Austin Film Festival

Austin Cinematic Limits

As many of you probably know, I have been juggling an all-consuming day job with various writing gigs, essentially leaving no time for anything else (life, sleep); and, as the saying goes, all work and no play makes Don a dull boy. We have enough Jack Torrance’s in this world, and before I start running around abandoned hotels with an ax, I figured it was in my best interest to start hacking away at my current workload.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

A New Orleans native, writer-director Todd Berger moved to Austin to attend The University of Texas. After graduating from UT’s Radio-Television-Film program, Berger was quickly swept away to the always sunny shores of Los Angeles. With The Scenesters (2009) and It’s a Disaster (2012), Berger has become yet another success story to come out of UT’s film program; and even though he did not spend very much time in Austin, Berger has maintained very strong ties with the Austin film community. So, when we heard that Berger was coming to Austin for the regional premiere of his latest directorial effort, It’s a Disaster, at the 2012 Austin Film Festival we thought it would be fun to get his outsider perspective on the Austin…

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Eric Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse (1967) serves as a purposeful point of reference for writer-director Will James Moore’s Satellite of Love — not only does Moore cast the lead actor of La Collectionneuse (Patrick Bauchau) as an eccentric friend, but Moore even mimics the tranquil Mediterranean atmosphere of La Collectionneuse by setting Satellite of Love in the vineyards of the Texas Hill Country. Satellite of Love maintains the visually vibrancy of the French New Wave, particularly with its impeccably crafted mise-en-scène. Satellite of Love is absolutely gorgeous, from the oh-so-beautiful cast to Steve Acevedo’s masterful cinematography. Rohmer would probably be very proud that he inspired Moore’s film. Moore and I have been in correspondence ever since the film’s world premiere at the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival; but it was not until the 2012 Austin Film Festival that I finally had a chance to sit down with him and Jonathan Case (co-writer and music supervisor) to talk about Satellite of Love and making films in Central Texas.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Like an absurd psychological study of the multiple personalities of modern life in Austin, writer/director Don Swaynos’ Pictures of Superheroes cleverly juxtaposes a slackerish man-child with a self-absorbed entrepreneur. Joe (John Merriman) and Eric (Shannon McCormick) reside in the same house together but have grown so far apart that Eric no longer recognizes Joe’s existence. Literally, Eric is so busy that forgets that he has a roommate; all the while, Joe stays around the house all day, haunting Eric by perpetually messing up the house. On one fateful day, Eric discovers Marie (Kerri Lendo) hopelessly wandering down the street while donning the maid’s uniform in which she lives, sleeps and dreams. Eric hires Marie as his personal maid, thus dragging her into the absurd world in which he exists. Swaynos’ script is saturated with dry and subtle humor built upon the surreal situation of someone no longer realizing that they have a roommate. Pictures of Superheroes delves deeply into interpersonal relationships, specifically focusing on the disconnections and selfishness that seem to have become inherent in our oh-so-hectic modern society. In Swaynos’ unique cinematic place, there is a moral responsibility to obtain a work/life balance, to pay attention to one’s surroundings, and to exist. Despite the fact that Eric and Joe’s approaches to work and life are so drastically opposite, their choices have stuck them in the same exact place. Their house is in a bizarre limbo in which they must reexamine their life philosophies in order to escape. I sat […]

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Silver Linings Playbook

While most of Austin, Texas is currently busy gearing up for Fantastic Fest (including our own Fantastic Fest Death Squad), we’d be remiss to not mention that another one of ATX’s homegrown film festivals, the concisely-named Austin Film Festival, has just released their lineup. And it’s a real beauty! The festival, kicking off in just under a month, will open with David Chase’s Not Fade Away and will also include screenings of such buzzed-about titles as Flight, Silver Linings Playbook, The Sessions, Quartet, and The Sapphires. The festival has yet to announce their Closing Night Film, but with such an already-strong lineup, it should be a doozy. After the break, take a look at the current feature-length lineup for the 2012 Austin Film Festival and Conference, including listings for their comedy and documentary sections.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I have been anxiously awaiting Fantastic Fest 2012 (September 20-27) ever since the carnivalesque tomfoolery of the Fantastic Fest 2011 closing party. Year after year, Tim League and the Fantastic Fest programmers have totally blown me away with their impeccable curating of genre films. And the parties… Oh, the parties! If my liver could talk, the stories it would tell… If history serves, Fantastic Fest 2012 will continue to expand upon its awesomeness, so this year will probably be ten times more amazing than last year’s festival. The announcements that Fantastic Fest has made so far with the first wave and second wave of programming have already solidified the fact that this will be the best damn Fantastic Fest of them all. First off, Tim Burton will be in attendance at the world premiere of Frankenweenie on the opening night of Fantastic Fest 2012. Sure, I have not been a fan of most of his recent work, but that makes him no less of a cinematic genius in my mind. And, while on the subject of this year’s festival guests, I pretty much peed my pants with excitement when I heard that Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be coming to Fantastic Fest with their film Looper. Color me thrilled!

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I received ton of emails after my “What Works for Austin Filmmakers?” post last week, which provided me with motivation to continue on with part two this week. One thing is obvious, this is a very touchy and emotional subject. Several filmmakers contacted me with their personal insights, all of which will appear one way or another in this or subsequent posts. Some emails were critical of certain members of the local film community, but I will not mention anyone’s names. My goal is to do whatever I can to help foster a more supportive and successful film community, so I am not here to get in the middle of any personal grievances. I do think there is a certain level of validity in many of the claims, but I will keep the criticisms as general as possible. So, I ended my last post with my thoughts on micro-budget genre films and promised to discuss comedies next. Comedies have long been a part of micro-budget filmmaking (especially student films), but most of the time these comedies lack a strong script and passable production quality. Austin is extremely lucky in that it has a very talented go-to pool of comedic actors (I’m looking at you, Chris Doubek, John Merriman, Kerri Lendo, Ashley Spillers, Heather Kafka, Kelli Bland, Paul Gordon and everyone else whom I am forgetting at this particular juncture), but its the films with impressive writing and production values that have historically achieved a higher level of success. This is how […]

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Austin Cinematic Limits

In what felt like a modern reinterpretation of a Samuel Beckett play, the cast, crew and friends of Saturday Morning Massacre (the Scooby Doo-channeling indie horror flick) wandered the streets of downtown Los Angeles early Sunday morning in search of a bar in which to celebrate the success of their world premiere screening at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival. It was an absurdly repetitious loop of our crowd of fifty or so entering seemingly open drinking establishments only to be informed that we just missed last call. Considering that our fruitless quest began at around 1:00 am, it did not seem all that unreasonable an expectation for us to believe that we could find a bar willing to sell fifty or so drinks to our thirsty group. After being turned away by five or six downtown bars, I decided to abandon the group and head home, but I can only assume that, like Godot and Guffman, Team SMM probably never got those drinks that they were searching for. That is not to say that their desire for celebration was unreasonable. Despite some synch issues with the projection (which were probably unnoticeable to a majority of the capacity audience), the screening went very well. Considering that SMM is a strange hybrid of comedy and horror, at times the audience did seem a little unsure about whether or not it was okay to laugh; but, most of the time the comedy got the exact reaction I would expect. Eventually, once the […]

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I know you are all wondering which local film was my favorite at SXSW 2012, and though I know that you know that by asking that question you are placing me in a very awkward position because I do not like to play favorites I will oblige your request nonetheless. Kid-Thing. There, I said it. Are you satisfied now? I suspect I will find a severed horse’s head in my bed courtesy of Jonny Mars (America’s Parking Lot) and/or Bob Byington (Somebody Up There Likes Me) as early as tomorrow morning. Thanks a lot! Well, can I backtrack and say that they were all great?

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Steve McQueen is not the first established director to get the bug to direct a highly sexual film for adults, and he certainly won’t be the last. Sadly, most directors who have actually made bold films about sexuality ended up with sub-par movies. Verhoeven’s Showgirls is a punch-line, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut is an interesting mess, and Cronenberg’s Crash is maybe the best example of these experiments. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Lars Von Trier do an adult film in the next few years; he’s already expressed interest in the subject. While McQueen’s Shame does a lot of things right, it stumbles just before the finish line. Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a normal guy. He goes to work, goes out for drinks with co-workers, goes home. But every waking moment he has is devoted to sex. Thinking about it, watching it, paying for it, sex pervades his every thought. This goes beyond the normal human desire for and fascination with sex and actually consumes his life. When his sister, Cissy (Carey Mulligan), shows up for an unannounced and open-ended visit, it puts a cramp in his style. His normal evenings of watching porn, paying for webcams, and inviting prostitutes over don’t really work with his sister sleeping on the couch. Then he gets in hot water with his boss when IT checks his work computer and finds all kinds of pornography filling his hard drive. But he can’t stop. His is a true addiction and Brandon can’t stop himself.

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It’s always nice to see a labor of love make its way to the big screen. More often than not, film festivals are the proving grounds where young filmmakers cut their teeth seeing their low budget passion projects play before audiences and critics. Austin is home to several film fests, and it’s always great to see a local production find a home at one of them. Austin High is the brainchild of Will Elliott and Kirk Johnson, and it’s having its world premiere at this year’s Austin Film Festival. They co-wrote the screenplay (from a story by star Michael S. Wilson), co-produced the shoot and then co-edited the footage to create the final product, a feature length comedy. While making a film is a collaborative effort that requires lots of hard work from multiple people, Elliott, Johnson and Wilson seem to be the main creative force and in a lot of ways the film is their baby. Austin High tells the story of Samuel Wilson, the principal of Ladybird High School in beautiful Austin, Texas. Sam is a laid back guy who enjoys the occasional herbal remedy as do more than a few of his students. But when a new crackdown on marijuana is initiated, Sam must figure out how to get his school to comply without comprising his own ideals.

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Rules are made to be broken – especially stupid, self-imposed rules that apply giant blanket statements to something as unique and weird and changeable as love itself. In Blayne Weaver’s 6 Month Rule, writer and director Weaver also stars as Tyler, dude about town, rakish ladies’ man, (somewhat) drunk photographer, and a steadfast believer in a set of rules that he thinks keep their followers from romantic heartbreak. The most important of those rules? There’s no woman so perfect that you can’t get over her in six months. That’s a snappy rule, right? Great way to gird yourself from emotional upheaval? Of course. Tyler really thinks he’s got it all figured out. Until he doesn’t. In the film, Tyler inevitably falls in love (with the very charming Natalie Morales), but their “spooky synchronicity” is made complicated by her douchebag musician boyfriend (Patrick J. Adams) and the albatross that is his heartbroken best friend (Martin Starr). Will Tyler toss out his own rules in the face of true love or continue to cat around town? Learn how to get over (or under, as it were) a woman, and check out the trailer for 6 Month Rule after the break.

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Balcony Releasing has unveiled a trailer for the Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel directed doc Louder Than a Bomb, hands down one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long while. This exhilarating true life story was the winner of a Jury Award at the 2010 Austin Film Festival, as voted upon by a jury upon which yours truly served. The vote was unanimous, if I remember correctly. It tells the story of kids from schools around the Chicago area who compete for school pride in slam poetry competitions. Their words, their passion, their unbridled energy light up the screen as their stories touch upon the simultaneous tragedy and beauty that makes up the human experience. If you do any one thing today, I’d recommend breathing (it seems necessary). But if you’d like to move on to a second thing, I’d recommend checking out this trailer. But beware that it might put a stop to that first thing you were doing.

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The Week That Was

Like its many kindred frames throughout the rest of the year, this week was filled with distractions for yours truly. First there was the launching of a new “lifestyle” site called Badass Digest, the new home of Devin Faraci (of CHUD.com fame). For weeks, many of us have been patiently waiting to see where he would end up. Now we see that he’s teamed up with Tim League and the Drafthouse Empire, where he will now begin embracing life as a blogger. The site has been a time sucking venture around Reject HQ, as we can’t keep our eyes off of it. Good on ya, Mr. Faraci. Your competitive strategies are working like a charm.

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With movie websites getting clogged with stories and reviews about movies that will never reach the public, are film festivals more ado about nothing than we’d like to admit?

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Grab your Sony Handicam and a few friends that claim they can act. It’s time to submit your entry into AFF.

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ronhowarddirecting

The living legend is going to be celebrated at this year’s Austin Film Festival in late October. Hopefully, there’s an Opie retrospective.

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fandango_screenshot1

Need something to do Wednesday night? Of course you do. If you live in Austin, we’ve got you covered. If you live anywhere else, you’re sadly on your own. Start taking night classes or something.

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