Jette Kernion's blog

Slackery News Tidbits, February 23


Here's the latest Austin movie-related news for your enjoyment.

  • The Texas Film Hall of Fame has announced even more special guests and award nominees for the March 10 event. John Hawkes, nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in Winter's Bone, will receive the Rising Star Award. The Austin band Spoon will receive the Soundtrack Award, presented to them by local filmmaker Jeff Nichols. And journalist Liz Smith will be presenting Renee Zellweger with her award. I suspect we haven't heard the last talent announcement from them yet, so stay tuned.
  • Over at YNN (formerly known as News 8 Austin), Victor Diaz profiles the Austin-shot film Lovers of Hate (my review) and its filmmakers, who are preparing for the upcoming Independent Spirit Award ceremony. The movie is up for the John Cassavetes Award, for indie films with a budget of less than $500K.
  • Last year, Austin filmmaker Bob Ray took a road trip around the country to show his documentaries Hell on Wheels (my review) and Total Badass. Now he's decided that the U.S. is not enough. He's got a Kickstarter campaign going to fund a tour of Europe with the pair of documentaries. And as part of that campaign, he created a pretty damn funny video you don't want to miss. (The pledge incentives are amusing too ... not just stickers or DVDs but Indian leg wrestling and one of Bob's spare USB cables.) (And I just realized the Cinematical quote from the Hell on Wheels trailer is mine. Cool!)

Quick Snaps: 'When Angels Sing' in Northwest Park


When Angels Sing

I mentioned the production of When Angels Sing a few weeks ago: Tim McCanlies (Secondhand Lions) is directing this adaptation of a Turk Pipkin story, and it's produced by Elizabeth Avellan. The cast includes many familiar faces from the music industry: Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Sara Hickman and Harry Connick, Jr., plus Connie Britton.

When Angels Sing was recently shooting over in Northwest Park by Shoal Creek Blvd. in the Allandale neighborhood. I found some photos on Flickr from the shoot. Jim Lallen, who lives in Allandale, graciously gave me permission to publish some of his photos here. He was only able to take a few before someone on the production shooed him away.

In the above photo ("Action"), you can see Kris Kristofferson preparing to shoot a scene with a younger actor, barely visible -- I am wondering if this is Houston actor Chandler Canterbury, credited on IMDb as being in the cast. Kristofferson plays a character listed on IMDb as "The Colonel." I've got another photo after the jump ("The Crew") that includes a glimpse of director Tim McCanlies (in a cap and striped shirt in the background).

Movies This Week: I Am Unknown Cedar Momma



My head is full of SXSW news this week, and I was up too late last night poring over the schedule. So it's difficult for me to get very excited about today's new releases in Austin theaters. Cedar what? Hey, My Sucky Teen Romance will premiere at the Paramount! Unknown ... well, it's unknown whether I should pick WUSS over Incendiary: The Willingham Case when they're in the same time slot. You see what I mean. We'll have some amazing Slackerwood coverage of the fest this year, but right now I need to stop planning and start telling you about what's in theaters right this minute.

Movies We've Seen:

I Am Number Four -- Mike Saulters caught this mystery/romance/action movie and calls it "a strong film, which draws on familiar elements." He also says it opens with some amazing action he calls "jungle parkour." Check back on Saturday morning for his full review of this film starring Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Durand (Lost), Alex Pettyfer and Dianna Agron (Glee).

Other New Movies:

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son -- I can't even think of anything snarky to say about the latest entry in the Big Momma series. If you are this desperately in need of entertainment, read Eric Snider's review at Cinematical, which is probably much funnier than the movie itself. And go rent Some Like It Hot.

Slackery News Tidbits, February 18


It's been a very busy, newsworthy week for Austin film. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • My favorite news of the week: Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson is going into the moviemaking business himself. Carlson and Brian Connolly, who co-wrote the book Destroy All Movies: The Complete Guide to Punk Film, have also worked on a feature film script called Destroy, about vampire hunters in a world where vampires don't exist. The movie will be directed by Michael Paul Stephenson, who brought us Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2 fandom that was partially shot in Austin and has screened here many times. Can't wait to see the finished film.
  • The Texas Film Hall of Fame has announced their first 2011 award recipients: Rip Torn (a UT Austin alum) and Renee Zellweger (from Katy). The Star of Texas ensemble award will go to the TV show Friday Night Lights. And this year's emcee will be Wyatt Cenac. You may know Cenac from The Daily Show (or the amazing SXSW 2008 film Medicine for Melancholy), but he also has Texas ties: he's from Dallas and used to write for King of the Hill. Other special guests include Catherine Hardwicke, Luke Wilson, Richard Linklater and previous emcee Thomas Haden Church. Yes, of course we will be there with cameras.
  • SXSW Film Festival posted its 2011 conference and film schedules this week. So start planning now. The fest also announced some key panelists for the Film Conference, including Paul Reubens, Ellen Page, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rainn Wilson, and filmmakers Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) and Todd Phillips (The Hangover).
  • More from SXSW Film: Two videos are available to help you with your festgoing choices. About SXSW: 2011 SXSW Film Access explains the differences between badge, pass and ticket and offers advice on all options. It looks like the SXXpress tickets for badgeholders will be available again this year, if that's your cup of tea (I never seem to be able to make it to the box office at the right time for them myself). The second video, About SXSW: SXSW 2011 Film Venues and Shuttle Buses, is an excellent guide to getting around the fest. The video makes it sound like the shuttle will run every day of the film festival, which if true is wonderful news. The shuttle will also include Rollins this year (a new venue for SXSW that is part of the Long Center), but not Westgate or Arbor, which are essentially "satellite venues" meant to draw Austin filmgoers. Keep an eye out for our own Venue Guide in the next couple of weeks, which includes theater seat counts, bus routes and nearby dining options.

Movies This Week: Just Juliet the Eagle Illusionist


The Gruffalo

Looking at this week's new releases, I'm amused that we have two animated movies opening that could not be more different. One is a bright perky children's movie that tidily removes everything tragic from a classic tragedy; the other is a poignant, beautiful, quiet film with a melancholy air. And the photo above comes from neither one -- it's from The Gruffalo, part of a collection of Oscar-nominated shorts that also opens in Austin today.  Other non-animated choices include a Hollywood romantic comedy, an epic set in ancient Rome ... and Justin Bieber. How can you go wrong?

Movies We've Seen:

  • Gnomeo And Juliet -- Don's review tells you everything you want to know about this upbeat reworking of the tragic Shakespearan play using garden gnomes. But my favorite comment so far comes from Kimberley Jones' review at the Austin Chronicle: "That's 10 screenwriters if you count Shakespeare, but had he the chance, I bet he'd lobby the Writers Guild for an Alan Smithee credit." (wide)
  • The Illusionist -- If I could, I would stop what I was doing right now and go see The Illusionist again. The animated movie is directed by Sylvan Chomet from a script by the late Jacques Tati. You won't believe me, but this is a much better movie than the front-runner for Best Animated Feature Oscar, Toy Story 3. Read my review to find out why. (Arbor)
  • The Eagle -- Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell star in this sword-and-sandal adventure that is so macho, there are no speaking parts for women. (Well, the same can be said for The Great Escape, which I like very much.) Debbie caught this movie; look for her review this weekend. (wide)

Review: The Illusionist


The Illusionist

Sad and beautiful, that's The Illusionist in a nutshell. This animated movie is not geared toward small children -- it's from the same filmmaker who brought us The Triplets of Belleville, Sylvain Chomet. But where his previous film was riotous and joyful and just plain insane at times, The Illusionist is quieter, more structured and not afraid to venture into melodrama. It may not be upbeat, but that doesn't mean it was disappointing, at all.

The Illusionist originates from a script by the late French actor/filmmaker Jacques Tati. If you've seen The Triplets of Belleville, you know Chomet is a big fan of Tati -- there are a few Tati references sprinkled throughout the film, and the humor matches some of Tati's more chaotic comedy. But Tati's standard "M. Hulot" character also had a more dramatic side, which prevails in this movie.

Dialogue is minimal, the characters barely have names, and the storyline is uncomplicated. The title character (Jean-Claude Donda) is a French magician whose illusions are no longer in fashion by the late 1950s. Music halls in Europe prefer Beatles-like boy bands that draw crowds of groupies. He lands a gig in a remote Scottish village, where he delights crowds in a small pub ... including young Alice (Eilidh Rankin), the hotel maid. He's kind to Alice, so she follows him when he leaves the village and tries to make his living in Edinburgh.

SXSW 2011 Announces Shorts, Midnighters and 'Fantastic' Titles



SXSW Film Festival has just announced the last round of features included in the 2011 festival, in the Midnighters and SXFantastic categories. "SXFantastic" is a joint venture between SXSW and Fantastic Fest, and the films generally screen at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, often with wacky hijinks from the Alamo gang. In addition, SXSW has also announced its substantial short film lineup, including narratives, documentaries, animation and music videos. One category is dedicated to Texas shorts, which is great to see.

You can see the full lineup here. Although none of the new features are Austin movies as far as I can tell -- in fact, few are American -- we'll post an article soon with details on the Austin-connected shorts. In the meantime, here are a few highlights and notes on Austin connections, no matter how tenuous. The actual schedule for SXSW Film should be announced within another week or so, along with info on film passes and other details.

  • Hobo with a Shotgun is about as close to being an Austin film as a movie shot in Nova Scotia by a Canadian can possibly be -- I explained why when the film officially premiered at Sundance. I hope to see this but it's a midnight movie and you all know how wussy I am about seeing movies at that hour (the last SXSW film I stayed up that late to see was Drag Me to Hell).
  • British filmmaker Simon Rumley was at SXSW 2010 with his Austin-shot horror film, Red White & Blue. This year, he's back as one of the writer/directors of a horror anthology from the UK, Little Deaths. Rumley's segment is called "Bitch" and is about a couple in a destructive sadomasochistic relationship. (Horror Asylum has a poster and longer synopsis of Rumley's segment.)

Slackery News Tidbits, February 10


Here's the latest update on Austin movie news and upcoming special screenings:

  • I can't get through this list without noting one final time that tonight's the night I will be on a panel of film critics as part of an AFS-hosted special screening of Gerald Peary's documentary For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism. Tickets are still available, you know.
  • I really enjoyed the short film Quadrangle at SXSW last year, where it won Best Documentary Short. Austin filmmaker Amy Grappell interviewed her parents and used old photos to piece together the story of the relationship her mom and dad had with the couple next door, when Amy was a child. HBO2 will be showing this doc several times, starting next Wednesday, Feb. 16. If you can't get to a TV with HBO2, Aurora Picture Show in Houston is screening the film as part of their "Love is a Many Splintered Thing" shorts compilation on Sunday night at Alamo Drafthouse West Oaks.
  • Houston documentary Thunder Soul (Jenn's review), which I still regret missing at SXSW (stupid parking), has found a new champion: Jamie Foxx. Foxx is now an executive producer and will help promote the film, which Roadside Attractions will start releasing in theaters in September.

Austin at SXSW 2011: The Features



The SXSW Film Festival always has a great showing of documentaries and narrative shorts and features from Austin filmmakers. A number of films are also shot in the Central Texas area. It's starting to feel like it wouldn't really be SXSW without a shot of the Frost Bank Building in at least one movie. Austin films aren't merely limited to the Lone Star States category, either -- you can find them in many of the fest's offerings.

Here's the best list we've been able to compile of Austin connections in SXSW films this year. If we missed your film, please let us know in the comments. We will update the list if needed when the SXFantastic and Midnighters films are announced this week. We'll also do a separate article for short films after they are announced.

A note to filmmakers: If your movie has some link to Austin, we would love to interview you about it and see the film. Please drop us a line ASAP so we can set something up before the fest begins.

Review: The Company Men


The Company Men

In this crappy economy, you'd think that a movie about how people are dealing with layoffs and corporate consolidation and difficult economic situations would be compelling and fascinating. Unfortunately, if the movie is The Company Men, it fails to engage and in fact feels oddly out of step with today's world.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is a savvy sales director -- or something along those lines -- who finds himself unexpectedly laid off when the large corporation where he works consolidates his division down to nothing. Shipbuilding isn't what it used to be, you see. His boss, Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) is just as angry -- CEO James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) waited until Gene was out of town to take care of the consolidations and mass firings. Bobby's coworker Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) worries he'll be next, and where is an over-50 guy who needs to keep working to keep his kids in college going to find another job?

One difficulty here is that all these guys are so very privileged at the beginning of the movie that it's difficult to feel much sympathy for them. Poor Bobby has to sell his Porsche! And his wife has to go back to work to support the family! And they can't cover the mortgage on a nurse's salary, so they're going to lose the house. Eventually things grow even worse for the family, but by that point it feels too late to be very sympathetic.

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