Jette Kernion's blog

AFF Review: The Scenesters

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The Scenesters

I knew Todd Berger as a filmmaker who'd grown up in New Orleans and made the 2007 documentary Don't Eat the Baby about post-Katrina Mardi Gras, a movie that I quite liked. But since that was the only film of his I'd seen, I always thought of him as a documentary kind of guy. I didn't know that he's a member of comedy troupe The Vacationeers -- I would never have imagined that he would write and direct a noir-mumblecore-L.A. homage comedy, The Scenesters.

The Scenesters opens with a fake trailer that spoofs "mumblecore" films mercilessly, then shifts to a jury trial, then flashes back to tell the main story of the film. The filmmakers behind the mumblecore movie are having financial troubles, and director Wallace Cotten (Todd Berger) is forced to take a job filming crime scenes for the LAPD. However, Wallace and his producer Roger (Jeff Grace) can't settle for straightforward work, and next thing we know, they're making a movie about what they've decided is a serial-killing spree. Their focus is Charlie (Blaise Miller), a guy who cleans up crime scenes, and who used to date news anchor Jewell Wright (Susanne May). Charlie has noticed that all the crime-scene victims are blonde hipster females.

Austin Represents at Lone Star Film Festival

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LSIFF 2009Love movies and want to make a short road trip this weekend? Head to Fort Worth for the Lone Star International Film Festival (LSIFF), which runs from Wednesday, November 11 through Sunday, November 14. LSIFF kicks off on Sunday night with The Scenesters, which played Austin Film Festival last month. The noir-ish comedy is about a group of mumblecore-ish filmmakers trying to find a serial killer who's been murdering L.A. hipsters. Writer/director Todd Berger and actor Kevin Brennan both attended UT in Austin.

Other films with an Austin connection scheduled for LSIFF include the quirky comedy Artois the Goat, which was shot in Austin and played SXSW this year (Jenn Brown's review); local filmmaker Kat Candler's short Love Bug, which won the Narrative Short Audience Award at AFF; and the Coen brothers' first feature, Blood Simple, which was shot in Austin, Hutto and Houston. LSIFF is also screening Tender Mercies, which was shot in Waxahachie.

In addition, musician/actor Kris Kristofferson will be on hand to receive the first Stephen Bruton Award on Friday night. The award will honor musicians who also have done work in film. LSIFF has named Horton Foote for its Lifetime Achievement Award; Horton Foote, Jr. will receive the award for his late father.

AFF Review: Harmony and Me

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Harmony and Me

It's a little strange that I'm writing a review for Harmony and Me immediately after reviewing (Untitled) -- both movies are about music, and use music to explain their characters' state of mind. Harmony and Me is more subtle and uses music in a more personal, straightforward way -- the characters are the focus.

Harmony and Me is the latest film from Austin writer/director Bob Byington (RSO [Registered Sex Offender]). Many of us in Austin have been waiting to see this locally shot film since its premiere at New Films/New Directors in New York last April. Byington was unhappy with the projection quality at AFF, and I hope to see it again someday in a setting that the director feels does justice to his film. However, I was still able to enjoy the film.

Review: (Untitled)

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Untitled

"What is art?" is one of those eternal questions that you have to be at a certain kind of party to discuss without feeling totally pretentious. Lots of people use the question to denigrate certain types of art -- the "my kid can paint that" school of snark. (Untitled), which opened Friday at Arbor, asks the question in a playful way, and the ensuing "discussion" of the film is more enjoyable than you might think.

See, now you're all turning away because I've made it sound like this is some upscale-y film that drones on about Art. No. Stay with me, here. (Untitled) is from the same filmmakers who brought us the curious adaptation of Bartleby starring Crispin Glover, back in 2001 -- co-writer/director Jonathan Parker and writer Catherine DiNapoli -- and their latest movie is slightly less strange and has more sly humor.

Adrian Jacobs (Adam Goldberg) is a composer whose atonal music features sounds from chains hitting a bucket, children's toys, and torn paper. His quartet makes the Triplets of Belleville look positively conventional. His brother Josh (Eion Bailey) is a more conventionally successful artist, who paints large canvases that are snapped up by hospitals and hotels. Josh is trying to date his art dealer Madeleine (Marley Shelton), who's happy to make money from his work but focus on increasingly strange exhibitions in her gallery. Adrian dislikes her at first -- she's always wearing clothes that make disruptive sounds, like plastic coats or noisy high heels -- but gradually that starts to change.

Review (Sort Of): Gentlemen Broncos

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Gentlemen Broncos

I'm one of those people who screw up Netflix's "Movies You'll Love" programming: I can't stand Napoleon Dynamite. It's too sitcom-y, the characters' quirks have no basis in character depth or complexity, and it's just plain annoying. Gentlemen Broncos, the latest comedy from the same writers and director as Napoleon Dynamite -- Jared and Jerusha Hess -- has many of the same problems, and adds a giant dose of gross-out humor to boot.

The story focuses on high-schooler Benjamin (Michael Angarano), who is somewhat out of step with his peers. He wants to be a science-fiction writer like his hero, Dr. Roland Chevalier (Jemaine Clement). Ben's been writing a series of books about Bronco, a warrior hero who seems to resemble Ben's departed dad. His mother (Jennifer Coolidge) tries to encourage him, but has little attention to spare from her work designing and selling nightgowns.

Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats

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The Men Who Stare at Goats

I've watched The Men Who Stare at Goats twice at this point -- once at the Fantastic Fest screening where the film lacked credits and color correction, and once in its final release-ready version. And here's the thing: I enjoyed watching the movie both times, and some moments were truly fantastic ... but the movie does not quite hang together. It may be fun to watch, but overall it doesn't quite work. It's a mystery.

The movie opens with the words "More of this is true than you think" (or something to that extent -- you'd think after two viewings I'd write these details down), and this is not idle boasting. The Men Who Stare at Goats is based on a nonfiction book by Jon Ronson about some odd, New Age-y programs the U.S. military started in the 1980s, and how certain aspects of these programs lingered on and were used by the U.S. in Iraq in this decade. Ronson is in the book only as an interviewer; he doesn't bring much of his personal life into the book.

Announcing the 'Goats' Pass Winners

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Men Who Stare at GoatsWe held a couple of giveaways on Twitter last night and this morning for passes to a preview screening of The Men Who Stare at Goats on Thursday night, and had a great response. Thanks to everyone who helped retweet and promote the giveaways.

If your Twitter username is on the list of winners after the jump, contact me ASAP with your actual name, so I can put it on the list and avoid imposters. If you didn't win, the movie opens on Friday in Austin and we'll post a review on Slackerwood. We will also retweet the "secret password" for getting one of a limited number of reserved seats for the screening, so keep following Slackerwood on Twitter.

Want to See 'Men Who Stare at Goats' on Thursday?

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The Men Who Stare at Goats

As I mentioned earlier, Slackerwood is sponsoring a preview screening of The Men Who Stare at Goats on Thursday night (Nov. 5) here in Austin. This comedy about secret U.S. psychic military operations stars George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey. I've seen it already and will post my review on Slackerwood on Friday. I won't spoil my review, but consider the fact that I've seen it twice, and draw your own conclusions.

We have some passes to give away for this screening. Each pass admits two people. Seating is first-come, first-served, which means that even if you have a pass, you'll need to get to the theater early because we give out more passes than there are seats. On our Twitter feed, we mentioned earlier today what you can do to try to "jump the line" and get one of the limited number of reserved seats. But if you're worried you won't be one of the few lucky people to score one of those seats, you'll need to get your hands on a pass.

Premiere Slackery News Tidbits

Men Who Stare at GoatsI've got plenty of Austin film news to share today, from premieres to DVD news to some articles you won't want to miss. Here we go:

  • Slackerwood is sponsoring a special preview screening of The Men Who Stare at Goats (pictured at right) on Thursday night. Follow our Twitter feed to find out how you can get free passes.
  • The general release date for Richard Linklater's latest film, Me and Orson Welles, has been pushed back to December 11. No word yet on whether that's the date when the film will open in Austin.
  • However, if you live in Austin, you can see Me and Orson Welles at the Austin Film Society gala premiere on Monday, November 30 at the Paramount. Tickets are on sale now for AFS members, and will go on sale for the general public on Nov. 9. Linklater will be at the event along with actors Zac Efron and Christian McKay. Proceeds from the screening benefit the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund.

Austin Polish Film Festival This Weekend

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Austin Polish Film FestivalIf it's a weekend in the fall, that must mean there's a film festival going on in Austin. This weekend, we have the Austin Polish Film Festival, which runs from Thursday, November 5 through Sunday, Nov. 8. Sponsored by the Austin Polish Society, the movies and festivities will take place at the Texas Spirit Theater in the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum.

The opening-night film this year will be God's Little Village (U Pana Boga za miedza), a 2009 comedy from writer/director Jacek Bromski. This is the third movie in a series of comedies she's made that focus on a small Polish town, Krolowy Most. Bromski will attend the screening, along with composer Ludek Drizhal and actress Agnieszka Kotlarska.

You can buy tickets for individual films or for the whole Austin Polish Film Festival online through the fest website. You also can buy the fest posters, which as you can see on the right, are very striking and lovely.

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