In 2001, the first Texas Hollywood Film Hall of Fame awards was a scrappy, loose-limbed affair; it’s best remembered by those who were there for a bizarre, endlessly rambling speech by Quentin Tarantino. (He was inducting agent Mike Simpson into the Hall of Fame, though he might as well have been inducting aliens from Mars for all the sense he made).
Fast forward a decade, and -- like so many aspects of the film scene in Austin -- this event has become enormous. A long red carpet with dozens of photographers and reporters was set up just inside the party tent, once again at the Austin Film Studios. Tables for the charity event cost as much as $25,000. Jewelry from Tiffany’s and set visits to the HBO series Entourage were auctioned off during the proceedings.
The only constant: Quentin Tarantino, who this year returned to accept the “Tom Mix Honorary Texan Award.”
Tarantino, whose semi-regular QT Fest film festival is beloved by Austin regulars, was extraordinary sweet and unexpectedly lucid in his acceptance. Anyone hoping for a drunken rant about having lost the Oscar to The Hurt Locker was probably disappointed. But his affection for this city and its denizens, including his friend Richard Linklater, was palpable.
"This place has become a hometown away from hometown for me," he said, concluding the speech to rapturous applause.
As usual, the rest of the honorees were an eclectic lot, with an even more eclectic group of presenters. Character actor Bruce McGill (born in San Antonio) was feted by his Animal House co-star Tim Matheson. Lukas Haas (who isn’t actually from Texas, but attended high school here) was inducted by Lyle Lovett. The Monkees’ Michael Nesmith (born in Houston) was introduced by the pop artist Edward Ruscha (the show got a little dull at that point, and I wandered off to the bar -- so the connection between the two men eluded me).
Perhaps the biggest laughs of the evening were scored by Catherine O’Hara, on hand to accept an award for Waiting for Guffman -- which despite being set in Missouri was actually shot in Texas.
“I was working up my nerve to have the ball bangs from the movie, but I thought it took more balls to go for the Morgan Fairchild," she said, of her hair style for the night.
Emcee Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) relied perhaps a bit too heavily on scatological humor and curse words for his jokes -- his mostly tepid shtick seemed to make the well-heeled Austin crowd a little uncomfortable. But otherwise this was a fine (albeit unofficial) kickoff to the South by Southwest film portion.