Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Austin Film Festival Preview

Stomp Shout ScreamNext week the Austin Film Festival begins a week of features, shorts, documentaries and, for the attendees of the accompanying Screenwriters' Conference, panels about the craft of writing for the movies. I've been volunteering for the Festival for a few months now so I've got a good idea of what's on the way and where I'll be spending my time that week.

Big events include the opening night film Shopgirl (with Claire Danes and Jason Schwarzman in attendance), The Ice Harvest (with director Harold Ramis in attendance), and the big Saturday night screening of Ghostbusters at the historic Paramount Theater, where Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson will answer questions after the movie. (I've even heard rumors that some Ghostbusters fans plan on attending in costume.)

Here are some of the other screenings that look like fun. For those films about which I don't know enough to do my own write-up I have used the Festival's synopsis.

Stomp! Shout! Scream! (competition feature) - a rock & roll beach party monster movie directed by Jay Edwards, one of the minds behind Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force. As it is a monster movie I've watched the festival screener for this several times and I'm excited that the AFF will be hosting the film's world premiere. Jay, who is a really nice guy, will be at the conference and both of the screenings of his movie. Check out the web site for Stomp! Shout! Scream!

Dirt
(competition documentary) - DIRT follows a season inside the soul of American auto racing--the World Class Street Stocks at the legendary Devil's Bowl Speedway, in Mesquite, Texas as the racers careen on and off the track toward the 2002 season championship. DIRT is about primal forces: horsepower and ego, the roar of machines and the power of teamwork. It's also about relationships between fathers and sons, between men and women. Director Jeff Bowden will be in attendance.

Mrs. Henderson Presents (advance screening) - In pre-World War II London one of England's most prominent and eccentric society figures, Laura Henderson, buys the historic Windmill Theatre and begins a legendary "nude revue" musical extravaganza. Driven by a desire to win back the music hall audiences who have been lured away by the advent of talking pictures, this charming lady and veritable force of nature is aided by her equally formidable and tenacious theater manager, Vivian Van Damm, as she sets about her task with the kind of vigor and determination that belies her advanced years. Starring Ricky Gervais, Judi Dench, Christopher Guest, Bob Hoskins.

R-Point and Three... Extremes (advance screening) - Double feature of Asian horror at the Bob Bullock Museum's IMAX theater!

Winter Passing (advance screening) - Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel in another movie together? I'm there! (No, this is not the sequel to Elf.)

Muskrat Lovely (competition documentary) - I've seen a little bit of this one; it involves a beauty contest that coincides with a Muskrat skinning competition. Could be a Chris Guest mockumentary if it weren't completely for real.

The Outdoorsmen: Blood, Sweat, and Beers (competition documentary) Once a year, an exclusive group of men travel to a top-secret location somewhere in the wooded mountains of Washington State to compete in an all-day event they call The Outdoorsmen. They battle their way through a series of events that combine physical challenges with high-speed beer chugging. For the past 14 years, this dedicated group has competed relentlessly to bask in the glory of winning the coveted title of Outdoorsmen Champion.

Two HarborsRunaway (competition feature) Michael Adler, abused by his father as a child, sees the cycle beginning again. Fleeing home with his young brother Dylan, Michael holes up in a motel out of town. He gets a job at a gas station with a friendly owner and a flirtatious coworker, but there is a heartbreaking price. Never allowed outside, Dylan remains confused by his new life. A harrowing film about the recurring pain of abuse, Tim McCann's neo-noir drives to the heart of personal darkness. Writer Bill True in attendance.

The Ape (competition feature) Aspiring novelist and corporate drone Harry Walker separates from his wife and family in order to focus on his writing. Harry's efforts and dreams are thwarted when he finds himself constantly harassed by a raunchy, English-speaking gorilla that takes up full-time residence in his apartment. The writing and directing debut of James Franco, The Ape skewers white male angst and the life of the would-be writer. Director James Franco in attendance.

Backseat (competition feature) In Backseat, a "coming of age late" story about prolonged adolescence, two old friends flee New York City on a three-day road trip to Montreal to escape their problems and meet the great Donald Sutherland. Between running drugs and meeting a man who only communicates through instant messaging, they run head-on into the always lingering problem of real life. Writer Josh Alexander and director Bruce Van Dusen in attendance.

Two Harbors (competition feature) This one is a little rough around the edges but it's actually one of my favorite pictures (of the ones I've seen during screenings) so far. It centers around a flea-market action-figure dealer who is on a personal crusade to locate extraterrestrial intelligence, and the young woman who begins selling dolls in a nearby stall. She's a little lost in life and quite possibly deranged, but they strike up an unsteady friendship until he starts to receive signals on his home satellite rig whenever she's around. Contains one of the best demonstrations of "collectible" supply and demand I've ever seen. Director James Vculek in attendance.

There are lots of other great films I've left out but I this should give you an idea of what's in store. Be sure to check out the AFF web site, where you can construct your own calendar of screenings and (once the festival begins) rate and review the films.

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