Jette Kernion's blog

Quick Snaps: Last night at Alamo Downtown

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Last Night at Alamo­

Updated (8 pm): Matt Dentler has photos and commentary from the Last Night festivities. Wiley Wiggins posted a Flickr set of the last night at Alamo, including pictures of the sign being taken down. Austinist has a couple of excellent photos. Freddie Avalos has even more photos, including some of the sign being carted away. Warning: This will make you feel very very sad. 

I didn't go to the Last Night event at Alamo Downtown -- I ended up seeing Brewster McCloud at Paramount instead. But afterwards, I drove up to the theater, put on my hazards, and managed to snap a couple of (not so great) photos. I wasn't even there long enough to get nostalgic, but I am feeling a little down this morning.

Thanks to all of you who are participating in and reading the Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon -- it's been a wonderful experience. I figured about a half-dozen, maybe a dozen people, all of whom I knew, would post entries. But at last count, there were 30 links on the page -- some to photos, some to blog entries, some to mini-sites dedicated to remembering Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. The stories in the comments section are also fun to read. I don't know everyone who sent me a link, and not all of them are "fanboyish" entries, either.

It's not too late if you still want to write something, since Blake and I see no reason to shut down a project that everyone's enjoying. I'm keeping a link to the blog-a-thon in the right sidebar; I know I'll want to go back and read some of these entries more than once. This one is my especial favorite, but that's because I am totally biased.

Special thanks to Tim League for promoting the blog-a-thon actively on the Alamo Drafthouse blog as well as in person during some of the last week of Alamo events. (Not to mention that he and Karrie opened the theater in the first place and have made all three original Alamo theaters such delightful homes for film geeks.)

Alamo Blog-a-Thon: The little church on Colorado

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One of the best things about Alamo Drafthouse Downtown has been the audience's general respect and appreciation for the movies they are watching, whether it's a beloved classic or an obscure exploitation flick. People may laugh or applaud or even cheer, but they're rarely derisive. The respect has been built over time, with help from Alamo regulars and some gentle reminders from Alamo owner Tim League, programmer Lars Nilsen, and others. There are times when it's impossible not to laugh a little at a bad movie, and of course you have to deal with the occasional obnoxious audience member -- although Alamo really will take their asses out, I saw this happen to a drinky bunch during Forgotten Silver years ago -- but overall you will never find a better audience experience.

The ultimate audience experience at Alamo occurs during Butt-Numb-a-Thon. When I finally got into a BNAT on standby last year, I learned for myself what everyone had told me: A theater packed with 200 people all there to watch movies, eager to love the movies they were watching, with no cell phones or babies or people who wanted to be elsewhere -- is the best part of the event. If someone doesn't like a specific movie, they go out into the lobby, take a quick break outside, or even put their head on the table near them and take a nap. (There was a lot of napping around 4 am.) I probably would not have seen Rocky Balboa on my own since the trailers were so off-putting, and I am sure that if I had, I would not have enjoyed it nearly as much as I did with the enthusiastic audience at BNAT. Even the movies I didn't like so much were a pleasure to watch in that environment.

Start blogging now for Monday's Alamo Blog-a-Thon

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I've already received a couple of links and an entry to post here for Monday's Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon. You don't actually have t­o write or even post your entry on Monday; you've got all weekend to think of your best stories about Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. I've got nearly 10 years worth of stories, from the first time I went to Alamo to that weird night with Russ Meyer to my first date with my husband ... and tons of p­hotos, which I could post here all summer long. (I may do that. Hmmm.)

You can post an entry for the blog-a-thon to your own blog and email me with the link (jette [at] celluloideyes [dot] com), or post the link in the comments section of the Alamo Blog-a-Thon entry when I open it for comments on Monday. Or if you have no blog, send me an email message with your story (and your name) and I'll post it here on Monday. If you've got photos, you can post them to Flickr and tag them with "alamoblogathon" and I'll link to that too.

I'm looking forward to reading and sharing lots of Alamo Downtown stories on Monday. If you can't wait until then, our local papers have some articles you can enjoy. Austin360 (the Statesman's website) has an article by John DeFore about the history of Alamo and plans for the new location at the Ritz; check out the sidebar for links to some other cool material, including a bunch of old in-house trailers that Matthew Odam has found (including the Ann Richards one, which I adore). Over at the Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov shares some great Alamo anecdotes. (Thanks to Matt Dentler for the links.)

One more link for today: If you're looking for a really big chunk of memorabilia from Alamo that's also useful, check out the Alamo Downtown Kitchen Garage Sale. Now's the chance to get that kegerator you've always wanted.

Silent Silver Screen series at HRC, with music from Graham Reynolds

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­The Harry Ransom Center on the UT campus is hosting a "Silent Silver Screen" series this summer, featuring three classic silent movies with live music accompaniments. Best of all, composer/musician Graham Reynolds and some of his­ friends (to be named later) will be providing the music. If you have never heard Reynolds performing behind a silent film, either by himself or as part of the Golden Arm Trio, you are missing one of the big advantages to living in Austin. You might also have heard his scores for A Scanner Darkly or for Gretchen  (which needs to be screened again in Austin someday please).

The series kicks off Thursday night (June 7) with Orphans of the Storm, a 1921 silent starring Lillian and Dorothy Gish. I am wondering if I did something wrong in a past life, because I can't go -- I have to watch and review Surf's Up instead. Life can be so cruel. However, I'm hoping I can make one or both of the other screenings: Buster Keaton's amazing film The General on June 28 and The Big Parade, a King Vidor film from 1921, on July 19.

Admission to these films is free, amazingly enough, but seating is limited so get to HRC early. On Thursdays, the museum is open late, so you could check out HRC's "The American Twenties" exhibition beforehand. All films start at 7 pm.

Alamo Downtown's last-month schedule is live

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Alamo Drafthouse Downtown is closing its Colorado location on June 27, and the theater has just posted its schedule for June. Hopefully the break until the new Alamo/Ritz theater opens won't be too long, although it's definitely going to have a negative effect on my summer moviegoing. (You can view photos of the Ritz renovation on Alamo's blog -- they've been updating weekly with progress reports.)

I am already making a list of events I want to attend at Alamo Downtown next month:­

  • Joe Bob Briggs on June 16. First, he and Texas historian Don Graham will be presenting clips on Texas history as viewed through film. Then Briggs is going to show and discuss the one film he couldn't procure the last time I saw him at Alamo, when he was presenting clips from movies highlighted in his Profoundly Disturbing book: the 1945 film Mom and Dad. I need tickets for both of these, right now. Or at least by Monday.
  • The Princess Bride is playing several times in June. There are no gimmicks attached -- Alamo just likes to show The Princess Bride, and draws exactly the right crowd to appreciate the film. We own the DVD but I might like to go anyway.
  • Last Night at the Alamo on June 27. I know people who are planning to get in line early on Sunday, May 27 at Alamo Downtown to buy tickets when the box office opens at noon that day. The first available tickets will be for the triple-feature of film events: Big Night with accompanying feast at 7, Earthquake with Tim League trying to blow out the Alamo sound system at 9:45, and Night Warning with Susan Tyrrell in person at midnight. You also get a wrench, which you can use to take a block of Alamo Downtown seats home with you. I'll be honest: I'd prefer to see just one or two of these, but I suspect the triple-feature tickets will sell out before single-feature tickets can be offered. It's going to be a very special night, so I'll just have to enjoy all three movies. I'm not sure how my husband would react if I came home with theater seats in the back of my car, though.

See 'Chalk' at Alamo South Lamar this week

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I'm always so happy when a movie I liked at a film festival finds distribution and plays in Austin, so I can nudge ­all my friends and acquaintances to go see it. And if the film was shot in Austin, that's even better. Last year at Austin Film Festival, I saw the locally produced film ­Chalk, a mockumentary that focused on a school year from the point of view of teachers and administration. I reviewed the film for Cinematical.­ Chalk won AFF's narrative jury prize as well as the audience award. The film landed a distribution deal this year through Morgan Spurlock's ne­w distribution label. And now you can see it here during a weeklong run at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, starting tomorrow, May 18.

For the next week, Chalk has a screen all to itself, with multiple showings per day. Director Mike Akel and co-writer/actor Chris Mass will attend the evening shows on Friday and Saturday along with other cast members and will hold Q&As afterwards. However, the Friday night showings have already sold out (!), as well as the early evening show on Saturday, so you might want to get your ticket now for the late Saturday screening if you want to catch the filmmakers in person.

If you're a teacher, you can show your school ID and get the student discount when you buy a ticket for Chalk at Alamo. If you're not a teacher, I strongly recommend you find one and bring him/her with you to see Chalk. I watched the movie with an audience of Austin teachers who laughed until they cried at school-related in-jokes. So find as many teachers as you can. If you attend an evening show on Thursday, May 24, the filmmakers will be giving away shirts and other stuff to honor Teacher Appreciation Day. Alamo often offers themed menu items to go along with special screenings, but I'm glad that's not happening for Chalk -- would anyone really want to order school cafeteria food? Be glad you can drink a beer and eat pizza while watching these teachers.

Adventures in Red Carpet: Grindhouse at the Paramount (Part 1)

I've waited so long to write about the Grindhouse red carpet here (not to mention that I wrote the above phrase a whole month ago -- I'm such a procrastinator) that the film has its allure ... however, what goes around comes around. With the upcoming premiere at Cannes of Quentin Tarantino's segment Death Proof as a stand-alone film, perhaps people will be interested in seeing the film's celebrities all glitzed-out at the Paramount back in late March. As a tribute to the original double-feature cut of Grindhouse, I've split this entry into two parts. (Or maybe because the entry was too long.)

First, you should read my Cinematical article about the Austin red carpet to see the best photos I took, including a fabulous one of Tarantino. He finally stood still long enough for me to take a photo that didn't look like a blur! I was thrilled. However, I took so many photos that I have plenty to share here too.

Adventures in Red Carpet: Grindhouse at the Paramount (Part 2)

In Part 1 of the Grindhouse Adventures in Red Carpet (which you should read before this entry), I had just managed to take non-blurry photos of Quentin Tarantino and was very pleased. One thing I didn't mention in Part 1 was the zombie invasion. For some reason, the crowd of fans at the Paramount included zombies ... or people dressed as zombies, I couldn't be sure, except they seemed not to be eating brains. Some were just watching the fun, but some obviously wanted to join the media:

The next celebrity on the red carpet was Jordan Ladd, who played one of the first group of women in Death Proof (aka "the one in the Alamo Drafthouse t-shirt"). I didn't realize, until I looked her up on IMDb, that she's Cheryl Ladd's daughter. I like this photo because first of all, I'm wondering what someone said to cause her to make that face; and second of all, well, just look in the background on the left:­

Texas Film Production Fund offers even more money this year

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The Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF) annually gives grants to filmmakers around the state, and this year, the total amount to be awarded has doubled. $150,000 in cash awards is budgeted for this ­year, up from $75,000 in 2006. The awards include a new $10,000 travel grant that will be given (not all at once) to filmmakers year-round, which will be handy for Texas filmmakers whose movies are accepted at remote film festivals.

If you're a filmmaker and wondering how to get some of this money for your own specific film or video project, you can attend one of the TFPF workshops taking place in the next couple of months. The Austin Film Society website has all the details, including the application. The deadline for submission is June 1.

Here's a list of last year's TFPF winners if you're curious. I looked at grants from earlier years to see if anyone sounded familiar: previous local or locally connected recipients include Kat Candler for Jumping off Bridges, Emily Hagins (then 12 years old) for Pathogen, Bradley Beesley for Summercamp! (SXSW 2006), Heather Courtney for Letters from the Other Side (SXSW 2006), Nancy Higgins for Viva Les Amis (SXSW Presents 2006), Kyle Henry for Room (Cannes 2005), Jacob Vaughan for Dear Pillow (SXSW 2004) ... and many many more.

Scenes from Hot Fuzztival

A couple of weeks ago, Alamo Drafthouse Downtown decided to hold a cop-movie marathon, the Hot Fuzztival -- that name ought to give you a big hint as to what the centerpiece movie of the marathon would be. (I noticed that other cities also did Hot Fuzztivals in preparation for this particular movie.) I have a confession to make: I went to the Hot Fuzztival not because I was psyched about Hot Fuzz, although I was looking forward to the cop-movie spoof from the Shaun of the Dead guys. I figured I'd have plenty of chances to see Hot Fuzz.

I went to the Hot Fuzztival primarily to see one of my guilty pleasure movies, which isn't available on DVD and which is very hard to get to see: Freebie and the Bean. I was amazed that Alamo was able to find a print. I rented the VHS copy at Vulcan Video last year (right before Alamo's Richard Rush double-feature, in fact -- Rush also directed this film) and the video quality was poor, but the film was still hilarious. The storyline is sexist and homophobic and some scenes don't make any sense to me, but James Caan and Alan Arkin are so wonderful together that it makes up for everything.

I did not mean for this article to be a love letter about Freebie and the Bean, but the point is that I spent nearly $40 to see that particular movie, and considered the other films to be lagniappe, if top-notch lagniappe. I was also looking forward to seeing the Hot Fuzz filmmakers/stars in person at the Alamo -- they were scheduled to appear right before Hot Fuzz, which was the last film to be shown in the five-movie marathon.­

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