Elizabeth Stoddard's blog

AFF Review: "Where I'm From" Texas Shorts


Now Leaving Amarillo

Jake Silverstein, Texas Monthly editor-in-chief, introduced the "Where I'm From" Texas shorts program at Austin Film Festival by explaining how it came to be. This is the first year of the magazine's collaboration with AFF -- in previous years, the shorts contest has been online only. Out of more than 100 reader submissions (Silverstein was unclear on the exact number), there were 18 semifinalists. These were narrowed down to the 11 finalist films which screened at the festival. A panel of judges then picked the three winners, which were announced at the Saturday screening.

First on the program was Will O'Loughlin's film 254 about his travels all over the Lone Star State. While still photographs appear onscreen, O'Loughlin's (somewhat monotone) narration explains how over a span of 15 years, he has driven through every county in Texas, all 254 of them. H-Town Up & Down was the only dramatization in the bunch. A 20-something go-getter's car breaks down in the outskirts of Houston and he has to figure out a way to get to his interview with a firm downtown. Drew Lewis' short has a few funny moments, but the acting leans towards the style of "Hey kids, let's put on a show."

AFF Review: You Hurt My Feelings


John Merriman, Courtney Davis, Macon Blair and Lilian & Violet Collins in You Hurt My Feelings

"You hurt my feelings," a small girl tells her male nanny (manny?) in the opening segment of this slice-of-life, independent film. John (John Merriman) seems an odd choice of a babysitter; he passively lets the kids climb all over him and tends to stare out into space and lose himself in contemplation. What is he contemplating? Why his ex-girlfriend Courtney (Courtney Davis) would break up with him to date a guy named Macon (Macon Blair) who admits that he shares more than a passing resemblance to Johnny.

You Hurt My Feelings moves with the seasons, slowly letting us peek into elements of John's personal life. One of the suprising aspects of the movie is how like a silent film it seems. There are scenes where John and Courtney don't speak aloud, but their motions and facial expressions speak for them. Unlike a silent film, however, the only soundtrack to this movie is composed of incidental noises and songs.

AFF 2011, Day Three: Free Wine and Tex Mex P*rn


Steven Belyeu & Jake Silverstein announce the "Where I'm From" Film winners

My very, very full day started early Saturday morning with the Molly Shannon taping of KLRU's Overheard with Evan Smith. She was running late, but was delightful when she arrived.  It was totally worth getting up at 7 am for. Choice bit of trivia that she told the audience before the cameras were running: when she was a waitress working in LA (before her big break on SNL), Johnny Depp would eat at her restaurant and leave extremely generous tips. She said he told her that his mom had once been a waitress.

After the taping, I hightailed it over to the Bob Bullock Museum where I left my car in the garage for the day and waded through the book festival on Congress towards the Driskill. The first Austin Film Festival item on my schedule for Saturday was the panel led by Elizabeth Hunter and Pamela Gray on "The Heroine's Journey: Writing and Selling the Female-Driven Screenplay."  The room quickly filled up; some people were even standing in the back or sitting on the floor behind the chairs.

Lone Star Cinema: Waiting for Guffman


Waiting for Guffman title card

[Editor's Note: Lone Star Cinema is a new series in which we look at Austin and Texas-shot/set movies that are available on DVD, Blu-ray, or online. Lockhart seemed like a great place to start.]

Christopher Guest has gathered quite a following through his trilogy of mockumentaries, starting with 1996's Waiting for Guffman and following with 2000's Best in Show and 2003's A Mighty Wind. Let's just forget that For Your Consideration ever happened, shall we?) I missed Waiting for Guffman in the theatres; the first time I watched it was with friends in a college dorm room, as we rolled on the floor, laughing.

For the 1996 film, Guest chose to film in Lockhart, Texas because it added a small-town feel.  Waiting for Guffman opens to scenes of Lockhart's courtyard square, but the movie is based in fictional Blaine, Missouri, aka "The Stool Capitol of the World."  Blaine is celebrating its sesquicentennial, and the city council has asked resident auteur Corky St. Clair (Guest) to direct a play to mark the occasion.  He and music director Lloyd Miller (Bob Balaban) hold auditions; Austinite Turk Pipkin shows up in this sequence as a ping-pong juggler.  The folks who make the cut: Eugene Levy's nervous dentist Dr. Allan Pearl, travel agent couple Catherine O'Hara and Fred Willard, and Parker Posey's Dairy Queen employee Libby.

Review: I Don't Know How She Does It


Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear, Emma Lyle and Julius Goldberg in I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT

Several times during this movie, miscellaneous characters talking about fund manager and mother Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker) admit, "I don't know how she does it." Just in case you were unsure what the title of the comedy was or hadn't read the original 2002 novel by Allison Pearson!

In I Don't Know How She Does It, Bostonite Kate is constantly pulled between the business and domestic spheres. It's the age-old story, simplified for film. Kate loves her job, but feels like she is missing her children's formative years. When she's home with her two kids and husband Richard (a handsomely bespectacled Greg Kinnear), she worries that her jerky male officemate Chris Bunce (SNL's Seth Meyers) will claim that all her hard work was really his.

Review: Contagion


Laurence Fishburne and Kate Winslet in Contagion

Steven Soderbergh's latest film, Contagion, opens on "Day 2" as traveling businesswoman Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) soon falls victim to a virus that is hitting a few others worldwide. A Japanese businessman faints on a bus, a twenty-something man in Hong Kong walks around in delirium and a model in London feels unwell at a photoshoot. Beth is married to Mitch (Matt Damon), who is immune to the virus, but whose teen daughter may not be. Theirs is just one of the many stories in this frenetic film.

While World Health Organization doctor (Marion Cotillard) finds trouble during her Hong Kong research, CDC doctor Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) heads to Minneapolis to investigate the source of this MEV-1 virus, and her boss, CDC Head Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), deals with higher-ups (Bryan Cranston) and a long distance fiancee (Sanaa Lathan). And also! Jude Law plays a paranoid blogger (his blog has 12 million unique visitors, y'all), and Jennifer Ehle (best known for her Elizabeth in BBC's Pride and Prejudice miniseries) and twee hipster comedian Demetri Martin play CDC labworkers.

'Slacker 2011' Premieres at the Paramount


Slacker 2011 marquee

The movie Slacker 2011 premiered last week to a sold-out crowd at the historic Paramount Theatre. The festivities included a red carpet set out front for the many filmmakers and actors involved in the remake. The screening was set to start at 7 pm, but the introduction by two of the movie's producers, Alamo Drafthouse programmer Daniel Metz and Brian Poyser from Austin Film Society, actually began closer to 7:30.  

The duo thanked all the people who helped make the film. Austin's mayor Lee Leffingwell made a proclamation, then Richard Linklater came onstage to express his excitement to see the remake of his film Slacker, as well as introduce cast members from the original 1991 film who were in attendance.  

You can read Don's review of the film here; the audience at the Paramount loved the movie. There were a couple of spots where the film projection paused and stuttered. Still, this couldn't ruin the feeling of bonhomie in the room. There was a general burst of excitement as the last scene popped up on the screen.

Review: The Help


Viola Davis in The Help

Kathryn Stockett's novel The Help has been discussed in many book groups since it was published in 2009. Given some of the controversy the book has stirred up, I went into the film adaptation of the novel with some trepidation. I needn't have worried. In the hands of the expert actresses involved, aided by a touching screenplay and dedicated direction from actor/writer/director Tate Taylor, The Help is one of the best movies I've seen this year.

I won't go into much detail about any way the film differs from the book, because I only remembered main plot points and the strong female characters involved in the novel. Although the book is told from three different viewpoints, the movie The Help is narrated by maid Aibileen (Viola Davis). Aibileen works as a nanny/maid to a middle-class family in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. She loves her charge Mae Mobley fiercely, but knows that she can only do so much to make up for the lack of love the girl receives from her mother Elizabeth (Ahna O'Reilly). She lives alone in a small home where a photo of her son holds a place of prominence.

Aibileen's best friend Minny (Octavia Spencer) used to work for dotty Missus Walters (Sissy Spacek), but now suffers under her tyrannical daughter Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) ... until Hilly fires Minny for using the house toilet (instead of her own "special" Jim Crow toilet outside). Minny is down and out until nouveau riche Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) hires her.

Slacker 2011: Sam Wainwright Douglas Decides to Hitchhike


Chris Trew, Christopher Lee and Adam Parks in Slacker 2011

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF). The trailer is now available. As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project.

Today's interview is with Sam Wainwright Douglas, documentarian and director of Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio, as well as The Holy Modal Rounders: Bound to Lose. He also acted in 2010's The Happy Poet.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you reshoot?

Sam Douglas: I shot Scene 12, known as the mechanic scene. It's the one where the conspiracy buff annoys the guy working on his car, the mechanic's buddy shows up, they talk cars, they head to the junkyard, swipe some auto parts, pick up an angry, grumpy hitchhiker, he rants for a while as they drive him around and then they drop him off.

Slacker 2011: Bob Ray Directs, Acts and Rides a Pedicab


Slacker 2011 still courtesy CrashCam Films

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund. The trailer is now available. As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project.

Today's interview is with Bob Ray, director of Total Badass and Hell on Wheels. He notes that he repurposed people involved with those documentaries (and other of his past projects) for his Slacker 2011 scene: "Chad Holt [the subject of Total Badass] plays the Grocery Grabber in the Slacker 2011 opening scene and played a weed dealer in my first film, Rock Opera... Total Badass's Adam Reposa is in the Slacker scene. Sarah Kihls (aka Miss Conduct) was in Hell on Wheels and Michael Dalmon, of CrashToons's Platypus Rex and APESH!T fame, both played parts in the scene as well."

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you re-shoot?

Bob Ray: I (along with a bunch of badass Austin musicians, artists, skaters, filmmaker pals and the kickass producer Mia Cevallos) remade the opening scene. It's the scene where Richard Linklater plays a guy who rides a bus into Austin, jumps in a cab and talks about alternate realities and the what-ifs of choices not made. He then hops out of the cab, witnesses a hit-and-run murder and appears to steal someone's purse. Although, he probably just snagged the purse to get the identification of the deceased, but I like to think he straight up stole it.

Syndicate content