Jette Kernion's blog
Here are a couple of capsule reviews from my time at Fantastic Fest this year: When Animals Dream and In Order of Disappearance. Both movies are set in winter in Nordic regions, so an overly air-conditioned movie theater is the ideal viewing experience (at least if you're in Austin).
When Animals Dream (Når dyrene drømmer)
I went into When Animals Dream almost completely blind, and it's hard not to encourage you to do the same. The Danish film premiered at Cannes and is the feature directorial debut for Jonas Alexander Arnby.
Sonia Suhl stars as Marie, a teen girl just starting her first job in a fish-processing facility. She's drawn to a cute boy, and getting pranked by a total jerk. Her mom is nearly comatose, for reasons that slowly become evident. Marie has found a rash on her body and as the movie progresses, hair grows on the rash and in other incongruous places, and she has spells of snarling short temper. No one ever uses a word like "werewolf" ... because no one has to.
This movie unwinds very carefully, giving the audience pieces of information one at a time, presenting the tale in a spare way. Everything feels stripped down: Marie's unmade-up face, her economy with dialogue, the barren atmosphere of the small port town. And yet the movie is almost mesmerizing.
I've heard people comparing the movie to Let the Right One In, possibly because both are deliberately paced Scandinavian films about the undead's effect on everyday life -- a minimum of fantasy in what is often harsh reality. And yes, it's a fair comparison, although When Animals Dream does not feel derivative.
I'm about to head right out the door again for the second day of Fantastic Fest, but thought I'd share a couple of photos from the Q&A at last night's opening-night film, Tusk. Kevin Smith and Justin Long were game enough to participate in Tim League's crazy opening rap before the movie, but sadly, I don't have any photos of that. Yet.
Moderated by League, Smith and Long (okay, mostly Smith) held a lively discussion after the film that was simulcast not only to other theaters at the fest but to other Drafthouse theaters in other cities. My favorite part was Long's eerily accurate Marty McFly imitation (don't even ask how we got there). I had to leave a little early but no one had asked any dumb questions up until that point, although admittedly the questions were being filtered beforehand.
Everyone knows that places like Torchy's Tacos and In-n-Out Burger have secret menus, for a given definition of "secret." Slackerwood has done much in-depth research (okay, I asked on social media) and can now offer you a guide to customizing the Alamo Drafthouse menu. This can definitely come in handy during film festivals when you don't have time to rush over to a nearby fast-food joint and find yourself facing the same menu for the fifth day running. Especially if you are a Drafthouse regular anyway.
The best advice I have: Order off the kids' menu. It's okay for grownups to do this. The chicken strips are especially flavorful and you can add more if two aren't enough. The milkshakes come in simple flavors, like chocolate and vanilla. It's not the most healthful food on the menu (although you can get fruit as a side!) but I really like the smaller portion sizes.
Filmmakers Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens, who have teamed up for Land Ho!, have individually premiered all of their previous features at SXSW Film Festival. They're each known for films where characters are deep in exploration -- about themselves but also perhaps, a mystery (Cold Weather, Passenger Pigeons) or even a landscape (Brooklyn in Quiet City, Kentucky in Pilgrim Song). In Land Ho! (which premiered at Sundance this year), the same type of exploration takes place -- this time in Iceland -- with two primary characters who are gentlemen in their retirement years. It's a change for Katz, whose characters are usually in their late teens/early twenties.
No matter what the age of the characters, however, Stephens and Katz sustain the audience's interest in the type of story that sounds terribly slow and dull when explained in print, but is very rewarding as it unfolds onscreen. Two retired brothers-in-law, Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), couldn't be more different. Mitch is a brash New Orleans doctor who loves talking to people -- and he has no filters -- smoking pot and unabashedly admiring women. Colin is a quiet, thoughtful Australian, frequently embarrassed or annoyed by Mitch. The two embark on a trip to Iceland together, beginning in Reykjavik and heading to less populated locales.
The focus of Land Ho! is the relationship between the Mitch and Colin, and how they affect one another, and where that leads over the course of the movie. The chief entertainment value is Mitch's dialogue, which is often outrageous and eye-opening (I had never heard steak compared to the female anatomy before). Of course, the film's best moments occur when he's not that way, but the conversation is never dull.
One of my favorite movies so far this year has been The One I Love. I was going to preface the film's title with a summary of its genre -- for example, "the delightful romantic comedy" or "the taut suspense thriller" but as you know if you've heard anything about the movie, the less said the better. It defies genre, and is just as twisty as last year's smart horror-comedy The Cabin in the Woods. Check out Marcie's vague but heartfelt review for -- well, not details exactly, but at least a recommendation.
Director Charlie McDowell and actor/producer Mark Duplass were in Austin last month to promote the movie, which opened in Austin at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar last Friday and will continue through next Wednesday, at least. You can also catch it on various online VOD outlets. As you probably know, Mark and his brother Jay Duplass used to live in Austin, back in their Puffy Chair days, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to sit down with these gentlemen and talk about the film ... to the extent that is possible without spoiling it. We also talked about release strategies and at the end, Austin itself.
Slackerwood: The biggest question on my mind is ... how do you talk about this movie in public, in interviews and so forth?
Mark Duplass: We've become experts. We talk a lot about the themes of the movie, and we talk about the process, and we talk a lot about what it's been like -- trying to market a movie with limited information in a marketplace where you're just trying desperately to get people into the movie theater, so you're saying more and more and more and more ... and how can you do it when all you can say is very little? All kinds of ways to talk about it.
Here's a roundup of the Austin film news from the past week or so:
- On Tuesday, the Harry Ransom Center at UT opens its latest exhibit, "The Making of Gone with the Wind." The Austin Chronicle has some background about why the HRC has the materials to make it a strong exhibit. Back in the day, I read everything I could get my hands on about the movie and while I no longer adore Margaret Mitchell's novel or Selznick's cinematic epic, I still can't wait to get to the HRC.
- Fantastic Fest update: There are so many Fantastic Fest news updates that I can't keep up with them. Check out the film fest's news feed for the latest info. (Yes, I'm lazy. Look at the name of the website. Truth in advertising.)
- Hollywood Reporter tries to untangle and sort the as-yet-unreleased Terrence Malick projects and figure out what we might get to see soon.
- Speaking of Fantastic Fest: If you have a short or feature screening at the fest and you live in Austin or Texas -- or you shot here, or your lead actor/actress is from here -- drop me a line so we remember to write about your movie. Thanks!
So why did The Last of Robin Hood leave me completely cold and even slightly disgusted?
This story about Flynn's last days and his relationship with Beverly Aadland, whom he met when she was 15, feels pointless and even occasionally dull. Perhaps it's meant to be another installment in a series of Realistic Portrayals of Stories from Hollywood Babylon, along with The Cat's Meow ... but that movie had style, humor and character depth that this movie lacks. Filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland portrayed teenage characters much more successfully in their previous feature, Quinceanera.
Dakota Fanning plays young Beverly, whom Flynn nicknames Woodsie, his "little wood nymph." He falls for her, she succumbs after an unbelievably rough start ... and more unbelievably, the relationship is aided and abetted by her mother, Florence (Sarandon), a stage mother who is willing to overlook a little statuatory rape to gain her daughter stardom, riches and prestige.
The story opens with Beverly arriving back in LA after Flynn's death "in her arms" in Vancouver, facing a vicious pack of press. Florence is approached by a biographer, and most of the movie is told in flashback with her voiceover. This method works terribly -- the voiceover is painfully obvious, and it's impossible to tell whether we're seeing the story as Florence would tell it, or if it's meant to be more objective.
For more than two years now, the Austin Film Society has been publishing Slackerwood. It's been an excellent relationship for everyone involved, and I've enjoyed the collaboration.
However, it's time for a change. As of September 1, 2014, I've taken over the reins again as the publisher of Slackerwood. AFS decided earlier this summer that it would make more sense for the nonprofit to pursue its own editorial voice, so we've worked out a very amicable separation.
I cannot stress enough how grateful I am to have had the Austin Film Society publishing Slackerwood for more than two years. AFS staff members have been extremely supportive and enthusiastic. In fact, I hope they'll continue to help us with previews and event coverage. I also want to thank ex-AFS-staffer Agnes Varnum, who met with me in a coffeehouse nearly three years ago to start hatching the collaborative scheme.
Now, what's on the horizon for Slackerwood? After weighing options available to me for possibly securing funding, I realized I'm first and foremost a writer. I love writing and I love editing articles to bring out the best in them -- these endeavors are an enjoyable use of some of my spare time. (And I love watching movies, but I don't have to tell you that.)
I'm writing this on Sunday, August 31. If Molly Ivins were still alive, it would be her 70th birthday. And today is Labor Day, so it seems like a fine time to remember my favorite political columnist through movie and video clips.
Actually, Don writing a TAMI Flashback about John Henry Faulk (go read it when you're done here) inspired me. I had first read about Faulk in Ivins' essay in Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? If you watch the TAMI video from Faulk's memorial service, right at the end Ivins tells a very funny story from that essay. Here, I'll make it easy on you by embedding the video again. Skip ahead to 1:24:00 for Ivins. (The story might also make you feel nostalgic about Cinema West.)
As a film critic, I hear a lot about websites where thieves steal and repost other critics' reviews, sometimes not even bothering to remove identifying material.
But this week, I got my first experience in seeing a purported "filmmaker" post short films to his website that he might claim are his, but obviously do not belong to him. I know this because I saw one of the films in its original incarnation: the very funny short My Mom Smokes Weed, from Austin filmmaker Clay Liford -- it screened at Austin Film Festival in 2009 as well as a number of other film fests. And if you've watched any of Liford's movies (Wuss, Earthling), you know this is so very much his trademark work that anyone else trying to pass it off as his own is an idiot.
If you haven't seen My Mom Smokes Weed, now's your chance. I've embedded it below. And as a bonus, I would like to point you to an Arts + Labor blog post that includes some of the back-and-forth between Liford and the genius who retitled the film Smoked and posted it to his film production site, as well as a link to the Reddit thread where Liford learned about the plagiarism in the first place. He's not the only filmmaker whose films this person is stealing.
When he's not battling moronic plagiarists, Liford is currently working on Slash (aka S/ash), the feature-length expansion of his short film of the same name. You can follow the status of that production on its Facebook page. The short screened at Fantastic Fest 2013 -- read Debbie's interview with Liford about the short and planned feature.
And now the authentic My Mom Smokes Weed (YouTube link), starring Nate Rubin and Sylvia Luedtke, shot in Dallas before Liford moved to Austin: