Seven Up!

stateside independent

This is the first in a series of UP recaps, moving through the films from SEVEN UP through 49 UP in anticipation of the Texas Premiere of 56 UP at Stateside at the Paramount, screening Monday February 18 and Tuesday February 19. If you did your homework and watched SEVEN UP last night, scroll to the bottom of this post and be the first to correctly answer three trivia questions about the film to win two free tickets to 56 UP!

In the context of the entire UP Series, the first film SEVEN UP! serves as a foundational set of brief, frequently insightful interviews with the young people we will follow into adulthood. Viewing it with the knowledge that the kids’ entire lives are well-documented in the films that follow, you can’t help but be excited about the series and hopeful that the kids will achieve their dreams, erase their prejudices, and live happy lives.


As a film viewed by itself, SEVEN UP is somewhat different from all the films that followed. It’s less about the ongoing journey of life and more about the childrens’ views on race, class, and gender. Each of the kids has developed a unique personality all their own, and you can’t help but assume that, in the making of this half-hour televised documentary short, the filmmakers realized they had cobbled together quite an interesting bunch of youths, interesting enough to continue following long into the future.

Because the film was made with the class system in mind, the kids are essentially lumped into two groups, upper class or working class, at least until they are more individually fleshed out in the later films. Andrew, Charles, and John all attend the same pre-prep school for upper-class children in Kensington, while Suzy’s wealthy parents have sent her to boarding school. We see, in one sequence, the stark contrast between the classes as shots of Suzy gracefully practicing ballet are intercut with the working-class children rough-housing on a playground.


One of the more rambunctious rough-housers is Tony, who attends school in the historically poor East End of London, with the instantly recognizable accent to prove it. Tony will prove to be one of the more lovable subjects of the series, while Neil from Liverpool leads one of the more interesting, up-and-down lives that we will see.

You can see that the kids, despite being raised under some very rigid circumstances, are already well on their way to becoming adults with opinions and the ability to speak their minds. Although they sometimes simply echo what they’ve clearly been told by their parents (“I’m going to Cambridge.” “I’m going to Africa to help the uncivilized become more or less good.” “I think the Beatles make too much noise.”), you can see them processing the questions they are asked before they answer.


One of the wonderful things about this series is that Apted continues to refer back to clips from the previous films to provide context, so we’ll be reminded of these smiling faces frequently as we watch the kids grow old, for better or worse. All this to say: bring on 14 UP (aka 7 Plus Seven)! But why stop at 14? We have a whole weekend ahead of us, how many UP films can you watch?

Trivia: Did you watch SEVEN UP last night? If so, try your hand at the three trivia questions below. The first person to answer all 3 questions correctly in the comments section below will win two free tickets to 56 UP! (Stumped? Remember, all of the films in the UP Series are streaming on Netflix, and SEVEN UP is only 30 minutes long! So by all means, go cheat!)

1. Who has a girlfriend named Michelle who calls him a monkey?

2. What song do we see some of the children singing in Latin?

3. What career will Neil pursue if he can’t be an astronaut?

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56 Up at Stateside Independent

This week, we announced a brand new film series taking place every Monday night at Stateside at the Paramount called Stateside Independent, which will bring arthouse hits, festival favorites, and local premieres to Austin audiences on a weekly basis. I couldn’t be more excited about providing a fresh new platform for independent filmmakers to showcase their work, and my greatest hope is that this series proves to be a valuable addition for the growing community of Austin film lovers.

stateside independent

We’re particularly proud to be kicking this series off with 56 UP, the latest entry in the legendary documentary series from director Michael Apted. In 1964, a group of seven-year-olds in England were chosen to be interviewed about their hopes and dreams for their futures; in other words, what did they want to be when they grew up? Every seven years since then, Apted has gathered these individuals together to see where they are in life.


As you can imagine, each entry carries great emotional heft, as you witness dreams realized, shattered, or still to be determined. The most remarkable thing about watching the films is how they reflect on your own life and its ups and downs.

I first caught up with the series when I was 21, so 21 UP was particularly affecting for me while 28 UP was a little scary to watch. Would I wind up as unhappy or unsettled as some of these interviewees, or would I be exactly where I hoped I would be? Now, watching 28 UP again at the age of 27, I imagine I’ll see things differently. Perhaps what I perceived as failure at 21 I’ll now recognize as simply making the best of what life gives you.


With that in mind, I intend to re-watch all seven of the previous films and write about them here in the coming days, both as a prelude to our Texas premiere of 56 UP and also as a sort of Cliffs Notes for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the series. But don’t take my word for it: all seven of the UP films are streaming on Netflix and available to rent at I Luv Video and Vulcan Video. So, why not join me on the journey with these remarkable subjects, culminating Monday February 18 at Stateside at the Paramount with 56 UP (with an added second screening on Tuesday February 19)?

I’ll see you back here tomorrow for a look back at the one that started it all, SEVEN UP! In the meantime, have a look at what critics are saying about 56 UP and take a peek at the trailer:

New York Times Logo – “Critics’ Pick! Remarkable, poignant, fascinating. An analogous project in print or even still photographs wouldn’t be as powerful, because what gives the “Up” series its punch is not so much its longevity or the human spectacle it offers, but that these are moving images of touchingly vibrant lives at certain moments in time and space. The more you watch, the more the movies transform from mirrors into memory machines, ones that inevitably summon reflections of your own life.”

Entertainment Weekly Logo – “Grade: A! Awe-inducing. Apted has created a series of films as profound as they are straightforward: here is a chronicle of real human souls evolving in real time, a longitudinal study unique to the medium of moving images — and a documentary masterpiece.  With each passing calendar leap, the experience of watching has only become more soul-stirring. ”

The New Yorker Logo – “This is a series about us as much as it is a series about the individual fates of the children…It insists that we care, deeply, as we watch Apted and his subjects grow up, and as we follow them down.”

New York Logo– “Critics’ Pick! The Up series will have to go down in history as one of the more touching and ambitious cinematic and televisual experiments of our — or anyone else’s — time.”

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Texas Chainsaw Massacred

Why is it important for cinemas like the Paramount and Stateside to continue screening classic films? For one, in this era of countless remakes, reboots, sequels, and prequels, we should remind ourselves of the original film’s intent and remember the reasons why it has been declared a classic. This appears to have been a low priority for the filmmakers behind Texas Chainsaw 3D (in theaters today).


Though TC3D is being promoted as a “direct sequel” to Tobe Hooper’s original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre from 1974, seeing it immediately after Hooper’s landmark film doesn’t do the new one any favors. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I experienced it last night as part of the Alamo South Lamar’s (temporary) Closing Night.

First, we were treated to the classic (a fine treat indeed, in 35mm) with Hooper in attendance for a Q&A. Remarkably humble for someone who has directed not one but two horror classics (Poltergeist being the other one), Hooper regaled us with stories about shooting the film in the miserable Texas heat and how the cast and crew ultimately came to hate one another until the film was finally in the can.


Whatever happened on that set, the outcome proved to be not only one of the finest horror films ever made but also one of the lasting artistic reflections on the prevailing mood in America in the early 1970s. More than just a band of crazies, the burly, grotesque Leatherface and his cannibalistic family represented the dissolution of the American domestic ideal and the awakening of repressed anger and violence that followed the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. For a change, a horror film had a lot to say.

Which is why I was surprised to hear Hooper himself praise Texas Chainsaw 3D for “not trying to reinvent the wheel,” an odd statement from a man who, with his own film, got rid of the wheel entirely and made the horror genre soar. But it was certainly an accurate statement. TC3D feels like every other horror remake we’ve seen in the past several years. Gone is the visual and aural experimentation of the original (how about those opening photo flash sounds? I shudder…). Sure, Leatherface and the family concerns are all still there, but they’ve been entirely stripped of their meaning, leaving nothing but a bloody mess behind.


The original Massacre ends with a favorite shot of mine, a visual summation of everything the film represented. As the only surviving girl jumps into a fleeing truck, Leatherface gives up the chase and begins spinning around madly, hurling his chainsaw in all directions as the sunlight reflects off the blade. The shot reminds us that, even though this particular girl has gotten away, we as viewers cannot escape the fact that Leatherface (or, rather, what Leatherface represents) is here to stay – a terrifying, breathtaking image of triumph. I was hoping for just a single moment as effortlessly and thrillingly effective as this in the new film. I didn’t get it. That’s why we keep showing the classics.


Suggestion: Revisit the original 1974 Massacre, then skip TC3D and head over to Vulcan Video or I Luv Video for Hooper’s own followup The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, a wild and woolly film (starring Dennis Hopper!) that probably needs its own blog post…

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The Man from Orlando

By the time most of us return to work after New Year’s Day, we will have seen a majority of the highly acclaimed, much discussed films that will feature prominently during awards seasons. Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, all of these will be in our rear view. That’s when we have to steel ourselves for the inevitable: the cinematic dumping grounds of January, when many studios choose to introduce films that wouldn’t stand a chance at the box office in any other month of the year. Can anyone remember Contraband? Joyful Noise? Man on a Ledge? Didn’t think so. But fear not – we will be shining a bright light of cinematic hope this January at Stateside at the Paramount, when we proudly host the highly anticipated Austin premiere of THE MAN FROM ORLANDO.


This hilarious new film from director Craig Elrod and writers Elrod and Jason Newman tells the story of Orlando (Newman), a lifeguard in the summer and gangster in the winter, who abandons his life of crime and moves back to his hometown of Priddy, Texas. After getting in over his head with his Olympic swimmer ex-girlfriend and a crew of volunteer firefighters, his former lifeguard gang comes after him and the contents of his fanny pack.

This movie truly has it all. Laughs! Romance! Criminal Lifeguards! And most importantly, it shines the spotlight on a remarkably talented, local Austin cast and crew, with the likes of John Merriman, Chris Doubek, Byron Brown, and many others all featuring memorably in the film. So don’t throw your money away seeing whatever Hollywood tells you to see; come to the Stateside and support your local filmmakers! We’ll see you Saturday January 12th at 8:00pm (doors at 7:00pm), and be sure to stick around for a Q&A with the cast & crew after the screening!

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The Nice List

On Wednesday and Thursday, we’re presenting two Christmas classics at the Paramount to get you in the singing, dancing holiday mood, both of which share one thing in common: Irving Berlin’s classic tune “White Christmas.”

Many people mistakenly believe that “White Christmas” originated in the 1954 musical WHITE CHRISTMAS (I wonder what would give them that idea…). Irving Berlin actually wrote the song for HOLIDAY INN, another holiday musical starring Bing Crosby. In fact, after both the song and the film became huge hits in 1942, Berlin’s “White Christmas” went on to win Best Original Song at the 1943 Academy Awards, a full 11 years before it was featured in WHITE CHRISTMAS.

Reynolds, Marjorie (Holiday Inn)_01

Though the films share the song and Crosby, there are many things to distinguish the two, making them a perfect double feature. In HOLIDAY INN, Crosby is joined by the incomparable Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale as a musical trio turned love triangle, with Crosby as the odd man out.  Heartbroken, Crosby retires to a farm in Connecticut, which he ultimately turns into Holiday Inn, a resort/entertainment venue that is only open on holidays.


A fanciful concept, to be sure, which makes HOLIDAY INN the perfect fantasy for the Christmas season, full of romance, comedy, and, of course, music. In addition to “White Christmas,” the film features nearly a dozen other Irving Berlin tunes, which will have you singing about Thanksgiving, Easter, and even George Washington’s birthday. Why just celebrate Christmas when you can celebrate all the holidays at once? Don’t miss it, Wednesday December 12 at 7:00pm and Thursday December 13 at 9:30pm.

And don’t worry, we’ve got WHITE CHRISTMAS, too. The Paramount holiday favorite returns for another celebration of sister acts, sing-alongs, and ski lodge romances. In case your memory is a little hazy, here are some titles to clear things up: “Blue Skies,” “Sisters,” “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,” “What Can You Do with a General,” and of course, “White Christmas” itself.


The story that contains all these wonderful songs features two WWII buddies, played by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, who become a successful song-and-dance duo after the war. When they arrive at the Pine Tree Ski Lodge with a sister act, played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, to put on a show, they discover the lodge is owned and operated by their beloved former General, who has fallen on hard times. The four entertainers decide to rejuvenate the lodge’s failing finances by putting on a really big show, but will it work?

Time and time again, WHITE CHRISTMAS sends audiences out into the winter weather with a huge smile on their face. With Irving Berlin’s songs, Bing Crosby’s legendary croon, and a heartwarming climax that never leaves a dry eye in the house, you might say that this is the perfect Christmas film. If you’ve never seen it before, the Paramount is the perfect place to make WHITE CHRISTMAS part of your holiday tradition. Join us Wednesday December 12 at 9:10pm and Thursday December 13 at 7:00pm!

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The Naughty List

We’re kicking off our run of holiday films at the Paramount this Sunday with a double feature that might get us all added to the naughty list.

Have you ever spent an entire Saturday stringing up Christmas lights, only to have one blown bulb keep the whole thing from working? Have you ever gone up to the attic for Christmas decorations and come back down through the bedroom ceiling? Have you ever spent the holidays with your family? If you have, then you can commiserate with Clark Griswold, Chevy Chase’s hilariously empathetic everyman in CHRISTMAS VACATION, the finest entry in the National Lampoon’s Vacation series.


Clark’s boundless Christmas spirit is being tested. His wife has just informed him that the in-laws are going to be staying at the Griswold house for the holidays, cousin Eddie (a disaster of a human being memorably played by Randy Quaid) has shown up unexpectedly, and, to top it all off, Clark still hasn’t received that Christmas bonus he was hoping to get from his miserly boss. The woes continue to add up for Clark, while the laughs add up for us.

CHRISTMAS VACATION is a holiday tradition in many homes every Christmas. But when’s the last time you enjoyed this classic comedy unedited, commercial-free, and on glorious 35mm? This year, change things up and join us at the Paramount as we celebrate the Griswolds’ highs and lows and remind ourselves that Christmas is about friends and family and making life miserable for the neighbors. Don’t miss it on Sunday December 9 at 7:00pm and Monday December 10 at 9:00pm.

For our second feature, we’ve got a cast of characters that make the Griswolds and their troubles seem like a walk in the park.

It’s not easy to make a modern holiday classic. Many have tried to recreate the joyous atmosphere and heartwarming pathos of standard-bearers like WHITE CHRISTMAS or IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but few have succeeded. Enter director Terry Zwigoff (who championed social outsiders with his renowned documentary CRUMB and indie favorite GHOST WORLD) and writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who decided to go in a different direction with BAD SANTA, easily the naughtiest, bawdiest Christmas comedy you’ll ever see.


Billy Bob Thornton gives a career-topping performance as Willie, the titular “Bad Santa,” a drunken, foul-mouthed con artist posing as a department store Father Christmas in order to make off with the store’s loot. The only question is: with all the misery and depression (and hard liquor) coursing through him, can Willie hold it together long enough to make the score?

Speaking of stealing, Brett Kelly just about runs away with every scene as an awkward, cherubic kid who is convinced that Willie is the real Santa Claus. You’ll come for Thornton’s maniacal turn, but you’ll stay for Kelly, the heart and soul of the film who carries this dark yuletide yarn into the light and, ultimately, into the pantheon of holiday favorites.


You will laugh (a lot), but you might be surprised to find a tear in your eye, too. Join us on Sunday December 9 at 9:05pm and Monday December 10 at 7:00pm.

And be sure to get your photo taken with Bad Santa Sunday night from 8:30-9:00pm or Monday night from 6:30-7:00pm. For those of you who prefer the “good” old-fashioned Santa, he’ll be there Monday from 6:30-7:00pm, too!

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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

A couple weeks ago, I walked into the Paramount Theatre for the first time as the new Paramount Film Institute Programmer, and I was both overwhelmed and overjoyed.

Sure, I’ve spent plenty of time in the Paramount enjoying classic films and introducing new ones as the Film Program Director at Austin Film Festival, a job I held for the past two years. But this time, as I stepped into the room and let the responsibility of this storied theatre’s film program truly sink in, I fulfilled a longstanding dream of mine and also recognized that an awesome and exciting challenge now awaits me.

paramount exterior

Or should I say, “awaits us.” The Paramount and Stateside Theatres are a part of that increasingly rare breed of community-based, mission-driven cinemas. The “community-based” part means that, even though it’s my responsibility to bring you the very best that both classic and indie film have to offer, you play a significant role in our theatres, too.

Beyond simply providing your support and attending our screenings, you give us the feedback that helps us make the Paramount and Stateside such great places to see films. Are you pining after a beloved film that you haven’t seen in years? Don’t be afraid to chat with me about it when you see me at the theatre (I love talking old movies, that’s why I’m here!). Have you heard about an exciting new indie film that has film lovers abuzz? Drop me a line and make sure it’s on my radar.

paramount interior

Long story short, my mission is you, the film lovers who will continue to put down their tablets and support the theatrical experience. The Paramount will carry on fighting for the preservation and exhibition of our cinematic history, and you, as always, will remain our greatest allies.

What I want, most of all, is to provide you with the same feeling I had when I arrived for my first day on the job: an appreciation of the great history and vital importance of these theatres, and an anticipation for all the great things to come. I look forward to meeting you at the movies very soon and staring up at all those wonderful flickering pictures together.

-Stephen Jannise

P.S. Stay tuned to this blog, as I will be updating it regularly with thoughts on films new and old. This week, I’ll be focusing on the great batch of holiday films we have for you, starting Sunday night 12/9 with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Bad Santa, both in the Paramount on glorious 35mm!

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