Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Home For The Holidays? Join Us at the AFS Cinema for Holiday Classics

Nick & Nora Charles, doing what comes naturally at Christmas-time

We all have our favorite holiday classics. During the holiday season this year at AFS we are reaching way back into Hollywood's Golden Age to present some of our favorites, some very well known, some less so, but all great.

Come celebrate the season with AFS, as we present our favorite classic holiday films from December 22nd to the 30th.

The great Barbara Stanwyck stars as a newspaper columnist whose public image is that of the perfect, affluent housewife but who meanwhile is a single workaholic who rarely leaves her typewriter and lives on takeout food. When a young soldier wins a contest to spend CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT with America's Perfect Homemaker, she has to scramble to create the real-life illusion for an entire Christmas weekend. Does she succeed? Watch the movie! As always, Barbara Stanwyck is one of the great screen stars, and you'll fall in love with her, just like... Oh I've said too much.

Image result for barbara stanwyck christmas in connecticut
The main thing is: STANWYCK

In the raucous classic comedy THE THIN MAN, we meet Nick and Nora Charles, a happily married (and generally soused) couple who spend the Christmas holidays in New York, where reformed detective Nick (William Powell) becomes reluctantly involved in a murder mystery and amateur sleuth Nora (Myrna Loy) enjoys every minute of it. Full of great dialogue, a truly ludicrous amount of alcohol consumption, and lots of pre-code filthy humor. Oh, and the world's cutest dog, Asta. Top recommendation!

Image result for the thin man dog
The inclusion of the adorable dog is almost too much.

Speaking of altered consciousness, there's something truly transporting about a classic '50s Technicolor musical. WHITE CHRISTMAS certainly fits the bill there, with Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen in a romance-filled, eye-popping, let's-put-on-a-show classic featuring like a thousand great Irving Berlin songs.


If you can resist two hours of THIS, more power to you

And then there's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, such a perennial holiday classic that we can almost forget that it was a relative flop upon release, and is super dark. Remember that in 1946, mortality and the search for meaning in life weren't exactly just abstractions. For millions of Americans, filmmaker Frank Capra, and star Jimmy Stewart included, coming back home after the ordeal of war was fraught with all kinds of conflicting emotions, and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, often chided as sentimental or corny, is in fact a pretty honest dramatic reckoning with many of these forces. It's a great, great film, and we're eager to share it anew. 

As a matter of fact, I am crying. So are you. That's OK.

As always, we will be serving our full menu and seasonal cocktails to help get you in the holiday spirit. Bring friends. Hang out. Have fun. It's a time for togetherness.

Check out the entire series and showtimes HERE.

Monday, December 11, 2017

'Transcendent Masterpiece' THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC Coming to AFS Cinema in New Restoration


In 1928, just a few years after the canonization of Joan of Arc, the great Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer was approached to create a film biography of St. Joan. Dreyer, who could have gone in many directions, chose to show the spiritual struggle of the Maid of Orleans. To that end he cast the stage actress Maria Falconetti, whose performance has routinely been cited as one of the greatest in all of cinema history. Dreyer's depiction of the trial of Joan is intense, deeply spiritual, and a triumph of cinema.

As J. Hoberman says in his excellent New York Times piece about the film:
"If novels like “Madame Bovary” or “Crime and Punishment” are must-reads, then “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is a cinematic must-see."
The AFS Cinema will present the film with two soundtracks. On Saturday, December 16 at 2pm the version with composer Richard Einhorn's acclaimed Voices Of Light score will play. The version with its alternate score, by Adrian Utley and Will Gregory (Goldfrapp/Portishead) screens on Sunday, Dec. 17. See showtimes for details.

Friday, December 1, 2017

AFS January/February 2018 Calendar of Events is Live!

Agnes Varda's CLEO FROM 5 TO 7

AFS Signature and Specialty programs are now on sale through the end of February. There are many films to choose from: special series, old favorites, the best of new docs, and a visit from a filmmaking legend. You can see all the events here.

Bong Joon-Ho's MEMORIES OF MURDER

In January we present an Essential Cinema retrospective of the films of Bong Joon-Ho, all on 35mm except the brand new digital restoration of MEMORIES OF MURDER.

Agnès Varda

Then, in February, we present four of Agnès Varda's greatest films, including her newest, FACES PLACES and more.

Bette Gordon's VARIETY

Legendary filmmaker Bette Gordon will join us to present several of her films, including the groundbreaking 1983 independent classic VARIETY.

Terrence Malick's DAYS OF HEAVEN

Our SPIRIT OF '78 series will celebrate the 40th anniversary of pivotal classics DAYS OF HEAVEN, COMING HOME and MIDNIGHT EXPRESS.

Leos Carax' MAUVAIS SANG

The ongoing LATES series returns, with Sion Sono's new film ANTIPORNO, the outrageous horror farce BITCH, and classics by Carax, Almodovar and Rollin.


Our favorite film professor Caroline Frick, of the University of Texas and the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, will join us for a series called CLASSIC CHEMISTRY, which features some of the greatest examples of couple-chemistry of Hollywood's golden era.

James Bidgood's PINK NARCISSUS

Also, the HOMO ARIGATO series comes to the AFS Cinema for the first time in 2018, with the new ballroom culture doc KIKI and Queer Cinema classic PINK NARCISSUS.

Seijun Suzuki thinks you're going to like his surreal TAISHO TRILOGY

All this plus DOC NIGHTS, the cutting edge DEEP END series, the family friendly SUNDAY SCHOOL program, a Special OSCILLOSCOPE PICTURES RETROSPECTIVE, New restorations of films from Jacques Becker, Seijun Suzuki, and more, and just LOTS AND LOTS OF OTHER STUFF that you can't miss.

As always, no need to be a member, but it's a lot cheaper if you are. The LOVE membership is $20 a month and you get dozens of free screenings every month. Become a member here.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Moviegoers: Sharpen your Pencils & Fill out the 2017 National Art House Audience Survey


Every year, the Art House Convergence, a national network of community-based, mission-driven cinemas of which the AFS Cinema is proud to call itself a member, distributes a survey to the patrons of all the cinemas in the organization. All the member groups review the results with great interest - as do distributors, archives and others. It really helps set the tone for the kinds of offerings that these theaters are able to share with members. You can read some of the past survey results here.

If you are a patron of the AFS Cinema, we'd love for you to take a few minutes and fill out the survey. In exchange for the time you spend doing this, we will mail you a $3 off coupon in December. More importantly than that, you will be helping to make Art House cinemas more vibrant and responsive to audience wants and needs.

Ready?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Watch This: An Exclusive Outtake from Richard Linklater's LAST FLAG FLYING Q&A


As you may have heard, the highly acclaimed new film by AFS founder and Artistic Director, LAST FLAG FLYING, opens this Thursday at the AFS Cinema.

Each screening of the film will be followed by an exclusive 15 minute Q&A video filmed at the Austin Premiere of the film. In order to keep the clip at a manageable duration we had to excise some parts of the video we filmed. Here is an outtake in which Linklater tells AFS Head of Film and Creative Media Holly Herrick about how he came to cast the great Cicely Tyson in a small role in the film.

Monday, November 6, 2017

What Critics are Saying about Richard Linklater's LAST FLAG FLYING - Opening at AFS Cinema Thursday


Starting this Thursday, November 9, the AFS Cinema is proud to present the newest film from Austin Film Society founder and Artistic Director Richard Linklater. Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston star as three old military buddies who have lost touch with one another and who are brought together again in middle age by a tragedy. It's a film of deeply felt moments of fine ensemble acting, and there are unexpected detours into humor along the way.

This is a special week for us because LAST FLAG FLYING is the first new Richard Linklater film to open at the theater he recently established, the AFS Cinema. Each screening will be followed by an exclusive pre-recorded video Q&A with Linklater, filmed at the LAST FLAG FLYING Austin Premiere.

Please come see LAST FLAG FLYING with us at the AFS Cinema, where your ticket dollars support a full range of Austin Film Society artist and community programs. Tickets are on sale now.

But don't just take our word for it about LAST FLAG FLYING. Here's what the critics are saying:

Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly calls LAST FLAG FLYING "a modest, bittersweet thing of beauty."

A.O. Scott of the New York Times says the film is "enormously thought provoking" and observes that it "grapples with matters that other movies about war prefer not to think about."

Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times calls it "a sharp critique of American bluster, but also a sincere and funny valentine to everyday American life."

Thursday, November 2, 2017

AFS Viewfinders Podcast: Programmers Holly Herrick & Lars Nilsen on the November/December Film Calendar


On the latest AFS Viewfinders Podcast, AFS Lead Film Programmer Lars Nilsen and AFS Head of Film & Creative Media have a brief discussion about some of the highlights of the upcoming AFS Cinema Calendar. It's under 30 minutes and we hope it will help you make some of your screening plans for the months ahead.

Here it is. Enjoy. You can also find it on your iTunes podcast app by searching 'AFS Viewfinders.'

"A Classic In The Making": What the Critics are Saying about JANE - Opening Today at AFS Cinema


The new doc JANE, opening today 11/2 at the AFS Cinema, traces the life and work of primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall. Largely made up of films shot in the wilds of Africa over 50 years ago, it is both an intellectual and aesthetic delight. Whether you know a little, a lot, or nothing at all about Goodall, the film will fill you with admiration for this remarkable trailblazer. The movie is directed by Brett Morgen (COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK, and THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE) and scored by Philip Glass.

As part of the film's full run, the cinema will offer a special Science On Screen panel on Sunday, 11/5 with special guests Dr. Anthony Di Fiore and Dr. Rebecca J. Lewis of the University of Texas. Dr. Di Fiore is the Head of the Anthropology Department and Dr. Lewis is Associate Professor in that department. Tickets for all showings are available here.

Josh Kupecki of the Austin Chronicle writes "Morgen has crafted a mesmerizing portrait of a fierce iconoclast who defied gender bias and forged her own path to an understanding of the natural world that transformed scientific thinking in the last century."

Look! It's the Austin Chronicle's 'Best of Austin' 2017 Critics Pick: The AFS Cinema


As many of you know doubtlessly already know, the exhibition programs of the Austin Film Society were wide ranging affairs for the first 30 years or so of the organization's history, hosting screenings at various venues with the help of a dedicated network of partners.

Earlier this year - with the assistance and good will of an army of donors and supporters - the AFS Cinema was born. A full-time two screen theater presenting the best new releases, restorations, documentaries, community screenings and more, in a venue that also features a social space with excellent food and lots of good things to drink.

You can see the complete calendar for the AFS Cinema here.

It's been a lot of fun for us, and it's been great to have a chance to meet tens of thousands of new folks who have also been attracted to this vision of internationally relevant cinema.

And the cherry on top for us after our first 5 months of operation has been today's Austin Chronicle Best Of Austin issue. Specifically the Critics Picks section, which calls the AFS Cinema, the Best "It's Not An Art House... It's An Art Home."

It's a bit of an unwieldy award, and will be tough to fit on the marquee, but we'll do our best.

To quote the Chronicle:
"When AFS Cinema permanently took over the Marchesa Hall & Theatre space earlier this year, we knew it was going to be a struggle to schedule our lives around the influx of repertory films, special guests, new releases, and 4K restorations. But holy hell, guys! Some of us have jobs and family commitments, not to mention the maintaining of personal hygiene. To say that the programming team hit the ground running is an understatement. From series on Bob Fosse, Catherine Deneuve, and world animation to quirky and essential programs like Science on Screen and Richard Linklater's crowning Eighties appreciation, Jewels of the Wasteland, the beating heart of Austin's cinephilia is alive and well, and well-dressed, too, in this stylishly re-fabbed venue."
And, as if that were not enough, the food critics singled out chef Peter Klein's Signature Popcorn, Fully Loaded, as the Best Movie Theater Popcorn.

Read the whole Chronicle 'Best Of Austin' Issue here and, if you haven't made it to the AFS Cinema yet, what are you waiting for?

Photo credit: Ellen Bruxvoort, Square Foot Photography

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Complete Run of the Best Cult Film Magazine Ever - Free


It probably won't surprise you that the concept of the "cult" film is not a simple or clear one to outsiders. There are many different cults, with different values and different idols, in the universe of "cult" films. For instance, there has always been a "so-bad-it's-good" faction, whose members like to ridicule cheapness, and "low" social vulgarities. The early prophets of this faction are people like conservative social commentator Harry Medved, who cowrote the "Golden Turkey Awards" and "The Fifty Worst Films of All Time" books, which helped set the ideological tone for years of sneering, sarcastic ridicule of "bad" films.

There is what we might consider the Danny Peary faction. An excellent writer, Peary lionized a particular kind of "cult"criticism in his multiple volumes of the "Cult Movies" books. Never dismissive, Peary celebrates these films for their unique qualities and their advocacy of outsider voices. Peary is a fan of the subversive and the humanistic and the books are essential reading for anyone interested in what lies just outside the bounds of the canon.

And then there is Michael Weldon. Springing from the same post-war junk pile that birthed the band The Cramps, Weldon's aesthetic is that of the unapologetic connoisseur of the sublime aspects of trash culture. A fan of "Mad" Magazine, late night televised horror movies and the snotty proto-punk of the '60s, Weldon soaked up the frantic zeitgeist of his age, formed a Cleveland punk band called Mirrors in the early '70s. A few years later, in New York, he was a pioneer of the mimeographed zine revolution with his weekly publication "Psychotronic TV," a sort of alternative TV Guide presenting his recommendations of which films and television episodes to watch, along with other cultural commentary.

The Psychotronic track of "cult" movie appreciation is responsible for many of today's predominant attitudes about these films. Never snobbish or dismissive, Weldon sees Bela Lugosi and Vampira (to name a couple of obvious examples) as prophets of the trash punk aesthetic. If their films are "bad" they are bad in the sense that the Ramones are "bad." Bad is better, because the world is bad. This aesthetic coloration appears today in the programming of Weird Wednesday and Terror Tuesday at the Alamo Drafthouse, in the Fantastic Fest idea of programming, and in the selection of cultish titles selected for the Lates series here at AFS.

I spent years trying to complete my own collection of "Psychotronic Video" magazine (the somewhat more sturdily put-together followup to the early mimeographed fanzine, and now it seems that the internet has done it for me, as the online site Archive.org now hosts a full archive of "Psychotronic Video" magazine plus some of the early "Psychotronic TV" issues as well. This is a big deal, and in one fell swoop has justified the invention of the iPad. Enjoy these issues with their years of interviews, reviews and features. This is truly a cultural treasure.

Special thanks to Rodney Perkins for bringing this archive to our attention. And of course special thanks to Michael Weldon, whose current venture, the Psychotronic Store has in one fell swoop justified the invention of Augusta, Georgia.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Frederick Wiseman's Paean to the New York Public Library, EX LIBRIS, Opens this Weekend


EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY screens at the AFS Cinema starting on Friday, October 27. Buy tickets and get more info here.

A new documentary by Frederick Wiseman is always a major cinematic event. The maker of TITICUT FOLLIES, HIGH SCHOOL, LAW AND ORDER and many other timeless classics of the form deserves our respect and adulation, of course, but here's the funny thing: he's lost nothing of his touch, his eye, his ear, and as he examines the institutions of modern life his carefully (sneakily, even) observations are even more valuable.

Recently he has been on quite a roll, documenting institutions of great cultural value (NATIONAL GALLERY, IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, AT BERKELEY), and his newest film EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY is a top-to-bottom, thorough portrait of that venerable repository, the people who staff it, and the people who use it every day.

The documentary highlights the variety of community programs, from tutoring to dance classes, offered by the N.Y.P.L., and gives a voice to everyday patrons, who extol the library’s virtues as a hub of the community. Underscoring it all, the film documents the multitude of changes and challenges the library is facing in our digital age.


It's fascinating, and, as always with Wiseman, revelatory.





Ty Burr of the Boston Globe:  “Ex Libris” is a profoundly hopeful movie.

Also:

Watch Wiseman discuss his new film here:




Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What They're Saying About Ai Weiwei's HUMAN FLOW, Opening Friday October 20 at the AFS Cinema

Ai Weiwei on location, filming HUMAN FLOW

Internationally acclaimed artist, activist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei’s newest film HUMAN FLOW, opening this Friday, October 20 for daily screenings at the AFS Cinema.

Ai captures the magnitude of the global refugee crisis with stunning cinematography. By turns heartbreaking and breathtaking, this documentary, shot in 23 countries worldwide, is a visually beautiful and empathetic look at the state of the world today.

Join us after the 3:00 PM screening on Sunday, October 22 for a panel discussion with Andrea Mellard from The Contemporary Austin, Kay Mailander from the Community Wellness Program of Refugee Services of Texas and Simone Talma Flowers of Interfaith Action of Central Texas.

Read what critics are saying about Weiwei’s HUMAN FLOW:


Joe Morgenstern writes in the Wall Street Journal that "This movie, a testament to the power of seeing, provides a long and uncommonly vivid look at a human crisis that's changing the face of our planet."

Kate Taylor of the Globe and Mail observes that "Ai simply bears witness in a film that, like many of his sculptural pieces, establishes a creative tension between its giant scale and its individual pieces."

In other words, it's good. It's powerful. It resonates under the touch of a great artist. You'll want to see this one on the big screen. Tickets are available now.

Also, you can visit two sculptures by Ai Weiwei in Austin through 2018.

Iron Tree Trunk is on view at The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria (3809 W. 35th St.). Forever Bicycles is on view at the Waller Delta (74 Trinity St.) as part of The Contemporary Austin’s Museum Without Walls program and partnership with Waller Creek Conservancy.


Watch the trailer for HUMAN FLOW here:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"Exhilarating!" What Critics are Saying about DOLORES, Opening 10/6 at the AFS Cinema


It's so rare to find a documentary that enfolds you in the sweep of monumental historic events, presents a hero whose accomplishments shine a light for future generations, and does it with such good humor and rousing execution.

DOLORES, the extraordinary new doc about the legendary activist Dolores Huerta, does all these things. You will be on the edge of your seat as you hear about the sometimes bitter struggles of farm-workers to secure their basic human rights. Your heart will swell with admiration as the diminutive Huerta stands tall and delivers the truth to power even in the face of beatings and recrimination. And, if you're smart, you'll listen closely to the important lessons this extraordinary woman, now 87 years of age and still going strong, has to share.

The film, directed by Peter Bratt, features interviews with Dolores Huerta and the people who know her best and the archival footage restored and uncovered for the film is utterly fascinating.

Tickets for the AFS Cinema's run of DOLORES at the AFS Cinema, starting October 6, are on sale now.

Check out what the critics have to say about DOLORES, currently boasting a 100% score at Rotten Tomatoes:

David Talbot of the San Francisco Chronicle says: “DOLORES delivers the inspirational jolt we need”

Dennis Harvey of Variety says: “DOLORES crams a great deal of information, themes, and diverse archival materials into a sharp, cogent whole, tied together by latter-day interviews with Huerta, family members, and esteemed colleagues/supporters"

Duane Byrge from the Hollywood Reporter writes: “Mixing historical footage and interviews with her family and pertinent social activists of ‘the day,’ director Peter Bratt distills the complexity of an unstoppable woman and the impact she brought not only to workers' rights but to the expanding role of women at that time.”

And in the Washington Post, Lora Grady says: "DOLORES is a fascinating corrective to 50-plus years of American history. It's educational, to be sure, but also exhilarating, inspiring and deeply emotional.

Watch the trailer here:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Watch This: Richard Linklater Talks About the '80s and his Upcoming Screening Series


The third installment of Jewels In The Wasteland, a series of screenings of films from the 1980's. programmed and hosted by Richard Linklater, is right around the corner.

The first screening of the series is DRUGSTORE COWBOY on Wednesday, October 4, and the series continues into December.

The October titles are currently on sale here.

At a press conference last week, Linklater gave some insight into why he has chosen to turn the spotlight on this era.


Photo credit: David Brendan Hall

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

CARPINTEROS is the Best Dominican Prison Action-Romance Movie of All Time



Of course, CARPINTEROS is the only Dominican Prison Action-Romance movie of all time. It's still really good. It blasts through the cheapness and poverty of its means with performances and a story to remember. The handheld cameras and actual prison locations work in the film's favor as we follow an new inmate into the prison. Played by Jean Jean, the man takes in the lay of the land and finds himself communicating via sign language with the inmates of an adjoining women's prison. The tough, murderous leader of the cell block has Jean Jean send some messages to his girlfriend, and, most inconveniently, the pair fall in love. 

This sets off a chain of events that ends in violence and revenge. Throughout, the filmmaking and acting is excellent and the film already feels like a modern action classic.

Filmed in a real prison in the Dominican Republic, using real inmates as extras, the film has an authenticity that can’t be bought. Handheld camerawork and crowd scenes imbued with authentic tension and anger suggest that this could be a particularly exciting documentary, rather than a narrative film. The film captures the claustrophobic, chaotic feel of the notorious Najayo Prison, providing a perfect backdrop for the violent battle that ensues.

The trailer is a little adult-contemporary for my taste, but it gives you a sense of what you'll be looking at.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Watch This: Music Of Resistance from Miriam Makeba, Mama Africa


Even if the name Miriam Makeba doesn’t ring a bell immediately, you’ll probably recognize this undeniably catchy pop song that made her famous in America- “Pata Pata’.


With swinging sixties style, Makeba was one of the first singers to bring the culture of South Africa to American audiences. Nicknamed ‘Mama Africa’, Makeba was an international celebrity, helping create and popularize the world music genre. She had an award-winning recording career, appeared on countless tv shows, and was even personally asked by President Kennedy (who was a big fan) to sing at his birthday party.

But Makeba was more than a striking face with killer pipes. She used her popularity to raise awareness about the injustices happening in her homeland under apartheid, and was an active participant in the civil rights movement in America. She testified against apartheid at the United Nations, and was later named a UN Goodwill Ambassador. Her importance on the political stage was such that when Nelson Mandela was freed from prison, he made it his mission to persuade her to return to South Africa. She continued an active recording and political career until her death in 2008.

Now is the perfect time to revisit Makeba’s legacy. MAMA AFRICA is a vibrant documentary of a woman who was a trailblazer in both the artistic and political worlds. The film is filled with gorgeous archival footage of her best musical performances and engrossing interviews with fellow artists and activists. While Makeba’s personal life story is engaging enough, the film also documents some of the most important social justice revolutions of the past 50 years, capturing the spirit and energy of the causes she championed throughout her life.

Today, Makeba’s story is just as relevant as it was in the past. Come for the tunes, stay for the revolution! Join us for MAMA AFRICA, screening as part of the ongoing Cinema Of Resistance series, at the AFS Cinema September 23 and 30.

(Lisa Dreyer)

Friday, September 8, 2017

"Black Mirror for the Big Screen"... What Critics are saying about MARJORIE PRIME


Tim Robbins and Jon Hamm

MARJORIE PRIME, the new film by Michael Almereyda (HAMLET [2000], EXPERIMENTER), opens today at AFS Cinema. Alemereyda's adaptation of Jordan Harrison's Pulitzer-Nominated play features an all-star cast including Jon Hamm, Lois Smith, Geena Davis, and Tim Robbins. Set in the near future, a time of artificial intelligence: 86-year-old Marjorie (Smith)—a jumble of disparate, fading memories—has a handsome new companion (Hamm) who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her.

We're fans of the movie here at AFS, but we'd also like to share a few of the glowing reviews from critics:

“MARJORIE PRIME [is] one of the most riveting, moving films of the year.” – Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle

"There's more going on in this movie's 90-plus minutes than in many summer blockbusters nearly twice its length" - Glenn Kenny, New York Times Critics' Pick

"MARJORIE PRIME is exquisite - beautiful, intense, shivering with empathy." - David Edelstein, Vulture

“MARJORIE PRIME contains asteadily accumulating stream of ingenious plot twists, sometimes very subtle orsubtly revealed.” – Godfrey Cheshire, RogerEbert.com






Thursday, September 7, 2017

Meet AFS' New Filmmaker & Community Media Resource Director Erica Deiparine-Sugars


We interviewed our new colleague, Erica Deiparine-Sugars, who has just joined us as Director of Programs for AFS’s Filmmaker and Community Media Resources Department. Erica most recently worked in the public media system at ITVS, where she spent nine years collaborating with filmmakers as the Managing Director of Programming and Production. Erica’s new role will encompass artist services, education and community media programming out of Austin Public, our community media center and the home of the public access television stations for the City of Austin.
AFS Viewfinders: Tell us more about your background, and some of the highlights of your over 20 years working in media.

Erica Deiparine-Sugars: My background is in film and TV production. As a student in production, I had the opportunity to intern with a few television stations, mostly in the areas of live news or current affairs programs. While I found more opportunities in broadcast TV, I always tried to work on short films and independent projects where I could. I worked at KXAN in Austin in the mid-1990’s, first on the floor crew then as a director for the morning news broadcast. I have a lot of fond memories from that time. 
I got interested in media literacy education later while I was in my grad program in documentary production. I started working with a local youth media organization in Chicago called CTVN (Community Television Network) that had a long-running youth-produced program on Chicago Access Network TV (CAN-TV). The show is over 30-years old! That experience really had an impact on my career and my desire to support more storytelling by and for communities that are underrepresented or ignored by mainstream media. 
For the last nine years, I worked for ITVS, a non-profit organization that funds, co-produces and presents independent documentary films for public television. I headed up the team that selected the content to fund and worked with independent producers through development and/or production. I was so fortunate to work with and learn from some amazing independent filmmakers. I am very proud to mention the organization just received an Institutional Peabody Award this past Spring and is the recipient of the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences 2017 Governors Award.

AFS Viewfinders: What excites you most about this move? Both about Austin, and career-wise? 
Erica Deiparine-Sugars: I have always been interested in working with mission-driven media organizations that are dedicated to supporting diversity of voices and making media accessible to all people. AFS’ origin story and mission really resonates with me. 
I have been working specifically with documentary filmmakers and public media over these last nine years so I am looking forward to the ability to expand my experiences with narrative filmmakers and community media makers. AFS also has a very dedicated and talented staff. There is an excitement and optimism about the new opportunities and possibilities on the horizon with Austin Public and now, the AFS Cinema. It’s hard not to want to be a part of it. 
And I love Austin. I moved to Austin in 1994 after I finished college. Like most people entering the film/TV industry, you hustle and try to jump into a lot of things. The people I met and worked with were really supportive. It is the place I feel that I got my start. I know that much has changed both with the city and the industry since I left Austin in 1997. Like many major cities, there has been a lot of growth and with it cultural shifts. But what I admire is that Austin has always been rich in creative talent and innovative thinking yet strives to stay unique and independent. I also grew up in the South (New Orleans) so Austin’s friendly, laidback cultural vibe suites me. 
AFS Viewfinders: What is your take on why media literacy is important to our community?

Erica Deiparine-Sugars: Ohh—this is a juicy question and one that I could discuss in length. So I will try to be brief. But I am encouraged by AFS commitment to media literacy and hope there are more opportunities to engage with the community around this. 
I have always believed media literacy to be a basic skill in the digital age. The definition of media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media in various forms. I know most people think that “media literacy” seems overly academic but it is really a critical component for being an active and informed member of society. Many of us have likely used some part of these skills as we interact with media and communicate daily; watching TV, searching the internet, listening to music, posting a photo on Instagram, etc. These daily images, sounds and words have an affect on our behaviors, feelings and thoughts and those of our peers whether or not we are fully aware of it. Media literacy is about being active and conscious. It is the ability to really step back and think critically about what is going on. 
The mastery of these skills can actually level the power dynamic that exists in current “mass” commercial media. In addition to being a 21st century learning skill, media literacy is also one that supports social justice and equity as more people, people from different communities and socioeconomic backgrounds can access, understand and create their own media. They can start to control their own images. 
AFS Viewfinders: As a storyteller, what inspires you in your work? What drives you to help people tell their own stories? 
Erica Deiparine-Sugars: Like many of my peers, I grew up watching my fair share of television and going to movies. What struck me was that a lot of people on TV and in the films I saw didn’t look like me or have experiences that I could really identify with. Additionally, there was often a lot of homogeneity or generalities in the ways that women and people of color were portrayed. They weren’t always prominent or important characters in the storytelling. I remember being amazed and excited when I did see stories about women and communities of color particularly if it showed me something new or gave me a different perspective. I wanted more and knew there were so many stories out there that weren’t being told. 
AFS Viewfinders: Now for the required AFS Viewfinders question-- what are some of the films that have most strongly influenced you?

Erica Deiparine-Sugars: My favorite movies list is growing long and varied. So I’ll just list a few older ones (in no particular order) that have stuck with me. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"So Much Innocence": Wes Anderson on Truffaut's SMALL CHANGE

Francois Truffaut & cast members, behind the scenes of SMALL CHANGE

Francois Truffaut's 1976 film SMALL CHANGE screens twice at the AFS Cinema in 35mm. On Sunday 8/27, as part of the family-friendly Sunday School program and as an encore screening on Wednesday 8/30.

In 2002, when director Wes Anderson, fresh from THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, was approached by the New York Times to talk about a movie that was deeply meaningful to him, he chose Truffaut's SMALL CHANGE, a charming, mostly improvised comedy about school kids in a small French town. The interview is very interesting, especially in light of some of Anderson's subsequent work, especially the very SMALL CHANGE influenced MOONRISE KINGDOM.

Anderson goes on at some length about SMALL CHANGE's specialness:
''There are all of these threads, all of these people and story lines, but it also feels very free, as though we can join any character at any moment. There are some characters who have just one scene or just one moment, and then a few who kind of continue throughout the whole movie and have their own developing stories. But when they're introduced, they're all introduced in the same way, so you're never sure who is going to turn out to be important and who's making their only appearance. It's very rare to introduce characters that way, yet it doesn't feel like a stunt the way Truffaut does it. It feels very natural.''

And remembers his time as an undergrad at the University of Texas when he read Truffaut's letters and gained a greater insight about the man and his work. He describes a letter from the very young Truffaut to a friend:
''There is a letter of apology from Truffaut that is so overstated,'' he said. ''The language is very flowery, and you get the feeling that, in this relationship, Truffaut felt himself to be intellectually superior and was the dominant personality between the two. But at this point, he was clearly guilty and kind of vulnerable and exposed, and he was trying to maintain the upper hand in their relationship at the same time he couldn't be more guilty. What's interesting is to see how this kid, who came from such a brutal background, went through all of this and came out, in the 1970's, with this humane, gentle attitude about it all.''

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The New 4k Reissue of SUSPIRIA Looks Amazing: Here's Why


The AFS Cinema is proud to present the new restoration of horror legend Dario Argento's 1977 horror classic SUSPIRIA, starting September 1. Tickets are on sale now.

Over the past four years, Synapse Films has partnered with some heavy hitters to reconstruct what is sure to be the definitive version of Argento's seminal vision. Presented in its original 98 minute runtime, rescanned from the original uncut, uncensored Italian 35mm camera negative in 4K resolution at Technicolor Rome in Italy, with the supervision of Argento's director of photography Lucian Tovoli, it's possible the film has never looked better.

Colors are everything in this film, and Tovoli's supervision has ensured they pop like severed arteries. Possibly an even bigger revelation is the sound, sourced from the original 35mm magnetic tape four-track soundtrack which accompanied SUSPIRIA during its initial first-run tour through Europe in the 1970s and has not been heard since—the pulsing score performed by longtime Argento collaborators and Italian progressive rock legends Goblin is louder and more present than ever.

The film depicts the terrifying experience of an American ballet dancer Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), as she arrives in Germany to study at the Tanz Dance Academy. During the course of her study, Suzy realizes the school, its origins, and instructors are not what they seem in this strangely beautiful nightmare of a film. Argento's remarkably bold camera movements explore the diabolically decadent cinematic environment while each measure of Goblin's frenetic, bewitching soundtrack pulls audiences further from safety. Blood pours and screams resound as each meticulously crafted frame of fear grips the screen. 

Over the years, SUSPIRIA has become a cult staple thanks to home video, its fantasy casting spells over late night party-goers and cinematic thrill seekers. And Argento's decidedly fashionable flourish in designing death continues to hex audiences worldwide. While Argento made a good number of beloved films, nothing quite affects audiences like SUSPIRIA, arguably the purest distillation of his cinematic vision.


Monday, August 21, 2017

"A Poetic Spellbinder..." What Critics are Saying About COLUMBUS


If your social media feed looks anything like mine, you've been hearing more and more people singing the praises of the terrifically engaging new film COLUMBUS. It is certainly the best-reviewed film out there today (98% on the Tomatometer), and many of the critics are pulling out the superlatives. Note Richard Brody's review below. Brody is not a guy who dusts off words like "genius" very often.

COLUMBUS opens at the AFS Cinema this weekWriter/director Kogonada will join us for our Saturday night 8/26 screening - tickets are going fast - and we look forward to talking with all our friends about this moving and daring film that shows us many new facets of our lives and surroundings. We've written about Kogonada's noted video essays before, and we can see in COLUMBUS how well he has absorbed the lessons taught by his filmmaking masters.

Yes, it really is about two people (John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson) who walk around Columbus, Indiana talking about architecture. Along the way, it becomes visual music as the characters' tumultuous inner lives are soothed and guided by the modernist spaces around them. Full admission: this kind of narrative is a tightrope walk, but we're pleased to report that Kogonada succeeds with aplomb and even manages to add some graceful flourishes along the way.

But if you don't believe us, check out what these critics have to say.

The New Yorker's Richard Brody says "Few performances—and few films—glow as brightly with the gemlike fire of precocious genius."

The Playlists' Jessica Kiang calls it "a gentle but sharply defined story, brimming with grace, compassion and performances of perfect naturalism, it is unashamedly intellectual yet deeply human."

Variety's Geoff Berkshire calls COLUMBUS a "hypnotically paced drama carried by the serendipitous odd-couple pairing of John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson is lovely and tender, marking Kogonada as an auteur to watch."

Justin Chang for the Los Angeles times writes, "What's remarkable about this wondrously assured debut is that technique never overwhelms feeling, in part because Kogonada makes the two seem inextricably, harmoniously linked."

Friday, August 18, 2017

What the Critics are Saying About Alejandro Jodorowsky's ENDLESS POETRY

Portrait of the artist as a young man, relentlessly hounded by winged death, ceaselessly threshing the tumultuous sea in a, uh, purple boat

The Chilean-born writer/director Alejandro Jodorowsky has been making films for a long time - his first feature film was made nearly 50 years ago - but he was nearly 40 years of age then, and had been active as a writer, puppeteer and mime for years before then.

In his latest film ENDLESS POETRY, the 88-year old Jodorowsky tells an autobiographical tale that, for all its veracity to the circumstances of his life, is on a par with the haunting surreal-pulp aesthetic that permeates his earlier films like THE HOLY MOUNTAIN and SANTA SANGRE.

The film, which opens today at the AFS Cinema, has been roundly lauded by critics. Here's a bit of what they're saying:

Austin Chronicle's Marjorie Baumgarten offers a "guarantee the viewer will not go home unsated."

Aaron Hillis at the Village Voice calls it, "Loopy, irreverent, and more intensely personal than anything its mystic creator has invented before."

Simon Abrams of RogerEbert.com says, "ENDLESS POETRY is as galvanizing as a lightning rod because it's equally accepting, and intolerant, a pro-individualist work about celebrating and cultivating yourself."

Variety's Owen Gleiberman says, "Make no mistake: ENDLESS POETRY is still very much a Jodorowsky film, dotted with his trademark phantasmagorical conceits, which are like candified bursts of comic-book magic realism. Yet more than any previous Jodorowsky opus, it’s also a work of disciplined and touching emotional resonance."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Joan Crawford: Forsaking All Others


The AFS Essential Cinema Series Bette & Joan, spotlighting two of the greatest film actresses of Hollywood's Golden Age Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, is currently underway at the AFS Cinema. The series culminates in a Movie Madness party and screening of WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? on August 25.

Though they shared a profession and were contemporaries, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were notorious enemies. Both were fine actresses, and both had long careers that went through many seasons, from their years of radiant youth, through to their critically acclaimed peak years, and, much later, as stars of horror and thriller films in the PSYCHO mold. For this Essential Cinema series we lightly scratch the surface of these remarkable careers. Naturally we conclude it with the film that brought their rivalry to a screaming climax, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?

See the trailer here:


Born Lucille LeSueur in San Antonio sometime between 1904 and 1906, the young woman who was to later be known as Joan Crawford developed an affection for the stage at an early age. Her stepfather ran the Opera House in the family's adopted hometown of Lawton, Oklahoma and the young Lucille was exposed to a wide variety of touring performers. Her home life, however was unhappy. The stepfather was a lech at home and an embezzler at work.

The family relocated to Kansas City, where the mother and stepfather soon split up and pre-teen Joan was compelled to work her way through Catholic school, scrubbing toilets. All this time, Crawford harbored a love of show business and as she grew up she became an uncommonly beautiful young woman with enormous eyes and radiant good health. Soon, show business began to meet her halfway.

She became a chorus girl in a number of traveling revues and, while in New York, she caught the eye of a talent scout who took a screen test of the gorgeous young woman and sent it to Hollywood. MGM, then the most prestigious studio in the movie capital, signed her to a modest contract in 1924. She was to remain with MGM for nearly nineteen years, becoming in the process one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and suffering a downfall in popularity - largely caused by a decline in script quality - that mirrored the arc of her contemporary and rival Bette Davis.

During the course of her stardom she largely created the template for what we consider a glamorous movie star to be. She capped her teeth, spent endless hours toning her legs and shoulders, drove herself to study elocution, acting, modeling, etc. She made herself into a kind of dream figure and set the standard for Hollywood goddesses to follow. In GRAND HOTEL she holds her own against the stars Greta Garbo and John Barrymore. She had already become a capital-S star.

When Crawford was dumped by MGM in 1943, she pursued her comeback with the same dedication and fervor, and it worked. She signed a budget deal with Warner Brothers to do three films. The first two movies were not hits but she had her eye on one property - an adaptation of James M. Cain's novel "Mildred Pierce." It was Bette Davis who Warner Brothers' contract director Michael Curtiz coveted for the role of Mildred, but Davis turned him down. He pursued his second choice, free agent Barbara Stanwyck, but studio head Jack Warner insisted that the role go to Crawford.

The rest is history. Crawford brought all her considerable talent to the role. It was a sensation at the box office and in the critic's columns and Crawford won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Now a bigger star than ever, Crawford became the Queen of the Hollywood Melodrama and sustained this run for several years.

As her star fell for the final time, Crawford stayed active in the business world and played occasional parts. Even in such unfortunate films as William Castle's STRAIT-JACKET and the real bottom-of-the-barrel TROG, she maintained her dignity, even when the rest of the production did not rise to her standard.

Here are the remaining titles in the Bette & Joan series:

GRAND HOTEL 8/10 & 12
Edmund Goulding, USA, 1934, 35mm, 112 min

At the center of this soapy, star-studded MGM spectacular is their versatile young romantic actress Joan Crawford, third-billed after superstars Greta Garbo and John Barrymore. Amid the parade of glamour and decadence, Crawford's beauty stands out as the film’s symbol of life and hope.

JEZEBEL 8/17 & 19
William Wyler, USA, 1938, 35mm, 104 min.

Bette Davis, passed over for the part of Scarlett O'Hara, goes after the role of a spoiled southern belle with astonishing ferocity in William Wyler's still-surprising costume drama. Henry Fonda ably holds his own as her betrothed.

MILDRED PIERCE 8/24 & 26
Michael Curtiz, USA 1945, 35mm, 111 min.

Joan Crawford's career seemed to be at an end in 1945. But her will to survive was mirrored in her next part, the title role in this film, one of her career mileposts. She plays a devoted mother who stands by her daughter through everything, including murder.

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE 8/31
Robert Aldrich, USA, 1961, DCP, 134 min.

One of the strangest films ever made in Hollywood, Robert Aldrich (KISS ME DEADLY) directs Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in a show business-centered thriller that allows these two great actresses and forces of nature (who genuinely hated one another) to truly vent.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

From Video Essay to Screen: Why Kogonada's COLUMBUS is a Radical Movie


COLUMBUS opens at the AFS Cinema on August 25. Writer/director Kogonada will join us in person for the August 26, 7pm screening and will also attend a free screening on the same afternoon of his collected video essays.

About 5 years ago, a video essay explicating Stanley Kubrick's use of the one-point-perspective appeared on the internet and became a sensation with the group of people I sometimes lovingly call "Criterion nerds." The piece is not only brilliantly edited, it is obviously the work of a terrifically observant and intelligent person, someone who has given cinema a LOT of thought.

Here is the piece, if you haven't seen it. Don't worry, it's short.


This video-essay is one of many. Kogonada has created nearly a score of them, and his peers and acolytes have made this form extremely popular. YouTube and Vimeo are bursting with these cinephile "super-cuts." Some are good. Some betray their makers sophomoric ideas in every frame.

No one really disputes that Koganada is the master of the form. He has since been commissioned by such heavy hitters as the BFI and, the holiness of holinesses, Criterion itself to make these videos.

Super-cut video essays are a world away from narrative films, of course, and, while Kogonada has demonstrated brilliance as an editor and re-composer of other filmmakers' images, what are the odds he could manage a set, work capably with his collaborators, understand the nuances of actors, and deliver a solid film his first time around. There was every reason to think that his frame compositions would be gorgeous (and boy are they ever), but could he be a total filmmaker?

Those of us who have seen his feature COLUMBUS know the answer. He has done it. All that promise, all that brilliance, it lights up the screen. Set in the small city of Columbus, Indiana, an architectural mecca that contains some of the most jaw-dropping examples of mid-century modern buildings, the film is about a pair who come together in the shadow of these structures to make sense of the choices (design-wise and other) that they have made in their lives. This is uncommonly thoughtful writing, by Kogonada himself, and the actors, led by John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson, get it.

This is a film that has emerged from a different kind of perspective. Not just the perspective of a Korean immigrant who grew up in the American midwest - that's Koganada's story - but the perspective of a man who absolutely devoured the work of Bergman, Bresson, Kubrick and Tarkovsky via optical discs and has emerged with so many lessons. Fortunately he has the judgment and restraint to share these lessons sparsely and wisely.

Here is the trailer for COLUMBUS. Come see this film with us at the AFS Cinema starting August 25.