Tim League isn’t worried about streaming services, and 4 other things we learned from his clapback at Netflix

 

Alamo Drafthouse co-founder and CEO Tim League is no stranger to making strong statements about the movie theater industry. League has famously used the written word to advocate for gender-neutral restrooms in at least one of his Alamo theaters and to decry AMC Theatres’ brief flirtation with allowing texting during movies.

Tim League is the founder of Alamo Drafthouse. The Austin-based chain is expanding via franchisees. (Photo by Annie Ray.)

And now, on the heels of a Q&A session with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings last week where Hastings declared that distribution in the movie business hadn’t innovated in the last 30 years (“Well, the popcorn tastes better, but that’s about it”), League is taking another stand to defend the “business of cinema” in an editorial for IndieWire.

More: Mueller’s new Alamo Drafthouse location will have family focus

Here are five things we learned from League’s editorial:

  1. Netflix’s business model doesn’t concern League one bit.
    “It seems like every other interview I give asks me about the “threat” of Netflix. I’ll be blunt. Netflix doesn’t concern me, and I think it is obvious after last week that the cinema industry is of no concern to Netflix either. We are in very different businesses…Netflix is in the business of growing a global customer base by being the best value proposition subscription content platform…But here’s my business: Cinema.”
  2. But he still respects Netflix’s ability to innovate.
    “They are doing a great job. Their portal is stable, intuitive, cheap and delivers plenty of great, new content every month. They also provide a fantastic financial opportunity for both emerging and veteran storytellers. I stand in awe of the audience they have built and the wealth they have amassed in such a short time.”
  3. He doesn’t think films should be viewed on phones, but rather, in a theater, where they belong.
    “Our best and most talented, passionate filmmakers vehemently do not want their films to be viewed first and foremost on a phone, on the train to work, while checking email, while chopping vegetables for the evening meal, on mute with subtitles while rocking a baby to sleep, or while dozing off before bed…Great filmmakers create content to share their fully realized creations in a cinema with full, rich sound; bright, crisp picture and a respectful audience whose full attention is on the screen.”
  4. He does think that Netflix should follow the example of other streaming services who distribute films in theaters, like Amazon Studios did with “Manchester by the Sea”:
    “When courting filmmakers young and old to create content for their platform, I wish Netflix would consider the relationship with cinemas built by Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Showtime and Epix…They believe in the promotional partnership that successful theatrical engagements can give to word of mouth, awards consideration, brand loyalty and ultimately maximized financial returns.”
  5. Finally, he does believe in innovation in movie theaters, but not at the expense of the movies themselves.
    “I will acknowledge some underlying truth to Reed Hastings’ words. We do, as an industry, need to invest in innovation. Cinema’s primary threat today is not Netflix; it is ourselves. We must continue to maintain high exhibition standards, invest in new sound and picture technology, improve the digital experience for our guests, develop innovative ways to delight our guests and ensure that we live up to our one job – make going to the cinema an amazing experience.”

Read the full interview here.

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Alamo Drafthouse vs. Apple? If iPhone function rumors are true, maybe so

 

SXSW 2017: ‘Life’ star Jake Gyllenhaal is doing just fine on Earth, thanks

 

The following contains mild spoilers for “Life.”

This just in: Jake Gyllenhaal could not stay on the International Space Station for a year.

Gyllenhaal: “No. No. No way. Physically, there would be no use for me up there other than potential entertainment. I would be hopeless in any other way.”

David Jordan, his character in Daniel Espinosa’s new sci-fi thriller “Life,” has spent more than a year up there and is among the six person crew (including Ryan Reynolds) who make first contact with life retrieved from Mars. When said encounter goes from thrilling and kind of cute to ARGHHH NOOOOO, it is up to Jordan and his crew to fight a creature that seems rather hearty for a newborn.

Jake Gyllenhaal in “Life”

We’re sitting outside the Hotel Saint Cecilia. It’s about 10 a.m. the Sunday after South by Southwest. The night before, Gyllenhaal walked the red carpet for “Life,” which closed the film festival. He isn’t staying here all that long — dude’s in the middle of a well-regarded, 10-week Broadway engagement as the lead in Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George.”

Truth be told, it’s probably a good thing he is an actor (and an extremely hard-working one at that). Gyllenhaal says astronaut was never in the cards.

“It’s just never been a legitimate interest of mine. I really never wanted to go up and out there,” he says. “Someone told me about the sorts of people they are looking for to go on the Mars mission and it turns out they’re looking for people who are essentially stamp collectors. And I am maybe the furthest from that. I was the kid always being sent outside. So I don’t know how that would work on the way to Mars.”

But fictional astronauts? Totally fine. “I read the script, and it was terrifying,”  Gyllenhaal said, “and I thought this will be really elevated because of all the incredible people involved, but it was also just, why not have some fun on a movie?”

In keeping with the stamp collector idea, Gyllenhaal’s Jordan is a quiet fellow. “Someone who has been up there that long is going to be more of an observer than a do-er or a go-getter. That is more Ryan’s character.”

As for the creature itself, with which Gyllenhaal and his pals end up doing a not insignificant amount of battle, one had to use one’s imagination. “The creature was a bit of an abstraction. It was Daniel’s intention that we interact with it in a way that wasn’t false, but we also had to use our imagination. He shoots in a really elegant way. He knows he needs pieces, and he knows he needs something from the actors; he’ll shoot for a while knowing what he needs and knowing where to find it. We had earpieces in, and he would be speaking to us while he was watching monitors, saying things like,  “Now it’s over there, it’s coming at your left side.’ But we had no real idea of what it looked like.”

And, no, the cast did not do any time in a Vomit Comet for the weightless sequences.

“Man, I would have loved that,” Gyllenhaal said. “No, it was all wires, and that is a very strange thing, as you are being handled by four people on a soundstage as you attempt to say your lines and remember scientific jargon.”

But Gyllenhaal said he welcomed any kind of tension in such a controlled environment. “It did start to feel very isolated,” he said “It was dark all day long on these stages, and since you are on wires, you are incapable of moving and in a very small space. That is something that was useful in building the characters.”

Just don’t expect him to actually head to Mars any time soon.

“Life” opens in theaters March 24.

Diane Lane learns to enjoy life in ‘Paris Can Wait’

Eleanor Coppola and her husband Francis Ford Coppola were attending the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, and they were supposed to fly to Eastern Europe afterward, where he had business. But Ms. Coppola had a bad head cold and was worried about flying. So a business associate agreed to drive her back to Paris, where the Coppolas have an apartment, and her husband would join her after finishing his business in Eastern Europe.

But what was supposed to a drive of only a few hours turned into a multi-day trip, with her French comapanion making numerous stops along the way for wine, food and cultural explorations. When Ms. Coppola told friends about her experience, they said she should make a movie.

That movie is “Paris Can Wait,” starring Diane Lane as Ms. Coppola, Alec Baldwin as Francis Ford Coppola and Arnuad Viard as the irrepressible Frenchman, Jacques.

As you might expect, the movie is gorgeous, with lush cinematography by Crystel Fournier, lavish sets and scenery that’s just about every traveler’s dream. The food doesn’t look too bad, either.

Lane’s character is actually named Anne Lockwood, and she’s in her 50s and wondering about her workaholic husband. So when a flirty business associate who eats and drinks and smokes too much, agrees to show her the secrets of the French countryside, she’s intrigued but a bit wary. What plays out over the rest of the movie is a kind of delicate dance, where Anne loosens up and begins to appreciate all the attention.

I know what you’re thinking. This is a movie for older women. Well, yes, it is. But it’s also a movie for everyone who loves France, or loves the thought of getting to know France. The movie is full of joie de vivre, and it should enchant young and old, both female and male. It’s called having a life — and enjoying it to the fullest.

Sony Pictures Classics has picked up distribution rights for the film, and they’ll probably do a good job of marketing. Even if they don’t, you should go see it. A release date hasn’t been set.

Melissa Leo rips up the screen as Madalyn Murray O’Hair in ‘Most Hated Woman’

Melissa Leo delivers a powerhouse performance as the Austin atheist leader Madalyn Murray O’Hair in director Tommy O’Haver’s “The Most Hated Woman in America.”

As O’Hair, Leo is foul-mouthed, in your face, unapologetic and downright nasty at times as she battles most of the rest of the world in fighting for First Amendment rights. In case you’ve forgotten, O’Hair got the “most hated woman” description after she filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore school system, eventually forcing that district as well as others across the nation to stop having school prayer.

The Supreme Court decision is still be debated today, and O’Hair was at the center of the battle in 1963.

Peter Fonda and Melissa Leo in “The Most Hated Woman In America.” Beth Dubber/Netflix

O’Hair parlayed that fame into setting up an Austin nonprofit called American Atheists. She was a regular on TV talk shows and at one point toured the country debating a televangelist, played in the film by Peter Fonda.

Leo throws herself into the role, donning a fat suit for O’Hair in her later years when her girth widened substantially. And she doesn’t hold back on the anger or bluster. It’s almost shocking to see the early O’Hair, so out of place with her outspokenness and so unapologetic about her personal circumstances.

The movie opens with O’Hair telling her parents that she’s going to have yet another child out of wedlock. She has Bill Murray Jr., and a son named Garth is on the way.

Her deeply religious parents are appalled, of course, but O’Hair doesn’t flinch. And when she accompanies Bill Jr. to school one day and hears a teacher leading the students in the Lord’s Prayer, she starts yelling at the teacher and promising to put a stop to what she sees as a violation of church and state separation.

Nearly every man in O’Hair’s life, except for her youngest son Garth, betrays her. The first betrayals, of course, are from the men who don’t step up to help father their sons. But O’Hair suffers another setback when her oldest son, Bill, decides to become a Christian and disassociate himself from the family.

Then there’s David Waters, played by Josh Lucas, whom O’Hair groomed to take over the family business. Waters and O’Hair had a falling out eventually, and Waters came up with the scheme to kidnap O’Hair, her son Garth and her granddaughter Robin and demand that they turn over assets held in a supposedly secret account in New Zealand.

When the three disappear, a family associate notices their house is empty and that the dogs have been left behind, unattended. So he’s naturally alarmed. But law enforcement officials simply suspect that O’Hair has taken off for New Zealand to enjoy some time away from home. Then the passports are found, and then the family friend contacts a reporter in San Antonio, and finally, people begin to take matters seriously.

Meanwhile, the O’Hair family is still being held captive until a tragic event one night unleashes a fury that will leave all of them dead.

Leo’s final scenes in the film are heartbreaking, as she realizes what is happening. And you almost think that there will be some kind of redemption, some kind of grace, if O’Hair would ever accept such a concept. But Leo plays the scene note-perfect. And you know the tragedy will not be softened.

As Waters, Lucas has the second-strongest role. He captures the quintessential handsomeness and sleaziness that’s necessary. And Fonda is a hoot as a televangelist who challenges O’Hair to accompany him on a road show. It wasn’t O’Hair’s finest hour, ethically, but she did what she had to do, as Leo shows so well.

“The Most Hated Woman in America” premieres on Netflix on March 24. It screens again at SXSW at 11:30 a.m. March 18 at the Zach Theatre.

Texas ties run strong in these SXSW films

Pierce Brosnan stars in “The Son.” Contributed

Some were shot here. Some come from filmmakers who live here. And one is set in the Austin music scene (though our critic begs to differ). These are some of the movies with ties to Texas that screened at South by Southwest.

“The Son”: Based on the 2013 novel by Austin’s Philipp Meyer, shot in Central Texas, set in Texas — this TV series, coming to AMC on April 8, could only get more “Texas” if you threw in a cameo from Willie Nelson riding on Bevo while eating some Blue Bell. Pierce Brosnan plays the family patriarch; critic Charles Ealy says “he’s an archetype, of course, but what a complex character, whom Brosnan fully captures in the first two episodes of the new season.”

REVIEW: Get ready: ‘The Son’ might be the next great Texas TV series

“Song to Song”: SXSW’s opening night movie, from Austin director Terrence Malick, is “a modern love story set against the Austin, Texas, music scene.” But according to our critic Joe Gross, it “is a movie about Austin the way “Star Wars” is about Tunisia — it was shot there, but in terms of the flavor of the place, it might as well have been a matte painting.”

REVIEW: The gorgeous ‘Song to Song’ has little to do with music or Austin

“Disgraced”: This Showtime documentary is about the 2003 murder of college basketball player Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson and the accusations that followed against Baylor University and head coach Dave Bliss.

REVIEW: ‘Disgraced’ will leave you disgusted with Dave Bliss and Baylor University

“The Honor Farm”: This is Austin director Karen Skloss’ first narrative feature, “a story that subverts every aspect of the horror genre, not in a satirical way but in a sweet and very mushroom-trippy way.”

REVIEW: ‘Honor Farm’ delightfully subverts horror genre at SXSW

“Infinity Baby”: Austin-based filmmaker Bob Byington has created what critic Matt Shiverdecker calls “a gleefully sardonic comedy sharply observed in black-and-white across our fair city.” It stars Kieran Culkan, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Martin Starr and Noël Wells.

REVIEW: ‘Infinity Baby’ mines futuristic concept for sharply observed laughs

“Walking Out”: This feature from brothers Alex and Andrew Smith (one a current Austinite, the other a former) tells “an intense story of survival against the odds, an unexpectedly emotional journey” and stars Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins.

REVIEW: ‘Walking Out’ is a bold and unexpectedly emotional tale of survival

“La Barracuda”: This thriller from Austin-based directors Julia Halperin and Jason Cortlund is about half-sisters who meet for the first time, and how that affects the extended family; it features lots of Texas music and some tracks live at the Saxon Pub.

REVIEW: Familial deception is at the heart of Austin-based film ‘La Barracuda’

 

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‘Honor Farm’ delightfully subverts horror genre at SXSW

What a cool idea for a movie: Tell a story that subverts every aspect of the horror genre, not in a satirical way but in a sweet and very mushroom-trippy way.

That’s the essence of Austin director Karen Skloss’ “The Honor Farm,” which is part of the Midnighters section at South by Southwest.

This is Skloss’ first narrative feature, after a documentary feature about being an unwed mother called “Sunshine,” but you can’t tell it by what’s on screen. It’s quite good.

The story focuses on two friends, Lucy (Olivia Applegate) and Annie (Katie Folger), who are going to prom with a couple of guys. Lucy, who has been a “good girl” all her life, is expected to go to bed with her boyfriend, the football team’s quarterback. But Lucy thinks she’s just going through some hollow ritual and wonders whether it’s worth it. She gets her answer when her boyfriend gets blind drunk and makes a move that’s stupid.

Lucy has enough sense to bail on the guy, and Annie has enough sense of adventure to accept an invitation from a group of edgy, gothy-looking kids to go to a party at an “honor farm” where prisoners were tortured, the ghosts still inhabiting the abandoned structure.

Once they go into the woods, they find some other folks who are already there, and one of them is the hunky JD, played by Louis Hunter, who offers a sensitive alternative to the drunken quarterback back at the prom.

And suddenly, coming of age doesn’t seem as scary as it once did for Lucy. But there’s this big problem. All of them have eaten psychedelic mushrooms, and their imaginations are running wild in a place where craziness has happened in the past. Will it happen again? Or will JD and Lucy find a bond that brings them through the night safely?

Applegate, a Houston native and University of Texas graduate, is a joy to watch, with a slight Diane Keaton goofiness and intellectuality. And she pairs well with the JD character played by Hunter, who’s about as far from a quarterback type as you can imagine, but still hunky.

The supporting cast, including Folger and Dora Madison Burge as Laila, are also excellent. There’s a chemistry among all the characters who go into the woods, with one exception — a rather creepy dentist. Poor dentists. They never get a break on the big screen.

“The Honor Farm” screens again at 9:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Alamo South and at 12:15 p.m. Thursday at the Alamo South.

Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor host “T2 Trainspotting” secret screening at SXSW

Director Danny Boyle and star Ewan McGregor hopped on stage at an absolutely jammed Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on Sunday night to host the (not quite secret) SXSW secret screening of Boyle’s “T2 Trainspotting,” the sequel to the groundbreaking 1996 film.

The movie itself was an emotional wipeout, a kinetic snapshot of iconic characters 20 years on: Mark Renton (in Amsterdam for lo these many years), Sick Boy (now a pimp known by his given name, Simon), Franco Begbie (in prison for a looong time) and Spud Murphy, who still struggles with his addictions.

When Renton returns to Edinburgh for the first time in decades, it is time to look up old flames and settle some scores.

Then again, as Boyle noted in the Q&A afterward, moderated by Austin director Richard Linklater (who has been all over the place this SXSW), the movie is mostly about “how badly men age.

“Women age much more sensibly,” Boyle said. Men just sort of hang on to things, and when they hit middle-age, they start spending a whole lot of time looking back and only vaguely looking ahead at what’s next, he said.

Boyle also noted how “bizarre” it was to see these four actors (McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner and Robert Carlyle) click back into character and chemistry.

McGregor noted that he started work on the film about a week after everyone else and since the film’s mantra was, as Boyle put it, “This better not be (expletive),” McGregor was nervous that he wasn’t going to lock in to Renton.

But he ran into Bremner (Spud) at a meal break, who told him not worry, that once he got on set, Renton would be “right there.” Which he was.

If there is one theme to the film, Boyle said, it’s that “time doesn’t care about you.”

Amen.

RELATED: READ THE FULL REVIEW FOR T2 TRAINSPOTTING

 

‘Empire’ creator Lee Daniels gets emotional at SXSW keynote

Director/producer Lee Daniels gave an emotional keynote address to SXSW on Sunday, detailing how he grew up in a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia, how he learned to fend for himself, how he eventually attended college, only to leave early because he wanted to head to Hollywood.

He talked of living in the back of a church, staging plays and finally getting a full-time job at a nursing agency, where he worked the phones and used his “white voice.” Then he realized that he could set up his own nursing agency, so he did. And then he realized he wanted to fulfill his dream of working in Hollywood, so he sold the agency and got a P.A. job on a new project. That project just happened to be Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

The rest is history, as they say. He was pushy. He was honest. Prince liked him. Warner Bros., where he was working, didn’t. He was hired, fired, rehired. You get the idea. He spoke his mind and was honest. And he eventually rose to the ranks, so much so that he branched out and became the producer of “Monster’s Ball,” which went on to earn an Oscar for its star, Halle Berry.

He followed that up with various movies, including “Precious,” starring Gabourey Sidibe, and “The Paperboy,” starring Matthew McConaughey. He also has most recently started working in TV, with the hit shows “Empire.”

Along the way of telling his life story – and during his question-and-answer session afterward – Daniels made a few comments that might attract attention, notably that he didn’t quit understand the #oscarsowhite movement. He said that he didn’t think Hollywood owed him anything — and that he really owed himself something. But he added that he understood the racism, and wasn’t trying to deny it.

He also said that the Trump administration might be good for Hollywood, because it might spur creativity. And he revealed that he complained to Oprah Winfrey after the premiere of his latest series, “Star,” which didn’t have quite the audience numbers of “Empire.” She thought he was being a bit much, saying he was acting like “a petulant child” and that the show’s numbers were solid.

And then, in another emotional moment late in the session, Daniels was reuninted with his p “Precious” star, Sidibe, who had been sitting in the audience unannounced. He called her up on stage.

Daniels asked how he was doing, and she said he was doing okay for someone who didn’t finish college.

 

‘Divine Divas’ salutes groundbreaking Brazilian artists

With all of the bathroom debate going on at the state Capitol in Austin, SXSW has decided to highlight a new documentary about Brazilian performers who were born male and pursued a life of dressing up as women and singing — and “acting!”

“Divine Divas” tracks the lives of the first generation of Brazilian transvestite and drag artists of the 1960s. And yes, there’s a difference between transvestites and drag artists, and that difference can be easily Googled. But this documentary includes both. Some are transgender as well, although this word apparently isn’t used in Brazil the same way it’s used in the United States. It’s complicated.

They all started performing a generation ago at the Rival Theatre in Rio de Janeiro, one of the first venues to embrace such artists. It was founded by Americo Leal, the grandfather of the director of “Divine Divas,” Leandra Leal.

The rise of such divas in Rio was highly controversial, as the director points out, in part because the performers challenged the rigid moral standards of a military dictatorship and insisted on individual freedoms.

“Divine Divas” brings eight of these performers back together again after they have entered their 70s. And it celebrates their 50 years as performers.

They get to tell their stories, and no two stories are exactly alike. Some have chosen to have hormone treatments. Some chose to have surgery. Some live as women. Some do not. It’s complicated, as life usually is. But there’s a general enjoyment of life, with few regrets.

The performers sing their own songs, and some are quite good. The documentary takes us behind the scenes to show how some of the people transform themselves into their stage presences. And they talk of the difficulties they faced when they were much younger.

In the press notes for the movie, the director says she “understood that each of their lives — every one of them — was a work of art, but also a political gesture. As artists, they allowed themselves to build a new identity, to sculpt their bodies to be on stage, to live from their dreams and, for that matter, to live the great spectacle of being who you truly are.”

Now that’s a great line — living the great spectacle of being who you truly are.

“Divine Divas” screens at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Alamo South.

 

 

‘Pornocracy’ follows the changes in porn world

“Pornocracy” takes a look at the porn industry from a self-described feminist perspective, so you might think it would be anti-porn. Not so fast.

The director is France’s one-name phenomenon and so-called “porn-star intellectual” Ovidie.

In a Q&A from the press kit, Ovidie describes how she Googled herself one day and found “certain pirated videos featuring me in them” and that they were on “Tube” sites, and that “it was impssible to get them taken off. “Some of the videos were from films I performed in toward the end of the ’90s, films that only had a few hundred copies made — they had suddenly resurfaced and been seen by upwards of several million people,” she told interviewer Jason Whyte.

If you’re wondering about specific examples of such “Tube” sites, one such site, Ovidie contends, is called “pornhub.”

By the time of this discovery, Ovidie had moved into film production and direction, with lots of studies and research devoted to erotica, which eventually led her to complete her dissertation. So Ovidie began to collect information about sites, and it turned into an international investigation as well as the new documentary.

The essential point of the documentary is this: that websites showing amateur and pirated clips have transformed the way porn is made and consumed — and that a group of programmers have hijacked the adult industry to creat a multinational corporation that has a big influence on the international industry.

So, what has been the influence: Ovidie contends that traditional porn studios are closing, and actresses “are forced to shoot increasingly hardcore scenes for less and less money and protections.”

It’s a challenging documentary, and it doesn’t address head-on some of the feminist criticism of porn. Instead, Ovidie thinks that pornography should not be left purely in the hands of men.

“Pornocracy” will not please such feminist critics. Then again, SXSW has always been about stirring up controversy and presenting different points of view. With “Pornocracy,” the festival has succeeded.

“Pornocracy” screens again at 9:30 p.m. Monday at the Alamo South and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Stateside Theatre.