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Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards honors Wilson, del Toro, others

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

There aren’t many better ways to start an evening than hearing Mike Judge say, in perfect Hank Hill voice, “Boy I tell you what, it feels good to be a gangster.”

That’s how the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards (aka the unofficial kickoff to SXSW Film) started Thursday night. The joke was a reference to both “King of the Hill” and “Office Space,” two of Judge’s best and most Texas-centric creations. Judge served as the Master of Ceremonies at this year’s ceremony, held at Austin Studios.

Judge was also there to induct Luke Wilson into the Hall of Fame, which he did with an excellent story about the Austin-shot “Idiocracy,”  Unfortunately, Wilson, ostensibly one of the evening’s bigger stars, was not present. According to Charles Attal, who accepted the award, Wilson was stuck on set. Ah, well.

Judge also be presenting an award to the family of the late actor Christopher Evan Welch, who played the Asperger’s-ish venture capitalist Peter Gregory brilliantly on Judge’s current HBO show “Silicon Valley.” Welch died of lung cancer in 2013. Welch was raised in Irving and studied acting in Dallas; his widow Emma said Welch was fiercely proud of his Texas roots and never got rid of his Texas driver’s license.

Judge then introduced Robert Rodriguez, there to present a Honorary Texan award to Guillermo del Toro,by thanking him “for keeping Danny Trejo from killing us all in a home invasion.” (Trejo, who was present, is a frequent actor in Rodriguez’s films and did time before becoming an actor.)

Rodriguez called de Toro a shining example of a visionary filmmaker: Both men love fantasy and Rodriguez said for to see del Toro’s work was “like Salieri looking at the work of Mozart.”

Del Toro said he was a frequent San Antonio visitor as kid, “like every other self respecting Mexican,” always returning home with a suitcase full of comics and toys. After his father was the victim of a kidnapping in the late 1990s, del Toro nd his family moved abroad and del Toro headed to Austin, a place he had never been, based on the stories folks like Harry Knowles had told him: “It made dream of a perfect place.”

Here, del Toro said he thrived, as Austin is a place that “cherished what we do” and is not concerned with film-making of power and prestige . Here, he developed “The Devil’s Backbone.”

Austin Chronicle editor and SXSW co-founder Louis Black  and del Toro presented a posthumous award to their late friend, writer, actor and producer L.M. Kit Carson. Carson was a fixture of the Texas film scene. “What I’m trying to say, you’re not alone,” Carson said in archival footage, which included a tribute from Wes Anderson.

Actress Jess Weixler, co-star of the hit TV show “The Good Wife” will present to producer and Dallas native Bonnie Curtis, a presentation which included a clip from Curtis’ friend and mentor Steven Spielberg, with who she worked for 17 years on such film as “Saving Private Ryan.”

Curtis talked about movies as “something of a religion,” and how she often “attended church” at the Arclight in Hollywood, where last July she saw Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.” Curtis said the scene where Patricia Arquette’s character said “I just thought there would be more” was particularly inspiring and creatively sustaining: “I said ‘There! That’s my moment!'” (Grammy award winner Adrian Quesada (of bands Spanish Gold and Brownout) and his band of Texan all-stars – including award-winning composer and pianist Peter Stopchinski performed at the awards ceremony; they played Curtis off with the Wu-Tang Clan’s “CREAM (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)” which is a pretty great choice for a producer.)

Bill Wittliff, writer and executive producer of “Lonesome Dove,” and writer of “The Black Stallion, “The Perfect Storm” and “Legends of the Fall” presented the HEB Legend award to Tommy Lee Jones, who got a standing ovation when he came out to accept his award.

The San Saba County native told a story about shooting the cult movie “Rolling Thunder” in Texas and how, while he has shot many pictures in the State, that one stayed with him. Jones said of his career,”I am grateful for every frame.”

Variety editor (and Monte Hellman collaborator) Steven Gaydos presented an award to Richard Link “Boyhood,” joking that he and Linklater’s therapist “were going to take him off the awards slowly” (The critically beloved “Boyhood” has garnered dozens of accolades in the year.)

Linklater — who noted the “Boyhood” “never leaves the borders of Texas” — invited everyone in the cast and crew who had worked on the film over the long haul onto the stage, with “Boyhood” star Ellar Coltrane noting that perhaps the praise meant that audiences were ready for “new kinds of movies” and that Austin was about “making movies for the sake of making them.

Judge announced that the dinner and auction raised $883,000 for the Austin Film Society.