Austin Cinematic Limits

Austin Cinematic Limits

I had no intentions of making this another “news” post (this was supposed to be a rambling soliloquy on micro-budget genre filmmaking in Austin), but shortly after I had published last week’s Austin Cinematic Limits column on The Latest Austin Movie Success Stories, I heard yet another fantastic Austin movie success story. Two of the eleven projects selected for the Sundance Creative Producing Labs this year are from Austin! Color me impressed…and incredibly proud. Kelly Williams (who was featured in Austin Cinematic Limits in February 2012) has been selected to participate in the Feature Film Creative Producing Lab, a five-day Lab where narrative feature film producers work with an accomplished group of Creative Advisors to develop their creative instincts, communication and problem-solving skills in all stages of film production. This year’s Creative Advisors include producers Anne Carey (The American, Adventureland), Karin Chien (Circumstance, Exploding Girl), Lynette Howell (Terri, Blue Valentine) and Paul Mezey (Beasts of the Southern Wild, Sugar). Williams was selected for his work on writer-director Kat Candler’s Hellion, which premiered at Sundance 2012 as a short film and is now in the early stages of being developed into a feature-length production.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

What have I been doing lately? I have been stalking Bryan Poyser (Lovers of Hate) on Facebook. Well, it is not technically stalking since he accepted my friendship, right? Truth be told, I am not actually a Facebook stalker, I am merely doing my job. (Really!) I am keeping tabs on the production of Poyser’s latest film, The Bounceback. As I write this, Poyser is entering week three of the Austin-based production which stars Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism), Michael Stahl-David (Cloverfield), Sara Paxton (The Innkeepers), and Addison Timlin (Californication). The primary cast might not be very Austin-centric, but the crew – which includes producer Megan Gilbride, cinematographer PJ Raval, and editor Don Swaynos – certainly is. My love for Lovers of Hate and Dear Pillow knows no bounds, so let’s just say that I am eagerly awaiting the release of The Bounceback. Poyser is not the only Austin filmmaker lucky enough to be stalked by yours truly. A couple of weeks ago, I ran into the seemingly ubiquitous Alex Karpovsky at Tribeca 2012. Okay, I was not really stalking him, he was hanging out in the press lounge. (Really!) A periodic Austinite, Karpovsky mentioned that he will be in Austin in the very near future to act in Carlyn Hudson’s (Z and Beau) next film. As a fan of Hudson’s segment of Slacker 2011 as well as her short film Z and Beau, I am very excited to find out more about her project with Karpovsky.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Okay, I admit it. I used to watch Dawson’s Creek – only the first two seasons though, and I only watched it for its dialogue. Really! Other than introducing me to the acting talent of Michelle Williams, Dawson’s Creek also provided me with a glimpse of Rob Thomas‘s writing style. Though Thomas was only credited as a writer on two episodes during season one - Prelude to a Kiss and In the Company of Men – his knack for whip-smart dialogue really left an impression on me. Nonetheless, I was always too embarrassed to admit to ever watching Dawson’s Creek. Six years later, I got hooked on Veronica Mars – which Thomas created, executive produced, wrote 64 episodes of, and directed two episodes for. I used to get mocked and ridiculed by friends for watching a television series about a teenage detective, but I didn’t care. The writing was so incredibly intelligent, the music was fantastic (I love the Britt Daniel karaoke scene in season two), and I actually got all of the pop culture references; so I felt like the series was written for me, not teenagers. With the cancellation of Veronica Mars came Party Down – a television series created by Thomas, John Enbom, Dan Etheridge, and Paul Rudd. Other than serving as a co-creator and executive director, Thomas was not very involved in Party Down; he co-wrote the unaired pilot and one episode for season one (most of his time was relegated to working on Cupid for ABC). Nonetheless, Party Down still bares the undeniable mark […]

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I first became aware of Jonny Mars during SXSW 2010, thanks to his role as Donnie in The Happy Poet. I have never been one to judge an actor on one performance, so it was not until I saw Mars the next time – as Steve Worth in Wuss – that I realized his talents as an actor. I remember wondering to myself, why hasn’t Mars run off to Los Angeles to become a big star? Then, after watching Mars truly own his couple minutes of screen time in Hellion, I knew it was time to pose that question to the man himself. Before I got a chance to speak with Mars, a funny thing happened: I learned that Mars is also a director, and his directorial debut, America’s Parking Lot (which premiered at SXSW 2012), is a multi-faceted documentary about the renowned Dallas Cowboys’ Gate 6 tailgaters. Mars once again astounded me, this time for his astute understanding of the documentary form. In terms of its narrative arc and development of conflict, America’s Parking Lot is damn near perfect. If I didn’t know any better, I would have assumed America’s Parking Lot was directed by a seasoned veteran, not a first-time director. Now I really needed to chat with Mars, post-haste!

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Austin Cinematic Limits

It is still very unclear to me why SXSW Film opted to forego their Lone Star States category in 2012, but what seems abundantly clear is the shortage of feature-length films by local filmmakers at the festival this year. As I continue to rummage through the schedule to plan my nine-day marathon of film screenings, various questions keep popping into my mind. Did fewer local filmmakers submit their features to SXSW this year? Has SXSW lost the desire to support local filmmakers? Do SXSW’s standards exceed the quality of local film productions? What does all of this say about the Austin film community? Inquiring minds want to know! The lack of local films in this year’s feature-length film categories would not have been as much of a shock if Austin had not enjoyed such a powerful presence at SXSW 2010 and 2011. In 2010, SXSW Film screened seven feature films by Austin filmmakers: Dance with the One, Earthling, The Happy Poet, Lovers of Hate, Mars, Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission, and When I Rise. In 2011, SXSW screened eight feature films by Austin filmmakers: Blacktino, Building Hope, Five Time Champion, Incendiary: The Willingham Case, My Sucky Teen Romance, Otis Under Sky, Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW, and Wuss.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Okay, I’ll come right out and say it: I really hate Valentine’s Day. It’s just another Hallmark holiday that was created to give retailers a huge boost in sales during what would otherwise be a slow month on their fiscal calendar. Of course, if you are in a relationship, Valentine’s Day is a really tough holiday to ignore because our society deems that everyone must at least purchase chocolates, roses, and/or a greeting card for their significant other; a romantic dinner is also a good idea and maybe a movie afterwards… Life on February 14th is not any easier if you are single (but if you are, you should probably check out our FSR Dating site), because you definitely cannot go out in public without a date on Valentine’s Day unless you want to look like a totally unlovable loser. On that note, I will quit my bitching and tell you about all of the great cinematic events going on in Austin on the dreaded 14th of February.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Co-founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki, Japan’s Studio Ghibli is famous for its masterfully crafted animated films. A retrospective series of newly struck, 35mm (subtitled) prints of Studio Ghibli’s films is coming to Austin thanks to Alamo Drafthouse. Each film will screen for one week at the Alamo South Lamar, beginning with Spirited Away on February 10th. The touring retrospective is intended to build anticipation for the famed Japanese animation studio’s latest U.S. theatrical release, The Secret World of Arrietty (the directorial debut of Hiromasa Yonebayashi, co-written by Hayao Miyazaki). If you were to ask me whom I believed to be the three greatest Japanese filmmakers of all time, my first two responses – Akira Kurosawa and Yasujirō Ozu – are all but indisputable; the question is whether or not a director of animated films, namely Miyazaki (who is by far the most prolific director on the Studio Ghibli roster), could be considered in the same high regard as Kurosawa and Ozu. To accept Miyazaki as a legitimate filmmaker, one might need to overcome the opinion that animated films are merely for kids. For example, even though Spirited Away is ranked among the top ten on BFI’s list of 50 films you should see by age 14, the film is more than just a “kids’ movie.” The narrative is light-years more mature, intricate, complex and thoughtful than most modern Hollywood dramas – and the same can be said for any of Miyazaki’s films.

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