Caitlin Moore's blog

Violet Crown Cinema Debuts Texas Spotlight Film Series

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flutter film posterIt makes welcome sense that a locally owned and operated movie theater would present a program that highlights its home state while also supporting one of its own Austin friends. Violet Crown Cinema has announced a new ongoing film series called Texas Spotlight, which will feature the work of Texas filmmakers and Texas-based films.

Three monthly screenings have been announced so far, and all ticket sales from these initial shows will be donated to a fund for Evan West, a Violet Crown employee severely injured in the March 13 hit-and-run on Red River Street. 

This first trio of films features two newer selections and one retrospective screening, and all three directors hail from Texas (either Austin or Dallas). Tickets are available here

Read on for screening details and descriptions (provided by Violet Crown), and stay in touch for updates about future Texas Spotlight screenings. If you'd like to donate directly to the Evan West fund, you can do so here

  • Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self, April 22 -- When invited by an old friend to speak to a struggling sales team at a conference, Bob Birdnow (veteran Dallas actor Barry Nash) reluctantly agrees. Bob's attempt to say something motivational takes an unexpected turn when, forced off script and desperate, he begins the one story he'd hoped he'd never have to tell. This adaptation of a one-man show won the Ron Tibbett Award for Excellence in Filmmaking at the Indie Memphis Film Festival. (Director: Eric Steele, 2013)
  • Flutter, May 13 -- To treat her son, Johnathan, who suffers from a degenerative eye condition, JoLynn must break society's laws. With her husband away indefinitely, JoLynn struggles to nurture her son in the face of poverty, isolation and incarceration. Flutter explores the truest love on earth -- the love of a mother and child. (Director: Eric Hueber, 2014)
    Note: Debbie recently caught this one at the Dallas International Film Festival and highly recommends it.

Review: Le Week-End

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le weekend posterPart romantic caper-comedy, part brutal exploration of a 30-year marriage, Le Week-End uses an endearing sense of mischief to balance life's satisfying highs and crushing lows.

The film stars Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent as Meg and Nick, a British couple celebrating their anniversary in Paris, the site of their honeymoon decades earlier. Though their children are now adults and they should be approaching those golden years of retirement and relaxation, both are wrecked with uncertainty and worry about money, aging and who they are -- in their own eyes and in the eyes of the other. 

Nick has grown clingy around Meg and fears being alone. He's also been keeping a secret from her about the state of his career and seems to be on the verge of a full-on existential crisis. Not too far off, Meg is filled with dissatisfaction but doesn't know what to do to make herself happy. They are quite the pair of overthinkers, and it's clear that taking a weekend out of town together is a risky maneuver unlikely to solve anything. 

Where traditional romantic comedies tend to gloss over the tougher parts of long-term relationships (if they depict them at all), Le Week-End faces the sad, awkward stuff head-on. But while there are several intense Celine and Jesse moments between Nick and Meg, these sometimes melancholy lovers are often pretty Frances Ha-ish, too. They argue, sure, but they're also comfortably playful, affectionate and adorably silly with each other.  

Director Roger Michell (Notting Hill, The Mother) shows off the gorgeous and charming parts of Paris but hints at the dirty little secret of typical Hollywood movies: Real people can't actually afford the romantic experience so often depicted onscreen. If Nick and Meg want to stay in a hotel with a stellar view, shop for fine clothes and eat incredible meals, frugal realism must be casually ignored and their material adventures will need to be charged on the credit card. 

Texas Filmmakers: Apply Now for AFS Grants 2014

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afs logoHere's some exciting news for Texas filmmakers: The Austin Film Society has announced that the 2014 AFS Grant Cycle is now open, and the deadline for applications is June 2, 2014. Filmmakers who live in the state can apply for up to $15,000 to cover production, post-production or distribution of their independent narrative, documentary, experimental and short films. 

To help grant hopefuls through the application process, AFS will hold free and open to the public workshops during April and May in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth. Register to attend an AFS Grant Workshop here and take a look at the details below. 

AFS Grant Workshops

  • Austin -- Monday, April 21 at 7 pm in the AFS Screening Room (1901 E 51 Street, Austin, TX 78723).
  • Houston -- Tuesday, April 29 at 6 pm at the Aurora Picture Show (2442 Bartlett St., Houston, TX 77098); co-presented by SWAMP.
  • Dallas -- Monday, April 28 at 7 pm at KERA, Public Television and Radio for North Texas (3000 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75201); co-presented by the Video Association of Dallas. 

Upcoming Movies and Special Events from Austin Film Festival

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aff logoChange is in the air at Austin Film Festival: They recently announced a few major updates to the film and conference staff structure and have also revealed a year-round programming slate packed with special events.

First, former Conference Director and Film Programmer Erin Hallagan has been named Creative Director of the newly-combined Conference and Film departments. Austin Film Festival (AFF) Co-Founder and Executive Director Barbara Morgan describes Hallagan as "an inspired programmer and leader" and calls her promotion "the natural next step."

Also taking on new roles are Elizabeth Mims and Harrison Glaser, both previous festival employees, as well. Mims was a Young Filmmakers Program Director at AFF and also directed Only the Young, a documentary selected to screen during AFF in 2012 (here's Elizabeth's interview with the Austin-based filmmaker). Mims will now act as a Senior Programmer for the festival. Glaser, who served as a Conference Assistant for the last two years, has been named the new Film Program Coordinator. 

The official festival doesn’t happen until October, but several AFF-hosted screenings and panels take place between now and then. Highlights include the On Story conversation series and an ongoing partnership with the Los Angeles-based Writers Guild Foundation

SXSW Review: Yakona

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yakona still

Filmed in Texas and told "from the perspective of the San Marcos River," Yakona had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival last week and went on to win an Audience Award in the Visions category. This meditative and visually captivating film can't be neatly categorized, and it will surely speak to the hearts of locals, nature lovers and anyone who has ever taken a swim in the San Marcos.

Filmmakers Paul Collins and Anlo Sepulveda chose to use a Pure Cinema stylistic technique, which relies on vision and movement rather than traditional narrative storytelling (not a single talking head is included and there is only minimal speaking). Instead, with footage captured using underwater cameras and reenacted scenes depicting life from prehistoric to modern times, Collins and Sepulveda create a collage of moments and emotions that together capture the spirit of the San Marcos River and the ecosystem of which it is an integral part.

SXSW Review: No No: A Dockumentary

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no no a dockumentary

No No: A Dockumentary was directed by Austinite Jeffrey Radice and came about with much local support and funding (including a grant from Austin Film Society), so it was no surprise that it made its SXSW premiere to a big and welcoming crowd at the Paramount last Saturday.

The film explores the life of Dock Ellis, a Major League baseball player known for his talent as a pitcher as well as for the memorable feat of pitching a no-hitter (aka the "no no" of the title) while high on LSD. He also played at a time rife with racial tension and when illicit but quietly accepted drug use was rampant among players -- and rather than remaining a passive bystander in terms of baseball politics, Ellis was vocal and persistent in sharing his opinions.

SXSW 2014: Alternative Opening-Night Plans

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film festival logoAfter a painless badge pickup experience on Thursday (always go on Thursday if you can), I started my Friday fully ready for the festival to get going.

As someone who works downtown, I’ve been witnessing the even more chaotic than usual scene all week -- tons of traffic (due to construction, delivery trucks, extra people, etc.) and the transformation of every empty parking lot and building into some kind of brand platform or other.

This state of affairs helped me make my decision to follow my usual tradition of skipping the opening-night film at the Paramount (no offense to Jon Favreau) to check out something I didn't know much about.

The choice I made, She's Lost Control, is one I'd only heard a little about following its Berlin Film Festival premiere last month. An intense and dark slice of life, the film focuses on a woman who works as a sex surrogate while she finishes a psychology Master's degree in New York City.

Often hard-hitting and true but sometimes a little frustrating, I can't fully call this a "must-see" but I know this movie will definitely stick with me (and that sense of emotional discovery is what film festivals are all about).

With a full Saturday ahead of me (I'm taking the bus downtown and will be around all day), I made my exit after the film ended.

SXSW 2014 Guides: Wristband Info and Tips for Locals

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paramount line

Paying big bucks for a badge isn't the only way to be a part of the SXSW Film Festival. For locals willing to forego lanyards and the feeling of being first in line, the wristband is another option -- often a good one, but one that requires a little more creative planning and patience.

Sold for $80 at various venues around town -- $75 at the Marchesa before any Austin Film Society event if you're an AFS member-- the wristband (known as the Film Pass before last year) grants access to any film shown during the festival, provided there is space available after badgeholders (Platinum, Film and Gold) have been seated. This means smaller venues like the Violet Crown and Alamo Drafthouse Ritz probably won't be worth trying, but larger theaters like the Paramount will most likely work out just fine (even single-ticket buyers can probably get into the Paramount, but more about that later).

If you're taking the wristband route this year, read on for a few facts, tips and observations that will hopefully help you get the most out of being a wristbandito (that's a term coined by Jette last year that deserves another go, I think).

Austin at SXSW 2014: Jeffrey Radice, 'No No: A Dockumentary'

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dock ellis

In 1970, baseball player Dock Ellis somehow pitched a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates while out-of-his-mind high on LSD. Along with his generally brash and outspoken demeanor, this act helped solidify Ellis' legendary status both as a great player and all-around fascinating person, and it's his life on and off the baseball field that Austin filmmaker Jeffrey Radice explores in No No: A Dockumentary.

Making its regional premiere at the SXSW Film Festival this month, No No earned high marks from many who saw it at Sundance and should be a highlight for anyone looking to catch all the Texas-based movies featured this year.  

Radice was kind enough to answer a few questions via email for Slackerwood about the film and how it came to be. No No: A Dockumentary will have its SXSW premiere on Saturday, March 8 at the Paramount at 11:30 am and screens again the following Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday (find the details here). 

Review: God Loves Uganda

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god loves uganda still

Earlier this week, a law was signed by the president of Uganda that makes homosexuality an offense punishable with life imprisonment. While this legislation is being called reprehensible by human rights advocates around the world, many Ugandan politicians and citizens stand adamantly by it, holding fast to Christian-based beliefs that God-approved, male-female relationships are right and everything else is wrong. 

How did such an anti-gay climate -- one that often results in acts of violence committed against both open and suspected homosexuals and their allies -- come about in this small East African nation in the first place? This is the complex and important question that God Loves Uganda attempts to answer. 

Director Roger Ross Williams interviews several observers and activists from both sides of Uganda’s culture wars but largely focuses on the efforts and effects of missionary workers from Kansas City. Part of a megachurch operation known as the International House of Prayer (IHOP), these mostly white and very passionate "soldiers of God" have set their sights on Uganda in particular as a place that needs their spiritual attention. 

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