Saturday, March 13, 2010

SXSW Film 2010 Day 2

Late start today so I sadly missed Thunder Soul. It should screen again post-festival in Austin and Houston as it has strong local roots.


Munday (refuse to continue the all-caps silliness) is similar to Knocked Up in telling the story of a loser guy who is forced to grow-up when a one-night stand results in a pregnancy, though the source novel predates Knocked Up by several years. Despite "preceding" it, Munday suffers from the same problem; we are expected to cheer on the "rehab" of a douchey dude who is practically required to fall in love with the barely two-dimensional, harshly critical female lead as they form a happy, conservative-dream-of-family in time for the credits. Despite this glaring flaw, the film is enjoyable if taken as probably intended, a minor relationship comedy.

When it works, it's largely due to the talented cast who wring the comedy from the script. Judy Greer, hamstrung by stereotypical stringy-hair-and-glasses = ugly and the aforementioned stridency, manages to humanize Ginger and deliver sharp line readings. Patrick Wilson, underutilized as a comic actor in his career, shines here creating far more laughs than the dialogue provides. Wilson is slightly miscast in that he's far too attractive and muscular to really be this character, and yet he convinces.

And here's where we get to something I noticed in my years of SXSW attendance. There's a score-creep phenomenon that occurs. The audience is eager and the filmmakers are often in attendance which can lead to better appraisals than the film might otherwise warrant. That isn't to say Munday definitely falls into the category, but I did pick up on an early tendency for the audience to perhaps overreact to jokes and mugging. The writer-director Chris D'Arienzo also engaged in my favorite, always-charming SXSW Film cliche, walking out onto the Paramount stage and being gobsmacked by the theater itself and the idea of it full of people wanting to see his film. Yes, we likey the film and the people who make them in Austin.

Documentary Shorts

A very strong program this year.

Seltzer Works
A profile of the last seltzer bottler in New York City. Gorgeously filmed and tightly edited, this is a modest but beautifully done short.

Six-man football is a largely unknown phenomenon of small town Texas. Unable to field full teams but loving the game as much for entertainment as the way it holds communities together, rural high schools play a small team, high scoring version of football. 6 is the best short doc I've seen in a long time. From pre-title set-up to action footage to deeply-felt interviews, this is practically perfect top to bottom and the audience knew it. No attempt to stretch this into a feature but giving its subject a full presentation, this is what short doc-makers should aspire to make.

Big Birding Day
Lovely images, but a lack of focus in recording the attempt to set the record for most birds seen in 24 hours leaves this doc at the bottom of the pack.

She-said, he-said story of a couple who embraced the "free spirit" of the late 60s/early 70s and formed a quasi-group marriage with another couple. Made by their daughter, the doc presents their stories simultaneously in split-screen. It's an effective device and elevates the film above run-of-the-mill family bio docs.

Mr. Hypnotism
Profile of con-man hypnotist Dr. Dante by SXSW alumni Brandon Beesley. Competently made, the oily charm of Dante holds your attention.

White Lines and The Fever: The Death of DJ Junebug
An early hip-hop prodigy, DJ Junebug increasingly chose cocaine over turntables which led to his early death. It felt like the filmmakers wanted this to be a feature, but correctly ascertained that the story didn't warrant the length. Great production value, great talking heads, great use of music.

Micmacs à tire-larigot
[English translation: The Slidewhistle Micmacs]

A return to director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's (Amelie) earlier madcap films like Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, Micmacs follows the pattern of most Jeunet films: lovable, down-on-his-luck "orphan" Bazil (Dany Boon) finds a new family and fights a powerful enemy—here the arms industry—using his wit and talents. After smartly establishing Bazil's history and motivation, Micmacs essentially becomes a heist film heavily colored with Jeunet's standard-yet-gorgeous visual flair and comic sensibility. Bursting with Tex Avery-esque action setpieces, outsize characters, and just a hint of sentimentality, Micmacs is a perfect introduction to Jeunet's body of work for newcomers and another winning entry for devotees who will especially appreciate the sly references to previous films.

The rest of my evening was a bust: too late to get into American Grindhouse, Centurion secret show cancelled.


  1. You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.............................................

  2. You know what would be a good movie is there's this guy who's a nurse and lives and is a good writer and is very knowledgeable about pop culture. Ok, maybe that's not a whole movie, but it would definitely make for a good blog. I mean, if the guy could bother to post every once in a damn while.

  3. ("and lives in Houston" got eaten by my fumble fingers.) My point remains.

  4. What a marvelous idea! If only such a fellow would do so instead of, say getting all into summer TV watching and posting comments on pop culture websites.

  5. Jeez. This is some kind of record. A pathetic, pathetic record.