Jette Kernion's blog

All Our/Their 2011 Holiday Favorites


Updated January 1, 2012.

We've really enjoyed writing Our Holiday Favorites and receiving Their Holiday Favorites content from Austin film folks. If you're looking for something different to watch during the holiday season (or any time), here are our (and their) suggestions.

Their Holiday Favorites: Josh Frank Prefers Bond. The Lazenby Bond.


On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Their Holiday Favorites is a series in which members of the Austin film community tell us about movies they enjoy watching during the holiday season. Today, Blue Starlite Drive-in owner Josh Frank recalls a film that might not seem like an obvious choice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service:

Every holiday season since I can remember, one of the basic cable channels has at some point shown a James Bond Holiday Marathon. So James Bond has become synonymous for me with snow, cozy warm days off and in, with holiday spirit, presents and 24 to 48 hours of James Bond ... save 4 hours of infomercials in the wee hours between 3 and 7 am when even Bond must catch some shut-eye.

There never seemed to be a rhyme or reason to the order. A Connery flick would be stuck between two Roger Moore's then a Pierce Brosnan and then back again. Every so often, they would show (at least once in the cycle) my favorite most underrated James Bond movie. All of Sean Connery's were great, and most of Moore's have a place in my heart if for no other reason then as an 8-year-old I didn't know better, so I watched them so many times that they became lore.
But On Her Majesty's Secret Service is that little-known Bond movie that most people don't pay attention to, mainly because its star is a one-time Bond who was not an actor but a famous British model, but they really should. Not just because it's the perfect Holiday Bond, taking place in a winter wonderland with snow, and even jingle bells echoing through the night on horse-drawn carriages in the little ski town where most of it takes place.

Their Holiday Favorites: Daniel Metz Champions 'Eyes Wide Shut'


Eyes Wide Shut

Their Holiday Favorites is a series in which members of the Austin film community tell us about movies they enjoy watching during the holiday season. Today, Austin film programmer and producer Daniel Metz (Slacker 2011) explains why you should consider Stanley Kubrick when picking movies to watch this holiday season:

It's not hard to see why Christmas movies are so often placed in the ghetto of film genres; for the most part schmaltzy, child-oriented and low humored, these pictures prey on the weakness of seasonal sentimentality to the detriment of meaningful storytelling. Christmas movies don't ask questions, they don't get at truths about human nature, and they don't take risks.

With one exception. Only one truly great filmmaker has ever made a Christmas film: that director is Stanley Kubrick, and the film is Eyes Wide Shut. Every frame of this striking, dangerous last film from the master that gave us Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining is littered with Douglas firs, incandescent bulbs, and various other Yuletide tchotchkes. Tom Cruise, who manages to deliver one of his rare stellar performances, plods through the NYC streets in leather gloves and a cashmere overcoat, his short breaths creating little clouds as he's haunted by Christmas fever around him. It's a celebration of Christmas tradition and symbols, and the trouble we can get in when we have the freedom of a holiday night.

Their Holiday Favorites: David Hartstein's Annual 'Christmas Vacation'


National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Welcome to Their Holiday Favorites, a series in which members of the Austin film community tell us about movies they enjoy watching during the holiday season. Austin filmmaker/producer David Hartstein (Along Came Kinky, Where Soldiers Come From) has been traveling out of the country recently to work on his Untitled Israeli Football Documentary, but was able to take a minute to tell us about a certain Christmas movie he can't miss.

I'm Jewish and there are no Hanukkah movies worth your time. So until Mel Gibson's Judah Maccabee project sees the light of day and despite marrying a Lutheran last year, I still feel like a Christmas movie interloper. But sure, like anyone else I do have a go-to list of Christmas movies that put me in the holiday spirit: It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone, Die Hard, Eyes Wide Shut and Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (technically TV).

The one standout for me, however, is and always will be National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I first saw Christmas Vacation at the (now boarded up) Rockville Center Twin on Long Island. I owned the Vacation trilogy on VHS (pre the very underrated Vegas Vacation) but it was stolen from me in college. Sort of like a parent, I love all of the Vacation movies fiercely and equally (perhaps I'll be asked back by Jette for that guest column in the future?) and I can't pick a favorite, but when I found out my wife had never seen Christmas Vacation I went out that very day and bought the Blu-ray, which immediately won her over to its charms.

Our Holiday Favorites: Little Women


Little Women 1994

I love to watch Little Women in December. Perhaps because the story begins at Christmas, when the genteel-y poor March girls decide to give their Christmas feast to a family even poorer than they are, and use their Christmas money to buy presents for their dear Marmee. That does sound uncharacteristically sentimental of me, doesn't it? I confess I always cry at That Tragic Scene in the movie, too. (I won't spoil it for the few Joey Tribbianis out there who haven't read the book or seen any of the films.) Really, I like Little Women because Jo is so very wonderful.

But which movie version of Little Women to watch? My favorite Jo is Katharine Hepburn in the 1933 adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott book, directed by George Cukor. Hepburn is convincingly boyish and delightful, I could watch her in this role for twice as long. But in recent years, I've turned to the 1994 Little Women, starring Winona Ryder as Jo. Ryder is fine -- not the best Jo, but part of an excellent ensemble cast, including Susan Sarandon as Marmee, Kirsten Dunst as the young Amy, and Claire Danes as Poor Beth. Gillian Armstrong directed this adaptation from a script by Robin Swicord.

Their Holiday Favorites: Agnes Varnum, Her Mom and 'Bad Santa'


Bad Santa

Welcome to Their Holiday Favorites, a series in which members of the Austin film community tell us about movies they enjoy watching during the holiday season. We're starting with Agnes Varnum, the Director of Marketing for Austin Film Society. Here's her description of a family holiday favorite:

My mom is a sucker for Joel and Ethan Coen. Raising Arizona was her favorite movie until O Brother, Where Art Thou? came out. Besides Elf and Miracle on 34th Street, our holiday greatest hit is the Coen-produced Bad Santa.

The grungy, foul Santa played by Billy Bob Thornton is exactly the kind of sardonic character that folks without a sense of humor love to hate, but if you ever feel like commercialism and sentimentality have overtaken the holiday, Bad Santa is the cure.

Slackery News Tidbits, December 5


Here's the latest Austin film news. And if you read all your news, you get a treat ... a video embedded at the end.

  • Sundance Film Festival has announced much of its 2012 lineup. So far, one Austin movie is included -- Kid-Thing, the latest feature from David Zellner and Nathan Zellner. The cast includes not only the Zellner brothers but also Susan Tyrell, who now lives in Austin. In addition, former Austinite Mark Duplass (who once participated in a filmmaker "wrestling match" with the Zellners) has scripted a thriller in the Park City at Midnight category: Black Rock, directed by and starring Katie Aselton. Aselton and Duplass are married. (If you haven't seen Aselton before, Bryan Poyser's short The Fickle is a fun place to start -- it's available online, and the gentleman who leaps is David Zellner. Full circle.)
  • UT alum Todd Berger has been signed to write an adaptation of Where's Waldo for the big screen. I'm not sure how you get a feature film out of a puzzle-based picture book, but Berger is a very funny guy who's made some great movies that have played AFF in recent years: the hipster-noir comedy The Scenesters in 2009, and Don't Eat the Baby, a documentary about the 2006 Mardi Gras in New Orleans, which played AFF in 2007.
  • Mike Woolf of Beef and Pie Productions here in Austin (they made Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission), has found a truly alternative method for distribution of one of his short films. His 2007 short doc Life is Marbleous is now available for you to watch online ... if you play the iPod/iPhone game Life is Marbleous, and win. The game costs less than a dollar to download, although I'm not sure how easy it is to play. The short played SXSW in 2007 and is about people who love, you guessed it, marbles.

Austin-Connected Spirit Award Nominations and Where to See the Films


Director Jeff Nichols sports an antique BBros T on the set of Take Shelter

The Film Independent Spirit Award nominations for 2011 were announced this week, and Austin fared very well on the list of hopefuls. Take Shelter, the feature from local filmmaker Jeff Nichols (pictured above), received a whopping five nominations: Best Feature, Best Director, Best Male Lead (Michael Shannon), Best Supporting Female (Jessica Chastain), and the Piaget Producers Award (Sophia Lin).

Take Shelter is still playing in Austin at Regal Arbor, although starting Friday it'll move to a late-show slot. Read Jenn's review to learn more about the film.

In addition, Austin documentary filmmaker Heather Courtney received a Spirit Award nomination in the Truer Than Fiction category for her film Where Soldiers Come From, which premiered at SXSW this year -- that's Courtney and the subjects of her film at a SXSW Q&A in the following photo.

Review: The Muppets


The Muppets

It dawned on me earlier this week that I've seen every single Muppet movie in a theater on its original theatrical release, from The Muppet Movie (which I love) to The Great Muppet Caper (my very favorite) to Muppets From Space (oh, dear). I couldn't believe it myself, but it's true. And now actor/writer/Muppet fan Jason Segel has brought us The Muppets, a new movie starring every Muppet he could find, including a new one, and his own non-Muppet self. While it's a fun outing, I would have liked it better with less Segel and more Muppets, but again, look where I'm coming from -- a child who was told when she was growing up that she was the exact same age as Sesame Street (which I found out later wasn't quite true), and who thought that was awesome.

Those of you who are familiar with the felt folk -- and apart from my Muppet-hating husband, I'm assuming the Slackerwood demographic includes many old-school Muppet fans -- might be surprised to learn that it takes 20 minutes or so for the old familiar Muppets to appear onscreen in the movie, except indirectly. The story opens with a focus on two small-town brothers, Gary (Segel, again with the man-child) and Walter, an Anything Muppet performed by Peter Linz. Walter -- who believes he's human -- is obsessed with the Muppets, and when Gary and his longtime girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) decide to take a romantic trip to Los Angeles, Walter tags along so he can visit the famous Muppet Studios.

The Archivists Are in Town: Free Movies for All!


Nothing Sacred

I can't be the only one thrilled to hear the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) is holding its 2011 conference in Austin this week. If you're not thrilled, you don't know what this means: Fascinating and well-restored movies screening at the Paramount, all free to the public. The last time AMIA held its annual conference here was 2005, and for me it was as though the circus was in town. In fact I was tempted to run away with them and become an archivist myself, except a) I don't want to go back to school, b) I don't think I'd be good at it and c) it's not a profession with many job opportunities in Austin. (As opposed to film criticism? Well ...)

The fun kicks off tonight at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, with the AMIA "Reels of Steel" competition at 11:30 pm. Film buffs and archivists will be bringing all kinds of rare and interesting film and video clips from their personal collections to screen. Admission is free and first-come, first served.

More free movies are screening all day long on Saturday, November 19 at the Paramount -- you could get down there early and stay all day, paying only for parking and a meal or two. At 9 am, they'll show Nicholas Ray's 1976 film We Can't Go Home Again. At 10:45, the 1966 film Passages from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Grab some lunch and go back for a collection of home movies from around America at 1 pm. Then at 3 pm, you can see a restored version of the 1977 documentary Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.

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