Jette Kernion's blog
Updated Oct. 17, 2013.
Slackerwood was all over Fantastic Fest 2013. Here's a list of all our coverage (after the jump) in one location. We'll keep updating this as we post more -- and more! -- reviews, features and photos.
Continued from Part One, here's the rest of my interview with Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and Machete Kills star Danny Trejo, pictured above at the Fantastic Fest red carpet with actress Alexa Vega.
Slackerwood: It seems like you enjoy revisiting your characters in multiple movies -- why do you think you want to keep bringing the characters back?
Danny Trejo: Well, they're good actors.
Robert Rodriguez: I was very much inspired by George Lucas. He wanted to do a Flash Gordon movie, but couldn't get the rights, so he wrote his version instead, which is called Star Wars. I thought, that's such a cool thing. Instead of going and doing a James Bond movie, go and make your own James Bond series, and put things in it that you love -- base it on my family, call it Spy Kids. Or do a guitar-player series of movies.
You know, actually El Mariachi was designed to be a low-budget series, so I started with the genesis in the very first movie. He doesn't become the guy with the guitar case full of weapons until the last scene in the movie. Spy Kids -- they don't become "spy kids" until the last scene in the movie. And Machete doesn't really become that iconic icon holding up the machete and leading the people until the last scene of the movie.
If you haven't seen Machete Kills yet (Don's review), the best way to see it is with a large and enthusiastic audience -- or even a small group of lively friends. It's such silly fun that audience reactions are a must. Robert Rodriguez shot the sequel to Machete in the Austin area, whether you recognize it or not, with a cast that includes Mel Gibson, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Charlie Sheen and Lady Gaga. It even includes a fake trailer for a third Machete film ... set in outer space.
And of course, Danny Trejo returns in the title role, which he's been playing since Uncle Machete appeared on the scene in Rodriguez's 2001 movie Spy Kids.
I sat down with Rodriguez and Trejo shortly before the movie opened Fantastic Fest this year -- the photo of Rodriguez, Alexa Vega and Trejo above is from its premiere that evening. Here's what they have to say about James Bond, film franchises, Texas film incentives and shooting in Austin, among other things. There may be minor spoilers if you consider Machete Kills spoilable, which it isn't, really.
Slackerwood: So about 15, 20 minutes into the movie, I realized I was watching a James Bond film -- definitely when I saw the speedboat.
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, the speedboat! You're like "Wow, he's a secret agent. He's a Mexican secret agent."
If Don Draper had taken Betty and the kids to Disneyland (circa season two, let's say), and had been fortified by something mysterious from Roger Sterling, and the whole thing had been shot covertly on film by Smitty and Kurt, the result might have been Escape from Tomorrow.
For those of you who don't watch Mad Men, let's just say the movie takes a Disney trip by your average All-American family and turns it completely on its head, with a few kicks in the teeth for good measure. Unfortunately, it moves slowly and ultimately relies too much on weirdness for weirdness' sake. The movie premiered at Sundance, screened at Fantastic Fest and is now available on VOD. It's screening in Austin this week as well.
Escape from Tomorrow potentially offers pleasure to its audience on two levels. The first is the traditional moviegoing experience, natch. But in addition, the movie is controversial -- and interesting -- because much of it was covertly shot at Disney World (including Epcot) and Disneyland. The filmmakers and actors would buy tickets to the parks and pretend to be regular visitors shooting family home video of their vacation antics. In reality, they were shooting a feature film, and had to manage all kinds of tricks to get the shots they needed, like racing around right when a park opened to get shots of deserted rides, and so forth.
The best things I can say about The Zero Theorem, Terry Gilliam's latest movie, are that first of all, it broke my streak of disappointment with Gilliam films at Fantastic Fest (Tideland in 2006, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus in 2009); and second of all, that it stuck with me vividly for days afterward. The worst things I could say are that it stuck with me in a downbeat, oppressive sort of way (although that might just have been my mood) and that it revisits many themes from Brazil without being nearly as good as that movie.
But that's something you have to deal with when you watch Gilliam's films: They are not going to be Brazil. It's like expecting Chimes at Midnight to be Citizen Kane -- you can't think that way. It's difficult to consider The Zero Theorem all on its own because you might experience delighted relief that it's better than the filmmaker's most recent three movies, but then you have to put the measuring stick away and enjoy the film on its own merits.
And there's a lot to enjoy in The Zero Theorem, starting with Christoph Waltz in the lead at Qohen Leth. It's clear right away that Qohen isn't the most mentally stable individual -- and you wouldn't want to deal with him in real life. He's fixated on his chronic illnesses, and on awaiting a mysterious phone call. In the meantime, he works as a programmer of sorts, with phenomenal speed. All he wants is to be allowed to stay away from the crazy office environment and work quietly from home while he anticipates his call.
The Austin Film Society and Violet Crown Cinema are teaming up for a post-screening Q&A about the documentary After Tiller on Saturday evening -- and I will be moderating the panel. I'm looking forward to this and hope you'll join us. The info from AFS is below, and you can get tickets now on the Violet Crown Cinema website. Please read Caitlin's review to find out more about the film.
After Tiller, the award-winning documentary about late-term abortion doctors that premiered at Sundance in January, will screen with a special Q&A and discussion this Saturday at the 6:20 pm screening at Violet Crown Cinema, presented by the Austin Film Society and moderated by Slackerwood editor Jette Kernion. The Q&A will feature Dr. Lee Carhart, one of the doctors featured in the film, and Texas Tribune Editor Emily Ramshaw, who closely covered the passing of House Bill 2 in the Texas Legislature this summer. Dr. Carhart will be joining via Skype from Nebraska.
About the film:
After Tiller is a thought-provoking and compassionate documentary that intimately explores the highly controversial subject of third-trimester abortions in the wake of the 2009 assassination of practitioner Dr. George Tiller. The procedure is now performed by only four doctors in the United States, all former colleagues of Dr. Tiller, who risk their lives every day in the name of their unwavering commitment towards their patients.
After Tiller opens at Violet Crown Cinema on Friday, October 11.
About the speakers:
Emily Ramshaw is the editor of The Texas Tribune. She oversees the Trib’s editorial operations, from daily coverage to major projects. Previously, she spent six years reporting for The Dallas Morning News, first in Dallas, then in Austin. In April 2009 she was named "Star Reporter of the Year" by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Headliners Foundation of Texas.
Dr. Lee Carhart is a OB-GYN physician who practices in Omaha. He is featured in After Tiller as one of the four doctors in the US practicing third-trimester abortions.
Jette Kernion is a writer and the founder and editor of Slackerwood. She is a member of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and the current president of the Austin Film Critics Association.
If you didn't go to Fantastic Fest or the festive cast-and-crew screening of Machete Kills earlier this week, Slackerwood has another chance for you to see the Austin-shot movie before it opens on October 11. We have admit-two passes to give away for a screening on Wednesday, October 9 at 9 pm at Galaxy Highland.
After the jump, you'll find promotional codes and links to the Gofobo website where you can enter the code to get an admit-two pass for the screening of your choice. These are first-come, first-served passes and seating is not guaranteed. If you've been to preview screenings, you know that often more tickets are given out than there are seats, so you'll want to arrive early to stake out a good spot in line.
I've seen the movie already -- look for my interview with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and star Danny Trejo closer to the film's release -- and it's the kind of movie you really want to watch with an audience.
Machete Kills is silly and fun, with a downright bizarre cast including Demain Bichir, Antonio Banderas, Alexa Vega, Austin native Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara, Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson and Lady Gaga. Oh, and one pretty amazing vehicle. The movie was shot in Austin, but you might not know that unless someone told you.
Well, this is what Fantastic Fest is all about: a Japanese movie about a teenager who derives superheroic powers from wearing girls' panties on his face. (They can't be new panties, either. You get the picture.) How could I possibly not see a movie with such a premise?
And happily, Hentai Kamen: Forbidden Super Hero manages to live up to its premise and deliver, both as a superhero movie and better still, as a spoof of contemporary superhero movies. It's obvious that this movie's budget is probably a single-digit percentage of a Marvel blockbuster, but it's easily twice as funny.
The fun starts with the opening credits, a panties-laden riff on the Spider-Man (2002) credits, and climbs from there. Kyosuke (Suzuki Ryohei) is a high-school student -- his late father was a policeman who met his mother, a professional dominatrix, during a raid. Kyosuke wants to follow in his father's footsteps and deliver justice, but he's too puny for vigilantism. But then one of those accidents that creates superheroes occurs: He inadvertantly pulls a pair of women's underwear on his face and ... Hentai Kamen (which translates as "Pervert Mask") is born!
Fantastic Fest is a good time for me to watch movies that I worry will be outside my comfort zone. People who sit next to me may be amused to notice me peeking through my fingers a lot during the gorier scenes. I want to look away -- I can't. And then I go home and have to read M.F.K. Fisher or Jane Austen so I don't have nightmares about whatever I watched at the festival that day.
Austin connections of any kind help push me into movies I might not normally pick. Blue Ruin is a great example. The description made it sound a little too intensely bloody/violent for me. But then I learned that former Austinite Macon Blair stars in the movie. I'd seen Blair in a couple of Steve Collins films (Gretchen, You Hurt My Feelings) and felt I should give Blue Ruin a try. The gamble paid off beautifully, and Blue Ruin is definitely one of the top films I saw at the fest this year. It is indeed intense, bloody and violent ... and damned good.
The movie unspools carefully, letting the audience learn the backstory bit by bit instead of spelling it out in huge patronizing letters. Dwight (Blair) lives out of his car, not afraid to eat out of trash bins or bathe in houses where no one's home. He learns that a criminal is being released from jail after 20 years -- someone who destroyed his family and considering where he is now, probably his future as well. He decides it's time for revenge.
"Like Phone Booth, but with a piano." "It's what you'd get if Brian De Palma decided to rework Unfaithfully Yours."
Glib descriptions of Grand Piano like the ones above (overheard at Fantastic Fest) don't do the film justice, not at all. I'm not even certain they give you an accurate idea of what you're about to see. On the other hand, a plot summarization of the thriller makes it sound ridiculous ... and thanks to filmmakers and stars, it is instead breathtakingly suspenseful.
Grand Piano takes place during a concert of classical music. It begins as one of those potentially enervating movies about a pianist, Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood), giving his first public performance five years after a notorious failed concert. His wife (Kerry Bishe) is a famous actress whose career has eclipsed his, and who's obviously pulled strings to get the event set up, with help from a conductor friend (Don McManus). And just when you think you're in the middle of A Star is Born during the Norman Maine decline, the concert starts and out of nowhere, the movie shifts gears into a thriller with death on the line. That's not the only genre shift in the movie, either.