Chris Holland's blog

Town Tales: "Crawford" and "Trinidad" Screenings


David Modigliani interview in Crawford, TX

Director David Modigliani at the first hometown screening of his film "Crawford" in Crawford, TX.

This past week was a good one for "local boy makes good" stories with a pair of screenings that both feature the stories of small towns.

On Wednesday P.J. Raval held a sneak preview fundraiser screening of his new doc Trinidad (set in Trinidad, Colorado) which will debut at the Los Angeles Film Festival later this month. A sternly worded e-mail from Matt Dentler (and read by Raval at the screening) reminded us that mum's the word on this film until the actual world premiere in L.A., but it's not giving anything away to say that the local crowd at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar received the film warmly.

Trinidad follows a group of transgendered women who have all had gender reassignment surgery in Trinidad, which is now the "world capital of sex changes" and, according to Raval, should have New York screenings and additional screenings in Austin following the L.A. fest.

Sunday saw the first hometown screening of Crawford, David Modigliani's chronicle of eight years in the life of the quintessential American small town. Crawford, Texas, you may recall, became the official home of George W. Bush shortly before his campaign for president in 2000. The town hasn't been the same since. First there were a few years of booming tourism followed by mobs of Iraq war protestors (both of which brought money to town) and finally stagnation as Bush's approval ratings sank. Modigliani said early in the evening that he always knew he would eventually have to show it to the townspeople, so he tried to make it as balanced as possible. Reaction from the Crawford crowd was overwhelmingly positive -- even from the townsperson who grudgingly admitted during the Q&A that the film was reasonably evenhanded in its treatment of politics, though he still felt it "leaned a little to the left."

Read more about the Crawford screening at Yahoo news.

"Crawford" in Crawford

picSxSW pick Crawford, about the "one-stoplight" Texas town where George W. Bush made his home shortly before his election to the highest office in the land (and what happened after), will screen at the Crawford football stadium Sunday night. It's the first time the film will be seen in the town where it was shot, though likely not the last. Befitting a hometown premiere, the film will be projected under the open Texas sky on the Alamo Drafthouse's 50-foot Rolling Roadshow screen.

Director David Modigliani rightly focuses more on the people of the town and their personal struggles than on Bush's troubled presidency, though of course the one affects the other in unpredictable and fascinating ways. Even if you'd rather forget the political events of the last eight years, however, the chance to see a film like Crawford unspooling for the first time in front of its subjects is an event few film buffs will want to pass up. Crawford is about 100 miles away, and even with gas prices being what they are I think it's worth the trip.

Crawford screens Sunday, June 8th at 8:30 p.m. in Crawford, TX.

To learn more about Crawford (the town and the movie), see the videos after the jump. In addition to SxSW 2008, the film has played the Independent Film Festival of Boston, Marfa Film Fest, AFI Dallas, and most recently the Brooklyn Film Festival.

"Big Man Japan" Invades the U.S., Austin First

Alamo Drafthouse head honcho Tim League is pretty sure this is the first time this has ever happened: Austin will host the U.S. theatrical premiere of a non-Austin film, a week before it moves to New York and L.A. The film is Big Man Japan, an energetic and satirical take on Japan's beloved giant monster genre. Directed by the wildly popular Japanese televison comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto, Big Man Japan crafts a new mythology of giant warriors who defend Japan in times of crisis, and what happens when their legend falls out of favor -- and their numbers dwindle to just one.

The film has played a few festivals but releasing studio Magnolia Pictures was so impressed with the Alamo's enthusiasm for the film that they're opening the flick here. A strong performance could mean more premieres in Austin and/or a wider release for Big Man Japan, so if you're a film geek you owe it to yourself and to geek cinema to buy a ticket and plant your butt in a seat. Several times if necessary. Big Man Japan has a midnight show tonight and a week's worth of daytime and evening shows through May 1. See you there.

New May/June Alamo Guide is out


alamomayjune08Well, the electronic PDF version, anyway. You won't see the print edition for a few days but don't let that stop you from obsessively planning the next two months' worth of screening activities.

I haven't had a chance to really pore over it but a few things did catch my eye:

• The Sex and the City "Ladies' Nights" -- Ladies only, which means the managers, servers, etc will all be women. Cosmopolitans will be served (oh yeah, the Ritz has a full liquor license now) in souvenir stem glasses. (My wife argues that the servers should all be hot men but so far as I know she does not work for the Alamo programming team.)

• Live Jet Pack Guy at the Iron Man sneak preview!

• Seth Rogen, James Franco and more in attendance for Pineapple Express sneak preview.

• Summer Camp (free for kids) shows return, with My Neighbor Totoro and Batman the Movie topping my must-skip-work list.

• Plus the usual assortment of mind-bending strangeness that usually happens on Weird Wednesdays and Terror Thursdays.

See you at the Alamo! Download the PDF of the May/June 2008 Alamo Guide here.

Dentler departs SxSW for Cinetic, Janet Pierson steps in as Film Producer for the fest


indieWIRE reports this morning:

Janet Pierson has been named the new producer of the SXSW Film Festival and Conference, the organization has just announced. Matt Dentler, who has served as producer of the fest since 2004, has accepted a position in New York City to head the marketing and programming operations of Cinetic Media's new digital rights management unit, the festival said in an announcement.

Read the full indieWIRE report here.

SxSW 2008 Through the Lens of Mike Hedge

Mike Hedge is a photographer and friend to Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, they who made Four-Eyed Monsters. Mike put together this incredible music video of every shot he took between leaving for SxSW and driving home. Obviously there was a bit of forethought that went into this because as the pictures whiz by for only three frames each, there are a few mini-movie sequences that play out.

SXSW 2008 from mikehedge on Vimeo.

You can also see Mike's set of SxSW pix on Flickr.

Thanks to Chris Hyams of B-Side Entertainment (my employer, and where much of the office bits of the video were shot) for passing this along.

Spencer Parsons finds today's Austin, and pronounces it good.


UT prof and filmmaker Spencer Parsons bangs out a bit of retrospective prose for Film in Focus on whether Austin is as cool as it used to be.

Move to Austin, and you're likely to hear from people that you just missed it. Upon arrival, I took the laments for what had just been snuffed out more seriously than I do now, not because I've discovered the complaint to be untrue or found peace with the ultimate franchising of America, but ironically because I now so often find myself telling newcomers the same thing. Austin was way better before this legendary club closed, or that dollar cinema with Bollywood Fridays lost its lease to CVS, and of course it was better before all the fucking condos. Not that there isn't much to be missed, but on the whole, the city's been good at holding onto its identity, and whenever I travel to other American cities, I find that, for instance, our Starbucks saturation appears to remain at a national low.

Read "The Once and Future Austin" at Film in Focus.

Most Interesting Photos from SxSW 2008


Billy Bob Thornton, photo by Kris Krug

As "curated" by the Flickr community. See the whole slideshow.

Quick Snaps: Sidewalk Reunion at 'Bama Girl Premiere, SxSW 2008


'Bama Girl Premiere

Erik Jambor (formerly Sidewalk, now at Indie Memphis), Alan Hunter (Sidewalk FF), and Catherine Pfitzer (Sidewalk FF) at the world premiere of 'Bama Girl at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

Ohmigod ohmigod - can't believe I forgot Wesley Willis' Joyrides


picIn my hurry to get my picks out the door I completely forgot about Wesley Willis Joyrides, an amazing doc I saw at Slamdance. Fortunately there are two screenings left (Wednesday and Saturday) and you can still get out there and see it. I don't have time to write a synopsis myself so I'll crib the official synopsis and tell you that it is an amazing, touching, emotional, jaw-dropping, I must shake you in your seat to get you to go see it film. So go see it.

A portrait of the self proclaimed rock 'n' roll star and 'Chicago City Artist', Wesley Willis. An underground rock icon and revered artist, the late, great Wesley Willis attracted & offended people the world over. Wesley Willis's Joyrides follows the life of the prolific & controversial artist on his journey from obscurity to fame.

Also hearing good buzz about A Necessary Death, Half Life, The Matador, The Promotion, and Dreams With Sharp Teeth.

Oh, and you should read Lars "Weird Wednesday" Nilsen's big SxSW post over at the Original Alamo Blog today. It's pretty great.

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