Jette Kernion's blog

Movies This Week: April 27 - May 3, 2012

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Juan of the Dead

This is a great week for first-run comedies in Austin. I've seen three of these new movies and I would watch them all again -- they all made me laugh. And if those aren't not enough for you, The Cabin in the Woods is still screening in town.

In addition, SXSW 2011 multiple awardwinner and Central Texas-shot film Natural Selection (Debbie's review) returns to Austin this week as part of Austin Film Society's "Best of the Fests" series. Writer/director Robbie Pickering and producer Paul Jensen will attend the Wednesday, May 2 screening at Alamo Drafthouse Village. Get your tickets now via the AFS website.

On Thursday night, Cinema41 screens the 1997 movie Clockwatchers, starring Toni Collette and Parker Posey, at Salvage Vanguard Theater. And the Hayao Miyazaki film Princess Mononoke is playing at Alamo Drafthouse all week long as part of Alamo's Studio Ghibli series.

Movies We've Seen

Bernie -- Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater's latest is a very dark comedy starring Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine and based on an actual East Texas event, as recounted in a Texas Monthly feature by Skip Hollandsworth. In Don's SXSW review, he calls it "arguably the best Linklater film in a decade, an uproariously funny and engaging movie based on one of those only-in-Texas stories that would be the stuff of great fiction if it weren't astoundingly and painfully true." (Violet Crown)

Safe -- Debbie says, "Writer and director Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans, Fresh) takes a risk with Safe, depending less on Jason Statham and more on young newcomer Catherine Chan as well as the convergence of two subplots connecting an unlikely pair." Read her review  to find out whether Yakin succeeds. (wide)

Juan of the Dead (pictured at top) -- This Fantastic Fest 2011 favorite is screening nightly at Alamo Village. Rod says in his review that the Cuban zombie comedy is amazing and highly compelling. I thought it was just pretty damn funny and urge you all to go see it. And Bernie too. Not to mention...

Dallas IFF 2012 Dispatch: Game Day Sunday

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Dallas IFFMy Sunday at Dallas International Film Festival started almost identically to Saturday: Get up, have a reasonably healthy breakfast downstairs in the hotel, write and edit until time for the first movie. And like I did on Saturday, I headed to the Angelika for my first film, although I had to dress for surprisingly cool and rainy weather.

I wasn't entirely sure what I was seeing, though. The Dallas IFF schedule had a "TBA" listed at noon, and I couldn't find any info on what the movie was. So I thought I might check it out, and if it wasn't to my liking, I could go to the Brooklyn Castle screening, 15 minutes later. It turned out the TBA film had been canceled, a volunteer kindly let me know at the theater. (Note to DIFF: That would be excellent info to post to your otherwise informative Twitter account, in the future.) But as I said, it was no problem at all to jump in the line for Brooklyn Castle -- the longest line I'd stood in so far.

Brooklyn Castle was also the only entirely full house I experienced at Dallas IFF -- and at noon on a Sunday, mind you. Most of the other screenings I attended were fairly full, but for this one, volunteers were helping people find any empty seats and groups were splitting up to sit anywhere they could. There were a lot of kids, too ... and it was an extremely well behaved audience, possibly due to the engaging nature of the film. Two little girls in front of me were sharing a seat.

Brooklyn Castle (dir. Katie Dellamaggiore)

I was really glad to catch this documentary after missing it at SXSW, where it won an audience award. Brooklyn Castle is about Brooklyn 318, a junior high public school that consistently turns out the best chess players and teams in the country. The school and its students are very proud of this, and the chess players don't fit the usual chess-nerd stereotype at all. The school has a strong afterschool program where students can brush up their chess skills and prepare for tournament play.

Dallas IFF 2012 Dispatch: Uptown Saturday Night

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DIFFSaturday was my first full day at Dallas International Film Festival. I started it with a perfect breakfast at my fancy hotel. This is the only place in Texas apart from the Steeping Room -- possibly the only other place in this country -- where I've had hot tea properly prepared. They put tea leaves in a teapot and brought it to the table, instead of giving me a tea bag and some lukewarm water in a container meant for cream. (Even the best Austin coffeehouses and restaurants do this, I am sorry to say.) I also had nice crispy bacon and steel-cut oatmeal with caramelized apples, much better than I can make myself.

I know, you don't want to hear about my breakfast, so let's talk about the movies. I walked over to the Angelika Film Center for my first film, or rather, collection of films.

Shorts 1 Program

The Shorts 1 Program at Dallas IFF included seven films, all of which were entertaining -- not a slow film or dud in the lot. Many of them had Texas connections, too.

  • Playtime (Spielzeit)-- An amusing short that shifts from subject to subject around a German town, including a standout sequence with a child in a cemetery. I understood the plot structure a lot better when Houston filmmaker Lucas Mireles explained that this short was a re-imagination of Billy Wilder's 1930 film People on Sunday.
  • Another Bullet Dodged -- This film is about the biggest jerk in the universe. I'll say no more.

Dallas IFF 2012 Dispatch: A Dashing Friday

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Cinema Six filmmakers

I hadn't been to the Dallas International Film Festival since 2007, the fest's inaugural year, when it was AFI Dallas and I roomed with Kim Voynar, both of us covering the event for Cinematical. Five years later and I'm back in Dallas to see Austin and Texas movies for Slackerwood.

I had a late start leaving Austin Friday morning -- in fact it was Friday afternoon by the time I got onto I-35. If you know me, this is not surprising. I told myself that the first film I wanted to see, at 4:30 pm, would also screen Saturday and it would be okay if I missed it, but then I remembered hearing the press office closed at 4 pm and I was paranoid that I wouldn't be able to get my credentials. Aw, hell. I floored it (which for granny-driver me means woo, 7 miles an hour above the speed limit) all the way up I-35 and pulled my car in front of the press office at 3:30 pm.

The press office was next to my hotel, and my plan was to grab my badge, check in at the hotel, not bother dropping off luggage, and jump back in the car to speed to the Magnolia Theatre by 4:30. I'd picked the official fest hotel (the Palomar) because even though it was pricey, it was across the street from one of the venues (the Angelika), and I figured that made it worthwhile. I'm not an experienced Dallas driver.

SXSW 2012: All Our Guides and Coverage

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Updated April 10, 2012.

Slackerwood was all over the 2012 SXSW Film Festival this year with plenty of news, reviews, photos and guides for you to enjoy, listed below. With seven regular Slackerwood contributors at the fest plus help from Austin Film Society staff and interns, we covered every aspect of the film fest.

Catch a Preview of 'Bully' Next Week

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Bully poster imagesI'm happy to tell you about a free preview screening for the documentary Bully next week, before it opens in Austin theaters on Friday, April 13. Bully is a movie about children and teens who are the targets of seriously bullying in and around schools, and what they and their families are doing to try to deal with the problem. The film, partially shot in Fort Worth, previously screened in Austin during Austin Film Festival last year, when it was titled The Bully Project. You can read my mini-review from AFF at Movies.com.

Bully has been in the news lately because the MPAA originally gave the documentary an R rating, which would have made it difficult for teenagers to see the movie. However, on Thursday, the MPAA rated the movie PG-13 after some minor cuts for language were made. An intense scene on a bus that director Lee Hirsch thought was pivotal to the movie (he's right) was able to remain with the new rating.

Slackerwood has 25 sets of passes to give away to a preview screening on Wednesday, April 11 at 7 pm at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. To get the passes, click this link and log into Gofobo or create a user account. (You do need a Gofobo account to get the tickets.) If prompted, enter the code SLACK993T. You will receive a pass via email that you must print and bring to the theater.

But wait ... there's more. If you are an Austin Film Society member, AFS is also giving away passes for the Wednesday night screening. Visit the AFS page for the event and log in to the AFS website to get the link and code to obtain passes. (Again, you need a Gofobo account.)

Please bear in mind that more passes are given away for preview screenings than there are available seats -- you are not guaranteed a seat with your pass. I recommend getting to the theater no less than an hour early to ensure you get into the movie. Each pass admits two people, so find a friend to take with you.

Now you have two ways to get a chance to see Bully next Wednesday night for free. What other reason do you need?

SXSW 2012 Photos: Braving the Wild Red Carpets

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Gabrielle Union and Brian Savelson, In Our Nature

The red carpets at SXSW are often a little crazy. The SXSW staff and volunteers do an excellent job of managing these events, but there are many people in a small space and afterwards you don't really want to see the related movie as much as you want to find the nearest bar. It is not a task for the weak or easily intimidated. I did cover the Trash Dance red carpet this year but that was much smaller and quieter compared to, say, The Cabin in the Woods.

Fortunately, this year a pair of courageous and intrepid photographers offered their red-carpet shooting skills to Slackerwood: Molly Dinkins and Dick De Jong. What follows is a sampling of the great photos they snapped during a number of SXSW 2012 red carpets -- and a couple of Q&As -- whether of first-feature screenwriters or well known celebrities, representing movies from Bernie to Killer Joe to Somebody Up There Likes Me. We've got Gabrielle Union, Johnny Knoxville ... and Austin documentary filmmaker/UT professor Paul Stekler.

I want to thank Dinkins / De Jong one more time for their excellent photos both at SXSW and at the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards.

Catch a Glimpse of Austin's Movie Theater Past

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Paramount Theatre; Austin Texas

If you're a film lover in Austin, you've probably been to a renovated theater that has a long past of showing movies in town, like the Paramount or Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. Or perhaps you've driven by a business that was obviously a movie theater at some point in the past: the old Varsity at Guadalupe and 24th (now a bunch of chain fast-food joints) or the old Cinema West on South Congress, which has been turned into an office building. We won't even talk about the Arbor Theatre, which is now a Cheesecake Factory.

Austin History Center has a wealth of information about movie theaters in Austin through the ages, and they're going to share it with us, from now through this summer. "The First Picture Shows: Historic Austin Movie Houses" will run until August 19. The exhibit includes "hundreds of historic photographs, documents, and architectural drawings" that portray Austin theater history from the early days of nickelodeons to the current status of many of these buildings as other types of businesses.

Photo Essay: Jette's SXSW 2012 Favorites

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State and Paramount at night

Here at Slackerwood, we're just about ready to put our SXSW coverage away for awhile, but I couldn't resist sharing some of my favorite photos from the film festival this year. These are the photos I took myself -- I'm hoping to put together a second photo essay soon with my favorite red-carpet photos from our intrepid red-carpet photographers.

Links to all our SXSW 2012 coverage are all in one place if you want to find out more about the stories behind these photos.

Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I'm not sure I can eat sushi again. Or at least not for a week, until the afterglow from Jiro Dreams of Sushi wears off. And certainly not any of the upscale-grocery-store sushi I sometimes rely upon for a quick lunch. I have seen some of the most gorgeous sushi in the world, and it makes the stuff in a refrigerated display case look like cat food.

But Jiro Dreams of Sushi's appeal shouldn't be limited to foodies or sushi fans. This documentary from David Gelb is about a master of his craft, pushing himself and his apprentices to greater heights, achieving creations that look deceptively simple but have hidden depths of complexity. Someone could make the same movie with the same structure about a painter, scupltor or architect.

The first half-hour of Jiro Dreams of Sushi is so complete and well contained that I thought it could have been a documentary on its own, and wondered what was left for the movie to show. Jiro Ono is 85 years old but still follows his daily routine as the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat sushi restaurant in a Tokyo subway station that has earned three Michelin stars despite its size and the fact that it only serves sushi. His oldest son Yashikazu (age 50) works at his side and is in charge of buying the seafood. His younger son Takashi owns another sushi restaurant that is the mirrored twin of his father's.

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