This Week in Movies
What to watch: A woman-child, Santa and sexual addiction on Austin screens thisweekend
As the Holiday movie season slowly transforms into blockbuster season, part 2 (tell me Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol isn't a summer movie that came out in the wrong month), one should not let the draw of thunderous explosions distract completely, as there are still wonderful indie features to be enjoyed. This weekend, try out the flip side of the tired man-child clichés, a documentary about finding the Christmas spirit by forcing oneself into Santa servitude and a challenging film about addiction.
This Weekend at the Drafthouse
Writer Diablo Cody (Juno, United States of Tara) and director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) have once again teamed up to bring to life the story of a damaged woman. In Young Adult, Charlize Theron is Mavis Gary, a 30-something ghostwriter of young adult novels who finds herself faced with a growing mountain of problems, including a recent divorce. Seeking to re-spark some of innocent youth, she travels back to her childhood home of Mercury, Minnesota hoping, in some part, to reconnect with her high school sweetheart Buddy (Patrick Wilson). The problem is he's now married with children; he has both gotten older and grown up. Instead of recognizing her own shortcomings, Mavis instead seeks comfort in both drink and in conversations with Matt, a sad-sack hate-crime victim played by Patton Oswalt. Cody and Reitman have crafted a film free of easily definable character arcs or typical Hollywood emotional predictability instead trusting their audience enough to present their lead character in way that doesn't mask her copious flaws and, for that, it is an easy indie recommendation. (Young Adult also opens Friday at Violet Crown Cinema and Regal Arbor Cinema.)
One of the most delightful films to play SXSW back in 2010 comes to the Drafthouse South Lamar location for one show only this weekend. On Sunday (12/18), get into the holiday season with Becoming Santa. The documentary follows Jack Sanderson, a man who has become disillusioned by the Christmas season. His cure for a case of the curmudgeons? He signs up to become a rent-a-Santa. Through the course of Becoming Santa, audiences are treated to Sanderson's trip to Santa School, his detailed Santa costume fitting, and the many and varied jobs for which he is hired. All the while, Sanderson, a gruff but loveable guy (kind of like St. Nick himself one would imagine), cracks wise making this one of the funniest holiday movies you'll see this year. The screening also serves as the Drafthouse's first "virtual toy and canned food drive". Take a picture of yourself dropping off toys or food at a location donation station and you'll get in for free. A receipted dated within the week of a donation of $10 or more to a local charity works too. Tickets are also on sale online and at the box office.
This Weekend at Violet Crown Cinema
This highly anticipated film Shame (the second from director Steve McQueen, who wowed audiences in 2008 with the gorgeous and crushing Hunger) opens Friday at the Violet Crown. In it, McQueen re-teams with Michael Fassbander to present the story of a man unwilling to be intimate with women but unable to control his need for sexual encounters with them. His world is shaken a bit when his waifish sister (Carey Mulligan) shows up to live with him. Slapped with an NC-17 rating, expect Shame to be another slice of raw cinema from McQueen and look forward to yet another commanding performance from the ever-reliable Fassbender.
Beyond the Weekend
The Alamo Drafthouse's High for the Holidays series brings the cinematic wonder that is Enter the Void back to Austin for a few play dates (12/18, 12/19, 12/25). The Gaspar Noé (Irreversible) marvel is the story of Oscar, an American living and dealing drugs in Tokyo. During an altercation with police he is shot and killed and the next 150-or-so minutes is spent free-floating with his detached soul through Tokyo. Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Enter the Void isn't really meant to be an enjoyable experience (death is not pleasant) but as a cinematic achievement is awe-inspiring. It's visually and aurally unlike anything you've seen and the theater is the only place to experience it correctly.