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Austin Film Festival, Monsters and More

The Austin Film Festival opens for a full week today and the Chronicle's nifty package includes Marjorie Baumgarten's piece on Sweet Smell of Success, screening tomorrow at noon: "Though the film is a thinly veiled attack on then-contemporary columnist Walter Winchell, we still watch Sweet Smell today for its compellingly dark portrait of the underbelly of show business, the stellar performances, the rich tones of James Wong Howe's crisp black-and-white cinematography, and the crackling dialogue by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets." And of course, for the late Tony Curtis, "who delivers one of his finest performances here, according to most film scholars, including [Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth] Turan. 'I think this is one of his best roles,' Turan says. 'I think partly because it's not that dissimilar from whom he was.'"

Also in the Chronicle: Belinda Costa talks with Phil Rosenthal, who'll see the world premiere of his documentary, Exporting Raymond, open the festival this evening. The award-winning writer from Everybody Loves Raymond was out of work when he tried to launch the show in Russia as Everybody Loves Kostya, resulting, naturally, in little but "frustration and humor."

"Who is Uwe Boll, really, and what the hell does he think he's doing?" asks Marc Savlov. "Answers aplenty can be found in Dan Lee West's absorbingly weird documentary Raging Boll, which paints Boll as a man besieged by ravening hordes of faceless Internet fanboys who seek to terminate his filmmaking career."

Richard Whittaker talks with Texas Observer reporter Emily Pyle about her documentary, Burned: Life In and Out of Texas Youth Prisons and Kimberley Jones asks Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten about spending six years to make Sons of Perdition, which tracks "three teenage boys who were kicked out of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a splinter group of the Mormon group (the polygamist sect's leader, the 'prophet' Warren Jeffs, is currently awaiting a retrial for the charge of being an accomplice to rape of a minor)."

Unrelated to the AFF, but still: Raoul Hernandez on the series William Wyler's Desperate Hours: A Director's Drama, running Tuesdays through mid-November.



Vadim Rizov in the LA Weekly: "Preparing for a weeklong run of Olivier Assayas's Carlos — both in its full 319-minute glory and, for the impatient, in the just-under-three-hour recut — the American Cinematheque warms up with refresher screenings of two of Assayas's key films, 1996's Irma Vep and 2002's Demonlover. It's not much of a stretch to view all three works together as a loose trilogy, different approaches to the same themes: globalism as a business, cultural and cinematic force, the allure of revolutionary technology (in at least two senses of 'revolutionary') and the eternal standoff between idealism and hedonism."

Monsters in the Movies, a program at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tonight, "will trace the evolution of creature technology from the stop-motion miniature puppet of 1933's King Kong and the makeup for 1935's The Bride of Frankenstein to the computer graphic high-tech effects of today," reports Susan King in the Los Angeles Times. Special effects makeup artist and animatronics effects supervisor Shane Mahan "will show clips from such pivotal films as 1968's Planet of the Apes, 1973's The Exorcist, 1981's An American Werewolf in London, 1986's Aliens, 1993's Jurassic Park and 2005's King Kong. There'll be a separate section just on the evolution of the dinosaur film. Jon Favreau, director of both Iron Man blockbusters and the upcoming Cowboys & Aliens, visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett and producer Lou Arkoff will also be on the panel."

On a related note, the Guardian's list today is the "sci-fi and fantasy 25."



New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center introduces one of tonight's screenings: "Chekhov for Children is an unconventional documentary about a crazily ambitious undertaking: the 1979 staging on Broadway of Uncle Vanya by New York City fifth- and sixth-graders, directed by the celebrated writer Phillip Lopate." Amy Taubin for Artforum: "Besides operating as a memory piece and an update on the lives of Lopate and the actors, the documentary challenges current standardized, exam-oriented public school education. It also deserves to be in the collection of any serious performing arts library."

"Besides Sundance, Philadelphia Film Festival may have been the only opportunity for audiences to see the unedited version of Blue Valentine," notes Julie Steinberg, blogging for the Wall Street Journal. The film is one of five nominated for Gothams' "Best Feature" award, by the way. "Harvey Weinstein's gearing up to appeal the NC-17 rating the MPAA slapped on the film earlier this month, but he'll probably have to cut a shot or two before it's released in theaters." The festival runs on through Sunday. For recommendations, see the Philadelphia City Paper and Matt Prigge in the Philadelphia Weekly.

Anders Edström and CW Winter's The Anchorage opens at Northwest Film Forum in Seattle tomorrow. Charles Mudede in the Stranger: "This movie is not about rural life, but about life in a society that has reached a state of perfection. The Anchorage is about how time is spent in utopia."



Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine who made and then lost billions, has died at the age of 79. "Probably his best-known business failure was a $17.5 million investment in the 1979 production of the X-rated film Caligula," notes the AP in its obit. "Malcolm McDowell was cast as the decadent emperor of the title, and the supporting cast included Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and Peter O'Toole. Distributors shunned the film, with its graphic scenes of lesbianism and incest. However, it eventually became General Media's most popular DVD." You can revisit the tale of one of the most notoriously troubled productions in film history at Wikipedia.

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