Marcelena Mayhorn's blog

SXSW Review: Faults


Faults still

I've never been one for films about cults. I suppose it's because they're such a taboo subject within our society, not to mention they flat out give me the creeps, I've never gone out of my way to watch films on the topic. And no, not even when people gave me the nickname "Martha Marcy May Marcelena." But something caught my attention in reading about Riley Stearns' debut feature film, Faults.

The story starts with a deadbeat guy getting kicked out of a restaturant. He is trying to use a free meal voucher, but the manager knows he already used it the night before. The guy downs his food, then tries to eat all of the condiments on the table. After a physical struggle with the manager, he is thrown out of the restaurant. This is Ansel (Leland Orser), our film's protagonist. What I later realized I enjoyed so much about this intro is that it sets up the main character perfectly: a washed up, once-famous public speaker who will do what he can to con people, even for a free meal.

SXSW 2014: Adventures of a Wristbandit


The life of a "wristbandit" (or "wristbandito," as Jette calls them) can be a lonely one. While your friends are getting into the coveted ACC film panels, staggering around 6th Street wandering into parties and snagging good seats at the Paramount Theatre, you're left to wonder if the theater capacity will cut off right before you after you waited for 90 minutes in line in the freezing cold rain.

Okay, so... Maybe that only happened one time.  But my first year as a SXSW wristband wearer has been nothing short of exciting and filled with unexpected surprises.

Austin at SXSW 2014: Gabe Klinger, 'Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater'

Any documentary filmmaker will tell you that the process to make a film takes time. Filmmaker Gabe Klinger will tell you that the idea for his SXSW premiere film, Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater, was an idea that had been with him for many years.

Double Play examines the friendship between filmmakers James Benning and Richard Linklater. Klinger teamed up with local production company The Bear Media as well as the Austin Film Society to help bring this film to life. Through scenes filmed at Linklater's Bastrop home as well as archival footage, we as the audience can quietly observe these artists discussing their lives, art, and what it means to be a filmmaker.

I got the chance to ask Klinger a few questions via email before the film's debut this weekend. See what he has to say about how he approached these two filmmakers, as well as what his influences were in the process.

Texas at SXSW 2014: The Shorts


Elizabeth filled us in on the Austin and Texas feature films that are going to be playing at this year's SXSW Film Festival.  In an effort to keep you in the loop, as well as to proudly support our local filmmakers, we here at Slackerwood bring you the Lone Star short films that are playing in the 2014 film lineup. Most but not all are in the Texas Shorts block.

Texas Shorts

Dig -- Fellow contributor Debbie Cerda got to check out this film (her review), which premiered at Sundance last month. This is the directorial debut of Dallas-area producer Toby Halbrooks, and was produced by DFW-based production company Sailor Bear. The film stars the very adorable Mallory Mahoney as Jenny, a young girl who is intrigued by the hole her father (Austin actor Jonny Mars) is digging in their backyard. 

Easy -- Dallas filmmaker Daniel Laabs brings us a short that follows two brothers who are on the verge of different stages of adulthood.  His last film, 8, won the Grand Jury Prize for short films at SXSW 2011. This is Laabs' fifth piece as a director, with Austin's own Ashland Viscosi on board as a producer. Texas Theatre co-owner Adam Donaghey produced this as well as I Was A Teenage Girl.

Review: 2014 Academy Award Nominated Short Films


Updated 2/9 to include a review of Prison Terminal.

In previewing all of the short films that have been nominated for the 2014 Academy Awards this season, I must give a shout out to film programmers here and around the world.  I don't know how you guys do it, but trying to watch an amalgam of films (short and feature length) and deciding which you like best makes my brain turn to oatmeal.

Okay, so that's a little dramatic, but I have a new respect for both programmers and short filmmakers alike. To make a feature is an incredible feat, but to try and tell a story in under 20-30 minutes? The thought alone could make one's head spin. Thankfully, the Academy has already narrowed down which films they think are the cream of the crop, and it's easy to see why.

Animated Shorts

I've always been one to gravitate towards this category. Perhaps its the inner child in me longing to still watch Disney films, but I truly love the craft of the animation process and am fascinated to see how it is constantly evolving.  Get A Horse! is probably the most recognizable name in this bunch, as it's the short that preceded this past year's Disney hit, Frozen. Although I always enjoy a good Disney short, my favorites of the bunch were Room on the Broom (United Kingdom), about a young witch and group of animal friends who have a daring adventure, and Mr. Hublot (France), about an eccentric robot man who finds his life changed upon taking in a robot dog.

What's Streaming: Different Shades of Love


For being such a short month, February has a lot going on. With Black History Month, Valentine's Day and Groundhog Day, this month seems to encapsulate feelings of reflection, hope and love all in just a few short weeks. I started my film watching for this month in a cheery, romantic comedy mindset. "I'll write about finding love! And happily ever afters!" I thought, focusing on Valentine's Day as my main element.

After a day or two of being on a romcom kick, I finally calmed down, took a breath, and looked at all of the people that I know in my life. I thought of the love of dear friends near and far, of parents, of the people lost over the years. It can be so easy to think that a romantic type of love is all that this month celebrates... but really, it's all of the love you share with others in your life.

Single, in a relationship, married -- whatever your status is, take the time to focus on the different kinds of love you have in your life. Maybe these films will help you to remember some of them. Happy February!

SXSW Announces 2014 Midnight Features and Shorts


SXSW Film logoThe SXSW 2014 Film Festival and Conference released their feature film lineup last week, and have now let audiences in on what the lineup will be for their Midnight Features and Short Film selections.

As someone who has never attended the Midnight Film Series before, quite a few titles and descriptions caught my attention. Stage Fright from Jerome Sable (which was just picked up for distribution by Magnet) promises to be a combination of "Scream meets Glee" in a genre-bending horror musical. Home from Nicholas McCarthy is described as being about a realtor trying to sell a home where a teenage girl sold her soul to the devil. Naya Rivera leads the cast, although I must say I was sad to see she wasn't in the Glee/Scream fusion. Both films are world premieres.

Another film that caught our attention here at Slackerwood is The Guest, from director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett. Their previous film, You're Next, screened at 2011's Fantastic Fest, and later at the 2013 SXSW Film Fest. Based on the reception and raving audience reviews of that movie, we're sure their latest work will be at the top of a lot of filmgoers' lists.

SXSW Producer and Senior Programmer Jarod Neece expressed his excitement about their provocative, after-dark features lineup. From the press release: "What an amazing year for genre film! We were blown away by the quality of work submitted and narrowing them down was no easy task.  We have first-time filmmakers, female filmmakers, SXSW veterans and genre filmmaking legends -- all hoping to scare the crap out of you in the wee hours of the night."

Review: Labor Day


Whenever I hear mention of writer/director Jason Reitman's work, I instantly think of this formula: awkward, lonely lead character + quirky and slightly unrealistic story premise = a somewhat enduring dramady of a film. When I saw the opening credits for Labor Day, I actually let out some bizarre open-mouthed gasp because I didn't realize he had written and directed it -- I'd clearly done my research in advance.

I was waiting to meet the outspoken lead, the one who is cool on the outside but incredibly lost and confused on the inside. It was a great surprise to instead encounter Adele (Kate Winslet), a single mother trying to raise her 13-year-old son Henry (Gattlin Griffith). We meet these two some years after Henry's father has left them, trying to cope with Adele's social anxiety and fear of the outside world. Henry feels the burden of being the only man in the house, trying to fill a gap he knows cannot be filled.  A monthly trip to the grocery store seems to be routine -- that is, until an escaped convict named Frank (Josh Brolin) comes along.

Review: The Invisible Woman


I've always felt that there's something quite beautiful and haunting about British cinema. Actor/director Ralph Fiennes, in his second time working behind the camera, shows us just how true that can be with The Invisible Woman.

The film's trailer would lead one to believe that this is a story about a hidden romance that eventually blossoms and embraces our main characters. It is hard to believe that the great author Charles Dickens had a secret life, hiding one woman away for so long. Research proves, however, that this is actually fact... for the most part. (The story itself is based on the book The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin.)

Fiennes is at his acting best, although one wouldn't expect anything less from him. His portrayal of Dickens causes one to raise eyebrows as he ping-pongs back and forth between being a jovial, brilliant artist to being a man torn between his desires and husbandly duties. This struggle is made clear when he meets Nelly (Felicity Jones), a beautiful 18-year-old actress who is enamored with Dickens' work. One might question whether his attraction to her is based on love or of flattery; perhaps it is a bit of both.

What's Streaming: Starting Fresh


Many of us tend to think the start of the New Year means the start of another year of getting older. Life catches up to us in one way or another, and sometimes we focus on the negative before we can see the positive. This New Year, someone told me they weren't sure they believed that a new year necessarily meant that you could start over. I had to kindly disagree with them.

A New Year might just seem like another notch on the belt, but it really is a chance to set new goals for yourself. Not just the usual "lose weight/exercise every day" sort of goals, but a chance to do something different and new with your year. We never realize how much time we have left until it's too late; why not take advantage of that realization in 2014?

This month's selection of films feature characters and stories about wanting to make a new start for one's self or, if anything, figuring out how to refresh their current situation at hand. Hopefully they will inspire you to take hold of this year and make it your own. After all -- it only happens once a year!

C.O.G. -- As a big David Sedaris and Jonathan Groff fan, there was no way this film was going to get past me. Groff plays David, a cocky twentysomething college graduate who decides to go off the radar for a while by working on an apple orchard in Oregon. Thinking he is the intellectual superior to everyone he meets, he quickly realizes how out of his element he is when he sees that he is in an outcast in this small community of farmers and immigrants. The film itself is full of those typical, Sedaris-esque moments of awkwardness, humor and discomfort all rolled into one. Groff's character is one that you want to hate, but end up rooting for by the end. It's a true example of the discovery that none of us is better than anyone else in this world. Available on Netflix, Amazon Instant and iTunes.

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