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Two-Day Festival To Showcase Upcoming Speaker's Repertoire

March 12, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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black and white image of Avildsen operating movie camera with Ralph Macchio in background
John Avildsen, on the set of "The Karate Kid," with Ralph Macchio.

From boxing to bulls and fighting in an arena to fighting in a classroom, director John G. Avildsen’s films have touched hearts, shaped culture and brought in big money, according to Tom Garrett, associate professor of film at Sam Houston State University.

As Avildsen prepares to visit SHSU for his President’s Speaker Series discussion on March 25, the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication will highlight some of Avildsen’s most famous films with a two-day retrospective on March 21-22.

The free showcase will include six of the Academy Award-winning director’s most notable films, presented back-to-back over the two days at the Old Town Theatre, in downtown Huntsville.

SHSU film students will introduce each presentation, with Friday's showings including underdog stories that will run from 2-10 p.m. and Saturday’s showings featuring Texas favorites that will run from 2-6 p.m.

“Lean on Me” will kick off the Friday screenings at 2 p.m.

The 1989 film, starring Morgan Freeman, tells the story of the dedicated, but tyrannical, Joe Clark who is appointed principal of a decaying inner city school that he is determined to improve.

At 4 p.m., the 1984 Oscar-nominated “The Karate Kid” will be presented, sharing the story of a handyman/martial arts master (Pat Morita) who agrees to teach a bullied boy (Ralph Macchio) karate and shows him that there is more to the martial art than fighting.

At 6 p.m., Rocky Balboa will take on Apollo Creed in the screening of the 1976, three-time Oscar-winning film “Rocky.”

Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a small-time boxer who gets a supremely rare chance to fight the heavyweight champion in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

The Friday screenings will end at 8 p.m. with “Joe,” the 1970, Oscar-nominated film about a wealthy businessman who kills his junkie daughter’s drug-dealing boyfriend during a confrontation.

The panic-stricken Bill (Dennis Patrick) wanders the streets and eventually stops at a bar, where he runs into a drunken factory worker named Joe (Peter Boyle).

Joe hates hippies, African Americans and anyone who is "different"—and would like to kill someone, himself—but when Bill’s truth is revealed, complications ensue.

Avildsen Film Showcase Lineup

March 21-22
at the Old Town Theatre

2 p.m.—"Lean On Me"
4 p.m.—"The Karate Kid"
6 p.m.—"Rocky"
8 p.m.—"Joe"

2 p.m.—"8 Seconds"
4 p.m.—"W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings"

Saturday’s screenings will come out of the gates with a kick as the college presents the life story of bull rider Lane Frost in the 1994 film “8 Seconds” at 2 p.m.

Luke Perry stars as Frost, the 1987 PRCA Bull Riding World Champion, in a film that showcases the effect of the sport on his marriage and his friendships with Tuff Hedeman (a three-time World Champion bull rider) and Cody Lambert.

The final film of the retrospective, “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings,” will begin at 4 p.m.

The 1975 film stars Burt Reynolds as a happy-go-lucky crook who makes his living robbing gas stations through drive-up windows.

W.W. crosses paths with the Dixie Dancekings, a country music band trying to get its first big break, when he hijacks their car (and them) to help him in his deeds.

When the band discovers how much money they make, they begin voluntarily helping as a means of financing their big break.

At the same time, W.W. grows to like them and begins using his natural charm and smooth-talking ways to help them start down the road to stardom.

“Not many filmmakers have experienced such highs and lows as Avildsen,” Garrett said. “From major success with Sylvester Stallone and Morgan Freeman to striking out with Marlon Brando and Burt Reynolds, for over 40 years Avildsen’s films have inspired movie goers and have changed filmmaking as we know it.”

Garrett recently released a new book about the director, “The Films of John Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid and Other Underdogs,” which dedicates a chapter to each of the director’s greatest successes, along with some of his lesser-known works. Included is commentary from Avildsen and a foreword by SHSU mass communication chair Jean Bodon.

During Avildsen’s visit to SHSU for the President’s Speaker Series, he also will sign copies of Garrett’s book from 9:30-10:15 a.m. on March 25 in the Lowman Student Center Atrium. The speaker series discussion will follow at 11 a.m. in the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center Concert Hall.

Avildsen began his career in advertising while attending New York University at night. He would go on to direct 30 films and win two Academy Awards—as “Best Director” for “Rocky” in 1976 and for “Best Documentary Film” for “Travelling Hopefully” in 1983.

In addition, “The Karate Kid” grossed more than $100 billion, and that film, “Rocky” and “The Karate Kid, Part II” have been listed by Variety as being among the all-time highest-grossing films in U.S. box office history.

The film retrospective and all accompanying Avildsen events are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Garrett at circafilm@shsu.edu or 936.294.1344.




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