Elizabeth Stoddard's blog

Slacker 2011: Ben Steinbauer Can't Return to Les Amis Cafe


Still by Ben Steinbauer

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

Today's interview is with Ben Steinbauer, director of the 2009 acclaimed documentary Winnebago Man (Don's review), which won the Austin Film Critics Association Award for Best Austin Film in 2010.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film are you reshooting?

Ben Steinbauer: I'm re-shooting the scene with the angry hitchhiker who gets interviewed by a young video crew outside Les Amis Cafe. The hitchhiker is bumming cigarettes off the people sitting on the patio and gets approached by a video crew who inadvertently give him the opportunity to rant directly into their camera.

Slacker 2011: Alamo's Daniel Metz Revisits the Continental Club


Still by Peter Simonite

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. As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the Austinites participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project.

Today's interview is with Alamo Drafthouse film programmer Daniel Metz, who programs Alamo Cinema Club and other series. Metz is the producer for the Alamo Drafthouse segment of Slacker 2011.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film are you reshooting?

Daniel Metz: We're filming the "anti-artist" scene that takes place in the Continental Club. Originally the scene features the iconic Austin band Ed Hall playing in the background, and local personality Wammo plays the bartender. Instead of trying to re-unite Ed Hall, we decided to try to find a band that is to Austin now what Ed Hall was to the city then; after a bit of soul searching, we came up with the Invincible Czars.

Review: Kung Fu Panda 2


Kung Fu Panda 2 screenshot

I'll admit first off that I really liked Kung Fu Panda when it came out a few years back. Therefore, it's not that big of a surprise that I loved Kung Fu Panda 2. This sequel, helmed by Jennifer Yuh in her film directing debut, comes the closest to Pixar heart than any other Dreamworks animated movie I've seen, but still keeps the laughs coming.

A colorful shadow puppet tale kicks off the movie. In this prologue, we learn the story of Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a peacock who becomes so obsessed with firepower that his parents kick him out of their kingdom. Then we join our cuddly protagonist Po (Jack Black) and his Furious Five friends as they play with dumplings and fight Lord Shen's underlings, who are stealing metal from poor villagers.

Lord Shen forges the stolen metal for a cannon he uses to take out one of Po's kung-fu heroes, Master Thundering Rhino (Victor Garber!), when he refuses Shen entry into his childhood home. Po and the Furious Five must travel to protect this city from destruction, spouting silliness along the way. Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) warns the group that Shen's weapons could mean the end of kung fu. Po replies, "But I just got kung fu!" This main plotline may seem somewhat predictable, but it's handled in such an enjoyable fashion that it didn't bother me.

Review: Something Borrowed


John Krasinski, Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, & Colin Egglesfield

Something Borrowed is based on Emily Giffin's 2005 bestselling novel about old friends, romance, and betrayal. I likely wasn't the only one in the theatre for the screening who had read the book a few years back and forgotten it soon afterwards (although during the film, I did keep thinking about the book's sequel).

Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Darcy (a lively Kate Hudson) have been best pals since childhood. They love each other because they always have. We as viewers aren't exactly clear on why they are still friends, since they have little in common except love for Darcy's fiance, Dex (Colin Egglesfield, All My Children), but we'll come back to that. In Rachel's law office, a sampler hangs on the wall with the "Make new friends, but keep the old..." saying on it. She can't give up old friends, even if they are inconsiderate, selfish and slightly obtuse. She is just that big of a person.

Paramount Update: P.S. Party and Summer Film Schedule


projectorLast Thursday, the Paramount Theatre threw a party to celebrate the theater's upcoming summer film series -- although the series schedule wasn't announced at the time. This will be the Paramount's 36th summer movie series.

Anyone who RSVP'd online for "P.S. -- A Paramount/Stateside Affair" received a nifty badge at sign-in (at the newly re-opened State Theatre) with discount offers on the back. I imagine I'll use my ticket discount for more than a few of the upcoming summer classics at the downtown theater.

Drinks poured freely, a DJ spun music from the mezzanine of the Paramount, and the Paramount's projector room was open for tours ... as you can see from the photo on the right. Hundreds of people turned out for the party, which hopefully will become an annual event.

Below are some of my photos from the shindig, and more photos of the event can be found on the Paramount's Facebook page.

On Monday, P.S. party attendees received a special preview -- a link to a PDF of the Paramount summer film schedule.

There's a little something for everyone this summer at the Paramount. Which movies on the schedule are you planning to see?

Review: Jane Eyre


Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre

In ninth grade I read Jane Eyre of my own volition; it wasn't required reading at my school.  The novel was dark and romantic, so of course I adored it. I watched the melodramatic 1943 classic with Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles (and a very young Elizabeth Taylor in an uncredited role). I haven't re-read the novel since and was unsure what to expect from this 2011 Jane Eyre film adaptation.  Would any slight reference to Wide Sargasso Sea be made? (Answer: not really.)  I found myself inferring certain things from that parallel novel as I watched Cary Fukunaga's take on Charlotte Bronte's original story.

Mia Wasikowska plays our heroine Jane as undiminished, wistful and a sort of realist. "I imagine things I'm powerless to execute," she confesses to her employer's housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench!). In flashbacks, we see how Jane's young fire slowly dims in her dealings with a spiteful aunt (Sally Hawkins) and then with the teachers at the autocratic school to which her aunt sends her. Her first position after leaving school is as governess to a French-speaking orphan who is under the guardianship of the imposing, darkly handsome and slightly shady Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender).

You probably know the story of Jane Eyre from here, but the relationship between Jane and the Rivers family who discover her stranded on the moor is worth a mention. Jamie Bell's St. John Rivers is a striking figure -- the last movie I remembered seeing Bell in was Nicholas Nickleby, and he's certainly filled out since then! 

Review: The Adjustment Bureau


Emily Blunt and Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau

In The Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon is a politician, Emily Blunt is a contemporary dancer, and free will is a joke. The title of George Nolfi's first film comes from a group of bureaucrats who work to keep things in line with "the plan." The movie starts off somewhat awkwardly using a montage with Damon's character David Norris on the campaign trail. In this montage: politician cameos (Madeleine Albright! Wesley Clark! etc.) and talking heads who are given the task of telling us about his character. In the first five minutes of the film, we learn more about his background from pundit Mary Matalin than from anyone else, which just seems strange.

Norris is young and hip, but still loses his Senate campaign. As he practices his concession speech in the bathroom of the Waldorf, he meets cute with wedding crasher Elisa (Blunt). They are drawn to each other, but become separated. This is the main story of the film -- these two gorgeous kids seem MFEO, but the fates are working against them. Except they aren't fates, they are all dudes (the movie flunks the Bechdel test) wearing fedoras, working for "The Chairman" upstairs.

Review: Somewhere


Elle Fanning, Stephen Dorff in Somewhere

I tend to smirk when I hear about producers who've said a movie won't play well in Middle America. But if there is a movie to which such a ridiculous generalized statement might apply, it's Somewhere. I say this as a fan of director Sofia Coppola's early work (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation).

Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a fortysomething action movie star who dwells in the famed Chateau Marmont hotel in LA. He doesn't instigate much in the film -- things just happen around him or to him. A friend throws parties in Johnny's suite, female hotel-dwellers flirt ceaselessly with him, and work-wise, his assistant/agent arranges everything for him: he just shows up.

For a film directed by a female, it's strange how dominant the male gaze is in Somewhere. Johnny sleepily watches pole-dancing strippers from his bed, women flash their breasts at him at various points of the film, and the only long-term relationship Mr. Marco has with any female is with his tween daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). It's too bad Cleo doesn't stick around for the whole film -- the scenes between her and her father are the liveliest this movie gets.

Review: Rabbit Hole


Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole

In Rabbit Hole, director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) captures a period of time in the life of a married couple in suburban New York, months after their young son has died. Given this set-up, you might expect the film to be maudlin and depressing. Miraculously, even as the film deals seriously with some unhappy issues, it is able to do so without pulling the audience through the emotional wringer. 

Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie Corbett's (Aaron Eckhart) son Danny was hit by a car in front of their house. To help cope with his death, they attend support group meetings -- where they meet Gaby (Sandra Oh) and her husband -- but neither seem to benefit from them.  

Becca has a rather fraught relationship with her younger sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard, The Good Shepherd), and is annoyed that her mom Nat (a magnificent Dianne Wiest) keeps comparing Becca's current situation to her own. She begins a sort of friendship with Jason (Miles Teller), the high-school student and aspiring comic-book artist involved in the accident that killed her son.  

Review: Made in Dagenham


Geraldine James, Sally Hawkins and Andrea Riseborough in Made in Dagenham

Opening at the Arbor on Friday, the British movie Made in Dagenham is a feminist film, and doesn't hide it. It's also quite hilarious, with deft performances and witty writing.

Based in 1968, Made in Dagenham tells the true story of the female workers at the Ford of Britain motor plant in Dagenham who protest when they are re-graded as unskilled workers. This change in pay class means they are paid less, of course. The plant's union rep Albert (Bob Hoskins) helps convince plant seamstress Rita O'Grady (Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins, Happy Go Lucky) to represent the ladies for union talks with Ford leadership. Rita and Albert, along with another plant seamstress and usual union rep Connie (Geraldine James), head to London to speak to the bigwigs. Eventually a strike for equal pay is called that impacts the female plant workers as well as the males.

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