Jette Kernion's blog

Slackery News Tidbits, August 1

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It's been such a busy week for Austin film that we needed a second news roundup. Here are the highlights:

  • Fantastic Fest announced the first films in its lineup on Monday. The headline news is a red-carpet premiere of Dredd 3D, although no news yet who will be on the red carpet. The film's star, Karl Urban, was at Fantastic Fest in 2010 for the movie Red (my best photo here). Will he return? In addition, 17 other films were announced, including Wrong, the latest film from Rubber director Quentin Dupieux. No Austin or Texas films yet, but I've got my fingers crossed (coughBoneboyscough).
  • The part of the Fantastic Fest announcement that pleased me most is a sidebar series programmed by Kier-La Janisse, one of the original Fantastic Fest programmers before she returned to Canada to program genre fests there. The "House of Psychotic Women" films tie into Janisse's new book of the same name, described in the press release as: "an autobiographical exploration of female neurosis in horror and exploitation films. Anecdotes and memories interweave with film history, criticism, trivia and confrontational imagery to create a reflective personal history and examination of female madness, both onscreen and off." I'm in. The movies include Joseph Losey's Secret Ceremony from 1968; the 1978 film The Mafu Cage, directed by Karen Arthur, in which Carol Kane plays Lee Grant's feral sister (!); and The Entity, a 1982 film starring Barbara Hershey.
  • Drafthouse Films' 26-part anthology The ABCs of Death will have its world premiere in September at ... not Fantastic Fest, but the Midnight Madness sidebar (PDF) at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Thanks to the Austin Chronicle for the heads up. I'd be surprised if it didn't make its way to Fantastic Fest later that month, though. Midnight Madness will also include Aftershock from Chilean director Nicolas Lopez, whose film Santos was produced by Elizabeth Avellan and played Fantastic Fest 2008; and John Dies at the End, from Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho-Tep). As Jordan noted on Monday, the TIFF lineup also includes the documentary Shepard & Dark from part-time Austinite Treva Wurmfeld -- the movie's editor is Sandra Adair and composer is Graham Reynolds.

Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

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Beasts of the Southern Wild

Cliches. Stereotypes. Tropes. Everyone can think of a few they can't stand. For me, some of the most cringeworthy in movies are voiceover narration (unless it's a Billy Wilder movie), small children with a Wisdom Beyond Their Years, and what Spike Lee has dubbed the "magical Negro." The film Beasts of the Southern Wild includes voiceover narration, spoken by a strangely wise six-year-old African-American girl ...and it is a lovely, wild and spellbinding film, a dark fairytale with a cruel realistic edge.

Sometimes a skilled filmmaker can twist tropes into the service of something original and fantastic. In this case, the filmmaker is Benh Zeitlen ... and this is is his first feature film. He co-wrote Beasts of the Southern Wild with playwright Lucy Alibar -- it was a Sundance Screenwriters Lab project. The movie won awards at both Sundance and Cannes, and has finally opened in Austin this week.

Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a little girl living in a decrepit trailer somewhere in the South Louisiana bayous, an area nicknamed "the Bathtub" for its tendency to flood dangerously after major storms. Her father Wink (Dwight Henry) lives in a shack nearby; he can't stand to be in the trailer since Hushpuppy's mother "swam away." Hushpuppy hopes her mother will return. In the meantime, the girl is fascinated with the animals around her, and ties this in with stories she's heard about the ice caps melting, vividly imagining that this will unleash strange prehistoric creatures on her home.

LAFF Review: Red Flag

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Red Flag

Filmmaker/actor Alex Karpovsky likes to tinker with reality in ways that make for fascinating movies. The Hole Story is about a filmmaker named Alex who travels to Minnesota to film a natural winter phenomenon that does in fact occur there ... but is Alex's story fact or fiction? In Woodpecker, he interposed fictional characters into a real-life situation: a small town that believed an extinct bird species had been spotted nearby. Part of the movies' charm is determining where the documentary footage ends and where the fictional narrative begins.

In Red Flag, which recently premiered at Los Angeles Film Festival, Karpovsky returns to a character very much like "Alex" in The Hole Story, set during events that actually occurred, but wrapped in a narrative shot with actors and a story that might or might not have its roots in Karpovsky's life. If that sounds confusing ... it might be intentionally so.

The character Alex sets out on a road trip across the South to promote his latest film, Woodpecker. His girlfriend Rachel (Caroline White) had planned to accompany him, but a breakup changes their plans. He unsuccessfully tries to persuade friends to join him, and heads to Atlanta alone. Eventually his loquacious friend Henry (Onur Tukel) decides to tag along. Henry is an illustrator working on his first children's book, the very dark Henry and the Haunted Piano -- his publishers insist that he change the ending, in which the title character dies. The duo are later joined by another unexpected traveler, River (Jennifer Prediger).

Review: Brave

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Brave

It's been nice to look forward to a Pixar movie again. I had next to no interest in Cars 2, and to tell you the truth, hadn't been especially thrilled about Toy Story 3, either. Adding to the anticipation was learning that Brave would have a female character in the lead (not something Pixar has done before unless you count Elastigirl in The Incredibles, which you just might) and as well, one of its directors would be a woman (Brenda Chapman, also credited as a co-writer).

Brave reminded me that Pixar's parent company is Disney. Brave could have very easily been the latest evolution of the Disney princess movie -- the tropes are nearly all either present, or intentionally turned on their head. Only the very superior trademark animation quality and the voice of John Ratzenberger are any indication that this is a Pixar film.

Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a teenager in long-ago Scotland, doesn't want to conform to her queenly mother's (Emma Thompson) ideas of how a princess should behave. She loves archery and horseback riding and her freedom, not embroidery and tightly corseted dresses. Her father (Billy Connolly) encourages her usually, but both her parents are at a loss when Merida refuses to cooperate in the contest between the heads of the clans in her kingdom for a young man to win her hand in marriage. In an act of desperation, Merida finds a magical means to change her fate, only to find that sometimes magic can play cruel tricks with wishes.

LAFF Review: Saturday Morning Massacre

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Saturday Morning MassacreI wasn't at the Los Angeles Film Festival this weekend, sadly for me. However, former Austinite Spencer Parsons screened his locally shot horror-comedy Saturday Morning Massacre here in Austin last week, and I was lucky enough to be there. It's just the kind of horror movie I like -- lots of humor but not enough to dilute genuine scariness, and no prolonged graphic violence. Seeing it accomplished with familiar local talent was a happy bonus.

Saturday Morning Massacre is set in 1994, which seems random until you realize that's right before cell phones became commonplace, thus keeping them out of the picture. Four twentysomething slackers have formed a small business that videotapes and debunks paranormal activities, although it's not especially profitable. It's led by Nancy (Ashley Spillers), the short perky gal in the big pink sweater, and includes the attractive and clean-cut couple Gwen (Josephine Decker) and Chad (Adam Tate) as well as stoner Floyd (Jonny Mars) ... and let's not forget Hamlet the dog. If this sounds to you like a certain long-running popular Saturday morning cartoon, you're right, and at one point an irate detective (Sonny Carl Davis!) comes within an inch of calling them "meddling kids."

The meddling kids finally land a gig that will pay well -- a banker (Chris Doubek) asks them to visit a remote old house that the bank wants to sell but that everyone thinks is haunted. When they arrive at the house, the banker is nowhere to be found, but a local policeman (Paul Gordon) eagerly recounts the many lurid tales surrounding the place. Are they simply local myths, or has the team finally stumbled upon actual supernatural entities? And what happens if the entities aren't pleased to be visited by would-be ghostbusters?

If you watch a lot of Austin indie films, a few of the actors mentioned above will be familiar faces. In addition, Heather Kafka is nearly unrecognizable in her role, and Cyndi Williams shows up briefly in an opening scene with director Parsons and producer Jason Wehling. Ashley Rae Spillers, on the other hand, is at the beginning of her film career (though you might have seen her in the short Magpie or with Mars in the Paul Gordon-directed Slacker 2011 scene) and adds verve and believability to what could have been a ridiculous role.

Movies This Week: June 15-21, 2012

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It's the kind of week that makes me want to play hookey every day and hang out in movie theaters. The Paramount is showing two films from 1937 this weekend: The Awful Truth (one of my very favorites) and Grand Illusion. The weekdays are devoted to a combination of Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart -- check the Paramount and Stateside calendar for details.

I don't know what you all are doing on Monday night, but I'm going to see the Film Foundation's restored print of Night of the Hunter at Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz. And if I'm feeling energetic I might stick around for the Music Monday selection afterward: Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train. How's that for a double feature?

Alamo Drafthouse really does have a great lineup of special screenings this week. The weekend Late Show selection at Ritz is Galaxy Quest, if you can dare Sixth Street on Friday or Saturday night. Weird Wednesday is practically mainstream with The Sword and the Sorceror, as part of the Alamo "Summer of 82" series. And this month's Girlie Night movie may actually get me to attend something called Girlie Night: 10 Things I Hate About You, playing different Drafthouse locations in the next week or so.

Finally, the Central Texas-shot Bernie (Don's review) continues to screen at Arbor, Violet Crown, the Tinseltown theaters and Hill Country Galleria. Chip and I saw it earlier this week and I enjoyed it as much on a second viewing as he did on a first. It is worth seeing if only for Sonny Carl Davis's description of Texas regions, which needs to be posted online somewhere for everyone to see, perhaps a website for Texas tourism (hah).

Movies We've Seen

Hysteria -- It's a Victorian fairy tale that probably has very little factual basis, and the ending is obvious even from the movie posters. But this movie about the invention of the vibrator is great fun to watch, and it's nice to see Maggie Gyllenhaal in something I like. Debbie agrees in her review and says it's "sure to amuse anyone who enjoys a good double entendre." (Violet Crown, Arbor)

Safety Not Guaranteed -- This sweet yet geeky romantic comedy, which played SXSW, is one of my favorite films of 2012 so far, starring Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza. From Debbie's review: "Safety Not Guaranteed weaves comedy, romance, suspense and science fiction into a heartfelt and engaging story where viewers root for the characters." (Arbor)

Lone Star Cinema: Satellite of Love

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Satellite of Love

Usually, Lone Star Cinema focuses on a movie that you can watch on DVD, VOD and/or online. The idea is in fact to tell you about its availability as well as its local or Texas connections, so you can take another look at the film and perhaps find more enjoyment by noticing that hey, that's the old Governor's Mansion and that's the Astrodome and that's a young Sonny Carl Davis.

But this time I want to write about a movie you can't see, not yet, and have only been able to catch at a few festivals. I caught Satellite of Love at Dallas International Film Festival in March, and I didn't have the time to write fully about it then, and figured a little summary in a dispatch would be sufficient. But it screened again at the Hill Country Film Festival, and by that point I realized the movie was stubbornly stuck in my head and demanded a review, so I got a screener from director Will James Moore to refresh my memory. And it turns out that yes, Satellite of Love was still delightful on a second viewing.

The movie opens at a small carnival, with three friends on a Ferris wheel: Samuel (Nathan Phillips), Blake (Zachary Knighton) and Catherine (Shannon Lucio). It's obvious that all three of them are very close friends -- probably more than just friends -- and what is going to happen to them once they get off that Ferris wheel? The movie then moves into the future, in which Blake and Catherine are newlyweds running a very busy restaurant, with Blake as chef-owner. Samuel has been out of the country, pursuing a musical career, and returns home after finding his friends' wedding invitation.

UPDATE: POSTPONED Win Tickets to See 'Bindlestiffs' and Kevin Smith in Austin

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Bindlestiffs poster

Editor's Note, June 11, 4:45 pm: I've just received word that the Bindlestiffs tour is being postponed, with new dates not yet finalized. I will keep you all posted, and am hoping we can still draw a name and give away tickets when a new date is set. I appreciate all of you who have posted such fascinating comments, and apologize for the delay.

When I saw Bindlestiffs at Dallas International Film Festival in April, I was appalled and offended. And now that it's coming back to Austin, I want to see it again. It's that kind of appalling. This is the first feature from Houston schoolmates Andrew Edison and Luke Loftin, who started working on this movie while they were in high school. They not only co-wrote the film but co-star as two of the three high-school boys whose weekend in the big city -- Houston, although it's not specified -- goes horribly awry.

The filmmakers are in their twenties now and taking their movie on a roadshow tour of the country. They're joined by Kevin Smith, whose SModcast Pictures picked up the movie for distribution earlier this year after its premiere at Slamdance, where it won an audience award. It's the first film SModcast Pictures is distributing, using a model similar to the way Smith distributed his movie Red State in 2011.

On Monday, June 18, Bindlestiffs will have two screenings at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar with Edison, Lofton and Smith here participating in a Q&A afterward. I can tell you from Dallas IFF that Edison and Lofton can hold a very lively Q&A, and most of you know that Smith is a master at audience interaction. Tickets are now available online for the event. Three levels of tickets are available from $50 to $100 -- the higher-priced tickets also get you a pre-order of the movie on DVD. It looks like the 6 pm show is already selling out of the lowest-tier of tickets, so if you want to attend this event you should buy your tickets now.

Slackerwood has a pair of tickets to give away to the 7 pm screening of Bindlestiffs in Austin. After the jump, you can read the details about how to enter a drawing to get them yourself.

Review: Moonrise Kingdom

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Moonrise Kingdom

I don't want to gush. It's off-putting. But even though it's two weeks since I've seen Moonrise Kingdom, I keep wanting to start this review with excessively silly phrases like "lovely, lovely, lovely" and "so beautiful" and "I want to see it again right now now now." This repeating of one word is not my writing style at all. I also don't like to talk publicly about press screenings before the movie is released (it feels impolite), but my Twitter feed includes the admittedly fatuous "oh yes oh Wes oh yes yes yes" posted about an hour after the screening ended. I mean, honestly.

I've made my feelings clear about Wes Anderson's latest film. I could stop here, but the movie deserves an actual review that does not consist of a schoolgirl's idea of sexual banter. I'll do my best.

The story, set in 1963, centers around two barely-teenagers: Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), who lives with her family on the remote island of Penzance, reads lots of young-adult fantasy-adventure novels and views the world through binoculars; and Sam (Jared Gilman), an extremely resourceful member of a scout troop camping nearby. Having met under strange circumstances, they instantly feel they're kindred spirits and plan a scheme to escape from their stifling situations.

Get Tickets to 'Safety Not Guaranteed' Sneak Preview

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Safety Not Guaranteed

If you missed the delightful romantic comedy Safety Not Guaranteed at SXSW, Slackerwood is giving you the chance to see it next week, before it opens in theaters ... and at no cost. The preview will take place on Monday, June 11, at 7:30 pm at the Arbor. I'm especially pleased to promote this screening because first of all, I really liked the movie, and second of all, it was produced by two former Austinites, Mark and Jay Duplass.

After the jump, you'll find a promotional code and a link to the Gofobo website where you can enter the code to get an admit-two pass. This is a first-come, first-served pass and to paraphrase the film's title, seating 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.

Safety Not Guaranteed is about a trio of journalists investigating a curious classified ad regarding time travel, and what happens when one of them (Aubrey Plaza) meets the man behind the ad (Mark Duplass). Debbie reviewed the movie after its SXSW screening and says, "The well-paced writing fuels the comedic moments, with a rollercoaster of laughs from the audience at times." The movie opens in Austin on June 15.

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