Jette Kernion's blog

FF: Why I shouldn't work the celebrity beat


It's becoming obvious to me that I am terrible at spotting well-known faces in a crowd. Someone is always having to point them out to me: "Look, Bruce Willis is here!" (at a Guy Forsyth concert years ago) and "That was Eli Roth, didn't you realize?" I do pretty well with local film people -- I can spot Mike Judge and Richard Linklater, and anyone could spot Quentin Tarantino (okay, he's not "local" yet, but he's getting there). If you want a prime example of me not recognizing filmmakers, check out my Ann Richards story over at Celluloid Eyes. (Note that I recognized Richards.)

I was waiting in line last night for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning screening on the opening night of Fantastic Fest. The Alamo South Lamar lobby was decked out for the festival -- a coffin in one corner, various vendor tables around the room. Some people from a local haunted house, The Nightmare Factory, were passing out coupons and flyers. A few were in costume. A News 8 camera crew was there too, taking pictures of us in line. The Nightmare Factory brought in a guy dressed in an oversized demon costume with long, puppet-like hands, and the camera crew started shooting that.

Suddenly this older couple walked in -- looked very Texas, with the man in a gimme cap and the woman a little more dressed up than he was. They practically collided with the demon guy, and looked around the theater, seeming a bit disoriented. I felt terribly sorry for them. I figured they'd probably come to the Alamo to see Little Miss Sunshine, and had no idea that this whole weirdo festival was taking place. I wondered what they'd do next.

And then the News 8 camera crew rushed up to the guy, and he smiled at them and started talking to the reporter, and I realized that the man in the cap was R. Lee Ermey, one of the co-stars of the movie we were about to see. I wish I could have taken a photo, but I had to leave my camera in the car because there was security at the screening.

And damnit, I should have known Ermey, because back in 2003 during JournalCon Austin, which I helped organize, the big buzz among the conferencegoers was that Ermey was in the lobby of our hotel, and was the nicest guy in the world. You'd think that I'd done it on purpose and that he was one of the planned conference attractions.

But once again, I proved myself incapable of recognizing people I really ought to know. At least I recognized Jordanna Brewster at the Chainsaw after-party when she ended up inadvertantly standing about two feet away from me.

(I've got pictures from the after-party ... look for them this weekend sometime.)

Fantastic Fest starts today!


Fantastic Fest 2006 posterThe second annual Fantastic Fest starts today -- this year, it runs for a full week (Sept. 21-28), with movies playing in up to three theaters at a time at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. I attended the sf/fantasy/animated/horror film festival last year and had a great time.

I don't see any point in duplicating everyone else's efforts, so here's are a couple of local articles about Fantastic Fest:

VIP badges are sold out, and only a few of the regular badges are left. Tickets will be sold for individual screenings if seats are available. My guess is that you might be able to get tickets for the smaller films that are up against the big premieres ... just like other local film festivals.

I'm going to be covering the festival for Cinematical, with help from Scott Weinberg, so check out the site's Fantastic Fest category for full coverage. In the meantime, depending on how things go, Slackerwood may also have Fantastic Fest coverage, but not by me. All will be revealed in due course.

If you're attending any of the films and see someone you think is me, please stop me and say hi. (And if it's not me, well, at least you've made a new friend.)

Cinematexas, Raiders, and a few updates


Celluloid Eyes video podcastMy weekly News from Slackerwood post is now available on Cinematical. Apart from Cinematexas, it's a pretty light week for Austin film events. However, that gives some of us a needed rest before Fantastic Fest. And aGLIFF. And AFF. I've listed links to Austin's many film festivals on the site's Austin film resources page, but I'm hoping to post something a little more organized, perhaps with dates.

Speaking of AFF, after yesterday's entry about the festival's Rolling Stones raffle, I received the news that you can buy AFF film passes online now. Not to take away from the badge sales, but the AFF film pass is one of the best deals around -- only $35 for the week-long film festival.

In other news, I've finally entered the world of video podcasting (see above photo). Over at Celluloid Eyes, you can watch me (and hear me) babble about Idiocracy.

And if you haven't read the comments on the recent entry about the Idiocracy's opening night in Austin, you might have missed the link to the video of me and my husband interviewed by Austin Movie Show after the event.

Go to AFF ... and maybe the Stones concert too


I just got info about a cool promotion that Austin Film Festival is running: if you purchase a festival badge before Sept. 22, you're entered in a raffle to win two tickets to the Rolling Stones concert in Austin on Oct. 22. Since the concert takes place during the same week as AFF, out-of-town festival attendees can potentially win and attend.

The raffle is for people who purchase Weekend, Conference, or Producer badges ... not for film passes, which I don't think are on sale yet anyway. The badges give you access to the film festival and to the filmmaking/screenwriting conference.

So if you're planning to attend AFF and haven't registered yet, now is the time. (Besides, badge prices go up after Sept. 22.) Right now is the time for me to make some sort of witty remark involving Stones lyrics, perhaps something about getting satisfaction, but I can't think of anything. I am attending AFF this year, at least the film festival portion ... if you'll be there too, let me know!

Idiocracy's opening night in Austin


My husband and I went to Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar last night to catch Idiocracy on its opening night. I was assigned to review the movie for Cinematical, and normally when no press screenings occur I would have seen the movie as early as possible so I could post the review as quickly as I could. However, I was curious to see what kind of crowd (if any) that the non-publicized Mike Judge film would draw, so we bought tickets for the 7:45 pm show.

You can read my review of Idiocracy on Cinematical. I have a few extra comments, particularly related to Austin.

First of all, here's a photo of the audience at Friday night's film. I wish I could send a copy to the studio behind the film, Twentieth Century Fox. With no trailer and no publicity at all, the Alamo audience was hardly sparse:

Alamo crowd at Idiocracy

"Everybody comes to Austin."


This week's News from Slackerwood post is now available on Cinematical. I'm still trying to decide which Richard Rush-attended movie I should see on Wednesday night: We own The Stunt Man on DVD, but I'd like to hear what Rush says about it. And I've been wanting to see Psych-Out since I was in high school and looked up all the early films of Jack Nicholson for some reason I can't remember now. (I wish Alamo would show Rush's Freebie and the Bean, which I'm tempted to go rent on VHS from Vulcan Video.)

Update: I saw both the Richard Rush movies at Alamo's double-feature. I've got photos of Rush that maybe someday I'll even post.

What's up with Idiocracy?


If you live in Austin, I assume you know who Mike Judge is ... you may even have spotted him around town. You know, the unassuming man who sounds a little bit like Hank Hill (for good reason). When he spoke to a class at UT I audited in the spring, he rode his bike from his office to the classroom.

What you might not know is that Mike Judge has a movie opening in theaters on Friday. He wrote and directed Idiocracy, a comedy that stars Luke Wilson, Dax Shepherd, and Maya Rudolph. Stephen Root, who had a role in Judge's Office Space and played a recurring character on King of the Hill, has a small role. Wilson plays a guy who is kept in suspended animation and revived 1,000 years later. He wasn't very smart in the twenty-first century, but in the future, everything is so dumbed-down that he is hailed as a genius.

At least, I think that's the plot. I can't tell for sure because no publicity materials are available for this film. Critics are becoming familiar with studios not having press screenings for movies that they think will be panned, but Fox hasn't released any trailers or publicity materials for Idiocracy. If you look around the Web, you will see the same two still photos everywhere for Idiocracy. No Web site exists (not even on MySpace!).

Here's a copy of one of the two photos circulating around the Web:


Normally I would crop the text on the bottom, but this time it's important. The still is from 2004, and at the time, the film was still referred to as "Untitled Mike Judge Project." It's not even a recently created publicity shot.

And when I say that Idiocracy opens Friday, I mean that it is opening in only a few cities: Austin (yay), Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto, according to this Austin Chronicle article. Notice that New York isn't on the list. Austinites can be happy that for once, we're getting a movie first, before NYC even, but this release pattern doesn't bode well for the film. Box Office Mojo lists it as opening on only 125 screens (and I'm wondering if that isn't a generous estimate).

Is Idiocracy a bad film, or simply misunderstood by the studio for which it was made, Fox? Bear in mind that Fox wasn't crazy about Judge's previous feature, Office Space, which has since become a culty hit on DVD. (High-tech Austin adores the film.)

When Mike Judge spoke to my aforementioned UT class back in January, he was obviously disgusted with certain aspects of making movies for a studio, especially test screenings. He told some pretty funny stories about test screenings for Office Space -- the kind of funny where you feel lucky the movie got the release it did. Judge obviously wasn't happy with the way test screenings were being handled for Idiocracy, and the recommendations that Fox was making. He said he didn't want to work for a studio again -- he would prefer to raise money himself for low-budget films over which he had more control.

At least in Austin, we have the opportunity before most of the rest of you either to uncover a hidden comedy gem, or to suffer through a tedious, unfunny bomb, starting on Friday. Idiocracy opens here at the following theaters: Alamo on South Lamar, Galaxy Highland, Gateway, Tinseltown in Pflugerville, and Lakeline. I'm reviewing the movie for Cinematical, and with no screenings available beforehand, plan to go on Friday night.

Free admission to Stomp! Shout! Scream!


Stomp! Shout! Scream! As I mentioned in News from Slackerwood, Austin Film Festival is presenting an encore screening on Thursday night of the "beach party rock'n'roll monster movie" Stomp! Shout! Scream! that played AFF last year. The film is written and directed by Jay Edwards, who produced Aqua Teen Hunger Force for Adult Swim.

AFF has kindly offered free passes to the movie to Slackerwood readers. All you have to do is print this PDF and bring it with you on Thursday night to Alamo Lake Creek. Admission is first-come, first-served, so you might want to get there a bit early. The movie starts at 7:30 but a preshow, featuring clips from Adult Swim, starts at 7 pm.

You can read more info about the Stomp! Shout! Scream! screening on the AFF blog.

See Paul Williams and P.J. Soles (not on the same night)


PJ SolesAustinist has the scoop on the Movies in the Park screenings at Republic Square Park this fall. The movies all start around sundown and admission is free. The series opened last night with Grease, a movie I saw for the first time at a drive-in (on Metairie Road ... it's a strip mall now).

But this year, Movies in the Park isn't limiting itself merely to movies. If you saw Grease last night, you were treated to live music beforehand from an oldies band. Live music, Austin, pretty standard stuff ... but look at these upcoming listings:

Saturday 9/9: The Muppet Movie ... with an appearance from the film's composer, Paul Williams

Saturday 10/7: Rock 'n' Roll High School ... with an appearance by actress P.J. Soles (as well as live music, but no actual Ramones are involved)

Did I mention this is all free?

Unfortunately, the Austin Parks Foundation hasn't updated their Web site with the fall series, and I can't find much information on the Rolling Roadshow page, so the Austinist article has the most complete info at this time. If anyone tracks down a full listing of the films, let me know.

A look at the TFPF winners


The Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund (TFPF) 2006 winners were announced this week. TFPF annually awards grants and materials to filmmakers who need the money to shoot, complete, or distribute their films: mostly short narratives and documentaries, but often feature-length films too.

If you're not a filmmaker, you may not feel very interested in the list. However, it's a helpful sneak peek at the films that you might hear about in the next year or two, whether they're shown in local venues or manage to make the leap to Sundance or other big festivals.

Many of the names are familiar to me: prolific cinematographer P.J. Raval (Gretchen, The Cassidy Kids) received a grant to finish his documentary Best Kept Secret, Jenn Garrison (Prizewhores) was awarded money for her short doc Greg, and Austin Chronicle film writer Toddy Burton got a grant to film a short The Aviatrix. I went to grad school with Sandra Guardado, although I haven't seen her since, so it was nice to see she received a grant for the documentary Two Trinities.

Local filmmaker Bryan Poyser (Dear Pillow, The Cassidy Kids) knows more about the Austin film scene than I do, so he provided even more details about the grant winners on his blog. Unfortunately, Poyser didn't get a grant for his short Best Birthday Ever, but I'm hoping he's able to finish and publicize it anyway ... and that it'll screen in Austin eventually. The short film stars local actor/filmmaker Rusty Kelley (who was one of the TFPF winners) and Chicago filmmaker Joe Swanberg (Kissing on the Mouth, LOL).

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