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.

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a short survey

I was starting to look through Austin movie theater Web sites so I could pull together this week’s Movies This Week and I wondered: why I am going to this much trouble? It takes me hours to write a Movies This Week entry, because I have to check all the Alamo Drafthouse schedules and the Paramount schedule and the Austin Film Society calendar, and then I check Austin360 and the Austin Chronicle movie sections to see if I am missing any special screenings. I usually end up venturing over to IMDb to find out what some of these movies are about, and sometimes I use Google to find out more about this or that film. If I have time, I start the entry on Thursday lunch or Thursday night, work on it during Friday lunch, and post it Friday after work.
It has been just about one year since Omar ran out of time to write his Movies This Week entries and I asked him if I could take them over. It’s been fun, but I’m starting to realize that I might not want to invest as much time in these weekly entries as I do now.
I don’t mind doing this and it does mean that I walk around with the week’s schedule of Austin films in my head, which can be useful in conversations (okay, or dull) and which is a good reminder for me that I should put such-and-such film on my calendar or buy tickets now.
Here’s what I want to know: Are you reading all of Movies This Week? Do you read just the part “above the fold” that is posted on the index page, and don’t click through to the actual listings? Do you read about the new movies but skip the part about Austin special events (which I realize would be interesting only if you live in Austin)? Do you actually use the listing to find out about movies you might want to see?
I’m not getting rid of Movies This Week but I am seriously considering cutting it down in scope. I might list and discuss only new movies, or I might list only the most notable special screenings in Austin. (As it is, I don’t list DVD screenings or movies I don’t like, and it still goes on forever. You could watch a free movie or DVD screening every night in this town if you wanted.) I mean, that’s what Omar did when he wrote Movies This Week, but his entries were a lot funnier and I felt compelled to make up for the lack of humor with more information about Austin screenings.
I don’t want to write all this stuff, for which I am not paid, if no one is using it as a resource. After all, on Fridays you can pick up an Austin Chronicle or go to their Web site, click on Calendar and Special Screenings, and view an even better (if less snarky) list.
So please, if you read this site regularly, post a comment to let me know if/how you’re reading Movies This Week. I’d really appreciate it. Also, let me know if you live in/near Austin. I’m certainly not going to cry or fuss if you tell me you don’t read the damn thing or you think it sucks; I want to know so I can make a good decision.
Meanwhile, I am going back to the Alamo site to marvel at the number of good films that one local theater chain can show in one week. Thanks for helping me decide what to do about the Movies This Week thing.

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.)

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rerun: the pitch (sixteen times two)

The Web (even the AP wire) is abuzz with the news that Molly Ringwald wants to make a sequel to the 1984 movie Sixteen Candles. She’s ready, she thinks she’s found the ideal script, isn’t it a wonderful idea, blah blah blah. And the crowd goes wild.
So I thought I would republish an entry that I wrote on my 32nd birthday. (Bear in mind that Molly Ringwald and I are around the same age.) I want to point out that I thought of this idea years before the rest of y’all, and this is the proof: from Nov. 2, 2000. Molly, feel free to call.

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the Region 1 straw

“I’m smart; you’re dumb. I’m big; you’re little. I’m right; you’re wrong. And there’s nothing you can do about it. ”
Matilda (or maybe Sony/Columbia)
Okay, that’s it. That did it.
I have been waiting for months for Matilda to release on DVD in the US so I could buy a copy. I love this movie. I was in just the right mood to enjoy it. I reread the book. I even managed to convince my boyfriend that he might like watching it. The DVD was out of print for a couple of years and I could not wait for it to be re-released.
Sony/Columbia released the DVD yesterday. It is billed as a “special edition,” full of silly features that no one over the age of 8 would care about. That’s not why I’m mad. (Most DVDs seem to be like that, these days.)
This amazing special-edition DVD that I have been waiting for is full-screen, also known as pan-and-scan.

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the jelly donut variations

My family has a lot of weird catch-phrases and quotes and things, like any other family. Right now, tonight, I am thinking of two lines we’ve all traded on and off, over the years, in various and probably inaccurate incarnations:
“Thirty dollars worth of Chinese food! I can’t believe you ate thirty dollars worth of Chinese food!”
“Have you ever taken a jelly donut, and you suck out all the jelly, and then you put a Reese’s peanut-butter cup in the middle, and you put that in the oven until the peanut butter cup melts?”
The lines (or something like them) are both from the same movie, which I think none of us has seen more than once, but it became one of those family things.
The story about this movie, Fatso, is essentially the same story about my family and Harry and Walter Go to New York, to the point where I am probably mixing the two stories up, but no one else remembers either so it doesn’t matter. We were on vacation in Destin, Florida, watching TV one night … or else maybe we were home watching TV and semi-napping one rainy Sunday afternoon. I might have been 13, or 15. The details aren’t important.
My dad and I were flipping channels (manually … these were the bad old days before TV remotes) and found a Dom DeLuise movie on one of the independent UHF channels. My dad loves Dom DeLuise movies almost as much as he loves John Candy movies. (I think I’ve already mentioned the thing with The Cannonball Run and the Captain America mask.) Dom DeLuise was sitting around a kitchen table with several other large men, and the cabinets and refrigerator in the background were chained and padlocked.
My dad asked me to keep it on that channel for a minute, just so he could see, this looked funny. And it was … the guys were all on some diet program where they were supposed to keep one another from eating anything. But then they started talking about jelly donuts. Did you ever suck the jelly out of one and fill it with chocolate ice cream? No, wait, I got something better. You ever suck the jelly out of a donut and put a peanut-butter cup … and so on. Eventually the biggest guy goes crazy and ends up ripping all the chains and doors off the cabinets and fridge and I don’t remember if they actually found donuts but my dad and I were laughing our asses off. Also, we wanted to try the thing with the peanut-butter cup.
(We never did, although we did find out that you can put a triple-decker chocolate Moon Pie in the microwave very, very briefly so the marshmallow filling gets warm and the chocolate coating melts a bit and then you eat it with a fork and mmmmm.)
I don’t remember much about the rest of Fatso although we watched it until the end. Poor Dom DeLuise wanted to lose weight, he was in love with some pretty blonde woman he wanted to impress. His sister kept nagging him and yelling at him to lose weight because his fat cousin died of a heart attack. He tried and tried and eventually he gave up after picking up his large Italian family’s huge order of Chinese food and eating the entire thing (thus the line about the thirty dollars of Chinese food). He still ends up with the pretty blonde thing and they have lots of kids and we see from snapshots at the end that he doesn’t get any thinner. Very cute. Very sweet. The humor seemed a little Mel Brooks-ish at times, but that wasn’t a bad thing.
A few years later, when I got the film-geek bug, I looked up Fatso and found out that, surprisingly, it had been scripted and directed by a woman … the actress who played Dom DeLuise’s sister in the movie, Anne Bancroft.
I’ve read a bunch of articles and weblog entries about Anne Bancroft’s recent death and they all mention The Graduate, some mention The Miracle Worker, and a few mention various other supporting actress roles in films or even her stage work. But weirdly enough, when I heard about her death, I thought about the one movie she wrote and directed, unmemorable as it might seem otherwise. There weren’t many female directors in 1980 or even now for that matter, so even if the film wasn’t a success, I feel that deserves some recognition.
Besides, thanks to Ms. Bancroft, no one in my immediate family sees jelly donuts in quite the same way.

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.

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