The Austin Chronicle

To the Nines

2009 Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards

By Margaret Moser, March 6, 2009, Screens

At 9 years old, the Texas Film Hall of Fame is anything but predictable, because Lone Star cinema is as broad and varied as the state's vast terrain and just as fascinating to behold. Despite the gray economic climate, the stars on that night will be dazzlingly bright.

The yearly event finally seems comfortable in its own glittery skin. Past ceremonies have been a combination of Oscar fun and down-home hospitality, Texas-style, with the late Gov. Ann Richards at the podium joking with the likes of Matthew McConaughey and Farrah Fawcett. Even an unexpected heat wave one year and the sudden death of Richards in September 2006 have shaped the event without detracting from the mission of honoring the best in Texas film.

Those being honored at the ceremony on Thursday, March 12, at Austin Studios include Valley-born Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, Dallas anti-hero Larry Hagman, Deadwood star Powers Boothe, and Billy Bob Thornton, who will receive the Tom Mix Honorary Texan Award. On hand to present will be Hagman's long-suffering wife on Dallas, Linda Gray; actor and singer-songwriter Keith Carradine; Lone Star favorite son Dennis Quaid; and John Cusack (High Fidelity).

While Richards' high heels are tough to fill, Thomas Haden Church's dry wit takes over in the emcee spot for the evening's festivities. Other special guests participating in the annual event include Friday Night Lights cast members Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, and Brad Leland and Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson.

Topping the awards is the Tiffany & Co. Star of Texas Award, presented to a distinguished film made in the state. This year, director Wes Anderson's critically acclaimed Rushmore is being honored. Written by Anderson and Owen Wilson and filmed in Houston, Rushmore is an anomaly among coming-of-age films. Its sly script and thoughtful storyline revolving around three lives won the hearts of 1998 filmgoers. Luke Wilson will accept the award on the film's behalf.

New for the Texas Film Hall of Fame is the Party in the Red Room, a live simulcast party to be held in a tent right beside Stage 5, where the awards take place. At $100 a ticket, which includes hors d'oeuvres and an open bar, it's an affordable alternative to the pricier tables of the awards dinner, while offering a bird's-eye view of the fun inside. Actors Paul Saucido and Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, who star in the upcoming Dance With the One, will host the Red Room.

All this makes for great stargazing on our city streets, but what the evening really does has a much deeper effect on our community and state. The Austin Film Society stays true to its promise to promote the appreciation of film and support filmmaking through screenings, premieres, grants, programs, and other efforts to broaden the experience of film-watching. The AFS attracts film development and production to Texas and the Austin area, efforts that have paid off through recognition from the Directors Guild of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.  

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