Sony’s new sci-fi film (being heavily advertised on television recently), “Life,” with Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal headlining a cast from all over the globe closed the SXSW Film Festival in Austin Saturday night at the Zach Theater. Director Daniel Espinosa, who will celebrate his 40th birthday on March 23rd, typifies the international aura: he was born in Sweden of Chilean parents and attended the National Film School of Denmark.
The cast of “I’m Dying Up Here” came to SXSW to answer questions about the much-anticipated Showtime drama series that is loosely based on Mitzi Shore of The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. A book by William Knoedelseder was the basis for the superlative writing from head writer Dave Flebotte. The pilot episode was directed by Jonathan Levine (“Warm Bodies,” “50/50”) and will premiere on the network on Sunday, June 4th, 2017.
The sex tape trial between wrestler Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media pitted privacy rights against freedom of the press, but ended up as a case study in how big money can silence media using legal means. This examination of the free press in an age of inequality echoes the “Vanity Fair” November, 2016, issue with an article by David Margolick entitled “V.C. for Vendetta.”
From that article, we learn that, outed as gay by one of Gawker’s web sites in 2007, Silicon billionaire Peter Thiel ($2.7 billion as a co-founder of PayPal, and an early investor in Facebook) laid low until 2016, when he seized the opportunity to financially back Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy suit over a sex tape to bankrupt the entire organization.
In this documentary that interviews all the principals except Thiel (who is seen speaking at other venues), we learn that “what he’s done is to legitimize the idea that an uninvolved party can fund an effort by someone else in order to destroy a news organization. If billionaires and multi-millionaires can be behind the scenes doing this, that is conspiratorial and underhanded completely.” As Gawker founder Nick Denton, who was personally bankrupted, said, “We were outgunned here.”
When you come out of the new John Hawkes film “Small Town Crime” you know you’ve seen a special movie that has the potential to become a huge hit. Maybe even a franchise for P.I. “Jack Winter”
(John Hawkes)? Written and directed by Ian and Eshom Nelms in a very sarcastic, sardonic tone, the movie follows alcoholic ex-cop John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone,” “The Sessions”) as he attempts to solve a crime in the hope that it will provide redemption for his past sins, especially the death of his partner when he was a police Sergeant.
“This Is Your Death” is an unsettling look at reality television, where a disturbing game show emerges that has its contestants ending their lives for the public’s enjoyment. Director Giancarlo Esposito, who also plays the key role of Mason Washington in the film, worked on the film for 7 years, saying, “I didn’t want it to be just a sensationalistic piece, so it took me a long time to get it right.”