sign of impending apocalypse #62

KGSR played “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” this morning. I think you have to live in Austin to understand just how bizarre that is.
See, this is why I like living here and have never wanted to leave.
I am not a big David Allan Coe fan myself, but somehow I get a kick out of that song. I might or might not have been singing along this morning. If you don’t know the song (I think all Texans are required by law to listen to it at least once, although we don’t have to like it), many people consider it the ultimate country music song. Many other people consider it lame, dumb, and even dreadful, and no, they don’t kick you out of Texas for thinking that.
Weirdly enough, that song reminds me of my paternal grandmother, even though I don’t think she ever set foot in Texas … well, of her funeral anyway. I can explain. I rode to her funeral with my baby brother in his car. The child is incapable of driving 10 feet without putting in a CD and cranking up the volume, even on the way to a funeral.
And which CD did he inexplicably decide to play as we drove down West Metairie Road? “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.” And of course we had to sing along. You can’t not sing along. The CD was loud, we were louder. There should have been nothing appropriate about it but somehow we felt better. In fact, I think we might have played it twice.
See, not only do I love this town, but I think I’m too weird to live anywhere else.

July free-for-all: the proof

Last week I boasted that you could see a free movie in a theater in Austin every night of the week. I wondered if I could prove it.
I can. Here’s a list of free movies playing in Austin next week, one for every day in the week. Some of them are outdoors instead of in theaters; some of them are screenings of DVDs instead of reels of film. Some are in the greater Austin area … Round Rock, San Marcos, etc. But it is still true that if you’re short on cash (and have a source of reliable transportation), you can see a free movie every day around town.
Some of the films on this list are part of various theaters’ summer film series for kids. But I see no reason why grown-ups can’t sneak in. If you think it’ll be a problem, tell the theater staff that you’re meeting your sister and her kids and they’re already in the theater. Some people might not like the idea of watching a movie in a theater full of kids, but if it’s a good movie that kids like, I think it’s delightful to watch them enjoying the film. (It’s the bored kids who are no fun in theaters.)

Continue reading July free-for-all: the proof

AFS special screenings in July

An Austin Film Society membership is the best deal in town. You can become an AFS member for as little as $20 a year and if you see films with any regularity, the membership pays for itself easily. (I think mine paid for itself sometime in March.)
Many of the Alamo Drafthouse special screenings have AFS discounts, including the Texas Documentary Tour series. AFS nearly always has some other film series going on with weekly movies that are free for members, movies that are often hard (or impossible) to find on DVD. And every so often, AFS holds sneak previews where members can get one or two free tickets if they respond quickly enough.
Those are just the free movie perks … I haven’t even mentioned benefits and discounts for filmmakers. Because of my AFS membership, I was able to audit a master class in film at UT last semester, which was an unforgettable experience.
Also, I really like AFS-sponsored movies because you usually can buy the tickets online at the AFS Web site, which doesn’t charge extra for online ticket purchases like most movie theaters do.
Besides their regularly scheduled films, Austin Film Society is sponsoring two preview screenings in the next couple of weeks:
Me and You and Everyone We Know—Playing at Alamo Downtown on Thursday 7/14. Tickets are $5 and the proceeds go to benefit Cinematexas. Miranda July’s film won an award at Cannes and has been getting great reviews all over the place. You get to support a female filmmaker and a deserving local short film festival. Tickets are still available on the AFS Web site (I got mine) and I don’t think you have to be an AFS member.
The Bad News Bears—Playing at the Paramount on Wednesday 7/20. Tickets range from $8-50 depending on whether you’re an AFS member and whether you actually want to be able to see the film from your seat. Director Richard Linklater and cast members to be named later will be in attendance. Tickets are available through the Paramount.
As much as I’d enjoy seeing (and reviewing) this movie in advance and hearing Linklater talk about it, I’d rather see it in a theater where I don’t have to spend $40 for a good seat (although that $40 also gets you into an after-party at Dart Bowl). I wish I could get a press pass. Hey, I’m a film critic. Somebody comp me.

movies this week: holiday riches

Remember how disappointed I was on Memorial Day weekend because I couldn’t find anything to see in theaters? I wonder if Somebody Up There (you know, in the projection booth) took pity on me, because Austin has truly an embarrassment of movie riches this week. I wish I could take the whole week off work and catch Double Indemnity and the Preston Sturges double feature and Casuistry: How to Kill a Cat and American Beer and … wow. I have a four-day weekend and it is not enough.
This will be a difficult week for me because I have to accept the fact that I can’t see all the movies I want. I have to go to work and go to the gym and see my boyfriend somewhere other than a dark theater and clean the garage and taunt the cat. The rule of thumb lately has been that the movies I can’t see on DVD take precedence over the ones I can, with the exception of The Wild Bunch, just because. (That movie really needs a better DVD release, by the way.) Also, I already bought tickets in advance for various films at Alamo, and I can’t see more than one movie at a time.
I suppose I should be happy that no one has invited my boyfriend and me to any July 4 picnics or barbecues or other festive gatherings this weekend, because now I can make more time to watch movies and write about movies and read film weblogs and recover from movie-induced migraines.

Continue reading movies this week: holiday riches

movies this week: women on top

You might not be aware of it, but this is a very unusual week for big summer movie releases. Both the big-ticket movies opening this week are directed by women: Bewitched by Nora Ephron, and Herbie: Fully Loaded by Angela Robinson. I cannot imagine that this has happened before.
I feel somewhat guilty because I don’t particularly want to see either film, although my boyfriend is mildly interested in Bewitched and we might end up seeing it next week sometime.
Since college, I have felt that I ought to support female filmmakers as much as possible. However, I would rather support good films as much as possible, and sometimes the Hollywood films that are directed by women are not what I would consider good films.
Most of us can count the number of female feature-film directors in Hollywood that we know about on one hand, or maybe two if we’ve been paying attention. Miranda July has been getting a lot of attention lately, which is very nice. Even independent filmmaking has a shortage of female directors.
Where are all the women? When I attended the conference at Austin Film Festival a few years ago, many of the female writers and directors said they’d fled to television because TV was more female-friendly. “Women will dominate TV just as men are dominating film,” they singsonged placidly, although I am not sure they were right about TV.
I think a lot of the women are involved in documentary filmmaking. At SXSW, two of the documentaries I enjoyed were made by women: Troop 1500 and The Education of Shelby Knox.
I’m not a big subscriber to the auteur theory, so maybe it shouldn’t matter to me that so few women are directors. Maybe I should be thinking about writers instead … the ratio of women to men is a little more balanced there. Still, no matter what I believe about filmmaking, mainstream media act as though the director is the sole filmmaker (unless a major star steps in to help a bit). The director is the one we hear about, and the director is usually a guy.
Perhaps I could rent Angela Robinson’s previous film, D.E.B.S. instead; would that count? And I’d be happy to reread Heartburn, Nora Ephron’s novel that I truly enjoy, and the only thing she’s written in which I like the main female character. (Too bad the movie adaptation is crap.)
Or maybe I’ll just feel a bit guilty, not only because I’m not supporting female directors or screenwriters, but because I’m not one myself.

Continue reading movies this week: women on top

Paramount vs. Alamo: “Let’s go.”

Okay, I take back anything negative I might have said about the Alamo theater chain (which wasn’t much to begin with) in my previous entry.
Alamo Downtown is going to show The Wild Bunch July 1-3, and I can forgive anything for a theater that will show The Wild Bunch. I am especially happy that they are showing it on a holiday weekend because the last holiday weekend (Memorial Day) was such a dud for movies showing in Austin. I can actually look forward to the July 4 weekend.
I may or may not have hopped up and down a bit and squealed when I found out. I have been dying to see The Wild Bunch on a larger screen than my TV ever since I saw it on DVD a couple of Thanksgivings ago (by the way, it’s a fine Thanksgiving rental … when you’re done you will certainly give thanks for Sam Peckinpah).
Now I am getting more than one chance. About a month after Alamo shows The Wild Bunch, the Paramount has a couple of screenings scheduled for the film (August 13-14).

Continue reading Paramount vs. Alamo: “Let’s go.”

movies this week: dear Alamo

Dear Alamo Drafthouse:
You know I love you dearly and I hate to pick on you, but why aren’t any of your fine theaters showing Howl’s Moving Castle? I was hoping to see this movie at Alamo South. Galaxy Highland and Dobie aren’t showing it either. Is it some kind of Buena Vista thing? Tell me it’s their fault, not yours. I had to go to a Regal cinema to see this movie, and even though it’s Arbor Great Hills, a very nice theater, I still had to put up with that migraine-inducing crap they play before the film.
But that’s not why I’m cranky. I want to fuss about some gender stereotyping y’all have been perpetrating. For both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, you offered some special dinner-and-movie combinations. The moms got The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Roman Holiday, two unabashedly sappy, mimsy-pimsy movies. Because, what, all women (or all moms) like that stuff? The dads are getting The Great Escape and Cool Hand Luke, two very fine films that anyone would enjoy watching. I think there’s some kind of bias here. And Alamo Lake Creek is showing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which while not in the same class as the other two films, is at least livelier than The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. (I don’t even want to compare the menus that accompanied said movies.)
Also, I am cross because I would love to see The Great Escape in a theater but don’t want to pay $30 for beer and bratwurst along with it. That’s $60 with boyfriend. While you’ve got the prints right there, couldn’t you schedule a few non-food-included showings? My boyfriend hasn’t ever seen The Great Escape, which means he’s missing out on some of the humor in the arguably finest Simpsons episode ever, “A Streetcar Named Marge.” I am dying to introduce him to The Cooler King and it won’t be quite the same on TV, even on our fabulous new TV.
The point is, dear Alamo, that I wish you would reconsider your gender/parental stereotypes when you schedule movies for these holidays next year. Yes, I know everyone else does it, but I hope you can rise above that kind of thing. I’m not saying you should show Psycho (although my mom loves Hitchcock) or The Manchurian Candidate, but surely you can think of some less wimpy programming for Mother’s Day. How about the Kill Bill films? Hey, that could work for Father’s Day too.
I can’t stay too mad at you, though, because of the Bruce Campbell thing. Got the tickets today. See y’all there.

Continue reading movies this week: dear Alamo

movies this week: I’m outta here

It’s interesting to see how current events affect movie rentals. For example, I was looking through our Netflix queue this morning and noticed that All the President’s Men is listed as “Very Long Wait.” I guess everyone wants to see Hal Holbrook as Deep Throat, now that they know W. Mark Felt was the real-life Deep Throat.
I was a little disappointed when the identity of Deep Throat was revealed. Deep in my heart, I hoped that Deep Throat was really two ditzy blonde high-school girls with a flair for dog walking and baking Hello Dollies.
I notice that you can rent Dick from Netflix without any wait at all. If you’re looking for something Watergate-ish to watch, that’s what I’d recommend. Woodward and Bernstein are much funnier in this movie than All the President’s Men.
I wanted to title this entry “Get Dick for Deep Throat action,” but that might draw the wrong kind of crowd.
Meanwhile, lots of movies are opening this weekend, none looking good enough to yank the box office out of its slump (everyone’s pinning hopes on Batman Begins next week), and none looking very interesting to me personally. Fortunately, I’m going out of town this weekend, somewhere with no movie theaters, so I don’t care. (Especially since Howl’s Moving Castle isn’t opening in Austin, damn it.)

Continue reading movies this week: I’m outta here

movies this week: no frills

I had to work late so I don’t have much time and I have a little headache so I’m not feeling very witty, so I think I’ll just say that hey, there are good movies in Austin this week, you should go see some of them. Looks like there’s quite a variety.
What am I planning to see? I have no idea. Too old for movies about magic pants, too cynical for treacly Ron Howard movies, too squeamish for British violent crime movies, too tired for midnight movies, too poor for lavish Robert Rodriguez premieres. Maybe I’ll help perpetuate the current box-office slump by staying home and watching Shaolin Soccer on DVD, although I am tempted by the documentary on Giant.

Continue reading movies this week: no frills

movies this week: dry weekend

Memorial Day weekend? For me, it is Cynical About Movies weekend. You have been warned.
Remember when cool movies used to open on Memorial Day weekend? Not this year, buster. I guess everyone’s assuming that we’ll all go see the Star Wars movie again so there’s no point in releasing anything except kids’ movies and maybe a few arthouse flicks. Oh, and a remake with Adam Sandler. I guess that’s supposed to be the blockbuster of the week.
It isn’t even a good weekend for movie events in Austin. There are a few movies I’d like to see during the week, but I am surprised at the rather lackluster programming for Memorial Day weekend. Perhaps theater programmers are assuming we’ll all be outdoors having picnics or something.
Last weekend, my boyfriend and I tried to see a movie, but couldn’t find anything we might like that we hadn’t already seen. This weekend looks just as bad. And what will future weekends hold?
I am looking ahead at the summer movie release schedule and am unimpressed. In fact, I’m a little disgusted.
It’s not that bad, I remind myself. Let’s not forget about Howl’s Moving Castle, The Aristocrats, a Terry Gilliam movie or two on the horizon, Jim Jarmusch, and a kids’ film from Robert Rodriguez. Maybe Charlie and the Chocolate Factory won’t suck. Maybe Richard Linklater will do something entertaining with The Bad News Bears.
But it is too easy to see a long arid summer full of Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff and movies made from TV shows and comic books and movies that never needed to be remade and sequels to dumb Rob Schneider movies and Ron Howard schmaltz. These are the movies that are supposed to pull the U.S. box office out of its three-month slump? I wonder.
Every cloud has its little silver lining, though, right? The lineup of summer movies makes me glad of one thing: that I’m not a newspaper movie critic who will have to sit through each and every one of those lovely summertime gems and write something unique and intelligent about them, without turning into Oscar the Grouch Critic. Thank heaven for that. I know you’re thankful, too.
(Yeah, right. Like I wouldn’t take a newspaper critic job in a New York minute, even if I did have to watch the Herbie movie and the TV adaptations. Get real. I would love to be paid money to write about film, even in that way.)

Continue reading movies this week: dry weekend