Monday, October 15, 2007

Austin Film Festival '08: Overview

So, I had a great time at the Austin Film Festival. I'm going to post interviews tomorrow with "On The Lot" winner Will Bigham and the cast and crew of "Friday Night Lights" on Wednesday.

Here are a few of the high points of the festival that I thought you would find of interest:

-I talked with former Writer's Guild president Daniel Petrie Jr., who said he had no idea whether or not there would be a strike in two weeks. The writers and the studios, however, aren't close. The biggest issue is revenues from online downloads of TV shows and movies.

-A source very close to the situation said the role of a young James T. Kirk in the next "Star Trek" movie is likely Chris Pine's. The only real hiccup is Pine's availability because of another movie he is shooting.

-I saw three films at the festival that likely won't make it to Macon, but are worth catching if you can find them on video.

"Randy and the Mob" is the latest work of Georgia actor/filmmaker Ray McKinnon. It's a very funny look at an inept small-town businessman (McKinnon) who gets in debt over his head and asks a loan shark for help. The mob sends an enforcer (Walton Goggins) to oversee the money. But Randy's situation only gets worse.

For all those who love Goggins on "The Shield" - I thought he deserved an Emmy nomination this season - this role is completely 180 degrees from Shane Vendrell. Think "Rain Man" as a mob enforcer. "Randy and the Mob" will be making it's Macon debut on Wednesday at the Cox Capitol Theatre, with McKinnon in attendance. I'll have a preview in Wednesday's print edition of The Telegraph.

"Numb," a movie written and directed by Harris Goldberg based on his own life, is the finest work by stars Matthew Perry and Mary Steenburgen in years. It's a very funny look at Goldberg's life and his struggles with mental depression. Lynn Collins turns in a star-making performance as Perry's girlfriend.

But the most striking film that I saw was "The Living Wake," one of the most creative, bizarrely funny movies I've seen in years. Co-written by lead actor Mike O'Connell, it's a look at a crazy guy who is told he is about to die. Thinking he is a great genius who still has a lot to share with the world, he invites the whole town to his wake, in which he is the star performer.

I went to see the movie because it also stars Jim Gaffigan, but O'Connell is downright remarkable in the role, though it's entirely possible he may have also been blitzed during shooting, or at least during the discussion of the movie afterward. The best summary I can give is "Zelig" meets "Big Fish."

-Jason Reitman, IMO the best young filmmaker out there, told a packed room he directed an episode of "The Office." It's the first half-hour show of the season, set to air the end of October. Reitman, whose film "Thank You For Smoking" was the best movie of 2005, was at the festival promoting "Juno" (which I missed to catch a plane, but check out Keith Demko's Reel Fanatic blog for more details).

-Keep an eye out for rising filmmaker Sarah Dowling, who showed she has a good directorial eye with her short film, "Anatomy of a Frog."

I'm sure there are other aspects of the festival I'm forgetting, but I will include them over the next few days.

GO CHARGERS!: If you check out the current issue of "Entertainment Weekly" (the one with Patrick Dempsey on the cover), you can see a picture of Macon actor Jack McBrayer ("30 Rock") wearing his old Central High School gym shirt.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Pretty much everything is new. The pick of the night may be "Aliens In America" (CW, 8:30 p.m.), in which Raja wants to build a model rocket, but everyone else thinks he is buildng a bomb.

And the much-buzzed Christina Applegate sitcom, "Samantha Who?" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.) debuts tonight. It's about a woman who loses her memory and becomes a much nicer person.


zodin2008 said...

Glad it was a fun festival and happy to hear about Goggins helping an Indy filmmaker out. He absolutely got robbed (along with "Friday Night Lights") by not even being nominated this year for his amazing work on "The Shield".

If I am correct, is Goggins a Georgian? Between Kyle Chandler, Walton Goggins and Jack McBrayer, our home state is producing a lot of really good acting talent.

(for those unaware, Coach Eric Taylor on "Friday Night Lights" aka, Kyle Chandler, is not only a Georgian but even better he's a Georgia Bulldog!!!).

I also agree with you that "Thank you for Smoking" was the best film of 2005. It got robbed as well for not being nominated.

By the way, my pick of the night maybe "Chuck" if it can successfully follow up it's best episode, the 3rd one. Unlike "Reaper", which I think has gone down hill since the funny pilot, "Chuck" has gotten better.

It goes to show that pilots only mean so much but how you carry a series after that is what matters. "The Nine" had a fantastic pilot but went down hill.

While I thought "Reaper" had a great pilot, I have hardly enjoyed the subsequent episodes.

The star (Bret Harrison) is simply not that interesting - he's so 'slacker-ish' about his devilish duties, he's made it impossible to care about him or what he has to do or hard ever fathom he's in any real danger. He's too nonchalant, IMHO, for the part.

They keep over featuring Harrison (which they have no choice, he's the star) and his sidekick, Tyler Labine who's grown very tiresome as Sock. And yet they have under utilized the best actor and character on the show, Ray Wise as the Devil.

"Chuck" on the other hand had a kick ass 3rd episode and it was not only the most fun, but you can kind of see how the main trio of Chuck and his 2 superspy cohorts start to care about one another and form a great team. And while Adam Baldwin, for the umpteenth time in his career, is a major scen stealer as the NSA guy, he has great costars to work with as well and everyone feeds off one another nicely.

"Chuck" really works. Considering how uneven "Heroes" has been to me (it's a chore to watch some of these story arcs - I hope they kill the central american brother/sister group) "Chuck" right now stands as the 2nd best show of the night, after "How I Met Your Mother", which is the best show of the night, hands down.

(The best shows of the week though remain "Mad Men" and "Friday Night Lights" which are the 2 best shows of 2007).

Phillip Ramati said...

Goggins worked with McKinnon on their Oscar winning short, The Accountant. I think he is from Alabama.

Reitman is a great guy to talk with. I can't wait to see his installment of The Office.

I still enjoy both Reaper and Chuck, but the latter is the better show, although Ray Wise has been spectacular on the former.

zodin2008 said...

Ray Wise maybe spectacular on "Reaper", but when the best thing about your show only appears for 5 minutes each week, that's not good.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, those five minutes are Emmy worthy, IMHO. And sometimes it takes a show a few episodes to find its legs, like Chuck. There's enough good about Reaper that I'm willing to see where they go with it.