Jenn Brown's blog

Fantastic Fest Training #3: The Countdown

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Fantastic Fest 2007: The lobby

So you've all worked on your alcohol tolerance and sleep deprivation tolerance, and are practicing your social skills.  Fantastic Fest is less than a week away. The first screening is Wednesday at the Ritz, and if you're lucky (and smart), you're going to the Austin School of Film fundraiser screening of Cabin Fever 2 (for only $5, how can you resist?). The Weird Wednesday selection for next week just happens to be a Jess Franco film, Eugenie.

But you still need to prepare. Now is the time to rest up.  It's dangerous to start the fest sleep deprived, as you'll burn out that much faster. I've done it, and it's not pretty. And I know it's hard. It's like film-geek Christmas in September. Everybody's like a kid on a sugar high in anticipation.   

While you're resting, take a look at the schedule and make plans, but don't expect to adhere to them. Scheduling does help prioritize what you want to see, and you can check out trailers for many films.  Slackerwood will have daily dispatches with reviews and previews, but it's good to have an idea what you want to see.  You can run Festival Genius to help you, and you can even import to your calendar. 

aGLIFF 2009: The Fest is Over ... Or Is It?

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aGLIFF I'm no longer an aGLIFF newbie, especially after 9 features and 13 shorts in 6 days. It's hard to pick a favorite film, so I'll list a few that are still rolling around my mind.

For comedy, the feature The Baby Formula and the short Boycrazy, along with the gut-busting documentary The Long Haul, which just happens to be made by local filmmaker Liz Welch Tirrell. For more serious fare, the Queer Youth Media Project doc,  That's So Gay, which really needs to be expanded into a feature, and the animated short Dear Dad, Love Maria. After that, it's really hard to pick even one more that is more outstanding than the rest. It was a diverse, provocative and all-around entertaining program. And I wasn't the only one who thought so, apparenlty; most of the screenings I attended were near or at capacity. 

Socially, I'm really regretting missing the centerpiece party at Frank, and the Antique-themed dessert; people were raving about it the next day. I equally regret not spending all of Saturday at the Alamo South and aGLIFF just to watch Sharon Gless entertain the crowd during the blackout.  But I didn't miss the Hannah Free Q&A, and my video is embedded after the jump. Yes, Sharon Gless loved the Alamo Drafthouse popcorn. And she answers that pesky question about her orientation.

aGLIFF Daily Dispatch #6: Waxie Moon and Big Gay Musicals

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aGLIFF Afterparty by Jenn BrownaGLIFF ended on a high note yesterday, complete with a rainbow in the sky over South Austin.  I only made it to two of the screenings, though. 

Waxie Moon is the eponymous documentary about boylesque performer Marc "Waxie Moon" Kenison (the middleman in the photo at right). While the explanation of burlesque is overlong, it serves to introduce female burlesque performers and put the Waxie's gender-obliterating performances into perspective. The screening was followed by a live performance of the "handcuff dance" which wowed the very enthusiastic audience, further whipped into a frenzy with the bond like song about Waxie on the closing credits. All week people have been talking about Waxie Moon, and every interview in the film talking about Waxie Moon was effusive. After meeting Marc/Waxie, I understand now; he's one of the sweetest, friendliest people I've ever met. 

Waxie Moon was receded by the short A Drag King Extravaganza, about drag kings and the drag king community.  While overlong, many of the interviews about intentional gender and how, for some, gender is fluid, not fixed, was thought-provoking. 

The final screening of the night was a pairing of gay musicals, the first being the short Boycrazy, in which boy-crazy Corey decides to look for true love, and suddenly choices aren't so easy.  The tagline is perfect, "A boy meets boy meets boy meets... musical."  The songs are funny and insightful, and the soundtrack deserves a release.

aGLIFF Daily Dispatch #5: Sharon Gless, Queer Youth Media Project

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Sharon Gless at aGLIFF by Jenn BrownYesterday was exhausting; I only made it to three screenings, and late for one at that, so I missed an unexpected highlight. That torrential rain that hit Austin finally pushed the electrical grid too far and caused a blackout for 78704, which cause a disruption of aGLIFF. Incredibly, it only caused one film to be cancelled, one to be shifted to this morning, and only a 45-minute delay for the rest of the evening.

The first round of screenings included a children's program that had a pre-show with Underdog and Muppet Show clips, and an optional cereal bar. The shorts included Buddy G, My Two Moms And Me: The Lost Rings, Tomboy, and Dottie's Magic Pockets: Doing the Flower. While the latter was too trite for my taste, the others were engaging, with Buddy G something that could easily be a kids' morning TV show.  Tomboy, which focuses on a little girl who isn't interested in girly things, is a lesson in diversity.  

That was before the weather got heavy. Sharon Gless, at the festival to support her new film, Hannah Free, declined the offer to go back to her hotel during the blackout. Instead, she worked the lines, talking with people and making the most of it. Once the screening started, even being late and rainy, it was almost at capacity. 

aGLIFF Daily Dispatch #4: Antique

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aGLIFF by Jenn BrownaGLIFF smartly programmed only one feature/short screening for the Centerpiece night: Dear Dad, Love Maria and Antique.

Vince Mascoli's short, Dear Dad, Love Maria, is a poignant animated imaging of a letter to a parent. This hand-drawn, semi-autobiographical short may last only five minutes, but it was powerful enough to win aGLIFF's nomination for the Iris Prize, the largest award for a gay and lesbian short film in the world -- valued at £25,000 (approximately $41,000). 

The theme of longing for connection and acceptance while determined to be true to oneself also fills Antique, a Korean live-action film based on a Japanese manga by Fumi Yoshinaga. A wealthy young man who hates cake, Jin-hyeok (Joo Ji-hoon), decides to open a bakery, and ends up hiring an a master patissier who proves to be not only a "Gay of Demonic Charm," but an old classmate. Seon-woo (Kim Jae-wook) has long forgotten a humiliation he suffered at the hands of Jin-hyeok, who hasn't. 

But Jin-hyeok has more than one memory haunting him, which becomes a major plot point as staff are added at the bakery, which becomes a sensation. A mix of comedy, drama, with a few dollops of fantasy sequences, Antique is a deceptively light film with some heavy themes that had the crowd sighing at times, both at the characters and at the sumptuous confections being created.

Review: Lorna's Silence

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Lorna's SilenceAwarded Best Screenplay at Cannes 2008, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's Lorna's Silence is an arthouse drama that stretches another short story into a feature-length film, only not for the ADD crowd.  The performances are good, but a major plot twist is so contrived it diminishes the slow build to the conclusion.

Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) is an Albanian immigrant who just got her Belgian citizenship card and dreams of opening a snack shop with her lover, Sokol (Alban Ukaj). Lorna is willing to participate in passport schemes to make her dreams come true, to the point of marrying for papers of her own. She lives with Claudy (Jérémie Renier), a junkie, who sold his name for heroin money. Add in a taxi-driving gangster (Fabrizio Rongione) and a Russian looking for a passport of his own, and the plot gets convoluted quickly. 

Everyone in Lorna's Silence has plans, but everyone knows what happens to the best-laid plans. Lorna has a goal she intends to meet, but no one expected her to start caring for Claudy, even Lorna herself. While the rest of the conspirators consider Claudy disposable, Lorna genuinely wants him to kick his habit.  Lorna is quiet and almost callous, but cannot remain unmoved by Claudy. Her consequent decisions lead to an improbable plot twist where she transforms from comatose to expressive, hence the title. 

Review: It Might Get Loud

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It Might Get LoudIt Might Get Loud follows a simple formula: take two rock'n'roll legends, throw in an upstart musician, and blend into a documentary on the electric guitar that belongs in any contemporary musicologist's library. Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White are interviewed separately and together, along with some musical interludes that show an evolution of rock based on the earlier two performers' history and the latter's obsession with blues.

Page, known primarily known as the guitarist in Led Zeppelin, has a career that extends much farther back than non-aficionados know. Watching Page in It Might Get Loud is a real treat, as he tours the house where a Led Zeppelin album was recorded, talking about how the architecture influenced the sounds, as well as the initial critical pans of a now considered seminal album. Unassuming and genial, Page is riveting. 

The Edge, is equally unassuming and mesmerizing, explaining how he creates his sound, and discussing his early days in U2.  White, on the other hand, is jarring, with his obsession with obscure blues artists and aching to bleed for his art. Where Page and The Edge focus on their music, White seems driven by ego to focus on his process.  It makes an interesting comparison.

aGLIFF Daily Dispatch #3: Trails, Rules, Long Hauls and Travelers

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aGLIFF 2009Thursday night's festival choices were difficult but I opted for a pair of serious docs, followed by two travel docs.

Claiming the Title: Gay Olympics on Trial and Training Rules both dealt with anti-gay bias in the athletic world. Claiming the Title focuses specifically on the U.S. Olympic committee's homophobic lawsuit claiming trademark infringement against the Gay Olympics. It starts awkwardly, but the interviews are riveting, especially Chai Feldblum, a former Supreme Court clerk.  

Training Rules, however, gets bogged down in redundant imagery, and stretches out the story of Rene Portland's anti-lesbian policy for the Penn State women's basketball team. Portland actively persecuted players who even "associated" with anyone she suspected of being lesbian and as a result, nearly ruined the lives of many promising athletes. The film could have easily been half the time and had more impact. The material is very important, but is diluted by the repetition.

The next two films were the polar opposite, and a perfect way to end the evening. Both filmmakers were present, as pictured above. Austin-based filmmaker Liz Welch Tirrell's The Long Haul is very likely to be the audience favorite, with everyone laughing so hard that the movie got three rounds of applause during the credits. Martha and Lavonne have been together 19 years, and know each other's every quirk. When they move from New Jersey to California, they decide to take the long way. But it's never so simple. The mere act of packing was so funny, I laughed until my face hurt.  Martha and Lavonne could be any couple, but they're just the right kind of feisty, making even the stressful moments entertaining. 

Movies This Week: Madea and Anna Wintour Might Get Loud

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It Might Get Loud

Are you having one of those longer than the number of working day weeks?  Me, too.  Never fear, there are lots of movie options for you. 

New Releases

9  -- As I said in my review, personally, I much prefer the short. This stitch-punk animated film may be your cuppa, but I don't like that much filler in my movies.   

It Might Get Loud -- All you guitar heroes, if you love the sound of an electric guitar, this is a must-see documentary, with Jimmy Page, The Edge and that upstart Jack White (pictured above). Directed by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Gracie). Look for a full review later today.

Lorna's Silence -- Awarded Best Screenplay at Cannes 2008, it's another short story in a feature length, only Lorna's Silence needs time to draw the point out.  Not for the ADD crowd.  The performances are good, but a major plot twist is so contrived it dimished the slow build to the conclusion. Look for a full review on Saturday.

Sorority Row -- Sorority slasher flick. You know what you're getting into, don't you?

September Issue -- If you're addicted to Ugly Betty or adored The Devil Wears Prada, then this documentary about creating Vogue's 2008 September issue is for you.  If not, you'll easily be bored with editor-in-chief Anna Wintour's transparent efforts to control her image.  Even the hinted-at battles between Wintour and Grace Coddington, the chief stylist, feel like window dressing.

aGLIFF Daily Dispatch #2: Babies and Hollywood

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Jason BushmanDespite only having two theaters and two time slots  on the weeknights, aGLIFF is certainly making the most of the night. Last night I caught The Baby Formula and Hollywood, Je T'aime.

The Baby Formula is a surprisingly poignant and consistently funny comedy about two women who have their own child. Without male sperm. Through the miracle of stem cell research, they're able to make their first child without anything from a man other than the science to create "womanly sperm."

A documentary crew follows the two women around in a humorous expose of relationships, between lovers and family, as well as exploring the first child experience and the tensions it can create, including some insight into extended family dynamics, as the two women are from very different backgrounds. 

Megan Fahlenbock (Resident Evil: Apocalypse) and Angela Vint (Lars and the Real Girl) as Lillith and Athena have a chemistry that makes them seem so much like a real couple, at times it seemed like a true documentary.  Jessica Booker is a scene stealer, though, as the fiesty Grandma Kate.

Writer Richard Beattie captures an extended family with all the love, longing, and dysfunction involved.  Director Alison Reid could shave about 5-10 minutes off it, especially at the end, but overall achieve consistent pacing that keeps the audience engaged, frequently laughing, with a few tears.  If you get a chance to see it, don't stop watching til the credits end, the "my hump" video during the credits is hysterical.  Now I want to see the short that inspired the feature. 

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