‘Silence of the Lambs’ director Jonathan Demme had special relationship with Austin


Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme has died.

The New York-native, ardent fan of Texas film and director of “The Silence of the Lambs” died from complications due to esophageal cancer and heart disease. He was 73.

BREAKING: Jonathan Demme dies at 73

A director with a voracious appetite for vibrant characters, crafty storytelling and a feel for exploitation (he was one of Roger Corman’s many cinematic offspring), Demme’s career was one of modern American cinema’s most eclectic.

He seemed to fear no genre. He could do star-studded social realism (the legal/AIDS drama “Philadelphia,” for which Tom Hanks won an Oscar), concert movies (Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” remains the best concert film ever made, “Last Waltz” or no), delivered music-heavy screwball comedy (“Something Wild”) and could elevate lurid pulp into Oscar-winning art (hello, Clarice).

His most recent critical smash was the 2008 movie “Rachel Getting Married” starring Anne Hathaway. Directed in a naturalistic style, it reminded audiences that Demme was capable of showing new sides of himself after more than 40 years as a director.

Jonathan Demme, left, and Paul Thomas Anderson discuss filmmaking at the 2013 Austin Film Festival.

There wasn’t much Demme couldn’t do, or at least try. He was a vibrant documentarian — besides the still-stunning “Stop Making Sense,” Demme made three films focusing on Neil Young: — “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” (2006), “Neil Young Trunk Show” (2009) and “Neil Young Journeys” (2011). Other subjects included Jimmy Carter (“Man from Plains”), Haitian radio under oppressive regimes (“The Agronomist”) and his cousin Bobby (“Cousin Bobby”), a minister in Harlem. He also directed episodic television and a clutch of music videos.

Demme had a special relationship with Austin. In 1980, after Austin Chronicle/South by Southwest co-founder Louis Black showed Demme Austin’s vibrant arts scene, Demme put together a program of six short films from Austin and screened the set at the Collective for Living Cinema in New York, a cinematic postcard from Austin to the Big Apple. The set was finally released on DVD in 2015 as “Jonathan Demme presents Made in Texas.” He was a frequent guest at SXSW and the Austin Film Festival.

Actor Peter O’Toole’s archive lands at the Ransom Center


A studio photo of Elizabeth Taylor, Peter O’Toole, and Richard Burton (standing) on set of the 1964 film “Becket.” Photo courtesy of Harry Ransom Center.


The Harry Ransom Center has picked up the archive of no-kidding-legendary British actor Peter O’Toole (1932–2013).

O’Toole starred in such Academy Award-nominated classics as “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “Becket” (1964), “The Lion in Winter” (1968) and “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1969). He finally picked up an honorary Oscar for a lifetime’s worth of awesome-ness in 2002.

O’Toole was also a distinguished stage actor who performed in the theater from the 1950s through 1999.

The archive contains theater and film scripts along with O’Toole’s writings, including drafts, notes and working material for his multi-volume memoir “Loitering with Intent.”

“It is with a respect for the past and an eye to the future that I recognize the importance of making my father’s archive accessible and preserving it for future generations,” said Kate O’Toole. “Thanks to the nature of film, my father’s work has already been immortalized. The Ransom Center now provides a world-class home for the private thoughts, conversations, notes and stories that illuminate such a long and distinguished career.”

The archive was acquired for $400,000, with private sources of support covering the cost, according to Jen Tisdale, director of public affairs for the Ransom Center.

O’Toole’s correspondence offers insight into his relationships  with a murderer’s row of 20th century screen talent including (deep breath) Marlon Brando, Michael Caine, John Gielgud, Peter Hall, Katharine Hepburn, Dustin Hoffman, Jeremy Irons, Spike Milligan, Paul Newman, Trevor Nunn, Laurence Olivier, Harold Pinter and Kevin Spacey, among many others.

The archive also includes plenty of photos, diaries and notebooks, theater and film programs and memorabilia, audio recordings of O’Toole rehearsing lines and reciting poetry, awards, and a selection of iconic props and costume pieces, including his sword from the National Theatre’s inaugural production of “Hamlet” directed by Olivier.

O’Toole’s career started as a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1952 to 1954. He received accolades for his time with the Bristol Old Vic, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre before his turn in the title role of David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” made him a household name.

The O’Toole collection joins other archives of stage and screen performers including Stella Adler, Robert De Niro, Edith Evans, Anne Jackson, George Bernard Shaw and Eli Wallach. The Ransom Center also holds a collection of  materials from real-life Lawrence of Arabia T. E. Lawrence.

The archive will be accessible once processed and cataloged.


The 2nd annual Indie Meme Film Festival starts tonight!

“An Insignificant Man”

The 2nd annual Indie Meme Film Festival, highlighting contemporary South Asian cinema, starts tonight at the Regal Arbor.

Look for four days of narratives, documentaries and short films from in and around the subcontinent. All films have English subtitles.

Programming kicks off Friday night with “An Insignificant Man,” a 2016 documentary on the stunning rise of activist Arvind Kejriwal.

Also be sure to check out “The Cinema Travellers,” a doc following a group of movie exhibitors who bring the magic of movies to remote Indian villages once every year. It’s about wonder and technology, digital vs. 35 mm, art vs. commerce. That one screens 1:45 p.m. Saturday.

Here is the full slate.

While all-access passes are sold out, tickets to individual screenings can be purchased here.


The trailer for ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ gives you the Luke Skywalker you’re looking for



The trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” arrived on Friday, kind of like the new Kendrick Lamar album but with more spaceships and less U2.



The images are pretty vague. Rey training with Luke Skywalker, a few new kinds of ships streaming across a landscape, the smashed helmet of Kylo Ren, an attack on a Rebel base, Finn healing, Kylo pointing his red saber and some very, very old, pre-holocron books, probably about the Jedi.

Rey becoming a Jedi. Or not. From STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

The shot of the bits of dirt and rock rising into the air where Rey’s hand is resting is potent, but also reminded me of the dirt rising off of Superman’s coffin at the end of “Batman v Superman,” which is a memory nobody needs.

And Luke has possibly had it with the Jedi.

What did you think?

The definitive, ‘Tokyo Drift’-loving ‘Fast and Furious’ movie rankings

Are you ready? Spoilers below for old movies (and yes, the new one is in there.)

“The Fast and the Furious” (2001) — Yeah, it’s the first one, but it’s a also wonderfully street-level crime movie about street racers, hot cars and Vin Diesel becoming a legitimate movie star. No hackers, no weird government stuff, just cops ‘n’ robbers.

“The Fast and the Furious” is still the best

“Fast Five” (2011) – aka The One in Brazil Where an Enormous Bank Vault is Dragged Around Rio, the peak of the second half of the franchise.

“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006) — Yeah, I said it. Lucas Black is no Paul Walker (the acting is pretty rough in general) but man alive, are the racing scenes great. Also introduced Han Lue (Sung Kang) aka Han Seoul-Oh (yes, really), whose death in this movie ended up being a sort of fixed point in the series’ continuity, placing the events of this movie after those of no. 6, making this series as baffling as the original “Planet of the Apes.” Nobody likes this one, I dig it.

“Fast & Furious” (2009) and “Fast & Furious 6” (2016) are essentially tied for me. The former is the one that brings the team of Torretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Connor back together and knocks off Letty Ortiz. No. 6 is the one that stone cold brings Letty back from the dead, soap-opera style.  Also, there is a tank.

“Furious 7” Look, this one is fine. It’s fine. It’s fun, there’s a nice (if slightly weird) send off for Paul Walker, who died as the film was being made, and there is a completely excellent building to building car jump.

“2 Fast 2 Furious” I can’t lie, this ranking is a game of inches. I even enjoyed this one. No Vin Diesel was a mistake, but the fact that there was even a third one speaks to the fact that, as dumb as it is, people actually saw it. Also, you are sleeping on “Tokyo Drift.”

And yes, the new one comes in dead last. Here is the full review.

Here’s why the trailer for ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is FANTASTIC

“He stood alone..” (From Thor #362, words and art by Walter Simonson

Oh, man.

Oh, maaaaaaan.

Behold the magnificence that is the totally excellent trailer for “Thor: Ragnarok.”



I know, right? Here are my favorite bits, which are spoilers for what you just watched. Didn’t watch it? Go watch it. Do it again.

I have been waiting for Marvel to use Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” in a scene or movie or SOMETHING involving Thor for years. It is as totally awesome as I hoped it would be.

Cate Blanchett as Hela, the Asgardian goddess of  death, CRUSHING Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, which is an object we, the people, have been told is pretty well indestructible and so totally awesome only Thor can pick the thing up. Yet, here we are.

“He’s a friend from work!” OK, so, it looks like Ragnarok will take bits from a few different storylines from various comics: some Thor stuff from various points in the comics run is being paired with a completely different, non-Thor  storyline from 2006 called “Planet Hulk.”

Written by Greg Pak, “Planet Hulk” involves a bunch of ostensible heroes who shoot Hulk into space because he’s just too dangerous (nice friends, huh?) Hulk ends up on a planet full of monsters not unlike himself, and gladiator combat ensues. Thor isn’t in the original “Plant Hulk” (nor is Jeff Goldblum, for that matter) and, quite frankly, the “Planet Hulk” arc would make a pretty excellent movie in and of itself, but this could be a clever way to get some of that imagery into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That said, expect howls of outrage from fanboys furious with the fact that a) the “Planet Hulk” ideas are in there at all and b) that this trailer mixes comedy with Ragnarok, which is, you know, according to Norse mythology, supposed to be the end of the world. From the retro music to the jokes to the font, there is a very “Guardians of the Galaxy” vibe to this thing. 

However, and this is a big however, said fanboy/girl jaws hit the floor around the 1:04 mark.

Did you happen to notice the gent with the two M-16s? That is a guy named Skurge and he is played by Karl Urban.

Now, Skurge was a punchline for years in “Thor” comics — an inept and silly bad guy who was inept in spite of the fact that his name was Skurge the Executioner, which sounds like something that should be written on the side of a van.

But in the hands of the legitimately brilliant Walter Simonson — whose 1980s run on “Thor” is one of the all-time great runs on a superhero comic — this doofus was given one of the greatest hero moments in comics.

Seriously, if you want to see a 30- or 40-something “Thor” fan burst into tears INSTANTLY, walk up to him or her and say “He stood alone at Gjallerbru.” (Lord, I am getting verklempt typing this out.)

This essay by the great Chris Sims breaks it down. There are spoilers in there for a 30-year-old comic (and possibly for Skurge’s role in “Thor: Ragnarok”) but his analysis, per usual, is spot on.

Or you could just read “Thor” #362.

As for me and my house, we are going to watch the trailer again. And also “Thor” #362. And maybe cry.

This Lake Creek cinema has the best AND cheapest movie line-up in town


I love second run movie theaters. Love them.

In a contemporary cinema world dominated by silent reverence for whatever junk in on screen, discount/second-run cinemas feel more like old school movie-going.

I grew up with a great dollar theater in my hometown. Boy, did I kill a lot of time there.

The State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia, was built in 1936 and stayed a first run movie house for decades. After a few years as a second-run house, in which I saw virtually anything it showed for one whole dollar, it closed in 1988. Saved from destruction (to put in a big parking structure) by neighborhood protest, it is now a very successful live music venue.

The Southwest Theaters Lake Creek 7 has no such romantic history, but it has thrived as a discount/second-run theater. Shows before 6 p.m. at $2. Shows after 6 p.m. are $3 — and a $1.50 upcharge for 3-D.

And check out what’s playing this week:

The Oscar-winning “La La Land”

The multiple award-winning and incredibly popular “Hidden Figures”

The multiple award-winning “Lion”

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which passed the $1 billion mark, domestically

“Sing,” which kids seemed to love

Disney’s “Moana”

and “Split,” aka the first M. Night Shyamalan film in ages that hasn’t annoyed most of its viewers.

Some might not be to your taste (“La La Land,” you and I have had our differences).

But this is an an incredibly strong in-theater line-up, especially for the money. Now, I know some of these are already on home video and streaming. My reasonably educated guess is that it is cheaper to see it here than rent it from home.




Check out “Minions,” “Matilda” and more during 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Summer Kids Camp

The school year is almost over so it’s time for the Alamo Drafthouse’s annual Summer Kids Camp.

All summer long families can escape on cinematic adventures in to the wonderful world of movies with air-conditioning.

No, they’re not showing THE SIMPSONS MOVIE. But this gif rules

Each Kids Camp title is selected by the Alamo Drafthouse programming team with film fans aged 3 to 12 in mind, with an eye towards offering alternatives to the summer’s PG-13 heavy slate of new releases.

Kids Camp screenings take place at nearly every Alamo Drafthouse location every day (with some exceptions) from the beginning of June through August in matinee time-slots.

Screenings are open to either All Ages or 3 and Up. Normal Alamo Drafthouse No Talking/ No Texting rules apply to Kids Camp screenings. Families can buy tickets — choosing from $1, $3, or $5  — online to reserve their seats in advance.

Kids Camp benefits local nonprofits that are selected by the Alamo Drafthouse team in each city. This year, Alamo Drafthouse expects to donate $100,000 to approximately 35 nonprofits nationwide during Summer 2017.

The Austin non-profit partners include:

Austin Pets Alive

Con Mi Madre

E4 Youth

Forklift Danceworks

Literacy Coalition of Central Texas

Multicultural Refugee Coalition

People’s Community Clinic

SAFE Alliance

And now, the slate:

= Kids Camp Summer 2017 Lineup = 
















For tickets and more info, visit drafthouse.com/series/alamo-kids-camp.


Watch a young Matthew McConaughey in the world’s smallest jean shorts (you’re welcome)

We were thinking that Austin icon Matthew McConaughey has had a weird few months.

He was pretty good in “Gold,” but nobody saw it.

Then in February, he said it was time for the country to “embrace, shake hands and be constructive” with President Donald Trump, which — based on the president’s current approval rating of 34 percent — many Americans are not doing. (You’ll notice we haven’t called him “Austin spirit animal” lately. That office might be up for grabs.)

Austin actor Matthew McConaughey in more recent times.

He’s in Ohio right now shooting the period crime film “White Boy Rick” (with Lorain County and Cleveland playing the role of  Detroit), and we’ll see him Aug. 4 in the movie version of “The Dark Tower,” playing evil sorcerer Walter Padik.

But today, we thought we’d take you back to the” alright alright alright” days of 1992, when our man played murder victim  and Pasadena, Texas resident Larry Dickens on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries.”  The glory starts at around the four-minute mark. Enjoy.


TONIGHT! Violet Crown and Alamo Ritz screen “1984”

Happy “1984” day!

Tonight (April 4) the Violet Crown  (various times). and the Alamo Ritz at 7 p.m. are screening Michael Radford’s “1984” as part of the United State of Cinema  national screening event.

April 4 is the day in the story wherein Winston Smith (John Hurt in the film)( begins writing in his diary. About 200 theaters across the country and beyond have signed up.

The Violet Crown screening will raise money for the Austin charity Art for the Streets, which provides a space for “the positive spirit of artistic expression for our local homeless community,” as their site puts it.  Violet Crown began partnering with Art for the Streets at the beginning of the year and displays artwork from the organization in our cinema; the pieces available for purchase by VC guests. One hundred percent of VC’s net ticket sales for the “1984” screenings will go to Art for the Streets.

Radford filmed an introduction and post-screening discussion ( produced by Violet Crown Films and Santa Fe-based Atalaya Productions) which will play before and after screenings in all participating theaters.

Check out Radford’s introduction: