• Weekend Recs: Jennifer Egan, Afrobeat, Jonathan Franzen

    Pulitzer-winning writer Jennifer Egan will be reading and discussing her award-winning novel “A Visit from the Goon Squad” tonight. The coming of age novel received critical reception for its innovative delve into growing up and unconventional short story-like structure.

    WHAT: The Michener Center for Writers presents Jennifer Egan
    WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 13 from
    7:30 - 9:30 p.m.
    WHERE: ACE building, auditorium 2.302

    To celebrate the debut of its latest exhibition, “El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa,” this month’s B Scene is ’70s funk and soul-inspired. A Ghana-born artist who grew up in Nigeria, El Anatsui’s sculptural and wall arts are heavily influenced and inspired by the West African region he grew up in. There will be performances from Hard Proof (members of Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears) and Black Red Black and gallery tours.

    WHAT: B Scene: Afrobeat
    WHEN: Friday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m.
    WHERE: Blanton Museum
    ADMISSION: $5 for members, $12 for public

    On tour for his latest novel, “Freedom,” award-winning American author Jonathan Franzen will speak about the best seller at Bass Concert Hall on Friday. Praised from its strong portrayal and criticism on modern social structure and norms, Franzen’s sophmore novel “The Corrections” won the National Book Award and was translated into 35 languages.

    WHAT: Jonathan Franzen
    WHEN: Friday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m.
    WHERE: Bass Concert Hall
    ADMISSION: Tickets start at $10

  • Weekend Recs: Blondie, State Fair, The Dinner Detective

    WHAT: Generous Art grand opening event
    WHERE: The W
    WHEN: Tonight at 5:30 p.m.
    HOW MUCH: Free

    The new online art gallery kicks off with an evening of free drinks, live music and the opportunity to buy unique pieces. Money raised will go to local charities, including the Art Alliance Austin and Cancer Connection.

    WHAT: Blondie
    WHERE: ACL Live
    WHEN: Tonight at 8 p.m.
    HOW MUCH: $40-$50

    The iconic rock group of the ’70s new wave and punk scene, fronted by Debbie Harry, is touring in support of its ninth studio album.

    WHAT: State Fair of Texas 2011
    WHERE: Fair Park
    WHEN: Begins Friday at 3 p.m.
    HOW MUCH: $40 for season pass

    Twenty-four days of art, entertainment and exhibitions kick off this weekend. Musical acts include Hanson and KC and the Sunshine Band.

    WHAT: 1st Saturday Tour Day
    WHERE: Independence Brewing Company
    WHEN: Saturday at 1 p.m.
    HOW MUCH: Free with valid ID

    Enjoy a free tour of the brewery and free beer samples the first Saturday of every month. Brewery pint glasses are available for $6.

    WHAT: The Dinner Detective
    WHERE: Marriott Austin Downtown
    WHEN: Saturday at 6 p.m.
    HOW MUCH: $59.95

    This interactive murder mystery dinner hides its actors among the audience, making everyone a suspect. Price of admission includes four-course meal, dinner show and the chance for prizes.

    WHAT: Brady Brunch
    WHERE: Third Base on Sixth Street
    WHEN: Sunday at 11 a.m.
    HOW MUCH: $20 for buffet and bottomless mimosas

    Featuring music from DJ Kurupt, this brunch includes games of life-size Jenga and giant versions of Twister and Connect Four.

  • Fantastic Fest 2011: Day 5 Recap

    Follow @AlexWilliamsDT for more of our continuing Fantastic Fest 2011 coverage.

    “Juan of the Dead”
    Alejando Brugues
    Genre: Zombie Comedy
    Grade: A-
    No additional screenings
    The first independent film to come out of Cuba in 50 years, “Juan of the Dead” is a relatively original take of the zombie comedy. The film has the Cuban government casting the zombies overrunning the country as dissidents from the United States and constantly assuring its citizens all is well. However, likeable rascal Juan (Alexis Diaz de Villegas) sees an opportunity to make money in the destruction and removal of the undead, so he and his friends team up to take advantage of the impending apocalypse.
    Written and directed by Alejandro Brugues, “Juan of the Dead” clearly isn’t operating on much of a budget, but the movie is so charming that it barely matters. While the CGI is more than a little spotty at times and there are a few shortcuts the film takes to cover up its financial shortcomings, it more than makes up for it with a funny, pointedly written script and a few large-scale scenes of zombie mayhem, including one of the best mass undead decapitations to ever grace the silver screen.
    The story of the film’s reception in Cuba is one still being written, as Cuban government officials have yet to see and approve the film. It’s entirely feasible that “Juan of the Dead” could be a film that becomes much more underground as time goes on, and that’s a shame, because the film is a heartfelt, funny and often just gorey enough zombie comedy, and isn’t overwhelmed by its low budget or subversive political undercurrent.
    “A Boy and His Samurai”
    Yoshihiro Nakamura
    Genre: Romantic Comedy
    Grade: A-
    No additional screenings
    Yoshihiro Nakamura directed one of the all-time greats of Fantastic Fest with “Fish Story” a few years back, and since then he’s returned with last year’s “Golden Slumber” and this year with “A Boy and His Samurai.” The film, easily the most wholesome to play the festival this year, is an understated romantic comedy, pairing Hiroko (Rie Tomosaka), a divorcee and single mother of Tomoya (Fuku Suzuki), with time-traveling samurai Yasubi (Ryo Nishikodo). The film makes Yasubi’s domestication a sweet and funny journey, as he learns to care for Tomoya and becomes a baking fiend.
    While “A Boy and His Samurai” ultimately boils down to a predictable formula in new clothes, the film is warm and inviting enough that by the time you realize it’s a romantic comedy, you’re already so charmed by the characters that its predictability is more or less irrelevant. Tomosaka and Nishikodo make a nice pair, but Fuku Suzuki’s performance as the young Tomoya more or less commands the audience’s emotion, with Suzuki able to break hearts and coax smiles simply by breaking into tears or reacting to one of Yasubi’s actions.
    “A Boy and His Samurai” won the Audience Award at last night’s Fantastic Fest award and for good reason. Yoshihiro Nakamura knows how to please the attendees of this festival, but he also knows how to make an emotional, sweet film that stands out proudly among the cinematic rapes, murders and home invasions that run so rampant at Fantastic Fest.