AFF09 Daily Dispatch: Day Five


How I Got LostMonday was Arbor Day for me. That is, I watched two Austin Film Festival films up at the Arbor Cinema. The best anyone can do is three features a day from this point on, but I was too busy watching a screener to make it any earlier (and more on that later).

I don't know how much of it was rainy Monday, post-conference, or just being out of downtown, but the AFF movies at the Arbor were not crowded. That's not to say it was empty -- there was a respectable sized crowd for both films I saw -- but no one was forced for sit in the front row. Keep that in mind for all venues for the next three days; unless you're late, you're likely to get into everything now. If it's at the Paramount, you'll get in.

First up for me was How I Got Lost (pictured at right), directed by Joe Leonard and starring Aaron Stanford, Jacob Fishel, and Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married). I swear having Stanford in a film is a guarantee of getting it into an Austin festival. In the five years the films Flakes, Rick, Spartan, and The Cake Eaters have all played at an Austin festival. How I Got Lost is based on a short by Leonard, and the story revolves around two New York friends in the post-9/11 world.  Unfortunately, Leonard wasn't at the screening for a Q&A.

Review: The Horse Boy


Rupert Isaacson, Rowan and Ghoste in Mongolia by Justin Hennard Since I've not personally known anyone with autism, it's not an issue I could relate to until seeing Michel O. Scott's The Horse Boy, which is currently playing at Arbor Great Hills. You may also remember it under its working title, Over the Hills and Far Away. This film, which was partially funded by the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, was nominated in 2009 for a Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and received the Audience Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival. The compelling documentary portrays the challenges of dealing with a young child stricken with autism, and chronicles the family's attempt to improve their quality of life by exploring non-traditional healing in Mongolia.

Having met abroad in India, Rupert Isaacson and his wife Kristen Neff found themselves unable to travel effortlessly to the store after their son Rowan was diagnosed at 2 1/2 years of age with autism.  At the time The Horse Boy was filmed, 5-year-old Rowan was prone to autistic tantrums that could last for over four hours, and was incapable of using the toilet. It is surprising then that the family would endeavor to travel across the world to Mongolia, meeting with shamans and then ascending 12,000 feet near the Russian border to visit the shamam of the reindeer herders.

I was amazed by the unflinching optimism of the parents through such a laborous journey, but considering Isaacson's role as producer of the Horse Boy (with book option), it's understandable there's a reduction in objectivity. However, filmmaker Michel O. Scott successfully interlaces scenes from the family's "routine" life in Elgin, Texas and their expedition across Mongolia by van and horse with experts who offer insight into autism.

Slackery News Tidbits: True Confessions


burger bedWould you like to learn the secret about how I find all the Slackery News Tidbits? Sure, some of them come from press releases I receive and articles I find, but most of them -- okay, I'll confess. I find most of them by reading Twitter posts. Someone links to a cool article or news, I mark the post as a favorite, and then periodically I dig through my favorites and create a list like the one below.

Now you're all thinking that you'll never read Slackery News Tidbits again because you can just check Twitter ... but the first item on the list isn't from Twitter, it's from a press-release email and is news you may not know yet. It's not even on the fest's website yet. So see, you have to keep reading.

  • Austin Film Festival has just announced that Ron Howard will be attending this year's screenwriters conference and film fest. AFF is presenting Howard with the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award, and will also be a featured speaker during the conference. Which films will they show that he's been involved with? Hoping for Splash and Night Shift, myself.

Movies This Week: Vampires and Synecdoche and Shorts


Charlie Kaufman at AFF

I know, you're all going to see Quantum of Solace this weekend, and you don't care what else is playing, nor will you be influenced by my opinion of the film (it didn't meet my expectations, which admittedly were high). On the off chance that you're not into the latest Bond outing, here are some highlights of movies playing in local theaters this week:

  • One of the favorites at Fantastic Fest this year is opening this week: Let the Right One In, a Swedish film about pre-teens in love, and school bullying ... and vampires. A sweet film, with some lovely moments, and a gore level that was low enough to be acceptable to my squeamish self. Arbor and Alamo South are both showing this film.
  • If you're more of a Twilight kind of person, Austin Film Society still has tickets left to the film's Austin premiere on Thursday, November 20 at the Texas State History Museum's IMAX theater. The remaining tickets are $50, but include an invite to an after-party with director Catherine Hardwicke in attendance.

Movies This Week: The Holiday Edition


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.

See 'What Would Jesus Buy' Tonight for Only $5


The documentary What Would Jesus Buy? had its world premiere earlier this year at SXSW. I am still regretting that I didn't get a chance to see the mo­vie in March. The film's subject, Reverend Billy, was at SXSW with his Church of Stop Shopping Choir, and apparently they were quite the hit. YouTube has a clip of Rev. Billy holding an impromptu protest at/around the Austin Convention Center during the festival. Morgan Spurlock's distribution company picked up the rights to the anti-consumer-greed film, and it's currently getting a limited theatrical release.

What Would Jesus Buy? returns to Austin this weekend for a run at the Arbor Great Hills, just in time to fight the frenzied shopping characteristic of the Christmas season. The Arbor has teamed up with Responsible Growth for Northcross (RG4N) to offer some special screenings and discounts as part of RG4N's fundraising efforts. Tonight (Friday), you can see the 7:30 pm screening of the doc for only $5 admission, with proceeds going to R­G4N. You also can visit the RG4N website for a coupon that gets you a discounted admission to the movie at any screening this weekend. RG4N has all the details here.

[Full disclosure: My husband is on the board of RG4N and we live in walking distance of the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter development at Northcross.]­

Quick Snaps: That Wacky Arbor Marquee


­I don't like the LED screen that the Arbor uses as its main marquee, which is visible from Hwy 183. However, the Arbor has a second marquee, the old-fashioned kind, on the side of the building that faces Jollyville Road. Last week, whoever put together the marquee obviously had a sense of humor -- and was able to get away with it, too.

I think "Shadow of the Jane Austen Universe" would make a great science-fiction film.

Two BIG Comedies Tonight at AFF


I awoke this morning to an e-mail from Kelly Williams, the film program director at the Austin Film Festival, with news of two films playing tonight that comedy fans won't want to miss.

RicklesFirst the good news - we're screening two really amazing comedies at the festival on Tuesday night. You know I'm a big comedy snob, so, I would not just recommend anything.

The bad news is that that you have to pick.

I'll be at the Arbor for our TBA #3 - which is MR. WARMTH, THE DON RICKLES PROJECT - I just locked this film last week and I'm really excited about it. It is directed by John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers) and features interviews with everyone from Clint Eastwood to Robert DeNiro to Sarah Silverman - all about the great Don Rickles. It features a lot of footage of Rickles and will be awesome.

The producer of the film, Bob Engelman, is here with the film and he'll be at the screening for a Q&A after the film. He has a ton of great stories. Please come out for a great movie and Q&A!

Mr. Warmth - Tuesday, Oct. 16th at 9:30 - Regal Arbor

The other film is THE LIVING WAKE, a really original film, unlike anything I've seen come into the festival in years, plus it just won a Special Jury Award for Comic Vision at the festival this weekend. It is really funny and the writers of the film - Peter Kline and Mike O'Connell (also the lead actor - see him now before he's a huge star) will be in attendance.

The Living Wake - Tuesday, Oct. 16th at 8:00 - Dobie Theater

Thanks and I hope to see you at the festival,


Individual tickets to these screenings are $8 at the door. Film passes for the Austin Film Festival (which runs through Thursday) are $35, which is still a bargain since you could easily see five movies in the remaining nights of the festival. Badge holders are admitted first, then film pass holders, followed by individual ticket holders. For more information please visit

This Weekend at aGLIFF: "My Gay Movie" Shorts, "Poltergay"


AGLIFF rolls on at the Regal Arbor theater this week and through Saturday, with a couple of can't-miss screenings (at least from my perspective on the closing afternoon/evening).

First up at noon on Saturday it's the "My Gay Movie" program, the results of a competition that challenged filmmakers to create a 10-minute short with a "queer sensibility." The top ten shorts are on display here and several of the directors are in attendance. Particularly curiosity-piquing titles include Potato/Potata (Jude Potato is a 2-year-old's toy, but dreams of being a celebrated Austin DRAG KING) and Gaydar (a man with "gaydar" contemplates the benefits for him, if everyone had it, to the obvious degree he has it).

At 6:30 pm the festival presents Poltergay, a horror comedy that actually promises a few laughs. As a rule horror comedies tend to flub one half of the equation or the other, and from the looks of the trailer I'd have to say that Poltergay is probably a little light on the creepy, but one can probably trust the French to make jokes about homosexual ghosts from the '70s without pulling any punches.

View the entire aGLIFF schedule for the rest of the week here.

Movies This Week: Magic Lantern, Free (and Good) Family Films

Here are a few of the more interesting movie-related events and screenings going on around town this week. If I missed something, let me know in the comments.

  • Have you ever wanted to see a "magic lantern," the projector that predated motion pictures? The Harry Ransom Center is hosting "Magic Lanterns: Father of the Motion Picture and Grandfather of Television" by Jack Judson, who owns Magic Lantern Castle in San Antonio, at 7 pm on Tuesday. Judson is bringing a restored magic lantern. The event (at HRC) is free.
  • If I didn't have a day job, you'd find me spending my mornings this week at a couple of the "kids camp" screenings in town. They're free and this week, the offerings are better than usual. Alamo on South Lamar is showing The Iron Giant, which always makes me cry so I better not see it in public, Monday - Thursday at 11 am. Westgate is showing Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Tues.- Thurs. at 10 am. Lakeline is showing March of the Penguins, Tuesday - Thursday at 10 am. And while Flushed Away wasn't all that fabulous, it would be a good free movie: 10 am Tuesday - Thursday at the Arbor. [More events after the jump!]
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