SOJOURN Stands out in Stage 32 Screening at Austin Film Festival

Creativity and storytelling skills from around the country were on display in one of the many short film screenings at the Austin Film Festival

Review by: Alexa Smith

Austin Film Festival’s Stage 32 Short Film screening offered a variety of productions in varying genres. The short films originated from a contest that was hosted by Stage 32, an educational and social media platform for creatives. This is Stage 32’s 4th year hosting this contest and it is clear that they’ve found some gems even though some films struggled to match the quality of their competitors. 

The screening started with a film titled “Dolphin Girl” (director Tanya Lovrics). A rough way to start the screening as this was one of the weaker films shown. The film follows a young boy as he struggles to make friends after moving to a new town. A young girl befriends him and helps him find a way to fit in. We watch as the boy slowly figures out that the girl was actually a figment of his imagination. The plot sounds promising but ultimately fell victim to clunky dialogue and even clunkier sound design. The score is heartwarming but was overshadowed by the unbalanced sound effects and rough sound transitions. Overall, the movie is nice but lacked in production and writing quality. 

This first short left me worried about the quality of the following six films. However, the next film “Duke” (director Thiago Dadalt) assuaged my fears. Based on a true story, “Duke” is about a boy with severe autism. The film highlights the difficulties the family faces when trying to figure out how to help him. I feared the film would fall victim to stereotypes and flat characters as many stories of autistic people do, but Dadalt created a realistic picture of what it is like to live with autism. According to an interview Dadalt did with the Napa Valley Film Festival, he spent over a year with Duke’s family to really understand not just Duke but the relationship he had to his mother as well. The carefully conducted research is not where the film’s merits stop. The viewer can see how intricately this film was planned from the beautifully constructed shots and well-conducted lighting design. “Duke” had a lot of work and effort put into it and resulted in a heartfelt film. 

The following film, “The Man With a Pillow For a Face” (Director Carlos Grana) had fantastic production value and sported a gorgeous set. The lack of dialogue in the movie left the story somewhat open to interpretation but felt like a grasp for originality. This plot of a man being stuck in a repetitive rut every day and solving it with a dramatic action is nothing new. While the sight of a man’s body with a pillow head leads the viewer into an area of Uncanny Valley that is thrilling and disturbing at the same time – this film lacked the heart of the other films that not even a Black Mirror-worthy set can make up for. Despite these flaws, this film is still worth a watch for the production value and slightly terrifying ending alone. 

The next two shorts, “Dream Catcher” (Director Avery Rouda), and “Things That Fall” (Director Sy Huq) were some of the weakest ones of the bunch after “Dolphin Girl”. “Dream Catcher” is a computer-animated film that unfortunately had the quality of something from the mid-2000s. However, this did not take away from the creativity and imagination of writer/director/producer Rouda. “Dream Catcher” shows what goes on inside of a dreamcatcher in a child’s bedroom. We watch as employees in a dream factory take bad dreams and turn them into good ones. Even though the animation quality of this film put it behind the other ones, it does not take away the enjoyment and childlike wonder an audience member feels while watching it. While “Things That Fall” had fantastic sound design and impressive cinematography that featured beautiful bookshelf shots, the plot felt overdone. It was a simple meet cute with an interesting twist that was unfortunately not enough to keep it from feeling trite. “Things That Fall”  was still an enjoyable film and still has the ability to create a warm-fuzzy feeling.

The real standouts came in the form of the final two films of the screening. The final film that was shown, “Tell Him” (Director Virginia Bach) is a French film about a widowed father who is struggling with how to tell his son that his mother has passed that was created with empathy and the perfect amount of coldness. The film takes place over one day and starts in the morning with the boy asking about his mother. As the audience slowly starts to understand what is happening, we start to feel the same sense of dread the father must be feeling. This sense of dread is not just present in the actor’s performance but also in the cinematography and direction. Bach has crafted a film with extreme close ups that help us feel the stress of the father. While the trope of a dead mother can often be overused or relegated to being a simple plot point, this film takes time to watch the mourning father and for the audience to feel compelled enough to mourn along with him. The film’s excellence comes to a crescendo by ending with the son walking into the hospital room that his mother is supposed to be in. The film ends before we see the son’s reaction, showing that Bach trusted the audience enough to draw their own conclusions. 

“Tell Him” is a story told in a beautiful way. Even though “Tell Him” was the grand prize winner of the Stage 32 contest, I found the real star of the screening to be “SOJOURN: A Visual Proverb” (director Jonathan Lewis). This film exemplifies the creativity and rule-breaking that you hope to see in up and coming artists. Lewis is able to take the simple tale of returning home and turn it into so much more. The film lives up to its title of “A Visual Proverb”  by using poetic narration and artistic visuals interspersed with an African American man contemplating his place in the world on his journey back to his home. “SOJOURN” is such a great film not just because it tells a story that needs to be told but also because it is not afraid to take risks. Jonathan Lewis, who also wrote the film, says in his director’s statement on the film’s website

“I knew I had to lend my voice and story, as an aid to help young black men and others find peace within, and extend my hand to help close the gap between ignorance and understanding.” 

Lewis was able to use beauty and artistry to express issues he had dealt with and create a film that is so gorgeous you can’t look away. “SOJOURN” stood out from the crowd. 

The Stage 32 Short Film screening at the Austin Film Festival offered a wide array of points of view and stories told in 20 minutes or less. The screening as a whole helped show just how important it is to believe that your voice matters in the film industry. It also helped show why it is important to listen to the voices and stories of others. Stage 32 is doing a great job at helping bring up indie filmmakers not just through this contest but through the number of resources on their website as well. The website features a place for filmmakers to digitally network and learn more about their craft. This is a great tool to use if you are an RTF major at Austin Community College, so make sure to check them out. 

If you’re interested to learn more about any of the films mentioned, check out Stage 32’s contest page and keep an eye on the website for future screenings of the films. 


Clarification 11/26/19: “Dolphin Girl” was an additional screening shown at the Austin Film Festival and was not a part of the 4th Annual Stage 32 Short Film Program.

Austin Film Fest: A Patient Man Interview

The 26th Annual Austin Film Festival came to an end on Thursday, Oct. 31. As a hidden gem among the various film festivals from around the world, a variety of independent film screenings were showcased across the city. One of the screenings was “A Patient Man”, a film about a man who survives a car accident and is trying to piece his life back together. I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview Kevin Ward (Director), Harrison Reynolds (Producer), Rob Houle (Composer) and Jonathan Mangum (Lead Actor) about the drama thriller. 

To read the non-spoiler film review, click here.   

Interview by: Nalani Nuylan

*Interview has been edited to remove spoilers

NALANI NUYLAN: What inspired you to write the film?

KEVIN WARD: I live in LA and I had a long commute. For a while, I rode the train. It’s a weird experience: you do meet people and there are people you sit next to. I just like the idea if I were to befriend one of these people.


From the initial conception of the film to when you finished shooting, who long was that process?

KW: Four to four and a half years. The longest part of the process was looking for money.  


What inspired you guys to join the project?

ROB HOULE: I have known Kevin since college. We were in punk bands together. When I was out in LA, I knew he was making this film. I thought to myself, ‘He’s going to ask me to compose music for him, right?’ And he did.

JONATHAN MANGUM: Kevin asked my wife, who does casting, if she could help him out with the film. She gave me the script, and it’s rare to read something this good. I never get to do this kind of part, it’s always comedy. I said, ‘hey I want to do this’ and he gave me a chance to do it. 

HARRISON REYNOLDS: We started raising money for this film through crowdfunding. He had an original guy leave the day before. He called me the next day and I jumped on the project. We shot a trailer over two weeks and that’s what started this whole process.


I want to talk a little bit more about this role, Mr. Mangum. As you said, you are known for your comedy, so how was this role for you as an actor?

JM: It was different, yet I felt like I could relate to Tom (Mangum’s character) in a way. Comedy has some dark elements to it, but the goal is to make people laugh. Here I am making people believe that I am [justified], and that’s not easy either.

KW: I just want to say that any good actor can play a darker character, but not all actors can be comedians and make people laugh. We were truly lucky to have Jonathan.   


So, how much where you rewriting on set? How different does it feel from the original script?  

KW: I didn’t do much rewriting. I don’t know too much has changed between script to story. The cut I think is very different. The ending I think I monkeyed around with for a long time. This is an indie movie, this is what we got to shoot and there is no going back. The only real differences are what happened in the cut.  


What were the permits you needed for the film?  

KW: The only permit we bought was [for the City of Sacramento]. The interior of the train and the exterior of the train, those were the only permits we had. It was a lot of running and gunning. Every location was either borrowed or gotten off for cheap.


A lot of the audience members here today are writers and filmmakers, people who want to do what you did here today. Can you give some of the biggest lessons learned over the course of the project?

KW: There is a lot of things not to do, like don’t shoot on a moving train. I think the most important thing is to know that it is achievable. There is nothing mystical about making a movie. The hardest part about making this movie was finding the movie to do it, finding someone who believed in us and believed in the project. Shoot a trailer, show your friends, fail a few times, and do it again. 

JM: Don’t hold on to whatever idea you think ‘this is my big idea and it has to be perfect before I shoot it.’ Nope. Just shoot it, just get it done, and there will be more ideas. Don’t hold on to any one idea.

HR: Get a lot of feedback from your friends, family or whoever else you trust. [Have them] read your script, have them watch your cuts. Watch it with an audience: they’ll know what’s working, what’s not working, what are some of the plot holes. I think that is an important part of the process.      


And of course, I have to ask. We Austinites are very proud of our city. Is there a particular reason you choose to screen “A Patient Man” in Austin rather than the Toronto Film Festival or the Palm Springs Film Fest?

HR: I went to UT for my degree, so I am a little bit prideful in that sense. The main reason is that we wanted to have the experience, while the other film festivals are more glamorous.    

RH: I lived in Austin a while ago. It’s been amazing to see how much the city has changed and taken off since I left. I am glad we were able to be a part of the festival.  

JM: Austin also has this feeling about it that just makes this kind of work better. In LA, it’s more stressful while here it’s about the art of filmmaking.  


Lastly, is there anything that I missed which you gentlemen want to say?

HR: We just want to say a huge thanks to our volunteers in LA for making this film possible. Our whole staff and crew were volunteers. Their countless hours and work helped us make this film. We wouldn’t have done it without them.   


Austin Film Festival: A Patient Man Review

Independent film reflects on the condition of the human mind in drama thriller.

To read ACCENT’s interview with the filmmakers, click here.

Review by: Nalani Nuylan 

How do we know the people we choose to befriend? By proxy, how well does the audience know the character(s) they are following?  

A Patient Manis the film debut of writer/director Kevin Ward. Screened at the 2019 Austin Film Festival, this hidden gem introduces Tom (Jonathan Mangum), a man who is trying to piece his life back together after a great tragedy. On his road to recovery, he befriends a man named Aaron (Tate Ellington) who rides the same train with him. All the while answering these pivotal questions in the process.  

Told in a nonlinear plot structure, the film takes the audience on a trip to solve the mystery of what happened to our protagonist while revealing truths on how grief, guilt and revenge affect the human psyche.

The best way I can describe this trip is in the metaphor of a massive puzzle with a box that has no big picture finish. You will notice some key puzzle pieces and involuntary want to join the game. After seeing how some of the pieces of the film fit together, you will eventually begin to assume how the story will unfold in the end. Yet, as the audience puts that last piece of the film together the big picture may actually surprise you. 

That’s how this film was for me. I was already picking it apart for the sake of reviewing it. But once I saw a clue, I wanted to find more. Sure, I saw what was coming. But at the same time, I also didn’t see it in when it came to the grand view.

Ward does an amazing job of hiding the clues to the mystery while showing a very real depiction of how a person can descend into revenge because of their grief. As the old joke goes, the descent into madness is not a rapid downward spiral, but a slow progression of moments. 

Mangum, who is mostly known for his work in comedy, shines playing Tom as we see his fake smiles at his work progress into the subtle flickers of dark intentions. I have to give credibility to Mangum’s performs as an actor. 

The praises continue to Producer and Cinematographer Harrison Reynolds, who used the close-up shots and the Los Angeles sunlight to completely flip the thriller tropes on its head. Rather than installing the suspicion, the clever use of Reynold’s surroundings in combination with his camera work when characters are in a conversation to instill this sense of security to only make the ending more enjoyable.    

For his film debut, Ward did a wonderful job of cinematic storytelling. Nicely paced and ever so juicy, one can’t help but marvel at the film being made on a minuscule budget and mostly shot on a moving train. 

This film will leave you with questions and an odd sense of satisfaction. It was an enjoyable ride, and I urge you to join along. 

Update on February 24:
“A Patient Man” is available to rent or buy on  Google Play Store, iTunes, and Amazon Prime Video. If you are curious about this film in any way, I urge you to watch it for yourselves on these platforms.

SXSW Film Review- Running With Beto

Written by Nathaniel Torres

Running With Beto is a film that “started with baseball like so many other great things,” says director David Modigliani.  Speaking to the audience at the SXSW 2019 premiere of his film, Modigliani shares with the crowd how he met now 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke while playing for the Texas Playboys baseball team. He says it was the opportunity to witness a positive campaign in the current political climate that convinced him to capture it on film. Modigliani continually asked himself “What is the story here?” all the while amassing over 700 hours of footage. When speaking with several audience members at the premiere, the descriptor I most commonly heard was “genuine.”  Modigliani’s film iterates the positive message that the congressman spread throughout his campaign run, but rather than being an hour and half platform recap, it exposes the man behind the message.


Before the film, the audience chats. Small talk inevitably leads to reflections on the outcome of the 2018 election. Audience members recount their memories at election parties, being gathered around the TV with high hopes. Their tones take woeful dips as they come to the part about the seat being announced for Cruz, except that’s not where their stories end. Sounds of hope and determination resurface.  Discussions conclude with adjusted outlooks both for a brighter future and O’Rourke’s chances at attaining office. For many, it is one and the same.


The lights go dim and several figures rush to the middle rows, faintly illuminated by the glow of the screen. The audience gives a stifled cheer. There’s no fooling this crowd; they know their hero and O’Rourke’s family is here to watch with them.

The film opens with a montage of sound bites and headlines that pick the scabs of slow-healing wounds for democratic Texans. Immediately apprehension and unease hushes the crowd.  Anyone who followed the midterms recognizes the mix of media playing out on the screen. Yet the mood lightens up just as quickly with the first scene. Video shot from a phone shows the O’Rourke family load into the car. Beto’s son Henry O’Rourke asks, “What’s a sucker?” in response to hearing his dad use the term seconds before. The exchange between O’Rourke and his wife Amy is brief but says so much. It’s a moment that parents around the country know well.  The split second of how best to describe an idiom and who will take the responsibility of glossing it over is a scene reminiscent of a family sitcom.


Clips of the O’Rourke family such as this one effectively reign in the audience to recognize the human aspect of the congressman. That’s the authentic tone that Modigliani captures in this film.  He pulls back the curtain on the polished message and shows a man in full sprint to convince Texans he’s worth their vote. Though O’Rourke is the main character in this narrative he is not the only one.  He is the face of change, but his team and his followers are the movement.  The film follows three outspoken citizens doing their part to usher in the blue wave.  One in particular, Shannon Gay, almost steals the show. She is a rough speaking woman with a sic ‘em attitude.  The audience loves her audacity. If liberals are snowflakes, she is a blizzard.


Amanda Salas and Marcel McClinton are shown doing their part to address two of the state’s most pressing issues: gun laws and voter turnout.  Both of them have firsthand experience with the consequences that can result from inaction. McClinton is a survivor of a school shooting. Salas is a resident of Hidalgo county, a county with one of the lowest voter turnouts in the state.  Modigliani’s inclusion of their voices in his film allows for a fuller picture of the voter base O’Rourke has united.


Through its editing, Running With Beto  also highlights the uniqueness of O’Rourke’s campaign. Modigliani interjects several clips from Facebook Live. Reaction emoticons and comments pop up on the big screen as if it were a giant cellphone. The scenes not only bring the audience into the spirit of the moment but also exemplify a modern campaign approach; perhaps a necessary one since O’Rourke relied mostly on small, individual donations from his supporters. There is a certain trust that’s built when broadcasting live for the upcoming generation, combining immediate gratification with on the spot reality coming from their candidate. Modigliani fills the screen with up close shots of facial expressions that range between relief, joy, and frustration. Shots of O’Rourke’s wife Amy and the children truly relay their sentiment throughout.  


Viewers of Running With Beto should expect to relive their experiences with the midterm elections and more. Along with the inspiration, exasperation, and the dismay audiences will also see the sacrifices the O’Rourke family has made. O’Rourke’s children’s heartache when the last ring goes to voicemail, Beto’s early mornings in hotel lobbies and airplanes, and the miles of Texas roads travelled. Drama is not drummed up or caught the way that is common for reality media today.  Instead, it unfolds steadily and naturally with the midterm timeline. The pace of the film quickens as election day draws nearer. Dialogue becomes more urgent and direct, especially from the Congressman. It is a glimpse of O’Rourke’s leadership and willfulness to deliver his message his own way. Though the audience knows how the story ends, the energy in the theater somehow still mounts to palpable levels.

Running With Beto is not a film about why Beto should have won the election or why his point of view is right. It is the story of how the Democratic population of Texas found their drive. Combining O’Rourke’s persistence with that of active citizens’, the film reflects the people’s thirst for an antidote to the hardlined, negative platforms that run on being against new ideas. Modigliani showed a base rallying around the belief that it doesn’t take big money to run a successful campaign in Texas. A base that believes that there is power in refusing to roll in the mud.  A base that believes that they have a chance to make themselves heard. ‘Running With Beto’ leaves its audience feeling proud of a man willing to be the underdog and go against the grain in the most bonafide way. Many believe Beto’s race was exemplary, despite his loss, simply because it sets a precedent for bigger opportunities. Beto was asked about his 2020 plans after the screening but pivoted from the subject. He held off revealing his decision for nearly another week. On March 14, 2019, O’Rourke relieved his anxious supporters by finally announcing his 2020 presidential run saying, “at this moment of maximum peril and maximum potential let’s show ourselves, and those who will succeed us in this great country, just who we are and what we can do”.


Running with Beto is to be released on HBO May 28 according to IMDB.

Film Review: “Greener Grass” SXSW 2019 Premiere

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Review & Photo by Taylor Kokas

Haven written and starred in the short film of the same name that premiered at SXSW 2016, Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe are back in 2019 as writer/director duo and once again stars of their debut feature film, Greener Grass. An absurd satire about life in suburbia where people push politeness to the extreme, especially Jill (DeBoer) and Lisa (Luebbe), two soccer moms both married with children. From the beginning we are introduced to the theme of the film, it’s a bright clear sunny day, we find Jill and Lisa sitting on the benches gossiping about one of their friends while watching their son’s soccer game. Lisa interrupts their conversation having noticed that Jill is holding her new baby (which Jill has obviously been holding since the start of the film). Lisa compliments the baby “I love her”, which Jill is taken aback by her words and replies “Lisa…do you want her?”. By the end of the scene Lisa has literally adopted Jill’s new born baby.

I think the director duo succeeded in their mission to express the idea of how far are we willing to put politeness over our own happiness. Over the course of the movie we are shown that idea through Jills relationship with Lisa, as Jill puts politeness before happiness it begins to shatter her life while improving Lisa’s. This film also does a wonderful job of world building from the weekend soccer games, big houses with white picket fences, driving golf carts instead of cars, to every adult literally wearing braces. Sure there are times in the film where it feels redundant but if you posses this sense of humor it’s a must watch. Worth mentioning that SNL’s Beck Bennet plays Jill’s husband in the film, which was definitely a perfect casting choice. Speaking of, the closest comparison is Saturday Night Live, where every scene is pretty much a skit, pushing the absurdity just a little each time while still managing to tell the larger story at the core of every scene. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5098″ img_size=”large” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]

Dawn Luebbe (Left), Jocelyn DeBoer (Right)


Film Review: “Olympic Dreams” SXSW World Premiere

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Review & Photo by Taylor Kokas Olympic Dreams is a sports romantic comedy directed by Jeremy Teicher that was shot during the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The film centers around Penelope (played by Teicher’s wife; Alexi Pappas) a 22 year old cross country skier who is trying to make the most out of her dream of being at the olympics, despite not making it onto the podium. Along the way she meets 37 year old volunteer dentist Ezra (played by television comedian Nick Kroll) who is eager to meet people and make the most out of his own Olympic experience. After Ezra introduces himself to Penelope in the Olympic dining hall while she is prepping for her race, the two continue to run into each other and begin to form a bond, sharing an experience at the games neither one ever expected they would have.

It’s worth knowing that throughout the majority of production the films crew only consisted of the director/camera op Jeremy and the two lead actors. All their dialogue is improvised, as well as majority of the scenes where locations, props, and actors weren’t always guaranteed. Because on the surface the acting can come off amateurish in comparison to what one usually expects from a film. But I think it’s very fitting for this story to have been told in this way, it’s emotionally raw and awkward which life can very much be. Plus what you see on screen is the actors performing in a completely natural environment, not a soundstage in sight. Jeremy Teicher went into this film knowing what story he wanted to tell. What is the olympians and volunteers daily life behind the scenes at the olympics? What is social life like? What’s going through their mind before their event? What does the olympics mean for them? It’s clear throughout the actual people these characters represent are all there sharing the same dream, each hoping their experience is what they imagined in their own way. They meet strangers, make friends, romantic flings that may or may not continue once they leave to go back to their daily lives. For fans of the rom-com genre this is a breath of fresh air.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5079″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]

Alexi Pappas (Left), Nick Kroll (Right)


Film Review: “Villains” SXSW World Premiere

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Review & Photos by Taylor Kokas

Dan Berk and Robert Olsen are back again as director duo for their third feature film, Villain’s. A dark comedy crime thriller about Mickey and Jules (Bill Skarsgard, IT)(Maika Monroe, It Follows), two lovers on their way to Florida. After making a successful gas station robbery their car happens to run out of gas. Just when it seems like they are stranded, Jules spots a nearby home. With no homeowners in site the two break in to try and steal the car that is parked in the garage. The couple roam around the home in search for the keys, with no luck thus far they nervously make their way down into the dark eerie basement only to find a quiet little girl chained up to a pole. Eager to help her escape they go back upstairs to find something to free the little girl from the chains, this is where they meet their match. Homeowners George and Gloria (Jeffrey Donovan, USA Network Burn Notice)(Kyra Sedgwick, TNT The Closer). It is here that for the remainder of the film the two couples fight to stay dominant over the other. Only time will tell if Mickey & Jules can make it out alive and continue on their way to Florida, or will George & Gloria get a chance to stage a scene and have a new opportunity to go live a new life elsewhere?

This film has a grand ole time playing with the Bonnie and Clyde dynamic, it’s almost like if you put an eager and messy version of the couple into an alternate dimension where a more conservative and seasoned version lived and you get watch them test each others flaws, see how witty they can be in tight situations, and as much as they are different from each other, just how similar they are in the same, especially when it comes to how much they care for their significant other. For movie goers that enjoy films like Terrence Malick’s Badlands and Coen Brothers Raising Arizona, this is definitely the movie for you.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_gallery interval=”3″ images=”5074,5073,5072,5071″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]

Jeffrey Donovan (1), Robert Olsen (2), Dan Berk (3)


Film Review: “The Highwaymen”

the highwaymen posterWritten by – Nathaniel Torres

Stories of outlaws, gunslingers, and renegades have a tendency to captivate a wild side of our souls. By 1934 Bonnie and Clyde succeeded in procuring public favor in such a way. They were wanted for multiple murders and countless robberies.  They didn’t evade police, they blew through them; escalating shootouts with their firepower. The Highwaymen begins with this emboldened duo successfully pulling off a prison break.  In doing so the lovebirds cross Governor “Ma” Ferguson (Kathy Bates) seemingly, blemishing her solid penitentiary record- Ma won’t have that going unanswered for.  After the moral cost of stopping Bonnie and Clyde is quickly discussed between Ma and prison director Lee Simmons (John Carroll Lynch), Texas sets retired Texas Ranger, Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) on their trail.  


After decades of romanticized depictions of Bonnie and Clyde, a partisan segment of the American people have felt disdain towards the law enforcement and the amount of force they used to take down the couple. The innocent lives taken by Bonnie and Clyde are too often forgotten or swept under the rug. The Highwaymen takes the Robin Hood aspect of the couple and resolves them into the deadly pair affected families know them to be. At the SXSW premiere Director John Lee Hancock personally dedicated his film to Frank Hamer Jr., feeling that previous representations of Hamer “[were] such an atrocity and injustice that we wanted to set it right”.


Costner stated that he felt privileged playing the role, putting it up in the ranks of playing Wyatt Earp. He added how important he felt it was when portraying someone’s real life saying, “the opportunity to play people that are willing to stand in front of us – police, sheriffs and whatever area you [may be] talking about is something I take really, really seriously. I hope we all do because they go out and sometimes we never know if they are ever coming back home”.


Though the film is to be released by Netflix, it is made for the big screen. Cinematographer John Schwartzman does a brilliant job of displaying the Texas landscape through wide angle lenses giving The Highwaymen a western touch. Using natural light and framing, Texas figures Hamen and his partner Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) are given the screen portrayal they deserve as figures of their time. By no means are these characters perfect. It’s obvious these retired Rangers are past their prime and hardly ready for action. Despite the public enduring the stagnant hardships of the Great Depression, police methods and innovations have evolved since the last time Hamer and Gault saw action. The common trope of older generations mixing with new technology is tactfully used as fodder for comic relief. The fact that it is the technology of 1934 sanitizes the humor from overuse or from taking an easy jab at millenials. In actuality, the punchy lines direct attention to the polished set detail throughout the film.


With the film’s crew dedicated to telling an honest story it is unsurprising that they went as far as to film on the very same roads upon which the hunt took place. Classic car enthusiasts will find themselves satisfied with 1934 V8 Fords featured in pristine condition on open, dusty roads.  Even more satisfying is Hancock and writer John Fusco leave room for an open throttle scene. 1934 V8 top speeds of about 65 mph hinders availability for any fast and furious moves, nevertheless the chase is part of a healthy pace in the film’s story arc.


The Highwaymen is ultimately a drama about morality. Hamer and Gault are hired to get the job done by any means necessary and they did not survive as Texas Rangers by sticking to  the rules. Costner and Harrelson deliver truehearted performances based on pieces of archetypes we have seen them play before. Together they communicate the solemn burden of carrying out the law by playing two sides of the same coin. Costner plays Hamer as reserved and determined, while Harrelson is the less than well-adjusted Gault delivering quips and serving as a moral compass. Kathy Bates, though given considerably less screen time, effectively embodies the first woman Governor of Texas, “Ma” Ferguson. With scenes of Ma before the press and behind closed doors, Bates builds a character that demands reverence. What the film lacks in action it makes up for in its characters’ convictions.


For some time media has been part of a chicken or the egg argument. Do their cover stories create a love of and normalize the actions of dangerous people? Or does the public’s thirst to live vicariously demand that they have such stories to relate to? In the same way that making an anti-war film is making a war film, Hancock’s The Highwaymen is an anti-outlaw film. This telling of the story brings the audience into a reality that does not allow room for them to cheer on its villains. Instead, it invites them to appreciate real individuals who do their own law bending to put a stop to a killing spree. For decades Hollywood played Bonnie & Clyde as a loving couple just trying to get by and beat the boredom of the times all the while making villains of their captors. The Highwaymen offers a fair account to balance the record, focusing on the valor of the men who left the safety of retirement to face the deadliest outlaws of their time. The Highwaymen is available to see in select theaters in Austin and will be available for streaming this March 29.


Film Review: Mid90s

Written by Martay Whitfield

Jonah Hill wears many hats in the creation of Mid90s. Mid90s focuses on 13-year-old Stevie’s (Sunny Suljic) teenagedom in the 1990s. Stevie lives in a low-income neighborhood of Los Angeles with children of different ethnicities, experiencing troubles of their own. Stevie escapes his troubled home by making new at the local skateboard shop. Through this group of teens and young adults, Stevie partakes in fun, but dangerous, discoveries.

Stevie’s new friends aren’t the best role models. Many drink and smoke at young ages, leaving Stevie to become a product of his environment. The relationship that you start to build with Stevie is very strong throughout the film, from the opening – when you see a sweet boy trying to fit in – to the ending.

His character development from the beginning of the film to the very end is amazing. In the film, there is a point where you start to see him fitting in with the other guys coming out of his shell. The most powerful scene in Mid90s was when the character Ray (Na-kel Smith) and Stevie have a conversation about the problems that all the boys are having. This sparks the reason that they all stay friends. They learn they can escape from home to skate with one another.

Now, I must admit the beginning seemed very challenging to hold attraction to regarding the plot. It seemed a little forced. However it quickly regains itself and captivates the attention of the audience. This film is full of comedy mixed with heartfelt emotion. This is a good film and I highly recommend it.

Film Review: The Happy Prince

Written by Kevin Lopez

The Happy Prince stars, written and directed by Rupert Everett and this makes it his directorial debut in this film. For his directorial debut, Everett chose a biographical film based on the last days of Oscar Wilde (Rupert Everett).

Everett places us inside Wilde’s mind as he creates scenes that connect the audience to party and romantic flashbacks. The Happy Prince shows highlights of Wilde’s adventure from being a famous playwright to losing his money. Everett displays these scenes through the coloring of the cinematography. The best scene in The Happy Prince shows two characters arguing, creating a color of orange underground noir.

Everett shows us Wilde’s explored sexuality in the time he spends with the, seemingly, sinister and seductive Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan). As the film progresses, we see Boise’s cold heart warm up around Wilde as the two grow and learn from each other.

The film has some really fantastic supporting actors the like Colin Firth, Edwin Thomas, Emily Watson and many more. Overall the cast is well cast and the performances from each actor are really amazing. But, Everett performance really stands out as you see him becoming Wilde, making for an intriguing performance.

The film can lack a bit because of slow pacing. The movie felt a little too long, especially in the beginning. However, I would like to have seen more character development through the supporting characters. Lastly, I think this movie should have been a bit longer just to have a bit more character development from the supporting characters. It would have been nice to see more than three focal points of Wilde’s life to satisfy the ending.

Because The Happy Prince has a great cast of actors, looks great and does a good job showing Boise’s effect on Wilde I would recommend it–even to those who unfamiliar with the famous playwright.