Jette Kernion's blog

Austin is All Over Cannes This Year


Richard Linklater may not be there this year to scare European journalists with his "demonic gestures" (aka the "Hook 'em" sign) but Cannes Film Festival is going to have some excellent Texas and even Austin representation in May. I mentioned one short film last week but I keep hearing more and better news.

Here's what I have so far -- feel free to comment if I missed anything. I have no clue yet whether any of the local filmmakers/writers mentioned below will actually travel to France for the festival ... I just hope the movies come back here so I can see them (if I haven't already).

  • The most obvious Central Texas movie at Cannes will be The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick's latest film, which we will hopefully see in Austin starting on June 4. The Tree of Life is one of the features in the main Cannes competition, up against new films from Pedro Almodovar, Takashi Miike and Lars von Trier, among others.
  • Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols' latest film, Take Shelter, will screen as part of the Critics Week competition at Cannes. You may recall that Take Shelter premiered at Sundance this year, although it hasn't yet screened here in Austin. Another Texas connection in the Critics Week lineup is a special screening of Walk Away Renee, directed by Houston filmmaker Jonathan Caouette (Tarnation).
  • The Directors Fortnight at Cannes will include short film Fourplay: Tampa, directed by former Austinite Kyle Henry and written by still-an-Austinite (I hope) Carlos Trevino. It's one of only three American films in the Directors Fortnight this year. The short is part of a series that was awarded Texas Filmmakers Production Fund grants in 2009 and 2010.

Slackery News Tidbits, April 14


Here's the latest Austin movie news:

  • Local movie Five Time Champion was a big winner at the Dallas International Film Festival last weekend, taking home the Texas Filmmaker Award ($20K in cash/goods/services). Read Don's review of the movie from SXSW and you may understand why. In addition, now-Austin filmmaker Clay Liford won a special jury prize for Wuss, the Dallas-shot film that premiered at SXSW last month (my review). For more about Austin movies at Dallas IFF, don't forget to read Peter Martin's column from yesterday.
  • Austin Film Festival has teamed up with KLRU-TV for a dozen episodes of a new series called On Story: Presented by Austin Film Festival. Each episode will include a short film by a Texas filmmaker that has screened at AFF, plus clips of panels, interviews, etc. from past fests. You can watch the show on Saturday nights at 7:30 on KLRU-Q, and the shows will be available online on The opening show on Saturday will include the short Frente Noreste as well as footage of Lawrence Kasdan, Shane Black and Randall Wallace.
  • Cannes will have some Central Texas representation this year. Katrina's Son, the short feature from UT alum Ya'Ke Smith, is included in the Short Film Corner (Court Metrage) at Cannes. You may remember that Katrina's Son screened at Austin Film Festival, where it won the Narrative Short Jury Award. Visit the short film's website for more info and a trailer.
  • Austin Movies in the Park has cranked back up again for free screenings in Republic Square Park this month and next. Another series, Eastside Movies in the Park, will run through August at Fiesta Gardens. Austin Movie Blog has the details.

Review: Arthur



My sister once made me a low-fat chocolate pie from a Weight Watchers recipe. It looked mouth-wateringly delicious, but when I took a bite, I was taken aback by the lack of any taste whatsoever. It wasn't bad, it was simply the most flavorless food I'd ever put in my mouth. It was an illusion of pie, and I stopped after a second bite and decided that pie time is a time when calories should not be considered.

I felt the same way watching Arthur, the remake of the 1981 frothy romantic comedy, which opened Friday in wide release. Even as a remake, it looks so promising, especially if you have a guilty fondness for Russell Brand (like I do) or Helen Mirren. The casting is fabulous, the New York setting is lovely, the rich-boy premise means potential scenes of cinematic decadence ... and yet its humor and romance have no flavor whatsoever. Arthur has little to savor or enjoy, and it borders on the puzzling, since wit contains no calories or fat. (Or perhaps it secretly does. This would explain a lot about the loss of my girlish figure, instead of blaming pie.)

Slackery News Tidbits, April 6


Here's the latest Austin film-related news.

  • Austin Film Festival has announced that its 2011 Distinguished Screenwriter Award will go to Caroline Thompson, perhaps best known for writing Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. She will be attending AFF this year, which is scheduled from Oct. 20-27.
  • Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World has qualified for $1.2 million in film incentives ... in Michigan. The Detroit News reports that Robert Rodriguez's Austin-shot movie will move its post-production from Troublemaker Studios to a Michigan facility for post-production work, including the conversion to 3D.
  • The Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund is now accepting applications for 2011. Filmmakers have until June 1. If you are interested in TFPF grants, Austin Film Society has set up several workshops around the state, starting tonight in San Antonio.

Quick Snaps: 'Pioneer' at SXSW


Pioneer Filmmakers and Star

I didn't get to see many SXSW short films this year, but I made sure to find time for Pioneer, the latest from Dallas-area filmmaker David Lowery, which won the Narrative Shorts Jury Award at SXSW. Lowery did most of the SXSW 2010 bumpers (the micro-shorts promoting the fest that play before each film), and also directed one of my favorite features of SXSW 2009, St. Nick.

Pioneer premiered at Sundance this year. It's minimalist in setup -- theoretically, a simple bedtime story scene between a father and son. But the film is beautifully shot by David Blood, and the outcome of the short itself will have you thinking for awhile afterward. Myles Brooks plays the little boy, and Will Oldham the dad. It's Brooks's first time onscreen, but Oldham has acted in a number of indie films (Wendy and Lucy, The Guatamalan Handshake) but is also a musician under the name Bonnie Prince Billy.

"Do Something Reel" Film Series Hits Austin This Week


Urban Roots

I've never thought of Whole Foods as a film distributor, but I may have to think again, as the Austin-based grocery chain has  started a film series that will premiere six documentaries in 70 U.S. cities during April, aka "Earth Month." The Whole Foods Do Something Reel Film Festival, which focuses on movies with environmental themes, starts in Austin tonight at Alamo Drafthouse Village.

The Do Something Reel website includes descriptions and trailers for the half-dozen films, along with screening information for all the cities in which the movies will be shown. Although most of these documentaries have been on the film-fest circuit in the past year or two, as far as I can tell none of them have played Austin yet.

After the jump, check out the schedule for Austin for each film in the series. All screenings in Austin are at Alamo Village.

Review: Source Code


Source Code

When you've made an amazing first feature, it's hard to live up to it with your next movie. I am already hearing people fuss that Source Code, the new film directed by Duncan Jones, isn't as good as Moon, his feature directorial debut. Let's be frank: It's not. But you know what? It doesn't matter. Judging this movie on its own terms, it's a terrific ride.

It's hard not to think about other movies while watching Source Code, though. One of my colleagues described it as "Deja Vu meets Groundhog Day." Well, I liked both those movies, and while Source Code does fit that description ... what did I just say about judging a movie on its own terms? Thank you.

Source Code opens with wide shots of a train, accompanied by the kind of music that might remind you of a Hitchcock thriller or a Seventies heist movie. Yes, I've just invoked two more movie comparisons. Try to keep up. Jake Gyllenhaal's character wakes up on the commuter train and is terribly confused ... he's getting used to the setting at the same time we are. The woman across the aisle says she's his girlfriend Christina (Michelle Monaghan) and that his name is Sean, but he thinks he's someone else. And while he's trying to work it all out --

SXSW Review: Where Soldiers Come From


Where Soldiers Come From

The most moving documentary I saw at SXSW this year is from Austinite Heather Courtney, although it's primarily shot in her hometown, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula: Where Soldiers Come From. I had more or less decided after The Messenger that I'd had enough of war-related features and documentaries, but I don't regret seeing this movie, not for a minute. The film had its world premiere at SXSW 2011.

Where Soldiers Come From follows three young men from their decision to enroll in the National Guard after high school, through their deployment overseas, and what happens post-deployment. Dom is an artist, and we see a lot of his graffiti-like art on the walls of an abandoned building in his hometown, before he leaves. He hangs out with his friends Cole and Bodi, and they all end up in the same National Guard unit, sent to Afghanistan to find IEDs (improvised explosive devices; aka bombs).

Slackery News Tidbits, March 30


Here's the latest Austin film-related news:

  • IndieWIRE's The Playlist reports that Saturday Night Live actor Bill Hader is working on a movie called Henchman, in which he'll star. The Henchman script was originally drafted by Austin writers Chris Mass (Chalk) and Owen Egerton, as well as UT grad Russell Leigh Sharman. You may remember Hader was here last October for Austin Film Festival, where he participated in a staged reading of The Hand Job, a script written by his wife, Maggie Carey. (via Joe M. O'Connell and this blog)
  • Cine Las Americas is looking for volunteers for this year's festival, which takes place April 21-28 here in Austin. They're holding a volunteer sign-up meeting this Thursday, March 31, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Mexican American Cultural Center. They've also posted a list of festival volunteer opportunities and a form for you to fill out if you're interested.
  • Next week, UT grad student Robert Lemon's short film ¿Tacos or Tacos? will have its world theatrical premiere at the Sonoma International Film Festival. The short documentary compares Austin's fancy new food trailers with traditional taco trucks. I hope we'll see the film in Austin soon. In the meantime, this SFWeekly article has the trailer and details about Lemon and his movie.

SXSW Review: Otis Under Sky


Otis Under Sky

As I sat in the Paramount Theatre watching the beautiful Otis Under Sky, as its story slowly unspooled, I thought of ... Roger Ebert. When Mr. Ebert reviewed the Austin-shot Harmony and Me in 2009, he said that "Austin has never looked more unlovely" and that the title character "never visits a part of town that doesn't look like an anonymous suburb." He would love the Austin portrayed in Otis Under Sky, though: lush parks, glittering downtown lights and lots of lakes and streams, contrasted with city bus rides and shabby housing that reveal parts of Austin tourists and many locals rarely see, but that still catch the eye.

Otis Under Sky is very much an Austin-y movie, without the desperate "everyone wear a Longhorn t-shirt and drink Shiner Bock" measures laughably adopted in Whip It. No one goes to Alamo Drafthouse; you wonder if the characters could afford such an outing. Instead, they head to Mayfield Park to stare at the peacocks ... but not for too long if they don't want to miss the bus back. Only one character in this movie drives a car.

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