lucky me, I’m taking a class

I am one of the luckiest film geeks in Austin right now. I managed to get one of the Austin Film Society slots in UT’s master class for film students. I’m not taking the class for credit; I show up once a week and listen to interesting speakers who talk about their movie-related work.
I took the class last year, too, but it was a little easier to get a seat then. I think this year’s lineup of speakers had something to do with it. Last year’s schedule was excellent, but the speakers were perhaps not quite as universally known: Rob Epstein, Polly Platt, Bradley Beesley, and Don Hertzfeldt were some of the better-known names. Compare that with the better-known speakers lined up for this year’s class: Mike Judge, Kevin Smith, Mark Cuban, and Ray Harryhausen. John Pierson is in charge of the class this year (which would explain Smith’s inclusion). No wonder the AFS server slowed to a crawl and nearly froze as I tried to register for the class. There’s talk about moving some of the popular speakers’ sessions to the Austin City Limits stage, which may sound fun to all of you, but as someone who worked there as an intern, I know that the seats are not very comfy and not at all suitable for note-taking. Hopefully we’ll get to stay in the nice fourth-floor studio.

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Hildy checks out the Coyote sale

I found a ad for a film-production garage sale last week on the Austin Film Society site. Austin being the filmarific town it is, these sales seem to happen regularly on the Austin Studios stages. A film wraps production and Austin Studios holds a garage sale to get rid of all the props. A few weeks ago, it was for The Wendell Baker Story, which Luke Wilson has written and co-directed. The ad I saw last week was for a movie I didn’t recognize, Coyote. The ad said nothing about the movie at all other than the title, which was unusual, so I figured it was an ultra-low-budget film.
I wanted to post info about the garage sale in my weekly News from Slackerwood column for Cinematical, so I looked up Coyote on IMDb. No info found at all. Even for ultra-low-budget films, that was unusual. But on a whim, I ran a search on the Cinematical site itself … the name was ringing a distant bell in the back of my head and I wasn’t sure why.
Sure enough, there was the info, plain as day on Cinematical: “Coyote” was rumored to be an alias for Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Fast Food Nation. Linklater wanted to shoot in locations where the reputation of the book Fast Food Nation might present problems (like restaurants, perhaps) so he created an alternate title, a coverup title that no one would find suspicious.

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risking a numb butt at Alamo

“The lining up will take place at 10 am stretching towards the parking lot – south of the Drafthouse. There’s no need to arrive earlier than that. You’ll need your sleep and your rest. … Each person in the line will be given a raffle ticket. They will then be drawn beginning (estimation) around 11:30-11:40 am – giving you plenty of time to purchase your ticket, go through security and get your goodies and seat. You folks may want to bring an ass cushion as the folks drawn later in the process will most likely end up in folding chairs. Which can get a bit brutal on da buttocks.”
—Ain’t It Cool News article on standby procedures for the seventh annual Butt-Numb-A-Thon, Dec. 10-11, 2005
The Butt-Numb-A-Thon (aka BNAT) is an annual Austin 24-hour film festival run by Harry Knowles. I remember hearing about the first one and considered going. Back then, anyone could sign up online, although it sold out quickly. It was billed as the ultimate filmgoer test of stamina, and in fact you had to pay to leave the theater if you left before the 24 hours were over. I wasn’t sure I could make it through all 24 hours, wasn’t sure I’d like the films (they all appeared to be B-movies or even Z-movies), and didn’t think I could afford to leave early. Also, I knew it would screw up my sleeping schedule and my Christmas shopping-and-stress schedule, which is important when you are working a full-time-plus office job.

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I survived the Turkey Marathon

So no one wanted to go with me to the Turkey Marathon of films at Alamo Downtown last Saturday night (and well into Sunday morning)? Well, fine. Wimps. I went anyway. I decided it would be a mini-adventure, that parking downtown would not be too terrible on a holiday weekend, and that I would enjoy seeing films in genres about which I am not very knowledgeable. Also, I told myself I didn’t have to stay for all four films if I got too tired, although I ended up remaining there for the whole marathon.
I did have a great time, although I wish more people had been in the audience. Maybe 30 people turned up for the first movie; by the time the fourth one ended, the number was down to 10. The Turkey Marathon movies were the kind that improve with a large audience. Still, the people who were there all seemed to be having fun. Tim League introduced the movies and then sat and watched the first two or three—he ran the projector for the final film.
I took advantage of the small audience to nab a sofa. Alamo Downtown has these nice squishy sofas in the back row. I’m not sure if I’d ever seen a movie from the sofas before. I’m not very tall and it’s difficult to see if you’re in the sofa row and the row in front of it is occupied. But no one sat in front of me, so I had a perfect view. I think I should pick the sofas more often, especially if I have someone with me like my boyfriend who can sit on the other half, as opposed to a stranger. (The other half of the sofa I picked had a crack in the seat, so no one wanted to sit there, luckily for me.) Let me tell you, if it weren’t for the comfy sofa I might not have lasted through all four films. I don’t know how those Butt-Numb-a-Thon people last through 24 hours.

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turkey, anyone?

Is anyone going to the Turkey Marathon at Alamo Downtown on Saturday night? It’s only $10 for four movies and it sounds like fun. I haven’t seen any of the four movies: Blood Freak, Silent Night Deadly Night, Darktown Strutters, and Inframan.
I’m not very knowledgeable about what I’ll call the drive-in genre, so it would be quite educational for me. I realized last week that I know next to nothing about the Shaw Brothers, for example. Also, I think I should build up my filmgoing stamina with a good quadruple-feature. (I wanted to brave the 24-hour Butt Numb-A-Thon, but couldn’t get in. Not sure I could last through that many films.)
The only difficulty is that I am a wimpy sort of person who likes to get a good night’s sleep, and the films run from 9:30 pm until dawn. I don’t have an office job, so my sleeping schedule isn’t set in stone, but it’s still tough to stay up all night. So I’m toying with the idea of going, but may wuss out at any moment. If someone else accompanied me, it’d be more fun for both of us, plus I’d be more likely to go at all. (The Beau is uninterested.)
So if you’re thinking of trying the Turkey Marathon, let me know.
Speaking of turkey, I highly recommend reading this charming Thanksgiving tale about turkey and tacos. I would like to note that in my family, oyster dressing and cornbread dressing are not inserted in avian cavities. That just seems … wrong, like yellow turkey gravy (ew, gravy is brown, people) or low-fat pecan pie.

if you must shop on Friday …

Normally I dislike shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. The stores are crazy-crowded and the big retailers’ hype of the amazing sales, getting up at 5 am, blah blah blah just annoys me. I don’t go to malls unless there’s an extremely compelling reason anyway.
But … I am going to one sale tomorrow: Mondo Tees, the t-shirt and poster-selling arm of Alamo Drafthouse, is having a big t-shirt and poster rummage sale on Friday. The sale starts at 5 pm at Alamo Downtown; details are available here. How can you not love a sale that includes free beer?
I wrapped Christmas presents in movie posters one year, which was a lot of fun … if Alamo is giving away free cheesy movie posters I may do it again.
Another cool place for holiday film-related shopping is online: Aurora Picture Show, the Houston alternative-film theater, is holding online auctions for all kinds of goodies. The auction is called Foiley’s and starts Mon. 11/28.
Finally, a friend told me that she saw Christmas cards for the Castro Theatre in a San Francisco store. Has anyone seen these online? And why doesn’t the Paramount Theatre in Austin sell similar cards as a fundraiser? I would buy dozens. Guess I should email the Paramount and suggest it … or if I get my hands on the Castro cards, send them one as a hint.

aGLIFF: Chronicles of Halcyon

aGLIFF, the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, starts on Friday night and lasts until October 8. I’m volunteering for a few nights and hope to see some of the 150 short and feature-length films.
I’ve seen one already that I’d like to recommend: not a feature-length film, but a pilot for a TV series, Chronicles of Halcyon. I can’t review this hour-long episode as I normally might review a movie, because I know some of the people involved. It’s not just that I am biased, but I had a different viewing experience than you would if you saw the show. For one thing, you don’t know such-and-such actress as a former co-worker who dressed as Ed Grimley for the Halloween office party one year. You see what I mean.
Also, I am proud of and pleased with my friends for creating a video that turned out to be more entertaining than I thought it might be. I hope they are able to expand the pilot into a TV series because now I want to know how the cliffhanger ending turns out.

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the other side of the little window

I realize that this may sound shocking for a 36-year-old film geek, but I had never seen a modern movie theater projection room until this morning.
I don’t know what I expected; some part of me had retained an image of an old-fashioned projection booth, a small and musty cube containing a big projector with reels of film on it. I knew about the platters used instead of reels nowadays, I’ve seen photos of platters, but I guess I didn’t put it all together. My brain was still stuck in Cinema Paradiso or Sherlock Jr.
I signed up for some volunteer shifts for aGLIFF to monitor the digital projection setup; most of the festival’s movies will be digitally projected this year. A bunch of us met in the theater this morning to learn what we would be doing. We walked upstairs and I found myself in a much larger room than I expected. It looked like the engineering room in a television station where I used to work.

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crazy film festival month

I’m trying to make some movie-watching decisions weeks or even months in advance. I don’t mean last-minute choices like “Should we see March of the Penguins or Broken Flowers (aside: I keep wanting to call it Broken Blossoms) this weekend?” or “Should we see Bad News Bears at Highland or at Alamo Lake Creek?” Or even “Should I see The Safety of Objects next Monday at Alamo South with Rose Troche in attendance, or go to an important film-related volunteer meeting instead?” (Admission is free. Y’all should go even if I don’t.)
I am talking about the decisions on which film festivals to attend and for how many movies and whether I should actually take time off work and how much time I can take off work “just to see movies” before my manager gives me funny looks.
A bunch of film festivals are overlapping in Austin in late September/early October: the Quentin Tarantino Film Festival (Sept. 9-17), aGLIFF (Sept. 30-Oct. 8), Fantastic Fest (Oct. 6-9), and Austin Film Festival (Oct. 20-27). So I know there are film geeks all over town trying to do the same kind of schedule juggling.

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in flagrante chumscrubber

Austin has some upcoming special screenings I thought I’d let y’all know about:
The Chumscrubber—I saw this movie at SXSW and wrote about it here. I would recommend seeing it. No, it’s not about Plankton’s sidekick hatching evil deeds against SpongeBob, it’s about teenagers who are unable to communicate with adults or even each other. That doesn’t sound as good as it is, but trust me. The movie’s Web site is here if you want to know more about the film.
The Chumscrubber is opening in theaters pretty soon (August 5, but I’m not sure if that includes Austin), but the Austin Chronicle and SXSW are sponsoring a free preview screening on Tuesday, August 2 at Dobie. Director Arie Posin and producer Bonnie Curtis will answer questions after the screening. You must read this week’s Chronicle for details on how to get tickets (I don’t know if they post that info to their Web site). [via Matt Dentler’s blog]
In Flagrante—I saw this low-budget local film several years ago. Some friends of mine were involved in the production. The 16 mm film was made by a group of people who were a film production class together at Austin FilmWorks. The movie is about a very straight-laced, conventional young couple that moves into a house next door to some very odd neighbors. Very, very odd.
In Flagrante is playing on Saturday, July 30 at 8 pm at Nueva Onda, a South Austin restaurant, as part of their weekly Movie Night. Admission is free and director Tom Chamberlain will answer questions (or will be heckled by well-meaning friends) after the screening. Nueva Onda is located at 2218 College, just northwest of S. Congress and Oltorf. I’ve never been there myself; please post a comment if you know anything about the place.
Incidentally, it appears that Nueva Onda is looking for more independent shorts and features for future movie nights, so visit their Web site if you’re interested.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen—I couldn’t get through this entry without mentioning at least one movie showing at an Alamo theater. Alamo Downtown is showing the movie at noon on Saturday, July 30, with free admission, as part of its monthly Saturday Morning Film Club screenings. I like this movie a lot, despite some shortcomings; my boyfriend can’t stand it. If you’re going to see it, see it on a nice big theater screen.
One more item: The Paramount is about to close down for a week for renovations, but you can still catch Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and Masculine-Feminine this weekend. No points for guessing which two of those films are the double-feature.