In our previous blog post Elise gave some great insights into how we navigated through the action of SXSW, so I thought I'd give a recap of the films that I saw.
I'm no Roger Ebert (more recently known as @ebertchicago) so I'll keep it short, but if you want more details about these and other films check out ifc.com's SXSW blog.
If you saw any of these and have any thoughts, or saw others you'd recommend, let us know in the comments.
THE FILMS (In order of when I saw them)
Click on the film title to visit it's website. All photos used here are from the SXSW website.
A look at the life and times of controversial cult-comic Bill Hicks who died young. The film tracks Hicks' development into a brutally frank political comedian who couldn't seem to find the mainstream acceptance he desired in his home country, but did overseas.
This one is most notable for use of animation during interview segments in place of talking head footage.
Michael Caine stars in this gritty British film that I liken to a cross between "Gran Torino" and "Falling Down." Caine is an older gentleman who can only stand so much of the decay that his neighborhood is experiencing, and after dealing with difficult situations with his beloved wife and best friend at the hands of violent drug dealers, he takes matters into his own hands.
I particularly loved the cinematography and acting in this movie. It had a down and dirty feel that you rarely see in Hollywood films. And it has Michael Caine!
Full disclosure: One of the filmmakers, Lizzy Donius, is a friend of ours and the former head of IFP Chicago. However, we had absolutely no stake in the making of this film.
Donius and collaborator Amy Elliott tell a story that is all at once fun, whimsical, sad and thought-provoking. The documentary takes us to seemingly every small town in America that boasts the world's largest statue of something, that often represented that town's main industry. Most of these towns are crumbling and often the industry that propelled them is gone. The film is shot with a very tourist with a handi-cam feel but manages to convey the true nature of these towns and their inhabitants. I was really glad that I enjoyed the film so that I didn't have to lie to Lizzy!
We all have opinions about George Lucas. This film talks to hundreds of people about the highs and lows of one of film's most polarizing figures. We love him for Star Wars and then hate him for everything he did to the original series and the new one that followed. The film also includes archival footage of Lucas along with many clips of fan-made films.
If you've never thought out loud about whether Jar Jar Binks was worse than the Ewoks or not then you can skip this one... otherwise, it's fun to watch.
From the film's website: "DIRTY PICTURES is a documentary about Dr. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, the rogue chemist who discovered the effects of MDMA (aka Ecstasy) and over 200 other mind-altering drugs. Shulgin’s alchemy has earned him the title “The Godfather of Psychedelics,” and a reputation as one of the great chemists of the 20th century."
This was a film that I was really excited to see and was left not sure how I felt. I think Shulgin is definitely an interesting enough character to be featured, I just felt that it delved a lot deeper into the science of it all for my liking. But if you dig the equations, this is a guaranteed winner. Plus, there's a lot of humor and Burning Man sequences.
Film festivals so rarely have flat-out comedies, but fortunately they make exceptions. Tucker and Dale was just a fun movie to watch. Seeing at a theater that serves beer at midnight didn't hurt my enjoyment, but this one will no doubt make it's way to multiplexes and I'm glad for that.
The film does a 180 on the typical backwoods hicks hunting the college hotties story and instead gives us two rednecks with hearts and brains (sort of). Tucker and Dale just want to hang out and fish at their new "summer home" (a dilapidated cabin on the lake) and find themselves implicated in a series of unfortunate accidents. There's lots of goofy gore, so if you love horror movies but have a sense of humor you'll love this. If you get squeamish from on-screen blood, then sit it out.
So there you have it. I don't know if any of these won awards or not, and while I liked some better than others, all in all I'm glad to support independent filmmaking in whatever capacity I can. Again, I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of these films or others you might have seen or heard about at SXSW.