Preposterously charming Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet — greeted by squeals of joy on the red carpet — were the big draws at the split-screen 2018 Texas Film Awards. Yet there was so much more to observe and savor before, during and after the inevitable celebrity highlights.
A-LIST PHOTOS: Texas Film Awards red carpet on March 8.
1. A moveable feast. In the past staged primarily at the Austin Film Society‘s hulking studios on the north side of the Mueller development, this year’s incarnation of the group’s most dazzling benefit was held in at least six locations. A welcome reception was held at a private home on Thursday. An honoree lunch and panel sponsored by Variety magazine took place Friday at the sparkling new Fairmont Austin Hotel, as was a VIP dinner for 100 or so guests later in the day. A red carpet and cocktail reception followed early in the evening inside a tent and in the lobby of the relatively new AFS Cinema at The Linc. Guests were split into two theaters, one for in-person action, the other for televised treats, for the Awards Ceremony. Then we all strolled to the cinema’s event room, decorated like a pop-up nightclub, for the After Party. Although not corralled into a traditional sit-down dinner during the ceremony, we were well-fed and -watered.
2. Two new social magnets. We heard high praise for the Fairmont, Austin’s newest and largest hotel. John Paul DeJoria judged the steak the best he’d ever tasted at a social event like this one. His actress wife, Eloise DeJoria, and hometown film hero, Matthew McConaughey, fresh from his light-as-smoke “Beach Bum” project, joined him at an intimate table. Meanwhile, the AFS Cinema, called a “beacon of film culture” by AFS CEO Rebecca Campbell, but still unknown to most of the city, provided a suitable backdrop for the Awards Ceremony. “I think Austin is really growing up,” said entertainer and humanitarian Turk Pikpin as we headed from the tent to the lobby. (I will say that getting in and out of the movie theater rows during the multi-hour ceremony was a bit of a game for some of us.)
3. Keeping it light. Many a regular gala guest dreads the live auction part of a benefit evening, unless lighting strikes and a rare combination of auctioneer, bidders and auction items is especially electrifying. AFS backer and Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith acknowledged as much when he rose to conduct the Fund a Filmmaker part of this gala. He was helped by young Augustine Frizzel, who gushed about her AFS grant and how it transformed her most recent project. “It came at the most vulnerable and most precarious time in a filmmaker’s career,” she said. Then with elegance, humor and precision, Smith raced through the $30,000 digital drive to the relief of all. So far, AFS has given out $1.8 million in grants to rising talents.
4. Real reels. “Whoever edited that clip reel deserves an award,” said honoree Paul Thomas Anderson, eight-time Academy Award nominee and director of “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “There Will Be Blood and, most recently, “Phantom Thread.” This has always been a superpower for the AFS ceremony, which has gone by several names. Editing wizardry worthy of any Oscar telecast was also applied to Dallas-raised Hammer’s career, whose reel included “The Social Network,” “J Edgar,” “Nocturnal Animals” and, most recently, “Call Me By Your Name,” and the posthumously honored Jonathan Demme, whose clips included “Stop Making Sense,” “Philadelphia” and “The Silence of the Lambs,” along with samples from his astounding array of documentaries, feature films and music videos.
5. Gracious grace. Each AFS ceremony is a lesson in Austin film history. Louis Black dug deep into his stories about Demme’s timely interventions into local film culture. Rick Linklater and Anderson, who won the Jonathan Demme Award, talked at length about “the great risk-taker” Demme’s profound influences. They weren’t the only ones to show grace. Guests called Chalamet’s introduction of Hammer “incredibly sweet” and “authentic,” while Hammer responded to his “Call Me By Your Name” romantic partner by saying: “I think I’ve handed you about 20 of these awards, so you handing me this one means a lot.” Hammer and Chalamet have charisma to spare. We were reminded of the old line: “Actors Studio can make an actor, but only God can make a movie star.”