Jette Kernion's blog

Pan's Labyrinth, Volver in Austin

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Some notable foreign-language/arthouse films are finally opening in Austin on Friday:
  • Pan's Labyrinth—Playing at Alamo South Lamar, Dobie, and Arbor. I saw this movie at Fantastic Fest, and considered it my favorite movie of 2006. I'm looking forward to seeing it again. Read my Cinematical review for more details.
  • Volver—Playing at Arbor. Pedro Almodovar's latest film is getting a lot of attention. I liked it, but not as much as some of his earlier films (Law of Desire), and not quite enough for my Top Ten of 2006. Penelope Cruz stars in the story about two sisters trying to deal with the (figurative, or literal?) ghost of their mother. Although I like watching movies in theaters, I think this film would be just as watchable on DVD, frankly.
  • Curse of the Golden Flower—Playing at Alamo South Lamar, Dobie, Arbor, Cinemark Tinseltown (Pflugerville), and AMC Barton Creek (in the mall). Someone nicknamed this film "Curse of the Golden Corset" and now that title has stuck in my head more than the actual one. The film does include lots of shots of young women about to pop out of their tops. Imagine if Douglas Sirk had made a movie about a Chinese imperial family in 900 AD, but with a big battle scene. Very pretty, and enjoyable on a superficial level -- if you're going to see it, see it in a theater.
Other movies opening this week: Alpha Dog, Notes on a Scandal, Primeval, and Stomp the Yard. (I'm finishing my Stomp the Yard review now, but the short version is that it was more watchable and interesting than I expected.)

Ladies and gentlemen, an Idiocracy trailer

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Idiocracy DVDFinally, everyone has a chance to see Mike Judge's film Idiocracy, like it or not, since it's being released on DVD today. To help you decide, Amazon has posted a trailer for the film. Yes, that's right, an actual trailer! I have no idea if this was whipped up especially for the DVD release, or if it was one of the trailers that Fox allegedly created when they were trying to figure out how to market this movie. (As we know, they finally decided not to market it at all.)

The trailer is very odd if you've seen the movie, and I think it sells the comedy aspects of the film poorly. Maya Rudolph isn't in the trailer at all, despite being a co-star, and Dax Shepherd is barely visible as well. It is all about Luke Wilson. Although the trailer does reveal the plot about Wilson's character being the smartest person alive when he is sent to the future, it does not show just how stupid the future U.S. citizens are. And of course it contains none of the riffs on large corporations, which are often the funniest part of the movie. Finally, the trailer simply isn't cut very well -- maybe it's because the trailer editors had to cut around a lot of language that was considered inappropriate for an Amazon trailer (all of that "fag" and "tard" business), but there are abrupt cuts made in mid-dialogue. I'm not sure (heh, "not sure") what the target audience is supposed to be for the trailer, but that may illustrate the whole marketing problem for the film, right there.

By the way, Slackerwood now has categories, and I set one up especially for Idiocracy -- so if you want to read all the coverage posted to the site about this film, just click the little "Idiocracy" link next to the entry byline. I also wrote a column summarizing the situation for Cinematical a couple of months ago. I feel like Bilge Ebiri (at ScreenGrab, Nerve's film blog) and I have covered the hell out of this movie in the past four months, and I hope someday we are rewarded by getting to find out exactly what the hell happened ... from Mike Judge.

In the meantime, yes, I am buying the Idiocracy DVD -- although at nearly $20 on Amazon, it's pretty damn pricey for something the studio is trying to dump. The only special features are some deleted scenes, although I don't care much about special features myself. However, I would have loved seeing some of the other trailers Fox put together that were ultimately rejected. [Trailer link found via Movie Marketing Madness.]

The news I neglected

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Boy, have I been neglecting poor Slackerwood! I'm surprised I remembered the password to login. I've missed telling you all kinds of news: that the locally filmed feature Chalk has found distribution from Morgan Spulock's new company; that Austin filmmaker Bryan Poyser is now working for Austin Film Society as the Director of Artist Services (that reminds me of the "artist" bit in Swimming to Cambodia and I imagine Bryan issuing directions in that same tone); that Idiocracy will be released on DVD in January; and that all kinds of cool film events have been occurring in Austin, nearly all of which I've missed.

Except one. I did manage, by using up all my good luck for the next year, to get in on standby to the Butt-Numb-a-Thon last weekend. You can read the story about how I got into the event on Celluloid Eyes. But if you want all the news on the movies and the fun during BNAT, go read the feature I wrote for Cinematical. I am now hopelessly behind on any type of holiday shopping, preparation, or giftmaking (not to mention posting to various websites like this one), but it was definitely worthwhile.

Congrats to Chalk!

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The Indie Spirit Award nominations were announced today. I found one Austin-related surprise: Chalk is nominated for the John Cassavetes award, which is given to the best feature made for under $500K. Chalk, a feature film about an average school year from the point of view of the teachers, was shot in Austin. The movie was directed by Mike Akel and co-written by Akel and Chris Mass. It's been winning awards left and right at film festivals this year, including the narrative feature audience award at Austin Film Festival. I saw Chalk at AFF this year (review here) and thought it was a lot of fun to watch, especially in an audience full of teachers. Let's hope this nomination helps the film secure distribution.

Doing anything tonight?

Yeah, I should have done a Movies This Week on Friday and given you a bit of notice about some of the great film-related events going on tonight (Monday) in Austin. But that didn't happen ... and I didn't know about at least one of these until today. Take your pick:

  • Letters from the Other Side—I reviewed this documentary at SXSW, about families in Mexico who struggle to survive when the husbands/fathers cross the border to find better-paying work in the U.S. If you haven't seen this yet, tonight's the night, because director Heather Courtney has finally succeeded in obtaining visas for the women featured in the documentary to visit the U.S. and attend this screening. Reception at 5:30, free screening at 6:30, following by a Q&A with the women from the documentary.
  • Mouchette—Austin Cinematheque is hosting a free screening of Robert Bresson's 1967 film, tonight at 7:30 pm at UT's Texas Union Theater. Austin Cinematheque prides themselves on obtaining first-class 35mm prints of classic films. If you miss tonight's film, they're also showing Love Streams on Nov. 27, and ooooh! The Conformist on Dec. 4.
  • Two at Alamo—Over at Alamo Downtown, you can catch Jonestown: The Life and Death of People's Temple tonight at 7 pm ... or Tuesday and Wednesday at 9:45 pm. (I'm tempted to make it a double-feature on Tuesday with Porco Rosso.) I've heard good things about this documentary, although I'm not sure it's in the best taste for Alamo to serve free Kool-Aid with every admission. At 9:45 tonight, the Music Monday selection at Alamo is All Kindsa Girls, a documentary about the band The Real Kids, with $2 admission.

New AFS series devoted to anime

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Porco RossoI missed the recent Austin Film Society series of Gene Tierney films. It was very sad. Every week, I said I was determined to see one, but something always happened. Admittedly, the movies I wanted to see were also available on DVD and I wasn't sure it was that much of a benefit to see them on the big screen. I promised myself I would rent the DVDs later and watch the movies, although if you've seen my inactive Netflix queue, you probably find that improbable.

However, the latest Austin Film Society series is going to look fabulous on the Alamo Downtown screen, and I intend to be there this time. The series is called "Subtle Lines: Japanese Anime". It starts tomorrow night -- Tuesday, Nov. 21 -- with a Hayao Miyazaki film I have long wanted to see, Porco Rosso. The following week's film is also courtesy of Miyazaki: Spirited Away. I've seen Spirited Away in a theater, but dubbed in English, whereas the AFS films are all in the original Japanese with subtitles. I don't know much about the rest of the films in the series but they look fascinating.

So don't try to persuade me to do anything else on a Tuesday night from now until the end of December. I'm going to Alamo Downtown as often as I can to catch some of these gorgeous animated films in a theater. The movies are free for AFS members, and a very affordable $4 for non-members, so feel free to join me.

Update: I can't believe Chris and I just posted about the same thing at the same time. That's beautiful.

Austin Film Festival wrap-up

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Opening night at AFFAustin Film Festival's closing night was on Thursday, although to be honest, I didn't get to see any films after Tuesday night. I had a conflicting event on Wednesday, and then on Thursday I decided I would wait and see the Tenacious D movie with my husband, because this seems to be a time of the year when we have difficulty finding light-hearted movies we'd both like to see in theaters.

A couple of notes on this year's festival:

  • Film festival in-house ads can be terribly annoying -- if not on the first day, than certainly by the end of the festival. However, the "Script Cops" shorts at AFF were pretty funny, and there were enough of them that I never got irritated ... except for one thing. The tagline of the ads was "Write good." Any writer who knows her grammar had to find that a little grating.
  • I just realized I had a postcard for "Script Cops" in my purse, which a nice man dressed as a police officer gave me while I was waiting in line for Catch and Release. Turns out the trailers were co-written and directed by Scott Rice, whose shorts The Adventures of Mad Matt, Pillowtalk, and Perils of Nude Modeling I've thoroughly enjoyed. Also, you can watch all the "Script Cops" trailers online.
  • While the "Script Cops" trailers were fun, AFF made the mistake of using the same sponsor reel background images and music from last year. That music is a terrible earworm and it showed up in my dreams on multiple nights. Please, guys, find a way to create a new sponsor reel next year. I don't think I can stand to hear it one more time (and now that I'm writing about it, it's stuck in my head again ... gaaaaah).
  • Question for Austin filmgoers: Where do you go to eat before seeing an evening movie at the Paramount (or for that matter, The Hideout)? Many of the restaurants along that section of Congress close at 6 pm. I can only eat Wiki Wiki Teriyaki so many times. Some friends have recommended the bar at McCormick and Schmick's, which has a cheap happy-hour menu, but that doesn't work well if you're eating alone. If you've got other suggestions, please post them in the comments.

Looking for fun today? Try Seguin!

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I forgot to mention in Movies This Week that the Seguin Film and Arts Festival takes place this weekend. In fact, the fun started last night with a screening of Rear Window (for some weird reason, they weren't allowed to announce the title, but I assume that I've guessed the correct "Hitchcock thriller starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly"). If you're looking for some alternative film choices today, you might want to make the drive (it's about the same distance as San Antonio).

Here's the film schedule: Today (Saturday), you can enjoy a number of short films during the day -- I haven't seen any of them myself but they sound entertaining. Most were shot in Texas. Tonight at 9 pm, the festival will screen several classic horror movies: Night of the Living Dead, Reefer Madness (more of a cult film really), and House on Haunted Hill, which will be accompanied by a few locally made horror shorts. The evening event is a fundraiser for a proposed festival award to be given in memory of the late art director and Seguin resident Robert A. Burns (the 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Re-Animator). On Sunday, the festival will show more short films, including a Spanish-language lineup. You can buy a festival pass for $15, which is about as cheap as it gets.

The Seguin festival sounds like fun, and I kind of regret that this year it takes place right at the end of Austin Fall Film Fest Madness, because otherwise it might have been a nice getaway weekend for us. Maybe next year, since I noticed that Austin Film Festival's 2007 dates are a week earlier than 2006 (and I'm wondering how that will affect aGLIFF and other fests ... guess we'll find out next summer).

Movies This Week: The Resurrection

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I know I said I was so happy not to have to write any more weekly columns about movies playing in Austin. I had a couple of blissful weeks of respite -- except they weren't all that blissful, because a voice in my head kept saying, "Look at that movie playing tonight at the Alamo, why didn't you post anything about it? And what about that special screening over at Cafe Mundi?"

More to the point, if I don't write about this stuff, then I forget it and next thing you know, the Tom Waits concert film I wanted to catch is long gone. Damn. (Okay, that happens anyway, but it's happening more often now.) Also, I feel guilty not sharing the news about cool film stuff in town. And finally, someone kept telling me how much they liked the column, and I couldn't disappoint that person.

I'm not promising I'll do this every week, but for your delight and edification, here's some info on Austin's movies this week:

Don't just watch a movie at The Arbor ... be in one!

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Mark and Jay DuplassI was reading a blog entry by Bryan Poyser (aka the Dear Pillow and The Cassidy Kids guy) the other day in which he mentioned helping John Bryant (aka the Oh My God and Momma's Boy guy) and Jay and Mark Duplass (aka the Puffy Chair guys) with the Duplass brothers' film Baghead, which is shooting around Central Texas. I've met all these filmmakers at least once (Nueva Onda screened Bryant's shorts a couple of months ago), and the idea of all three of them working together was intriguing. I wondered if I could find some way to sneak onto the set and, I don't know, take covert photos or hide in a corner and observe.

Now it looks like I could have my chance ... and you can too! The Duplass brothers need volunteer extras for a scene they are shooting this Sunday, Oct. 29, at the Arbor theater. Get there by noon and dress casually, and don't wear anything with a corporate logo on it. The shoot should end around 4:30 pm. You can watch these crazy filmmaking dudes in action, and you'll get the warm fuzzy feeling from helping local filmmaking. Who knows, if I get all my AFF reviews done, maybe I'll be there too. I can't resist helping out fellow New Orleans expatriates.

If you do want to work as an extra on Sunday, be sure to RSVP to the filmmakers via email: bagheadthemovieATyahooDOTcom.

Speaking of which, The Puffy Chair is now available on DVD through Netflix. I wasn't very taken with it the first time I saw it, but I liked the movie a whole lot the second time. I wrote about three-quarters of a review after seeing it the second time, and someday I'll pull that review off my laptop and post it. I promise. (Never try to review a movie the week before your wedding.)

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