|South by Southwest 2006 (03.10.06 - 03.18.06, 34 movies)|
|03.10.06||Thank You for Smoking||Jason Reitman||SXSW 2006 starts. I think, looking at the 9-day schedule stretching out before me, that my SXSW write-up will be nowhere near as in-depth as BNAT or AFF or FantasticFest... in fact it probably won't even be as in-depth as my noraml stuff... Deal.|
This was really good. smart and funny. I loved how Aaron Eckhart doesn't change though... if Nic Cage played that part he would've grown a heart when he spent time with his kid and changed careers at the end because he was a better person or whatever. Instead, we get an actually good movie.
|03.10.06||This Film Is Not Yet Rated||Kirby Dick||a great doc about the MPAA and their shady practices. I mean really great. It really exposes the agency's hipocrisy and hidden agenda. There's an absolutely great turn towards the end of the film that had me rolling. It also did a great job of intercutting between two mini-movies: a talking-head history of censorship in movies and case studies of the MPAA's biased ratings, and a direct cinema piece as hired private investigators track down just who exactly the people that rate these movies are. Perhaps most revelatory, the film also uncovers the people who judge each film's appeal... Very surprising... I remember my first real film history course and the professor talking about the old days of the studio system and their vertical monopoly, controlling the product, distribution, and exhibition of film... and of course how it famously got split up... and how false that fact now rings after seeing this doc. I really hope this movie somehow ignites change in the rating process; it does a really fantastic job of showing why it needs it.|
|03.11.06||Darkon||Luke Meyer, Andrew Neel||My second day of SXSW started with me turning off my alarm and sleeping through the first panel on finding funding. It looked good on paper but the 8:30am/3-hours-of-sleep version of my brain came up with some pretty persuasive arguments. Instead I woke up at 10:30 and made it down for the next panel: DVD vs. theater. I felt that Alamo Tim was pretty alone up there on the panel... He was the only exhibitor up there not distributing DVDs or vertically integrated with a company pushing day & date multi-platform releases. Instead of what I thought the whole conversation was going to be about, everybody but Tim just took the downfall of good movie theater experiences as a given. Of course, all the Alamo fans in the room (and believe me we were there, Tim elicited applause several times in the hour, the only panelist to do so) took some umbrage with that and the simplified stance that movie theaters can't be any better than they are now that almost everyone up there seemed to share. That said, I finally got to hear John Sloss talk... I'd always heard about what a good guy he is and how his involvement with IFC and a few people really makes him awesome. He seemed very competant and very lawyerly... The whole panel was a bit subdued though... the moderator was pretty much silent and everyone didn't really want to step on anyone's toes... Except Tim who took the opportunity to give the Landmark dude a few licks and bring up the anit-trust suit of 1949 (heh heh heh, and he hadn't even seen This Film Is Not Yet Rated... yet) so... eh. But lucky for me Aaron had been through the Finding Funding panel and filled me in on what I missed as well as giving me tons of great info for how to get work on my doc started in an official capacity. Thanks Aaron!|
Next up I went over to the "Shooting Docs" panel where a group of interesting documentarians (including Kirby Dick and Chris Hegedus) talked about a wide range of documentary filmmaking in general. I was eating it up, until the moderator (also a producer) had to leave and it turned into a q&a free-for-all with person after person asking about fair use and securing clearances over and over again. Finally one of the guys said there was a whole panel devoted to it later in the conference and they handed out post cards for it. Still though, I got tons of good info and advice from it, including Kirby Dick saying that if I have an idea and the means, just start shooting now. Start shooting and editing and even if what I shoot now never comes close to making it in the final film, I'll bet started and i'll also have something tangible to show people who can give me funding. Good advice and a nice kick in the pants for me, I'd say. I better get on it! Plus I heard that Hegedus shoots all alone now... sound and picture, so it gives me a little more confidence in not needing a skilled crew right away.
But this is a movie journal right? not a "how was my day" journal.
Darkon is a doc about a group of people in Baltimore that go out every other weekend and pretend they're in medeival times. They make the costumes, take on what they believe might be the way they could've spoken maybe, and carry on the role playing in live action form, complete with beating the crap out of each other with padded weapons.
Now, I freely admit to having a sordid past spotted with a fairly lengthy Dungeons & Dragons phase... but I'll tell you what I never went live action. I think there's some instinct in every human that draws a line telling you what's just plain too geeky. I had no problem hanging out in a basement every weekend rolling dice and mentally picturing a half-elvish version of myself robbing from the fighter's guild and killing orcs in some forest, but for me personally the rennaisance faire was the line. I don't dig on axe-throwing contests or bands with mandolins and lutes no matter how many girls i knew from school were there dressed as wenches. So when some of my goth friends started playing Vampire live-action, I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I mean sure, it's cool that they... "express their interests" so freely but it just didn't do it for me.
So this movie captures the feeling that I had when I saw my friends walking around town wearing mirror sunglasses at night and resorting to paper/rock/sissors after one guy engaged another. It's fun to laugh at them for a bit, but then it becomes interesting... and then all of a sudden it's sad. The movie does it's best to explain the draw of living the fantasy life a few days at a time but constantly reminds us that the huge castle that one army is sieging is actually just some plywood planks nailed together and painted white. It's real to them because all they need are the symbols to ignite their imagination, but the audience sees what's really there.
So it's pretty easy to laugh at these guys... constantly. Whenever someone does anything anachronistic while wearing his period costume got laughs, people laughed whenever someone'd wear their sunglasses along with their dark elf make-up, and the degree to which these guys take that stuff seriously is pretty humorous... I think the movie is good though because it never feels like a Daily Show segment. The directors like their subjects and laugh with them not at them. I just hope most audiences see the difference.
|03.11.06||TV Junkie||Michael Cain, Matt Radecki||Next I headed over to South Lamar to catch TV junkie: a doc compiled from roughly 3,000 hours of footage. This dude has a lifelong habit of constantly videotaping himself and his life. Apparently he fills the tapes with footage and never watches them... so then filmmakers came along and went through it and constructed the story of his life told through footage that he shot. The dude's not dead, but his life does follow that familiar movie arc of having success, losing it all because of drug addiction, hitting bottom, and getting back on his feet with some sort of resolution. The difference with TV Junkie, and the reason why this film is absolutely riveting and unbelievably great, is that the footage itself tells the story with a level of honesty and emotion that I've never really seen before. I mean sure... I had a few memories of Grizzly Man go through my head, along with this documentary I saw on HBO where a struggling filmmaker ultimately kills himself and videotapes himself doing it (not shown in the doc of course), but for the most part I'm just sitting back watching this story that every biopic tries to tell done better than any biopic can ever achieve.|
Unfortunately, I was in such a haste to make it next door to catch the midnight shorts program that I missed out on the Q&A, where apparently the subject of the film had watched it with us along with his wife. I guess it was her first time seeing the film with an audience so it was a pretty unique and essential Q&A that I'm already sad I missed... but oh well, at least I got to see the movie.
Speaking of the shorts, they were OK. The best one was directed by Bob Odenkirk and was the best one due in large part to Zack Galifinakis. There were lots of the directors there... and almost no questions for them.
|03.12.06||Friends with Money||Nicole Holofcener||My third day at SXSW. I skipped the "state of american docs" panel (suspected answer: they're popular) so I wouldn't have to drive downtown and park for an hour just to drive back up here; did laundry instead. Then i skipped down to the Arbor for this movie and got there incredibly early. There was still one guy in line ahead of me though, who happened to work for Rotten Tomatoes. So we talked the wait away, he ended up interviewing me as i gave him a ride back downtown to his hotel afterward. but before that we saw the new Nicole Holofcener movie.|
It's about on par with her previous two, which for me means it was great. Very feminine but in the best possible way. naturalistic, emotional, catty, casual, and very character-driven. If anything I think I liked it more than Lovely and Amazing but it's been too long since I've last seen Walking and Talking to compare. Anniston plays a stoner woman with a bunch of friends who all have money... so it's a bit like Parenthood or Your Friends and Neighbors in that each couple has their own thing going on but they also have similarities and that kind of thing... but it's well-written, well-acted, and well-executed. A good solid movie that fits in perfectly with her previous two. Now if only she'd make more than one movie every five years.
|03.12.06||The Lost||Chris Sivertson||This movie had everything going for it. After dropping the Rotten Tomatoes guy off I made my way down to South Lamar and ended up waiting in line for like two hours. I almost went into the Air Guitar movie on a whim but it had sold out so I just sat and waited. One of the sxsw manager dudes said that the producers of this movie were going to treat the entire theater to buckets of beer and chicken strips. So we had free food coming, the movie's based on a book by Jack Ketchum, who I've read his first book and absolutely loved, and apparently the director is friends with Lucky McKee (like everything I've seen from him) and Eric met him and thought he was incredibly nice and cool... plus one of the posters for this movie had a corpse-looking Misty Mundae topless. How can you beat that? |
Well... I'm not sure whether to get into the gory details or to just say I was dissapointed and leave it at that. the first two minutes were great... really awesome beginning scene to a movie for sure... but as soon as it said "four years later" it started pushing me further and further away from caring about anything that by the time the ending rolled around it was too late. Ketchum was in the audience and Micah had my copy of Off Season but I didn't even feel like waiting for the Q&A or anything like that. I also spilled most of a full cauldron of free salsa all over myself during the movie so my foot was all sticky and spicy. I was ready to just go home but Micah persuaded me to give the midnight movie a shot to cleanse my palate.
|03.12.06||Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon||Scott Glosserman||So I went downtown, actually found some parking, and made it to the Alamo in time to get a good seat. The director got up before the movie and started thanking his parents like he'd just won an Oscar. This was the first time that he'd publicly shown any of his work ever so it was a huge deal for him and he had lots of the cast and crew and friends in the house with him.|
Lucky for both him and me, the film was absolutely great.
The first two thirds is a mockumentary with a small crew following around this guy who is planning on becoming the next Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees. It's a pretty hilariously meticulous deconstruction of the genre sort of similar to Man Bites Dog where the guy is talking about killing like it's a craft. He even has a mentor in the form of Mr. In Cold Blood himself: Scott Wilson (who was in the audience. I was a little starstruck and frantically thought of something to say to him but couldn't so i just gawked). Kane Hodder has a cameo as a resident of Elm Street. tons and tons of little in-jokes and referene pepper the film... apparently I missed most of them and would have loved to hear the director name them off but the shrill SXSW lady was rushing us out of the theater even though it was the last show of the night and still before 2 even... man i hate that. but anyway, every once in a while, as Leslie Vernon would outline his plan to torment his targeted "survivor girl" with cliched scenarios, the film itself would flip into a much more cinematic aesthetic. There's a great small role for Poltergeist's Zelda Rubinstein as well as Robert Englund himself. So the movie follows as a mockumentary until in the third act it becomes a self-aware horror movie in itself... there's a moment of unease there for me where I was like "uh.... is this gonna get dumb now?" but luckily it's done well enough that some actual tension starts creeping in with all the "wait, she's a slut not a virgin" jokes and "I think this is a bad idea, and I hate that I'm the one saying this in this particular context" jokes... so in the end the movie ends up having its cake and eating it too. Of course, in that sort of situation i always have little nitpicks when the characters don't do exactly what I would do (i.e. making 100% sure the dude is dead) but you know... it's sort of an Adaptation and Not Another Teen Comedy type deal... it may be self-aware but it's still in that genre.
so this was a huge surprise for me... the filmmakers got a standing ovation, the entire sold-out audience went nuts for it... i think everybody loved it... I certainly did, and it completely made up for The Lost... good freakin' times.
|03.13.06||95 Miles to Go||Tony Caltabiano||SXSW Day 4 (Monday). Half road movie and half comedy concert, this movie follows Ray Romano around as he goes on a short driving tour to do some stand-up. it shows off his neuroses and odd habits like how he sets "mind bets" with himself then finds loopholes in the self-imposed punishments if he loses... things like that. It's a pretty decent doc especially if you are a Romano fan (although he does curse and he tells an oral sex joke that probably wouldn't appear on his sitcom)... but for me the best part of this screening was when the director/buddy/co-star of Romanos came up on stage with Ray and they did some Q&A and then Brad Garrett asked a question from the back and eventually got on stage and started making fun of Romano and the SXSW guy trying to tell them to wrap it up and the huge burly photographer crouching in the front row. so it was a fun time.|
|03.13.06||American Gun||Aric Avelino||drove back up to the Arbor in rush hour traffic to see this movie with a small crowd. I guess I'm not the only one who sees the long trip to the arbor as a pain.... but for whatever reason I wanted to see this... I guess because it has Forest Whitaker in it and he's kicking major ass on The Shield this season...|
the movie is a downer and it never really goes anywhere. It's set up in multiple locations with multiple characters like a Traffic or Crash but it just never goes anywhere. The different threads don't really connect in any way and after a while the movie just ends. To be honest it felt like a waste of time afterward... although there was some OK acting from good actors... I got nothing from it.
|03.13.06||The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico||Michael Mabbott||Lucky for me I stuck around for the next movie at the Arbor based on a recommendation from Micah. This movie was great... it's a mockumentary about a progressive country singer/songwriter who was killed in the early 70s named Guy Terrifico. They got a bunch of country singers to give interviews about this fictional guy and set up a whole life story that was pretty hilarious. They did a great job of capturing the early 70s film stock and harsh lighting and things of that nature, making the archival footage pretty impressively period. Then there's some pretty classic lines and situations, including Guy getting kicked in the brain by a horse at one of his infamously wild parties, his catching trend of humping the bass drum at every live show, and the homosexual midget buddy that documents everything from a low angle with his grainy 16mm camera. Then at the end it manages to turn dead serious with an honestly really good performance and a gag that made the whole theater jump. Although they're mildly jokey, all of the original tunes are actually pretty good (in that early 70s progressive country way), so the whole movie really impressed me as being quality and a good time. Micah said it played here at last year's SXSW so I have no clue whether it'll be viewable anywhere else ever but I hope so.|
|03.13.06||Population 436||Michelle Maxwell MacLaren||I ended the night by driving back downtown and finding surprisingly decent parking for the Alamo downtown. Nobody knew anything about this movie except that Jeremy Sisto was in it. I saw that as a good thing. Micah noted that since a short's playing before it, one of the two had to be great and the other had to suck.|
Well, the short was great. A scary little film about a children's doll that becomes a really creepy monster that his mother somehow controls and keeps in the closet. Very effective short.
The movie... well, I'd say if it was trimmed down to an hour it would make a par-for-the-course episode of Masters of Horror. True Jeremy Sisto was in it but so was Fred Durst. Yeah, that Fred Durst. Rather than getting into the ugly specifics of why I didn't like it, I'll just say that I'm glad this didn't play last night right after The Lost.
during the Q&A afterward, the director said that the movie was really more of a psychological movie than a horror movie so it was OK that it was all shot during the day. I wonder if that means it was some sort of endurance test that everyone in the theater was an unknowing participant in... My favorite part of the movie was when Micah leaned over and said "the sign [with the population number] never changes!" man... that made me laugh for a long time... and then had an aftershock whenever they showed the town sign again. Maybe for people who've never seen or read any Trapped in Crazytown stories the glaring "twist" would come as a surprise but... come on... there's a scene where Sisto (who plays a Census Bureau worker) has a list of years and every census year shows the population being 436... of course 4+3+6=13 and 1+3=4... not that that really means anything. There were about a half dozen of those types of thing in the movie... like how everyone stopped their clocks at 4:36 and some random 50s-era family was living in a cell in the basement and arcane books with pictures of burninating villagers in it... oops I've gone into ugly specifics.
|03.14.06||Air Guitar Nation||Alexandra Lipsitz||Day whatever at SXSW 2006. Today started with the 10 years of Aint it Cool News panel. That was exactly what I thought it would be: interesting rambling stories of the site's creation and history told mostly by Harry with a few minutes from Drew and Eric as well. It was a good time though.|
Afterward I had originally planned to go to a Digital to Film panel but I decided to skip that and see Air Guitar Nation instead based on Micah's recommendation. I'm glad I did. I can't really find an IMDb entry for this so you're just going to have to take my word on its existence. It's a doc that basically follows the first year of the U.S. Air Guitar championships and America's representative in the World Championship held in Finland (where they take their metal seriously). Yeah, sounds really really stupid, right? Well it is, but it's also lots and lots of fun! These dudes jam out... and they have awesome stage names like Bjorn Turoque and there's a whole remote island training camp that you can sojourn to if you wanted... By the end of the movie I was completely converted and rooting for my favorite dude and the whole place was rooting with me. I don't know how but the filmmakers actually made air guitaring look impressive... that's a pretty big feat.
Afterward lots of the subjects of the film were in attendence and so we got to see them in real life which is always cool. Alas no in-theater imaginary axe-grinding, but I did get a C-Diddy pick, and a complimentary air guitar was placed underneath each seat in the theater so that rocks as well. This was a very fun time... I'd always dismissed the regional finals that are held at the Alamo but I think the next time they come around I will go out and see them... I have to believe this is even more fun live.
|03.14.06||Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie||Jeffrey Ross||After air guitar, I got in line for Jeff Ross' documentary. It's footage of his first USO tour in Iraq that he did with Drew Carey and others. I personally find Ross' comedy really hilarious in alternatingly clever and vicious ways... and he was there to introduce it and warm us up with a little audience humor. He's funny in real life but he gave forth the tone that this movie was pretty serious as well and I'm glad he did because while it was about comedians, it was really more affective as a glimpse into what the troops' lives are like over there circa about a year ago. You get glimpses of everybody's act but in their downtime it's less Comedians of Comedy and more Good Morning, Viet Nam. The movie was interesting but also a bit of a downer after the Air Guitar madness, especially with Matt Dentler's introducing it primarily as a comedy. Afterward, Ross answered plenty of questions in a polite and honest tone, giving me the impression that he's a pretty nice guy that was genuinely surprised that his movie had a pretty much sold-out crowd. I wouldn't count the movie as one of my favorites, but it certainly wasn't bad and it was cool to see Jeff Ross in person. I was in the front row too so I'm doubly glad he didn't make fun of me. whew.|
|03.14.06||Hard Candy||David Slade||After that it was a quick jaunt over to South Lamar to get in the already-long line for Hard Candy. The last horror movie that I was here to see and this interested in was The Lost (I blame the alternate poster... and Misty Mundae)... so this time around I was a little more apprehensive. both Jarrette and Eric said it was good, but Jarrette didn't want to see it again... so who knows, right?|
Well... the movie pretty much kicked my ass.
I think the trailer spoils almost the entire movie, so that really sucks... but Micah stopped watching it like 30 seconds in so the big twist/idea of the movie was new to him. After that happens though, the movie didn't go where I thought it would... it pretty much barraged me with intensity and tension until the last frame and left me absolutely exhausted. It's almost as if it were some really dramatic stageplay or something where you feel competely worn out at the end because of how many emotions are thrown around... except it's a teenaged girl and a tied up thirtysomething guy. One sequence in particular had every guy in the room squirming like hell... I think the filmmakers can take some pride in making all of us in the theater their bitch.
The director and writers and producers were there afterward but for some reason the SXSW guys always limit the Q&As to like 5 questions. I hate that... they're always jumping in telling them "One more" even if, like this case, there's no more movies playing in that theater for the entire night. Why have the people there if you don't let them talk? bah.
|03.14.06||S&Man||JT Petty||Another one without an IMDb entry. This midnight movie is sort of a half-truth, half-fiction doc/mockumentary about underground horror and snuff films. The title (pronounced "sandman") refers to a fictional series of DVDs where this creepy7 overweight guy that lives in his mom's basement stalks women then kills them. The director sets the movie up as a documentary about these kinds of films where the sandman dude is just one subject but the movie slowly gets more involved to the point where he becomes a part of the story. |
I thought this movie was OK. I maybe would've liked it more if the director wasn't so pompous during the Q&A. The ending is kind of vague and sudden, but the first thing he said when he got on the mic was that he would answer questions but wouldn't explain anything. So a few confused questions and really really vague answers later, he told us that he would give us "just a bit" of explanation and went into this whole bit about how he hates documentaries because they're just as false as fiction films so this movie was his exploration of that, and manipulating the audience... it took all five questions for him to finally admit that there was some fiction in the movie and of course by that time we were being rushed out of the theater by sxsw people. For me though, my only real interest was finding out which subjects were real and which were fake, so the Q&A was a complete waste of time for me. The movie reminded me of 8MM a lot (not a good thing, by the way)... I'm still not sure if there's an interesting movie anywhere in the world of snuff film or whatever... this didn't convince me that there is.
So this wasn't a complete letdown like Population 436, but it didn't really satisfy me either.
|03.15.06||The Last Western||Chris Deaux||Day 419 of SXSW... Blake crashed on my couch last night and had an interview downtown with the Hard Candy people at 10:30... So I was down there in time to see an 11am movie and I picked this: a doc about Pioneertown, CA, an old west city set that was built for use with B-westerns and the Gene Aurty show in the 40s and early 50s until it was deserted around 1955 and left for dead only to eventually have all sorts of weirdos inhabit it. I guess the hell's angels used it for a while, then it was big for dope dealers and whatnot and nowadays it's mostly home for alcoholics and old people. I was reminded a lot of the Salton Sea doc that screened at the Alamo a few months ago... except that was a better movie.|
I have to confess though... I guess I can do one night with less than four hours sleep but after two nights my ability to watch mediocre movies falls drastically. Not only did I doze during this movie, I actively tried to sleep through the last half of it so I would be more awake for the good films coming up later tonight. The problem was that after explaining the history of the town itself, it started telling the stories of the people that live there. I don't care about those people, so that = nap time.
Luckily the director wasn't there or anything so I didn't inadvertantly insult anyone by closing my eyes.
|03.15.06||A Scanner Darkly||Richard Linklater||A little more rested, I parked in a garage I hate and got in line for some music documentary. Calling Jarrette to ask what time he'd be showing up to get in line for the secret "TBA" screening of Scanner Darkly (that pretty much everyone in the world knew about by that time), he officially advised me to skip the movie and just stay in line. It's a good thing too because I was FIRST and that line went around the block and all the way back to Brazos just about... and that's just badge holders. God know how many film pass people tried to get in and there were even a few single ticket buyers who were obviously either insane or bored enough to stay in line when virtually every film badge and many curious gold/platinum badges were in line next to them. What's more is that this was a crew screening as well so there were about 500 VIPs who had special tickets and got to go in before the badgeholders. so did I mention that I was first in the badgeholder line? That's important when I mention that Aaron and Kaela and Jarrette and a bunch of other people got in on Harry's special reserved list and got to go in before even the crew VIPs... because by the time us first 50 badgeholders got through the doors the theater was already well on it's way to being full. Luckily, Aaron and Kaela saved Blake and I seats right in our favorite row so I got like the perfect seat for the screening. Unbelievable.|
Before that though, most of the press were the second, third, etc. to show up so I got to meet the GreenCine dude and talk to the rotten tomatoes dude again and for a while it was just a little film press camp-out happening in the badgeholder's line before the whole town showed up. That was cool... plus Jarrette and Aaron and Kaela showed up so it was a fun line-up if you ask me. Also for a long-storied reason, Aaron was hanging out with Patton Oswalt (Comedians of Comedy)... so when he came to get his wife and said "I'm taking the beautiful ladies inside but we'll try to save seats for you guys" Patton grabbed my arm and said "I meant him" as if to pull me instead of Kaela. Sure it doesn't sound funny all typed out like this, but hey... Patton Oswalt involved me in an impromptu joke so screw all y'all.
Aaron spotted Lucky mcKee (director of May and the Masters of Horror episode Sick Girl) in the line and went down to talk to him. He was nice enough to introduce me as well so I got to meet Lucky freakin' McKee... then after we were back up at the head of the line (because I was first), he mentioned that I should ask him to be in my doc. Duh! So i go back and say I'm doing a doc on the Alamo drafthouse and immediately his eyes light up, so I ask if i can interview him and he immediately says sure, he'd be happy to. Is it always this easy? So we talk a little bit more, he gives me his info (see, always carrying around this notebook does come in handy sometimes), then I asked him about the possibility of seeing The Woods any time soon and we talked about that for a bit. Man, nice dude! So not only did I meet him but I also now have the means to talk to him again and a reason to do so. Lucky freakin' McKee!
So. Now that I've covered everything that happened while I was in line... I have to mention that I did see the movie as well. Dentler came out and said it was the first showing to a mass audience ever so we're all very lucky to see it and very lucky to even get in the damn place. But then he said unfortunately Rick couldn't be there so there wouldn't be a Q&A afterward or anything like that. At this point Jarrette looks behind us and turns back with a smile on his face. Since he worked on the movie I figure he knows something so I look back too and Rick Linklater's sitting about four roows back from us right on the aisle. I guess since this is an unfinished print and it's more a crew screening than any sort of sneak preview or premiere he doesn't want to treat it like it's done by doing a Q&A... or maybe he just doesn't feel like it or something... or maybe he had to leave in 5 minutes or something... but any way you put it Matt Dentler is a liar (if, on some miracle, you ever read this while simultaneously knowing who I am, i meant that in the best possible way, Matt).
The movie... well the animation is gorgeous. Every frame of the scramble suits are unbelievable and I couldn't take my eyes off them. Constant fascination for the whole movie. It's a much more consistent style than Waking Life, and also much more detailed. Basically most of the movie looks just as good as the stills they've released online.
Having not read the script or the original story, I for whatever reason expected the movie to get to more of a No Way Out tension-y sort of place by the end, which it totally didn't. Instead, it's really a Linklater movie, just told in the near-future and animated. It's pretty slow-paced, definitely not actiony or adrenaline-fueled... but still very engaging and interesting. Thinking back, I'm actually thinking of Drugstore Cowboy more than anything. Great performances though, especially by Downey, Jr. Keanu's pretty passive through the whole thing but Rory Cochran's great, Woody Harrelson's great, and... well Winona's not in it that much but she's not bad either. fills the role nicely. It's really cool though, for this science fiction movie to really be a little drug movie literally in disguise.
So my initial reaction is that I liked it quite a bit. I think a second viewing, having the benefit of knowing where the story goes and how it ends, will be very interesting.
|03.15.06||Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!||Nathaniel Hornblower||Immediately after Scanner let out I got in line for the beastie boys' doc. The line was already around the first corner, but without a 500-large VIP list I was pretty confident that I could get in. In fact, I got the exact same seat: Awesome.|
Basically the idea behind this movie is that the Beasties handed out 61 cameras to different people in the crowd to record their experience of a sold-out show in Madison Square Garden, then Yauch picked and chose the best bits and cut them all together to make this movie. So it's a concert film but 98% of it is shot by the fans themselves (the title comes from a line spoken by the guy laying out the only rule for the guys with the cameras (don't stop recording), saying "so fifty years from now, you will look back at this and say 'Awesome; I fuckin' shot that!.'"
The movie really works. At first, since I was pretty close and it was on such a large screen (projected on HDcam, but shot on much lower-resolution cameras), the resolution issues made for pretty pixellated viewing. After the show got going though, the Paramount's phenomenal sound system made the experience great even if there were no visuals. People's heads were nodding all around me and the whole theater cheered and clapped after each song. Visually though, there was lots going on. Little funny jokes were thrown in, quick shots of random things like a cameraperson turning the lens on herself as she sang along for a bit, or zooming in on Ben Stiller as he knew all the words to Shake Your Rump to even rotoscoping one girl shaking her thang and making her dance with one of the boys by looping over and things like that. At one point, one of the cameramen takes a trip to the john and films his stream of urine followed by his foot flushing the toilet. So it wasn't all just streat shots of the stage... they did lots of little visual things to keep it interesting on top of the fact that it was intercutting so much footage. At certain times it would zoom out to show all footage on one screen, then zooming in on another angle. Also at one point, he was cutting literally every frame... at first the rapidity of cuts is a bit jarring but, just like mtv, you get used to it after about 15 minutes.
So there's all that stuff, but the show itself was amazing and I think that's the big part of why the movie's so awesome. The songs, the performances, the set changes... the show itself was pretty phenomenal. Plus you had Mix Master Mike on the tables so you get the full live treatment of their songs where's dropping new beats for every verse and doing solos and stuff like that... I really believe that if we were standing in a club watching this instead of sitting in a theater, we'd all be dancing and waving our hands in the air.
So yeah, to any Beasties fan, no matter how casual or hardcore, this is well worth seeing. Afterward, the three guys ambled on stage and sat down, making an Actor's Studio joke. For whatever reason, there was no moderator or anything so there was a few moments of confusion until everyone caught on that they should start asking questions. The guys were funny with their answers... but it helped a lot that the questions were so bizarre. This was definitely more the music crowd than the film crowd filling the seats. lots of "questions" that were basically "you guys are so awesome" over and over... although Jeffrey Ross was in the audience and asked Yauch when his next movie's comin out and he answered "hey, I know you! Why don't you come up and do some stand up?" to which Ross fired a scathing joke at one of the more shameless "question" guys. Someone asked them to do a song of theirs right there on the stage. They didn't. Apparently they're playing a secret show tomorrow night though... which I won't be at. I thought it was cool that they showed up for the screening though. I hope they were there to see some of our reactions though because the crowd was really getting into it. When they'd start playing some of their more famous songs more than a few women would scream. They also got a standing ovation (the second one I've seen this year)... pretty much proving that the movie had earned it's title: awesome.
|03.15.06||Wah-Wah||Richard E. Grant||So after getting all riled up over the Beasties, I ended my night by driving up to the Arbor for this. Directed by Richard E. Grant (he was Withnail), it's what seemed to me an extremely autobiographical movie about a kid growing up in Swaziland, South Africa. It's kind of your typical kid's perspective "i hate that my parents are divorced" type movie and it's not really flashy or special in any one clear way, but I have to say it was a quality film and I liked it. How do I know it's quality even though there's nothing I can really point to in particular (aside from the acting... Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, and the main kid all give really great performances)? It made me tear up at the end... and it made me tear up even though despite knowing full well that if i heard a description of the ending of the film I would think it's completely cliched cheese. So there you go... it's just a solid movie done well.|
It's a little weird not going to a midnight movie tonight. Last night I thought there needed to be more midnight movies playing but after thinking about it for a while, I realized that there were 8 different things to see on the 9 nights of the fest... that's not bad. Still though, I got home tonight at like 11:30. That's just weird.
|03.16.06||The Passing Show||Rupert Williams, James Nackie||day eternity plus one of SXSW 2006. My day was spent largely at the convention center... a triple feature there followed by a double feature at Alamo South Lamar made a full house of movies. This first one, a doc about Ronnie Lane, the dude in The Small Faces and The Faces, is exactly the sort of thing that plays Music Mondays. Actually, Kier-La showed an extended trailer to this before the festival started and the Alamo is running it after the fest ends with Ian McLagan in attendance. Truth be told I forgot the name of the movie so I had no clue this was that when I walked in. Since I am very unfamiliar with Lane's body of work, I found the doc pretty slow. I kind of dozed a bit and spent some time seeing what i would write in my notebook if i closed my eyes and just wrote. At least now I won't have to see this as Music Monday... I can skip one for once.|
|03.16.06||Danny Roane: First Time Director||Andy Dick||Next up was Andy Dick's movie... about a goofy actor with substance abuse problems who tries to make his first movie and does a hilariously bad job of it. People that saw this when it first played said that a very drunk Andy Dick did one of the greatest Q&As of all time, dry-humping random people at one point... and the feeling was that the movie didn't end. Alas, no Andy today but I still got to see the movie. There were 2 or 3 times that I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe and tears were squirting from my eyes. No matter how stupid or goofy or trite or whatever a movie may be, if it does that to me I love it. I don't care. This gets a thumbs-up from me for sure.|
Some hilarious cameos, especially Ben Stiller. I guess, if we believe this movie, that awesome oil painting of him taking the bull by the horns from Dodgeball is hanging in his production office. That made me laugh.
The funny ineptitude of this also reminded me of ...And God Spoke
|03.16.06||High Score||Jeremy Mack||after that I saw High Score. it's a documentary on some dude in Portland who's trying to break the world record high score for Missile Command (it's like 80 million points). Before this though, there was a short doc about some video game that reflects current events. oooh, special. Anyway, this was a good doc... it was short and to the point. You'd think there wouldn't be much of a story there but there totally was. See, the problem with him beating the high score wasn't that he couldn't get that far or anything like that... it's that the 20 year-old circuitry and programming of the game makes it randomly reset itself after a period of intense play. So he's try for it, get like 18 hours in with a score of 30 million points, then it'd crash and reset to 0. Riveting on film, man... I think we've all had our computer lock up and erase something important that you haven't saved to disk so you can imagine playing a game for almost a day then having everything erase in the blink of an eye.|
The real gem of this movie though... the thing that absolutely made it for me... was at the end after the guy's dealt with such a stunning blow and resolved to try again next year. He's sitting there talking to the camera and he says "Missile Command, I'm alright at. Asteroids, I'm alright at that... but my real passion is... rollerskating" and it cuts to a shot of him at a roller rink positively GETTING DOWN while wearing skates. What a hilariously non sequiter ending... it really made my day.
He was there for a Q&A and vowed to focus his marathon highscore attentions on Galaga and Q-bert after besting Missile Command and Asteroids. Good luck, dude!
|03.16.06||Brothers of the Head||Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe||OK, the mockumentary form is officially old. I don't know if this is traditionally a SXSW trait or if it's just this year but it seems like 90% of the movies that I've seen this week have either been in documentary format, whether fiction or non-fiction. Is it a budget thing? it's easier to put some fake experts in a room rather than worry about actual scenes with character and continuity of emotion and all that crap? Well for whatever reason, I am just about doc'd out for a while.|
This movie... just didn't work for me. It's about a pair of conjoined twins (connected at the chest) who become a successfull punk band in mid-70s England. It sounds interesting and it had pretty interesting people behind it but it was slow and tedious and not as cool as it should've been. I wish it was better and/or I enjoyed it more but oh well. A downer. It really made me tired. The only thing that really got me through it was that almost everyone had told me the next movie was good.
|03.16.06||Fuck||Steve Anderson||The midnight show tonight was a documentary about the word "fuck." It's pretty well-done with animation by Bill Plympton and 30-some interviews with random people like Bill Maher and Sam Donaldson and Ice-T and Ron Jeremy. While it was good and I enjoyed myself, jarrette had a good observation that there needed to be either way more than 30 interviews or more of a concerted thematic or subjective reasoning behind their appearance in the movie. A minor note though... for the most part it was a good time. I'm glad too because at some point this week I was in line next to one of the guys who made this and I told him I'd be seeing it and was looking forward to it. Now I don't have any guilt for not liking the guy's movie.|
A few beats sort of skirt the same issues as This Film is Not Yet Rated... and I really think some of the people who worked on this are big Howard Stern fans because not only did Stern's stuff with the FCC come up but they also played a few sound clips that Stern's repeating a lot since moving over to satellite (namely the Pat O'Brien voicemail tapes and that one recording of some baseball manager talking about how much he hates the fans)...
So I actually saw 5 movies today. If i had gotten up and went out to see Summercamp it would've been six but oh freakin well... I'm pretty exhausted just from the five and I still have two more days to get through. The end is in sight though... weirdo music people are now clogging the streets. Next week will seem so weird.
|03.17.06||Before the Music Dies||Andrew Shapter||Day end minus one of SXSW... I slept in till 11:30 this morning and it was NICE. Screw the documentary on credit card debt... don't buy stuff you can't afford, end of movie. Instead, I started my day with a doc about how messed up the record industry is. What made it good was that it showed a few groups I'd never heard of before playing awesome music as an example of how a lot of the best music nowadays is really hard to find... so I got a few names on a list of people to check out later and that's cool. The doc had some interesting interviews with Erykah Badu and Branford Marsalis among others, got some nice shots in at Clear Channel, and was clearly made by local guys because there's tons of shots in Antone's and ACL fest and stuff like that. So that's cool too. To be honest this movie wasn't on my original list of the "must see"s but as a movie semi-chosen by random to fill an empty spot, I think I could've done a lot worse. It's great when you walk into a movie completely cold knowing nothing about it at all and having it be good and having a good time with it. well worth watching.|
|03.17.06||Tales of the Rat Fink||Ron Mann||After that I went downtown and found parking on 9th and Colorado; not bad considering it's the height of SXSW music and the film's still going on and it's St. Patrick's Day so like a few hundred people have already been drinking since noon.|
This movie is a doc about Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, kar kustomizer, model maker, and car-toonist. Even though this must be like the 85th doc I've seen at south by, this one was refreshingly different in its approach. First off there was lots of good animation, using the Rat Fink character to introduce each chapter. Secondly, the story is narrated by John Goodman as Roth himself, as if he's watching the movie and looking back on his life from up on his cloud in heaven. Third, the movie introduces a series of notable custom cars as if they were interview subjects, using celebrity Roth-loving voices to speak the cars' thoughts. The only ones I recognized as I was watching were Jay Leno and Matt Groening but in the end credits i saw the Smothers brothers, Brian Wilson, Paul Le Mat, Ann-Margret, and others listed as well.
So those three things together make for a much different approach. Since it was also very short, the movie comes across as fresh and interesting and entertaining like a quick little joyride or some other equally-strained car metaphor. This is actually something I think my dad may get a kick out of... he's always calling out the year and manufacturer of any old cars that he sees in movies and this one actually gives them screen credits so I thought this is his kind of doc... except he doesn't watch any docs that aren't on the history channel. I liked it though.
|03.17.06||Live Free or Die||Gregg Kavet, Andy Robin||Micah had strongly recommended this one to me to the point where I would've felt guilty if I didn't see it. Therefore, I'm happy to say that I liked it and so there won't have to be any debate about it.|
The movie's about... well I guess he's a loser... Aaron Standord and his old mentally-slow highschool buddy or something like that getting up to a little bit of trouble... or something. Actually, now that i'm thinking about it, it's an incredibly hard film to summarize. The writer/directors worked on Seinfeld for a bit so there's some of that all-the-threads-come-together-at-the-end thing going on... but there's other stuff going on too. yeah, I am completely clueless about how to describe this, except to say that it was good and pretty funny. it also had a Black Keys song in the beginning so it was in my cool book right from the beginning.
|03.17.06||The Oh in Ohio||Billy Kent||this movie was about a sexually dysfunctional woman and her husband. Parker Posey and Paul Rudd fill the parts. They break up, start sleeping with other people, and become happier. I liked this movie for several reasons:|
1. it's pretty naughty. lots of sex and female orgasm talk, a vibrator plays a big part as does a beeper, and Heather Graham has a small part as a lesbian willing to help Posey out.
2. Danny DeVito gets Parker Posey. I think that's a pretty huge victory for us non-models everywhere.
3. Did I mention Heather Graham plays a lesbian?
All the acting's also great (and Keith David has an awesome small role), and perhaps the best use of Bob Marley's "Jammin'" ever in a movie. I dunno, it may be just cuz I'm a perv for Parker Posey but I really enjoyed this movie. it felt like it flew by in five minutes.
That said, the ending felt really abrupt. There could've easily been 10-15 more minutes there, and I think it needs it. The film did really well with me up till then though... I think this might be a good girlfriend litmus test to show to women and see how uptight they are. That is, if I were the type of people to test out potential girlfriends in such a shallow way like that... but The Big Lebowski and Re-Animator work as well.
|03.17.06||Slither||James Gunn||Thank goodness for my friends in line. By the time Ohio let out and I walked the 5 blocks to the Alamo, the line was pretty freakin huge. Of course it was augmented by scores of drunken fools wearing green... This might be the busiest and most clogged that I've seen the city to date. I think the night of the Rose Bowl still wins for happiest and rowdiest but for sheer jam-packed busiest I think it was tonight.|
Anyway, because of my friends in line I got in and got a good seat for this. The director and actor Michael Rooker were also in the house, which was awesome. Rooker came up wearing a Mexican wrestling mask and appeared to be very drunk although Gunn assured us that he wasn't. Funnily enough though, after the movie ended people just sat there for a few minutes expecting a Q&A that didn't happen. At first I thought they must've bailed on the screening to get their drink on but nope... they were hanging out in the back talking to anyone that would come up. Strange. If I had a number one complaint about the film festival this year I'd say it was how the Q&As were handled.
Anyway, the movie was tons of fun. The crowd was into it, I was feeling it, the gore was good the laughs were good the hot girls were hot... really nothing to complain about accepting that the movie is what it is. You have aliens in a meteor taking over Michael Rooker and stuff, you have little sluggy things trying to get down people's throats... that's a blueprint for a good time. I got to shake Rooker's and Gunn's hand afterward and tell them great job... it was cool.
So this week I've seen both Henry the serial killer and Dick Hickock of In Cold Blood in person at the Alamo and I'm still alive. Life is good.
Also, in one particular moment, Carrie the waitress transcended her previously-established level of cuteness to become the hottest woman I have ever seen... there for a few seconds at least. I mean oh freakin' my. I really wish I could pass as lesbian (pack a box lunch as it's said in the film).
|03.18.06||Al Franken: God Spoke||Nick Doob, Chris Hegedus||With the past few "event" write-ups that I've done, the last day is always the hardest to record. It's the first night where I figure I can sleep first then write later so I end up putting it off for a few days and then all of a sudden it's this huge bear to get done. So I'm forcing myself to write these right now, after waking up on Sunday. If they're short or vague or whatever, oh well.|
So today I was aiming for a full-on 6-movie day to end the fest... go out with a huge bang. The first movie, which I wanted to see not so much for the subject matter as the talent behind it, was this one. It was raining and random streets were closed off so traffic was terrible but I managed to get in just before the lights went down and the unbelievably crappy SXSW intro film played.
This doc follows around Al Franken for a while. That's it, basically. Earlier in the week when she spoke at a panel I was at, Chris Hegedus mentioned that they had originally started with the intention to follow the lawsuit between Franken and O'Reilly... but when it was pretty much laughed out of court and dropped in five minutes, they had to just keep shooting and hope a movie surfaced. So that's basically waht this is... it touches on the lawsuit, it touches on the Air America radio station (that's the full-on subject of another really good doc Left of the Dial), book tours, school visits, national convention coverages, etc. It basically just follows Franken around.
So I think that it was a good movie makes it more the achievement of the filmmakers than anything else. It's constructed very very well. I don't know how they did it but I'm in their fan club now (well... Hegedus was always there)
|03.18.06||Dance Party USA||Aaron katz||whoever recomended this to me owes me an apology. a big one too. Granted, None of the movies in this slot really appealed to me and along with a recomendation the other reasons why I picked this were that it was at the Alamo and it was only 66 minutes long but... damn it.|
This movie is about teens who have sex or something. It's a lot like Kids except for Chloe Sevigny's not in it and it sucks ass. I think the biggest reason for why it sucks is lack of script. It's very obvious that most of the dialogue was "improvised" (either that or having every actor wait for like 5 seconds before every line just to "act" as if he's desperately thinking of what to say next was just a piece of genius direction) and goes absolutely nowhere; painful to sit through in every scene. The WGA should send this movie to every producer in Hollywood with a note saying "without us, this is what you get."
It's not shot well, it's not cut well, lord knows it's not acted well, and as far as I know it's not written at all so... it was pretty painful for me to sit through. What made it worse was like 2 guys in the back of the theater who laughed way too long and hard about everything. I think it was the actors back there, marvelling at the genius of lines like "hey, I'm drunk," and "You know what I hate? the clit."
I'm not sure if this was the wost movie of the fest for me... I'd say so but it was only half as long as The Lost...
|03.18.06||loudQUIETloud: A Film About Pixies||Steven Cantor, Matthew Galkin||So after that, I practially skipped my way to the Convention Center to see the Pixies doc, which I'd heard was very good.|
I wasn't dissapointed. The movie follows the band around on their reunion tour... we get to see Black Francis without his shirt on, how much Kim and Kelly Deal still look alike, Joey Santiago scoring a movie in his hotel room, and the musician-cum-magician drummer freak out when his dad dies and start popping pills on the road. It's not really too heavy on the whole history of the band or things like that... more a verite look at just this particular moment in time, but it was very well-done and really entertaining.
also, they were handing out the big music bags for free since it was the last day. Awesome, more free crap.
|03.18.06||American Dreamz||Paul Weitz||Long trudge back to the car to drop off the big bag along with everyone's cell phones since they weren't letting them in for the next movie since it was a sneak peak or whatever and all those crappy cameraphone pictures are ruining the industry. Eventually though, we got into the Paramount and I could let my dogs rest a while.|
This was the closing night film and Dennis Quaid was in the house along with the director. Weitz did a little stand-up routine in the beginning and he along with Quaid and another actor in the movie did maybe 5 minutes of Q&A afterward.
The movie? um... it was ok. It went a few places that I didn't think it would go which is always nice for a Hollywood picture, but for the most part it was pretty expected humor. maybe it's because I'm not a huge American Idol fan... or maybe it's because I don't like Mandy Moore... The funniest part was Willem Dafoe playing essentially Cheney and Quaid doing his dubya. Even that though... I wonder if it will still be funny 20 years from now (I guess that's up to Bush).
So it wasn't bad... I laughed a few times... but I don't think i'd pick it up on DVD or anything.
|03.18.06||Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon||Scott Glosserman||American Dreamz started so late that it was already 9:45 by the time We got back t omy car and I gave everyone's phones back. So since I missed the next movie (sorry, LOL), I went to Spaghetti Factory with everyone and hung out till the midnight movie.|
Behind the mask would make the perfect end to the fest for me. It was a movie that I really enjoyed the first time I saw it so I could sort of rely on it to be a positive experience, ensuring I don't go home with a bad taste in my mouth.
Well the second time through, with the exhaustion of a few more festival days on my back, did have an effect... but for the most part I still really liked it. The director was really thankful and happy for all the good word his movie's gotten this week (he hugged Quint, I saw it), and a few people that worked on the movie were still in town for one last Q&A which was nice.
I noticed a few more things in the movie but also saw a few loose ends that were never addressed (i;m thinking deleted scenes... hopefully there will be a DVD at some point). It was good though, a fitting end.
So that's it. My first SXSW. A few stats (including the 1 shorts program I saw as a movie):
number of films seen: 35
favorite movie: This Film is Not Yet Rated
least favorite movie: Dance Party USA
movie that made me laugh the hardest: Danny Roane
movie that made me cringe the hardest: Hard Candy
movie with the longest line: A Scanner Darkly
movie with the shortest line: The Passing Show
movies seen at:
Alamo Downtown: 9
Alamo South lamar: 8
Convention Center: 7