'The Happy Poet' Returns to Austin at Stateside Independent


Paul Gordon in The Happy Poet

Stateside Independent will screen The Happy Poet -- which premiered at SXSW 2010 -- Monday, May 6 at 7 pm [ticket info]. Cast members Jonny Mars, Chris Doubek and Liz Fisher, and producer David Hartstein, will be there for a Q&A following the movie.

In The Happy Poet, a comedy filmed in Austin, unemployed writer Bill (writer-director Paul Gordon) dreams of running a cart that sells local/organic vegetarian snacks: eggless egg-salad sandwiches, basil pesto pitas and the like. There's just a slight hitch in his plans: He's practically broke and has to insinuate to the man selling him the food cart that he will be selling hot dogs instead. He makes the snacks at his apartment in the morning (my baker friend would be distressed to see his lack of plastic gloves) and stakes out a spot to sell his wares.

Bill, bespectacled and hesitant, is aided in this venture by friends who help him advertise and come up with a name for his business -- The Happy Poet. Ironic, because Bill seems only slightly satisfied at times. He lacks much of a backbone and has to deal with disappointment. Thankfully, Bill grows through his experience with the food cart and all it entails.

Stateside Independent Series Brings 'War Witch' to Austin


War Witch poster

Shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011, the movie War Witch spins the tale of Komona (new actress Rachel Mwanza, who won a few awards for this role), a young girl abducted at the age of 12 by rebels during an attack on her village. The film is narrated by Komona, telling the story of her past two years to her unborn child. 

After she is forced by the rebels to commit atrocious acts, Komona comes to be valued and esteemed for her intuition and preternatural ability. The "milk" the fighters drink causes her to see visions, ghosts of the dead. Still, amid Komona's horrific situation, we see small glimmers of hope in her budding relationship with a fellow child soldier, a search for a white rooster, and her ingenuity. 

Writer/director Kim Nguyen's film is made up of memorable, haunting imagery and subtle, powerful performances (especially from Mwanza) that keep it grounded.  Despite the violence obviously implied in scenes, War Witch never veers into gory territory. We are seeing the story through Komona's eyes, and for her, bulletholes in a cloth are as stark a reminder of death as any blood shed.  

Stateside Theatre offers you a chance to see War Witch on the big screen. On Monday evening, April 1, the movie will be shown as part of their new Stateside Independent series. This Austin premiere will be screened in HD digital presentation on Blu-ray. [ticket info]  If you decide to go (and you should!), it might be a good idea to pack some tissues.

War Witch was Canada's submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the recent Academy Awards, and ended up as one of the five final nominees. You can see the trailer after the jump.

William Shatner at the Paramount: He's Real


Miss Congeniality

By Barbara Cigarroa

It was a packed house at the Paramount Theatre. Sitting in the uppermost row of the balcony, I looked down and watched as hundreds of people took their seats below me, waiting for the Captain himself, William Shatner, to appear on stage and take them for a ride. Minutes later, the lights dimmed and there he was doing just that, a rolling chair with him as his sole prop for life -- toilet, ship, bus, table, and, coffin. From where I sat, the 81-year-old actor looked tiny, but as the words rolled out of him and as his gestures became grander and grander, the distance between us disappeared and I was right there with him. The title of the show suggested it and Bad Billy delivered: he transported me right into his world, "Shatner's World."

I went into the Paramount Theatre that night expecting to be entertained by an entertainment icon; I came out of there having experienced, yes, a hilarious, but also, a heartfelt look back at this man's thrilling, legendary and sometimes lonely career as an actor.

Shatner began his professional trajectory in a Shakespearean theatre ensemble – no, not as the lead, but as the lead's understudy. Even though he probably would not be but an extra on stage, he took it upon himself to study every syllable and inflection of that other William's iambic pentameter, memorizing and rehearsing those 16th century lines in the one place he ever felt truly confortable: the toilet.

Stateside Independent Series Kicks Off with '56 Up'


56 Up poster

Last week a new program was announced at Stateside at Paramount Theatre (formerly known as the State).  "Stateside Independent" will screen a different independent film -- festival fare, documentaries, local premieres, etc. -- each Monday night.

In his blog entry on the Paramount website, programmer Stephen Jannise said, "I couldn't be more excited about providing a fresh new platform for independent filmmakers to showcase their work, and my greatest hope is that this series proves to be a valuable addition for the growing community of Austin film lovers."

The first movie will show on Monday, Feb. 18 and Tuesday, Feb. 19. Director Michael Apted's 56 Up is the 2012 update to the series he began in 1964 with Seven Up! Every seven years he checks in with the children he met while making that original 30-minute TV special.

The 1964 film included British kids from different class backgrounds. It's been 48 years since that special. How have the lives of those people -- now in late middle-age -- evolved? If you've been keeping up with the series (49 Up came out in 2005), you may have some idea of the trajectory their lives have taken, but there's likely to be some surprises here.

The following Monday, February 25, Stateside will host the Austin premiere of the Texas-shot indie film Far Marfa, co-hosting with the Texas Independent Film Network. Writer/director Cory Van Dyke is scheduled to attend. The movie received a Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund grant in 2011. Look for Debbie's preview next week.

You can read more about Stateside at Paramount's new program and critical reception of 56 Up on the Paramount's blog. Watch the 56 Up trailer below:

Paramount Has Naughty and Nice Movies This December


Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen in White Christmas

To celebrate the 2012 holiday season, Austin's Paramount Theatre will be showing four movies this month. These include three of our Holiday Favorites past! (But not new Paramount programmer Stephen Jannise's Holiday Favorite, sadly for him at least.)

On the naughty list are dark comedy Bad Santa and 1980's-era classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, playing Sunday, Dec. 9 and Monday, Dec. 10. Agnes Varnum chose Bad Santa as her holiday favorite last year, saying "If you ever feel like commercialism and sentimentality have overtaken the holiday, Bad Santa is the cure."  Local filmmaker David Hartstein wrote about Christmas Vacation; he loves how the film "manages to pull off the near impossible feat of maintaining traditional Christmas movie sentimentality while skewering it at the same time." 

Win Tickets to See Glenn Close at the Paramount


Glenn Close in The Stepford Wives

I love watching movies at The Paramount -- the ambience and responsive audiences more than make up for the, er, austere theater seats. I still remember the fun of watching Office Space there. But the theater also hosts a number of film-related events throughout the year. Earlier this year, Spike Lee showed up to screen Summer of Sam. Next year's performances include one-person shows from William Shatner and Oliver Stone.

And on Thursday night (Dec. 6), the Paramount is bringing us "An Evening with Glenn Close," in which the actress will tell stories about her life and career. Looking at Glenn Close's filmography, it can't help but be fascinating. And if you haven't bought tickets yet, Slackerwood has a pair of tickets to give away!

I'll make this super-easy: Simply post a comment below mentioning your favorite Glenn Close movie role: Dangerous Liaisons, 101 Dalmatians, Hook ... whatever you like best. (Mine may be the photo at the top, from a film I consider underrated.) Make sure you include your email address, which only I will see, and will use only to contact the winner. Post your comment by 11:59 pm today (Tuesday, Dec. 4). I'll pick one person at random to win a pair of tickets, which will be available for you at the box office.

Amy Heckerling Brings Clueless to the Paramount


By Josiane Amezcua

If there was a film I watched about a dozen times growing up, it probably had to be Clueless, the popular 1995 comedy based on Jane Austen's novel Emma. From quoting lines to discussing scenes, the movie became a favorite of mine to watch with friends over the years.

When I discovered the Paramount Theatre was going to be holding a screening of Clueless at the Stateside as part of its Summer Classic Film Series, I knew I had to take the opportunity to see one of my favorite movies on the big screen. The opportunity seemed even more exciting when I learned that it also included a Q&A with the film's writer and director, Amy Heckerling.

When I arrived at the event, the theater was packed. From groups of friends to mothers with their daughters, the screening brought out a large crowd. There was a lot of energy and excitement in the room, which only grew more once the first scene began to play. I had only seen Clueless on a TV set before, so viewing it on the big screen with an audience made the experience feel a lot different and more enjoyable. Laughter filled the theater from the beginning to end, as Clueless is one of those films where you could find the same scene funny even after watching it countless times.

Following the screening, the Q&A with Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Look Who's Talking, European Vacation) took place. She was welcomed to the stage with loud applause, as everyone was very thrilled to see the person behind the classic. When the moderator asked for questions from the audience, it felt like almost everyone raised their hand.

One of the first questions Heckerling was asked focused on how Clueless came to be. Heckerling explained how she was asked by one of the studios to write a TV pilot about "the cool kids." However, when she wrote one, they ended up passing on it. Luckily, another studio had faith in making it into a film instead.

A Classic Movie Fan's Dream: 2012 Summer Film Classics at the Paramount


Doris Day listens in as Rock Hudson chats up a lover in Pillow Talk

One of the best things about living in Austin is getting to attend some of the classic films that screen each summer at the Paramount Theatre. The full Paramount Summer Classic Film Series schedule has just been released, with movies screening at Stateside this year, too.

Here are some from the bunch I find worth noting:

  • Pillow Talk (1959), pictured above, helps start the summer series off -- screening with the far more serious To Kill a Mockingbird. Although I've been a fan of classic movies since elementary school, it is only in recent years that my love and admiration for Doris Day has grown. This comedy, featuring Day as an interior designer forced to share a party line with playboy Rock Hudson, is now one of my favorite movies, and I can't wait to see it on the big screen! (9:35 Thurs, 5/24; 7 pm Fri, 5/25)
  • An Affair to Remember (1957) -- Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, and pink champagne! If you love Sleepless in Seattle and haven't yet seen this drama (dramedy?) referenced throughout that '90s film, here's your chance. (7 pm Fri, 6/1)
  • Hooray for a focus on female filmmakers! Films by Ida Lupino (Outrage), Amy Heckerling (Clueless), Claire Denis (35 Shots of Rum), and more are included in this short series screening Tues-Sun, 6/5-10.
  • Ishtar (1987) -- One of the biggest box-office bombs, this road-trip comedy directed by Elaine May gets a bad rap. True, I've only seen it once, and that was years ago, but I enjoyed it. You just might, as well. (7 pm Tues, 6/12; 9 pm Weds, 6/13)

Classic and New Comedies at the Paramount This Month


Love and Death

Just in time to break up the dark days of winter -- which in Austin apparently means 70 degrees and sunny, not that I'm complaining at all -- the Paramount Theatre is screening some classic and new funny movies in its Winter Comedy Series this month. The films range from Will Ferrell vehicles to Richard Pryor stand-up; Woody Allen to Eddie Murphy; and a certain locally shot favorite. The week-long series runs from January 22-29.

The movies are being shown in double features, and one ticket can get you into both films in one night. If you have a Paramount Film Fan membership, you can get a discount on ticket prices, online or at the box office.

The lineup is detailed below.

It's That Time of Year (Almost): Holiday Films at the Paramount


Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye & Vera Ellen in White Christmas

If you, like me, wait until Thanksgiving to start watching holiday movies, it's almost time to bring them out. This year (as in years past) the Paramount is showing classic White Christmas, as well as a couple more modern Christmas "classics."

White Christmas will be shown on the night of Monday, Nov. 28th at 7 pm and 9:30. A showcase for music by Irving Berlin, the 1954 film stars crooner Bing Crosby, goofball Danny Kaye, songstress Rosemary Clooney and dancer Vera Ellen. A couple of song and dance men meet up with singing sisters and decide to take their show to Vermont. Post-World War II-era jingoism, romantic miscommunication, a song called "Choreography," child ballerinas and choirboys -- this movie's got it all.

In December, the landmark theatre will pair 1988's Scrooged with 2003's Love Actually. Jesse Trussell, the Paramount's film programmer, comments, "That double bill are two more recent selections than we've typically played in the past, but one of the things I like to focus on here at the theater is to find a good mix between the perennial classics we all love and titles that haven't played on our screen. With the three films picked this year I think we cover a wide spectrum of holiday film tastes."

If you like your schmaltz laid on thick and movies where multiple couples fall in love, then you can't go wrong with the ensemble romantic-comedy Love Actually. Richard Curtis' movie has some high points -- mainly the quality cast involved.  I know many people who love this movie, but I'm not one of them.  The less than subtle attempts at emotional manipulation are a bit much for me.  Still, Bill Nighy singing "Christmas Is All Around Me" almost makes up for the rest of the film.  Almost.  Love Actually shows at 4 pm on Sunday, December 18 and 2 pm and 6:35 pm on Monday, December 19.

One of the greatest (and least reverent) cinematic takes on Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Scrooged features Bill Murray as an affluent network television executive led by a trio of spirits to face the selfish man he has come to be. Alfre Woodard plays his Cratchit-like assistant, Karen Allen his lost love, Carol Kane the Ghost of Christmas Present ... this cast is packed with talent (and the cameos!). Here's hoping that the audience at the Paramount screenings will stick around to sing along with "Put A Little Love in Your Heart." I'm getting verklempt just thinking about it. Scrooged screens at 2 pm and 6:55 pm on Sunday, December 18 and 4:35 pm on Monday, December 19.

Syndicate content