Alamo Drafthouse

'America Unchained' Thursday Night at Alamo Lake Creek

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America UnchainedAmerica Unchained was one of the few docs I got to see in a theater at the Austin Film Festival this past year, but I'm really glad I did. It's one of those movies that might not be so impressive sitting down by yourself with your DVD player, but really takes off when you see it with an audience. So much so that it won the Audience Award at AFF for Best Documentary.

Comedian Dave Gorman’s quest is a simple one: to drive cross country from Los Angeles to the Atlantic Ocean never spending a cent at a chain restaurant, chain hotel or chain gas station – independent businesses only. But in a country where the mom and pop shop is nearing extinction, does the independent spirit of America still thrive enough to go coast to coast? And how do you do it all while being a vegetarian, anyway? Gorman and Devonshire’s insightful film opens up the back roads of the country to find the heart of America.

On some levels the movie is very much a process film -- you spend some time wondering if Gorman isn't manipulating events to make a better picture -- but there are a number of genuine moments that more than make up for those few moments of incredulity. (Seriously, he couldn't have brought along an extra can or two of gas?) Highly recommended, especially for Austin's citizenry who have a mad on for Wal-Mart.

America Unchained shows at the Alamo Lake Creek on Thursday night at 7:30 pm. Admission is $4 or free for AFF members.

[Editor's Note: Jette Kernion would like to shamelessly plug her review of America Unchained written for Cinematical last year as part of Austin Film Festival coverage.]

Crispin Glover is Fine in Austin

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Crispin Glover, by fuzuoko on FlickrFrom February 9 - 11, star of River's Edge and Charlie's Angels Crispin Glover gave several performance readings of his books and screened the first two films of his controversial self-produced and directed It trilogy at the Alamo Ritz. This is what he had to say during the post-screening Q&A about his books, slideshow, self-funding his projects, and his films What Is It? and It is Fine! Everything is Fine.

"I have been performing the slideshow since 1992," Glover said, "after writing and publishing books through my company Volcanic Eruptions. I try to play to the humor in the material which I perform from the books [including excerpts from The Rat Catcher, The Backwards Swing, and Around My House, among others]."

"I started experimenting with old books in the early 1980s, blacking out parts of text by drawing tendrils and such using India ink or writing in the margins. I've always drawn and wrote since I was a child. I was taking an acting class near a bookstore which sold bindings from the 1800s for cheap, so I used books I picked up from there. Around 1985 or 86, I finished my first book Around My House. I have completed 18 books so far and plan to complete several different slide show versions using excerpts from various books.

Damn, I Missed It: 'Semi-Pro' Audience in Costume

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I didn't go to the Semi-Pro preview screening at Alamo South Lamar last weekend, and boy did I miss out. Attendees were required to wear outfits resembling the team uniforms from the movie: a singlet for the Flint Tropics, gold shorts and sweatband, and those long athletic knee socks I remember my dad wearing to exercise in the 1970s. I had to wonder how many people would go to the trouble to buy or make such a costume, just for a free movie. Okay, so Will Ferrell would be there too -- that might make a difference.

Photos from the event show a packed theater full of wildly enthusiastic Austinites, with every single one dressed in the requisite gear. Some had groovy Seventies wigs, too. Even Alamo founders Tim and Karrie League were wearing the outfits, although I've seen Tim wear much weirder things in the name of film, so that was no surprise. I suppose it's also no surprise that Alamo South had a basketball goal set up in the lobby and people were playing impromptu games before and after the film.

More than 150 photos (including the one above) were taken by David Hill photography, which has a complete set of 168 images from the event. In addition, Sarah of Posh Deluxe has written a terrific entry about the Semi-Pro screening that includes photos. And Austinist interviewed Will Ferrell this weekend, and has photos of the actor from that session.

Next time, I'll go get -- and wear -- the damn outfit. (Especially if I have a better camera by then, since my current camera would never be able to capture the glorious golds of the uniform as well as these photos do.)

[Photo credit: David Hill Photography on Flickr. Original photo here. Used under terms of Creative Commons license.]

The Real Star of Alamo's "Kindly Rewind" Contest

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frost tower with moon, by Mr. Wright

I wrote an article for Cinematical today about the Kindly Rewind short-film contest that Alamo Drafthouse and AMD are sponsoring. If you have a few minutes and you want some light entertainment, you can't do better than to head over to the Filmmaking Frenzy site and watch some of the Kindly Rewind entries. You don't have to register on the site unless you want to vote for the entries, but voting is a nice way to support the shorts you like: the winner gets a fancy video-editing computer setup from AMD, and the winning shorts will be shown before Be Kind Rewind at original Alamo theaters.

My husband and I watched at least a half-dozen of the shorts this weekend, and caught the first minute or two of a dozen others. I realized, while watching these, what the real star of Kindly Rewind was: the Frost Bank Tower. This iconic building in Austin showed up in almost every short we saw, whether it was as a futuristic building in Blade Runner or as one of the many downtown Austin sites in March of the Penguins. It was also shown to good effect in Koyaanisqatsi.

Austin landmarks are often the best parts of these shorts. One of my favorites so far has been The Blues Brothers, because the film was transposed entirely to Austin. "Ray" isn't Ray Charles in this movie, but Ray Hennig of Heart of Texas Music (who legend claims sold Stevie Ray Vaughan his favorite Fender Strat in 1973). Bob's Country Bunker becomes the Broken Spoke. Other films also use Austin locations well: Nick Robinson's Beastmaster jumps off the Town Lake bridge, the Cliffs of Insanity in The Princess Bride are on Capitol of Texas Highway, and one version of Jurassic Park involves the Mangia dinosaur.

But it's the Frost Bank Tower that appears again and again. Is this a subtle message about what we consider iconic in Austin? Or does it just look good on film?

[Photo credit: Mr. Wright on Flickr. Original photo here. Used under terms of Creative Commons license.]

BLOOD CAR takes another whack at Austin

BloodCarOne of my favorite films from the 2007 Austin Film Festival, Blood Car, returns to Austin for an encore screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek courtesy of AFF. If your butt isn't planted in a seat at the Lake Creek tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. you're going to be sorry. Really, really sorry.

In the near future gas prices have reached astronomical highs nearing $40 a gallon. One man, Archie Andrews, an environmentalist elementary school teacher, is trying to discover an alternate fuel source. While experimenting with wheat grass, Archie accidentally stumbles upon a solution. That solution turns out to be blood. HUMAN BLOOD!

The screening is free for members and $4 to the general public. It may be the best $4 you ever spend at the movie theater. Would I lie about a film named Blood Car?

Find out more at the AFF web site.

Movies This Week: The Holiday Edition

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Maybe your idea of a fun Christmas week doesn't include a lot of family gatherings, tree-trimming, or waiting in line to see the lights at Zilker. Maybe you'd rather be at the movies. If so, you've got some interesting choices for next week:

  • Tons of new movies opening in Austin this week: I've seen Juno, Charlie Wilson's War, Sweeney Todd, and The Orphanage (Alamo South). Cinematical published my review of Swe­eney Todd if you're interested. If those movies don't appeal, you also can see Walk Hard, The Great Debaters, The Savages (Arbor), National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
  • Over at the IMAX theater at Bob Bullock, Christmas is busting out all over. You can see the 3-D version of The Polar Express all week long, or a half-hour 3D animated film called Santa vs. the Snowman.

The Alamo Guide for January & February

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Two words: "Spike" and "Mike." (Beginning January 24th!)

Highlights of this calendar are the return of John Gries for a triple threat of Napoleon Dynamite, Terrorvision and Real Genius, our first in a monthly series of rehearsals for the giant Austin, the first two rounds of Austin Air Guitar, a whole new slate of Terror Thursday and Weird Wednesday screenings, Spike and Mike, Justin Timberlake's birthday and more, more, more!

Download the full PDF of the Jan/Feb guide here.

Weekend at Butt-Numb-a-Thon

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Many people spent the past weekend shopping for Christmas gifts, or sending cards, or putting up a tree or festive lights. But a number of hardcore film geeks in Austin spent the weekend holed up in Alamo at the Ritz, watching 24 hours of movies, vintage trailers, clips from upcoming films, and even a TV episode. The ninth annual Butt-Numb-a-Thon packed the larger theater at the Alamo -- 13 of us were in the right-hand balcony, and we were all quite friendly quite quickly. (One of my favorite moments with the group was the domino effect with the milkshakes: One of us ordered a shake, and when it appeared, everyone else immediately had to get one for themselves.)

You can see the truly prepared BNAT-ters in the above photo, toting pillows and blankets to make sure they could sit in reasonable comfort in a theater seat for more than a day. I wish I could have taken some photos of BNAT itself -- the costume contest, the meat pies served during Sweeney Todd, and Tim League appearing in a rented wizard's costume (he inadvertently broke the staff) during the traditional showing of the trailer for Stunt Rock. But cameras and other electronic gizmos are banned from BNAT, which is good because you never hear someone's phone go off in mid-movie.

I wrote up all the details on the films shown and audience reactions for Variety's film-fest site, The Circuit. Check it out. Catching up on sleep afterwards sucked, but I had a wonderful time, and my husband even reaped some benefits ... he's been playing with the HD-DVD player given away to BNAT attendees this year, ever since I brought it home.­

Still More Austin Film Blogging and Photos

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In case you're not getting enough Austin film blogging here at Slackerwood, I thought I'd share some of my favorite recent photos and blog entries from other websites, all related to local movie stuff in one way or another.

  • Slackerwood contributor Chris Holland took some excellent photos during opening night at the Alamo Ritz. I'm having severe camera envy right now -- my delightfully small camera is incapable of taking good photos in movie theaters. The photo with the confetti is amazing.
  • Sarah (aka "sarah pants," "Sarah who's dating Henri," and "Sarah who's on a poster in my office for reasons too complicated to explain here") has blogged about Alamo's Blazing Saddles BBQ Tour. She also has a Flickr set from the event, as well as ­photos from Alamo's opening night -- I get the impression from these sets that she is fond of mac and cheese.
  • One more Flickr set from the Alamo Ritz opening? Please? This one's from Wiley Wiggins and features­ action photos of the fighting gorillas. (A brief aside: I feel like I'm always linking to photos of one Alamo event or another. I would love to feature photos from other local theaters, but apart from the occasional Paramount premiere, I can't find any online. If I'm missing something, please comment with a link.)
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