Insider's Guide

Fantastic Fest 2014 Guide: Boozin' It Up


The HighballA lot has changed since Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar last hosted Fantastic Fest, in 2012. The craft beer scene across the nation continues to grow, and both Austin and the Alamo Drafthouse offer fabulous selections to demonstrate the dedication and passion that brewers and beer enthusiasts have for a good brew.

Texas has experienced a welcome growth of local craft breweries along with an influx of world-renowned breweries from across the United States -- Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Epic Brewing, Founders Brewing, Odell Brewing are just a few on local tap walls.

Alamo Drafthouse recently announced the launch of a new beer program, featuring a new style every month. This month's offering is Octoberfest, a deep gold to copper-colored lager that typically features bright clarity and a solid, off-white head. This style is composed of Vienna and Munich malts that contributes a toasty caramel and rich melanoidin character with some moderate hop bitterness and mild sweetness. Current Octoberfest selections on tap at Alamo South Lamar include the traditional Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen as well as Texas favorites -- Real Ale Brewing Company's Oktoberfest, Houston's Karbach Brewing Company Karbachtoberfest and Port Spiral Oktoberfest.

Insider's Guide: Alamo Drafthouse Menu Hacks



Everyone knows that places like Torchy's Tacos and In-n-Out Burger have secret menus, for a given definition of "secret." Slackerwood has done much in-depth research (okay, I asked on social media) and can now offer you a guide to customizing the Alamo Drafthouse menu. This can definitely come in handy during film festivals when you don't have time to rush over to a nearby fast-food joint and find yourself facing the same menu for the fifth day running. Especially if you are a Drafthouse regular anyway.

The best advice I have: Order off the kids' menu. It's okay for grownups to do this. The chicken strips are especially flavorful and you can add more if two aren't enough. The milkshakes come in simple flavors, like chocolate and vanilla. It's not the most healthful food on the menu (although you can get fruit as a side!) but I really like the smaller portion sizes.

Fantastic Fest 2013: North Austin Cuisine and Libations


Fantastic Fest 2013

Fantastic Fest this year has moved to Alamo Drafthouse's largest facility at Lakeline -- ten screens and combined seating for 944 customers. Not only is the theater in a different part of Austin, but changes have been made to the standard Alamo Drafthouse menu at all locations to ensure customer satisfaction. Despite their popularity with many moviegoers, the potato skins and nachos have been removed from the menu as League and his culinary staff strive to improve consistency and quality of food items.

Eight days of consuming Alamo Drafthouse food during Fantastic Fest leaves many attendees craving local as well as inexpensive options. Although several of the restaurants nearest the new location are national chains like Fuddrucker's and Olive Garden, there's no shortage of great dining and drinking establishments accessible by vehicle within a three-mile radius, including several personal favorites of Slackerwood contributors. Although not reflected on the City of Austin Bike Map, Pecan Park Blvd has a bike lane that can be considered in the medium to high comfort range.

Navigating the area around Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline isn't too difficult once you get the "lay of the land." Remember that the theater is just northwest of the intersection of two major highways -- U.S. 183, which runs north/south, and Ranch Road (RR) 620, which becomes Toll Road 45 east of 183. Pay attention to signs to avoid tolls when driving north of the theater location by using "old 183," officially named South Bell Blvd.

Here's a few of our recommendations in the area, sorted by proximity to Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline:

Lakeline -- Immediate Vicinity

These restaurants are theoretically within walking or biking distance of Alamo Lakeline, but you want to exercise extreme caution around the high traffic zones of the U.S. 183 frontage roads and RR 620.

  • Smashburger (14028 N Hwy 183, Bldg. G-310) -- This newly opened burger franchise is a stone's throw from the front of the theater. Although not a personal favorite, its proximity ensures that I'll be stopping in to try a truffle mushroom Swiss burger.

SXSW 2013 Guides: One Film Guide to Include Them All


SXSW 2012 at Stateside

Here it is: The SXSW Film Fest Omnibus Survival Guide. Slackerwood has been publishing SXSW insider's guides for years, but this year I decided it was everyone else's turn. This guide is essentially a collection of all the guides and tips I could find that would help SXSW filmgoers. I also threw in our own guides from this year and when still relevant, previous years. It is truly One Guide to Rule Them All.

And if this isn't enough guidance, bring your questions to the SXSW Film Conference panel  "A Beginner's Guide to SXSW Film" on Friday at 2 pm at ACC. Agnes Varnum, Yen Tan, David Modigliani, Kimberley Jones and I will attempt to answer them and if we can't, probably someone in the audience can.

Speaking of David Modigliani, let's kick things off with the "SXSW 2013: Do It Like a Local" video from Flow Nonfiction, where he's Creative Director. David's the guy on the left of local chef/restaurant owner Paul Qui. The advice is geared toward Music but there's a lot of universal tips in here (plus, it's fun).

XX Team Power! The Fantastic Fest Females Survival Guide


Fantastic Fest 2011

This week, I'll embark on my seventh journey into the film-geek-genre adventure known as Fantastic Fest. In 2006, I was a newbie, navigating the bloody waters of strange and fascinating cinema. It was uncharted territory for someone of the double-X chromosome persuasion, as females were the definite minority among attendees. Since then, our numbers (and powers) have increased with women banding together to proclaim, "We're genre nerds too!"

Even so, I continue to have this same conversation:

Me: "Oh, I love Fantastic Fest. I go every year and have a blast!"
Female Fantastic Fest Virgin: "It's not really my thing. I don't like slasher movies."
Me: "I don't either."
FFFV: "Then how… ?"

Ladies, listen up. You too can enjoy Fantastic Fest. If you love celebrating the quirky and unexpected side of cinema, and enjoy being around like-minded people, you need to attend this festival. Even if you hate horror films or "rapey" movies, you can still see some amazing and unforgettable films. Some are unforgettable for bad reasons, but still great conversation starters.

Fantastic Fest 2012 Guide: Planning Your BBQ and Beer Run


bbq run - ff09 (4)"Over time the process of creating pit barbecue has transformed such modest spots into great spaces, where the smoke and heat have penetrated the walls and the people who toil within them."
Wyatt McSpadden, Texas BBQ, University of Texas Press

As a native Texan, I enjoy joking about the four basic food groups of Texas: Tex-Mex, BBQ, Southern-fried, and beer. Every year the increasing number of Fantastic Fest attendees from all over the globe seem to be most fascinated with BBQ, although beer is certainly not neglected. Much of that credit goes to Alamo Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League, who has spearheaded barbecue-themed road trips to favorite iconic stops around Central Texas for film lovers and visiting filmmakers, as seen above.

Texans take their BBQ very seriously, even more so then the "beans or no beans in chili" argument. With BBQ it's "sauce or no sauce" that evokes major controversy, and when sauce is allowed the flavors may ranges from sweet to peppery to holy habanero hot. Perfecting the technique of smoking a brisket until there's a perfect pink smoke line while leaving a moist center is critical to many pitmasters, and a nice "bark" is achieved through the use of a pepper rub.

Let me state for the record -- this guide is not meant to provide a comprehensive list of the best Austin has to offer. There are already plenty of BBQ blogs and lists around for reference. And yes, many Texans prefer the "BBQ" spelling over the generic "barbecue." (That's another argument you can enjoy.)

Insider's Guide: Surviving SXSW 2012


Super Woman Sneaks by Carla Jackson of A Swingin' Trio, AFF 2011.Welcome to the third annual edition of the Slackerwood SXSW Survival Guide. This time we've taken more of a mix-tape approach to our tips. You could always make a playlist of the bolded tips and listen to them as you work on your schedule.

Here are some of our tried-and-true tips for making the most of SXSW Film Festival as well as Austin. Keep an eye out for our Dining Guide, and some tips from the filmmaker community, in the next week.

In These Shoes?
You may be tempted to dress to impress, but those smokin' new shoes could leave you with major blisters, not to mention very sore feet. Go for comfort, not speed, unless you happen to score a pair of shiny gold hightops that do both (I’m looking at you, Carla Jackson, when you rocked a sassy full-length gown and "Super Woman Sneaks" at AFF 2011 for A Swingin' Trio's premiere).

Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen).
Austin in March averages 50-70 degree F temps, but they can dip into the 30s and soar into the 90s. Those shorts may result in freeze burn after a particularly long screening. Keep an eye on the weather but remember it can change very quickly, so plan on layers. And do not forget that sunscreen, regardless of cloud cover.

Traveling Light.
I don't mean your luggage limit on the plane, but your daily festival burden. A backpack or totebag can help you get through each SXSW day, but remember you may have that with you all day, especially if you aren't staying at a downtown hotel or have a conveniently parked car nearby. Trial sizes are your friends.

Slackerwood contributor Rod Paddock adds this advice: "If you plan on carrying a laptop to SXSW, don't! That extra 7-10 lbs will kill your back and you probably won't use it. I recommend using an iPad (or other tablet device). I use Pages on my iPad to do my writing. You would be surprised how useful they are when you try."

Insider's Guide: Giving the Gift of Membership


happy christmas everybody! by allerleirau

Wondering what to give the cinephiles in your life? Tired of buying them DVDs they've already got in their film library, or resisting the urge to give a generic gift certificate? Then consider the gift of membership to any of several deserving film organizations in Austin.

You'll not only give a refreshingly different gift that has year round benefits, you'll be supporting the local film community. Most membership programs are tiered and cumulative; each level of membership also includes the benefits of all the previous levels in most cases (not to mention it's usually tax deductible).

Austin Film Festival -- AFF hosts a number of sneak-peek screenings throughout the year as well as the Made in Texas and Family Film Series. The writers on your list will appreciate the discounts on the screenplay coverage and Final Draft, and all film fans will appreciate the two free rentals at Vulcan Video. Higher levels of membership include discounts on badges for AFF, and one (or more) free passes to AFF as well.

Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival -- Membership includes festival badges, and higher levels include a ticket to their annual Red Carpet Gala (the one that happens in February on the same day of the biggest film awards event of the year, hint hint), and other events.

Insider's Guide: Thanksgiving at the Movies


While many folks will be spending Thursday around the dinner table gorging on Thanksgiving dinner, some folks go to the movies. There is no need to choose between the two. You can still enjoy the classic dishes without messing up your kitchen, whether you go with family or not. No mishaps with turkeys, no nightmarish sides and no worries about finding a million and one ways to serve leftover turkey.

Theaters do big business on Thanksgiving, which is why this week new releases are opening on Wednesday. But in Austin, only Alamo Drafthouse is combining traditional Thanksgiving fare with their films. Even Violet Crown has no public plans to do anything special for the holiday as synonymous with overindulging as it is with the bird.

Like previous years, all Alamo locations are offering the option to buy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner along with your movie ticket. This year's menu includes turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, dressing, Parker House rolls and pecan pie. A (very) limited number of walk-up tickets will be made available, so it's recommended to purchase your dinner in advance. The ticket option is $22, which includes your film and the dinner, but doesn't include drinks. Check out the Alamo blog for details. Just note that this year they are not promoting the leftovers that you can bring home.

Insider's Guide: Austin Film Festival 2011



It's the last big film festival of the year in Austin, are you ready? Austin Film Festival has a distinctly different vibe from the other fests in town. It's chiller, for one thing, in part because it's winding down the festival season, if not actually cooler temps. Whether you're a local or visitor, if it's your first time at a film festival, check out our Festival Survival Tips for the basics (and then some).  But there are things to know specifically for AFF, and for this year.

Dressing for the Occasion. Austin is a very casual town, so unless you're going to the Film and Food Gala, no need to get decked out.  Just remember to layer and don't complain about any rain as we desperately need it.  Check Weather Underground for the latest forecasts. On a related note, if you're a smoker you better police your butts and don't even think of throwing one out of a car window, or on the ground during the barbecue on Friday (fire danger is a serious problem in Texas these days).

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