Sunday, March 12, 2017

SXSW Film Festival: 3 days, 9 reviews

Nina and I bought SXSW film wristbands because we're too old and uncool to put up with loud music from people 10 years younger, cooler, and more angsty than we are. I'm not trying to be the old man that says, "Music stopped being good when I stopped caring." No. I'm sure the good music will find its way to me through a speaker whose volume I control.

So here you are. We saw 9 movies so far. We did no research. We just waited in line for whatever sounded interesting or whatever was convenient.

1. RAT FILM - this was the first movie we saw and its synopsis sounded like some documentary that would be bought and distributed through PBS. It was not that movie. It was a surreal, almost psychedelic documentary on rats in Baltimore but it was actually a documentary on human beings, civilization, cruelty, etc. I talked to someone in line later and they said, "I thought it was going to be a documentary on how rats are useful and how we shouldn't kill them." It is very much so not a movie like that at all. It does some trippy things with a "computer game" and it's narrated by what sounds like a robot. There are some great interviews. Definitely not the movie I was expecting but it was, at that point, the best movie I'd seen all SXSW.

2. US & THEM - Us & Them is what you'd get if you made Funny Games and Snatch fuck each other to the sound of Bernie Sanders making a speech. It's a well-made movie but it goes too far. There is one scene in particular that is so melodramatic it's almost laughable. It fits nowhere into the movie except to add a degree of humanity to the main character but it falls pretty flat. If I was being generous, I'd say the movie tried to say that the plight of the poor is ignored by "fat cats" and even when the poor gets a leg up on them, the rich just have to wait it out and watch the poor turn on each other. It's a pretty cynical film and it has moments that are really funny. The music is great. I just think it could have benefited from the cutting room floor and if it was a little less self-aware as a social commentary piece. Make a good movie. The message will come through if there is one.

3. TRANSFIGURATION - some twenty-something know it alls were in front of me in the line for this movie. I overheard them say, "Transfiguration is like Moonlight but with vampires." That couldn't be further from the truth. It's a quiet horror movie and it focuses very intently on the main character's obsession with vampires, his sociopathy, and his isolation and disconnection from people. Overall, I liked the movie but the main conflict in the movie seemed two dimensional. There are gangsters in the movie. They are the bad guys. Their motivations are never explored other than to move along a plot. It was pretty good aside from that. Great acting. Beautifully shot. All that kind of shit.

4. WIN IT ALL - This was a well-written, well-acted comedy about some fucking dope who just wants to be a parking attendant his whole life but he also has a gambling problem. He meets a lady and wants to clean up his life. His old life comes back to haunt him. Very funny.

5. ASSHOLES - Oh, man. This is the movie I couldn't wait to shit on. But I know what it's like to spend a lot of time making something only for some asshole to shit on it. I've got a book coming out. This is the movie that let me know I wasn't simply enjoying movies because I was at a festival. I did not like this movie. Let's just say I felt like I was watching some bonerkind art school hotshot's first student film. This boner's going places but this movie is quite awful. He does some good visual stuff early on. Do not order queso fries at the Alamo Drafthouse while watching this. I like a good dirty joke. I like when dirty jokes are funny and don't force me to listen to the inane ramblings of a college student who just drank his first glass of kombucha. I also like eating queso fries. This is not the movie to eat queso fries to.

6. KODOKU: MEATBALL MACHINE - Japanese people have a very different way of telling a story. It's pretty easy to follow. They get it, man. There's conflict: sad, old man is getting old and sucks at his job. He will probably get fired. There's love: some young lady works at a bookstore and is always very sweet to him. There's an alien invasion: sad, old man's brain gets taken over by a bad claymation parasite in a ten minute long, bloody, gorefest of a prison scene. There's more conflict: Many people are taken over by this parasite and they fight to the death, wreaking havoc on this city. There's more love: Even though his brain is all full of fuck, this old man wants to make sure his love interest is okay. There's more conflict: Everybody wants to kill him. There's blood: There's something like 4000 gallons of fake blood used in this movie. There's a weird subplot that involves boobs as a symbol for liberation. See? The Japanese just get storytelling. A+. This is the Power Ranger movie we need.

7. MUPPET GUYS TALKING - This was a joyous celebration of collaboration and creativity. The originators of some muppets got together to shoot the shit. It was a panel, basically, but it was a joy to watch and listen to. Loved it and I'm not really a muppet kind of person.

8. MR. ROOSEVELT - So far, the funniest movie we've seen. It was shot in Austin. It was well-written and acted. It had an authenticity to it that a lot of movies cannot capture. I really, really, really liked it. The premiere was marred by technical difficulties. It was shot on 35mm and the projector's bulbs went out a few times. It made for a one of a kind experience to hear the writer/director/star make jokes about it as it was happening. I don't know, folks. I'm not a reviewer. I like what I like.

9. PORTO - The only reason we saw this was because it took place in Portugal. The guy next to us in line kept asking me if I had seen any more of whoever-directed-its movies. No. We were first in line so we looked like diehards but, au contraire my friends, we are tryhards. I brought a book to read in line and that's really the best conversation killer. People see you on a phone, they don't care. They'll ask a thousand questions. You bring out a real physical book and all of the sudden, they're looking at their phones. It's great. The movie was beautifully shot, well-written, all that kind of stuff... the acting was great but it was lacking in something that I just can't put my finger on. It suffered a major flaw in that the film was broken up into three parts. The first part followed the male character, the second part followed the female character, and the third part followed them both. The second part was much shorter and it introduced her mom out of nowhere? She was speaking a foreign language, there were no subtitles, and almost nothing of substance was gleaned about the character. I'm not sure if subtitles are coming or if this was just a standard, art-film move. I don't need subtitles, I just don't know why that scene with her mom was in there. I'm sure there's an audience for this movie. It felt like the Richard Linklater movies with Ethan Hawke except this director isn't afraid of sex.

We're taking a little break from the film fest to work. I'm hoping to see more.

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