Jette Kernion's blog
Slackerwood is giving you the chance to see The Kings of Summer next week, almost a month before it opens in Austin theaters ... and at no cost. This popular Sundance 2013 comedy will have a preview screening on Thursday, May 9, at 7:30 pm at Regal Arbor. Austin Film Society has offered us a limited number of spaces on a will-call list to give to Slackerwood readers -- each space is for two people (you and a guest).
If you're on the list, you and your guest will have "secured" space in the theater -- the theater isn't being overbooked, although specific seats aren't reserved for you. This means you won't have to stand in a long line wondering if you'll get in. However, I'd recommend getting there early anyway, in case there's a standby line for unfilled seats.
The Kings of Summer is a coming-of-age movie about three young men who run away from home and spend the summer building and living in their own house in a remote wooded area. The teens are played by Nick Robinson (no, not that one), Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias. The supporting cast includes Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Alison Brie.
Former Austin film critic Chase Whale reviewed the movie for Twitch when he saw it at Sundance under the title Toy's House. He praised the script and called the movie "an unforgettable coming-of-age comedy that's sweet, witty, and brings back the joys of being young and full of life."
Here's what you have to do to get on the list for this screening: Use the Slackerwood contact form to send me a message with your name and email address. I'll add your name to the list, which I'll send to Austin Film Society, and they'll have it at the Arbor that night. Check in at the box office when you arrive. The deadline to send me your info is 10 pm on Friday, May 3 so I can forward all the names to AFS in time for the screening.
So who else is going to see Hands on a Hardbody tonight at the Marchesa? Read Don's review to find out why so many of us are so pleased to see this 1997 documentary available again. Filmmaker S.R. Bindler will be there with one of the film's subjects, Benny Perkins ... I hear there will even be an actual Nissan Hardbody in attendance. If you're not interested (because you're crazy) you could head over to Blue Starlite and watch Dazed and Confused.
Austin Film Society's Best of the Fest series brings the movie In the Family to the Marchesa on Sunday and Monday nights. It's about a father whose partner dies and leaves their son to his sister, sparking a difficult custody battle. Writer/director/actor Patrick Wang will attend the screenings.
On Monday night, Alamo Drafthouse's Cinema Club series continues at the Ritz with a 35mm screening of Grand Hotel, the glitzy 1932 drama starring John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. Author and University of Texas professor Tom Schatz will discuss the movie afterward. And if those aren't enough Monday night choices, you might also consider The Frames: In the Deep Shade, a documentary about Glen Hansard's band screening at Stateside.
When you hear "crowdfunding for film," you may automatically think about producers and directors raising money for a movie they want to make. Or perhaps even post-production costs to finish the film. But plenty of other fundraising endeavors cover film distribution, exhibition and other aspects of the film world.
For example, you might have seen local filmmaker Stephen Belyeu's drama Dig at Austin Film Festival a couple of years ago, where it won the Narrative Feature award. Texas Independent Film Network also screened the movie (which I moderated locally, which is why I remember). But one does not simply walk up to studio reps and magically land a distribution deal. Belyeu is ready to seek distribution for his film and there are costs involved: transferring the film into a high-resolution format, creating the materials to send to industry reps, paying legal fees.
So Belyeu has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to make Dig distribution-ready. The perks include DVDs of the movie, posters, sneak peeks at the filmmaker's new project ... and for enough money, an Executive Producer credit. The campaign has a little more than two weeks left and hasn't yet reached its goal.
The Austin Film Society kicks off a new Essential Cinema series tonight ... and at a venue that's relatively new to them, but which I suspect will become familiar to many of us this year: the Marchesa Hall and Theatre.
"Classic 35mm Treasures from the Janus Films Archive" is a seven-film weekly series including a variety of European and Japanese movies from the 1960s, many of which you may have seen or at least heard of before. Many Janus Films are now Criterion Collection disks -- but this is your chance to see 35mm prints of Zazie dans le Metro, The Wages of Fear, Tokyo Story (pictured above) and others.
It's a great way to inaugurate regular AFS programming at the Marchesa, which will officially become the home for Essential Cinema and other series and AFS events in May. "AFS at the Marchesa" seats 278 and will feature repertory, independent and arthouse fare. The theater is still in need of upgrades, however, and AFS plans to launch a fundraising campaign next month to get the venue in shape. We'll have all the details as they become available.
Updated April 9, 2013.
Slackerwood was everywhere at SXSW Film this year. Here's the master list of all our guides, features, interviews, reviews and whatever else we wrote (or photographed).
Continuing from Part One, here's Slackerwood's entirely frivolous gallery of red-carpet and post-screening Q&A photos from SXSW 2013. I've topped this page with one Austin-area star I know you'll recognize. Willie Nelson was on the When Angels Sing red carpet ... he plays a key role in the family-friendly holiday movie from Tim McCanlies.
Slackerwood's coverage of SXSW 2013 has focused on Austin and Texas independent films and filmmakers, which were plentiful at the film fest this year. In addition, we watched and reviewed other interesting indie features and documentaries, as well as some short films.
But today, I'm wrapping up our coverage with frivolous red carpet and post-screening Q&A photos of the Beautiful People -- the stars, and I don't necessarily mean Austin celebrities either. That's Olivia Wilde pictured above, on the Drinking Buddies red carpet, and I am consumed with envy for the dress she's wearing. (Yes, those are little airplanes.) Let's take a little break and look at some pretty pictures of stars at SXSW taken by our intrepid photographers.
Having said that, I'll kick things off with an independent filmmaker: Joe Swanberg, who brought his first feature (Kissing on the Mouth) to SXSW in 2005, the first year I started going to and writing about SXSW. This year he was at the fest with the movie Drinking Buddies (Rod's review), which stars Wilde, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston, among others.
I've seen Somebody Up There Likes Me twice now -- once at SXSW 2012 with a lively local-heavy audience, once via screener with no one else but the cat -- and found the movie terribly funny both times. In fact, after I watched it the second time, I restarted the film so I could to see how the beginning tied into the end (it does, so pay attention) ... then had to stop myself from watching it a third time. The movie opens Friday at Violet Crown Cinema and I'm sorely tempted to go.
I liked it a lot, obviously. But I don't know whether you'd like it. Local filmmaker Bob Byington's universe is not for everyone.
Somebody Up There Likes Me is a comedy, but not in a broad sense -- its humor is very specific. I don't mean that it's full of obscure pop-culture references, either, because the movie could be set in any time or place. (You'd have to know Austin fairly well to recognize it was shot here.) The movie is off-center and your brain has to squint and tilt sideways and around the corner a little to appreciate it. Once you're in the universe of the film, however, it's wonderfully fulfilling.
At the heart of this movie is the relationship between Max (Keith Poulson) and Sal (Nick Offerman), although the focus is ostensibly on Max. Max and Sal work together in a fancy restaurant, along with Lyla (Jess Weixler), who catches Max's eye. Eventually Lyla and Max marry, and ...
You know, recounting this story does no good. It's not important what the characters are doing as much as how they're changing, or not changing, through the years. Because Somebody Up There Likes Me spans decades, although some characters never seem to look any older. Is this a reflection on how much they've matured inside? Possibly. The characters do a number of things externally that might be symbolic of their inner lives.
For example, during Max and Lyla's first date, their conversation is full of misses -- someone mishears, someone misspeaks. It's funny, it's a little awkward, and it's an apt representation of how relationships work (or don't). Lyla loves breadsticks ... and how does her enjoyment of them factor into the film? Lyla's father (Marshall Bell) appears to be an almost tangential character, but what is the extent of his influence on the events in the movie? Kevin Corrigan appears in a single scene, but his advice to Max might be critical. On my second viewing, I wondered fleetingly if Sal and Max were actually different aspects of a single character. And I haven't even mentioned the suitcase.
The documentary Continental faces a tough challenge: Very little film footage or still photos exist for the legendary NYC bathhouse in its heyday. It's understandable -- this was not a place where many people wanted their pictures taken. But it means Continental has to drum up visual interest in other ways.
The movie takes us along on a breezy historical tour of the Continental Baths, one of the most well known and innovative bathhouses in New York in its prime. Steve Ostrow invested in the facility when it was a dark, dank warren of gay sex, and transformed it into a sophisticated gathering place and much cleaner, safer warren of gay sex. Eventually the Continental even drew a straight nightclub crowd for its concerts -- this is the place where Bette Midler launched her career.
Midler isn't one of the interview subjects -- she's represented only by still photos -- but many of the Continental's former employees and regulars happily recount tales of their time there. Interviews with Ostrow are the backbone of Continental, and in fact at times the story is not the history of the bathhouse as much as it is the history of the man who made it great, his work with the gay community, and his lifelong ambition to be an opera singer. He's such a magnetic interview subject that it's understandably why filmmaker Malcolm Ingram would focus on him.
To keep the documentary from being nothing but talking heads, Continental includes many contemporary shots of the hotel that used to be the home for the Continental, as well as the neighborhood surrounding it. It gets a little visually dull after awhile, but then I'm not sure what else Ingram could have done, unless he wanted to totally re-create the premises, a la Errol Morris? Which would have made for a very different movie. The rare footage and stills that do appear onscreen are fascinating -- I wish there were more.
The timing for An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story to premiere in Austin at SXSW could not have been more appropriate, if you know the news story it recounts. And how much you know about Michael Morton's life may dictate how much you enjoy this documentary from Houston writer/filmmaker Al Reinert (For All Mankind, Apollo 13). The film won the Documentary Spotlight audience award at SXSW earlier this month.
The short and incomplete version: Chris Morton, Michael's wife, was found beaten to death in their Williamson County home in 1988. Michael Morton was charged with the crime, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison. But he continued to assert his innocence. If you've paid attention to Austin-area news in the last week, you know how this situation has played out.
An Unreal Dream is structured as though Michael Morton is casually telling the story of his life to us. He sits at the front of a courtroom and shares his perspective as though we're seated right across from him. His narrative is enhanced by archival news footage, still photos and interviews with people who know him, from his lawyers to his fellow inmates. When his son Eric Olson appears on camera, and he and Morton start to talk about how Morton's prison sentence affected his child, it's heartbreaking.
I didn't know Morton's whole history when I saw An Unreal Dream -- I knew about how he fit in the Chris Morton murder case, and how that's transpired recently, but the details were new to me -- how long he was in prison, etc. And that's why I'm not including those details here, in case you aren't acquainted with them either. I can't say how well the story would hold the attention of a viewer who had closely followed the story over the years.
No matter how much of the background you know, the interviews will still hold your interest. I particularly liked Morton's original defense attorney, Bill Allison. Morton himself recounts his story with extremely personal details. He details his relationship with God in a way that is touching without being cloying or proselytizing.
I felt the documentary lagged during the years Morton was in prison and nothing was going on regarding the case. As interesting as the interview subjects are, they can't carry the film without more forward motion of the plot, so to speak. Fortunately, this interval is fairly brief and the momentum picks up again.