• Austin Film Fest: Will Ferrell headlines "Breaking Bad" creator's unproduced script reading

    Sunday afternoon, hundreds of Austin Film Festival attendees lined up at Seventh and Congress streets, not for a big film premiere at the Paramount, but for a live reading of an unproduced screenplay at the theater’s smaller counterpart, the State. Why all the fuss? Well, for one, that screenplay, “2-Face,” was written by “Breaking Bad” mastermind Vince Gilligan, its reading was directed by “Looper” director Rian Johnson and its lead character was played by Will Ferrell. 

    Ferrell was joined onstage by a sprawling cast including Johnson, — reading the stage directions — Thomas Haden Church, Linda Cardellini, Billy Burke and, in a surprise that got the biggest applause of the entire event, Giancarlo Esposito — “Breaking Bad's” Gus.

    In Gilligan’s modern Jekyll and Hyde tale, Ferrell read the part of Earl, a repugnant Civil War re-enactor with a brutal racist streak. When the sun went down, he turned into Rodeo Bob, a gentle, sophisticated alter ego who claimed to be visiting from the future, where he lived in a dome on the moon. Haden Church played Boots, Earl’s equally bigoted comrade-in-arms, and Cardellini read the part of Holly, Earl’s long-suffering wife.

    But “2-Face's” secret protagonist is a young, African-American doctor named Malcolm, portrayed on stage by “Treme's” Rob Brown. Seated to the far side of the stage despite his prominence in the script, Brown gave a charismatic performance, clearly hungry to snag the spotlight with Ferrell from several seats away. Just as entertaining as Brown’s performance was watching him and Esposito — hilarious and physical in his own right — react to some of the script’s racially charged material with mock outrage.

    Ferrell certainly knows how to deliver a joke, and Gilligan’s tactile, moody screenplay gives him loads to work with, with plenty of sharp dialogue and memorably funny moments throughout the script. “2-Face” becomes increasingly dramatic as it goes on, but never loses its sense of humor, even as the characters are faced with dramatic, complex conflicts, and closes on a hopeful, dramatically satisfying note. The script shares a few thematic concerns with “Breaking Bad,” especially man’s capacity to deny his true nature and the duality of identity.

    Before the reading, Gilligan revealed to the audience that he’s been working on “2-Face” for 23 years. Even so, the racially themed comedy remains sharp and relevant today, and the Austin Film Fest assembled quite a cast to honor the work of one of its most esteemed guests.

  • Lorde vs. Miley

    There are two female pop stars who are currently reaching the peaks of their fame – Lorde and Miley Cyrus.

    On one end of the spectrum is the New Zealand teen who began hypnotizing our ears this year, and on the other is everyone’s favorite good-girl-turned-crazy. Both artists are at pivotal points of their careers, and even though they share the same radio space, they project almost polar opposite ideals in pop music. 

    Lorde seems to be the more serious artist of the two. With her young, tired voice, she breezes across deep bass and dreary synths, creating a fresh melancholic feel that is rare on top-40 stations. The resulting sound is very chill, and features mature and meditative lyrics. Her breakout hit “Royals” is about a generation accepting that it won’t party luxuriously, as is described on the radio, — #Miley — and being fine with that. On “Ribs,” she reflects on growing old, saying “I want them back / The minds we had / It’s not enough to feel the lack.” Most 16-year-olds aren’t concerned with such things, but Lorde is happy to ponder them. Her heightened maturity is also displayed in the image she gives off, as she commonly wears dark conservative clothing that compliments her colossal hair. Lorde is a serious artist, and she wants us to know. 

    Then we have the twerktastic Miley with her thumping party anthems. Her powerful vocal chops might actually surpass those of Lorde, but — save for her ballads — Miley’s music is best listened to within a field of red solo cups. Her music and lyrics are less about the listener reflecting on himself, and more about promoting #IDGAF ideals. “We Can’t Stop” perfects this to a tee, as she assures us, “It’s our party we can do what we want /say what we want /love who we want.” The comfortable partying of “Royals” is thrown out the window — Miley just wants to pop molly and go crazy. Her revealing attire only pushes the YOLO principles further, creating the image of our modern pop queen as we see her today.

    Even though these two artists seem completely disconnected from one another, they accentuate human facets we all desire. Lorde provokes us to reflect on what is going on around us, whereas Miley tells us to forget it and just have a great time. As Miley once said while wearing a blonde wig on the Disney channel – “Life is hard or it’s a party / The choice is up to you.”