Jenn Brown's blog

aGLIFF 2011, Dispatch #1: A 'Lulu' of an Opener


aGLIFF logoIt's a daring choice to open a film festival with a documentary about someone dying with cancer. Tuesday night aGLIFF kicked off its 24th film festival with The Lulu Sessions, an unflinching, intimate documentary about a complex woman and her equally complex friendship that defied definition.

Filmmaker S. Casper Wong was in attendance and talked about the difficulties in making the movie. Wong and Louise "Lulu" Nutter were friends when Nutter was diagnosed with cancer. Wong, who was in film school at the time, documented Nutter's experience in The Lulu Sessions, which explores their relationship over 15 years.

Like any good documentary, the story is never that simple, and through Wong's lens and discussions with Nutter, a complex, challenging, and brilliant woman easy to connect with onscreen. Nutter was a well-known cancer researcher; I had the nagging suspicion I knew something about her as the film progressed. It turns out her work was often referenced in scientific papers I helped edit when I worked at Harvard Medical School a lifetime ago.

Movies This Week: Good Blank Debt Days



We'are at that strange point in the cinematic year, a sort of dead calm before the contenders for awards get released. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything going on this week. Tuesday is a particularly tough day for Austin cineastes as there are three don't-miss events kicking off. 

I seriously want to clone myself just for Tuesday. aGLIFF starts that night, and it looks like another stellar year, with Texas representing (seriously, Cancerpants has to be the best-named film this year, and it's an Austin film).  The (free!!) Community Cinema series starts Tuesday at Austin Public Library with Peace Unveiled, an episode of the PBS series Women, War & Peace that doesn't air until October. And Austin Film Society's latest Essential Cinema series "Days and Nights of Being Wild:  Hong Kong New Wave" begins that night too with Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild (pictured above). I don't get to Essential Cinema screenings enough, and Wong Kar-Wai is such a strong director (FYI: one film in the series was produced by University of Texas graduate Tsui Hark).

Movies We've Seen:

The Debt -- Add this one to your "must-see" list, as Don says, "The Debt is a slick, smart and thought-provoking thriller with much to say about the sometimes fine line between fact and fiction" in his review.  (wide)

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy -- When I first heard about this movie, I kept confusing it with Cummings Farm, but it's just not the same, and unfortunately A Good Old Fashioned Orgy lives down to expectations. Read my review for more. (*wide)

Seven Days In Utopia -- Robert Duvall and Lucas Black previously worked together in Get Low. Now they're back the Texas-filmed Seven Days In Utopia. Debbie says, "The wholesomeness of this movie makes for a family-friendly outing..." and a whole lot more. Read her review for more. (Cinemark Tinseltown 17, Regal Gateway)

Review: A Good Old Fashioned Orgy


Prejudice; I admit I have it. It's hard to have high expectations of a movie like A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, which does exactly what you'd expect, but that's not much.

When I first heard about A Good Old Fashioned Orgy I kept confusing it with Cummings Farm, a darkly comic 2009 AFF selection with a very similar plot and plot points; vacation home, old friends, a plan to have group sex. Cummings Farm was retitled All American Orgy for its DVD release, which included some heinously misleading cover art implying it's a sophomoric sex-romp instead of a dark relationship comedy/character study. So I readily admit I wanted to completely dismiss A Good Old Fashioned Orgy as something similar.

But the cast includes Leslie Bibb (the underrated AFF 2010 selection Miss Nobody), and Tyler Labine (Tucker & Dale vs Evil), two actors who've proven they have incredible talent. Coupled with co-filmmaker Peter Huyck having a part in Bob Byington's RSO [Registered Sex Offender], and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy has enough indie cred to make me give the film a chance. I wish it returned the favor.

aGLIFF 24 Preview: Majestic Steers, Queers and Cancerpants


The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) is 24 years old next week and is bigger than ever. This year, festival movis are screening at three different venues -- Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, Violet Crown Cinema and the Paramount Theatre -- not to mention all the parties and special events.

Looking over the schedule, I'm again having to make tough decisions about what to see. The lineup includes a number of topical documentaries as well as enticing narratives, including a selection of international titles. Even in writing this preview, it was hard to choose titles, especially since Texas is definitely represented.

aGLIFF's Centerpiece Film Mangus! should fill the Paramount quite a bit just on the plot -- a boy who longs to star in his school's production of "Jesus Christ Spectacular." But the cast is guaranteed to draw a crowd too, as it includes none other than John Waters, Heather Matarazzo and the outrageous Jennifer Coolidge. And the best part?  It was filmed here in Texas (just north of Dallas).

Insider's Guide: Free Movies at Austin Public Library



Over the years, Slackerwood has published a number of special guides covering free and cheap summer films and all manner of assistance for film festivals, including survivor guides, newbie guides and our food guides, which are so popular that for SXSW 2011 we collaborated with the fest on a printed restaurant guide. They're so much fun to write that we decided to make them a monthly feature. We're expanding the topics, too, to help Austinites and those who visit our city make the most of the Austin film scene. And what better way to kick off this new series than with one of Austin's best kept secrets: frequent free movies at many branches of the Austin Public Library.

I’m not talking only about arcanely obscure films; APL's diverse programming includes family fare, topical documentaries, classic foreign language films and even a series that celebrates bad movies. The selections are both old and very new, including 2011 releases. Next month APL is kicking off a new year of "Community Cinema," which starts with a local premiere of a documentary that won't air on PBS until October, and includes a special post-screening discussion with relevant community organizations related to each film in the series.

Most Austin Public Library film programs run weekly or in some cases monthly on the same time/day of the week, and programming is offered at different branches around the city. All APL programs are free and open to the public. And even better, some screenings include light refreshments, such as popcorn. Who can top that? Just remember that food and drink can only be consumed in designated areas per APL policy. Ratings have been included in our listings when available, but not all films have been MPAA reviewed, so keep in mind not all are appropriate for all audiences.

Movies This Week: Don't Be an Idiot, Colombiana


So we've broken the record for most 100-plus degree days in a year. If you're like me, your electric bill is astronomical. So like me, you're looking for ways to cool off, which usually involves going out to the movies.

This weekend, Austin has several great options for special film events. Tonight, the Long Center Cinema series is screening the recently restored Metropolis (remember in 2008 when more than 20 minutes of lost footage was found)? Saturday is the Night of the Bat at the Paramount, complete with Adam West and Batman (1966), which just happens to coincide with the 7th annual Bat Fest (surprise). This was a big hit last year, and it should be a lot of fun. And there will be an Adam West Photo Booth with photos taken by Annie Ray.

And on Sunday, don't forget the special screening of The Perfect House; that's free, but you can avoid the line if you win reserved seating through the Slackerwood contest. It's a great way to prepare for Fantastic Fest.

Movies We've Seen:

Colombiana -- Mike's review won't be up until tomorrow, but he's teasing us by saying, ""Colombiana is 10 lbs of The Fifth Element in a 5 lb bag. This violent flower is covered in Luc Besson's stench but lacks the humor and quality of storytelling that made his previous work such a hit." (wide)

Don't be Afraid of the Dark -- Having Guillermo del Toro as screenwriter is a big draw for any sort of horror film, and Rod says, "There are some truly creepy and scary parts of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark." Read his review for more. (wide)

Senna -- J.C. De Leon says in his review, "Senna may not spark any future interest in watching Formula One racing, but you'll be sorry you didn't know more about this legendary icon during his prime." (Regal Arbor, Violet Crown)

SXSW 2011 Impact on Austin: $167.8 Million


Sea of green

No wonder some hotels are already sold out of rooms for SXSW 2012. The 2011 fest saw a 20 percent jump in hotel room nights (47,500 nights, and that doesn't include couch-surfing).

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Councilmember Mike Martinez were present on Tuesday as SXSW and Greyhill Advisors announced the details of the fifth consecutive study quantifying the dollar value of the music, film and interactive conferences, trade shows and festival. This year's magic number is $167.8 million of economic impact, which includes $44 million that SXSW contributes to the Austin economy during the non-fest portion of the calendar year. The study only includes those events "sanctioned" by SXSW. 

There’s been a steady increase in the millions of dollars that flood the city for the nine-day trio of events. While SXSW is 25 years old, the study has only been done since 2007, when $95 million flooded the city. In 2010 that jumped to $113 million.  You can read full economic impact report on the Greyhill blog.

The published report doesn't include specific numbers for SXSW Film other than to note that there were 1,500 passholders.  SXSW was able to confirm with us that SXSW 2011 had 13,409 film registrants (actual film badges) and 66,842 that attended film screenings (passes and film, gold, and platinum badges, and I assume filmmakers and guests). 

Austin Film Festival Announces First Films for 2011 Fest


While the full lineup for Austin Film Festival won't be revealed until mid-September, the initial film announcement has a rather promising, eclectic list of titles.

Among the titles announced today includes a new comedy from former Austinites Jay and Mark Duplass, Jeff Who Lives At Home, starring Jason Segel (pictured above). The 10 films also include the usual mix of provocative and controversial narratives, entertaining documentaries, more comedies and the most unusual twist to zombie plots I've ever seen. Most of these movies are on my "must-see" list so I can't wait to hear about the full lineup.

Without further ado, the first films of AFF 2011 including premiere information, synopses and more:

See 'The Perfect House' Free This Weekend


The Perfect HouseYou may have heard or read about an on-demand platform for streaming movies called FlickLaunch, an alternative to traditional distribution that uses Facebook as its interface. FlickLaunch is promoting the platform through advance theatrical screenings of the horror/thriller The Perfect House, including a free screening here in Austin that includes filmmaker Kris Hulbert and actors Andrea Vahl and William Robertson in attendance. We have some reserved seats to give away -- keep reading to find out more.

Not surprisingly, Austin is the first city of the 30-city The Perfect House tour complete with a bus and a "reality-style tour." Why start with Austin? Co-director and writer Kris Hulbert said, "When we came up with the idea to hit the open road and host screenings around the country, the Alamo Drafthouse was immediately at the top of our list. The Drafthouse goes hand-in-hand with high quality independent entertainment and provides the perfect location to start our tour!"

The Perfect House is a horror anthology consisting of three separate stories ("The Storm," "Chic-ken" and "Dinner Guest"), which reveal that a young couple's dream house has a very dark past. It's every homeowner's fear that their ideal home will turn into a money pit, but in the case of The Perfect House, Hulbert's story turns it into a real nightmare.

FlickLaunch will allow filmmakers to capitalize on social media strategies, from promoting films through fan pages to allowing filmmakers to give away free views -- paid views will cost between $1-5.  A FlickLaunch app has been developed for the iPad and plans are to develop apps for Android and iPhone.

Shameless Self Promotion: Vote for This SXSW 2012 Panel


This is the second year SXSW has opened up the Panel Picker for its annual film conference, a tool that allows people to submit proposals for panels and other conference events. It's an ingenious way for the festival to vet proposals; instead of the staff or  advisory panel coming up with all the ideas, anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can submit a proposal, which is then voted on by the public, which gets a lofty 30 percent of the decision power. This is no small thing, since those who plan on attending the conference have the opportunity to weigh in on what they feel is relevant and keep the topics fresh. The only downside is that there are many panel proposals to read and decide among.

So please allow me to direct your attention to a Slackerwood-inspired panel: Removing Barriers Between Press, PR, and Producers, submitted by yours truly. The original idea for the panel happened during SXSW 2011, when I surprised a producer of a great little film by mentioning that Slackerwood gets mileage out of reviews far beyond festivals. In some cases, we get serious spikes in page views more than a year after a review was posted.

For example, this month one of our top traffic-getting pages is a review of Main Street, which screened at Austin Film Festival last year and is about to get a limited theatrical and VOD release. Our list of top ten pages for 2010 includes a review of AFF 2010 selection DMI: The Spirit Molecule and also my review of AFF 2009 film The Donner Party. Cummings Farm may have been renamed All American Orgy but my AFF 2009 review was still being read by many, over a year after I saw the movie.

Syndicate content