Caitlin Moore's blog

aGLIFF and AFF Reveal Lineup Details

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the homesman still

The Austin Film Festival has announced its first wave of film screenings, including Centerpiece Film Black and White (directed by Mike Binder and starring Kevin Costner), documentary 21 Years: Richard Linklater, and Dawn Patrol, directed by AFF regular Daniel Petrie Jr. This initial list is a mix of world and regional premieres and provides glimpses of a diverse program; among other things, festivalgoers will have the chance to see a Texas-based political documentary, a pioneer drama with an all-star cast, and Benedict Cumberbatch playing the role of Alan Turing.

The writer-focused festival runs Oct. 23-30 and includes feature films, short films, film competitions and conference panels. See below for a list of the titles announced so far, and find out more about attending AFF here

If you're ready to get festival season started already, don't forget that the 27th Anniversary Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) takes place in just a couple of weeks (Sept. 10-14) at the freshly remodeled Alamo South Lamar and the Stateside Theatre. This year's festival includes over 100 films and the theme is "We're not an Audience. We're a Community."

aGLIFF's opening-night film will be Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine and the centerpiece is Regarding Susan SontagThe program promises a diverse array of genres and subjects and also includes a secret screening of "one of the best-reviewed films of 2014" -- any guesses? Either way, this year's fest looks like a thoughtful and festive collection of films and events. Badge information and the full lineup are available here

Stay in touch for more festival updates, and read on for the festival-provided descriptions of the AFF films announced so far.

Toronto International Film Fest Lineup Includes a Slice of Austin

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The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 4-14 this year, and local director David Gordon Green, Austin-frequenter Jason Reitman and Austin native Ethan Hawke will all be premiering films there. 

Green, whose previous Texas-filmed work includes Joe (Jette's review) and Prince Avalanche (my review), shot Manglehorn in Austin last year and North American audiences will have the chance to see it for the first time at TIFF. Manglehorn stars Al Pacino, Holly Hunter and Chris Messina and tells the story of a lonely locksmith whose heart is stuck in the past.

The film crew was spotted at various Austin locations last fall, including Sharp's Locksmith and Little Mexico on South First and the Driskill downtown. In Debbie's interview with Green at the Dallas International Film Festival in April, he said Manglehorn would be the final installment of his "Texas trilogy" and described the movie as "melancholy but full of hope and life and love."

Review: Lucy

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lucy posterIn Luc Besson's unfortunately dumb latest film, Scarlett Johansson plays a character whose brain is suddenly more powerful than anyone else's on earth. The events that unfold don't require much thinking, though; Lucy is a schlocky sci-fi that never lives up to the talent involved or the sense of anticipation it tries to establish.

The trouble starts when Lucy (Johansson), a young American going to school in Taiwan, gets caught up with an obnoxious cowboy who drags her unknowingly into a dangerous situation. With lightning speed, she's forced to act as a drug mule by a vicious crime boss (Oldboy's Min-sik Choi) aiming to hook people on a new conscious-altering synthetic substance.

Things take a turn when Lucy ends up absorbing a large amount of the strange drug herself, and from there she is no longer a normal human. Increment by increment (noted by in-your-face title cards along the way), she finds herself in possession of more and more of her brain's capacity (regular people supposedly only use 10 percent of their brains, and she's hurtling towards 100 percent). With each step she becomes better able to manipulate her surroundings through telekinesis as her human qualities fall away.

Part revenge fantasy, part science puzzle and a whole lot of nonsense, Lucy never stops to take a breath as it jumps from Taiwan to Paris and picks up speed as the heroine's brain continues to evolve. Terrible one-liners and illogical plot points prevent the movie from being anything close to immersive, however, and even Johansson's confident and dedicated performance isn't enough to save the fact that this movie is a mess of cliches and artlessly violent interactions between robotic Lucy and the cartoonish bad guys.

Over-the-top nature sequences (Tree of Life minus the subtlety) are jarringly intercut with standard action scenes, and the presence of Morgan Freeman as a professor who is Lucy's only hope of explaining what's happening to her is either very cheeky or extremely lazy. His scientist character explains what's going on like he's narrating a PBS nature show, but his booming voice and calm, comforting presence end up feeling like one of a million shortcuts taken to reach a payoff that never materializes.

Lone Star Cinema: The Newton Boys

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After Slacker and Dazed and Confused but before Bernie, Before Midnight and the soon-to-be-released Boyhood, Richard Linklater made a charming little movie called The Newton Boys. Filmed in Texas and featuring a band of charismatic actors (most of whom have gone on to considerable success in film and/or television), this true story depicts the bank-robbing exploits of four entrepreneurial and adventure-loving brothers in the early 20th century. 

Raised in Uvalde County, Texas in a cotton farming family, the Newton brothers are an unruly bunch whose lives tell a one-of-a-kind story of American idealism and brash (but mostly non-violent) outlaw behavior. After Dock and Willis, the oldest two brothers (Vincent D'Onofrio and Matthew McConaughey), experience various real and perceived injustices (including class-based discrimination, wrongful imprisonment and general mistreatment by authority figures), they give up on trying to live lawful lives and instead decide to take what they think should be theirs.

This means emptying banks ("it's just little thieves taking from big thieves") and lying whenever necessary but vowing never to kill anyone. Thanks to the nitroglycerin supplied by cohort Brentwood Glasscock (Dwight Yoakam) and the endearingly slow transportation and communication systems of the 1920s, Dock and Willis (also joined by their younger brothers Jess and Joe, played by Ethan Hawke and Skeet Ulrich) are able to become incredibly successful bank robbers, and they proceed to spend several years joyfully blowing up and clearing out dozens of safes and trains from Texas to Canada. 

Summer Film Series Updates: Cinema East, Sound and Cinema, Cinema 41

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The lineup for this year's Cinema East series has been announced, and once again the programmers have selected a solid slate of indie films to fill a few summer Sunday evenings. The outdoor screenings begin around 9 pm at the French Legation, admission is $3-$5, and food and drinks are available to buy. Also important: The BYOB policy is once again in effect this year. 

We've seen a few of the scheduled movies and are excited about the rest, and filmmakers are scheduled to attend five of the seven screenings. If you're not one to let the Texas heat get you down (it's not so bad after the sun sets and you have a beer in your hand), this is the perfect chance to stretch your weekend to the fullest while checking out a few recent independent films.

Here's the schedule:

I Believe in Unicorns (6/22) -- This fantasy-tinged coming-of-age story (pictured above) explores an imaginative young girl's first encounter with troubled love. Director Leah Meyerhoff will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening. 

Review: Night Moves

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Kelly Reichardt is a deliberate filmmaker. The scenes she writes, directs and edits rarely feel hurried or careless, and the stories she tells, incredibly focused, have a way of slowly building towards bigger and (usually frightening) truths about society and the people who exist on its fringes. 

Two of Reichardt's earlier films, Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, portray melancholy wanderers with uncertain future prospects, and in many ways Night Moves does this, too. Though more overtly suspenseful than her previous work, her latest effort still maintains a measured restraint as the story advances towards a clearer view of the ambiguous situation at hand. 

It's tough to describe the plot of Night Moves without giving too much away, but it's fair to say that eco-terrorism, paranoia, simmering frustration and CSA boxes all come into play. Set in gray, moody Oregon amongst co-op dwellers and vaguely rebellious idealists, the story follows three particularly ambitious outsiders as they work to carry out a law-breaking and attention-grabbing plan. 

Sundance in Austin: An #ArtistServices Workshop Wrap-up

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Last Saturday, the Austin Film Society successfully hosted the first ever Sundance #ArtistServices Workshop in Austin. #ArtistServices is an organization operated by the Sundance Institute that provides distribution support and assistance to Sundance alumni. They also work to educate up-and-coming filmmakers about all the latest trends in marketing and distribution, and have previously held workshops in Park City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. 

Three Sundance staff members (Joseph Beyer, Chris Horton and Missy Laney) were on hand for Saturday's event and had clearly worked closely with AFS to organize a well-run and enlightening collection of panels and conversation. In her opening salvo, AFS Associate Artistic Director Holly Herrick emphasized the workshop aspect of the day and encouraged attendees to ask questions at any point.

The first section of the workshop was specifically devoted to crowdfunding, and this topic continued to resurface throughout the day. In particular, inexperienced filmmakers often aren't aware of the tax implications and responsibilities that go along with using Kickstarter or Indiegogo to fund a project. These can be incredibly helpful tools, but it's important to know what you're doing before you start. Cameron Keng (a tax lawyer), Deena Kalai (an entertainment lawyer), Shannon Swallow (the head of Marketing Communications for Indiegogo) and Evan Glodell (the writer/director of Bellflower) were on hand to offer no-nonsense advice to filmmakers considering crowdfunding.

Review: Neighbors

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neighbors posterWhen a wild fraternity moves into the house next to Kelly (Rose Byrne) and Mac (Seth Rogen), a thirtyish couple with a new baby, they feel conflicted. Near constant noise and debauchery will disrupt the peace of their sleepy neighborhood and throw off their routine schedules, but truthfully they crave a little craziness. It wasn’t very long ago that they were carefree and in college themselves, and new parenthood is making them wistful for the past and afraid of becoming boring.

Desperate to avoid seeming like buzzkills (even though they really do want their young neighbors to just keep it down), they try to play along at first and even join the party one night. Real life makes it impossible for them to live in both worlds, though. Very soon, after a series of necessary-to-the-genre misunderstandings and mistakes, the situation has escalated quickly into all-out neighbor war.

Directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek), the movie Neighbors has all the elements necessary to make it the next successful gross-out, slightly romantic comedy with arrested development undertones. However, thanks to a generally good-hearted script obsessed with pop culture and all-in performances from its stars (particularly Byrne as Kelly), Neighbors slightly exceeds expectations by throwing a few surprises into what could be just another immature prank-based film.

Not that Neighbors is smart, exactly, nor does it completely upturn traditional comedy cliches, but it does make an effort to gender equalize the situation. Byrne, who carries herself well throughout, channels the outrage of hundreds of minor female movie characters when Kelly shouts at her husband that it's not fair how he gets to be irresponsible and have all the fun while she is expected to be the bitchy mom whose only job is to scowl and complain. She makes a good point, and from then on not only participates in the shenanigans, she directs them.

AFS Will Host First Austin Sundance #ArtistServices Workshop

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sundance logoOn Saturday, May 10, Austin Film Society will host a day-long workshop geared toward independent filmmakers and featuring over a dozen film industry experts and creative pros. Sundance #ArtistServices Workshops began in 2011, and this will be the first installment held in Austin.

Topics to be covered during the event include licensing and distribution, creative marketing, digital cinema mastering, key art, crowdfunding, and all the other details that make releasing a film into the world an exciting but often completely overwhelming endeavor.  

The Sundance Institute is known for supporting developing artists with bold new stories to tell, and in similar ways AFS has worked to assist local filmmakers as they try to master the skills required to stand out in a marketplace mostly dominated by big-budget fare. As you know if you follow our monthly Ready, Set, Fund column, it's an exciting time for indie filmmakers due to all the technology and resources available, but no one can make it without a little help. 

Ready, Set, Fund: Texas Women Making Movies

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Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and fundraising endeavors related to Austin and Texas independent film projects. 

This column has long been well nurtured and championed by Debbie, but moving forward you'll see other Slackerwood contributors pitching in to highlight various crowdfunding activities going on in the local film community. It's my pleasure to present this month's slate, which includes a few excellent projects spearheaded by women. 

First up is a film-in-the-making called The Big Spoon. Currently seeking funds on Kickstarter, this "unromantic comedy" is planned to film in Austin this summer and will pull together several familiar names for its cast and crew. The project is also specifically dedicated to supporting the work of women in film and features a largely female production team.

The Big Spoon is co-written and (will be) directed by Carlyn Hudson (pictured above left), a University of Texas alum and short film director who co-produced Andrew Bujalski's Computer Chess as well as Richard Linklater's Hulu project Up to Speed. Hudson was also a segment director for Slacker 2011, and if you've ever attended Cinema East you'll recognize her as one of the series programmer/producers. 

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