Previewing the 2016 Austin Film Festival
A year ago (before the unending nightmare known to the world as 2016) the Austin Film Fest showed me some of my favorite movies of 2015, including Legend with Tom Hardy and Youth by Paolo Sorrentino. So I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of AFF 2016, despite all indications that this entire calendar year ought to be expunged from the record. Yesterday I picked up my badge from Austin’s incredibly-fancy Driskill Hotel, which was built by a cattle baron in the 1880s and is haunted by a variety of 19th– and 20th-century ghosts. Having escaped unharmed, I will now see and review as many as possible of the following films:
Loving — A portrayal of the interracial couple at the center of the historic Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia (1967), which ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional and paved the way for 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision.
ProGamer — Video games and gamers may eventually dominate the cable sports landscape (if cable lasts that long), and this doc is in on the ground floor.
Finding Oscar — A story about a massacre in Central America. How cheerful!
Wakefield — Bryan Cranston is a mild-mannered middle-aged man who begins to engage in secret activities that harm his relationship with his family. Where have we heard that before?
The Big Spoon — This movie about four young people sharing a house sounds like it’s designed to remind you of your worst communal living experiences in college.
Electric Nostalgia — Consciousnesses are uploaded to, but also trapped in, artificial bodies in this scary-sounding sci-fi thriller.
Desierto — Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón bring this flick about borderland violence to the fest.
The Cliff — A man’s estranged sister kills herself in a cult’s mass suicide. I’m curious about where the film goes from that premise.
Blood Stripe — A female Marine suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. René Auberjonois appears, and his son Remy directs.
Middle Man — This dark comedy about a stand-up comedian promises a high body count.
Holding Patterns — A loser in his mid-20s falls for a barista. Based on that plot description I’m hoping to avoid this one. If I hear good buzz, I’ll reconsider.
The Big Flip — A documentary about households reversing traditional gender roles. As a man whose dream job is stay-at-home parent, I’m interested.
Good Fortune — An ex-criminal now bilks people out of money the “honest” way: by going on the lecture circuit. Much like the documentary Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru that I studiously avoided at this year’s SXSW, I’m putting this on my “must-miss” list.
My Life as a Film — A woman documents her father’s life through the home videos he obsessively made.
Two Trains Runnin’ — A music documentary featuring one of my favorite alt-country acts, Lucinda Williams.
11:55 — Cycles of urban violence, a choice between life in the street or life in the military; this kind of thing is old hat, but it’s usually pretty compelling.
One Night — Old friends reconvene to discuss the disappointing lives they’ve led since high school.
Diani and Devine Meet the Apocalypse — Survivalists hit the road with a cat and a dog, trying to outrun the apparent collapse of society.
Delinquent — A dropout pursues a career in small-time crime with his dad, but will it pay off?
The Writer’s Burrow — A grieving writer becomes a little too attached to his new muse.
Wrestling Alligators — The title doesn’t seem to be metaphorical; I think actual alligators will be wrestled.
And there’s more! Those are my options for the first couple of days, but I’ll be covering the whole festival, so check back often to see how the films of AFF rank.