Monday, October 20, 2008

My Austin FIlm Festival, Part 4

We decided to mix things up and go to a script reading and some docs yesterday. The reading of the script "Mine" (Drama screenplay winner by Anita Skibski) was a tour de force with a bunch of actors doing the reading. This is the first script reading we had attended at the festival (we'd been to other script readings of movie and play scripts before). I enjoyed it although I did use one piece of my brain to work on the Sunday New York Times magazine crossword puzzle.

We read, napped (and I watched some recorded episodes of Jeopardy while finishing said puzzle, cheating only a little). Then we met up with a friend who lives in our building, went to Royal Blue for some snacks and drinks and walked over to the Rollins Theater at the Long Center. This would be an easier walk if the City of Austin wasn't taking three years to improve Cesar Chavez and the Hike and Bike. A digression I know, but I am SO sick of the mess to use the First Street pedestrian bridge. The other day I saw six workers watching women on the Hike and Bike while one guy poured a concrete footing for a post to keep cars from driving into the Lake and one guy watched that guy. I'm serious. My tax dollars at work.

We were almost the first people to queue for the movie. There was a technical problem and it didn't start until 45 minutes late. There was a performance at the Dell and so there was catering and I had a Shiner Bock to top off my Orangina I had on the way over. I never did eat the energy bar I bought in case I got hungry.

The first doc was "The American Widow Project." I didn't think I would like this one too much. The women in the movie are very young, most are mothers and their husbands (and in one case the widow, too) had committed to the military as careers. I'm more sympathetic with Viet Nam era vets and widows, especially where the guys were drafted. I'm in awe of WWII vets. But I digress. I didn't expect much from this. However, I was surprised. I couldn't really relate to these women. (Married younger than I did and widows before they knew it, little kids, etc.) But the story was told well. I came at the end to see the dramatic arc of these stories as they were revealed through the interviews, stills, home movies, news footage, etc. The woman who made the movie,Taryn Davis, with the help of Don Swaynos was there. She is a widow herself and she also starte a project to connect and help military widows. Two of the other widows in the movie were also there. I am very impressed with the movie because the real stories were told so well and represented a larger group and a larger truth about this era and I am also moved by the effort of these young people to help themselves.

The second doc I expected to like. It was called "Happiness Is..." and the blurbs led me to believe it might be a nice peripatetic trip around the U.S. full of kitsch and characters in a (vain) search for happiness. That sounded like fun. It turned out to be a movie that overused a drugged out woodcarver and Matthew Dowd. There was a pretend 'discovery' that doing good and being spiritual were the keys to happiness. La. Ti. Da. I came out of it asking my companions (1) If Matthew Dowd was gay. He was wearing clothes and jewelry that made me wonder. (2) If he really didn't imagine that Bush-Cheney might initiate a war. (3) If he understood that his son volunteered for the military. I'm not against theories like "you get more than you give" and such but I was geared up for some people I could relate to. Happiness scholars? Hrrumph. Willie reading a script. (Willie Nelson that is. He seemed to have agreed to say whatever for a quick interview. Not that it doesn't believe in giving, except to the tax man. Hard to disagree with that.)

Anyway, I wasn't happy with it. Ha. There was a rabbi saying all religions are the same. Well, no. And yes, but. Some religions would consign all other practitioners of other faiths to some kind of hell. Most believe non-believers are destined to some such fate. Many wars and atrocities can be lain at the feet of religions and I'm not talking about Muslims in the 21st century either. The rabbi said 'no religion came up with anything new.' Well, how about this: I just invented a religion. This religion believes that there is a life after this one of profound happiness and unending joy. No one on this earth from Mother Teresa to Jeffrey Dammler is barred from this second world. All of us end there. What we do on earth just enhances this low sad life stage for ourselves or others. No faith required to enter the kingdom of heaven. Maybe there is a religion that professes such a view. But it is far, far from the Judeo-Christian-Muslim canon of prayer, faith and atonement. As soon as you concoct this religion you see why it wouldn't be popular. No religious leaders are necessary to guide you. Unemployment for those involved in leading religious groups, printing religious texts, building religious complexes. Oops. Better hope my religion doesn't catch on. And, of course, it won't. I like to watch televangelists now and again and they are more entertaining than this movie. Sorry. Was I not supposed to be entertained? I guess not.

We walked back to the condo and watched "Mad Men" off the DVR. I like this show although the Don Draper thread is a bit bizarre. They are exploring lots of foibles and prejudices of the early sixties (a message is there yes) in a very entertaining way.

[The photo, completely unrelated to the post, is of a work of public art in a park near the East Bouldin Creek Greenbelt. I mean it could be a comedy (or tragedy) mask, I guess. I just feel I should always give you a picture.]

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