‘Moonlight,’ ‘Tower’ top Austin Film Critics Association awards

 Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” won Best Film and Best Director, while Austin filmmaker Keith Maitland and his film “Tower” took four awards, including Best Documentary, Best Austin Film, and the Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award in the Austin Film Critics Association (AFCA) critics’ poll.

Acting  winners included Casey Affleck as Best Actor for “Manchester by the Sea,” Isabelle Huppert as Best Actress for “Elle,” Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor in “Moonlight,” and Viola Davis for Best Supporting Actress in “Fences.”

“La La Land” took Best Cinematography (Linus Sandgren) and Best Score (Justin Hurwitz).

 Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden” took Best Foreign Language Film and Laika’s “Kubo and the Two Strings” won Best Animated Feature.

Trevante Rhodes in "Moonlight"
Trevante Rhodes in “Moonlight”

The full list of winners, plus the AFCA Top Ten Films of 2016 list, is below:

A still from "Tower" (Keith Maitland - Go-Valley LLC)
A still from “Tower” (Keith Maitland – Go-Valley LLC)

Best Film: Moonlight (dir: Barry Jenkins)

Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences

Best Original Screenplay: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Adapted Screenplay: Eric Heisserer, Arrival

Best Cinematography: Linus Sandgren, La La Land

Best Score: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land

Best Foreign-Language Film: The Handmaiden (dir: Park Chan-wook)

Best Documentary: Tower (dir: Keith Maitland)

Best Animated Film: Kubo and the Two Strings (dir: Travis Knight)

Best First Film: The Witch (dir: Robert Eggers)

The Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award: Keith Maitland, Tower

Austin Film Award: Tower (dir: Keith Maitland)

Special Honorary Award: To the ensemble cast of Moonlight and casting director Yesi Ramirez for excellence as an ensemble.

Special Honorary Award: To honor Anton Yelchin for his contribution to the cinema of 2016, including performances in Green Room and Star Trek Beyond. His was a brilliant career cut profoundly short.

Special Honorary Award: To A24 Films for excellence in production in distribution. Their work gave us Moonlight, Green Room, Swiss Army Man, The Lobster, The Witch, and 20th Century Women, among others.

Special Honorary Award: To filmmaker Keith Maitland and his film Tower for revisiting a tragic event in Austin, Texas history in a sensitive and unique manner.

AFCA 2016 Top Ten Films:

  1. Moonlight
  2. La La Land
  3. Arrival
  4. The Handmaiden
  5. Manchester by the Sea
  6. Elle
  7. Hell or High Water
  8. The Lobster
  9. Jackie
  10. Sing Street

The Alamo Drafthouse is honoring Carrie Fisher with a lightsaber vigil

The Alamo Drafthouse will hold a lightsaber vigil for the late Carrie Fisher outside Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar at 6:30 p.m. tonight (December 28).

“Attendees are encouraged to dress up as their favorite “Star Wars” characters, bring along as many lightsabers as you own, and invite your fellow Wookiees, Bounty Hunters, Ewoks, and Stormtroopers,” stated the entry on the Drafthouse blog.

Don’t own a lightsaber? Feel free to bring flashlights and glow sticks.screen-shot-2015-11-12-at-08-28-48

Carrie Fisher was funnier than you. But then, she was funnier than most

The first line of Carrie Fisher’s obit was always going to be about Princess (now General Leia, if you happened to see “The Force Awakens”) Leia. And everyone just sort of assumed that obit was a good 20 years away.

But no.

 Actress Carrie Fisher (photo: Getty Images)
Actress Carrie Fisher (photo: Getty Images)

Carrie Fisher — Hollywood royalty, science-fiction icon, outspoken mental health advocate and perhaps one of Hollywood’s most underrated comic minds — died Dec. 27, four days after suffering a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles.

Fisher was famous from the moment she was born.

The daughter of Hollywood stars Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Fisher was raised in Beverly Hills. She made her film debut in “Shampoo” (1975) as the daughter of one of Warren Beatty’s hairdressing-with-benefits clients. She offers him lox, chopped liver and a baked apple, asks him if he is gay and reads him like a book, and it is just an insanely good performance from a 17-year-old.

Fisher attended the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, which explains her really weird accent — part L.A. debutante, part Debbie Reynolds and part British radio announcer — in “Star Wars,” the 1977 movie that would both define and derail her career.

RELATED: Carrie Fisher through the years.

Complete with almost-diaphanous white dress, a really large blaster and very odd hair, her Princess Leia in “Star Wars” was brash, take-no-prisoners and knew exactly who was running this show, a quality that was dialed down a bit in “Empire” and all but absent in “Jedi,” a movie in which everyone in the main cast looks vaguely miserable.

Very few people have ingrained themselves into popular culture the way Fisher’s Leia did. Her face and body were on everything from toys to lunchboxes to bedsheets. Role model and sex object in equal measure (a titration that is incredibly hard to pull off) Leia turned Fisher into an icon when she was all of 20 years old.

Fisher’s career and her life were never the same.

In 2015, she reprised her role as Resistance leader General Leia Organa in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” She was not on screen for all that long but fans certainly enjoyed seeing here there, odd hair and all.

By any reasonable standard, Fisher had a big, messy, epic Hollywood life.

In her most recent book, “The Princess Diarist,” she revealed that she and Harrison Ford had an affair on the set of “Star Wars.”

“I told (Harrison) I found the diaries and that I was gonna publish them,” Fisher told Rolling Stone this month. “He just said, ‘Lawyer.’ I told him he could take out anything he didn’t like. I sent it to him, but he never commented. I guess he didn’t loathe anything.”

From 1977 to 1984, she dated, was married to and divorced Paul Simon. Then they dated some more. She served as muse to songs on both “Hearts and Bones,” an album almost nobody remembers outside of hardcore Simon fans, and the Grammy-winning “Graceland,” an album everyone in the world has heard something from.

But more than anything else, Carrie Fisher was incredibly funny. This was known to Hollywood insiders — she was close friends with comedian Albert Brooks and there are marked similarities in their senses of humor — but largely unknown to the public until her best-selling, semi-autobiographical first novel, “Postcards from the Edge.”

About a drug-addicted actress with mom issues, “Postcards” was made by Mike Nichols, directing from a script by Fisher, into a very funny 1990 movie starring Meryl Streep.

As comedian Billy Eichner put it on Twitter, “U know ur special when Meryl Streep plays YOU in a movie.”

(I would also submit that it took the combined talents of Fisher and Nichols to make Streep funny, not something for which she was known before”Postcards.”)

Fisher wrote three more semi-autobiographical, comic novels, “Surrender the Pink,” Delusions of Grandma” and “The Best Awful There Is,” as well as three memoirs, “Wishful Drinking” (later turned into a one-woman show), “Shockaholic” and this year’s “The Princess Diarist.”

She also became known as a script doctor, quietly known for work on “Hook,” “Lethal Weapon 3,” “Sister Act,” and “The Wedding Singer.” It was also her idea for Debbie Reynolds to play Albert Brooks’s mother in his 1996 film “Mother,” in which Reynolds was hilarious.

Fisher appeared in movies here and there, sometimes as a weird little character (hello, “Blues Brothers”) and sometimes as a riff on herself, a role she was (eventually) happy to play.

Fisher was terrific as the best friend in “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) and impossible to forget in 2007 as Rosemary Howard, the comedy writer-whom-time-has-passed-by in what was perhaps the single best episode of “30 Rock.”

Fisher also became outspoken about her struggles with mental illness, drug addiction and the nasty, ouroboros-like relationship between the two. Eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Fisher was candid in interviews about her successful use of electroconvulsive therapy, self-medication-via-cocaine-and-Percodan and the 1985 overdose on prescription meds and sleeping pills that ultimately inspired “Postcards.”

This year, she received the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from Harvard for her “forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism that have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.”

Check out the internet today or tomorrow or a few years from now and you will see all sorts of folks talking about how Fisher’s writing and talking about how her brain worked helped them feel better about their own.

This amazingly funny, inspirational woman is survived by her daughter Billie Lourd, her brother Todd, her French bull dog Gary and about a billion or so fans. Her mother died Dec. 28.

Let us once again enjoy this 2015 Good Morning America interview which manages to capture a tremendous amount of what made Fisher unique.


Actress Carrie Fisher has died

Iconic actress Carrie Fisher has died, according to her family.

She was 60.

Said a family spokesman: “It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning. She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly . Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.”

Fisher went into cardiac arrest flying from London to Los Angeles on Dec. 23.


Variety honors Jeff Nichols with Creative Impact award

Jeff Nichols (photo: Joe Gross)
Jeff Nichols (photo: Joe Gross)

Film industry bible Variety will honor “Loving” director Jeff Nichols with one of their Creative Impact awards. Other honorees include “Captain Fantastic” star Viggo Mortensen and “Hidden Figures” producer Pharrell Williams.

The three will be fêted at a private bunch at the Palm Springs International Film Festival Jan. 3.

“In less than a decade, Jeff Nichols has journeyed from the early career promise of  ‘Shotgun Tales,’ to the internationally acclaimed achievements of ‘Take Shelter,’ ‘Mud,’ and ‘Midnight Special’ to this year’s powerful and moving historical drama ‘Loving,’” said Steven Gaydos, Vice President and Executive Editor of Variety.

Previous recipients have included Will Smith, Charlie Kaufmann, Steve Carell, Robert Marshall, Jonah Hill, David O. Russell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlize Theron and Mark Wahlberg.

Also at the festival Variety will also be honoring its “10 Directors to Watch” at the festival. This year’s list include:

Maren Ade for “Toni Erdmann”

Ritesh Batra for “The Sense of an Ending”

Otto Bell for ” The Eagle Huntress”

Julia Ducornau for “Raw”

Geremy Jasper for “Patti Cake$”

Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight”

Emmett & Brendan Malloy for “The Tribes of Palos Verdes”

Kleber Mendonca Filho for “Aquarius”

William Oldroyd for “Lady Macbeth”

David Sandberg for “Lights Out”



Christmas time is here with ‘Elf,’ ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and Godzilla

“Elf.” Playing a different times on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the party will feature fun props, a themed contest before the film and a snowball fight in the theater. 1, 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday, 3:30 and 10 p.m. Sunday. $15-$44. Alamo Ritz, 320 E. Sixth St. 512-476-1320, drafthouse.com.

mv5bmtmzmzy5ndc4m15bml5banbnxkftztcwmzc4njixnw-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_“It’s a Wonderful Life.” Frank Capra’s quasi-noirish holiday classic about a man (Jimmy Stewart) who doesn’t realize how important he is to his community is playing on the big screen as a Christmas Eve treat. 4 p.m. Saturday at Alamo Lakeline, 14028 US-183; 4:10 p.m. Saturday at Alamo Slaughter, 5701 W. Slaughter Ln. $11.37-$38.43. drafthouse.com.

“Shin Godzilla” This well-regarded (well, in Japan; critics were a bit lukewarm on it here) 2016 Godzilla film never got much of a release in Austin, so it’s great to see it doing four days at the Ritz.  Dec. 26 to Dec. 29. Alamo Ritz, 320 E. Sixth St. 512-476-1320, drafthouse.com.

With Arianna Auber

The teaser for ‘Blade Runner 2049’ has us screaming ‘PLEASE BE A GOOD MOVIE!’

Real talk: Directed by Ridley Scott, based incredibly loosely on the book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K Dick, featuring a title by William Burroughs, 1982’s “Blade Runner” remains one of the great sci-fi movies. Gorgeous cinematography, stunningly tactile visual effects, incredible performance from Rutger Hauer as the replicant who may indeed have a soul, using Harrison Ford for all of the things Harrison Ford does well (including possibly being a robot), it’s a classic.

So, when one sees the teaser for the upcoming “Blade Runner 2049,” produced by Scott, directed by Denis “Arrival” Villeneuve, starring it-man Ryan Gosling and Ford (who apparently isn’t cutting his hair for any director these days, be he J.J. Abrams or Villeneuve), it’s understandable that the first thought is:



So far, so good.

Los Angeles looks to be a desert wasteland, with Gosling’s character finding Deckard (Ford) perhaps the lone resident in his old building (perhaps the way J.F. Sebastian was in his old building). The sound effects are vintage, and a walk through the urban neon (a visual so influential you can find it in a film as contemporary as “Rogue One”) is also present. (But where are they? China? Tokyo? Off-World?)

For his part, Dick has never completely left us as a source. From “Total Recall” to “Minority Report,” Dick’s main themes (“How do we know this is real?” and “How do I know I am human?,” more or less) seem ever more relevant in the age of Siri. The Spike Jonze movie “Her” is a PKD story in all but name.

Amazon just started season 2 of “The Man in the High Castle,” which has about as much relationship to PKD’s incredible novel as “Blade Runner” does to “Androids.”

“Blade Runner 2049” is due out Oct. 6, 2017.



Some Austin movie fans’ screams might be in the next ‘Star Wars’

Just this weekend, in a galaxy that’s real, real close, some movie fanatics learned their voices were more powerful than they could have possibly imagined.

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Butt-Numb-A-Thon — that’s the off-the-wall film marathon masterminded over the years by film buff Harry Knowles, Drafthouse founder Tim League and Kristen Bell — was held this past weekend at Alamo Drafthouse. According to Knowles, attendees at this year’s 18th edition unwittingly attended a voice-over session Sunday for the eighth episode of the “Star Wars” franchise.

RELATED: Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ ‘Batman v Superman’ and the limits of fan service’

Apparently, director Rian Johnson, who’s helming that upcoming film and is a longtime BNAT supporter, showed up this year with something special in mind.

That’s right: Johnson asked a bunch of film geeks to scream into his phone and said the noises will make their way into the next intergalactic “Star Wars” adventure. (Besides “Rogue One,” of course.) Plenty of folks in the audience backed Knowles up on Twitter, too.

No clues about what the sound will be used for, however. Johnson was mum on Twitter.


Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to Kristen Bell as an actress. The Butt-Numb-A-Thon organizer is also the director of Fantastic Fest, not the star of “Frozen.”

‘Loving’ wins 2017 Stanley Kramer award

LOVING_onesheetThe Producers Guild of America (PGA), announced today the 2017 Stanley Kramer Award will honor Austin director Jeff Nichols feature filmLoving,”  produced by:

Ged Doherty, p.g.a. & Colin Firth, p.g.a.;

Austin-based Sarah Green, p.g.a.;

Nancy Buirski, p.g.a.; and Marc Turtletaub, p.g.a. & Peter Saraf, p.g.a.

The Stanley Kramer Award will be presented to LOVING at the 28th Annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony Jan. 28 at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles.

The Stanley Kramer Award was established in 2002 to honor a production, producer or other individuals whose achievement or contribution illuminates and raises public awareness of important social issues.  2017 marks the 50th anniversary of “Loving vs. Virginia.”

“Loving” is the second Focus Features release to receive the Stanley Kramer Award, following the 2009 honoree, “Milk.”

You should totally see ‘Daughters of the Dust’ if you like Beyoncé. No, really.

“A Christmas Story Movie Party.” There was a time when this 1983 Bob Clark classic was considered a cult film. Not anymore, what with it being on TV non-stop of late. And it’s soul is still that of a cult movie (it may be the most secular hunk of Christmas-themed art since “White Christmas”). There will be props, there will be games. 4 p.m. Saturday. 7 p.m. Tuesday. Alamo Drafthouse Ritz 320 East Sixth St. drafthouse.com/austin/show/a-christmas-story-movie-party

“For All Mankind.” This special Science on Screen edition starts by screening Al Reinert’s seminal archival documentary about the first moon landing, followed by a discussion with Reinert and the retired NASA mission controllers who guided the Apollo shots. 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday. $7-$10. Bullock Museum, 1800 Congress Ave. austinfilm.org.

daughtersofthedust“Daughters of the Dust.”   Julie Dash’s 1991 poetic and gorgeous film “Daughters of the Dust,” images from which Beyoncé paid homage in “Lemonade,” was the first feature film by an African-American woman released in theaters. 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday. $7-$10. Bullock Museum, 1800 Congress Ave. austinfilm.org.