. His Tom Solomon is a sous chef in San Francisco who proposes to his best gal, Violet (Emily Blunt), in the opening moments of the film. Violet is a grad student and the only school that accepts her for their Psychology program is in Michigan, oh no! Well, given the title of the film, you know their journey to the altar will be extremely slow, if it ever happens at all ...

Blunt, whose role of Violet was written specifically for her, and Segel are hilarious through the years of mishaps and trials that come their way.  Their attempts to get hitched never seem to come to fruition; in contrast, Tom's chef pal Alex (Chris Pratt) and Violet's younger sis Suzie (Alison Brie) speedily fall for each other and pull off a fast and quirky wedding. A related note: if you are a fan of the song "Cucurrucucú paloma," you may never hear it the same after watching this movie.

Previewing Cine Las Americas 2012: Hecho en Tejas Shorts

Cine Las Americas 2012 posterThe 2012 Cine Las Americas International Film Festival kicked off Tuesday night and runs through the weekend. This year's program includes four short films made in Texas -- in the fest's Hecho en Tejas category, naturally.

Two of the Texas shorts were also part of the City of Austin's "Faces of Austin 2012" project. All four films will show at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar over the weekend.

Sam Lerma's Lilia was produced in San Antonio. The film, which premiered at the 2011 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, focuses on a family after the father loses his job. How will he care for 5-year-old Lilia? This short screens before Hombre y tierra on Saturday, April 28 at 1:45 pm. Producer Ralph Lopez and actress Lauren Montemayor will be there.

In Open Your Eyes, an 11-year-old goes on a journey of self-reflection. Director Adolfo R. Mora will be in attendance when this short plays on Sunday, April 29 at 11 am (before In the Shadow, another Texas-shot feature).

Through Juan A. Izaguirre's Para Vivir, the viewer is shown a day in the life of Joel, a thirtysomething undocumented immigrant. Joel ended up in Austin because he has cancer and did not have access to medications in Mexico.

Whit Stillman Brings 'Damsels in Distress' to Austin


Whit Stillman on the set of Damsels in Distress

I waited too long to grab a ticket to the Sunday happy-hour discussion with director Whit Stillman hosted by Austin Film Festival, but happily made it into the screening of his new film, Damsels in Distress, the next night at the Alamo Village. The last time I watched a new movie of Stillman's was a videotape of The Last Days of Disco many moons ago, so I've eagerly awaited his next project. I think it was worth the wait, honestly (but let's not have such a long break between this and his next film!).

In Stillman's short intro before the film started, he said he knew folks had to get home by "ferry, bus or train" (obviously he's used to being in a city with more mass transit options!) so they should feel free to leave before the Q&A started. But he promised the audience that the ending of Damsels in Distress is the best part. Jette will have more on the film (which I loved!!) in her review later this week, but I wanted to share some of what I learned from the Q&A after the screening.

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