Marcelena Mayhorn's blog

Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


On my first day of college orientation, the RA asked everyone on our hall to tell one fact about themselves. I proudly boasted that "I see everything in life as one big movie." My RA snickered. "Doesn't everyone?" she replied, as I shut my mouth and felt foolish. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a film that, if my old RA and I were to watch together, would agree is a great example of "life as one big movie."

The best way I can describe the film is like this: It reminded me of those days where you put your headphones on, rev up a good playlist, and just take in all that's happening around you. You might create a scenario for that guy who's in line ahead of you at the coffeeshop, or wonder where that mom and her kids are going. You create your own personal movie, one that only you know how it will end. I believe this is what lead actor and director Ben Stiller was going for.

Stiller plays Walter Mitty, a middle-aged man who works in the Negative Assests Department of LIFE Magazine. In this busy, fast-paced environment, we see that Walter seems out of place. He is awkward, mumbles each sentence and can't quite figure out how to interact with people. Instead, we see everything that he imagines (or maybe wishes) he could say -- to his friends, his coworkers and especially Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), the woman he has his eye on. These daydreams are played out in the most absurd of ways, although probably not too far off from something audience members have probably envisioned themselves doing in their own lives.

Holiday Favorites 2013: AFF's Erin Hallagan and 'The Man Who Came To Dinner'


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'm always one for off-the-wall, non-traditional holiday films.  And yet, I can't help but adore those old, classic Hollywood films that are also off the Christmas film radar. Austin Film Festival Conference Director Erin Hallagan shares one of these cinema greats with us.  

Although Erin spends her time immersed in creating a stellar conference and guest speaker lineup (both year-round and in October), she also has a great appreciation for the theater. And with her extensive background in theatre arts, it's easy to see why her pick is one for both stage and screen fans alike. Here's what she had to say:

Holiday Favorites 2013: Bears Fonte Is Ready to 'Go' This Christmas


GO still

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.

Today's pick comes from Austin Film Festival's Director of Programming, Bears Fonte. Always one to root for a story that's off the beaten path, Bears sent us a movie that might not be the first to come to mind when you think of the holidays. Here's what he had to share with us:

Before she was on the cover of every tabloid, Katie Holmes lent her then budding Dawson's Creek star power to one of the greatest indie comedies of the nineties, Go. Go was Doug Liman's next picture after Swingers, so I was all in, but he once again sort of got upstaged by the screenwriter, John August, who crafted an amazing, fast-paced ensemble comedy that jumps around in time in a Pulp Fiction sort-of-way (but actually far more effectively).  

What's Streaming: Strong and Amazing Women


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When I think back on 2013, I think of all the times I heard or read about strong, brave women around the world. Wendy Davis, Malala Yousafzai, Gabrielle Giffords and Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis caught my attention, each and every one of their battles epic in their own regard. Several of these ladies fought to protect the rights of women, often getting hurt or knocked down along the way. They didn't take "no" for an answer, and in some cases put their lives on the line for what they believe in. This was a rough year for the girls, but even in spite of all of this, it still made me incredibly proud to be a woman.

I gravitated toward this topic because I feel that lately I have been stumbling upon movies with great female protagonists. Some you side with from the start, while some you feel might just be flat out crazy. Nonetheless you root for them, even if it isn't until the very end. Before the year is over, I hope you take the time to thank and root for all of the amazingly beautiful women in your life. Happy holidays! 


Frances Ha -- How lucky I was to stumble upon this gem of a film, especially after all of the discussion I'd heard about it. Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a 27-year-old modern dancer living in New York City. She lives with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) and has a carefree life, taking each day as it comes. This comes to a halt, though, when she turns down the opportunity to move in with her boyfriend, only to discover that Sophie is moving out to live with someone else. Frances must then figure out how to navigate life solo, taking on odd jobs and having a few too many life lessons all at once. This film is one that I believe many twentysomethings will be able to relate to, particularly those in an artistic field. It gives you hope that friendship will always prevail and, even when life throws you a curveball, you can still find the silver linings in every situation. Jette reviewed the movie when it hit theaters earlier this year. Available on Netflix, Amazon Instant and iTunes.

AFF Review: Finding Neighbors


When was the last time you talked to your next door neighbor? With all of the crazy reports out there in the news today, it seems that we as human beings have become more closed off to the world. I recall having a realization that, after almost one-and-a-half years of living in my apartment, I had never introduced myself to (or even seen) the person next door. I'm sure I looked rather foolish making an introduction after so long, but it seemed so unusual to live right next door to someone and not know anything about them -- even their name. Writer/director Ron Judkins explores this exact topic in his latest film, Finding Neighbors.

Sam (Michael O'Keefe) is a graphic novel artist, famous for works he did many years ago. It appears that he's hit a lull in his career and is struggling to create anything for his latest book (we gather this through the many voicemails from his publisher). Although he is happily married to his wife Mary (Catherine Dent), he still seems to be missing some sort of outside connection. Working from home doesn't help this problem, either. Sam feels as if things won't ever change -- until he meets his sassy gay next-door neighbor, Jeff (Blake Bashoff). Jeff knows about Sam and his work, but Sam knows nothing about Jeff. In learning about Jeff's life and struggles, Sam begins to put the pieces of his life back together.

What's Streaming: Buddy Stories


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November is easily my favorite month of the year.  Fall is usually upon us here in Texas, friends start coming home for the holidays, and you get to start making plans for the new year ahead of you.  It's also that great time of year when Thanksgiving and Christmas movies get pulled off the shelf and popped into the DVD player.

As the time draws closer to spending time with family and friends, I always try to take the time to think of what I am most grateful for in my life.  My family and career are always at the top of the list, but there is one other thing that many of us overlook during this time -- close friends. These are the people who are there for you when your family cannot be, who encourage you to keep moving forward even when your career is at a low point. It's the friendships in our lives that push us forward more often than not.

This month's film choices all have a strong friendship theme to them or, as I like to call them, a "buddy story."  Take this month to thank your friends for being there for you -- maybe by watching one of these films together.

Review: Blue Is the Warmest Color


Every so often, a film comes along that gains a reputation. Maybe it's because it has graphic sex scenes or intense violence. Maybe the subject matter is something most audiences consider taboo. The stories often get swept under the rug, sadly -- or the movies are just watched to see what all of the hype is about instead of paying attention to the story. But these are the films that usually have the most substance, as they tell a story that truly captures us as humans. Blue Is the Warmest Color is one of these films.

I can't recall the last time a romance on film captivated me as much as this one. So many movies have been made about relationships of every kind, but rarely do you find one that contains all of the microscopic moments that make up a romance. It can be a glance, or the way a person holds someone's hand, or even just the way they reference the person they love. Director Abdellatif Kechiche has done that so beautifully in this film that it's making me scratch my head and thumb through my "Directing Actors 101" books.

The story follows Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a junior in high school struggling through the pressures of dating and sexuality. Realizing she is not attracted to boys like the rest of her friends, she finally accepts this fact after she meets Emma (Léa Seaydoux). Emma is unlike anyone Adèle has met before; she is a painter, a philosopher, a mentor and ultimately a lover. The bond these two women share is unlike any other, reminiscent of those tumultuous relationships many of us have been through at some point in our lives.

One of the complaints I have heard about Blue Is the Warmest Color is that its running time is too long (179 minutes). Sure, three hours is a stretch for a film; I couldn't get through Django Unchained without a bathroom break. But this movie hooked me, leaving me wanting to know what was going to happen next with these two. A film about a relationship sounds uneventful to most people, but Kechiche perfectly captures both the joyous new elements of budding love all the way down to the gritty, exposed parts. Three hours actually didn't seem like enough time.

AFF Review: The Little Tin Man


Certain films grab me from just the description of the story. Sure, that's how most films grab us, but sometimes the description can be vague or not true to the story, causing us to miss it entirely.  This is why when I read the description, "A struggling dwarf actor auditions for the role of The Tin Man in a Scorsese remake of The Wizard of Oz," I knew I had to do what I could to get a chance to see The Little Tin Man at AFF.

I'll admit: I was sold on the joke of Scorsese remaking The Wizard of Oz, as it is perhaps my favorite movie of all time. That idea alone would make anyone curious to see what The Little Tin Man was about. We often see films that follow the struggle of the working actor, looking for gigs that aren't just commercials and extra work; this isn't a new idea. But a struggling actor who is a little person trying to break the mold on the roles he is typically offered? That is a story I've not seen before.

AFF 2013 Dispatch: 'Inside Llewyn Davis'


With the conference winding down, I have found myself having AFF withdrawals.  Now that I was able to breathe (and sleep in) again, I was able to actually look at a schedule and try to pick something to go to in advance.

I had no intention of seeing Inside Llewyn Davis. It's not that I wasn't interested, but I knew that it would be coming out in theatres soon (December 20, in Austin). So when my friend Alexa told me she was going to make it downtown again for the screening, along with a handful of other friends who would be there, I figured I might as well see what it's all about.

I am a huge Coen Brothers fan. Films like Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski are up there amongst my favorites.  But lately, I felt the films they have put out haven't been their best. I tried to keep an open mind as AFF Film Department Director Ryan Darbonne introduced Oscar Isaac (who plays Llewyn Davis) and T-Bone Burnett (executive music producer on the film), who gave a quick introduction to the movie.

AFF 2013 Dispatch: Inside and Outside the Press Room


2-Face script reading at AFF

To say I have been all over Austin Film Festival would be an understatement. Although this is my third festival to attend, it is the first year that I have gone as a writer instead of an AFF staff member.

My experience has been a little different than that of my fellow Slackerwood contributors. I kicked off the festival Thursday afternoon in the OnStory Press Room, assisting in taping interviews for the television show's upcoming fourth season. We had a pretty packed schedule over the first four days of the conference, so I wasn't sure how being in that room for the majority of the festival would affect my overall experience.

It ended up being the time of my life. Even though I was just asking a certain set of questions for the show, I got to chat face-to-face with some great writers such as David Lowery, Rian Johnson, Vince Gilligan, Ray McKinnon, Jonathan Demme, Callie Khouri and many others. To hear these filmmakers talk about their process, including the challenges they face in their craft and how they overcome them, was truly inspiring. I may not have attended all of the panels I wanted, but I feel that I took away some very valuable information just from these interviews.

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