Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Preview: Texas Film Commission 40th Anniversary

Hollywood, who needs it? Over the past few decades, Texas has established itself as a viable alternative for filmmakers. Spearheading the efforts of the industry in the Lone Star state is the Texas Film Commission, an agency managed by the Governor's office. They do everything they can to foster the seed of creative cinematic talent, from professionals to novices in the fields of film, television, commercial and video game production. In celebration of 40 years of excellence, The Paramount will be screening seven films filmed inside our grand state.

Set aside some time this coming week to partake of these films:

Silkwood, the Mike Nichols directed film starring Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher, was partially filmed in Texas City, Dallas, Howe, and Tom Bean. The story of a worker at a plutonium processing plant who uncovers safety violations and undergoes unspeakable to keep her silent.

There Will Be Blood, a drama about greed, religion, and family centered around the early days of the oil business, features a tour-de-force performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. A monstrous portrayal of the frailty and darker sides of human nature, it won wide acclaim and an Oscar for Day-Lewis. The oil field scenes were filmed in the wide open spaces near Marfa.

The Sugarland Express, the debut feature film of director Steven Spielberg (you may have heard of him), shot exclusively in Texas. Locations included: Floresville, Del Rio, Pleasanton, and San Antonio. The story of a hard-luck woman and her fugitive husband who are on the run with a lawman hostage shows hints of the future Spielberg flair, and already features music by John Williams (Jaws, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones saga, Star Wars saga). Also present is the cinematography by the great Vilmos Zsigmond (The Deer Hunter, Deliverance, McCabe and Mrs. Miller), who later worked again with Spielberg on Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a comedy/musical about the infamous "Chicken Ranch," and features Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds in their prime. Location shooting took place in Austin, Pflugerville, Hallettsville, College Station, and supposedly (gulp) my hometown of Victoria. Oddly, when investigating the matter further I yielded no details on what scenes used my old stomping ground as a setting. Call me crazy, but perhaps a story about prostitutes (no matter how cheeky) may not be the source of civic pride. Go figure.

Spy Kids, by Austin-based film maker Robert Rodriguez, is a special effects-driven tour of a kiddy fantasy land. In addition to location shooting overseas, filming was also done in San Antonio and Austin. In fact, Spy Kids was the first feature produced at Troublemaker Studios, created by Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellán. The production house is nestled right here in Austin, and is Robert's base of operations for the Spy sequels, Sin City, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Grindhouse, and the somewhat controversial Machete.

The Coen brothers' brilliant True Grit also was made in the local area. Filming took place in Granger, Blanco, and in Austin. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Hailee Steinfeld star in this remake of the old John Wayne classic.

Dazed and Confused, directed by Austin's own Richard Linklater. Made in Georgetown, Seguin and Austin, it is a cult classic comedy following several teens on the last day of school in 1976. Featuring numerous young actors who later broke out into stardom (Ben Affleck, Renee Zwelleger, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Matthew McConaughey and Milla Jovovich among others), Linklater himself remains the most valued treasure in this town. He's the city's favorite cinematic son, not only for putting Austin on the map of independent film, but for founding the Austin Film Society along with his collaborator Lee Daniel.

The screenings of Dazed and Confused will also have a fun event tied to them. A Red Diversions Movie-Themed Scavenger Hunt will take place between Saturday and Sunday. Teams of up to 4 people will race around Austin as they figure out clues. They will be completing challenges, collecting items, and taking pictures all revolving around the film. Unlike most Red Diversions' games, this fun clue pursuit game lasts all through the night into the next day, guaranteed to leave you... wait for it... "Dazed and Confused!"

Showtimes for the films:

Tuesday, May 24th

There Will Be Blood
Wednesday, May 25th

The Sugarland Express
Thursday, May 26th
Friday, May 27th

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Thursday, May 26th
Friday, May 27th

Spy Kids
Saturday, May 28th (with Intro and pre-screening Q&A with director Robert Rodriguez!)
Sunday, May 29th

True Grit
Saturday, May 28th
Sunday, May 29th

Dazed and Confused
Saturday, May 28th (with post-screening Q&A with director Richard Linklater)
Sunday, May 29th

Final Notes about the screening
Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

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