Jenn Brown's blog

SXSW 2010 Day 1: Kick-Ass and Evil, Dale and Tucker


Every film festival wants its Opening Night Film to make a statement that sets the tone for the rest of the festival, and SXSW 2010 opened with the aptly titled Kick-Ass.

The anticipation was high; the crowds enormous. To put it into perspective, someone tweeted that there were 7,000 film bags prepared, meaning 7,000 potential people in line for Opening Night. The line was so long it circled the entire block, and not all badges got in. That's a first in my experience at the Paramount, with 1,200 seats. Even the 2004 special screening of Hellboy did not encircle the block. I suspect the extremely positive reaction from us BNAT11 attendees helped. Or perhaps it was the balls-out promotional work the Lionsgate people are doing, with taxis and SUVs covered in Kick-Ass branding.  There was even a Kick-Ass inspired floodlight making a rather amusing statement on the side of a downtown building (pictured above).

I feel sorry for the folks that didn't get in, but know this: Many of the reserved seats were for guests who were also badgeholders. I admit, I line leeched, but I also got to say hello to friends I hadn't seen in a while.

Movies This Week: Remember Our Terribly Green League



It is so hard to get excited about movies this week that aren't playing SXSW, but surprisingly, there are still movies opening in town this weekend. And what are they, you ask, for those of you waiting until Tuesday to try to get tickets to SXSW films? Let's see ...

Green Zone -- Matt Damon teams up with director Paul Greengrass again, but instead of Bourne around the globe, it's an intelligence officer in the illustrious Green Zone in Iraq, in the early days of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Read Debbie's review for more details. (wide) 

Our Family Wedding -- Rom-com star vehicle headlined by Forest Whitaker, America Ferrera and Carlos Mencia.  Apparently the Dads have issues at a biracial wedding. (wide)

SXSW 2010 Day 0: Big Lines and Big Bags


Why Day 0? Because SXSW Film hasn't really started, of course. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a busy day. Hundreds of people were in line well before 3 pm to pick up their badges a day early. Even with hiccups, though, I got my badge in 15 minutes as well as my press tag. The line kept growing but people moved through quickly once it got going.

They were still working hard to set up all the panel rooms and spaces being used for SXSW but things were clearly coming together yesterday afternoon. So I hope everyone got a good night's sleep because it's going to be the last you get for 10 days, if you're doing the whole festival.

The downside was for about an hour I had no internet access on my T-Mobile Blackberry, which sucked tremendously. It didn't help that some bright bulb decided to run a 5,000 tweet campaign for some charitable cause, which I'm sure helped make it impossible for me to respond to people who needed a timely response. Perhaps it was karmic backlash for having no problems last year when all the iPhone users were having issues.

SXSW 2010 Guide: Where to Eat Around Film-Fest Venues


Film Fest Geek Barbie at ParksideDespite the risk of creating lines at the places I want to eat at during SXSW, I'm gonna share some secrets with you. Austin has many more restaurants than the ones you automatically see while treading the usual paths between venues. And with a little extra effort, you can enjoy some really great (maybe even healthful) meals.

We're not going to recreate the resources at Yelp, Urban Spoon, Dishola and the Austin Chronicle, which we recommend as handy resources on local eateries and more. But you probably don't have time to search through all that, and you might not even know where to find great restaurants in town. Here are some possibilities to explore near the SXSW 2010 film festival venues

Near Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar

You'll find plenty of dining around the theater/restaurant if you decide you just don't want another Alamo meal. But let me point out what you get at Alamo Drafthouse, as I know there are a few unititiated souls reading this. It's not just a theater. It's got table service and a full menu, as well as beer and wine, and at the Ritz you can get cocktails. Think pub food gone wild, with specials like the Kick-Ass Tofu Sandwich and Lamb of the Gods, as well as classics like the Royale With Cheese Burger and Porky's pepperoni pizza. I'm still partial to the Matango pizza, which started as a special last SXSW. Brunch specials are available on weekends, and gluten-free and vegetarian items are marked on the menu.

Across the street and a few steps south is a little food trailer park, with Odd Duck and Gourdoughs. Gourdoughs offers donuts that eat like a meal and they are open late; talk to some locals to find out just how tasty they are. OddDuck is only open Tuesdays through Saturday starting at 5 pm, but they are farm-to-trailer, inexpensive and really good. Portions aren't huge, but they are filling.

Movies This Week: Alice in Brooklyn's Visual Fish District


Ready for SXSW next week? I'm not. And all these new movies to check out don't help.

Alice in Wonderland -- This 3D mess has a plot as murky as its imagery and plays fast and loose with Lewis Carroll's classic story of the girl who falls down the rabbit hole. More in my review, where for the first time I do not have something positive to say about a Johnny Depp performance.  (wide). 

Brooklyn's Finest -- Another NYC police procedural, with stars like Richard Gere and Ethan Hawke as well as lesser-known powerhouses like Lili Taylor and Brian F. O'Byrne. Elizabeth checked it out for us, so take a look at her review

District 13: Ultimatum --  Despite more wire-free stunts of Cyril Raffaelli and Parkour founder David Belle, the sequel to District 13 doesn't even come close to the original. In fact, it actively thwarts suspension of belief. Check out Jette's review this weekend.  (Alamo South Lamar) 

Review: Alice in Wonderland


It seemed like a safe bet that Tim Burton's adaptation of Lewis Carroll's beloved Alice in Wonderland stories would be delightfully strange and gorgeous, with a cast that was sure to make it a beloved film. Unfortunately with a schizophrenic plot and murky imagery, it's likely to be the least favorite Burton film among those who call themselves fans.

A brief prelude of Alice as a nightmare-troubled child quickly turns into a garden party intended to announce Alice's engagement, only adult Alice is the last to know. Not surprisingly, she falls down a rabbit hole and proceeds to have adventures big and small with such unlikely allies as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the Dormouse, and the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) while avoiding the decapitation-happy Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). 

One would rightly expect such a fantastic tale to have vibrant colors and outlandish costumes, but the color palette is murky to the point of people questioning the quality of the projection. It seems to be intended, however, as Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is pallid and in pale blue, and even the Cheshire Cat is dark grey and blue, and hard to see. The 3D effects, what little there are, are wasted, and not worth the extra cost of a 3D screening.   

SXSW 2010 Guide: Film Festival Survival Tips


Film Fest BarbieFilm festivals are fun, right?  Films, partying, it's a blast. Well, yes and no; the unprepared film festgoer is likely to end up miserable as early as halfway through. If you're a seasoned SXSW badgeholder, you still might find some value in this survival guide written by a local who usually sees 4-6 screenings a day without resorting to a car or hotel room.

Last year's survival guide had such a strong response, I'm updating it with even more useful tips. Jette has also provided us with Film Fest Geek Barbie (pictured at right), complete with mobile phone, water bottle, and handy shoulder bag. She even keeps a toothbrush, tissues, an energy bar and a DVD screener of her short film stashed in there. Obviously, she's been paying attention to the following suggestions.

Get it now, while you can.  Do not skimp on sleep before the festival. Arriving well-rested means you're more likely to have the endurance to make it through the festival, especially if you stay for all 10 days, and most especially if you also add Interactive and/or Music. I'm not exaggerating, I went into the shorter Fantastic Fest sleep deprived and missed out on the infamous Team Bill versus Team Eric karaoke battle because of it, as well as being such a zombie people thought I was ignoring them. 

Comfortable Shoes
Opt for comfort over style and wear shoes you know you can stand in for hours. This is not the time to try out new, pretty shoes, but rely on your old faithful sneakers, sandals, and Danskos and Birkenstocks. After your first 45-minute line, you'll thank me. After your fifth, your feet will thank you. Me, I'm swapping out shoes daily, having the home closet advantage, and alternating between Danksos, Earth Sandals and sneakers. My feet will be happy and so will my bad knees.

Movies This Week: Sick and Twisted Cop Ghost Crazies


 The Ghost Writer

Here are the movies opening in Austin today:

Cop Out -- Kevin Smith's latest didn't screen in advance in Austin. Considering his local popularity, that's surprising -- his last two movies had gala Paramount screenings, in fact. Buzz is mixed about his detective tale, so go check it out for yourself and let us know. (wide)

The Crazies -- Timothy Olyphant may be the star of this reimagining of George Romero's 1973 viral outbreak, but Joe Anderson (Across the Universe) as Deputy Russell Clank owns the film. Not perfect, but very memorable, with some great scene compositions, and I swear they held off the "scared ya" noises for at least a microsecond, making this creepy tale even creepier.  Debbie will tell you more in her review this weekend, and hopefully she'll share some of the Q&A with director Breck Eisner from Thursday night's Austin screening. (wide)

SXSW Spotlight: Geoff Marslett, 'Mars'



Among the many world premieres at SXSW in just two weeks is Geoff Marslett's Mars, a sci-fi rom-com indie brimming with local and nationally known talent. Earlier this week, Jette and I caught up with Marslett and talked about Austin, film and food over a long brunch at Olivia on South Lamar. 

Marslett is a veteran of short films, and a self-taught animator on faculty at The University of Texas at Austin. His films have been featured at CinemaTexas, SXSW, and even in Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Film Festival (vol. 7).  Perhaps best known for the award winning Monkey Versus Robot as well as Bubblecraft, Marslett has worked on 14 of his own shorts as well as contributing to other films such as Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style. In 2009, Marslett was named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker magazine.

Three years ago, Marslett started working on Mars, with a 17-day live-action shoot followed by two years of animation work. This was a labor of love and obsession, with Marslett and his team of animators and interns working impossible hours to complete the film over the last two years while he also juggled a teaching schedule at UT's RTF program. 

Movies This Week: The White Shutter Shorts


It's another slow release week, with the Olympics stealing the attention of most potential audience members, and with many limited-release films yet to make their way to Austin. Still, there are choices, and diverse ones at that. 

2010 Oscar Shorts Live Action Program -- The annual programming of the two Oscar shorts reels at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar is very popular, giving local cineastes a chance to see the shorts that might not have played local festivals.  The Live Action program tends to be more serious.  The 92 minute reel includes five 17-20 minute shorts from around the globe. (Alamo Lamar)

2010 Oscar Shorts: Animated Program -- While both Oscar shorts reels are popular, the animated reel is usually more so, not just because it's animated but because it's generally sillier. This year's 80-minute reel includes five films including one with no dialogue. If you go, don't wait until the last minute to get your favorite seat, or you'll likely be disappointed.  (Alamo Lamar)

Shutter Island -- I was impressed with the rough cut at BNAT, but I'm not sure what's changed since December. Thankfully it's not The Departed, although it does get too clever at times. Still, it's visually gorgeous, and there is one particular scene with essentially headshots that is a lot more interesting than it has a right to be. Read Jette's review to find out more. (wide)

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