Debbie Cerda's blog

Review: Taking Woodstock

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Taking Woodstock

It has been quite a while since Ang Lee last took on comedies with The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (1994), and it shows in his new film Taking Woodstock. It is a decent and enjoyable movie, but it often meanders and is less about comedy and more about transformation and turmoil of the Vietnam era in 1969.

Taking Woodstock takes place at a rundown motel in the Catskills, and is centered around Elliot Teichberg (Demetri Martin), who is based on Elliot Tiber and his book Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life. Elliot sacrifices what little money he's made as an interior designer in New York City to keep his Russian immigrant parents from losing their rundown motel in the Catskills, and moves back to help. As president of the local chamber of commerce, he jumps at the chance to give the Woodstock festival a home after nearby Wallkill, N.Y. forces the concert promoters out. Elliot convinces local dairy farmer Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy) to agree to hosting the concert on his farm.

Pitch or Help Choose SXSW 2010 Film Panels

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Vote for my PanelPicker Idea!

If you haven't yet heard our most recent podcast, then you may have missed something new for South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences and Festivals for 2010. The SXSW PanelPicker which has been a staple of SXSW Interactive since 2007, is now available for the Film conference as well. Don't know what I'm talking about? Here's what you need to know:

You can help decide what panels are offered at the SXSW Film Conference by either submitting a panel idea or voting as a member of the community. Panel submission process was closed last month but has re-opened this week. Want to submit a film-related panel idea or vote on all submitted ideas? You will first need to register for a free account.

To vote, all you have to do is visit the SXSW PanelPicker site and click either the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" button. You can skip voting for any panels on which you don't have an opinion. For more details on how the community voting process works, check out the cool PanelPicker How-To video guide courtesy of Trigger Studios.

'Extract' Premiere Benefits Texas Filmmakers

Extract red carpet

The world premiere of Mike Judge's new film Extract took place on Tuesday night in Austin at the Paramount Theatre, with star Jason Bateman (pictured above with Judge) and others attending. The premiere was a benefit for the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund. It's been a big week for Austin Film Society (AFS), with the recent announcement as reported by Jette of the TFPF grants awards announcement and now a major premiere benefiting the fund. I spoke with actors from Extract as well as AFS founder and filmmaker Richard Linklater, who was in attendance supporting fellow Austin filmmaker Mike Judge and the TFPF benefit. 

Jenn interviewed Mike Judge for Slackerwood earlier that day, so rather than inundate him with questions I did ask him the one question that was in the back of my mind:

Review: Shorts

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I had the opportunity to attend the Shorts premiere here in Austin last Sunday, with writer/director Robert Rodriguez and the young cast in attendance. The film is about a group of kids who find a magical rock that like the morbid "Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs that does more damage than good.

Shorts: The Adventures of the Wishing Rock takes place in the fictional surburbia of the Black Falls, where most residents work for Black Box Unlimited Worldwide Industries Incorporated. Mr. Black (James Spader) has created the Black Box do-it-all gadget that is found in everyone's household. The Wishing Rock can do even more, and everyone including the megalomaniacal Mr. Black wants to get their hands on the rock. Wishes wind up with unexpected results, leaving the residents of Black Falls dealing with walking crocodiles, tiny spaceships and a monster from a most disturbing origin. The kids must band together to save the day.

Just as Racer Rodriguez had inspired his dad to create The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl, older brother Rebel came up with the basic concept of Shorts -- it's a series of shorts, the kids are short, and they wear shorts -- after watching the classic kids' gang comedy series The Little Rascals.

'Shorts' Premiere Turns Congress Ave. into a Carnival

Red carpet events continue in Austin this week, and I cut my Cinemapocalypse experience a few hours short at 7:30 am so I could rest before another special event on Sunday afternoon.

Writer/director Robert Rodriguez, producer Elizabeth Avellán, and cast members Jimmy Bennett, Trevor Gagnon, Devon Gearhart, Jake Short, Jolie Vanier and Rebel Rodriguez walked the red carpet this past weekend at the Paramount Theatre for a special screening of their new movie Shorts. The event was a benefit for local organization Thoughtful House Center for Children, and included a free post-screening carnival including rides, sno-cones, cotton candy and more. Danny Trejo, whom I photographed at Cinemapocalypse, made an appearance as well as Richard Linklater. Rebel and Racer Rodriguez worked the red carpet like pros, answering questions and posing for photos.

When I'm working the red carpet I will rarely ask folks the same question, but due to Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellán's strong involvement in the Texas Motion Picture Alliance and film incentives I wanted to hear from both of them on the subject. Here's how they answered the following question:

Quick Snaps: Danny Trejo in Austin

Danny Trejo at Cinemapocalypse

Character actor Danny Trejo is in town for the filming of Robert Rodriguez's new grindhouse flick, Machete, and I've spotted him twice this weekend. He attended the special screening of Inglourious Basterds at Cinemapocalyse last night, and was sitting in the row behind me several seats down. He graciously let me take the above photo during a break between films.

I also saw Danny today at the Austin premiere of Robert Rodriguez's family film Shorts. It was quite amusing to hear young children say, "I've seen ALL your movies!" I was able to ask him a few questions this weekend. Here's what he had to say, short yet enthusiastic:

On filming in Austin: "I love it, I love Austin!"

On Texas weather: "I was in Miami recently, with all the humidity. Austin is much better."

On working with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino: "They are my boys, I LOVE working with them."

[Photo Credit: Danny Trejo at Cinemapocalypse, by Debbie Cerda on Flickr]

Review: Bandslam

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Bandslam

At first glance, Bandslam might appear to be just another "new kid in school trying to fit in," but it's far from the stereotypical outcast story. Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) is a high school who just wants to be left alone. Instead he attracts others to him, including emo girl Sa5m ("the 5 is silent"), played by Vanessa Hudgens in a departure from her High School Musical feature roles, and former cheerleader Charlotte (Aly Michalka) who's intent on forming a new band. Turns out there's a high-school battle of the bands competition, Bandslam, that's "Texas high school football big."

Although not as candy-coated as High School Musical, there's still something slightly odd about the minimal presence of teachers in a high school in New Jersey, not to mention the absence of drug and gang activity. However, serious issues are addressed in a realistic manner once it is revealed why Will welcomes the opportunity to change schools.

Photo Essay: 'Julie & Julia' Feast

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Feast Bubbly

In case you didn't notice from our recent podcast on Food in Movies, I am a foodie. Therefore I love to attend the Alamo Drafthouse signature events of film and feast, and was intrigued to see what gourmet surprises Chefs Trish Eichelberger and John Bullington would come up with for Julie & Julia. I was unable to attend a full feast due to other screenings I was attending - more on those later! - but managed to take some photos behind the scenes.

The evening started with pink champagne, as shown above. Here are a few more of the dishes, which were referenced in the film in one way or another.

First course - an amuse bouche that included oysters on the half shell, thin rye bread and butter:

Interview: Julie Powell of 'Julie & Julia'

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Julie and Julia coverThe movie Julie & Julia opened in theaters last weekend, as you can see from our group review. The film was adapted in part from the book of the same title by Julie Powell. Powell returned home to Austin for a few days this week to visit with family and support the film's first week. She was in attendance for a Q&A at the first two of four movie-and-feast events at Alamo Drafthouse.

I attended a small book signing and pre-feast party on Tuesday at her dad's law office in downtown Austin, where friends, family and colleagues were treated to Southern hospitality. Upon meeting Julie's mother, Kay Foster, I thought of Will Rogers' quote: "A stranger is just a friend I haven't met yet."

I had the opportunity to ask Julie Powell a few questions during the party. Here's what she had to say.

You've mentioned that you've seen the movie at least six times now – is it surreal to see yourself portrayed, or when people say "I saw you in the movie?"

It will be seven tonight. It's gone from surreal, to in the middle there I was able to kind of watch it as a movie. Now I'm watching a movie I've seen six times, in close succession so I can barely watch it anymore, but I think it's a great movie. It continues to be strange. I'm probably a little more prepared for it than some people would be, because I started my blog at a time when people got intensely involved with my blog. I was writing about very personal stuff. People thought that they knew me, so I've gotten a little bit used to that. The difference is that the movie is not me.

'Bandslam' Rocks the Red Carpet in Austin

Bobby Bones at Bandslam Red Carpet Premiere

As a volunteer for South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences and Festivals Special Venues Crew in the past, I've helped out at many film premieres and so have some experience at red-carpet events. However, last week was the first time I experienced the media side of the red carpet, at a local sneak preview of Bandslam, which was shot here in Austin in 2008.

I was a bit nervous before the event, so to boost my confidence I read Jette's blog entry on red-carpet lessons. I wanted to make sure I was able to cover both audio and video, so I was well equipped with cameras, digital voice recorder, camcorder, and even "The Poor Man's Steadicam" from my favorite tech geek, Johnny Chung Lee. With temperatures hitting the triple digits, I remembered Jette's advice and packed several bottles of water.

The Bandslam red carpet had a few extras not often seen at previews or even premieres. Because a large portion of the film was shot in Austin and featured a couple of Austin bands, a performance was set up in the courtyard at Galaxy Highland. Local bands Joker and The Daze performed outdoors as folks waited to be ushered in for the screening. In the film, the members of Joker played the backing band for one of the main characters, and The Daze were seen as themselves in the "Bandslam" battle of the bands competition. Check out a photo of Joker after the jump:

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