Debbie Cerda's blog

Review: The Odd Life of Timothy Green


Still Photo of The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Written and directed by Peter Hedges (Dan in Real Life), The Odd Life of Timothy Green stars Jennifer Garner as Cindy Green and Joel Edgerton as Jim Green, a young couple who reside in idyllic small-town Stanleyville. Cindy works at the pencil museum owned by the austere Ms. Crudstaff (Dianne Wiest) and Tim works in a failing pencil factory ran by arrogant Franklin Crudstaff (Ron Livingston).

The story begins with the Greens pleading to adopt a child, by sharing a fantastical story with adoption agency staff. The Greens have tried unsuccessfully to have a child. Devastated by the news that they've exhausted all possibilities to conceive a child, they deal with their grief by fantasizing what their child would have been like. They write down all the qualities and achievements their imaginary child would have, including "love and be loved" and "scoring the winning goal." The Greens put the notes into a box and bury it in their garden.

A freak rainstorm occurs over their house in the middle of the night, and they discover that the garden has produced an unnatural harvest a la Tom Thumb-- a 10-year-old boy named Timothy (CJ Adams) who calls them Mom and Dad. Timothy seems like a normal boy, with the exception of several leaves growing from him. He also exhibits all the qualities they'd envisioned, although some of the literal translation is vaguely reminiscent of but less gruesome than W. W. Jacob's short horror story, "The Monkey's Paw."

AFS Working to Include Austin Studios Expansion in City Bond Package


Austin Studios Expansion Space Allocation

City of Austin staff and City Councilmembers have been hard at work over the last several months to create a bond package to fund various local projects. This week, the City Council will decide the details of a bond election set for November 6 -- the first wide-ranging bond election since 2006 -- and will approve ballot language for the bond propositions. The city has until August 20 to determine what will go into the final bond package if it is to make the November ballot. What does this have to do with Austin film? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole support including Austin Studios improvements in the final bond package, based on the positive economic impact of television and film production for Austin.

"Sheryl Cole is recommending Austin Studios for $5.4 million in a reduced bond package of $385 million," stated Rebecca Campbell, executive director of Austin Film Society.

Movies This Week: August 10 - 16, 2012


Still from Gaston Melies film "A Texas Joke"

As a kid growing up in Houston, the hot and humid summers were usually spent indoors reading and watching science fiction movies on television. The Paramount Theatre's Sci-Fi Week runs from Tuesday, August 14 through Sunday, August 19 and features several personal favorites including Forbidden Planet, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Planet of the Apes. Also screening next Tuesday through Thursday is the classic silent sci-fi film Metropolis with the 1980s soundtrack from composer Giorgio Moroder featuring songs by Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, Freddie Mercury, Bonnie Tyler, Adam Ant and more. Screening times and ticket information available on the Paramount website.

Seattle-based film group The Sprocket Society recently started an Austin chapter and is hosting an inaugural screening on Sunday, August 12, 2:45 pm, at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. For their first screening the Austin chapter is featuring a program of shorts including the silent screen work of Georges Méliès; a rare restoration of A Texas Joke (pictured above), a Western made by brother Gaston Méliès at the Star Film Ranch in San Antonio; and a 1930s adventure documentary on African Pygmies that inspired Werner Herzog to become a filmmaker. Learn more about The Sprocket Society in the Austin Chronicle's "The Tangible Pleasures of Cinema" article.

Movies We've Seen

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry -- A powerful and thought-provoking documentary that chronicles artist and activist Ai Weiwei as he prepares for a series of exhibitions and clashes with the Chinese government. Elizabeth says in her review, that the movie "reminds us that there is most definitely a man, foibles and all, behind the works of art and activism." (Violet Crown, Regal Arbor)

Review: Killer Joe


Killer Joe still photo

As an alumnus of both SXSW Film Festival and Fantastic Fest, I've seen many disturbingly provocative films over the years that I've unintentionally and thankfully forgotten. However, there are those emotionally and mentally intense films that are forever burned into my memory, often surfacing just enough in my brain to psychoanalyze before locking away into a dark corner.

Most of all, it's the 2006 Fantastic Fest selection Bug that I still ponder over perception versus reality. Based on the play by Pulitzer award-winning winner Tracy Letts and directed by William Friedkin, the psychological thriller centers around a  veteran who holes up with a lonely woman in a run-down Oklahoma motel room. What's reality and what's imagination is unclear as the couple discovers a bug infestation. Friedkin contacted Letts after seeing the play, and the two collaborated on the screen adaptation. Friedkin has described the movie as "the most intense piece of work I've ever done."

Killer Joe reunites Letts and Friedkin in another stage-to-screen adaptation, as the play Killer Joe ran off-Broadway in 1998 for nine months. This darkly humorous and gut-wrenching film focuses on a young criminal, Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch), whose gambling debts endanger his life. He schemes to put a hit on his evil mother and collect the insurance payout, with the intent to split the money with his mentally challenged sister Dottie (Juno Temple), dim-witted father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and new stepmother Sharla (Gina Gershon). Chris enlists the services of dirty cop and hitman Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey) to do the job for them.

Review: The Dark Knight Rises


The Dark Knight Rises

IMAX theaters can often seem impersonal, large looming theaters with the screen so far away and hundreds of people in the auditorium. However, since my personal preference especially for action films is to have no distractions in my periphereal vision, I decided to see The Dark Knight Rises at the Bob Bullock IMAX Theater rather than a traditional movie metroplex. I was not disappointed with this decision -- I left the theater breathless and high on adrenalin after being immersed in a two-and-a-half-hour thrill ride through the streets and bowels of Gotham, and into the hellish pit of an inescapable prison.

Eight years have passed since Batman (Christian Bale) disappeared into the night, after convincing a reluctant Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) to keep quiet about the crimes and horrors of Harvey Dent. Batman became a fugitive for the death of Gotham's District Attorney Harvey Dent. Crime in Gotham has been repressed with the anti-crime Dent Act, with over 1,800 prison inmates incarcerated without the option of parole.

An even more immediate danger is the appearance of Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked terrorist with ties to the League of Shadows who plans to fulfill Ra's al Ghul's legacy of destroying Gotham and seeking revenge on Batman. As he puts on the mask again, Batman must also deal with elusive cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) while Bruce Wayne addresses the deteriorating state of financial affairs for Wayne Enterprises during his self-imposed exile. With Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn) intent on taking over control of Wayne Enterprises, Wayne must entrust board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) with the well-being of his family's company and its hidden and more dangerous assets.

Austin Film Producers Receive Sundance Institute Fellowships


Kat Candler, Slamdance Programmer and Doc Juror Aaron Marshall, Kelly Williams, and AFF Programmer Steven Janisse at SundanceFounded by actor and director Robert Redford in 1981, the nonprofit organization Sundance Institute is not only recognized internationally for its annual film festival in Park City, Utah, but also for its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, film composers, playwrights and theatre artists. The organization has supported critically acclaimed film projects including Born into Brothels, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Angels in America and many more.

Eleven projects were selected for the Sundance Creative Producing Labs this year, held from July 30 - August 3. The selected producers receive creative and strategic support through the year as well as fellowships for direct funding of development and production. Two of the Fellows selected are in Austin, Texas -- producer Kelly Williams (Hellion, Cinema Six), former Austin Film Festival Program Director and Director of Programming of Forth Worth's Lone Star International Film Festival; and producer/director/cinematographer PJ Raval (Trouble the Water, Trinidad). Find out more after the jump.

Ready, Set, Fund: Bienvenido a Tejas


Still photo from Merch Girl

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

As the "Live Music Capital of the World," Austin has no shortage of musicians onstage nightly in live music venues, whether it be a jazz lounge, rock club or country/western bar. Often bands can make as much if not more on merchandise sales than on the take from the door, especially if they have extra help behind the merch table. Texas honky-tonk musician John Evans relies on his 18-year-old daughter Abbie (seen above) to fill that role, especially on the road -- despite the challenges as Abbie suffers from the incurable and often painful skin disease epidermolysis bullosa. 

Director/producer Cary Bell and editor/producer Jessica Miller document Abbie's coming of age as a self-confident and passionate young woman in Merch Girl, which is currently funding through Thursday, August 23 on Kickstarter. Abbie treats EB as just another hurdle, with support from her family including constant care from her mother. Funds were raised in a previous campaign for the production phase of this film project, but additional contributions are needed for post-production including editing, color correction, audio mixing, and mastering.

The ATX Television Festival had a successful first year last month, and is already working on funding for 2012 with their ATX Television Festival: Year 2 Kickoff campaign on Kickstarter. The project has met their initial goal well in advance of their Wednesday, July 25 deadline, but has set a new goal. For those unfamiliar with ATX, this festival provides an opportunity for attendees to interact with actors, writers, directors, music supervisors and several other industry professionals involved in all stages of bringing their favorite series to the small screen.

Movies This Week: July 13 - 19, 2012


The School of Rock still photo

The crowds have amassed in San Diego for the largest annual gathering of comic and film fans known as Comic-Con. I envy our pals who make the trek where once-in-a-lifetime magic happens, including musical performances from The Guild cast members or the appearance of the filmmakers and the entire cast of Firefly and Serenity -- more precisely, UT graduate Felicia Day (The Guild, Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog), Joss Whedon, and Nathan Fillion. Reports have already come out of San Diego of Whedon and Day dancing with fans.

Fellow fans can experience Comic-Con 2012 through the coverage from and Film School Rejects. I'm loving the weekly videos from Ain't It Cool News Harry Knowles's basement, and this week Harry shares his Comic-Com film panel preview.

Meanwhile in Austin, I'm really looking forward to a guilty pleasure of Blue Starlite's double feature on Saturday at 9 pm, of my all-time favorite Richard Linklater movie, The School of Rock, followed by animated film Waking Life. Tickets are available here.

Cinephile and former film studies professor Sam Beam -- now leader of the band Iron and Wine -- hosts a special screening of The Third Man at the Paramount on Thursday at 7:30 pm. Starrring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli, this film follows pulp novelist Holly Martins as he travels to post-war Vienna, where he investigates the untimely and mysterious death of his friend Harry Lime who had made quite a profit off the black market.

Movies We've Seen

Extraterrestrial (Extraterrestre) -- I thoroughly enjoyed Nacho Vigalondo's latest feature at Fantastic Fest last year, although it doesn't meet the bar set by the Spanish filmmaker's Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimenes). In his review, Don states, "Despite the movie's ittle and summer release, the extraterrestrial elements ... serve only as a backdrop for an intriguing, witty and rather minimalist comedy about the relationships between four characters." (Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar)

Review: Ice Age: Continental Drift


Ice Age: Continental Drift

Suspension of disbelief can be quite valuable in movies with sloppy science, but there's still a moveable line that may be crossed depending on the viewer's tolerance levels. Accepting talking insects in A Bug's Life poses no concern whatsoever, but the absence of a third pair of legs on the ants outraged many viewers I know who have a scientific background.

The Ice Age series also tests the tolerance level of both educated viewers and parents who prefer their children be exposed to entertainment that doesn't conflict with their school lessons. Ice Age: Continental Drift exaggerates the evolutionary theory of catastrophism even further than the wildly debated The Day After Tomorrow and disaster pornographic 2012.

In this animated film, Scrat's (Aziz Ansari) pursuit of the elusive acorn triggers a transcontinental cataclysm, separating Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) from the rest of their rag-tag herd. Sid is stuck with his crotchety and toothless Granny (Wanda Sykes) who has a tendency to wander off frequently. The group must get to the Land Bridge to reunite, but on their journey they encounter danger in the form of sirens, giant crabs, and a gang of pirates on an ice ship under the command of the cruel Captain Gut (Peter Dinklage).

Film on Tap: Summer Heat Quenchers


Rogness Brewing

Film on Tap is a column about the many ways that beer (or sometimes booze) and cinema intersect in Austin.

After several weeks of traveling and enjoying the best craft beers on both the East and West Coasts, including the National Homebrewers Conference in Seattle, I was feeling "beered out" but still missing my favorite Texas beers.

With the onset of triple digits in Central Texas, excitement has been building around Texas craft breweries introducing lesser known styles to the local market. Well-established and newly certified organic Jester King Craft Brewery may have opened the barn door to low alcohol beers with their Commercial Suicide English style dark style (3% ABV) and Le Petit Prince Farmhouse Table beer (2.9%), but Austin Beerworks has blasted that door off its hinges with last week's release of Einhorn, a rather approachable Berliner Weisse (3.5%). Einhorn's tartness is just enough to ensure its place amongst the top session beers in Texas. Also on that list is Hans Pils from Real Ale Brewing which just celebrated their sixteenth anniversary two weeks ago.

The newest kid on the block to watch is Rogness Brewing Company, located a stone's throw from the old Celis Brewery in northeast Austin. Rogness beers have been slowly entering the local scene, including at an Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar which reportedly offers Rook, their smoky Scotch ale. At their grand opening party last weekend Rogness Brewing served up several selections from their portfolio including Vinton, a sessionable blonde ale (5.3%), as well as the aptly named Beardy Guard, a Biere de Garde (5.2% ABV) which is best described as a French saison. Keep an eye out at Flix Brewhouse and Alamo Drafthouse for Rogness Brewing Company's beers, and you might also run into Rogness' social media coordinator and University of Texas at Austin RTF graduate Jon Airheart -- seen above in Say Anything pose along with former Independence Brewing marketing guru Adam Gonzales.

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