Jenn Brown's blog

Fantastic Fest Review: Golden Slumber

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A thriller based on a Beatles song, Golden Slumber (Gôruden suranbâ) is one of the most absurdly satisfying odes to friendship captured on film. Yoshihiro Nakamura's latest adaptation of a Kotaro Isaka novel pits the laid-back Aoyagi (Masato Sakai) against an assassination conspiracy wrapped up in revelations about trust.

Aoyagi's plans to catch up with a college buddy (Hidetaka Yoshioka) for a fishing trip are thwarted when the Prime Minister is assassinated. Suddenly the school day reminiscences are over as Aoyagi has been targeted as the prime suspect and it seems impossible he'll survive the day. Help comes from the most surprising of places as friends old and new make it their business to help the fugitive Aoyagi stay half a step ahead of corrupt police and the media. Just who his true friends are, and how they help or hurt him, make Golden Slumber seem like a movie half its 239-minute run time.

Filled with comic absurdities, Golden Slumber is filled with equally surreal characters, including a cheerful serial killer (Gaku Hamada), timid friend Gus (Gekidan Hitori) whose obsessed with Aoyagi's previous claim to fame, his coworker (Kiyohiko Shibukawa), a college sweetheart (Yuko Takeuchi), and a hospital patient (Akira Emoto) obsessed with the story as it's played out on TV. Each character, no matter how long they're on screen, plays a vital part in Aoyagi's story.

Movies This Week: The Funny Social Jack Case

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It's like I just wrote one of these. Amazingly enough, after more than a week of genre movies, it seems that the world went on without us, with several films opening up in Austin this week. If the pollen in the air drives you indoors, here are your choicesin new releases in town: 

Anjaana Anjaani -- Two strangers on a bi-coastal road trip in India, with "hilarious misadventures."  (Tinseltown 17)

Case 39 -- Finally getting a release, this horror mystery starring Renée Zellweger as a social worker fighting to save an abused girl (Jodelle Ferland of Tideland fame) also stars Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper and Callum Keith Rennie. With that cast, it's worth a watch. (wide)

Enthiran -- Also known as "Robot," this Bollywood tale about a scientist creates a robot he sets loose in the world with unexpected results.  (Tinseltown 17)

Fantastic Fest 2010: The Closing-Night Party

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Back in April, I told you about the cow to be sacrificed for our pleasure at Fantastic Fest 2010. Finally, the day arrived. After 25 hours on site and 18 hours of roasting, the cow from Richardson Farms was served up at the J. Lorraine Ghost Town in Manor on Thursday night, where Fantastic Fest badgeholders, volunteers, staff and a few guests had the chance to partake of the feast John Bullington and staff put on for 500 people.

Wondering what you ate?  If you missed the signs, the menu included Fresh figs with mozarella, burnt tomato goat cheese and anchovy bruschette, smashed potatoes with tapanade crust, fire roasted cow with chimichurri, humita (savory corn pudding), burnt fennel and zucchini with parmesan, lemon and basil, rescoldo vegetables (carrots, onions, peppers, potatoes, squas), and burnt oranges with rosemary with dulce de leche panqueue.

But that wasn't all. We were treated with a Mariachi performance, the Arc Attack Band complete with Tesla coils and people dancing in cages, a walking maze, a couple of the Buried coffins, an outdoor theater showing the 100 Best Kills, knife-throwing demonstrations as well as the ability to try your hand at it, and fireworks.  Yes, all that. The closed party was a very relaxed atmosphere, and everyone I talked to was raving about how wonderful it was. 

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day Six: Women in Peril, Hair on Fire

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Earlier this week, several women I know at Fantastic Fest commented that they're "over" certain kinds of violence in film, particularly rape/revenge themes and taking the woman-in-peril concept to brutal extremes. Earlier today, Ain't It Cool contributor Massawyrm made a similar comment. After reading it aloud to a table of badgeholders, there was a moment of pause when someone said, "I don't think I saw rape yesterday." How jaded we've become, when we have to notice if we haven't seen such brutality in film. But that's a bigger discussion than I have time for here.

Interestingly, the first movie of my day did involve rape, but was not among those films I'd classify as typical: Bedevilled, which won a Fantastic Fest audience award as well as a best actress win for Seo Yeong-hee. She delivers a powerhouse performance as a woman struggling to escape her oppressive life just as her childhood friend returns to their childhood home to get away from her own mistakes. It's a haunting film, and while I found the ending to be a bit jumbled, it's one that will stay with me for a long, long time.

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day Five: Madame Curie and the Feud

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I was rather shocked to find that even without a VIP badge, I had a low ticket number for the In the Attic screening today.  When talking to Alamo co-founder Karrie League on Sunday and asking what her favorite films were, she mentioned In the Attic as one she's been trying to program for a long time (two years to be precise).  Jette and I got tickets, then Debbie turned in her Secret Screening #2 ticket on a whim. It turns out she made the day of a first-time Fantastic Fest badgeholder who hadn't been to any screenings yet. I think some of the people in attendance were there reluctantly, but I hope they were as pleasantly surprised as I was.

This animated tale of cast-offs in the attics may be considered a "family" film, but is accessible for a more mature audience.  The easiest way to describe it is Toy Story marries A Town Called Panic and lives a post-Glasnost fairy tale. In the Attic pretty much turns the contents of an attic into a magical land populated by living toys and a mischievous cat, with a wide range of animation media. Pictured above is the character "Madame Curie," held by Alamo programmer Caitlin Stevens as Karrie League and director Jirí Barta field questions in the background. At the bottom of this post I have another picture showing more detail.

I love the fact that this sort of film is included in the Fantastic Fest lineup, and not just because it's a welcome relief from gore and violence. "Fantastic" is a very broad term and Fantastic Fest is great at embracing a broad spectrum of films that fit the definition, as well as include such a treat as seeing up close and personal such an integral part of the filmmaking process.

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day Four: Agnosia and Fine Fall Breezes

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Today was a short day for me, and I'm wishing I had greater endurance. I managed to snag a ticket to the Fantastic Debates, where Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight, Avatar) dukes it out with Tim League. The debates added boxing last year, and was a huge hit, not just because League challenged director Uwe Boll to a debate in the ring. But I need sleep, so I missed it. I also missed the celebration of Zack Carlson's publishing debut at the Destroy All Movies!!!: Class of 1984 screening. Never fear though, we will have some photographic coverage of the bouts ... errr ... debates.

But I didn't miss Carancho, because I'm a big Ricardo Darin fan. Carancho doesn't quite live up to my two favorite Darin films Nine Queens and The Secret in Their Eyes, but it's worth catching. I was also able to catch the restored 1960 version of The Housemaid. It's a trippy little film, and unfortunately I had to choose between the 2010 remake and the world premiere of Agnosia

Agnosia won, as I just had to see the follow-up to a Fantastic Fest inaugural year film called The Birthday, with Corey Feldman in one of his most memorable performances -- like you've never seen before. I think I still have the glossy booklet that was available at the screening somewhere around the house (it was beautifully photographed).  Director Eugenio Mira's latest feature has some stylistic similarities, but is a completely different movie, and not just a period piece.  It's another beautifully shot film, and one worth catching. 

Quick Snaps Fantastic Fest Day Three: Roadkill Tacos, Drone Directors and Pub Crawls

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Drones co-directors Amber Benson and Adam Busch were here to support their film, along with star Angela Bettis.  It was probably one of the more fun Q&As with jokes and stories from the set, including onset harmony and daycare, and offset arguments over who ate the last sausage (answer: a vegetarian). Being alums of the Whedonverse, lots of fans wanted pictures, and both graciously obliged. Busch may still be in town for the second screening of their fun and snarky tale of aliens in the office, but Benson had to leave. Glad she's working, but I'd love a discussion about independent filmmaking with her next time she's in town. Remember, this is someone who found distribution.

Here's Drones star Angela Bettis with Benson.  I love Benson's face in this picture, she clearly enjoyed her time in Austin. It's great Bettis is back, as she's not only a great actress, but also a Fantastic Fest alum as director as well (remember Roman?). Benson talked a lot about indie films and being blessed with lots of talented friends and the two are excellent cases in point, as they're proven talents in front of and behind the camera.

Movies This Week: Leaves of Lebanon and a Noodle Guardian Again

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Surprise! While most of the filmblogosphere is in town for Fantastic Fest, and a lot of celebs as well, ther are Other Films in town.  Which ones you ask? Let me tell you...

Leaves of Grass -- How spiffy is this? Edward Norton is in town for Fantastic Fest's Gala screening of Stone, so he's going to introduce one screening of Tim Blake Nelson's SXSW hit Leaves of Grass while he's here.  Look for Debbie's review this weekend.  (Lamar)

Lebanon -- Writer/director Samuel Moaz explores The First Lebanon War (in 1982) through paratroopers and a tank crew.  See Don's review for more.  (Arbor)

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole -- Owl armies and rebels in animated glory bring a book series to life.  Directed by Zach Snyder, you know, the guy who directed 300 and Watchmen?  So this isn't your average animated tale. (wide)

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day One: Chaos Reigned

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I'm thinking that keeping "Chaos Reigns" as a slogan is not such a good idea for a film festival. Last year's Fantastic Fest seemed about as big as it could get, but this year it's even more extreme. With every badgeholder trying to access the same website at the same time Thursday to reserve tickets on the fest's new online reservation system, things didn't go exactly as planned. Shortly after, badgeholders were advised to go down to the venue, making some nervous as the first films began seating before the line died down.  Fantastic Fest co-founder Tim League sent out an email later that morning, both apologizing and and changing the reservation system procedure to only VIP badgeholders. Regular badgeholders are back to getting up early and enjoying the ambience of an in-person line.

My first film was the ambitious German sci-fi film Transfer, where the very rich could transfer their consciousness to younger, healthier bodies. While daring, the provocative concept is diminished by an ending that doesn't match the rest of the film, and some of the worst subtitle timing and displays I've seen to go with looped audio. I can say this, it has one of the best scores I've heard in a long time.

Yoshihiro Nakamura's followup to last year's hit Fish Story has sealed Nakamura's place in the hearts of Fantastic Fest fans, taking the same time jumping non-linear storytelling to new heights. Golden Slumber surpasses expectations, and is going to be hard to beat as my favorite film of the festival.  The earnest and sweet Aoyagi thinks he's going on a fishing trip, only to find out he's being set up as a fall guy. As he runs from the national police and unsure who to trust, it turns out his friends -- old and new -- are the key to his survival.  At 2.5 hours long, Golden Slumber rarely lets up and is ultimately one of the most satisfying films I've seen in years -- without resorting to a Hollywood ending.

aGLIFF 2010 Daily Dispatch: The Weekend, or Juries and Parties and Bears, Oh My!

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Take a look at this picture, it's a prime example of what makes aGLIFF and in fact every film festival in town work.  Pictured above (clockwise from upper left) are David Sweeney, Jenn Garrison, Jean Lauer, Andy Campbell, Michelle Faires and lastly actor Alex Di Dio from closing-night film BearCity. Together they represent the aGLIFF board, 2010 juries, volunteers, filmmakers, and the local film community on all levels.  If it looks like they're having fun, they are. It's been a long festival, but a very successful one with many sold-out or close to capacity screenings.  

You've read Don's hilarious and enlightening dispatch from Saturday, but allow me to wrap up my weekend with you as well. I was able to make the doc The Real Anne Lister, an hour-long look at the life and diaries as seen by Britain's version of Ellen DeGeneres, Sue Perkins. It's as much a musing on Lister as the fact that this very complex landowner who happened to be lesbian has shaken the very core of Regency history. Perkins does not gloss over Lister's life or behavior, and is in fact at times shocked. I hope to see The Real Anne Lister on BBC America sometime soon, as it's a fascinating look at a woman being true to herself more than two centuries ago.

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