Jette Kernion's blog

Bowling for Slackery News Tidbits

Austin StudiosIt's Monday morning and we've got your hot exciting local film-related news for you! It's also too damn early for exclamation points and excitement. But, you know, some of this news is almost as energizing as coffee.

  • Austin Chronicle writer Marc Savlov asked Tim League exactly what in the world is going on with Alamo Drafthouse these days, and got some happy news. The Leagues are turning the old Salvation Army space near Alamo South into a bowling alley/private karaoke/fun space where you can wait to see a movie at Alamo or chat about one afterwards. I admit I got a little misty when I read that the bowling lanes are from the old Rock'n'Bowl in New Orleans. I assume this space will be ready in time for Fantastic Fest. Yay!

Should You Talk During Alamo Pre-Shows?

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SXSW 2009

On KGSR morning radio earlier this week, the hosts were complaining about an problem one of them had at Alamo Ritz when he saw The Hangover last weekend. He was annoyed that he couldn't hear the pre-show. For The Hangover, the Alamo Ritz pre-show consisted of stand-up comedy clips, and this guy felt that part of the Alamo experience is getting to watch the pre-show in relative peace. Instead, the pre-show comedy was drowned out by audience members were "shouting at the top of their lungs."

The morning-show hosts felt that people should keep their voices down as soon as they enter an Alamo theater -- make the minimum noises needed to get into seats and order food, but then treat the pre-show like it was the actual movie.

I have to disagree. When people go to movies in groups, they like to chat and have social time before the movie starts -- it's part of the fun of going to movies in groups. I think of the Alamo pre-show as a conversation piece, like a coffee-table book or the thing your aunt gave you that you don't know what it is. I do agree with the KGSR guys that you should use your inside voice in the movie theater, but I think that's true generally.

Weird Wednesday Rocks in July and August

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ritz-ext2 by David Hill Photo on FlickrMaybe it's because they're charging admission now, but the Weird Wednesday lineup for July and August looks even better than usual, with several "classic" exploitation movies scheduled. I was able to go to Weird Wednesday in May to see Pam Grier in Coffy -- and yes, I stayed awake for the entire movie so I feel confident I could do it again, although not every single week.

If you haven't been to Weird Wednesday before, the screenings are weekly at midnight at Alamo Ritz, and admission is a mere $1. The films I'm about to list are an excellent introduction to the ongoing series.

Psych-Out -- Wednesday, July 8
Director Richard Rush has made some very entertaining movies -- I'm quite fond of Freebie and the Bean (which incidentally you can get now on DVD through Warner Archive) and The Stunt Man. My first Weird Wednesday was Hells Angels on Wheels. This 1968 film is his entry in the psychedelic Sixties drug-movie genre, and while it's not his top work, it's worth watching as a curiosity.

Texandance: New Braunfels Starts a Film Fest

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Brauntex Theatre

Last Saturday, I headed over to New Braunfels -- not for tubing or Schlitterbahn, but to watch movies. The Texandance International Film Festival launched this year at the Brauntex Theatre, and I wanted to be there for even a little of the fun. Besides, Chris Holland is always telling me I should go to out-of-town festivals (although I think he meant slightly more out of town than an hour's drive).

Texandance ran from Friday through Sunday, with some Central Texas-shot films in the lineup as well as shorts and features from around the world. Saturday was an especially good day for Texas movies at the fest. We got to the Brauntex as Crawford was playing, a film I enjoyed at SXSW in 2008. The documentary about how the small Texas town was affected by George W. Bush has recently become available on DVD. But the Brauntex, in a historic part of a small Texas town, was an ideal venue for this movie.

I met the film festival's co-founders, Bryce Tumlinson and Vince Koegle, who were very friendly and enthusiastic about the festival and the films they selected to screen:

'The Sheik' Leads New HRC Series

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Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, by rherring on FlickrThanks to the Harry Ransom Center, we'll have even more free summer movies to choose from in Austin. The Orientalist Silents Film Series is part of an HRC exhibit called "The Persian Sensation: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in the West" that will run through August 2. The exhibit is also free -- and is open right before the screenings in case you want some context and culture.

The Orientalists Silents series begins this Thursday at 7 pm with the notorious Rudolph Valentino film The Sheik from 1921. The HRC theater isn't large, so get there early if you want a seat.

The film series will continue on June 25 with The Thief of Bagdad, the 1924 version that stars Douglas Fairbanks. And on July 23, you can see the 1926 German silent The Adventures of Prince Achmed, one of the first animated feature films, based on the Arabian Nights stories.

AFF and Blanton Host 'New Directions' Series

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Blanton Museum of Art by David A.G. WilsonAustin Film Festival and the Blanton Museum of Art have teamed up to bring us more good movies over the next couple of months. The New Directions Summer Film Series will focus on "the exceptional work of emerging independent filmmakers," and several of the films in the series were shot locally.

The series kicks off on Thursday, June 18 with one of my favorite Austin-shot films that hasn't had a theatrical release: Gretchen, directed by Steve Collins and photographed by P.J. Raval. Watchmaker Films may be releasing it on DVD soon, but in the meantime, this is a chance to see this oddly sweet movie in a theater. I reviewed the film when it played SXSW in 2006.

Another Austin-connected feature ends the series: Shotgun Stories, written and directed by Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols. The drama, which stars Michael Shannon, won a Best Narrative Feature award from AFF in 2007 and was also nominated for an Independent Spirit award.

You can catch the series at the Blanton's new auditorium on the University of Texas campus, on the Sundays and Thursdays listed below. Admission is $5 -- or $3 if you're an AFF member, a Blanton Museum member, or UT Austin faculty/staff/student.

Full schedule after the jump:

Quick Snaps: Back to Back to Evil Back in 1999

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Gimme Some Sugar, BabyI was walking past this poster on the way to the bedroom and realized that it's been exactly 10 years since I bought it, at one of the big memorable movie events I've ever attended.

I wasn't seeing many movies in 1999, but when I heard that Alamo Drafthouse (then only one location on Colorado) was hosting a late-night triple-feature of all the Evil Dead movies, I actually stood in a line to buy tickets as soon as they went on sale. My friend Jay and I could not resist. The triple-feature started at something like 10 pm, and I believe that at the time, Alamo did seat assignments for special events. Alamo also printed special tickets for these events -- I found mine last week among some similar tickets for other events, and someday I will have to put all them in a collage to share.

We got to the theater and found these posters in a stack for sale -- they looked like they'd been made out of newspaper pulp. I mean, seriously, I thought they could fall apart at any moment. But I was caught up in the spirit of the event and I bought one anyway. The poster was too thick to fold, so I leaned it on one of the posts near our seats as we sat through all three glorious movies.

Bruce Campbell was a good sport and not only had he signed the posters, but he stuck around for at least two of the three movies that night, telling stories and answering questions between the films. He's returned to Alamo a number of times since then, and I even interviewed him on his last visit, but there was something especially intimate and chatty about that first triple-feature event.

Rent DVDs for Free at Austin Libraries

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Cheapest DVD store in town

DVD rentals are pretty cheap these days, especially if you use a monthly online service like Netflix. You can also watch some movies online for free -- legally, I mean, like through Hulu and YouTube. I don't want to encourage the other thing.

But you may not have discovered a great source for watching DVDs for free ... the Austin Public Library. With a library card, you can borrow up to 5 DVDs at a time, for a period of 7 days.

Slackery News Tidbits: From TXMPA to Trinidad

Here's a roundup of recent Austin film news:

  • The Central Region of TXMPA is holding a meeting Monday, June 8, at 6:30 pm at Mother Egan's. If you are a member, you can participate in the election for Central Region board representative and alternate.
  • If you haven't seen P.J. Raval and Jay Hodges's film Trinidad, check it out on Showtime this month (or if you're me, find a friend with Showtime). The documentary about a Colorado town known as "the sex-change capital of the world" will screen on Showtime channels this week and then be available on Showtime On Demand until the end of June.

The D-Box Experience During 'Terminator Salvation'

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D-Box Demo reception, by Chris Holland on Flickr

Editor's Note: The following report is from Aaron Zern and James Curry, who went to one of the first screenings of Terminator Salvation in Austin and sat in the new D-Box seats, the ones that Chris Holland tried out. I was interested to hear how the seats felt during a whole feature film, and thought I'd share their discoveries. (Thanks, guys!)

D-Box seats are billed as "The next Dimension of your cinematic experience. Taking you literally inside the movie" and the promotional material explains that "Using advanced proprietary robotics and commercial-grade motion technology, D-BOX Motion Code immerses theatregoers into the heart of the action. The experience is nothing short of stunning." Rhetoric so dramatic that it would lead you to opine that D-Box represents an advance akin to that between going to see a moving picture, and going to see one of those fabulous new talking pictures with sound. Common sense, on the other hand, would lend itself to suggesting that a gyrating seat in a darkened theater is more likely a leap between going to see a moving picture and going to see a moving picture while being made to feel slightly queasy.

At Galaxy Highland, we were ushered into the theater a little ahead of those with regular tickets and invited to take our seats in the D-Box section, 22 seats spanning two rows about halfway up from the screen.

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