What movies to see this rainy Memorial Day weekend, including some that might be gone soon

So it looks like Memorial Day weekend is going to be wet, at least part of the time.

Fortunately, Austin is the best city of its size for cinephiles in the United States. (Yeah, I said it.) And a possibly rainy three-day weekend is a fantastic time to catch up on new releases, repertory screenings and second-run movies.

The big movies opening this week are “Baywatch,” the self-consciously parodic reboot of the insanely popular TV series, and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” both of which are playing all over the place.

As for bigger movies from earlier in the year, I was not wild about “Alien:Covenant,” and I don’t see that changing any time … ever.


But in retrospect I was perhaps a little too hard on “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.”

Over at the Alamo Drafthouses, a new restoration of Andrei Tarkovsky’s still-incredible “Stalker” plays 2 p.m. May 27 and 6 p.m. May 28 at Alamo Ritz. Also at the Ritz, check out Kurt Russell (currently in “Guardians”) when he was much younger in “Escape from New York,” which is playing a number of times.


The gang debs, they are teenaged


The Austin Film Society’s newly refurbished AFS Cinema is now open for business. This weekend’s screenings include the Italian comedy “Divorce, Italian Style” and the genre classic “Teenage Gang Debs.”

Then AFS goes into its “Texas Christening” with screenings of such films as “The Last Picture Show,” “Rio Bravo,” and “Tender Mercies,” as well as other films. Check out the full slate at www.austinfilm.org

LOOK: A sneak peak at the gorgeous new AFS Cinema

Over at the discounted Southwest Theaters Lake Creek 7 we have “Kong: Skull Island,” “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” “Get Out,”  “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Power Rangers,”  “Logan,” “The Shack,”  and “Ghost in the Shell.”

Of these, “Get Out” is absolutely essential viewing. Jordan Peele’s horror film about race and privilege is that rare bird: a smart film that is also one of the year’s most unexpected hits.

I am also in the tank for “Logan,”easily the strongest (and most adult — this one is NOT for kids) of Fox’s X-Men franchise. I also enjoyed “Kong: Skull Island,” which had a much stronger monster-to-screentime ration than the “Godzilla” reboot from 2014, while I can recommend “The Lego Batman Movie” with little reservation.

If you don’t feel like leaving the house, you really should do what you can to catch up on Showtime’s new season of “Twin Peaks.” All 18 episodes were co-written and directed by David Lynch; the first four are currently available for streaming on the Showtime site (subscription needed). It is very easily the weirdest thing on television, a showcase for Lynch’s tics, interests and singular vision.

Over on Netflix, David Michôd’s “War Machine” stars Brad Pitt as a general very obliviously based on NATO-forces-in-Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal. With Tilda Swinton, Ben Kingsley, Topher Grace and more.


Gender identity, moonlight towers and the almighty ‘Inherent Vice’ in this week’s special screenings

“Don’t Call Me Son.” Brazilian writer and director Anna Muylaert delivers this darkly comic character study about a 17-year-old exploring his gender identity to his family. The Austin Film Society is co-presenting the film with the Austin Gay and International Film Festival. 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday. $7-$10. Texas Spirit Theater at the Bullock, 1800 Congress Ave. austinfilm.org.

Joaquin Phoenix in “Inherent Vice.” How can you not love that face?

“Inherent Vice” in 70mm. Man alive, I loved “Inherent Vice.”  Still love it. Still pretty sure it stands easily with Paul Thomas Anderson’s other works. Audiences, however, did not.  They stayed away in droves — it made only $8 million, which was half as much as “The Master” (which itself made less than half of “There Will Be Blood,” still Anderson’s highest grossing picture). Give yourself over to its shaggy-dog rhythms and it will delight, especially in opulent 70mm. 6 p.m. Sunday. 6:45 p.m. Monday. Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. 320 East Sixth St.  drafthouse.com/austin/show/70mm-inherent-vice

“Last of the Moonlight Towers.” The Austin History Center is hosting a special screening of this doc about one of Austin’s most celebrated landmarks and how the city became a refuge for these structures. 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Free. 810 Guadalupe St. library.austintexas.gov/event/last-moonlight-towers-376552.

“Command and Control.” Director Richard Linklater and author Eric Schlosser will be in attendance at the screening of this new documentary film based on Schlosser’s book of the same name, about the 1980 accident in an Arkansas missile silo that nearly caused a nuclear catastrophe. 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday. $7-$10. Texas Spirit Theater at the Bullock, 1800 Congress Ave. austinfilm.org.

with Arianna Auber

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.

SXSW winner ‘Transpecos’ gets distribution deal


Here’s an uplifting tale for aspiring filmmakers out there. And it also illustrates why festivals like South by Southwest, Fantastic Fest and the Austin Film Festival are so important.

Austin resident Greg Kwedar got his debut feature, “Transpecos,” into the narrative feature competition this March at South by Southwest. It was unheralded, and few people in the Austin film crowd even knew who Kwedar was.

But securing a spot in the competition – and providing an early screener to critics – helped build buzz,, and the  thriller about the Border Patrol went on to win the audience award – which means festival attendees thought it to be the best of the bunch.

Kwedar and his team had no distributor for the film, however. And without a distributor, most movies just end up screening here and there, at places like the Austin Film Society and various festivals, without reaching a wide audience.

But that’s what festivals are for – raising the profile of small, independent films. And this week, Kwedar got the best news possible. Samuel Goldwyn Films is buying the rights to “Transpecos” and plans a theatrical release in the fall.

And in May, Screen Media Ventures will be attending the Cannes Film Festival, trying to sell distribution rights to international territories.

The deal was first reported by Deadline.com. And Peter Goldwyn of Samuel Goldwyn Films said, “Greg is a raw talent in independent cinema. ‘Transpecos’ is an accomplished first feature that we’re eager to deliver to audiences in theaters and in homes across the country.”

Details of the deal were not disclosed.

The thriller stars Johnny Simmons, Gabriel Luna and Clifton Collins Jr. Kwedar co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley.



Austin Film Society grants open for submissions

The Austin Film Society’s annual fund for emerging Texas filmmakers, the AFS Grant, is open for submissions.

During this year’s grant cycle, AFS will hand out more than $100,000 in cash grants. The application is online at austinfilm.org, as are grant instructions, a grant writing tip sheet and information about live instructional workshops offered in El Paso, Dallas, Houston, Forth Worth and Austin. Since 1996, the society has awarded more than $1.7 million in cash and services to Texas filmmakers.

In addition to cash grants from AFS Grant fund, this year’s grant partners are offering applicants a range of services and cash for many different production phases.

New this year, AFS is partnering with Colaborator and the Texas Motion Picture Alliance to offer the Colaborator Narrative Short Film Grant, which will provide $5,000 in production funds and support for one narrative short film project.

The Stuck On On DCP In-Kind Grant will award one theatrical digital cinema package for two different feature-length films.

Kodak Motion Picture Film will create a 35mm exhibition film print to one film of any length, and the grant recipient can to screen their print in a theater in Austin. Kodak will also continue their in-kind grant of $5,000 of motion picture film stock.

This year’s Austin Film Society Powered by Dell Grant includes an in-kind Dell post-production suite, valued at $10,000. The MPS Camera and Lighting Austin Grant offers $10,000 in equipment rentals and production services.

The grant will close for submissions on June 2. Applications are reviewed over the summer, with the panel of national film industry representatives convening in Austin in late August to determine the recipients. Winners will be announced in early September.

Six highlights of the Texas Film Hall of Fame awards dinner

Called “the unofficial kickoff to SXSW” by the sort of folks who call things stuff like that, the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards dinner went down Thursday night at Austin Studios. Items were auctioned, money was raised for the Austin Film Society, clips were shows and yes, people were inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame. Here are a few highlights:

  1. The biggest news of the night came from AFS co-founder Richard Linklater, who announced that, after 30 years of showing movies in various locations around Austin (most recently at The Marchesa Hall and Theatre), the AFS is building its own two-screen arthouse, thanks to a donation by John and Amy McCall. Linklater said more details would be forthcoming soon.
  2.  Mike Judge in 2011 at the Austin Film Festival.  Photos by: Cliff Cheney FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN
    Mike Judge in 2011 at the Austin Film Festival. Photos by: Cliff Cheney FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

    Mike Judge served as the master of ceremonies for the second year in a row. He noted that Tommy Lee Jones (inducted last year) was not wild about Judge’s performance. He then proceeded to tell a knock-knock joke about Jones. It goes as follows: The crowd: “Knock-knock.” Judge in Jones’ voice: “Get the hell off my property.” Well, I laughed.

  3. When presenting her “Friday Night Lights” co-star Jesse Plemons with the rising star award, Adrianne Palicki said she remembers meeting Plemons about a decade ago and thinking “This is the most mature 18-year-old I have ever met in my life.” Plemons said he imagined the Hall of Fame award as “a really big cowboy hat” descending on his head.
  4. Maya Rudolph inducted Carol Burnett into the HoF by busting out a somewhat funny, somewhat dire Texas accent, but also noted that, as a child, she aspired to be Burnett: “cross-eyed and dressed to kill,” referring to her as “the Beyoncé of comedy. For her part, Burnett noted that she knew Rudolph’s husband Paul Thomas Anderson when Anderson was “about 4 years old.” As for her San Antonio roots, well, “once a Texan, always a Texan”
  5. 011912-celebs-greys-Anatomy-show-chandra-wilsonActress and Houston native Chandra Wilson noted that the nice thing about organizations such as AFS is that it lets Texas actors and actresses feel they can stay in their home state and still express themselves as artists.
  6.   Ethan Hawke spoke about his long friendship with Sony Pictures Classics co-founder Michael Barker, noting the he “achieved greatness by being excellent over and over and over and over again.” Barker spoke of his and Hawke’s friendship with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and quoted an interview he read with Linklater, in which the latter said, “the more friends you have, the wider the vision.” Amen.


Linklater doc getting good reviews at Sundance


The early reviews for “Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny” are coming in … and they’re good.

The movie, directed by Louis Black of the Austin Chronicle and Karen Bernstein, had its premiere on Tuesday at the Sundance Film Festival, and the venue couldn’t have been more appropriate. Sundance was the setting for the premiere of Linklater’s classic “Slacker” in 1991.

The Hollywood Reporter called it “one of the most enriching and enjoyable docs about a filmmaker in recent memory,” saying that it “reveals the peculiar pairing of modesty with artistic ambition that has allowed the director to thrive in an industry that doesn’t cotton to his sort of artist.”

The Guardian of Great Britain points out that with “the success of ‘Boyhood,’ it’s easy to forget that before that marathon 12-year project hit screens at Sundance in 2014, Linklater was out of vogue. Those wilderness years are one of the most fascinating elements” of the film.

Austinites will get to see the movie when it screens at the upcoming South by Southwest Film Festival and Conference in March. It’ll also play on PBS.

Ethan Hawke joins AFS for special screening of “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” chat with Linklater

AWAAQAHQ-P604101On  Feb. 17, Austin Film Society will present a special screening of “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” Sidney Lumet’s final feature film starring Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman, complete with a conversation with Hawke about the making of the film, and collaborating with Lumet and Hoffman.

The following evening, Hawke will be the featured guest at an AFS Artist Spotlight, where he will participate in a live, on-stage conversation about his life and work with AFS Artistic Director and Founder Richard Linklater, Hawke’s long-time creative collaborator.

Hawke is the star of Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset,” and “Before Midnight,” considered by many to be both some of the most romantic and realistic-about-marriage films of their era.

Hawke is also the star of the extraordinary “Boyhood” and has appeared in other Linklater films such as “The Newton Boys” and “Waking Life.”

Both Linklater and Hawke will participate in a private reception Feb. 18. A very limited number of tickets are on sale for the reception and can be purchased by contacting AFS Director of Relationships and Revenue, Lauren Alexander-Labahn at Lauren@austinfilm.org. Tickets are $275 for the public and $250 for AFS Members.

Tickets to the  screening are $25 public / $15 for AFS Members. Tickets for the AFS Artist Spotlight are $40 General Public / $30 for AFS Members. Tickets for both are $60 for the public and $40 for AFS members. All are on sale now at austinfilm.org/EthanHawke. Ticket packages are on sale here.

A few nifty repertory screenings this weekend

Austin continues to be a magnificent city to see awesome old movies on a big screen.

3m8f8p3NXNPJeASQoituEBCzSStJacques Tati’s  Monsieur Hulot deals with modernity in “Mon Oncle”(1958), which picked up an Academy Award for best foreign-language film. It screens 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Alamo Ritz.

Check out Wim Wenders’s “Alice in the Cities’ (1974), the first film in his “Road Movie Trilogy,” screens 7 p.m. Sunday at the Austin Film Society at the Marchesa (6226 Middle Fiskville Rd.)

After that you can head over to the Alamo Ritz where they are screening Joaquín Luis Romero qCs315KOtjGnwbYMTViqgP4nCifMarchent’s totally bonkers-violent 1972 “Eurowestern” “Cut-Throats Nine,” a movie which Quentin Tarantino has probably seen a time or two, at 10 p.m. (Cutthroats 9 is also the name of a totally excellent noise rock outfit.)



Texas Film Awards set for March 10


The Austin Film Society announced Tuesday that it will be hold the Texas Film Awards on March 10 at Stage 7 of Austin Studios.

The annual event honors the best of Texas films, with red-carpet arrivals, a catered awards ceremony and an auction. The event will cap a year of celebrating the 30th year of the Austin Film Society and is a key fundraiser for the group’s programs.

This year’s honorees have not been announced.

For more information on tickets and sponsorships, visit austinfilm.org.