Sure, Matthew McConaughey reportedly put on more than 40 pounds to get into character as Kenny Wells, the somewhat sketchy fellow at the heart of “Gold.” He hit the cheeseburgers, and he hit them hard.
But what really jumps out at you is his hair, a comb-over with that sort of half-halo thing about the back that some men get. It is … not the most flattering look. It is extremely unexpected to see on a movie star.
“I haven’t told anyone else this. I went to the hair lady, said, ‘It’s this guy’s hair,’ and handed her a picture of Dana Holgorsen,” McConaughey said, laughing uproariously.
Holgorsen, for those not versed in the ins and outs of college football, is the current head coach at West Virginia. He did time in various offensive coordinator gigs at Oklahoma State, Houston and Texas Tech.
In the future, Academy, we the people expect to see two live Hollywood types, at 5:18 a.m. Pacific time, reading from a teleprompter, looking like they were unhooked from an IV of coffee 30 seconds before air-time. #OscarsSoLazy!
Here are a few things we learned:
Black people exist: Unlike last year’s horrifyingly white nominee slate, talent of color and films directly relating to the African-American experience were decently represented this year. “Hidden Figures,” “Moonlight” and “Fences” all received best picture nods.
Director Barry Jenkins was nominated for “Moonlight.” Ruth Negga nabbed a best actress nomination for “Loving.” Denzel Washington and Viola Davis both received acting nominations for “Fences,” while the brilliant Mahershala Ali (for “Moonlight”) and British-Indian actor Dev Patel (for “Lion”) received best supporting actor noms. Other supporting actress nominees included Naomie Harris (for “Moonlight”) and Octavia Spencer (for “Hidden Figures”). #OscarsSoWoke?
The Academy really, really liked “La La Land:” The musical landed 14 nominations, which ties it with “All About Eve” (1950) and movie-that-made-Leo-DiCaprio “Titanic” (1997). The Damien Chazelle-directed ode to “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (and, yes, fine, old Hollywood musicals) received nods in every major category, including best picture, best director, best actor, best actress, best cinematography, best costume, best original score, TWO for best original song an best original screenplay. #OscarSoIntoSlightlyFlatRyanGosling
Streaming services are players: Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester By the Sea,” produced by Amazon Studios, picked up six nominations (best picture, best director, Casey Affleck for lead actor, Lucas Hedges for supporting actor, Michelle Williams for supporting actress, and best original screenplay). Never before has a streaming service gotten a best picture nomination. #OscarsSoIntoNetflixAndChill
The documentary category remains incredibly strong: Speaking of streaming (and African-American talent, for that matter), the Netflix-produced “The 13th” from Ava DuVernay, a stunning look at how slavery morphed into the prison-industrial complex, picked up a nomination, as did “I Am Not Your Negro,” the award-winning “Fire at Sea,” the autism journey “Life, Animated,” and the epic, essential “OJ: Made in America.”
Not a lot of love for “Loving:” There was a bit of Oscar buzz last year for Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols’ “Loving.” It picked up exactly one nomination, a best actress nod for Ruth Negga’s performance as Mildred Loving. Dang.
Disney revealed today that “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is the title of Episode VIII in the Star Wars saga.
This, naturally, prompted many fans to ask: Of whom is the title speaking?
Is it Luke, who certainly seemed to be the last Jedi standing after “Return of the Jedi?” Last we saw him, a bearded Luke was hanging out on an island all by himself, recently tracked down by Rey. But wasn’t he training new Jedi when he went into exile?
Is it Rey, who is clearly Force-sensitive? Rey’s parentage has been the subject of fan debate since “The Force Awakens” came out in 2015. Is she Luke’s daughter? Is she Han and Leia’s? Or is neither true?
Is it Kylo Ren, the artist formerly known as Ben Solo? He was last seen reppin’ hard for the First Order and murdering his father. He certainly seems Jedi-like but is more of a Sith fellow, what with his allegiance to the Knights of Ren and all.
Whom do YOU think is the last Jedi?
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is written and directed by Rian Johnson and is scheduled for release December 15, 2017.
But Austin spirit animal Matthew McConaughey mingled at an invite-only cocktail party at the Highball on Thursday before introducing his new film “Gold,” his inspired-by-true-events film about a 1980s precious metals prospector named Kenny Wells who, with a geologist partner, heads to Indonesia to make his proverbial fortune.
Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League introduced McConaughey by big-upping not “Dazed and Confused,” the traditional starting place for talking about McConaughey, but by discussing his “intense screen presence” in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” (except for the robotic leg; nobody liked that leg).
McConaughey introduced “Gold,” a project he had been developing for five or six years before getting director Stephen Gaghan to sign on, by telling a great story about his dad. When McConaughey was 17 years old, he and his dad went out to get “stocking stuffers” for the holiday season.
He and his dad head off to a parking lot, at which McConaughey Senior introduced his son to a man named Chicago John, who had a variety of items in the back of a van (“microwaves, hair dryers”). McConaughey said his father purchased an item from this gentleman. McConaughey couldn’t see what it was, but it was the sort of thing for which one peels off stacks of bills and one wraps in a bunch of paper towels.
“I don’t know if I’ve got a ferret or what,” McConaughey said. He and Matthew get back in their car, the item stuffed in the glove box. Said McConaughey Senior to son: “See if it’s still in there.”
McConaughey unwraps it. It’s a watch. “‘That’s a $22,000 titanium Rolex I just bought for $3,000,’ Dad said.
“Now, that watch was probably not worth $500,” McConaughey said, “but my dad loved a shady deal,” the sort that captures the spirit of Kenny Wells, whom McConaughey said is his favorite character he has ever played.
The extremely enjoyable “Gold” opens Jan. 27. Look for a review of the movie before that date.
The space the original Alamo Drafthouse theater once called home is on the rental market.
In the heart of Austin’s Warehouse District, the second floor space at 409 Colorado St. was most recently used as a nightclub. But longtime Austinites remember the space as the original location of their favorite movie theater chain. Tim and Karrie League opened the first Alamo Drafthouse in the space in 1997, and it remained there for 10 years until moving to the Ritz Theater on Sixth Street due to high rental costs in the Warehouse District.
“Uses include creative office, bar, restaurant, nightclub, brewery, theater, comedy club, day spa, entertainment venue, gaming venue, bocce, arcade, cocktail lounge, ping-pong social, bowling, musical performance, music venue, corporate event space, art gallery.”
But those 8,100 square feet won’t come cheap. The Downtown Austin Alliance lists the lease rate at $34 per square foot per year, which means you’ll have to shell out $275,400 a year (that’s $22,950 a month) if you’d like to turn the space into your next business venture. Not to mention they’d like you to commit to a long-term lease of five, seven or 10 years in order to rent the space. No big deal.
“Silence,” Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation of the Japanese novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo, goes in wide release today. Long touted as Scorsese’s most passionate passion project, the nearly three-hour epic finds the director who once considered a life in the priesthood again examining age-old questions of faith and doubt.
The book it’s based on, written in 1966 and translated to English in 1969, is a tale of two Portuguese Jesuits — Sebastião Rodrigues and Francisco Garrpe— who venture to 17th century Japan to find their mentor, Father Cristóvão Ferreira, rumored to have given up the faith under the crushing weight of Japan’s persecution of Christians.
The book has been considered a hallmark of religious fiction since its release and has sparked multiple stage and film adaptations besides Scorsese’s.
Darren Middleton, a professor of religion at Texas Christian University, has studied and taught Endo’s “Silence” at the college level for nearly 20 years and also routinely teaches classes on Jesus in fiction and film and theology and literature. When rumors about the long-gestating Scorsese adaptation became reality, he saw the opportunity to comment on a new phase of the novel’s life, and put together an essay anthology.
“I wrote a book about ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ back in 2005 and I got (Scorsese) to do an afterword on that, so I figured he’d want to be involved in this one, too,” Middleton said.
“Endo’s novel confronts the mystery of Christian faith, and by extension the mystery of faith itself,” Scorsese writes in the afterword.
Middleton, himself a recent convert to Catholicism, says he thinks “Silence” continues to strike a chord as a subject because of its importance to Christians who are looking for an outlet that understands their faith as well as their doubt.
A key plot point in “Silence” is Rodrigues’ struggle with whether to renounce his faith and trample on a fumi-e, a bronze icon with the face of Christ or Mary on it, in order to save the lives of his parishioners who are being persecuted by the Japanese government.
“I think it endures because I think thoughtful Christians, those who ponder their faith seriously, can find a series of themes that are rooted in Catholic history but also call out to us from across the centuries, and they have applicability to our lives,” Middleton said. “When I can see a Jesus who is human, and a priest who is human, who is struggling with their faith, it gives me hope for my struggle. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. Now I know it’s OK to struggle with my faith. My faith is not meant to be perfect, and it can’t be this side of the grave.
“At its core, the book and the film are asking the question: What would Jesus do? In some ways, it’s a cliche, like those groovy little WWJD bracelets that people used to wear. But it’s the age-old question, what would Christ do in any given situation? The problem, of course, is that the answer is not clear-cut, and it’s never really been clear-cut.”
Scorsese’s “Silence” is the first film about religion to go into wide release in 2017, a year that will see the release of a film adaptation of “The Shack” and a biopic of famed Christian apologist Lee Strobel, among others. Middleton hasn’t seen the film yet, but he’s excited about what it might do for Christian theatergoers.
“I certainly understand the draw of ‘feel good’ Christian movies,” he said. “They tend toward edification, for the most part, since they appear to give glory to God and because they seek to inspire the faithful.
“But, if Jesus the Christ challenges Christians to take up their cross and follow him, is it not instructive to see what this might look like, in the flesh-and-blood descriptive way that films offer, however arduous or difficult the movie is to watch? I think so.
“It’s important for Christians to see films, and to read novels, that challenge them instead of reinforcing their beliefs. …Try not to settle. Churchy echo chambers serve no one. Not really. And part of loving the Lord with all one’s mind involves considering those questions whose answers do not come easily, if they come at all.”
“Silence” is now in wide release and is playing at Alamo South and Arbor theaters.
No matter the year, there are always people who think it’s been a horrible one for movies. If you’re going only to the multiplex and taking in what the major studios are selling, I can understand why. With the help of a multitude of local film festivals and more access than ever to independent titles through streaming and VOD providers, I managed to take in 256 movies in 2016. While things were fairly slow to get ramped up, I found a lot to admire on the big screen in 2016 and ended with a list of more than 50 titles to recommend from my movie-going experiences. Here is that list, narrowed down to the top 10, several of which will factor into the Academy Awards coming up on Feb. 26.
1. “La La Land”: Director Damien Chazelle’s ode to musicals of yesteryear had me in its sights from the opening moments and the display of the old 20th Century Fox Cinemascope logo. It’s gorgeously shot and ridiculously charming, almost entirely because of the casting of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (previously paired in 2011’s “Crazy, Stupid, Love”). It’s a love letter to Los Angeles, but also immediately identifiable to anybody who has ever kept on going even though they were close to giving up on their dreams.
2. “Moonlight”: I was a huge fan of Barry Jenkins’ 2008 film “Medicine for Melancholy” but didn’t imagine he would create a follow-up film that is so bold, brave and poetic. With the life of main character Chiron split into three distinct periods, we are able to bear witness to his evolution and struggles. Audiences have embraced this film in a way that I didn’t expect for a story primarily about growing up poor, black and gay. It illustrates how universal many of our experiences are and, I hope, has given some viewers a much-needed lesson in empathy.
3. “20th Century Women”: Mike Mills is an expert at crafting an intensely personal family story. The phenomenal Annette Bening stars as a single mother trying to understand her teenage son as he grows up. It’s probably my favorite performance of her career (and that’s saying something). This film has an inherent tenderness and all of the supporting performances are stellar, with terrific roles inhabited by Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning and newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann. Combined with an expertly curated soundtrack, it’s a wonderfully progressive semi-autobiographical tale.
4. “The Lobster”: Colin Farrell gives a fearless performance in this English-language debut feature from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. It’s an absurdly comic yarn about a dystopian future where single people are forced into finding love or risk being turned into an animal (of their choosing). It’s absolutely crazy and the comedy is super dry and occasionally bleak. Even after multiple viewings I’ve found myself thoroughly in love with it.
5. “Elle”: Speaking of bleak, I walked out of a press screening of Paul Verhoeven’s latest and was legitimately terrified of my reaction to it. I loved the bravura performance from Isabelle Huppert, but how could I justify the film’s sexual politics? “Elle” also utilizes a few different storylines with the controversial rape-revenge thread being only one aspect (although certainly the most polarizing). Ultimately, I cannot imagine the movie working without Huppert, who takes on an unlikeable and boldly vulnerable character and gives it great complexity and power.
6. “Arrival”: French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is becoming a true auteur, and his body of work gets stronger with each new release. He’s managed to make an unintentional Hollywood blockbuster with this sci-fi thriller, which makes sense because he financed and shot it independently before selling the distribution rights to Paramount. Amy Adams (who is also excellent in “Nocturnal Animals”) carries nearly every frame of this film and makes everything work, even if you might have to suspend disbelief at the notion of Jeremy Renner as a theoretical physicist.
7. “Sing Street”: John Carney’s latest film was one of the most joyous experiences I had at the movies all year. Set in Dublin, Ireland, in the mid-80s, it tells the story of a teenage boy who starts a band to impress the girl of his dreams. The soundtrack is filmed with showstopping tracks like “Ride It Like You Stole It,” which I hope will manage an Oscar nomination this year for best original song.
8. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”: Aging out of the foster care system, Ricky Baker is a hip-hop loving kid growing up in the margins of New Zealand. Just when it appears as though his luck has changed, the rug gets pulled out from underneath him again. He ends up on the run with his new foster uncle and they’re forced to help each other survive. In terms of laugh-out-loud moments, only the far more vulgar “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” came close to matching this one during the year.
9. “Toni Erdmann”: Here comes one of those movies that festivalgoers have been raving about for months. I caught this darkly comic German film at Fantastic Fest and consider it almost impossible to explain. With a running time just shy of three hours, it’s something that many viewers will not have the patience for (I suspect there will be some frustrated audience members walking out when the movie opens in Austin). If you do give in to its many charms, you’ll find a movie that simply breezes by. I loved that it deals with what happens when a person moves far away from their hometown and family members to discover a new life and how those left behind often don’t understand the motivations why.
10. “O.J.: Made In America”: Clocking in at nearly eight hours, Ezra Edelman’s revelatory examination of the infamous O.J. Simpson murder trial has a lot more on its mind than “did he or didn’t he.” At the intersection of celebrity and true crime comes a genuinely prescient look at race and class and how those divisions determined the lens through which you viewed what happened in this case. In a time where binge-watching is king, this lengthy documentary is worth tackling.
Holiday movies, summer movies — we all know about those. But what about movies that come out early in the year?
Here are a few we’re looking forward to in the next few months:
“Sleepless”: A remake of the French thriller “Sleepless Night,” Jamie Foxx and T.I. are corrupt Las Vegas cops who are searching for a kidnapped child, who happens to be the son of one of the cops. No! Sleep! Till … finding a kidnapper!
“Fifty Shades Darker”: Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in this sequel to 2015 epic “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which is one of the funniest movies of this decade (probably not intentionally).
“Logan”: James Mangold directs Hugh Jackman in his final turn as the legendary Marvel Comics mutant Wolverine. Based loosely on the comic book miniseries “Old Man Logan” by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, “Logan” concerns an aged Wolverine in the post-apocalyptic future. Many mutants are dead; somehow Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier is still alive. The trailer was terrific, complete with striking, melancholic use of Johnny Cash’s “Hurt.”
“T2 Trainspotting”: Reportedly based loosely on “Porno,” Irving Welsh’s 2002 sequel to “Trainspotting,” Danny Boyles’ “T2” takes place 20 years later (probably around 2008 or so). “Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family” has morphed into “Choose life. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently. And choose watching history repeat itself.” We are keeping our fingers crossed.
“The Circle”: Based on the 2013 sci-fi novel by Dave Eggers, “The Circle” stars Emma Watson as a new employee at a very Facebook-ish (and increasingly creepy) company called the Circle. With Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Patton Oswalt and Bill Paxton.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”: And here we have the unofficial kickoff to the summer blockbuster season, part two of Marvel/Disney’s smash hit space opera-via-superheroes story of ragtag adventurers at the cosmic end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The whole gang is back: Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, (Baby) Groot and Rocket Racoon.
Other movies and shows announced for SXSW Film include:
“Spettacolo,” Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen’s lyrical portrait of a tiny hill town in Tuscany”; Signature Move” starring Fawzia Mirza, a coming-of-age Muslim melodrama from first-time filmmaker Jennifer Reeder; and “Residente,” Latin American director René Pérez Joglar’s chronicle of his global exploration of his genetic roots.
Also look for the world premiere of Neil Gaiman’s TV show “American Gods,” based on his massively successful novel of the same name.
Viacom NEXT’s “The Melody of Dust” is the first announced project in SXSW Film’s new VR/AR strand.
The almost-complete film festival lineup will be announced Jan. 31. Midnighter features and Short Films will be announced Feb. 7.
Director: David Slade; Screenwriters: Bryan Fuller, Michael Green
Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel, “American Gods” follows Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) in a magical world where a battle is brewing between the Old Gods and the New Gods.
“The Melody of Dust” (World premiere)
Director: Viacom NEXT
A musical journey for the HTC Vive. Explore a mysterious world where every object contains a unique melody. Featuring original musical compositions by Hot Sugar, this experience brings you inside the tortured mind of a musician.
“Residente” (World premiere)
Director: René Pérez Joglar
After taking a DNA test, Latin America’s most decorated artist, Rene Perez (aka Residente), embarks on a global adventure to trace the footsteps of his ancestors and record his latest album.
“Signature Move” (World premiere)
Director: Jennifer Reeder; Screenwriters: Fawzia Mirza, Lisa Donato
A secret new romance with Alma forces Zaynab to confront her complicated relationship with her recently widowed mother. In this coming-of-age Muslim melodrama, Zaynab copes by taking up Lucha-style wrestling. Starring Fawzia Mirza, Shabana Azmi, Sari Sanchez, Audrey Francis, Charin Alvarez, Mark Hood, Molly Brennan
“Small Town Crime” (World premiere)
Directors/Screenwriters: Eshom Nelms, Ian Nelms
Ex-cop, Mike Kendall, finds the body of a young woman and, in an act of self-redemption, becomes hellbent on finding the killer. While his uncouth, quirky detective style helps break the case, his dogged determination puts his family in danger. Starring John Hawkes, Anthony Anderson, Octavia Spencer, Robert Forster, Clifton Collins Jr.
“Song To Song” (World premiere)
Director: Terrence Malick
In this modern love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye and BV, and music mogul Cook and the waitress whom he ensnares — chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal. Starring Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman
“Spettacolo” (World premiere)
Directors: Jeff Malmberg, Chris Shellen; Screenwriter: Chris Shellen
For the past 50 years, the villagers of a tiny hill town in Tuscany have turned their lives into a play that the entire town writes and performs. “Spettacolo” is a portrait of this tradition through the eyes of the last man trying to keep it alive.