April 14th, 2014 by Russ
Old Settler’s Music Festival Weekend, April 10-13, 2014. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE INVOLVED. This is probably one of the best festivals to attend, anywhere. As soon as you get there, it’s like heaven; friends old and new are everywhere, there’s great barbeque, the music is stellar and the weather is perfect. This all makes for a perfect festival experience. I am grateful to have been a part of this show for the past 13 years. This year, I saw Del McCoury, Jeff Bridges and the Abiders, and the North Mississippi All Stars on Friday night, and Saturday night I saw Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Shinyribs and Bighead Todd and The Monsters. One of the greatest experiences of this festival for me, was when they let me right up front to see The Dude. Also rocking out to Robert Randolph with my friend Jimmy was an unforgettable experience. The only thing missing was a river of chocolate, and then it would have been the festival of my dreams. See y’all next year!
April 8th, 2014 by Nickie Vliet
April 7th, 2014 by Russ
The Austin Music Award’s Best Rock Band, Quiet Company, plays an intimate set for us at a friend’s semi-annual house party, 4/5/2014. We all had a good time, chowing on queso and talking to our friends from all walks of life. We had to skip out early to catch our next group of shots, but this was a gathering we couldn’t miss.
April 2nd, 2014 by Brandon Engel
Richard Linklater is one of the most formally innovative filmmakers working today, and Texas is proud to claim him as their very own. He certainly was well represented at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin – he got to conduct a public interview with fellow Texas filmmaker Wes Anderson, an event which made for a crowd pleaser unto itself. Linklater also won the coveted “Lone Star” award (only given to Texas-born filmmakers) for his film Boyhood (2014), which is easily his most impressive accomplishment to date.
Boyhood was shot over the course of 12 years, and documents the intellectual, cultural, even biological development of a young Texas boy from the age of six to the age of 18. Ellar Coltrane stars as the child, Mason, and the film also stars Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (who has appeared in several other Linklater films, including the superb Before Sunrise trilogy). Principal photography for Boyhood started in Austin in the summer of 2002, and continued right up until the young man had graduated high school.
Linklater has claimed in interviews that he became fascinated with the idea of a project that would, in essence, cinematically distill childhood – not any one part of it, necessarily, but the whole thing. In a way, the film pays homage to French New Wave director Francois Truffaut, who employed a similar technique in his entire body of work, and spent twenty years chronicling the life of the character Antoine Doinel (played in five separate films by Jean-Pierre Leaud), starting with The 400 Blows (1959) and culminating in Love on the Run (1979). Linklater’s approach is still distinct, however, if only for the fact that he condensed 12 years worth of footage into a single, self-contained viewing experience.
And while the film is unique in several ways, it feels like a logical extension of the rest of his body of work. It’s a dialogue driven script, similar to his early, low budget, talk-heavy features Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (2004), which both deal with intellectually adept and functionally challenged young people in Texas. They don’t suffer from a dearth of ideas or creative impulses – they just can’t seem to do much more than talk about them. Both films, but Dazed and Confused most specifically, also deal with the sort of ennui and existential crises which come with establishing yourself as an adult. The film also contains elements of what made the seminal Waking Life (2001) so stimulating: the conversation itself is enriched with some sort of unique visual component, which, in the case of Waking Life is achieved by a means of digitally rendered animation which makes natural footage look somewhat dreamlike. In the case of Boyhood, the interesting visual hook is of course the “time-lapse” like effect of seeing the characters grow gradually older over the years. The film relies heavily on dialogue, and some of the most effective moments of the film are achieved by the juxtaposition of segments where the young Mason is conversing with his parents during different stages of his life developmentally.
Linklater has been a source of pride for the Texas creative community for many years now, and his recognition from SXSW this year has further solidified his reputation as a stellar contemporary filmmaker. In fact, stats culled from Viral Heat, the social media aggregator, reveal that Linklater has been getting a lot of play in the social media realm recently:
Let us hope that this film, and his participation in SXSW, will help to advance his career even further. He may not have the populist box office drawing power of someone like Wes Anderson, but that may very well change in coming years, and it’s high time that Linklater gets the attention and praise he has always deserved.
Article by Brandon Engel
March 24th, 2014 by Russ
The RESENTMENTS live at The Saxon Pub 3/23/2014. One of my favorite Sundaze evening pastimes. KGSR did a live radio broadcast of THIS VERY show, “LONESTAR STATE OF MIND.”
March 14th, 2014 by Bradley Gastwirth
For the love of rock and roll and Tokyo, Big In Japan is somewhere between The Spice Girls and Josie and the Pussycats movies. I expected it to be more like witnessing a band like Devo make love to Godzilla, but we can’t always have what we want.
Big in Japan is a semi-fictionalized movie about a real band out of Seattle, Tennis Pro (Sean Lowry, Phillip Peterson, & David Drury), who aren’t very popular in their hometown, so they decide to go out and travel to Tokyo, Japan to find their fan base.
The elements I really like about Big In Japan is that the band hangs out at the same places in Tokyo. It’s not flashy like Lost in Translation, showcasing the bright lights and quirkier aspects of Japan. The band makes friends as they travel along and if this is somewhat of a documentary based on their actual experiences they had in Japan, it seems like the surf-rock trio have a lot of gusto.
Even though Big in Japan has its moments, ultimately it’s quite obvious that these rockers are not actors, which director John Jeffcoat (co-writer/director of Outsourced 2006), admitted before the film premiered at SXSW. Unfortunately, most of the humor is lost in the film and the jokes that are delivered fall flat due to the writing and/or character delivery. However, there are some more serious, tense scenes in the film that come through in a believable way. In one particular scene, the characters are unexpectedly caught in a frenzy caused by an earthquake; perhaps to emulate the emotions felt after the real life Tsunami that hit Japan, oddly enough falling exactly two years from the films premiere date.
Phillip (Phil) Peterson is also worth mentioning, kind of like a lost puppy dog, his story is more carved out in the film. Phillip actually came on stage at SXSW just prior to the film premiere to play the audience beautiful compositions on a Cello. It is obvious that he is very talented as a composer and producer.
I had higher hopes for Big In Japan, but I think it’s a celebration of the bands hard work and showcases Tennis Pro’s genuineness through their music which plays throughout the film. I hope that these guys get some more recognition as a band.
March 14th, 2014 by Bradley Gastwirth
Have you ever been interested in competitive puzzling or did you even know it exists? Well it does, and although it might seem like a puzzling topic for a documentary, Wicker Kittens is one of the most adorable documentaries I’ve ever seen.
Wicker Kittens follows around four different teams of four (three challenger teams and one winning team) preparing for the worlds largest annual Jigsaw Puzzle competition in St. Paul, Minnesota. Wicker Kittens explores the nerdiest side of the Jigsaw puzzlers and their meditative sport. From the different personal effects of some of the players (puzzle piece jewelry, ottomans, vanity plates, coasters, etc.) to each teams differing strategies, Wicker Kittens will make you smile as a heartwarming tale. Sometimes it’s nice to have a light documentary, like other nerdy documentaries, Wordplay and King of Kong, Wicker Kittens will attract all types of audiences. With the competitions only lasting 20-40 minutes in length, it’s impressive watching people put together 5,000 piece puzzles in a matter of minutes.
Even if you don’t really care for puzzles or their fans, you will most definitely be a fan of Wicker Kittens. Get out and see this when it comes to a theater near you.
March 12th, 2014 by Bradley Gastwirth
Everything you’ve ever wanted (or not wanted) out of a film about cults or fanatics, you can get it with Faults, if you have faith. A Quirky, intense, tragic, and darkly humorous film, Faults will leave you with an eerie feeling that the power of persuasion can cultivate any intended response and at the same time it can be a hazardous to ones health.
The story begins with Ansel, (Leland Orser) a self pitying, down in the dumps caricature of his former self. The type of man to steal batteries out of a television remote from a hotel room (which he does), a dolly, towels, and even wire hangers. Ansel is an author, but his special niche lies in seminars intended to deprogram individuals that have been brainwashed by cultists. Ansel looks haggard, tired, and it is obvious that life has not been so kind to him by the time we meet up with him. At his hotel conference promoting his new and seemingly unpopular book, Ansel is approached by Evelyn (Beth Grant) & her husband, who are desperate to get their daughter back who has been brainwashed by a cult called “Faults”. Ansel is reluctant to take on the case because the last time he attempted to deprogram someone, it failed miserably and left him with all of the guilt for this proposed failure. However, Ansel is in debt, due to taking on the expenditures of self-publication with the help of his seedy manager. Reluctantly, Ansel agrees to take on the job. After kidnapping the couples daughter, Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and taking her to a motel to start the deprogramming, Ansel finds himself questioning his own beliefs and we have to wonder, who is deprogramming whom?
What is free will? What is failure? These are two prominent questions proposed in Faults that builds quietly in Ansel until it crescendos into an unhealthy clamor. Although the SXSW crowd seemed to laugh quite a bit, I found it was uncomfortable laughter. The film has a cultist quality linked to group-think themes, coupled with Ansel’s overgrowing instability, which at times feels rushed and underdeveloped, but is executed well by Leland Orser’s acting. The beauty of the film relies on bringing desperation into the scenery and how vulnerability makes us susceptible as humans to unexpected moldings.
Faults is a dark tale and is another great film I’ve seen at SXSW for the films selection. There is a tinge of supernatural elements with divine intervention sprinkled in (or is there?), so that makes for interesting storytelling. Even if you do not find it to be a great film, you will do not have free will and you WILL like it.
March 12th, 2014 by Bradley Gastwirth
This may be my favorite movie so far at SXSW Film. Well it’s hard to pick one, but it’s up there. It’s reminiscent of the anxiety felt from Midnight Express (1978) with the Soundtrack straight out of the 80′s. It’s a gritty film that doesn’t disappoint with where it ends up.
Co-written, Co-directed, and starring Angus Sampson (Actor from Insidious 1&2), this film is pretty brutal in multiple senses of the word. A theme that seems to keep creeping up during SXSW so far, is showcasing dark subject matter with humorous (intentional or not) devices thrown into the mix. I don’t want to call The Mule a dark comedy, but it definitely has dark tones. This is the second impressive film I’ve witnessed thus far from Australia (The Infinite Man reviewed earlier as another must see).
Angus Sampson’s character, a simple sap working at a television repair shop in 1980′s Melbourne Australia, is tasked with heading to Bangkok, Thailand with his oldest friend to smuggle back heroin by swallowing 20 condoms filled with the white dust. He gets himself into a pickle (this is where the anxiety from Midnight Cowboy comes in to play) in an intense scene where he has to get through customs successfully. Well let’s just say, things end belly up and he is detained by the police unofficially for more than 10 days. The police want him to work out his crap, literally.
The Mule is full of betrayal, suspense, and a little bit of mayhem, but Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, The LOTR Trilogy) has to be the best contribution to the film. Playing one of the detectives in charge of watching Sampson’s character in a hotel for the 10+ days, he has never unfolded a character to discover such a likable sleazebag.
The Mule will get laughs, but even with the fat trimmed away, it is a fantastic film at its core to uncover a compelling story about drug trafficking and the underbelly of Melbourne and its corruption. The direction and acting alike is very top notch and again, I have to say that this is a must see at SXSW. If for nothing else, there is one revolting scene in the The Mule that made me look away which is always a feat for someone with an iron stomach. Get out and see it and you won’t be sorry. Dig the music playing at the credits.
March 12th, 2014 by Bradley Gastwirth
This is Mike Judge’s newest project for television. This time it’s on HBO and not animated. Imagine that Entourage had an unpopular baby with Bill Gates, and that pretty much makes up the improvisational studded cast for Silicon Valley. I had the pleasure of viewing the world premiere of the first two episodes during SXSW and watching some of the cast members, along with Mike Judge, do a little Q&A afterward (it was more like watching “improv” between the cast).
Not to give too much away regarding the funnies, but the first scene opens up to show Kid Rock performing, just to zoom out and show an empty backyard of some millionaire’s house party (It’s always fun to rip on that guy). Richard (Thomas Middleditch; The Campaign) and his friends are at the party talking about how they haven’t hit it rich and generally complaining about all of the hacks they’re surrounded by. Richard lives in a house with his programming friends, Big Head (Josh Brener), Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr from Freaks and Geeks, Party Down), & the ridiculous Erlich (T.J. Miller).
Richard and Big Head work at Hooli, a company that emulates the likes of startups and much larger tech companies (Google), As you might expect, Hooli looks and feels like a new age tech company with bike meetings and a CEO who has a meditative consultant. Richard has been working on a piece of software that he wants to get out to the world and after sending it to his uninterested coworkers, who initially shrug off his antiquated music software, they soon realize he has created an algorithm that compresses files without any information loss. Hooli now becomes increasingly invested in Richard’s potentially valuable software and he has to make a potentially life changing decision on who to share/give his company to.
The ensemble cast really runs the operating system in this show. I’m still not sure if it will sink or swim with audiences, but T.J. Miller and Martin Starr are pretty hilarious. Lets just see if there is enough momentum and fresh story-lines that can be created about an industry that can be dry or over most peoples heads. Silicon I think nerds will revel in the quip-y nerd-um that is Silicon Valley. The show premieres on HBO on April 6th.
March 12th, 2014 by Russ
It’s our 30th ‘Shots of the Daze!’ And what better way to celebrate than with these shots we caught of fantastic director Wes Anderson, here in Austin for SXSW being interviewed by Rick Linklater. Anderson’s good friend and actor Jason Schwartzman was in attendance as well as their musical director for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” This film features many cameos and of course many of the regulars who appear in Wes Anderson’s movies. Ralph Fiennes’ main character is energetic and magnetic. It was a special treat to have Wes Anderson present his new film to us, and follow it up with two amazing directors geeking out together. Anderson remarked while presenting the film, that his first ever movie premiere only gathered an audience of nine. Today he packs a full house.