Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Weiner Documentary

Weiner, the documentary, revolves around Anthony Weiner’s (aka ‘Carlos Danger’) rise and fall in politics. Weiner reluctantly resigned from congress in 2011 for linking photos of his surname (if you will) via Twitter to a young woman. This was the first of two scandals that he eventually fessed up to publicly. Fast forward two years later, Anthony Weiner decided to run as a mayoral candidate for New York. He was seemingly on a path to righteousness and polling well with New Yorkers. Claiming he had learned from his mistake, he was ready to move on and make positive changes for New York, until his second offense.

The documentary showcases a megalomaniac politician who seems to love attention, whether it be positive or negative. Almost a mockumentary at times, intended by the documentarian or not, Weiner will have you laughing solely on the media’s pun-frenzy coverage of this guy. Having a last name like Weiner is already tough enough in context to his scandals, but getting caught twice is doubly embarrassing.

At times, Anthony Weiner comes across as agitated and arrogant. In his defense, he is being scrutinized left and right for being dishonest in his personal life. Aside from being a politician, it’s also very sad watching someone who obviously needs more therapy and help with what seems to be an addiction. Unfortunately, Anthony Weiner seems to lack the self-awareness and humility (surprising as that may sound) to seek personal help.

Polar opposite is Huma Abedin, his wife, who is very much part of his campaign until close to the end for an obvious reason. She seems endlessly patient, charming, sincere, and of most importance, forgiving time and time again of Anthony’s transgressions.

If you’ve ever been a fan of Anthony Weiner or not, check out this well-made documentary and relish in the “Weiner” jokes if nothing else.

HBO Documentary Beware the Slenderman is freightening

Slenderman is like the modern day boogieman and if you aren’t familiar, he is depicted as a creepy, tall, faceless man. He’s a horror icon and has built up quite the following on the internet.

Back in May of 2014, two twelve year old girls  in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, lured their friend (Payton Lautner) to a park woods where she was stabbed by Morgan nineteen times, all in the name of Slenderman, who she believes guided her hand.

The documentary takes a Look into the lore behind Slenderman, there seems to be a cult following at this point.There is no shortage of videos, drawings, even multiple videogames, depicting this creature that has taken on a familiar form as a kind of splendor for young children and young adults.

Much of the documentary is focused around the children’s parents as well as the girls confessions or interviews with the detectives who worked their case. The scariest thing about this violence is that these two girls were flying under the radar when it comes to their parents knowledge or lack of knowledge. The notion that all this premeditated planning was happening right under their noses is hard to take for these unfortunate parents and their circumstance. To the efforts of fearing tablets being in the hands of children. Beware the Splenderman definitely wasn’t spinning that the internet is to blame, but it definitely defines what most people that are actively online already know, that you can/will find whatever you are looking for and if you are a socially struggling teen, like Anissa Weier, you can blur the line of reality and fiction and find videos, images, etc. that provide solace to these delusions.

Morgan and Anissa are standing trail for attempted first degree murder and if tried as adults, they could get up to 65 years in prison. Their case is still pending in the courts today.

Preacher Pilot Episode World Premiere

This was the most anticipated event for me at SXSW. Having read the Preacher comics some years ago, I knew that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg had been incubating this passion project for a long time.

After watching the pilot, I’m pretty dang excited for this series. The crowd was so pumped at SXSW, I could hear people salivating for more.

For those who don’t know, Preacher is about Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a preacher who has recently returned to his home, a small town in Texas. Jesse struggling with what little faith he has, his inner demons, and darker past. Threaded between Jesse’s story, we are introduced to Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun who seems to embody this character through and through), a harsh/drunken vampire, whose introductory scene almost steals the show with acrobatics and well choreographed fighting on a jetliner. Tulip (Ruth Negga), a take no guff professional criminal, who gets creative with a corn cob while scuffling with a baddie in a car speeding through a cornfield.

Afterwards in attendance for a Q&A was producers/directors, Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, cast members Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun, Ruth Negga, Sam Catlin (series show runner), and original comic/story writer Garth Ennis. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg discussed how casting was difficult and that they really wanted to get the characters right for the series.

Seth Rogen talked about how meetings for Preacher started back when Superbad was filming and originally HBO was slated to pick it up, but the idea was considered to be too much for the public at the time. Over the years, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg weren’t sure how, or if Preacher would ever make it to the screen due to lack of interest for quite some time. Originally they considered a mini-series or even doing a trilogy film.

Now that television is ready for it, Preacher will join AMC’s impressive catalog in May of this year. I can tell that this is going to blow up, so get your copies of the Preacher comics while you still can.

 

Keanu

keanuI was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere of Keanu at The Paramount Theatre. The crowd was revved up when Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele hit the stage to introduce the film. Their onstage presence is unbeatable. I would have enjoyed watching them interact with the crowd all night.

Keanu, which I wrongfully assumed was blatantly about Keanu Reeves, follows an adorable kitten with the same namesake as the actor. When Keanu ends up on the doorstep of Rell (Jordan Peele) and then goes missing soon after, Rell enlists the help of his cousin, Clarence (Keegan Key), to help him find his lost feline friend. Catching wind that Keanu may have ended up in the hands of a gang (led by Method Man), the two end up infiltrating said gang (The Blips, rejects of the Bloods and the Crips gangs) and from here, these two educated or affluent black men resort to posing as gangsters toting the N word and various four letter words. Unfortunately, the played out theme of racial stereotyping take the reins for the rest of Keanu.

As a work in progress, Keanu was entertaining enough, but there were scenes that dragged on a bit. Knowing the style of Jordan Peele and Keegen-Michael Key, it’s hard to tell if this is just unedited improvised takes that may be cut down in the final film, or just the style of the film which feels like a very long Key & Peele sketch comedy routine. Even as a long sketch, I feel like these two are much more capable than the confines of this script and do the best they can to work inside of it because the dynamic between these two actors shines through even on the big screen, but it isn’t enough to make this movie stand out.

Don’t Think Twice

don't think twiceComing back full circle after watching the documentary about Del Close earlier in the weekend, and a film seemingly inspired by Del Close and his improvisational movement, Don’t Think Twice is written/directed by the comedian (among other things), Mike Birbiglia. Taking a stab at portraying the trials and tribulations of an improv troupe and how to deal with making it or not in the competitive world of comedians, Don’t Think Twice delivers some smart dialogue and well-crafted performances from the cast.

Miles (Birbiglia) is a teacher, mentor, and kind of a leader of an improv troupe out of NY called, The Commune. Composed of 30 somethings who are barely keeping it together in their lives and with their group, we get a glimpse of their struggles. With cast members including Keegan-Michael Key, Kat Micucci, Gillian Jacobs, Tami Sagher, & Chris Gethard, the performances and chemistry are sweet and also sour at moments.

Mike Birbiglia’s character does not show much in the way of training or teaching. Besides charming and luring his naïve students into his dorm-like loft, he doesn’t carry much weight in the film or add too much to the other characters lives. The focus of the film revolves around one of the team members hitting the big time working for “Weekend Live” a carbon copy of SNL and how that success affects the group as a whole and his personal relationship. With this, Don’t Think Twice does not feel completely crafted. As an ensemble cast, there are snapshots of character development, but it feels staggered and minimal at best.

This film definitely seems personal and there is a lot of discussion about being a loser, having menial jobs, or barely paying bills that is a real burden for creative minds that don’t quite make it. Mike Birbiglia has perhaps seen this along the pathway of his career and I would have liked to see a fully fleshed out story.

Thank You Del: The Story of the Del Close Marathon

delDo you know who Del Close is? I didn’t until I saw this documentary and most people who have ever held interest in comedians and improvisation probably haven’t heard of him either, until now. Described by some as the father or originator of long form improvisation, Del Close was responsible for training, teaching, and mentoring famous comedians like: Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Harold Ramis, Amy Poehler, and among other spots had a large influence at The Second City Theater in Chicago for around a decade. Del was also one of the founders of The Harold structure used today in long form improvisation.

Every year the UCB or Upright Citizens Brigade holds an improvisation marathon or festival to celebrate/remember Del and what he accomplished in the realm of long form improvisation. In this documentary by Todd Bieber, among seeing all of the different groups that attend this annual tradition, the audience is introduced to an upstart improv group from Michigan, “Hi Let’s be Friends”. With their minimal experience in improvisational comedy,  they end up at the UCB theater in Chelsea, NY to perform in front of a larger group as part of the marathon. People from all around the world come in each year to demonstrate their improvisational chops. One Interesting segment to the documentary focuses on ethnicity/sexual identity/gender and how it differs for each person who performs in improvisation troops, or how these topics can be taboo, but shouldn’t be on stage. The ideology of allowing your whole self to come through and take risks, which seemed in line with Del’s overall philosophy and his intended legacy to the art.

The documentary was crafted over three years with archival footage of Del and the actors he trained, as well as the marathon over the past few years. Besides paying homage to this influential and cantankerous man, the documentary also highlights some really funny moments with UCB and what they do best, improvisation.

 

 

Teenage Cocktail

MV5BYTU5YzA2YTEtMWQyMy00NDAxLTg0MzUtZjY4ODkxZDRjZmIwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTExNzE4Mzc@._V1_UY268_CR70,0,182,268_AL_Teenage Cocktail may be one of the most honest modern flicks I’ve seen about exploring and eventually exploiting sexuality and the empowerment that can be gleaned from those early experiences. Teenage Cocktail may be likened to films like Thirteen or even Spring Breakers. To say that it is portraying modern teenage girls suffering from “affluenza”, would not give the film or characters enough credence. Does it have elements of petulance and entitlement seen from teens? Sure, but it also shows the fearlessness of being that age and living for the moment with no concern for tomorrow.

If nothing else, Teenage Cocktail starts off as a budding love story between two friends. Annie (Nichole Bloom) and her family are new to a small town. Having trouble making friends at her new school, Annie discovers Jules (Fabianne Therese), and the two quickly become intertwined in a very intimate way. What starts off as a very light film with milkshakes in a diner, Teenage Cocktail quickly turns into something riskier and dangerous. Annie and Jules feel stifled by their small town and make lofty plans to flee to New York together. In preparing for this journey, they need money in a big way and go about making it by setting up a webcam. When their lives intersect with Frank (Pat Healy notably from Cheap Thrills), a creepy online fan, things get fairly dark.

The leading ladies really steal the whole movie with their dynamic and display of acting chops. Annie’s parents are also notable characters that get fleshed out in the film. Instead of being overbearing parents coming down on her, they fall more on the spectrum of hands off parents trying to relate by being cool, yet are left in the dark because of Annie’s shut out teenage tendencies. This was a nice change from what has traditionally been seen in movies about troubled teens. There is one scene that is fairly awkward to watch with Annie and her father, who discovers what Annie and Jules have been getting into online, but the overall image is somewhat ambiguous or up to interpretation. Teenage Cocktail also stands out for me because Annie and Jules may be troubled, but they aren’t completely clueless. They get in over their heads and fall down the rabbit hole, but their overall teen angst and drama is minimal to the story, which in turn makes them more complex or interesting characters to watch.

 

The Greasy Strangler, not so slick

greasystrangler_posterWatching The Greasy Strangler was kind of equivalent to spending 90 minutes ripping off one crusty greasy Band-Aid over and over again. It teetered between disgusting, magnificent, and boring. There were over-the-top moments where I found myself guffawing and almost choking on my delicious beer. There were also too many drawn out segments where the audience was waiting for something interesting to happen in order to move the pencil thin story along, it kind of hobbled. This was definitely not the SXSW opening night film I was expecting, but it was what I deserved.

A spoof of sorts on the suspense/horror genres, with plenty of unsolicited nudity one does not want to see. The Greasy Strangler follows Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels), a leathery and cantankerous man, who lives with his shy and lonely son, Brayden (Sky Elobar). Within the first scene, Ronnie denies to Brayden that he is the greasy strangler. Admitting he is a “bullshit artist”, it’s fairly obvious, he is indeed the greasy strangler. Not to mention, the giant vat of grease in their house, or that Ronnie requires all of his meals and drinks to have “more grease”, or even the fact that he turns into a greasy naked monster and strangles people throughout the film. Perhaps the real meat of the story revolves around the father and son relationship and their separate and multiple sexual exploits with Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo), whom they both profess to love. Janet just seems to enjoy having sex with both men, period.

The overacting in the film is funny at first, reminiscent of Stela shorts or Wet Hot American Summer even. The dialogue sometimes goes on in a painful manner, but at some point comes back around to become funny again. There was definitely over usage of the prolonged fake laughter gag and there was definitely no shortage of flatulent humor, nasty food play, and half/fully naked men running around. The line “Bullshit artist” can be heard at least twenty times in the movie. Also, the costuming choices were interesting and the soundtrack was harrowing yet cheesy with odd cat synthesizer sounds.

Writer/Director Jim Hosking (Segment “G is for Grandad” in ABC’s of Death 2) has a pretty twisted idea of family dynamics and sharing significant others, but if you like watching grown men run around all greased up with flaccid prosthetic penises, you’ll have a couple of more chances to catch this odd film. I just tried to appreciate it for what it was trying to accomplish. I’m still not exactly sure what that was though…

 

 

The Nymphets

downloadWith a name like this, I thought I was getting into something risque, maybe taboo, or at least something that pushes the envelope. The Nymphets didn’t deliver any of this. In fact, the only thing I can say about The Nymphets is it was a giant tease. Writer/Director Gary Gardner must have wanted to show the audience what the ultimate blue balls looks like for a creeper.

Joe (Kip Pardue) rescue’s two young girls fake ID’s from a bouncer and then invites them back to his apartment. Joe is a fairly successful something year old who indulges the everlasting giggly twins, Brittany (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) & Allyson (Jordan Lane Price), two under age teens looking to get into trouble.

The Nymphets came across as more of a study on what happens when you let two teenage girls run their dirty mouths for an hour and a half. The two girls playfully tease and antagonize Joe, when really all he wants is to get laid by one of them. What makes The Nymphets uncomfortable is how Joe constantly creeps on these two girls that may or may not be able to legally drive. You can never tell if they want to sleep with Joe or just tease him, but either way it’s hard to really care.

I guess I was expecting something that had the ferocity of Funny Games or Cheap Thrills, but instead it played more like Lolita (the Jeremy Irons remake).

Petting Zoo

petting-zoo-sxsw-berlinWell, this film only affirmed for me why living in San Antonio doesn’t seem great. Getting past the city, Petting Zoo had potential and I’d be curious to see what writer/director Micah Magee does next.

Petting Zoo Takes place in the aforementioned city, and centers around a shy teenage high school senior, Layla (Devon Keller). Although I can’t say I remember what it’s like to be a teenage girl, I could never tell if Layla was acting on teenage angst, apathy, or maybe both. When we are introduced to her, she is just about to graduate and ride a scholarship to The University of Texas. When she is forced to with a game changing decision (teen pregnancy), Layla is forced to grow up (sort of) quicker than expected.

Most of the characters seemed wooden to me. I didn’t care or buy into Layla’s world. Part of this was due to the very unnatural dialogue that just didn’t seem to have much flow. To boot, the story didn’t go anywhere until maybe the last 20 minutes. I’m alright with a slow burn, but this just kind of caught a spark and fizzled right away. I think that was intentional because Layla’s ambivalence about things made for an ambivalent response from this viewer.

One particular scene was tough to watch where she has to have an induced labor after discovering her 3 month old baby is a stillborn. Not for the squeamish, so if you don’t like seeing dead fetuses, you might want to cover your eyes.

Petting Zoo wasn’t all bad. There were brief moments when Layla seemed like an actual person and not just flying on autopilot. She snapped out of her daze in one particular scene in time to argue with her and her man friend. The dialogue felt very real and raw, which was not felt in many of the other scenes. There were also some odd choices for edits/cuts, but the acting was fairly solid, throughout, especially by Layla.

Deathgasm will melt your face

deathgasmThis film was so metal, I might have had a Deathgasm after viewing it. This has probably set the bar for films at SXSW this year. I mean it’s about teenagers forming a metal band that happens to play a piece of music, the “dark hymn” that summons the devil and causes the townspeople to turn into demons. It’s a metal themed movie that didn’t disappoint.

I’ve been describing it as Shaun of the Dead meets The Evil Dead I and/or II. A film born out of New Zealand, the genius behind the film, Jason Lei Howden, came on right before the screening and said if we liked it, we should petition online for a sequel because he needs more work. I hope he has already written a script because I’d watch another ninety minutes of gore and mayhem.

I knew I was in love when the main character, Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) daydreams about being a metal guitar player on top of a mountain shooting lasers out of his eyes to remove the clothes of the girl of his dreams, Medina (Kimberley Crossman).

Filled with plenty of gore and some pretty gnarly deaths, one particular scene involved death by sex toys which was maybe the most brilliant scene ever conceived on film. A film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but never loses its eye on the prize, Deathgasm is a must see for everyone ever.

Night Owls

nightowlsI’m not usually into romantic comedy’s, but Night Owls was particularly clever thanks to the chemistry between the two main characters, Kevin (Adam Pally) & Madeline (Rosa Salazar). The story really grabbed my attention for about forty-five minutes. Somehow it just lost its charming momentum and started to feel stale as if the characters were running out witty things to say.

Kevin & Madeline enjoy a one nightstand where Madeline brings Kevin back to what he assumes is her home. He wakes up to find Madeline missing and he quickly discovers that she brought him to his bosses home. Kevin finds Madeline laying unconscious in the bathroom with an empty bottle of Xanax. Kevin has to keep Madeline from falling asleep for the rest of the night so the two are locked in and forced to get to know one another.

Tony Hale (Buster on Arrested Development) makes an unexpected visit, as a podiatrist for about five minutes and that was probably the best part of the flick. Also, Peter Krause has about five minutes of screen time. Man, he’s looking old.

The chemistry between the two main characters was solid and there were some well timed jokes with a splash of slapstick here and there.  I wasn’t able to buy into the budding relationship between the two characters based on the dialogue, but Night Owls was still enjoyable.

 

Breaking a Monster

breaking a monster

I was sold on this documentary when I read that it was about a metal band consisting of three African American 8th graders. Their stardom was born after a youtube video went viral of the three jamming out on the streets of New York. Malcolm Brickhouse (guitars/vocals), Alec Atkins (bass), and Jarad Dawkins (drums/backup vocals) make up this juvenile power trio named, Unlocking the Truth.

Malcolm, the front man, is definitely the most talented in the group. He is definitely a monster on the guitar and with more years, he could be infinitely talented and start burning guitars on stage or playing with his teeth. He is also easily the most difficult and immature of the bunch, but he is outspoken and seems compelled to continue on and make music no matter what anyone thinks. Malcolm also sings (not well), but I was thinking, there are plenty of metal bands without vocals, but this was important to Sony for marketing.

The documentary chronicles the three from their infancy, as a band, (although they are young) all the way up to recording their first music video and recorded single. They struck a record deal with Sony for 1.8 million before they ever had anything recorded. Their manager, Alan Sacks, who brought up The Jonas Brothers and had a part in the creation of a little television show called, Welcome Back Kotter, has more patience than a Buddhist monk (he does meditate in the film). Sacks helped seal the deal with Sony although it seems like he thought these kids would be as focused as the Jonas brothers.

The documentary also explores how difficult and stressful it must be for kids that young to have the responsibility of transforming into a well groomed and marketable band, especially for Sony’s standards. It doesn’t help that the company is run by a bunch of rich white people, who all seem to have an opinion about what’s right for the band.

You can definitely tell from many scenes that the band does not seem to grasp how fortunate and lucky they are to have the music biz cushion and their veteran manager, which makes sense because they are teenagers that want to be able to act as teenagers, rightfully so. They’ll have to grow up pretty quickly if they continue down the path of stardom.

There were some exploitative references coming from the film, especially because they are African Americans that are not fitting the stereotype by not being immersed in the hip-hop community. There are notions that Sony and their manager are just in it for the money (of course they are). I’d like to know how the band does in the future and I hope that their egos can stay in check and they can minimize spoiled behaviors.

 

Unfriended

unfriended-horror-movie

I now know what it is like to stare at a teenagers computer screen for an hour and a half. Unfriended was an unlikely pick at SXSW, but it seems like the theme for this year is horror/suspense. Unfriended is probably the best representation of the video chat/web formatted films out there. I had pretty low expectations going in, the trailer made Unfriended look like a shock horror film, but to my surprise it ended up as a supernatural slow burn.

Cyber bullying is explored in Unfriended, when a friend of a teenage group kills herself after an embarrassing video of her goes viral. The film starts off marking the anniversary of her death when the friends decide to get online for a nice unsuspecting video chat. Quickly they realize they are not alone in their video chat, but there is someone who knows their secrets and plans to terrorize them.

Prior to watching Unfriended, the exec. Producer came out and talked about how the film the audience was about to screen may or may not be anything like the final film that hits the theater in the following months. That was a first for me and I didn’t understand why he mentioned this until after the film. So basically each take was the length of the film without any cuts because of the fact that the characters are basically on screen the whole time so it plays out kind of like a play. This also explained why there were some odd lulls in conversation, for example there are multiple scenes where the lead characters are talking to one another in a private message with the other friends hanging out in the background. So the filmmaker wanted the attention to be drawn to the private conversation which required the other background characters to be quiet. This kind of had an unnatural feel to it, but it only periodically occurred. Overall Unfriended was a pretty solid pick for SXSW.

The Final Girls world premiere at SXSW 2015!!

photoKicking off the festival this year on Friday the 13th no less with a high energy horror/slasher comedy, The Final Girls. The crowd was rowdy and it made this a memorable experience indeed. This film will definitely score points with slasher film aficionados and horror fans alike, but don’t expect the tautness of Cabin in the Woods, another film striving to hit meta status in poking fun at the horror formula. The Final Girls is one part, an homage to 80’s slashers and one part a story of coping with loss. Sometimes it struggles by trying to commit to both themes in 90 or so minutes.

Max (Taissa Farmiga, notably from American Horror Story) is a bashful teenager who is in the midst of dealing with her mothers untimely death from three years prior. Her mother, (Malin Ackerman) is best known for cheesy slasher films in the 80’s entitled “Camp Bloodbath” (basically Jason films). Max’s best bud, Gertie (Alia Shawkat) has a relentless stepbrother, Duncan (Thomas Middleditch from Silicon Valley) who desperately wants Max to attend the anniversary screening of Bloodbath that he and other fanatics are attending. Reluctantly Max does attend the screening and after a freak fire breaks out in the theater, Max and her friends are supernaturally transported into the film, Bloodbath. Max has a chance to reconnect with her mom, sort of, and The Final Girls tries its best to set the rules of the this world.

Sometimes the pacing is off of the film and it feels like there is too much space for improvised lines that could have been cut a little earlier. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some really fantastic and hilarious moments in the film. There is one particular scene that gave me a newfound appreciation for the beauty of slowmo, even if it was intended to demonstrate its overuse. The scoring is pretty cool and there is some pretty sexy dancing that is the detonator for the killer to appear.

The Final girls is a notable attempt by director Todd Strauss-Schulson and although it might not be an instant classic, it definitely is worth checking out.

Richard Linklater Triumphs with his film Boyhood

20140401-193907.jpgRichard Linklater is one of the most formally innovative filmmakers working today, and Texas is proud to claim him as their very own. He certainly was well represented at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin – he got to conduct a public interview with fellow Texas filmmaker Wes Anderson, an event which made for a crowd pleaser unto itself. Linklater also won the coveted “Lone Star” award (only given to Texas-born filmmakers) for his film Boyhood (2014), which is easily his most impressive accomplishment to date.

Boyhood was shot over the course of 12 years, and documents the intellectual, cultural, even biological development of a young Texas boy from the age of six to the age of 18. Ellar Coltrane stars as the child, Mason, and the film also stars Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (who has appeared in several other Linklater films, including the superb Before Sunrise trilogy). Principal photography for Boyhood started in Austin in the summer of 2002, and continued right up until the young man had graduated high school.

Linklater has claimed in interviews that he became fascinated with the idea of a project that would, in essence, cinematically distill childhood – not any one part of it, necessarily, but the whole thing.  In a way, the film pays homage to French New Wave director Francois Truffaut, who employed a similar technique in his entire body of work, and spent twenty years chronicling the life of the character Antoine Doinel (played in five separate films by Jean-Pierre Leaud), starting with The 400 Blows (1959) and culminating in Love on the Run (1979). Linklater’s approach is still distinct, however, if only for the fact that he condensed 12 years worth of footage into a single, self-contained viewing experience.

And while the film is unique in several ways, it feels like a logical extension of the rest of his body of work. It’s a dialogue driven script, similar to his early, low budget, talk-heavy features Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (2004), which both deal with intellectually adept and functionally challenged young people in Texas. They don’t suffer from a dearth of ideas or creative impulses – they just can’t seem to do much more than talk about them. Both films, but Dazed and Confused most specifically, also deal with the sort of ennui and existential crises which come with establishing yourself as an adult. The film also contains elements of what made the seminal Waking Life (2001) so stimulating: the conversation itself is enriched with some sort of unique visual component, which, in the case of Waking Life is achieved by a means of digitally rendered animation which makes natural footage look somewhat dreamlike. In the case of Boyhood, the interesting visual hook is of course the “time-lapse” like effect of seeing the characters grow gradually older over the years. The film relies heavily on dialogue, and some of the most effective moments of the film are achieved by the juxtaposition of segments where the young Mason is conversing with his parents during different stages of his life developmentally.

Linklater has been a source of pride for the Texas creative community for many years now, and his recognition from SXSW this year has further solidified his reputation as a stellar contemporary filmmaker. In fact, stats culled from Viral Heat, the social media aggregator, reveal that Linklater has been getting a lot of play in the social media realm recently:

Let us hope that this film, and his participation in SXSW, will help to advance his career even further. He may not have the populist box office drawing power of someone like Wes Anderson, but that may very well change in coming years, and it’s high time that Linklater gets the attention and praise he has always deserved.

Article by Brandon Engel

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Shots of the Daze #32

Well SXSW 2014 is over and we’re finally starting to feel normal again. We want to share with you what a fun night we had at the Austin Music Awards 3/12/2014. It was truly a night of seeing friends, old and new. It seems as though all our friends were up on stage winning awards, like Gary Clark Jr. for Best Blues Set, Warren Hood for Best Strings Player and Emily Gimble for Best Keyboard Player, just to name a few. Or performing for the audience: Ephraim Owens, Alejandro Escovedo and Lucinda Williams. Also backstage we got to talk with Bruce Hughes, John Branch, Jody Denberg and of course the lady of the night Margaret Moser. We tried to be in four places at once just so we didn’t miss all the action. But the highlight of the night was hearing Gary Clark Jr. say he was moving back to Austin, because New York City just isn’t cutting it. They always come back. IMG_2471IMG_2508IMG_2520IMG_2521IMG_2540IMG_2584IMG_2629IMG_2677

SXSW Film Showcase: Big In Japan

big in japanFor the love of rock and roll and Tokyo, Big In Japan is somewhere between The Spice Girls and Josie and the Pussycats movies. I expected it to be more like witnessing a band like Devo make love to Godzilla, but we can’t always have what we want.

Big in Japan is a semi-fictionalized movie about a real band out of Seattle, Tennis Pro (Sean Lowry, Phillip Peterson, & David Drury), who aren’t very popular in their hometown, so they decide to go out and travel to Tokyo, Japan to find their fan base.

The elements I really like about Big In Japan is that the band hangs out at the same places in Tokyo. It’s not flashy like Lost in Translation, showcasing the bright lights and quirkier aspects of Japan. The band makes friends as they travel along and if this is somewhat of a documentary based on their actual experiences they had in Japan, it seems like the surf-rock trio have a lot of gusto.

Even though Big in Japan has its moments, ultimately it’s quite obvious that these rockers are not actors, which director John Jeffcoat (co-writer/director of Outsourced 2006), admitted before the film premiered at SXSW. Unfortunately, most of the humor is lost in the film and the jokes that are delivered fall flat due to the writing and/or character delivery. However, there are some more serious, tense scenes in the film that come through in a believable way. In one particular scene, the characters are unexpectedly caught in a frenzy caused by an earthquake; perhaps to emulate the emotions felt after the real life Tsunami that hit Japan, oddly enough falling exactly two years from the films premiere date. 

Phillip (Phil) Peterson is also worth mentioning, kind of like a lost puppy dog, his story is more carved out in the film. Phillip actually came on stage at SXSW just prior to the film premiere to play the audience beautiful compositions on a Cello. It is obvious that he is very talented as a composer and producer.

I had higher hopes for Big In Japan, but I think it’s a celebration of the bands hard work and showcases Tennis Pro’s genuineness through their music which plays throughout the film. I hope that these guys get some more recognition as a band.

 

 


Shots of the Daze #30

It’s our 30th ‘Shots of the Daze!’ And what better way to celebrate than with these shots we caught of fantastic director Wes Anderson, here in Austin for SXSW being interviewed by Rick Linklater. Anderson’s good friend and actor Jason Schwartzman was in attendance as well as their musical director for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” This film features many cameos and of course many of the regulars who appear in Wes Anderson’s movies. Ralph Fiennes’ main character is energetic and magnetic. It was a special treat to have Wes Anderson present his new film to us, and follow it up with two amazing directors geeking out together. Anderson remarked while presenting the film, that his first ever movie premiere only gathered an audience of nine. Today he packs a full house.

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Shots of the Daze #29

Mike Myers honors a good friend by making a movie about him. “Supermensch” is about how Shep Gordon rose from nothing, to managing bands, celebrity chefs, and everything in between. Tom Arnold joins the conversation with Mike and Shep for SXSW Film panel, and in case you were wondering, Shep is single and looking to comingle.

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