Jenn Brown's blog

AFF Review: Cummings Farm


Cummings Farm

Funny things happen on the way to an orgy.  Three young couples, in various levels of committment, decide to have an orgy over a weekend getaway at Cummings Farm. Why, it's not clear, but what what happens up to the moment of truth reveals more about the intended participants than anyone ever expected.

Alan and Yasmine are dating, Tina and Todd are married with children, and Rachel and Gordon are living together. Even before everyone arrives at the farm, it's clear that no one really thought out the consequences of a sexual free-for-all. Rachel (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick) is supportive of Gordon (Jordan Kessler), but he's an alcoholic. Alan (Adam Busch) is uptight, and Yasmine (Yasmine Kittles) is demanding. Tina (Laura Silverman) is the devoted wife and mother, and how the crude and selfish Todd (Ted Beck) managed to win her is a mystery. These are three very different relationships, none of which will survive unaltered by the experience.

AFF Review: The Donner Party


The Donner Party

The obvious approach for a film about the Donner Party, one of the most infamous stories of deadly misadventure in American history, would be horror. But in T.J. Martin's The Donner Party, an Austin Film Festival selection, the historic event gets a well deserved dramatic approach that makes it all the more unsettling. 

Like most dramatic retellings, the ultimate end is known, but the journey, quite literally in this case, is more important than the end result. Several groups of pioneers converged to form the Donner Party on the way to California, but after following a "new" route, ended up stranded in the Sierra Nevadas through the winter and spring of 1846.

AFF Review: Happy Ending


Happy Ending

Playing with genre conventions is not a new idea. Scream and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon deconstructed the contemporary horror convention; Adaptation and Stranger than Fiction flipped story conventions on their ears. So the idea of deconstructing a genre and making its devices an open part of the plot isn't revolutionary. Yet Atsuhiro Yamada's first feature, Happy Ending, is a charming little film that will likely make most cineastes smile.

Momoko (Nahana) unashamedly borrows horror films without paying for them from the neighborhood rental shop. Kuroda, a fellow film buff and frequent companion at the local second-run arthouse theater, keeps reminding her that she owes 52,700 yen in rental fees (nearly $600US), as well as trying to get her to watch some romances.  When Momoko drops a romance novel and picks it up at the same time as a handsome young man, her friend Maki is convinced Momoko is living a romance story. When the "prince" (Ryunosuke Kawai) keeps appearing, Momoko starts to believe it herself. 

AFF09 Daily Dispatch: Day Eight


Austin Film Festival soared into the skies with the closing-might film Up in the Air, which included a rousing intro and Q&A by Jason Reitman. Yeah, there were other films, but I was in a mood for a major release that night. Plus, it was only a few blocks away from the closing night part at Annie's Cafe.

Before the film, Jette and I had a quick dinner at Parkside Cafe.  She knows I wasn't exaggerating about how great the food was. Service was just as good this time, and the chef even came out to check on us. I don't know if that happens all the time, but maybe it was the fact I ordered the marrow. Whatever the case, he and his team make really good food. 

Up in the Air is a solid, funny film, in the haha only serious kind of way.  The aerial shots alone are worth it, but watching Vera Farmiga and George Clooney is a guilty pleasure, they have such great chemistry.  Reitman was a hoot, almost Kevin Smith-esque in his energy and jokes, but without the profanity. Or toilet jokes. 

Movies This Week: House of No Impact Dreams


Meaning of Life

Austin Film Festival is barely over, and it's now Halloween weekend, complete with an extra hour of revelry possible, thanks to Daylight Saving Time ending. Not a whole lot of new films are coming out this weekend.

House of the Devil -- This homage to vintage horror, written and directed by Ti West, has more build up than body count.  Read Debbie's review

Michael Jackson's This Is It -- The much-anticipated concert/tribute film about the late Michael Jackson opened on Wednesday. From all reports from MJ fans, it's good. 

No Impact Man -- This documentary is about the Beaven family, which decides to live for one year without electricity, toilet paper or anything that will leave a carbon footprint. 

AFF09 Daily Dispatch: Days Six and Seven


You miss me yesterday? Wondering why I didn't write a dispatch? Well, I was home, watching DVD screeners, so I could get a couple reviews in. So now you know about two films you should catch on Thursday. And I mean that seriously; just because I wasn't overwhelmingly in love with a film does not negate its merit.

This afternoon, I headed over to Guero's for a Baghdad Texas party.  I couldn't stay long, but I did have a chance to talk about movies with co-writer Shaneye Ferrell (pictured above), who also plays Kathy, the FBI agent, in the film.  We talked about the disappointment in the "Hollywood happy ending" and the draw to complex, humanized villains. I wish I could have stayed longer, but only had time to meet actor Booka Michel before I dashed off to The Donner Party.

AFF Review: Todd P Goes to Austin


Todd P Goes to AustinThe new Off the Record category at Austin Film Festival includes a documentary where the ultimate goal is to get to Austin for SXSW. Promoter Todd P set up a series of free, unofficial performances at SXSW, and eventually was invited to come back and put together an official showcase, as documented in Todd P Goes to Austin. When viewed as a performance documentary, Todd P Goes to Austin is a must-see for music fans.

Todd P Goes to Austin starts out with a mumble: director Jason Buim opens with a performance by Dan Deacon, and even when Todd P is talking, it's not clear what the focus of the film is really supposed to be.  The tagline touts it's a film about doing it yourself, but the focus is really on the performances and the travel to Austin from various locations by the highlighted bands, including Matt and Kim, Mika Miko, The Death Set, and Japanther. 

Todd Patrick, also known as Todd P, is a Brooklyn based DIY promoter who works with underground bands and performers. Little screen time is spent on the actual efforts required to set up the showcases and get the word out to  potential audiences. Instead, most of the movie is devoted to actual performances. It's hard to follow that two different SXSW festivals are covered. The film dwells significantly on the featured groups making their way to Austin, and shot by themselves, from car trouble to broken jacks, contributing to the DIY sensibilities.

AFF Review: Baghdad Texas


Baghdad Texas

The Austin Screens category at Austin Film Festival is a showcase of local emerging talent that might not otherwise be on everyone's radar. Arguably the best film in this category in 2009 is Baghdad Texas.

A fleeing Middle Eastern dictator's plane crashes. Three Texas ranchers coming back from a rowdy time in Mexico hit what they think is a Mexican illegal immigrant. When they look through his clothes, they notice foreign currency with the likeness of Brando (Al No'mani), the most wanted man in the world, and the scrambling begins.

Finances have forced Randall (Robert Prentis) to turn to exotic hunting to make ends meet, with the help of his son Limon (Ryan Boggus), ranch hand Seth (Barry Tubb), and a pragmatic housekeeper, Carmen (Melinda Renna, pictured above).  An eager FBI agent (Shaneye Ferrell) is looking to prove herself despite a lackadiasical boss. When the ranchers realize who they put in the back of their truck, the antics begin. As everyone pursues their own interest to comedic ends, the two illegals who occasionally work on the farm engage in spectator sports.

AFF09 Daily Dispatch: Day Five


How I Got LostMonday was Arbor Day for me. That is, I watched two Austin Film Festival films up at the Arbor Cinema. The best anyone can do is three features a day from this point on, but I was too busy watching a screener to make it any earlier (and more on that later).

I don't know how much of it was rainy Monday, post-conference, or just being out of downtown, but the AFF movies at the Arbor were not crowded. That's not to say it was empty -- there was a respectable sized crowd for both films I saw -- but no one was forced for sit in the front row. Keep that in mind for all venues for the next three days; unless you're late, you're likely to get into everything now. If it's at the Paramount, you'll get in.

First up for me was How I Got Lost (pictured at right), directed by Joe Leonard and starring Aaron Stanford, Jacob Fishel, and Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married). I swear having Stanford in a film is a guarantee of getting it into an Austin festival. In the five years the films Flakes, Rick, Spartan, and The Cake Eaters have all played at an Austin festival. How I Got Lost is based on a short by Leonard, and the story revolves around two New York friends in the post-9/11 world.  Unfortunately, Leonard wasn't at the screening for a Q&A.

AFF: Rest of the Fest Highlights


Now that we're in the second half of Austin Film Festival's 8 day run, it's a lot easier for those without a badge to get into the smaller venues.  So now is a good time to point out the remaining that should be on your radar. Astericks indicate films with an Austin connection.  The full schedule is available on the Austin Film Festival website. 

Monday, October 26th
7:00pm Lake Creek Little Fish, Strange Pond (Callum Blue in attendance)
9:30pm Arbor Happy Ending (Chris Holland highly recommends)

Tuesday, October 27th
7:00pm  Lake Creek Creek *Stoner
7:00pm Hideout Shorts 2 Reel (first two shorts are Austin shorts)
7:30pm Independent at 501 Herpes Boy (cast and crew may still be in town)
10:00pm Independent at 501 Thor At The Bus Stop  (Narrative Feature WINNER)

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