- By Charles Ealy Special to the American-Statesman
The Austin Film Festival and Conference kicks off Oct. 26 with a big lineup of film writers, narrative features, documentaries and panel discussions.
Actress Greta Gerwig makes her directorial debut with “Lady Bird,” while some of the top fall films such as “Darkest Hour” and “Chappaquiddick” get their first screenings in Austin.
We’ve put together a list of some of the highest-profile films, but many more can be found at austinfilmfestival.com.
The plot: A California teenager is exasperated with her opinionated mother, who has to try to hold the family together when the father loses his job.
Who stars: Saoirse Ronan plays the teen Lady Bird, while Laurie Metcalf plays her mom; Tracy Letts plays the dad.
Writer and director: Greta Gerwig gets both credits.
Did you know? It turns out that this is not a whiny movie that indicts motherhood.
When does it play at AFF? It’s the opening night film, at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Paramount.
When will it open in theaters? Limited release is Nov. 3; it’s scheduled to open in Austin on Nov. 17.
The plot: The Kennedy family goes into crisis mode to figure out how to handle the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, the campaign aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy, before the events surrounding the 1969 fatal car crash become public.
Who stars: Kate Mara is Kopechne, with Jason Clarke playing Kennedy.
Writer and director: Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan are co-writers, with John Curran directing. Allen was born in Houston and graduated from the University of Texas. He lives in L.A. Logan works at Austin’s Arts & Labor.
Did you know? It’s a safe bet that this movie will get the anti-Kennedy crowd stirred up again.
When does it play at AFF? 8:45 p.m. Nov. 2, Paramount Theatre.
When does it open in theaters? 2018
“Call Me by Your Name”
The plot: Oliver, a handsome American doctoral student who’s the ultimate 1980s preppy, has a summer internship with an Italian academic who owns a 17th-century villa in Italy. The academic has a 17-year-old son who’s beginning to explore his sexuality. He’s attracted to Oliver, but confused.
Who stars: Armie Hammer plays the U.S. student, while Timothee Chalamet plays the kid who’s having a sexual awakening.
Writer and director: James Ivory and Andre Aciman are the writers, while Luca Guadagnino directs. In case you didn’t know, James Ivory, the director of such classics as “The Remains of the Day” and “Howard’s End,” has had a longtime romantic relationship with his moviemaking partner, Ismail Merchant.
Did you know? Actor James Woods tweeted his disdain for a 17-year-old having gay sex on screen, and Hammer slammed him back. (The actor who plays the 17-year-old is actually 21.) This led actress Amber Tamblyn to share a story about Woods trying to hit on her when she was just a teen; Woods denied the encounter.
When does it play at AFF? 9:15 p.m. Oct. 30, State Theatre.
When does it open in theaters? It opens in New York and Los Angeles in late November. It will probably open in Austin in early December.
The plot: You liked Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” this summer? Well, guess what. You need to see this behind-the-scenes portrayal of what Winston Churchill had to do in Britain to save the world from fascism.
Who stars: Gary Oldman would seem like an unlikely Churchill since he’s thin and the cigar-chomping Churchill was far from it. But the fat suit helps. And the Oscars love a physical transformation. Remember Nicole Kidman winning an Oscar by a nose? At any rate, Kristin Scott Thomas plays Churchill’s wife, and she’s good, too.
Writer and director: Anthony McCarten and Joe Wright.
Did you know? It’s rather appalling that so many Britons wanted to appease Adolf Hitler. Then again, they were getting hammered at this point in the war, and the U.S. wasn’t a big help until it was attacked at Pearl Harbor.
When does it play at AFF? 7 p.m. Nov. 1, Paramount Theatre.
When will it open in theaters? It’s opening in limited release Nov. 22; no word on an Austin release.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
The plot: Mildred Hayes is outraged that months have passed since her daughter was murdered, with no apparent progress in the investigation. So she pays for three billboards to advertise her grievances, much to the dismay of the Missouri town’s police chief.
Who stars: Oscar-winner Frances McDormand plays the foul-mouthed, aggrieved mom, and Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell are the two officers who face her wrath.
Writer and director: Martin McDonagh.
Did you know? This won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. That’s a really good sign that this movie will be a big Oscar contender.
When does it play at AFF? 8:30 p.m. Oct. 28, Paramount Theatre.
When will it open in theaters? Fox Searchlight is the distributor, and it will start releasing the film in the biggest cities Nov. 10. Austin might get it a week or two later.
The plot: Olympic ice skating is dissected in the context of a troubled marriage and its failure – specifically, when the ex-husband of Tonya Harding concocts a scheme to injure Harding’s main rival.
Who stars: Margot Robbie is the biggie here as Tonya. Allison Janney plays her mom. Sebastian Stan plays Jeff Gillooly, the ex-husband, while Caitlin Carvey is the victim, Nancy Kerrigan.
Writer and director: Steve Rogers and Craig Gillespie.
Did you know? This movie played at the Toronto International Film Festival in September to surprisingly good reviews.
When does it play at AFF? 5:30 p.m. Nov. 2, Paramount Theatre.
When will it open in theaters? It’s scheduled to open in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 8; no Austin date has been announced.
The plot: A young woman named Angie is poverty-stricken and trying to take care of her 5-year-old son and an alcoholic mother. She and her family are evicted, and she asks for help from a questionable source: the man who abused her as a child.
Who stars: Auden Thornton is a Houston native who stars as Angie. She later trained at Juilliard.
Writer and director: Harris Doran.
Did you know? AFF sources say Thornton is definitely an actress to watch.
When does it play at AFF? 5:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at Galaxy Highland, 7 p.m. Nov. 1 at Hideout Theatre.
When will it open in theaters? Unclear. IMDB.com lists production companies but no distributor yet.
“An American in Texas”
The plot: Several members of a punk band are frustrated with life in 1990s Texas as the first war in the Persian Gulf gets underway. So they try to figure out how to escape to Los Angeles.
Who stars: The biggest name is Barry Corbin, but since the iconic Texas actor was born in 1940, he’s probably not a punker.
Writer and director: Anthony Pedone and Stephen Floyd share writing credits; Pedone directs.
Did you know? Pedone was born in Dallas and lives in Victoria.
When does it play at AFF? 4:15 p.m. Oct. 29, Rollins Theatre; 9:30 p.m. Nov. 1, State Theatre.
When will it open in theaters? Unclear. No distributor yet, according to IMDB.com.
“Here We Are”
The plot: A young writer hears about a way to make some quick money by working at a pharmaceutical company as a lab rat. Complications ensue.
Who stars: Alex Dobrenko, who starred in Austin director Steve Mims’ “Arlo and Julie,” plays Andy, the writer.
Writer and director: David Bellarosa, who based the film on his experiences in Austin after graduating from New York University.
Did you know? Dobrenko is quite talented and someone to watch. So far, he’s been flying under the Hollywood radar.
When does it play at AFF? 4:45 p.m. Oct. 28 at Galaxy Highland, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at State Theatre.
When will it open in theaters? No distributor yet.
“Please Stand By”
The plot: A young autistic woman decides to run away from home and pursue her dream of becoming a screenwriter.
Who stars: Dakota Fanning plays Wendy, the independent young woman, and Toni Collette plays her caregiver Scottie.
Writer and director: Michael Golamco and Ben Lewin.
Did you know? This is a movie from 2929 Productions, the company founded by Dallas entrepreneurs Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban.
When does it play at AFF? 6:45 p.m. Oct. 27, Paramount Theatre.
When will it open in theaters? IMDB.com says late October, but it will probably be a limited release, with later dates in various cities, depending on its critical reception at places like AFF.
The plot: The last two years of actress Jayne Mansfield’s life were filled with rumors and scandal before she died of brain trauma in a car wreck in New Orleans. Sight & Sound magazine calls the film “devilishly tasteless.”
Who stars: Ann Magnuson, Richmond Arquette, Jayne Mansfield.
Directors: P. David Ebersole, Todd Hughes.
Did you know? Mansfield grew up in Highland Park, the Dallas enclave. She married Paul Mansfield at age 17, and both attended Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas.
When does it play at AFF? 8:45 p.m. Oct. 27, Galaxy Highland.
When will it open in theaters? Unclear. It has a distributor, but no opening date for Austin has been set.
The plot: College students go in search of an archaeology professor who has disappeared while exploring an underground cavern.
Who stars: Andrew Wilson, Cassidy Gifford, Brianne Howey.
Writer and director: Mark Dennis writes, and he co-directs with Ben Foster. Both attended the University of Texas.
Did you know? The movie was filmed in Texas and California.
When does it play at AFF? 2 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Galaxy Highland and 3 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Rollins Theatre.
When will it open in theaters? No release date has been set.
“Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End”
The plot: The cartoonist known as Mr. Fish is probably among the most controversial artists working today. This documentary takes a look at his struggles to maintain his satirical edge while contributing to his family life.
Director: Pablo Bryant
Did you know? Political cartoonists are rapidly disappearing from U.S. newsrooms amid cutbacks.
When does it play at AFF? 4:45 p.m. Oct. 28, St. David’s Episcopal Church; 4 p.m. Nov. 1, Galaxy Highland.
When will it open in theaters? No release date has been announced.
The plot: Wilma Mankiller overcame a lot of sexism when she emerged as the Cherokee Nation’s first female principal chief. This documentary explores her legacy as a fighter for equality.
Writer and director: Valerie Red-Horse Mohl and Gale Anne Hurd sharing writing credits, while Mohl directs.
Did you know? About 1,200 people attended Mankiller’s funeral in Oklahoma when she died of pancreatic cancer in 2010.
When does it play at AFF? 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26, St. David’s Episcopal Church; 9:15 p.m. Oct. 29, Galaxy Highland.
When will it open in theaters? So far, it’s making its way through the festival circuit. No opening date has been announced.
The plot: In the past few decades, the U.S. has witnessed the rise of predatory for-profit colleges that have left millions of Americans loaded with debt.
Writer and director: Alexander Shebanow, Regina Sobel and Nicholas Adams share writing credits, while Shebanow directs.
Did you know? Sometimes Austinite Dan Rather is an executive producer and will be at AFF.
When does it play at AFF? 12:30 p.m. Oct. 28, State Theatre; 1:30 p.m. Nov. 1, Galaxy Highland.
When will it open in theaters? No date set.
“What Haunts Us”
The plot: The Porter Gaud High School in Charleston, S.C., has a dark past, despite its status among the city’s wealthy families. Six men from its graduating class of 1969 have committed suicide. And someone is to blame.
Writer and director: Mark Monroe and Paige Goldberg Tolmach.
Did you know? The film features interviews with a sexual predator.
When does it play at AFF? 4 p.m. Oct. 29, Hideout Theatre; 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1, Galaxy Highland.
When will it play in theaters? No release date has been set.