aff09-diary1

The problem with getting robbed in Houston a few weeks ago is that your sunglasses get robbed, too. There are other problems, sure, but when you wake up in a badgeholder’s line at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz at noon on a Saturday with a bunch of friendly people trying to shake hands, it’s hard to fake like you’re blind. Faced with this problem, I did what any fake blind person would do: I made friends.

An Education

aff-educationBy now, you’re probably sick of hearing about An Education. Too bad. I saw it yesterday, and I liked it. It’s a beautiful movie with great performances, and it’s hard not to fall in love with this film. While I’ll cover it deeper in my Monday sex column, for now I’ll say that, even though the story unfolds pretty predictably, it is the the interestingly-named Lone Sherfig’s direction and supporting performances that make this film. Peter Sarsgaard and Audrey Hepburnesque Carey Mulligan are intimate, vulnerable, charming — but Olivia Williams and Alfred Molina (and, of course, the ever-so-smashing Emma Thompson) absolutely steal every scene that they’re in. Mulligan is good, but she would be lacking without Sarsgaard’s gentle prompting, Molina’s grumpy outbreaks, and the wise, frank discussions of her schoolmarms. Also deserving of praise is the makeup and wardrobe department (and, again, Sherfig) — there are moments when we are convinced the young schoolgirl is emotionally competent, male-savvy, and all grown up, and other times where she, appropriately and simply, looks like a made-up doll.

Afterwards, I head again to the old-fashioned Driskill Hotel, where the fatigue of the volunteers is beginning to show. Pointed in the wrong direction several times, and unaware of a room change, I slipped into a Battlestar Galactica: Caprica panel a few minutes late. Breathless and settling in next to a kind SyFy rep, a truly remarkable afternoon and evening of science (fiction and non) begins.

Caprica Panel

aff-capricaEsai Morales (Joseph Adams/Adama) and pilot director Jeff Reiner (Friday Night Lights) spoke intimately with a tiny crowd of BSG fans, as well as a few members of the press (including me). While a more comprehensive write-up is in the works (a lot of great things were said), this was a fun and educational moment with these guys. We talked about the pilot, about the BSG universe, about how to balance using derivations of the series while maintaining originality. A shy, contemplative Jeff Reiner spoke succinctly and intelligently about three-camera setups, monotheism vs. polytheism, and the like. It was certainly enough to make me at least somewhat care about Caprica. So far I’ve been losing that battle.

After a nice hour, and some great material, I took a moment and a telephone call out on one of the Driskill’s balconies. It was lovely, and fun to see the hustle and bustle of downtown Austin for at least a few minutes. After flirting with the idea of going to a Roberto Orci panel, I decided instead to head over to the lovely vaudevillian Paramount for a storytelling session with Ron Howard, Steve Zaillian, and Mitch Hurwitz.

The Art of Storytelling

aff-storytellersYou heard it hear first: Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz thinks that the “lobster aliens” from District 9 sound delicious. I settled in for an hour of laughs and lessons — just a candid conversation, really — with these three men. Ron Howard talked Happy Days, The Andy Griffith Show, and Apollo 13. He’s a nice guy — earlier in the week fraternizing with the unwashed masses at a good ol’ Texas BBQ — and he tells some funny stories. Most people seem interested in Hurwitz’s talks about the Arrested Development Movie, but I’m interested in a quiet, brooding Steve Zaillian. He has little to say, but he’s jam-packed with knowledge and clearly an artist. Wishing I’d heard more about Schindler’s List and Don Knotts, I’ve got to go. I’m late for a date at Hickory Street.

Apollo 13

aff-apollopanelAfter dinner, FSR Executive Editor Neil Miller and I head back to the Paramount for a special screening of Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. And I do mean special. Captain Jim Lovell — in great humor, and sporting a tie that looked like the surface of the moon — is in attendance, as well as Ron Howard, Clint Howard, the screenwriters, and several members of the original NASA flight crew that lived through Apollo 13. Ron Howard introduces the movie, Neil (a huge space nerd) is gripping the chair arms with excitement.

We watch several minutes of previously unseen mission footage, which was breathtaking and more compelling than any movie could be. We see the crew’s broadcast and learn that, 8 minutes later, the explosion occurred. It’s an emotional moment. We see them get home safely, we see lots of NASA footage, too. All in all, a great short documentary.

Apollo 13 stands up really, really well. It’s such a great movie, and it was exciting seeing it on the big screen again. Someone should fire the projectionist at the Paramount.

Afterward, we listen to a panel featuring Ron & Clint Howard, Bill Broyle, Jr. and Al Reinart, original mission control members Jerry Bostick, Sy Leibergot, John Aaron, and Lovell himself. Multiple nerdgasms. Probably one of the most amazing nights of my life. And back to the Alamo.

Caprica

aff-caprica2A crowd of nerds has gathered for a late-night screening of the 95 minute Caprica pilot with a Drafthouse founder Tim League-hosted Q&A with Morales and Reiner afterward. I settle in amongst friends and fellow geeks, and once again watch Caprica, this time on the big screen, and not at home. Margaritas, macaroni, and my people. I love the Drafthouse. Morales and Reiner were obviously tired, and I’d gotten all my material earlier in the day. Most memorable about the Q&A was Tim’s CHAOS REIGNS t-shirt.

Hearing that the closing party is overcrowded and overloud, Neil and I decide to skip in favor of other locations, and he’s once again driving the Reject HQ Party Bus. It’s a beautiful night in downtown Austin. My day at the Science Fair is over, and a rousing success. Tomorrow (Sunday) will focus on sports and soldiers.


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