Oct. 23--The Austin Film Festival and Conference screens 240 movies over the next seven days and welcomes more than 150 panelists. We sort through just a few of the highlights and tell you some of the movies and panels we're planning to hit during the festival. Times and venues are subject to change. For a complete list of times and locations, visit AustinFilmFestival.com.
Deconstructing "Dr. Strangelove"
AFF introduces a new series this year in which writers and directors break down some cinema classics. Here "John Adams" miniseries writer Kirk Ellis and AFF regular Jim Uhls, screenwriter of the darkly comic "Fight Club," deconstruct one of the great dark comedies in movie history. 9 a.m. Friday at the Driskill Hotel, Maximilian Room.
The Kings of Sit-Comedy
Want to learn how to make American TV audiences laugh (and make a bajillion dollars in the process)? Lee Aronsohn (co-creator of "Two and a Half Men"), Phil Rosenthal (creator of "Everybody Loves Raymond") and Peter Mehlman (co-executive producer of "Seinfeld") discuss the secrets to writing comedy for television. 10:45 a.m. Friday at the Driskill Hotel, Maximilian Room.
Always a fascinating panel theme, the script-to-screen conversations allow audiences the chance to enter the mind of the storyteller and follow the process of how a movie gets made. Here Rian Johnson ("Looper") dissects his high school noir break-out debut, "Brick." 10:45 a.m. Friday at Stephen F. Austin Ballroom.
"X-Men: First Class" writer Ashley Miller and the always engaging John August ("Big Fish") team up to tackle Dan O'Bannon's brilliant screenplay that helped change the science-fiction/horror game. 1:45 p.m. Friday at the Driskill Hotel, Maximilian Room.
A Conversation with Vince Gilligan
The hottest screenwriter in America right now, Gilligan could probably walk into a studio and persuade them to make a live-action version of the cartoon "Ziggy." This is sure to be one of the hottest tickets of the festival, as people cram in to get insight into the genius who created one of the best dramas in television history. (That's "Breaking Bad," for those of you living under a rock the past few years.) 9 a.m. Saturday at Stephen F. Austin Hotel Ballroom.
The Neo Noir
Film noir may be tied to the 1940s and 50s, but the storytelling elements of the genre still make for fascinating filmmaking. Shane Black, whose wonderful "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" blended noir and modern humor, is joined by "Mystic River" screenwriter Brian Helgeland to discuss the techniques and aesthetics of the neo-noir. 9 a.m. Saturday at the Driskill Hotel Ballroom.
Horton Foote: A Case Study
Accomplished script supervisor and screenwriter Anne Rapp is planning a documentary on the late Horton Foote, the man behind the screenplays for "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Tender Mercies." Legendary newsman Dan Rather has signed on to produce, and the two Texans come together here to trace the career of the prolific Foote and his place in American letters. 12:45 p.m. Saturday at the Driskill Hotel, Maximilian Room.
A Conversation with the 2013 Awardees
If you only hit one big conversation all weekend, it would have to be this one. Where else are you going to get award-winners Jonathan Demme ("The Silence of the Lambs"), Callie Khouri ("Nashville"), Barry Josephson ("Bones"), Susan Sarandon (take your pick of great performances) and Vince Gilligan ("Breaking Bad") under one roof talking about craft and their professional histories? Nowhere. (Well, the awards luncheon, but that thing is way sold out, so this is your next-best bet.) 2:15 p.m. Saturday at Stephen F. Austin Ballroom.
Vince Gilligan Presents: A Special Staged Script Reading of "2 Face"
"Looper" filmmaker Rian Johnson directs a script reading of the "Breaking Bad" maestro's unproduced dark comedy about a man with a split personality disorder who finds himself taking opposing sides of the political spectrum. The cast stars Will Ferrell, Linda Cardellini and Thomas Haden Church. Better get in line early for this one. 2 p.m. Sunday at the State Theatre.
Jonathan Demme Presents: "Greaser's Palace"
This may seem like a bit of a head-scratcher, but it's one of the things that makes AFF what it is. The "Philadelphia" director presents a 1972 cult film parable about the life of Christ directed by Robert Downey Sr. What made him pick this movie? Stick around for the Q&A with Demme and "The Master" director Paul Thomas Anderson and find out. 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the State Theatre.
"August: Osage County"
Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor star in this dark and moving family drama from Pulitzer-winning playwright Tracy Letts. 6 p.m. Friday at Galaxy Highland.
Bruce Dern is getting Oscar buzz for his role in this story about a father (Dern) and son (Will Forte) who travel across four states to collect a (presumed) lottery windfall. Will be nice to see Forte work his dramatic chops after a great career on "Saturday Night Live." 7 p.m. Friday at the Paramount Theatre.
This New Zealand film making its U.S. premiere at AFF has been described to me as the "comedic version of 'Trainspotting.'" Sold. The story follows four friends -- a priest, a psychologist, an actor and a used car salesmen -- who get hooked on methamphetamine. By accident. 10 p.m. Friday at the State Theatre and 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Alamo Village.
Film festivals offer the chance to see strange and fascinating documentaries about subjects you probably would never expect. To wit: this world premiere about the world of obsessive doll collectors. 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Alamo Village and 7 p.m. Monday at Galaxy Highland.
"Cold Comes the Night"
It's always curious to see what choices actors make after leaving behind a character that defined their career, so it will be interesting to see Bryan Cranston put down Walter White for this story of a nearly blind Polish criminal. It's billed as a tale of "desperation and survival." Something tells me Cranston will feel right at home. 9:45 p.m. Saturday at Galaxy Highland.
"Take Away One"
Longtime TV editor William Lorton's documentary attempts to uncover the details of the unsolved murder of his aunt, Mary Baratta-Lorton, a revolutionary math teacher from the San Francisco Bay Area. Lorton will be in attendance for the world premiere. 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Rollins Theatre and 4 p.m. Monday at Alamo Village.
This is the world premiere of the gothic story about a troubled high school beset with mysterious violence, adapted from Jane Mendelsohn's popular young adult novel of the same name. 10:30 p.m. Saturday at the State and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Bob Bullock State History Museum IMAX.
"All of Me"
Alexandra Lescaze's Austin-shot documentary details the friendship of a group of women who met via the Austin chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance before going through the life-changing process of weight-loss surgery. 3 p.m. Sunday at Galaxy Highland and 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Rollins.
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
The Coen brothers turn their dark humor on the folk scene in New York City in 1961, focusing on a talented but overlooked musician named Llewyn Davis. Star Oscar Isaac will be in attendance. 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Paramount.
"12 Years a Slave"
British director Steve McQueen turns his critical lens on that most peculiar institution of American history -- slavery. It's unapologetic, brutal and hard to watch, but a necessary update to cinema's misguided treatment of the issue. 7 p.m. Wednesday at Galaxy Highland.
The Austin Film Festival runs through Oct. 31. For tickets and information, visit AustinFilmFestival.com. Programming note: The State Theatre and Galaxy Highland have both been added as official venues at this year's festival. A shuttle will run Friday-Sunday from downtown and will stop at Galaxy Highland and the Alamo Village.
Austin Film Festival venues mentioned in story:
Alamo Drafthouse Village (2700 West Anderson Ln.)
Bob Bullock State History Museum IMAX (1800 Congress Ave.)
The Driskill Hotel (604 Brazos St.)
Galaxy Highland 10 (6700 Middle Fiskville Rd.)
Paramount Theatre (713 Congress Ave.)
Rollins Theatre (701 W Riverside Dr.)
State Theatre (713 Congress Ave.)
Stephen F. Austin Hotel (701 Congress Ave.)
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