Marcelena Mayhorn's blog

AFF 2013: Sessions and Panels We Can't Wait to Attend

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It's no secret that Austin Film Festival has a stellar lineup this year. Although we here at Slackerwood are always eager to tell you our top picks for upcoming films, we thought we would switch it up a bit by also telling you a little about the conference panels we are most excited to attend.

AFF left no stone unturned with their lineup of speakers and presenters for this year's 20th anniversary celebration. If you know anyone on the AFF staff, you know how long and hard they worked to bring you these stellar writers, actors and filmmakers. The awardees alone are names to be marveled at: Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad, The X-Files) will receive the Outstanding Television Writer Award; Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) will receive the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award (to be presented by Paul Thomas Anderson); Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise, Nashville) will take home the Distinguished Screenwriter Award, and AFF recently announced Susan Sarandon will receive the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking -- Actor Honoree Award. The fest will also present a special Heart of Film Award to producer Barry Josephson for all of his work with the festival these past 20 years.

What's Streaming: Overcoming Fear

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October has gained a reputation for being the scariest month of the year. Halloween is upon us, the air is getting colder, and we dance the line between autumn and winter. This is, understandably, also the time of year when all of the ghoulish and haunted films come off the shelves. Just like with classic Christmas movies, Halloween films also have their place in our hearts.

When you think of the horror films we've come to know over the years, you might first consider the scary elements: the monsters, the traps, the thought of yelling out "behind you!" every five minutes, etc. These themes jump out at us right away because they are usually very obvious. When I think of these films, I mostly think of the endings -- when the hero has survived the monster along with the fear that has been chasing him or her for about 90 minutes or so.

With that in mind, I've selected a few films that I think embody the theme we don't always think about in a scary movie: overcoming fear. I didn't choose any scary or Halloween themed films for this month, but I did select a few that I think show what it means to overcome a large or personal battle. We often celebrate the hero for the physical obstacles they have overcome, but not always the emotional ones.

Review: Still Mine

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The subject of age in film has always been a fascinating one to me. Hollywood tries so hard to focus on the next up-and-coming star or starlet, glorifying them in HD on the big screen. We as audiences are looking to stay forever young through the films we watch too, focusing on what we can do to make ourselves look thinner and younger, just like these celebrities.

That's why films like Still Mine are important to me. It's not often that you see a film that focuses on the struggle of the later years in life, when family has grown up and moved on. In a film world full of romantic comedies often centered on young people, we don't often hear the stories of the ones who have lived through the most.

Craig (James Cromwell) and his wife Irene (Geneviéve Bujold) have been married for 61 years. They live a simple life on a farm, we are introduced to their daily activities: raising cattle, harvesting their own vegetables, and essentially living off the land that they own. Their daily routine is unbreakable and content, until Irene begins to lose her memory. Little things at first, but each day seems to get worse once she stops remembering things like where she lives or where things are in the house. Without Irene's contributions towards the upkeep of their property, Craig realizes that it is too big of a homestead for them to take care of. In an effort to help Irene regain her memory as well as to take on a new challenge, he decides that he is going to build a new home for them elsewhere on their property.  

What's Streaming: Learning To Grow

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For anyone under the age of 22, September can be a dreaded time of year. Not only does the weather change, kicking us out of our swimming pools and fun outdoor activities, but it also means time for the one word most kids hate: school. Although I myself used to be one of those kids, there is one thing in particular that I have always remembered and liked about this month: it is usually time for a new chapter in my life to begin.

With the start of a new school year, I recall the feeling of seeing old friends again, and being so excited to make new ones. I knew I would be learning new subjects, and expanding my mind on ones that I had already been taught. As I got older though, I realized that every year also meant getting older, becoming more mindful of the world around me. I was more aware of myself as a person in my chosen career and, even though I am long since out of the classroom, I still find myself looking at September as a month of change.

This month, I've selected a few films that I enjoy because of the elements of growth the stories present. Some might be obvious, but some might leave you thinking about it even long after the credits roll. I hope that this month, you'll take a moment to think about how much you've grown as an individual, and maybe (just maybe) how certain films have helped you do that.

Review: Austenland

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I can't recall if I've ever been a huge Jane Austen fan. Sure, I have always appreciated her writing, and even starred in a high-school production of Pride and Prejudice. (Don't get excited -- I just played the maid.) I do know that I typically don't go out of my way to see film adaptations of her work because I have never found myself to be the "hopeless romantic" type. This is why I have decided that Austenland is the perfect film for someone like me -- eager to keep the realism of romance, but secretly wanting our heroine to find a good guy in the end. 

Jane (played by the adorable Keri Russell) is obsessed with Jane Austen's work. We see a quick flash of her childhood and young adult life, which includes all things British ... such as a life-size cut out of Colin Firth in costume as Mr. Darcy. We also see that her present life is nowhere near as glamorous or charming as the women in Austen's books. It is around this time that Jane decides she is going to cash in her life savings and take the trip she has always wanted to take -- to Austenland, in search of her own Mr. Darcy.

From the start of her adventure she teams up with Elizabeth (Jennifer Coolidge), who quickly becomes Jane's sidekick and plays the touristy American looking to take in the men more than the sights. Since all the guests are women, everything is catered toward what women did during this time period. Needlepoint, playing cards and lots of walking are just a few of the thrilling activities for the resort patrons.

The tricky thing about this place though is you don't quite know what is real or what is just part of the act. Austenland's owner Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour) does everything to make her guests stay as authentically "Austen" as possible, romantic encounters included. Does Martin (Bret McKenzie), the lowly stable boy, win Jane's affection? Or will it be Henry (JJ Feild), the standoffish, grumpy noble?

Paramount's Traditional 'GWTW' Summer Closer Adds a Special Guest

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It is always a bittersweet occassion when the Paramount Theatre's Summer Classic Film Series comes to a close, if anything because it symbolizes that summer is over in Austin. Nonetheless, the theatre is closing the series properly with its traditional screening of the cinematic epic Gone With The Wind.  

These past few months have brought in film critics and lovers alike, with presentations from Leonard Maltin (who kicked off the first Friday night screening of the series) and musical group Iron and Wine. So it should come as no surprise that the series will close with the screening, an in-depth discussion of the film, and a Q&A with Turner Classic Movies host/film historian Robert Osborne.  Osborne has been the primetime host and anchor of TCM since it made its on-air debut in 1994. He is the official biographer of "Oscar" (which discusses the history of the Academy Awards), and hosts the annual TCM Classic Film Festival at the legendary Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Paramount Film Programmer Stephen Jannise told me about his excitement of having Osborne here for this special event. "I think those of us who have really appreciated Osborne's introductory comments before TCM films over the years have always wished we could see more of him.  On Friday, he'll have close to an hour to talk about Gone With The Wind, so we'll get a chance to hear him at length. I'm sure our audience will come with some really great questions; Osborne certainly has a wealth of experiences to talk about."

'Black Metal' Back On The Scene (and Online)

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It's always a great joy for us to bring you updates on our local filmmakers, so when we heard that Black Metal is back on the radar, we here at Slackerwood couldn't have been more thrilled. Director Kat Candler and the rest of her team announced  Monday that the film has been selected as a finalist in TheWrap's Short List Film Festival.

Now in its second year, TheWrap has brought together 12 awardwinning shorts, showcasing the best of the best of this year's top international festivals. The films are available to stream online and on your mobile device until next Thursday, August 29.  Viewers can then go and vote on which films they think should make it to the finalist round. This year's winning films will get a first-look deal, will be aired on an MTV network and will receive a package of camera equipment for their next short or feature.

Austin Filmmakers Carry 'The Book of Joe' to Hollywood

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It's an amazing honor to see local filmmakers' work showcased here in town. It's even more amazing when those same filmmakers have the opportunity to present their movies outside of Texas. Such is the case with Austin filmmaker Mario J. Pena and his sci-fi short film The Book of Joe.

Pena's film has been selected to screen in the "Midnight Madness" shorts program on August 17 during the HollyShorts Film Festival in Los Angeles, California. This will be the second festival run for the film following its sold-out world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival's Shorts Fest Weekend this past June.

The film was produced and shot last year here in Austin, and is Pena's most recent collaboration with producers Alex Davis-Lawrence and Samantha Rae Lopez, as well as art director Dana Archip. Archip and Pena's previous work includes the winner of the 2010 Fantastic Fest Bumper Competition, Cherry Pie. The Book of Joe also appears to be a first for several local actors, including Geronimo Son, Stephanie Ard and Mike Vera.

Review: Blue Jasmine

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It has been my experience that most people either love or hate Woody Allen films. A rare few fall somewhere in the gray area, but most tend to lean strongly towards one side or the other. I find myself more often than not falling towards the "love" side, but usually with a few apprehensions. This is how I felt about Blue Jasmine.

I was head over heels for 2011's Midnight in Paris, especially since I hadn't been a huge fan of Allen's films for the past few years. It restored my faith in Allen's filmmaking, and thus got me ready for Blue Jasmine. (I will note that I have not yet gotten a chance to check out To Rome With Love, so bear with me.)

The film follows Jasmine, played by the always beautiful Cate Blanchett, and her recovery from a recent mid-life crisis. We discover that her late husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was an embezzler and a fraud, leaving her with no money and nowhere to go. Desperate for help, she turns to her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) for a place to stay while she gets back on her feet. Like most of Allen's movies, the lineup features a handful of other great actors such as Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale and many others.

What's Streaming: Too Hot To Handle

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In case you didn't notice, it's hot outside. Unbearably hot. They say that the winter is the perfect time to snuggle up on your couch and watch a good movie?  Well, I vote for the opposite: sure, being outside is fun, but some days it's too much to handle the Texas heat for even a few minutes. 

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I found my online streaming picks this month centering around things or scenarios that generate heat: kitchens, confrontations, physical attraction. This somehow then led me to a slew of documentaries that Netflix has on the exploration of human sexuality, and the psychology behind physicality and comfort around people. And while I won't bore you with my latest term paper on the subject (because I now feel I could write one), I will share the films that stemmed from last month's movie-watching adventures.  Not all of the choices are directly connected to this subject, but I feel that all of them have an underlying theme: the discovery of one's self.

Let me know if you have recommendations for this month. After all, the selection of options to choose from seems to be growing each month. Enjoy! 

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