Jette Kernion's blog
That's right, it may be April but Slackerwood isn't done with SXSW yet. Who knows, maybe we'll still be posting photos in August. To keep that from happening, I'm posting photos without cropping them nicely or sprucing them up in Photoshop, so my apologies for the red-eye and other flaws.
On the last night of SXSW, one of the films I caught at the Paramount was Goliath, which was shot in Austin. I'd been looking forward to seeing this film, to the point where it took a schedule rework in order to catch it (note to self: next year, get to Alamo Ritz films supersupremely early to avoid sellouts). On the other hand, this meant I was able to see it at the Paramount, which is a better venue for local filmmakers because they're always so happy that their film is actually showing at this iconic Austin theater.
I know, AFI Dallas has already started, but I'm running behind right now -- hell, we still have SXSW stuff yet to post on Slackerwood. That post-SXSW bug really slowed us down. I went to AFI Dallas last year, the film fest's first year, but it was impossible for me to get to Dallas this time, and I'm definitely feeling sorry I'm not there.
Anyway, in case you're up there now or about to go, here are some of the films shot in Austin, or made by Austin filmmakers, playing AFI Dallas:
Six Man, Texas -- Some friends of mine were involved in editing this movie and creating the website, so I'm naturally biased. I saw this film in a rough cut and at the Austin cast/crew screening a couple of months ago, and I'd recommend it. I don't normally like watching football, but this documentary about six-man high-school football teams in Texas focuses more on the change and decline of small Texas towns.
Crawford -- I reviewed this movie for Cinematical during SXSW. Check it out if you can -- I heard the first AFI Dallas screening sold out before the fest even began. You also can read my email interview with director David Modigliani.
How do you get students to show up and act enthused about class on the Monday after South by Southwest and Spring Break? If you're John Pierson, you bring in actor Steve Buscemi, who was so popular that the class moved to the Austin City Limits studio. Buscemi spoke for nearly two hours to Pierson's RTF master class at UT last night. He and Pierson held a conversation about the films he'd acted in and directed, and then he patiently answered many student questions.
I enjoyed hearing Buscemi talk about Interview, which he directed and acted in -- it's a remake of the Theo van Gogh film. He also spent time talking about one of his first films, Parting Glances, and how he went from being a firefighter to being able to pay the bills as an actor. Pierson pointed out a funny Texas connection: Early in his career, Buscemi appeared on an episode of Miami Vice, where his character was beaten up by, of all people, Willie Nelson.
As predicted, the house ads for SXSW this year were in fact a return to the Burger Hut salad days of 2002. I loved the shorts even when I saw them on the last day of the festival. If you weren't there, you missed out ... or did you?
I kept hearing that the shorts had been posted on Facebook but I was too busy to check and anyway, Facebook isn't public so that didn't seem worth writing about. But Cinematical contributor Scott Weinberg has more energy than I do -- he found all five of the SXSW bumper ads on YouTube and embedded them into a single news story.
I'm not sure which of the shorts was my favorite -- "Dumblecore" had the best punch line, but I saw the "Glengarry Glen Ross" spoof the most and by the end, could happily recite the lines along with the cast. In fact, at the Young @ Heart screening on Saturday night, a bunch of us in the back started doing just that, until we were shushed by, of all people, Scott Weinberg. Being shushed by Weinberg, who is not exactly a shrinking violet, was so very startling that we all did in fact stop reciting (and considering that the audience for that particular film was probably not full of SXSW fest regulars, that was very considerate).
I've embedded the "Glengarry Glen Ross" short below in case you want to be able to recite along with it, too. This YouTube link takes you not only to all the SXSW 2007 ads, but also to the classic Burger Hut ads from 2002.
I'm jotting down a few observations from this year's SXSW Film Festival. I'll use some of these when I revise the film venue guide next year, and some are just, you know, little bits and pieces of miscellany.
- Both Alamo Ritz theaters are filling up fast, at any time of day, for just about any movie. I've only been to one movie at Ritz where the theater wasn't filled to capacity. I think some out-of-towners just plain like the Ritz and will watch anything there. If you're going to see a movie at Alamo Ritz, no matter how obscure it sounds, get there early. At least Sixth Street is a colorful and interesting place to stand in line.
- I found out Alamo Ritz doesn't have public wireless access. A server told me to try the Iron Cactus wireless access next door, but warned that Alamo's walls are very thick (soundproofing, which you absolutely need on Sixth Street) so it might be difficult. I couldn't connect. So use your Alamo Ritz time to order a nice meal, not check your email.
- In my venue guide, I noted that I often park at St. David's Episcopal -- it's halfway between Alamo Ritz and Paramount. I paid $7 to park there on Monday, which is higher than the $5 it was last year, but that's fine. On Wednesday, the parking fee there was $15. That's ridiculous and obnoxious. I think it might be best to stay with the Convention Center garage parking, which is $7 all through the fest, and just get used to the walk. (That's not at all convenient if you're going only to Paramount, though.)
Film critic/film producer Elvis Mitchell (The Black List), screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence), and author Harlan Ellison after the SXSW panel "A Conversation with Harlan Ellison" on Sunday. Ellison was signing a copy of his anthology Dreams with Sharp Teeth for Mitchell.
A documentary about Ellison, also called Dreams with Sharp Teeth, is screening at SXSW this week (and is very good if you're a fan of the author). I also enjoyed seeing The Black List, which Mitchell produced, in which he interviews a number of well-known African-American politicians, artists, and other leaders.
I plan to write more about the panel with Ellison later; it was certainly memorable.
It was Saturday night and I was at Austin Convention Center, looking for an empty table where I could sit down and maybe do a bit of work (hah) before catching the documentary about Harlan Ellison, Dreams with Sharp Teeth. I finally found an empty spot in a corner, where I could also see the line for the film so I could pack up and duck in if it got too long. I sat down and started to unpack my laptop.
I looked up and realized that I recognized one of the guys at the table next to me, the only person at the table facing me. It was Kent Osborne, and if you've seen any films at SXSW this year, you've seen him in the Burger Hut house ads. I remembered meeting him briefly at SXSW 2007 when he was here as part of the Hannah Takes the Stairs cast. I thought it would be cool to get a random snapshot of him at the convention center. So I walked up, introduced myself, and asked if I could take some photos.
I looked at his friends and suddenly this bearded guy next to him is greeting me warmly: "Jette! How ya doin." I realize that under the beard, it's filmmaker Mark Duplass, whom I interviewed via e-mail a week or so ago. The woman next to him is Lynn Shelton, whose film My Effortless Brilliance is screening at SXSW this year, and whom I'd corresponded with a bit through e-mail last month. And the guy on the other side of Kent is Ross Partridge, whom I didn't know at all but would end up seeing as one of the main characters in Baghead the next night. It was like a little mumblecore (or is that Dumbledore?) gang right there next to me, and here's a photo to remember it by. So the moral is not to be afraid to just walk up fearlessly to people and ask to take their picture, because you never know who you might end up seeing (or shooting).
I'm at the Hideout and I have 10 minutes before I have to head to the Paramount. What can I tell you so far about what I've seen? Let's find out.
Bama Girl: A funny and sweet look at an African-American candidate for Homecoming Queen at the University of Alabama. How many documentaries have you attended where the filmmakers pass out tiaras for everyone? It's playing again later this week, so if you're here for SXSW you should check this one out.
The Order of Myths: Another movie set in Alabama, this time in Mobile, which has the oldest Mardi Gras tradition in America. Their Mardi Gras is even more segregated than in New Orleans, and this doc examines the racial issues behind the celebrations and balls. This movie was made by Austin filmmaker Margaret Brown, and it's playing again too. Warning: It will make you crave Moon Pies.
Baghead: Not set in Alabama at all (it was shot in Texas but is set in Southern California). This movie is totally not what I expected -- its direction took me totally by surprise. I liked it very much, and although it's not playing SXSW again, Sony Pictures Classics should be releasing it later this year.
Dreams with Sharp Teeth: A documentary about Harlan Ellison. Mr. Ellison was in attendance, and I also saw him at a panel the next day. I liked the doc but I'm not sure how interesting it would be to non-fans of the author. I think it's playing again later this week; if you're an Ellison fan it's worth seeing.
I also saw The Black List and Crawford and some other stuff and damn, I'm out of time. More later, including tons of photos.
I'll write more about the Texas Film Hall of Fame awards ceremony later, and my baptism by fire into the world of professional photography. But I'm short on time this morning -- gotta get to the Paramount -- so I'll whet your appetite with one of my favorite photos from last night. Somehow, Morgan Fairchild ended up on the red carpet at the same time as ZZ Top, and they all gathered together happily for group shots. I worried my lens wasn't wide-angle enough, but I just managed to get everyone in the photo. Woo-hoo! Now let SXSW begin.
Several of this year's SXSW documentaries focus on events in other parts of Texas. Austin playwright and filmmaker David Modigliani has been working for some time on a movie about Crawford, Texas, which many of us hadn't heard of until it became known as the home of the Bush ranch. Modigliani showed a rough cut of his film Crawford last year at an Austin Film Society Doc-in-Progress screening, and now the documentary is having its world premiere this week at SXSW. This is producer/director Modigliani's first feature-length film.
I was curious about Crawford, and then I met David on Wednesday night at an AFS pre-SXSW mixer, so I emailed him a few questions. Our discussion follows.