|South by Southwest 2007 (03.09.07 - 03.17.07, 37 movies)|
|03.09.07||Suffering Man's Charity||Alan Cumming||South by starts! I am losing my everpresent notebook this year in exchange for an extra free hand and less to carry around, so my notes are all mental. That means these entries will probably be drastically shorter, which is good too because I'm trying to fit as many movies in as possible so the less time I spend typing at 2:30 in the morning, the more time I spend sleeping.|
The fest started with this dark comedy by Alan Cumming, who was here as well as a few of the actors including Karen Black. Afterward for the Q&A Black hopped up on stage (kinda literally) and proceeded to entertain me more than she has in every movie I've ever seen her in (except the Zuni War Doll segment of Trilogy of Terror). When she noticed that her director chair didn't have that little bar of wood to perch your feet on, she tried to look comfortable with one heel stuck between the chair legs and the other draped over the arm, then she remarked how beautiful the theater was and said "painting!" whil pointing up at the ceiling. Hilarious.
Unfortunately, the movie suffers from weird pacing and lots of crying speeches from Cumming who plays a crazy person and some kinda stock indie techniques of weird video effects and "experimental" editing that I just didn't go for. There were moments of pretty nice dark comedy here but overall I'd strain to call it OK.
|03.09.07||The Lookout||Scott Frank||I forgot to mention before that I saw Shia LeBouf as I was walking to get my badge. He asked us where he could buy a cigarette and we pointed down the block. That's my celebrity story for the fest.|
Next up is Scott Frank's story of a kid who gets a head injury in a car accident and now has to write things down to remember them. It sounds a little like Memento but it's not really. Jeff Daniels plays a blind guy who lives with him to help him do the mental equivalent of physical therapy to try and put his life together. He's really the best part of the movie.
Unfortunately, there's this astmatic villain that befriends the main kid in order to get him to help rob a bank where he works as a night cleaner. Isla Fisher's also in it as a girl the main kid gets to sleep with. A bunch of people were here with it (including Fisher) but they didn't do a Q&A afterward so I didn't get to unabashedly stare at how hot she is.
The movie... I really wanted to like it. And like I said, whenever Jeff Daniels is on screen I did. But the script is so dan writerly... it's completely caught up in its own irony and meaning. I guess it's what a lot of hollywood execs and script doctors consider a perfect story but it's just so damn by the numbers. You know stuff comes back, things you learn in the first act pay off in the third, blah blah blah. It quickly becomes about following the mold, creating a few really bizarre moments that I giggled at. Plus I felt like the whole theater was taking crazy pills because everyone loved it and clapped for everything (seriously, the Spyglass entertainment logo got applause).
Again, I'd strain to call it OK. It's probably better than I give it credit for, but I was really hoping for the best and didn't really get it.
|03.09.07||Trailer Park Boys||Mike Clattenburg||I knew nothing about the Trailer Park Boys show or whatever before this. I walked in and it seemed like everyone in the theater was already a huge fan. The three main guys were there in character and were funny.|
The movie is hilarious! It really makes me want to track down the show and catch up on it. It's kind of a loose-format mockumentary about this group of guys in a Canadian trailer park that constantly get drunk, smoke dope, and pull off petty theft, often winding themselves up in prison. It sounds kinda eh but seriously, it was hilarious. I was really pleasantly surprised and had a great time with this movie. It kinda feels like I'm really late to the party but at least I'm here now. If only every midnight show is this good for the entire fest... I'll be very very happy.
half-day today. I'm aiming for six films tomorrow. here's hoping I make it to all of them and I remember what they were by the time i get back home to write them up.
|03.10.07||The King of Kong||Seth Gordon||SXSW Day Two. This is a really well-made and enjoyable doc about two guys: the dude who set the Donkey Kong high score in 1982 and the challenger trying to beat him. These guys are such great characters and represent such archetypal roles that the story plays out in like a video game nerd (nerd, not geek. these guys are losers for the most part) myhtological epic. OK maybe not THAT grandiose, but it's a really engaging story and you really get behind the main character. It's filled with great moments, great characters, and great drama. Really loved this one.|
|03.10.07||When a Man Falls in the Forest||Ryan Eslinger||Dylan Baker, Timothy Hutton, Sharon Stone, Pruit Taylor Vince. Shame this movie was so slow and meandering and weak. Is it me or does Stone only pick extremely unsympathetic roles lately? It's like the only job she can get is the bitter used up angry old hag. ugh.|
I thought this could be good, and there are maybe 2 or 3 moments, but for the most part I was pretty bored. Major problems with the story I think... but I'll waste valuable minutes of sleep getting into it so whatever.
|03.10.07||The Ten||David Wain||A comedy made up of ten shorts, one for each commandment. It's hilarious. not half-and-half funny and mediocre but hilarious. I loved it. There are like 50 funny people in it and they all have at least one moment to shine. Great stuff for any fan of The State or Stella or whatever.|
Wain was there with Ken Marino and Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill also watched the movie for some reason... He wasn't here but Liev Schreiber was pretty great in this.
Again, I could go on a lot more but I won't. I just really liked this a lot. thought it was really funny.
|03.10.07||All the Boys Love Mandy Lane||Jonathan Levine||Somehow this movie went from 0 to 118 on the hype-o-meter in like 2 days. That hurt it because, while it was kinda decent I guess as a slasher flick, I wasn't really feelin it. I didn't buy the premise or the execution or the ending. Really, the first scene was the best for me and I walked out thinking it was barely OK. Definitely going for that "scary texas" vibe with the gold filters and heat waves and rusty windmill crap. One of the kids spoke exactly like McConaughy... I was glad when he died in a sounds-better-on-paper way.|
Filled with eh.
|03.10.07||Everything's Gone Green||Paul Fox||The kid from Joey and Road Trip stars in this angsty/quirky story of a guy who realizes everyone around him is running a scam and decides to do it but a hot girl calls him corrupted so he stops. Of course it's filled with much more angst and quirk thanks to the script by Douglas Coupland. This was yet another movie that I was REALLY ready to like and came away with a distinctly mediocre feeling. I feel like I should make a macro for "there were moments I liked but..." because I'm saying it so much. It's true here too though.|
Director, Star, and writer were here for a Q&A, highlighted by someone asking about Road Trip 2 rumors followed by Coupland asking what Road Trip 1 was... like 4 times until Paulo Costanzo finally said stuff like "It's not 'Road Trip 1,' it's just Road Trip!" and "OK, imagine there was a movie called Road Trip. What do you think that movie's about?" Coupland came off as suitably quirky and removed from reality (although Kier-La might be happy to hear that he described the Alamo as a Partridge Family theater (maybe due to the tables in each row?)). They were all very Canadian, which fits since the movie's set in Vancouver. Yeah, they said the crew loved every day of work because it was actually supposed to be Vancouver.
So... eh. I liked it more than not liked it, but I wish it could've been like 15% better to jump it into the realm of I Heart Huckabees or the other what-am-i-doing-with-my-life dramas that border on the whimsy.
|03.10.07||Kenny||Clayton Jacobson||An Australian mockumentary about a guy who works on port-a-johns for a living.|
So the main point of interest (and also the main problem) with this movie is that it sticks to the rules of documentary very closely, yet it doesn't play as outrageous like... every other mockumentary ever. In the Q&A, the director said that's the only genre where the performers wink to the camera and you don't see that in straight dramas, then Micah said "i guess that's where the "mock" comes from." However, it seemed like a lot of people in the theater weren't aware of its fictional nature and cheered along with Kenny as if he were real. Good for them but I bet they felt cheated when it was over.
Not that I didn't like the movie... I thought it was a pretty poignant and funny little drama... it just should've been shot like a normal drama I think. The use of the mockumentary form is kinda interesting but I think it hurts the film overall because the audince is very much used to Christopher Guest-style stuff. This would've worked just as well with a little more money to hide the radio mics and some silent character in the passenger seat to listen to Kenny's monologues.
Totally not a midnight movie by the way.
|03.11.07||Eagle vs Shark||Taika Cohen||SXSW Day Three.|
Daylight Savings suck.
I only saw three movies today because I attended three panels in the morning. In brief:
Grindhouse 101, starring Robert Rodriquez who got there late and immediately confessed that he didn't know anything about grindhouse movies ("that's Quentin's thing") before introducing Harry Knowles ("This guy found a movie seat he liked so much he put some wheels on it and takes it everywhere") to co-moderate and talk about the subject (AKA random childhood anecdotes about his parents letting him watched messed up movies). At one point it sounded like RR was about to bring Tim League up (which could make sense because he actually knows quite about about grindhouse cinema) but Harry interjected with more random anecdotes. For the record, the movie where the guy drops a ball bearing on his shoe then kicked it to kill people by hitting them in the forehead is Adios Sabata, the movie where the scientists explains the difference between black sperm and white sperm is Girl on a Chain Gang, and the classic grindhouse double feature trailer where the guy coming out of the theater says "e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e" is BLood Spattered Bride and I Dismember Mama, not Night of the Bloody Apes. Eventually, they showed a 2-minute clip from Planet Terror (which admittedly looked really fun), a couple of classic exploitation trailers (Green Slime, Boss Nigger, They Call Her One-Eye, The Crippled Master), then the top three fake grindhouse trailers submitted for the contest (Hobo with a Shotgun, Maiden of Death,... one other one), and Eli Roth's fake grindhouse trailer (Thanksgiving) that was pretty great. That was about it.
Next was a case study for The Ten and Diggers, with David Wain, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, and various producer and directors. Not a lot of people there considering how packed screenings of both movies were but they were really funny. One guy asked if they wrote their scripts with contingencies for natural disasters in mind. There was lots of Friends joking before Rudd noted that Wet Hot American SUmmer is what got him Anchorman so has really defined his current funny-man statues. I had an urge to raise my hand and tell them that Chris Meloni was hilarious in that movie but then it occured to me that that wasn't a question and it always sounds idiotic when you chime in with some lame praise so I didn't do that. You hear that fellow festival-goers? I didn't do it! Think twice before doing it yourselves. Please.
Finally there was a panel on the current state of horror films and their possible future. Critic and nice guy Scott Weinberg, Behind the Mask director Scott Glosserman, a couple people from Borderland, Rider Strong, Zack Carlson (of the Alamo) and moderator Harry Knowles were all up there. I'm not saying anything bad about Harry's moderator skills because I want to get into next year's BNAT but... I really didn't think the moderator's job was to answer every question and cut off the panelists. Huh. But when he wasn't expounding or sayign Curse of the Demon was his favorite horror film, he did a good job of steering the conversation and getting everyone to talk. The things said though were pretty much what every horror fan already knows so...
Eagle vs Shark has incessantly been described as a New Zealand version of Napoleon Dynamite, so much so that I was anxious to see this movie just to say that it was more than that. It wasn't. The first part of the movie is really enjoyable though, meeting the characters and getting introduced to the quirky world and whatnot, but the second half seemd to drag for me. That festival exhaustion kicked in... it's really a better feedback than any test audience or scholarly criticism or whatever. I am now at the point where I've seen enough movies that my primal base brain will switch off if it's not good enough to keep me enthralled. So yeah, I didn't not like it but it pretty much IS just a kiwi version of ND
|03.11.07||1 More Hit||Shauna Garr||A doc about J-Swift from the hiphop group Pharcyde and his struggle to make a comeback with his music and kick his crack habit.|
I'm a little conflicted because I think a lot of the power of the film comes from the director being personal friends with John, but on the other hand I felt there was too much of her in this. Especially the beginning when she's like "let me tell you a bit about me" before talking at all about Swift. That could be a relatively easy fix - just putting that little section a bit further into the movie - but what do I know... I'm not even spellchecking this.
After seeing the incredible TV Junkie last year, this seemed to fill the same spot with somewhat less effect. It's a shame I'm so jaded or whatever because some people in the audience were really impacted by this and loved it. I thought it was a solid OK. I'll give it this, though. I never once got heavy eyelids.
Incidentally the director is ridiculosly hot. Kind of a Pam Grier thing going... wowza.
|03.11.07||The Signal||David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry||The midnight show was the hotly anticipated The Signal. Everyone who saw it at Sundance raved. For good reason too. This movie is great.|
Basically, the televisions, phones, and radios all stop working, broadcasting this jumbled noise that if you watch or listen to it makes you go crazy and kill people. Sounds a lot like Stephen King's Cell, huh. The movie's split into three sections (each given different directing credit) which sort of represent different stories but really they all interlap so it's more like different chapters told from different characters' POV.
So it's really unfortunate that Cell's gonna be a movie because I bet history regards this film as the Cell knock-off (even though they had finished shooting before the book came out), especially sad since I feel this movie develops better than Cell does.
This is the first movie in a very long time belonging to a very short list where I felt the whole going-insane thing was really effective. I think it's one of the hardest things to convey in film and really only a handfull of films do it really well and this is one of them. That's major in my book.
So... the only very minor problems I have with this movie are in the third story. The second story is a lot more dark comedy, which I think would work perfectly if the third story was as different to the previous as the second had been to the first, but instead the third story returns to the tone of the first which makes the second stand out all the more. I think it would've been a GREAT move to make the third segment really disjointed and abstract, closer to an art film than a zombie or horror. THat way, the progression of style throughout the movie would symbolize or mirror how you might react to the end of the world: first terror, then an ironic sense of humor, then finally insanity. I think in some subtle ways that can be read into it now but they had a chance to make it more overt.
That's it though. I really liked this movie. A lot more should be written about it... but my bed calls me with sweet soothing sighs.
|03.12.07||Running with Arnold||Dan Cox||Day Three? no, four... whatever. Started off with this doc about Arnold and how evil he is. It was ok. yeah, barely ok. The thing that surprised me most about it was the Q&A afterward where pretty much everyone criticized the director and producer in attendance for not making a balanced film. I even heard people behind me talking about Michael Moore's work and how great it is but they still found a major fault in this movie being one-sided. I don't get that at all. But what made it worse was that the filmmakers said they thought it was pretty fair. I don't believe they should be ashamed for making a one-sided doc but... come on... don't call it balanced when you're showing tabloid-worthy unflattering photographs and using audio from The Terminator where Beihn describes a world run by a machine set to images of Arnold shaking hands and smiling behind podiums.|
|03.12.07||Skills Like This||Monty Miranda||The poster and trailer put this on my schedule. Basically, a guy that's a really bad writer finally finds an area that he has natural talent in: stealing.|
It's shot incredibly well. Really looks great. I think most of the supporting actors did a good job. I really like the idea, I laughed at a lot of the places where I was supposed to laugh, but found problems with some of the tonal shifts and plot development. At first the theft is treated with humorous lightness and casual...ness. But really quickly it gets super serious about it, like he's now a kleptomania... and it really isn't helped by the main guy's performance. I guess since he wrote it he's kind of built into the project but... sorry to say I think the movie would've worked more with a better lead actor.
So I liked it in the beginning, but by the end had dragged down to just OK status for me. Like pretty much every mediocre movie I've seen in the last couple days, there are definitely moments in here that are great... it just doesn't hold together for the entire movie.
|03.12.07||Cat Dancers||Harris Fishman||A doc about this guy... ok, he was a ballet dancer then he and his woman started working with big cats as like a Sigfried and Roy of everywhere other than Vegas. Then they took on this other guy and both the second guy and the woman were killed by one of their tigers. So the still-alive guy - who's quite a character in his own right - recounts his life story set to fuzzy out-of-focus 16 and video footage.|
I must say I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Even though the guy wore these really... awful wigs the whole time and they never addressed it, his story was pretty enthralling. It was pretty slow though and a lot of the questions afterward were things that the movie kinda should've answered for us, but oh well. it wasn't bad.
|03.12.07||Knocked Up||Judd Apatow||There was nothing really up against this and I was curious to see what they cut to get down to 126 minutes and I also just wanted to see it again. It was just as funny. They changed a few things but I don't remember anything big missing... I guess either the BNAT cut wasn't as long as it seemed or they tightened the whole thing rather than dumping something. I can't remember.|
funny funny movie. Yes, it's like a boy's Nine Months but whatever. Freakin funny.
|03.12.07||Flakes||Michael Lehmann||From the director of Heathers and the writer of Over The Hedge, this is about a guy who works in a cereal bar (he has all these brands of cereal (both current and vintage) on the wall and people come in and order like ice cream, where they mix and match recipes to create interesting flavors of cereal). Aaron Standord and Zooey Deschanel star. Unfortunately, the plot is directly lifted from the War of the Roses mold, just transposed to the world of cereal restaraunts instead. Lots of pre-Katrina French Quarter atmosphere but i never like these movies where a couple spends the whole time fighting.|
And this may just be my male perspective at work here, but Dechanel's character seemed like a total bitch to me. For no reason, she pushes her boyfriend to hire her at the cereal shop (which never works anyway), then when he definitively says no she gets mad and takes a job at a rival store across the street and proceeds to make it cool enough to take all the business away. So she basically closes down this awesome cereal shop just for not getting her way. Then she dumps him for not expressing his art through music, but when he spends his nest egg to buy her a present she takes him back. gee, thanks, bitch.
so - sigh - once again, this movie had moments but was otherwise mediocre.
I'm skipping out on the midnight slot tonight because nothing that I want to see works out, so that means an extra couple hours sleep hooray!
|03.13.07||Doubletime||Stephanie Johnes||Day Five had the best intentions but ended up being a half day.|
First up was this doc about competitive jump roping... and double dutching. It follows around two teams (one more affluent and white team from Chapel Hill and one more financially challeneged black team from Columbia, SC) as they both prepare for their first performance at the legendary Apollo theater. The rich white kids kick ass in jump rope competitions (single rope) but can't dance and don't really know much about double dutch (two ropes, more of a team effort). The black kids are great at double dutch but.... well, yeah they start off good.
So the doc follows as both of them prepare and eventually compete in this Apollo show. It's very much in the vein of Spellbound and the crowssword doc and that kind of thing... but it's also really really good. Micah made the point afterward that this is one of the few movies he's seen at the fest that he can picture playing in a "real" theater with a wide release. I concur. It's shot very well (lots of use of the fast shutter speed to accentuate the quick movement and flying ropes), amazing editing (that didn't sink in until I thought about the movie afterward, realizing how much information has to get conveyed and how many characters have to be represented in this really large and somewhat complicated story, yet the movie never seems to drag in exposition or get lost in its own explanation. Plus each character gets his or her own little moment in the film, which is a feat considering there's like 8 of them), great story, and the skill and athleticism on display is really amazing.
The greatest moment for me was after both of the advanced teas performed when the judge said "wait a minute, we're not done..." and these crazy Japanese teams came out and destroyed. Since none of them won I have to assume that the winning team was even more bedazzling and it just wasn't shown, but in watching the doc the Japanese felt like what it must have been like to be at the Savoy ballroom on the night that Frankie Manning came in and did the first aerial move in a house packed full of Lindy Hoppers. These kids were CRAZY. Infusing martial arts moves into their jumping and fetishistic obssession with weirdly-translated Western hip-hop culture, these guys were clearly on another level. Asian Fury on display. There were some great reaction shots of our kids staring slack-jawed...
So... I loved this one. it's really great.
|03.13.07||Helvetica||Gary Hustwit||So... probably my biggest surprise of the entire festival was the line for this movie. I really really really didn't think anyone would be interested in a feature-length documentary about a font. Boy was I wrong though... the line stretched the entire length of the convention center and the 400-seat auditorium filled up (what it was is that the movie was a combined event with the Interactive conference so all those designer and blogger nerds got to go to this as well).|
The movie, in addition to telling the history of the font, is also kind of a travelogue through modernist and post-modernist design. They go plenty of places and interview respective top designers, telling a bit of their biography as well as their thoughts on Helvetica. The movie's also sprinkled with maybe hundreds of shots of Helvetica used around the world, showing up pretty much everywhere. This made for what will probably be a long-running funny joke for just myself (since I don't think anyone else I know will see this), of pointing out any text in public and saying "helvetica" (even if it's not actually correct). I even found myself doing it in the next movie whenever any sort of text was photographed. So in that respect, this movie will live on a long while for me.
Um... It's good! It's not as good as I hoped it would be (I figured if someone had the balls to make a whole movie on a font, it would have to be absolutely genius), but it overshot my realistic expectations by a long shot. They didn't dwell on the one thing I knew about Helvetica though, which is the angst designers feel against Arial for being a cheap knock-off that Microsoft used so they didn't have to pay for the real thing.
It's interesting though that the designers interviewed for this film had a wide range of feelings about the font. Some loved it, some hated it, some respected it but found it too boring, some blamed it for the Iraq war, some were obssessed with it for a while but have now moved on. One guy even described what it must have been like in the 60s for all these companies to drop their antiquated ad aestethetic (filled with comic fonts and tacky clip ark) for the ultra-clean modern look of Helvetica. The guy went on a whole rant about it filled with colorful descriptions and riled himself all up by the end of it. It's always cool and funny to see someone get so passionate about something that a lot of people... actually most people... care absolutely nothing about.
And the poster's clever to. It says "meet the cast:" then lists the alphabet in Helvetica. I joked in line about seeing the D at the convention center handing out flyers earlier in the day, and how they had tried to get the whole cast but X was being a prima donna and P had gotten totally wasted at the OK Go show last night... but in the movie they played a clip from Sesame Street where the letter D was puppet-ized and I thought that was funny. I WISH I saw a D walking around outside the theater. There's a total lack of costumed button-hander-outers this year. No Skip from Darkon, No Leslie Vernon handing out sticky hearts, no hot roller derby girls badgering you into taking a postcard. It's a shame.
|03.13.07||The Whole Shootin' Match||Eagle Pennell||This is what's considered the first in the current wave of independant movies. Apparently it's the movie that inspired Redford to do Sundance and blah blah blah. It was all but lost until Mark Rance and Louis Black started looking for a decent print and eventually completely restored it for a DVD release... so people will be able to see it again.|
It's about two slacker-types who do stuff.
So it started really late because Louis Black had to introduce it, then they played Pennell's short A Hell of a Tune before it which was like 40 minutes long so the movie got out super late, making me miss my next movie. Since it was pouring down rain and I was looking at 2 hours of waiting in line out in it to see the only other movie I wanted to see tonight, I went home super early.
Anyway, maybe it's the festival fatigue talking but I found the movie to be pretty slow and boring. At one point, the boring-ness had sort of rounded the bend and I found myself interested for some reason... then I got bored again. Like, for a time my boredom had lapped itself and was having a little fun staring at each other until it broke away leaving itself in the dust.
I think seeing it again in fresh circumstances, and also going in expecting the tone and pacing, would yeild much better results. Today though, I wasn't into it.
|03.14.07||The Chances of the World Changing||Eric Daniel Metzgar||Day six. I saw this because it's about a guy who started collecting turtles in a conservation effort and wound up with something crazy like 12,000 turtles in his Manhattan loft. I kind of approached it in a new-yorkers-are-crazy type of way but the movie's really more about this turtle conservation cause that's shared by others as well. Actually most of the movie takes place in New Jersey.|
so... it was ok. After all these movies... I really can't remember anything. I had a hard time even remembering what I saw first this morning, then even more trouble thinking of the title instead of "that turtle movie." Anyway, yeah... I gues sit was interesting. Yeah, it was. I'd call it good I think. No reason to call it bad. That I can remember.
|03.14.07||Big Rig||Doug Pray||Doug Pray's trucker doc. I'm a pretty big fan of Pray's work, so perhaps I am biased, but I liked this one quite a bit. It's got some great hybrid redneck/hip hop trucker songs and it's edited and photographed really well. This movie is kind of like if you went out to a truck stop and hitched a ride across the country. You meet these drivers, hear what's on their mind, see the scenery, then leave them and meet someone new. It's actually maybe surprisingly not funny. There's no highway hijinx or crazy drivers doing meth off the dashboard or anything... instead you get glimpses into real peoples' lives. Done quite well.|
|03.14.07||Truth in Terms of Beauty||Vince DiPersio||A Doc about photographer Herman Leonard, who took some great pictures of Jazz people and plenty of shots of really hot mostly naked women. it was good but I have nothing to say about it.|
|03.14.07||The Lather Effect||Sarah Kelly||At first I thought this might end up being charming. A group of friends have just thrown an 80s-style party and wake up the next day nostalgic for their high school past. Ione Skye and Eric Stolz is in it and the first time you see Peter Facinelli he's dressed in a pink shirt and sunglasses like Tom Cruise in Risky Business.|
But then they start talking.
it's horrible. And there's this one actress that's incredibly hot and I love that her character is a nympho because I get to think about her naked but every time she "acts" it hurt my brain. Sorry. I wanted to like it, I really did. But the writing is just too bad and therefore the performances were pretty weak as well.
|03.14.07||Reign Over Me||Mike Binder||A dentist sees his old college roomate on the streets of NYC and gradually re-befriends him again to find out that he's been shattered by grief after his wife and kids (and dog) were killed on 9/11. Don Cheadle plays the dentist and Adam Sandler plays the crazy person. The performances are good. I feel like the movie's on the verge of being good but it never quite gets there all the way. I actually think I'd like it more if it wasn't attached to 9/11. I guess the point is that it takes people a long time to get over their grief and the news cycle of today is much shorter than that, but wouldn't that point be made even more effectively if they just died and it wasn't part of some huge national tragedy? I dunno... whatever. Ultimately, I liked all the lighter friendly scenes between the two guys but the emotional stuff stretched my enjoyment factor. Maybe I'm just a cold-hearted son of a bitch, who knows.|
So, Binder, Cheadle, and Sandler were here for a Q&A. I think the most enjoyable aspect of the screening was this woman sitting a few rows up from me. She was waaaaay into it, laughing too hard for too long at too little, emoting in little sounds like "woooo!" or "eeeee" and kinda almost talking to the screen several times during the movie. When the lights went up she raced to the front row and had her hand up immediately, butDentler kept looking further back in the theater for questions until Cheadle actually said to her "you're next" and Binder flagged Dentler's attention to point her out. Finally, she started talking and gushing all over Sandler which he gave small polite replies to until someone behind me finally yelled out "Don, you're good too" and the whole theater clapped. Then she continued with a question that "that guy," asking Cheadle if he weas on Saturday Night Live. He answered "no, that was Tim Meadows" and the entire theater laughed. Crazy.
Unfortunately, it started late and went long so we didn't get out until after midnight which means I won't get to see Black Sheep. Oh well.
|03.15.07||638 Ways to Kill Castro||Dollan Cannell||SXSW Day 7 started with some sleeping in. Screw the Kurt Cobain doc. It also started with a rather annoying reminder that I need to go to the eye doctor. I put in new contact lenses to find that my right eye was out of focus. Not as much as if I didn't put it in, but enough to notice. It seemed to get better in darkened theaters once my pupils dilated but driving and walking around got old pretty quick. oh well.|
This British TV doc is about the many zany ways the kooky CIA tried to kill The Beard. It's about as good as you'd expect from a British TV doc with an interesting subject. Not high art but not really boring either.
|03.15.07||Great World of Sound||Craig Zobel||This was produced by the Homestar Runner guys (Matt Chapman also has a small role) and directed by their childhood friend. It's about the world of "song sharking" which is basically getting fame-hungry musicians to pay you to sign them to a label then running off with their money. It's a lot like Boiler Room or The Prime Gig but with music instead.|
So since the story was so familiar, the only things that kept the movie interesting for me were the music and the actors playing the main roles. The director said they set up motel room facades with a two-way mirror and shot some of the audition scenes semi-candid camera style. So most of the musicians playing music were actual musicians and therefore there's a lot of interesting music there. Also, the audition scenes never really dipped into the joke of crazy people thinking they're good... it was more about the developing salesman skills of the two leads, who did a pretty good job.
Overall I'd say I liked it OK. I didn't really love it but you could do a lot worse with a very low budget indie movie.
|03.15.07||Monkey Warfare||Reginald Harkema||Horrible and meaningless movie about some people who scavenge junk and talk about how much the world sucks. There's a whole activist/terrorist angle that I don't feel like getting into. the funniest part of the movie is at the very end when some guy explains how to make a molotov cocktail but then throws it and the bottle doesn't break.|
This movie lost me when it started putting text on the screen following along with songs that were playing. And it has a really abrupt meaningless ending. Didn't like this one at all.
|03.15.07||Fido||Andrew Currie||This was a very funny movie that plays with the zombie convention by putting them in a Pleasantville-type Lassie-era Douglas Sirk melodrama setting. Zombies are controlled by a leash around their neck which stops their urge to eat human flesh and are used for slave-like labor. The main family gets one and the kid befriends him as a pet.|
BIlly Connolly, Dylan Baker, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Tim Blake Nelson all do great jobs.
I need to get to bed but this one was lots of fun.
|03.16.07||Fish Kill Flea||Brian Cassidy||Glorious SXSW day next-to-last (AKA 8). Since it looks like I'm only seeing two movies tomorrow, I thought I'd suck it up and wake up early for one last full day of movies.|
First up was this 47-minute doc on a flea market in Fishkill, NY. You might think it's a great idea and an opportunity to profile the quirky people that work and frequent flea markets - i do - but this doc never gets too deep. It's actually more like if you just took a single trip to one. You meet these people for a little bit then move on, flirt with buying some worthless piece of crap, then leave when it starts to look too depressing. There's a sort-of arc about the market closing and them moving somewhere else or not but it's all very distant and meandering. The movie ends and that's about it. As a student project it's ok. A real movie it's not.
|03.16.07||Quiet City||Aaron Katz||About halfway through this movie I thought to myself "man, this is like a slightly less-crappy version of Dance Party USA." Well, now that i'm home and can check imdb, I can see why. I was gonna say this movie was just barely mediocre but, knowing it's from the guy who did Dance Party (the worst movie I saw at last year's fest), I'd say it's a really remarkable improvement. it still feels like you're watching actors doing really bad improv and trying to pass it off as naturalism, but this time around at least there's no crappy monologues and at least a hint of a story. But not really. It's more like low-rent Linklater meets a Lost in Translation fan. The lead actress was there and she's cute so it wasn't all bad though.|
|03.16.07||Itty Bitty Titty Committee||Jamie Babbit||This however was like watching a better version of Monkey Warfare. I like how this movie is a lesbian story populated with lesbians but it's not about lesbianism. I guess most gay cinema is at that level now and I just don't know because I'm stuck in my hetero world but whatever... the blonde girl in this is really hot, lesbian or no. Makes me want to drink Diet Coke.|
anyway, a nice lesbian gets seduced into the world of feminist radicalism and a group that calls themselves Clits in Action with an awesome logo: C(|)A. It (gasp!) actually has a decent script and even with the transgendered in the cast there's no blatantly horrid acting. I had fun with it... good movie.
|03.16.07||The Unforeseen||Laura Dunn||This is a doc about Austin's Barton Springs and its history with battle between land developers townsfolk that don't necessarily want economic growth if it comes at great cost to the environment. Terence Malick and Robert Redford exec. produce and Redford appears in an interview saying he learned to swim in the springs.|
This is a very good doc. Not because it's about Austin but because it generalizes to the point where Austin's used more as an example of similar things happening everywhere. Inside this example though, there's some great interviews on both sides of the fence (including some irony-drenched footage of one guy talking while working on a model jet fighter, painting bombs and whatnot), plenty of slick motion graphics and animation to explain the history and the points, and some sad music that threatened to put me to sleep even though I was really enjoying the movie.
as an aside, I noticed Kyle Cooper's name credited to the beginning and ending animations. The Alamo's bringing him to town and I'm now very excited to go and hopefully hear him talk about his work (he did the beginning titles for films like Seven and Dawn of the Dead (remake)).
Anyway, yeah this is a good movie. Of course, with a packed Austin crowd, the feedback was vocal and plentiful. Lots of boos and hisses whenever the land developers or Dubya appeared, lots of cheers for Ann Richards. A lot of the people who worked on the movie were there so it felt like a home screening. Good experience.
|03.16.07||Audience of One||Mike Jacobs||This was flat-out amazing. I was amazed. I'm still amazed!|
It's about this pastor who claims to have received a message from God that he must make a Biblical sci-fi epic movie and this documents that process.
There's a mockumentary made several years ago called ...And God Spoke where a team of filmmakers try to make a movie out of The Bible to horrendous result that I've always had a soft spot for, but this is like that but funnier and also real which makes it sad and a little scary all at the same time.
I feel like there's too much great stuff to mention here, but I will say that the ending blew me away. Just when you think maybe he comes to his senses a bit... nope. He pulls it out. I couldn't stop laughing as he unveiled his 8 arrows, each more fantastic than the last. Unbelievable.
I'd heard that the director and the pastor were here for earlier screenings. I'm sorry to say I didn't get to see him and hear him field some questions, but the silver lining is that the editor was still there and, without either of those guys to monopolize the answers and perhaps spin them toward a polite or vague answer, this dude spilled the dirt. "I'm the editor so I get to say what I thought," he told us as he began to let us know just how real this guy is, how infamous his group is in San Francisco, how much time the director had to spend embedded in the church to get the access he got, and how crazy and scary the whole group is, especially as an example of faith-based reasoning. He said he told the director at one point "I don't know if you realize this, but you're making an Iraq war film," showing that these guys jumped into stuff they no nothing about with no regard for fact or history but firm in the belief that God's behind them.
So the Q&A was enlightening and entertaining, putting a great cap on an amazing film. When we got to the drafthouse afterward both me and Jarrette couldn't stop telling people how great this was.
|03.16.07||The Devil Dared Me To||Chris Stapp||So this was exec. produced by Anthony Timpson who's a great friend to the Alamo. I've met him once and he's a really nice guy. The movie's about a rivalry between stuntmen in New Zealand. It's filled with outrageous stunts and gore and it's generally the type of movie you're supposed to get pretty drunk before watching. In his intro, Tim League hopped on stage and led the theater in shotgunning a free round of Lone Stars passed out in the audience. It was a pretty full house and seemed populated with the ideal crowd. Everyone had a lot of fun with it.|
Personally... well, I laughed a few times. I liked how much fun everyone seemed to be having. I certainly didn't hate it or anything like that... but it did get pretty goofy in parts. The Q&A was funny though, with the two main guys pointing to the questions hurriedly saying "come on, assholes. next question! you! the guy just sitting there!" So it was a fun end to the night.
|03.17.07||Monterey Pop||D. A. Pennebaker||Last night I had this flash of motivation and planned out a full 6 movies to see today. That didn't happen. Instead, I braved the horrendous parking to come downtown for two movies and then it's quits.|
First was this classic seminal rock doc about what's maybe the first music festival and certainly the first music festival doc. I'd never seen it all the way through before so I figured if I'm ever going to see it I should see it here at the Paramount sitting down front, especially since I'd heard it was a new print.
I'm really glad I did. By this point i'm pretty much exhausted and burned out on watching movies all day, so the music in this film tapped directly into my subconcious. It was really great. Especially Joplin's performance here. unbelievable. I'm really happy I saw this.
|03.17.07||I'm A Cyborg but That's OK||Chan-wook Park||The closing night film was Chan-wook Park's latest. It's about a girl who thinks she's a cyborg so they put her in a loony bin where she wont eat food.|
I gotta say... this did nothing for me. I thought it was very pretty, had a cool opening credits sequence, and some funny little things going on in the background during some of it but for the most part it never really came together for me. It didn't seem like it was anything. There was no story. Watching this made me realize how good The Science of Sleep is because this is what that could've been. A very pretty mess.
so that's it! it's over! whew. I have to say, with previous festivals there's always been a note of sadness at the end, but not this time. I'm ready for everyone to leave town and for things to go back to normal.