Matt Shiverdecker's blog

Movies This Week: November 15-21, 2013

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Dallas Buyers Club

It's a relatively quiet week for new releases and rep screenings, but with the F1 crowd making traffic through Austin a slow-moving experience, maybe that's just as well. You can venture away from downtown to join the Austin Film Society at the Marchesa over the next week for some top-notch bookings that would have otherwise skipped over our fair city completely. On Saturday afternoon, they've got Andrew Dosunmu's Mother Of George, an acclaimed film that debuted at Sundance earlier this year about a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn who cannot have a child of their own.

At Berkeley is another movie that nobody else would dare to bring to town. This 4-hour documentary from legendary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman details four months on campus at the University of Southern California at Berkeley. It has one screening only on Sunday at noon and it will feature a Skype Q&A with Wiseman after the film. On Thursday evening, a new Essential Cinema series called "Troubles And Paradise: The 'First Wave' Of Irish Cinema" will kick off with December Bride. It's a 1991 drama that the AFS website lists as a "masterpiece [that] has been largely unseen by American audiences."

The Fantastic Fest Tour is happening this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane. Popular titles from this year's festival (many of which won't see a proper release until next year) are showing through Sunday including Grand Piano (Jette's review), Borgman, Big Bad Wolves and Why Don't You Play In Hell. The Alamo Ritz has Fargo in 35mm on Saturday and Sunday as part of this month's "Tough Ladies" series, Sophie Fiennes' The Pervert's Guide To Ideology screens on Sunday and Tuesday and a rare 35mm print of one of my favorite 80s movies, The Legend Of Billie Jean, is playing Monday night. 

Movies This Week: November 8-14, 2013

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All Is Lost 

If you missed the critically acclaimed drama Museum Hours last week, the Austin Film Society is bringing you one more chance to catch it on the big screen. You can check it out on Sunday afternoon at the Marchesa. That's also where you'll find a brand-new digital restoration of Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme's 1963 documentary Le Joli Mai on Tuesday evening and the Essential Cinema screening of Ozu's Floating Weeds in 35mm on Thursday night.

The Drafthouse's new "Tough Ladies In Cinema" series delivers To Kill A Mockingbird this weekend. You can spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons with Scout and Atticus Finch at the Alamo Lakeline and Slaughter Lane locations. Slaugher also has an "Afternoon Tea" screening of Elizabeth on Saturday and a Bonnie and Clyde beer dinner on Sunday (also part of the Tough Ladies lineup).

The Alamo Ritz has a special Mondo Veterans Day presentation of Oliver Stone's Platoon and a 35mm screening (with free milk for the audience) of The Professional on Sunday. Their new series "Invincible: Five Tough Films" continues on Monday night with Times Square starring Trini Alvarado and Tim Curry, while Barbara Stanwyck lights up the big screen again on Tuesday with The Lady Eve (a Tough Ladies booking that also doubles as a Cinema Cocktails event). If none of that floats your boat, perhaps you'll perk up at the idea of a 35mm screening of Terminator 2: Judgment Day on Wednesday night for that doubles as a Tough Ladies and Tough Guy Cinema evening. You can't beat that with a stick. If you do, you'll probably be chased down and killed by the T-1000. 

Review: All Is Lost

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All Is LostThe first time I saw a trailer for All Is Lost, I wondered why Robert Redford had gotten involved in a too-soon remake of Life Of Pi. Of course, once you see the film you'll understand that it's the kind of story best reserved for an audience knowing as little as possible about it going in, and that a marketing trailer has to do its best to entice you without giving too much away. There's no question that this is a challenging film to promote, but it's truly a remarkable work of art that should really be seen on the big screen. 

Director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) doesn't waste any time establishing the story. Redford's character is never named (his official credit is "Our Man") and we don't get any identifying details about his life. He's asleep on his yacht in the middle of the Indian Ocean when he awakens to a crash. His vessel has collided with a shipping container full of shoes and it's taken quite a toll on the stability of his boat. We see him leap into survival mode, and while we don't know anything about his background, it becomes clear that he's a hell of a sailor. He takes command of the yacht and seemingly knows every possible solution to each problem that pops up. 

Even though his navigation and communication systems are down, he's able to use nautical maps and tools to chart his approximate location and a course of action. If he can just direct the boat back towards a major shipping route, he'll be able to get help. That is, unless a series of intense storms would happen to rage over the water and further damage the viability of his ship on his cursed voyage.

Redford commands the screen in All Is Lost with a ruggedly weathered face that, even under duress, hides the fact that he's 77 years old. Single-handedly, the actor holds our rapt attention through almost two hours of unforgettable trauma without almost any dialogue. It's a feat that very few actors could pull off, but here it's done beautifully.

AFF Review: All Of Me

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All Of Me

Director Alexandra Lescaze came to Austin and spent several years following a group of local women, most of whom met via a Yahoo message board for BBWs (or "big beautiful women"), for her second feature-length documentary film, All of Me. They started out as a tight-knit support group not just because they were all overweight, but because they were proud and happy about it.

As members of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, the majority of these ladies came together to celebrate and have social outings where they wouldn't be judged by the outside world. While the group initially seems to have a strong resistance to losing weight, the film focuses on the successes and struggles of a few of them to undergo weight-loss surgery and how it affects everybody around them. 

Movies This Week: November 1-7, 2013

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12 Years A Slave

I hope you weren't looking for any time to recover from another great Austin Film Festival because there is a lot going on this week, including two more festivals for your viewing pleasure.

First and foremost, the first annual Forever Fest is happening downtown at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. Tickets for a 35mm screening of Empire Records tonight are scarce, but you can still snag some to catch Sixteen Candles tomorrow night and the price includes an Eighties prom afterwards! There are lots of other fun events happening throughout the weekend, including a cute animal clipshow from Buzzfeed and a young adult lit panel with the creators of Go Fug Yourself. Check out the full lineup and get ticket information at their website. And read our interview with the festival founders.

The Cinema Touching Disability Festival is now in its tenth year and will be taking place this weekend up at the Alamo Village. Tonight will feature the documentary Getting Up: The Tempt One Story, while Saturday's programming includes SXSW favorite The Crash Reel.

The Austin Film Society has some great first-run arthouse titles in the mix this week at the Marchesa. They'll be featuring Jem Cohen's Museum Hours on Tuesday night. The acclaimed drama had its U.S. premiere earlier this year at SXSW and is currently in limited release around the country. If you can't catch it on Tuesday, it will play again next weekend. Informant (Elizabeth's review) also is screening on Wednesday night in conjunction with The Austin Chronicle. The documentary was recently tagged as Essential Viewing by The Dissolve and there will be a panel discussion after the film including the director of the film via Skype. The week will close out with an Essential Cinema presentation of Ozu's A Story Of Floating Weeds in 35mm.

AFF 2013 Dispatch: 'Take Away One,' 'La Navaja de Don Juan'

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The cast of "La Navaja de Don Juan"

I tried to focus my Austin Film Festival picks this year around movies that were world premiere screenings. The curation at the festival is incredibly diverse and I wanted to see what the programmers thought was deserving of the spotlight. This led me to two of the more interesting films I caught over the last week.  

Take Away One is a fascinating documentary that really tells two stories in one. Director William Lorton has spent the last several years editing reality television, but he had his own true-life story to tell. His aunt Mary was a grad student in elementary education at U.C. Berkeley who developed her own teaching style while interning at some rougher inner-city schools in California in the late 60s. Most people have at least heard of Montessori schools, but Mary's contribution to teaching curriculums across the nation is almost as revolutionary. 

AFF 2013 Dispatch: Veronica Mars, Bird Watchers and Gay Best Friends

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A Birder's Guide to Everything

I started off my Saturday at the festival by sitting in on the "Veronica Mars: From Small Screen To Silver Screen" panel at the Driskill Hotel Ballroom. Ben Blacker (from the Nerdist Writers Panel) moderated this excellent conversation with Veronica Mars creator and Austin resident Rob Thomas and actor Chris Lowell ("Piz"). Over the course of 75+ minutes, Thomas spoke about the benefits and difficulties of crowdfunding the upcoming Veronica Mars feature film through Kickstarter, developing the screenplay, shooting the film itself and his post-production process (which has been going on for the past 11 weeks).

Over 90,000 people contributed to the Kickstarter campaign, which is the third highest-funded project in the site's history. While $5.7 million can create a decent indie film, this is a franchise that is controlled by Warner Bros., which means that the resources to make a full-length movie were still somewhat limited. In the end, Thomas calls it a "sprawling" movie with 60 speaking roles and lots of extras. They shot 115 script pages in just 23 days and were unable to shoot a lot of takes before moving on. 

The final film is still being tweaked, but underwent a successful test screening this week. Thomas wrote the movie for the hardcore fans, but now is balancing the target audience with the awareness that there needs to be some "spoon-feeding" in the editing process to help the newbies catch up to the stories of characters established over three television seasons. When asked if a sequel could also be crowdsourced, Thomas didn't rule it out, mainly because of how rabid and excited the fanbase is to see this project come back to life: "If it's successful, maybe we can be the low-budget James Bond."

Movies This Week: October 25-31, 2013

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Shepard & Dark

It's a relatively light week for new releases and specialty screenings across town, which is honestly a big relief. If you're like the majority of the Slackerwood gang, you'll be exploring the films and panels of Austin Film Festival until next Thursday. Or perhaps you'll dive into the inaugural Housecore Horror Film Festival, covering both film and music. That doesn't leave a lot of room for squeezing in outside screenings, but this update should help you prioritize your moviegoing calendar if you do. 

Tonight, the Austin Film Society is hosting an event called "Chester Turner Overdrive" at the Marchesa. Just in time for Halloween, you can enjoy Black Devil Doll From Hell and Tales From The Quadead Zone along with director Chester Turner and actress Shirley L. Jones in attendance. Halloween night (next Thursday) will also allow you to get creeped out by the legendary David Cronenberg on the big screen with a rare 35mm presentation of Videodrome. If your tastes run more towards world cinema than horror, earlier in the evening on the 31st you can enjoy the Essential Cinema selection of Kenji Mizoguchi's The Life Of Oharu, also at the Marchesa

Notable bookings at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz this week include Ridley Scott's Alien (with new exclusive Mondo posters available) on Saturday and Sunday, a 35mm screening of Predator on Sunday, Alan Arkin's 1971 dark comedy Little Murders on Monday and Homo Arigato! will also host a rare Beta presentation of Thundercrack!  Meanwhile, the Alamo Lakeline and Slaughter Lane will both serve up The Wolf Man for a classic horror treat this Saturday and Sunday. 

Movies This Week: October 18-24, 2013

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Wadjda

It's a crowded weekend at the movies in Austin. Polari (formerly the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival) is in full swing at venus across the city until Sunday. If you didn't get a badge for the fest, $10 individual tickets will be available for most screenings (capacity permitting) including PJ Raval's powerhouse doc Before You Know It. Raval will also be hosting a special Austin Film Society presentation of Paris Is Burning in 35mm on Wednesday night at the Marchesa.  

The Austin Film Society's "Terror In The Aisles" series continues tonight at the Marchesa and Sunday with a 35mm screening of the 1960 Hammer Horror film The Brides Of DraculaEssential Cinema's focus on the masters of Japanese cinema will also deliver Kenji Mizoguchi's 1946 film Utamaro And His Five Women at the Marchesa on Thursday in a 35mm print direct from Janus Films. 

As always, there's a diverse slate of specialty programming on the books from the team at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah Silverman is performing on the comedy lineup at Fun Fun Fun Fest next month, so the festival has teamed up with the Alamo to screen her uproarious stand-up feature Jesus Is Magic tonight at the Ritz. Also at the Ritz this week: Anthony Perkins stars in the 1968 film Pretty Poison (part of this month's "Mixed Nuts" series) screening in 35mm on Monday night, Neil Jordan's 1988 comedy High Spirits gets a Cinema Cocktails booking in 35mm on Tuesday and there's a special presentation of Night Of The Living Dead on Wednesday night featuring a live score from Bird Peterson. 

Review: Muscle Shoals

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Muscle Shoals

It's been a stellar year for music documentaries. Twenty Feet From Stardom, A Band Called Death and Sound City have all managed to tell important stories and still be crowd-pleasing films. Much like Dave Grohl's warm and friendly portrait of the Sound City studios out in Southern California, the movie Muscle Shoals invites us to take a closer look at a studio where some of the most important recordings of all time have been created. 

Rick Hall opened FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1960 after establishing a music publishing business. With a life-altering personal tragedy behind him, he focused all of his energy into the studio and truly got hooked by producing local and regional artists. Shortly after Percy Sledge recorded "When A Man Loves A Woman" at FAME in 1966, the floodgates opened and the studio become a destination for Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records to bring his artists to ensure they'd have hit singles.

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