Life & Arts

Entertainment, live performance, food, cuisine, dining, theater, film, television, art, broadcasting, SXSW, and other arts and culture news in and around Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

The beginning of Raging Bull finds Jake LaMotta, the former middleweight champion played by Robert De Niro, a sad shadow of his former self — a paunchy middle-aged washout reduced to converting his legacy in the ring to a stilted lounge act.

Yet those old rituals persist backstage, when he's alone with his demons and anxiously rehearsing his jabs for the big show. "Just give me a stage/where this bull here can rage," says LaMotta. Though robbed of his dignity and his manhood, he keeps on punching.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/benzies

Whether you’re ready or not, South by Southwest kicks off in just over three weeks. Here’s a compilation of recent festival announcements and reports:

SXSW Music: The music showcase grid is live on the SX Schedule website, showing who is playing where at what time. Let the tough decisions begin. In other music news, influential indie-music website Pitchfork  is trumpeting its booking of Fiona Apple at its Central Presbyterian Church showcase. "The beloved singer-songwriter hasn't played more than a handful of shows since 2007,” the site writes.

SXSW Film: A string of film conference panels and late additions to the festival has just been announced. Panels include A Conversation with Seth MacFarlane, wherein the “Family Guy” creator sounds off; Funny or Die: Future of Comedy & Everything Else, a talk with the minds behind the popular comedy website; and Screaming with Laughter: FEARnet TV's Holliston, featuring players from the horror channel and filmmaker Adam Green, who’s developed a program for the company.

Image courtesy teamcoco.com

A crew of Austin creatives has taken its “Intergalactic Nemesis” show on the road – with a stop on Conan O’Brien’s show last night.

What is “The Intergalactic Nemesis” you may ask? Essentially, it’s a live-action comic book where performers enact a fantastic sci-fi story with live music and sound effects. The crew last night featured “Nemesis” producer and director Jason Neulander, musician and composer Graham ReynoldsBuzz Moran providing foley effects, and others – including O’Brien and his sidekick Andy Richeter. The art behind the performers was also created by another Austinite, Tim Doyle.

You can view the performance on the “Conan” website. The “Nemesis” crew concludes its tour in March, and will present a rough cut of its newest piece, “Book Two: Robot Planet Rising,” at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar that same month

Below is Adam Davidson's latest New York Times Magazine column, "Don't Mock the Artisanal-Pickle Makers." Read all of Davidson's Times Magazine columns here.

This Valentine's Day, NPR brings you more than just news—we are bringing you love. Back by popular demand this year, our Valentine's Day cards will certainly tickle your funny bone and just maybe add some love to your life.

Check out all the NPR Valentines, and choose the card that best suits your NPR-lovin' sweetheart.

PBS's hit series Downton Abbey has been praised for its subtle and witty dialogue. But a few anachronisms have slipped into the characters' conversations, and spotting them has become a hobby for many fans.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/starbright31

It’s safe to say a music-loving town like Austin’s familiar with Bon Iver, the folk-tinged indie band fronted by Justin Vernon. But that might not be the case for the public at large.

Bon Iver has made numerous stops in Austin: at South by Southwest, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and most recently, a performance at the Long Center. (KUT is a fan as well.)

Nationally, Vernon’s stature has grown since appearing on Kanye West’s platinum-selling “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, and Bon Iver’s self-titled 2011 album was named album of the year by numerous critics, including music-review site Pitchfork.

But for many, Vernon’s Grammy win for “Best New Artist” last night was the first many had heard of him. And moments after his acceptance speech, the confusion took to Twitter, with hilarious results.

Here’s a tale for you: each year, The Austin Chronicle issues a call for short stories, previously-unpublished manuscripts with a limit of 2,500 words. After a winnowing and judging, one story is selected for publication, with the winner taking home $800.

Tonight, that winning entry in the Chronicle’s 20th annual Short Story Contest will be announced in a reception at BookPeople.

Chronicle Books editor Kimberley Jones tells us that “we had just under 560 submissions this year, significantly up from last year. But not only were the numbers up, I think the overall quality of the submissions improved this year, too. In the first round, every story is read twice by a Chronicle staffer or ‘friend of the family’ and rated 0 to 5. The scores were a lot higher this year. I might've worried we're all just getting soft, but I read about 150 or so of the stories myself and was pretty knocked out by the talent out there. “

Photo courtesy flickr.com/chrisgallevo

You'd think owning the distribution rights to an Academy Award-nominated film might be enough, but the Alamo Drafthouse has never been known to rest on its laurels.

The Drafthouse Films distribution of “Bullhead” is only part of the story. In addition, the venerable local theater is announcing new developments almost daily.

Alamo Slaughter Lane Opens in March: The Circle C Alamo outpost will be opening in mere weeks, with an elaborate, “Little Shop of Horrors”-esque design. (It’s a nod to the nearby Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Drafthouse CEO Tim League tells Austin360 in a victory-lap interview.)  The grand opening is March 22, but an open-to-the-public soft launch begins March 8.

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A certain sporting match is occurring this weekend, and viewers wil

A triptych of chilly flicks blows into Austin theaters this weekend. Among the new releases: Indie-horror auteur Ti West’s “The Innkeepers;” “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” an austere drama anchored by Tilda Swinton; and “The Woman in Black,” released under the storied Hammer Films franchise with an up-and-coming young actor named Daniel Radcliffe. (Maybe you’ve heard of him?)

Austin audiences have had a few chances to catch “The Innkeepers” previously, having screened at South by Southwest and the Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest. The follow-up to director West’s well-received “The House of the Devil,” “The Innkeepers” shares a similar retro-horror sensibility to his breakout film. Two slacker clerks at a storied northwestern inn investigate reports of workplace hauntings on the weekend the inn is slated to close. Suffice to say, mysterious visitors check in, nerves slowly fray, and plenty of things begin to go bump in the night. Light on gore and long on tension, “The Innkeepers” is certain to keep audiences unnerved.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/dennis

SXSW Wristbands For Sale this Morning at 10 am

South by Southwest begins wristband sales for its music festival this morning. Purchases can only be made online to people with an Austin area zipcode:

South by Southwest will be here before you know it, and here’s another sign of the impending takeover: Today, the festival released its lineup for SXSW Film, including 65 world premieres and ten U.S. premieres.

High profile picks include the reboot of “21 Jump Street,” starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Ice Cube. The comedy has been named a “Centerpiece” film; SXSW Film producer Janet Pierson tells The Austin Chronicle she went into the screening “with total skepticism,” but came away impressed, calling the film “a real social commentary.”

Also receiving special designation as closing night film was “Big Easy Express,” a documentary on a train powered concert tour spearheaded by indie revivalists Mumford & Sons (which included an Austin stop.)

If you had to pick 100 iconic individuals, who would you choose?

We noted last week the buzz surrounding “Bullhead,” a moody Belgian noir acquired by the up-and-coming distribution arm of the Alamo Drafthouse.

And with today’s Academy Awards announcements, that buzz cranked up to full blast: “Bullhead” has snared a Best Foreign Language Film nomination, and Drafthouse Films has copped a distribution coup.

“Bullhead” director Michaël R. Roskam says in a press release that "It feels like going to the world championship!" And Alamo Drafthouse/Drafthouse Films CEO Tim League notes, “Roskam is an incredibly exciting new director. We are so happy that the Academy thinks as highly of him as we do!"

Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/kk

The signs are everywhere that South by Southwest is nigh. But here’s one that doesn’t involve the rejiggering of sound permits: Finalists for the SXSW Interactive Awards have been announced.

The awards are divided into 15 categories: Activism, Amusement, Art, Business, Classic, Community, Educational Resource, Experimental, Film/TV, Motion Graphics, Music, Personal, Social Media, Student, and Technical Achievement.

Meant to recognize up-and-coming websites, applications and digital projects, the closest thing to a widespread name in the categories is Storify, which lets users combine social media updates into newsworthy narratives.

And in another sign of the burgeoning importance of the festival’s tech component, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell is leading a delegation of Austin start-ups to the UK this week.

"Dazed and Confused" fans wondering what happened to Matthew McConaughey’s iconic character David Wooderson can fret no more: Apparently he’s been wandering through some upscale night club in slow-motion.

That’s what’s McConaughey’s character is doing in the clip for “Synthesizers,” a song from Butch Walker and the Black Widows. It seems as if McConaughey’s Camaro-rock character’s been dumped there in countenance to the superficial glam of his surroundings. Or as Walker laments in the song’s opening bars:  "Everybody's writing songs with synthesizers /But I don't have a synthesizer.”

Two limited release features open in Austin this weekend, while a third installment of a violent fantasy series caters to its fans.

The Alamo Drafthouse is having another big weekend, with two notable premieres. While "Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission" has screened in Austin during South by Southwest, it begins a limited theatrical run tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/mrjoro

So this is the way we live now: a new mobile application is coming to Austin that rates bars. But instead of relying on user-submitted data like Yelp, it has a network of cameras in participating nightclubs feeding real time information on a club’s capacity and demographics.

That’s the idea behind SceneTap, launching across several Austin bars this Friday.

Photo by City of Austin

The City of Austin says it will pay up to $166,000 in costs and labor for someone to create a piece of “exterior art that is engaging for families and children” near a bridge that will become part of the Seaholm District redevelopment project.

The bridge, as you can see in the image above, will link Shoal Creek Trail to West Avenue via Second Street. The City of Austin’s Art in Public Places Project, which has been doing this kind of thing since 1985, says applicants should focus on meeting these criteria:

Photo by KUT

John Aielli has hosted KUT's Eklektikos for decades. He was hospitalized Wednesday for a heart attack. John's prognosis is good and he is expected to recover soon. KUT has a thread going on our Facebook page and Spike Gillespie set up a blog called Get Well Soon John!

[View the story "Well Wishes for John Aielli " on Storify]

Photo by Nike

Updated at 1:18 p.m. The arrival of Nike’s newest shoe, the Air Jordan Retro XI Concord, brought crowds of people and police to Barton Creek Mall and Highland Mall last night. One police officer was injured, KXAN reports. Some people suffered minor injuries, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Several shoppers said they were pepper sprayed by police.

“Nobody was doing anything bad. We were just getting close to [the store] and they started spraying mace, and [I] got mace all over my eyes," Jalen Hall told KVUE. "I was pretty angry."

People lined up at stores across the country, and ABC News reports that police were called to stores in Indiana, Florida, Texas and Virginia. The Detroit Free Press says one man was arrested at a mall, accused of inciting a riot. One person was arrested after reportedly firing a gun into the air where 3,000 people were lined up at a store in California's Bay Area. 

So what’s the deal with these shoes, apart from the fact that they bear the name of basketball hall of famer Michael Jordan?

Sixth Street in downtown Austin, Texas, is one of the city's premiere live music districts. Guitar-shaped Christmas decorations hang on light poles, and the street is alive with bands and bars. Tonight you can hear ­­­­­­­­Austin Heat at the Thirsty Nickel, Mike Milligan and the Altar Boys at Maggie Mae's, or you could catch Misbehavin' at the Dizzy Rooster.

Sergio Flores created an internet meme called the Sexy Sax Man by sporting suspenders, a mullet and a saxophone and playing the hook to George Michael's 1984 hit "Careless Whisperto unsuspecting patrons inside laundromats, shopping mall food courts and Ross Dress For Less. 

A video making the rounds online today shows the Sexy Sax Man doing his thing at popular spots around Austin. You can watch it above.

We had to mention this obscure piece of trivia about the video: It includes a two second cameo by NPR national correspondent John Burnett. He was playing harmonica with the band at Victory Grill when Sexy Sax Man hit the stage. John is the guy with a short-sleeved gray shirt on stage standing behind Flores. The section of the video starts at 1:20. 

As with most pranks, it's not quite as funny when everyone is in on it, but check out some of Flores' older videos for a taste of the humor that made him popular. 

Photo courtesy flickr.com/cgkinla

The Dolph Briscoe Center for American Studies at UT-Austin has acquired the papers of writer, journalist and frequent Court TV host and contributor Dominick Dunne.

Photo by Master Sgt. Lee Roberts, USAF http://osd.dtic.mil/news/Nov2004/n11232004_2004112302.html

Dan “Bee” Spears, Willie Nelson’s bass player for more than four decades, has died at the age of 62. Spears’ girlfriend Dee Pearce said Spears slipped and fell while exiting his motor home near Nashville on Thursday night and died from exposure to the elements, KXAN reported.

Spears was born in San Antonio on August 11, 1949. He started playing bass for Willie Nelson at age 19, according to this birthday note on Nelson’s website.

We called Ray Benson, frontman of Asleep at the Wheel and a close friend of Spears for 38 years, to get his reaction.

“I’m just shocked. It’s not something you expect at all,” Benson told us. “But to paraphrase an old friend, Warren Zevon, ‘Enjoy every taco,’ because you just don’t know.”

Photo by Lord_Henry http://www.flickr.com/photos/10567940@N05/

Organizers of Austin's South By Southwest Music Conference and Festival announced the keynote speaker for 2012. It's the biggest catch yet for the 26 year-old event.

It was a well-kept secret but SXSW organizers revealed Bruce Springsteen will be the music conference's keynote speaker in March.

"After the death of Clarence Clemons, it marks a new chapter. So doing something like this which you know, it's an event where he can kind of assess his career; makes tons of sense," said Ann Powers, NPR Music critic and correspondent.

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