I wrote a pretty long article for the Tejano Tribune about the movies and panels I was able to attend during the Austin Film Fest. Many apologies for not getting this posted sooner. Since my article had to be condensed to fit the paper a few films were left out. I am going to post my original article here. Please enjoy and feel free to comment!
Austin Film Festival - My Journey In Films
As a former Austinite, I am very familiar with The Austin Film Festival. Known as the Screenwriters’ Film Festival, Austin has hosted this event for the past 21 years. This film festival allows first time directors, screenwriters, and actors to be discovered. As luck would have it, I was able to attain a press pass through the Austin Film Festival (AFF). This pass allowed me access to all the major premieres and movies of the festival. With each red carpet even I was able to talk to directors, actors, and screenwriters. Each event had its own unique feel and energy. AFF ran from October 23, 2014 through October 30, 2014. My journey began opening night.
“The Last Five Years”- A movie based on the off Broadway play. Adapted for film and directed by Richard LaGravenese and starring Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kenderick. This musical follows a couple as they take a look at the last five years of their relationship.
Review- Very well done as a musical, the songs were very realistic and heartfelt. The cinematography was great, and the use of color was interesting. Overall the performances of both actors were great.
Rating- 3.5 out of 5 Lizas
Interesting to note, most of this film was shot in long sections and the singing was recorded during the take.
On Friday, I attended two panels, the first one was A Deconstruction of Annie Hall. On the panel were Phil Rosenthal (Creator of Everybody Loves Raymond) and Steve Faber (writer of We’re the Millers). The two writers gave an in depth look at the historically funny Woody Allen film. They taught valuable writing skills to those of us aspiring to write movies. They even gave insight on how to watch the film with fresh eyes. The second panel was entitled “Setting as a Character”. The panel included Vera Blasi (writer of Woman on Top), Cary Fukunga (writer of True Detective) and Noah Hawley (writer of Bones). The panel taught aspiring writers tricks of the trade to use setting to influence their dialogue and scene structures.
After the entertaining panels it was time to discover new movies on the red carpet. First time movie filmmaker Antonia Bogdanovich was having a regional premiere of her movie “Phantom Halo”. Sebastian Rocha, Luke Kleintank, and Jordan Dunn were also in attendance.
“Phantom Halo”- This movie follows the woes of an alcoholic father and his two boys. The boys spout Shakespeare and pick pockets at the local pavilion to bring home money. One brother discovers a way to print their own money and things get complicated.
Review- Sebastian Rocha plays the alcoholic father perfectly and flawlessly. His performance was great, as well as his supporting cast of Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Sebastian Roche. The cinematography was well done, however there were holes in the story line that made the transitions not smooth.
Rating- 3 out of 5 Lizas.
Saturday morning I attended the panel The Serious World of Comedy. Yet again the panel included Phil Rosenthal and Steve Farber, then Ed Soloman (writer of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) , their comedic insight was perfect fuel to get the comedic writer started. Following the panel Luke Wilson premiered his short film “Satellite Beach” and hosted a screening of “The Pope of Greenwich Village”from 1984 starring Mickey Roarke, Eric Roberts, and Darryl Hannah. This would be the first time I had heard of and saw the film.
“Satellite Beach”- Written and directed by Luke Wilson is a story about the journey of the Endevour Spaceship down the streets of Los Angeles and the effort behind one man to make it perfect. They only had 3 weeks to prepare for the shoot and were lucky enough to have the city of Los Angeles be very helpful during the shoot.
Review- Luke Wilson did a good job of writing, directing, and staring in the film. The story was clever and entertaining, yet shed light on the importance and historic significance of the space program.
Rating- 4.5 out of 5 stars
“Pope of Greenwich Village”- Directed by Stuart Rosenberg is a story of two cousins in New York who plan a heist to make their lives easier, and face hard times when plans unravel.
Review- A dated piece of film, that showed the 1980’s New York in a raw fashion. The story was interesting and the bond between the characters was very apparent. Eric Roberts performance was one of the best I have seen of his work. Considering it was an early one, I now understand why his career has been long lasting.
Rating- 3 out of 5 Lizas
Saturday evening was the world premiere of “Dawn Patrol” and most of the main cast had attended the red carpet. The cast were more like family as they stood ready for pictures and interviews. Everyone was very nice and open to questions.
“Dawn Patrol”- A hard look at a surfing community and the racism and disfunction that runs rampant. When revenge goes bad, one surfer must take a look at his life.
Review- Scott Eastwood, Rita Wilson, and Jeff Fahey give wonderful performances in this film. Overall the cast was well placed. The story was solid, and the cinematographer Edd Lukas did a beautiful job throughout, but the opening sequence was amazing.
4 out of 5 Lizas
Sunday was a very busy day; I was able to attend two red carpet events. The first red carpet event was a script reading of “Flarsky”. The actors had to do a live dramatic reading of the script. Comedian Mike Birbiglia (The Fault In Our Stars) with fellow cast mates, Jason Ritter (Parenthood, Gravity Falls), Sunny Mabrey (Once Upon A Time) and Erinn Hayes (Children’s Hospital) gave a great comedic performance of this movie. “Flarsky” is about a political writer who goes to work for his old babysitter whom he had a crush on. His babysitter is now the Secretary of State for the U.S. Government. Hilarity ensues with this script and is a sure fire comedy gem! Erinn Hayes played a fantastic leading lady and Mike Birbiglia’s geeky nature only made him more appealing.
My second red carpet of the day was the World Premiere of “7Minutes”. In attendance were Jason Ritter, Zane Holtz, Luke Mitchell, and Leven Rambin. I was able to sit next to Luke Mitchell as we all watched the movie.
“7Minutes”- Three childhood friends plan a robbery that seem fail safe, only to have it go awry.
Review- This movie is fantastic! It was action packed and had a good story throughout. It was one of my favorite films of the festival. Luke Mitchell’s performance was on point. For being his first movie, he looked like an old pro on screen. Very entertaining and Leven Rambin’s character was written and acted very well. She was a strong female character amongst these three strong male leads. Seeing Jason Ritter outside of his normal nice guy role was very entertaining to watch. He proves he can go from good to bad. Noah Rosenthal’s cinematography was excellent, it aided the flow of the story and transitioned smoothly.
Rating- 5 out of 5 Lizas.
By Monday, the panels were over, and all that were left were movies. Monday night’s red carpet was for “Black or White”, Kevin Costner’s new film. Mike Binder (writer of Reign Over Me and Upside of Anger), Paula Newsome (Reign Over Me) and the young Jillian Estell (this is her 2nd feature film) were all in attendance. Kevin Costner (Dances With Wolves) and Octavia Spencer (The Help) led this cast in a racially charged comedic drama.
“Black or White”- A man loses his wife and must now care for his bi-racial granddaughter alone. Her biological black grandmother tries to fight him for custody.
Review- Wonderful film! All the actors did an amazing job at bringing these characters to life. The story was heartfelt and deep. The blending of drama and comedy was seamless and well thought out.
Rating- 5 out of 5 Lizas
On Tuesday I had a break from the red carpet and was able to watch “Taking It Back”an Austrian film by Andreas Schmeid. I was able to sit down with Andreas and his wife Elisabeth and chat about the movie. He told me that it was the 2nd highest grossing movie in Austria. We discussed the color choices for his cinematography and the music. I asked why he chose music in English as opposed to Austrian or German music for the film He said that Taylor Swift is number one in his country, so he knew they would relate to the lyrics. This is Andreas first feature film that he directed and wrote.
“Taking It Back”- The movie is about a small town who depends on the local steel mill for their economy. The steel mill union are asking for higher wages. In the midst of the turmoil one of the outspoken workers finds out his ex-girlfriend (the union representative) is coming back to town for negotiations. While this is going on he must find a way to prove to her he still loves her.
Review- The minute I finished the film, I contacted them for an interview. I will go on record to say this was my favorite film of the festival. The story was fantastic, the acting was so natural, and the cinematography makes this movie a piece of art. The film did have English subtitles and is originally in German. The music was well placed and the use of camera play worked well for this film.
Rating: 6 out of 5 Lizas
Wednesday morning had the opportunity to watch a student film called “The History of Time Travel”. Ricky Kennedy, who is in the Stephen F. Austin Graduate Film program wrote and directed this feature as part of his degree plan.
“The History of Time Travel”- A pseudo-documentary about one family’s quest to stay together through a series of time travel mishaps. The story unfolds in a documentary style set up.
Review- What makes this story unique is that this type of storytelling is very subtle and intelligent. The way they manipulate historical facts and take you down different timelines without the interviewee even noticing is a great tool throughout the story.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Lizas
Wednesday afternoon I was able to catch the new Australian movie “Skin Deep”. I was able to sit and talk to the cast, director, and producer of the film. During their Q and A session after the movie, they expounded on how U-Town, as city in Australia played a huge part in getting the film going. It showed great support from their community and to have it well received in Austin was a great experience for them we were told.
“Skin Deep”- Two girls meet in U-Town and learn hard life lessons from each other as one has suicidial tendencies and the other is fighting cancer all in the course of one night.
Review- This was a very strong female cast and the story was very moving and realistic. The way the movie was shot was perfect for the tone and fluidity of the piece. Overall very well written and acted.
Rating- 5 out of 5 stars
Wednesday evening’s red carpet was “The Sound and The Fury” James Franco’s adaptation of William Faulkner’s novel. Scott Haze (Child of God) was in attendance.
“The Sound and The Fury”- The trials and tribulations of the Compton family in the deep south during the early 20th century.
Review- Scott Haze and Joey King’s performances were great. Scott’s portrayal as Jason Compton was very haunting. He is definitely a great actor and one to watch. The inclusion of Seth Rogan and Danny McBride was almost comedic during a very dramatic story. Those parts were a little hard to follow.
Rating- 3 out of 5 Lizas
Thursday night’s red carpet event was for “Rosewater”. The movie is based on the memoir of Mazhair Bahari, the Newsweek journalist that was imprisoned in Iran. It was written and directed by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show.
“Rosewater”- Details Mazhair Bahari’s days in an Iranian jail and how humor helped him prevail.
Review- Wonderfully pieced together, very uplifting to watch through a harsh difficult time. Gael Garcia Bernal’s performance is breathtaking. This movie surprised me in a very real way. I walked in expecting a movie about torture and pain, and ended up with a movie on hope!
Rating- 6 out of 5 Lizas