A QUICK NOTE
:Î¾ In case you're curious, you can read my current and archived film reviews over on the Music From the Movies page
I applied for press credentials fairly late, so I received a comped film pass in lieu of a badge.Î¾Î¾ The lack of a badge meant I wasn't able to attend the various panels and press conferences that the festival offered.Î¾ More importantly, I was third in priority to screenings after special guests and badge holders, which meant I had to wait in line, sometimes for over an hour only to be turned away.Î¾ Fortunately I did manage to see half of the movies I attempted, and since I was attending on the cheap (my pass was free, I drove myself and I was sleeping on my sister's couch), 5 of 10 isn't bad.
Speaking of those five movies, here's a little bit about each:THUNDER SOUL. (Snoot Entertainment. Î¾1 hour, 23 minutes. Î¾Directed by Mark Landsman.)Î¾
Î¾This film is a joyful, energetic yet poignant documentary about the Kashmere High School Stage Band from the mid-1970s, lead by Conrad O. "Prof" Johnson.Î¾ It tells the history of the band and its leader, and introduces us to many of the band members both then and now as they plan a reunion in honor of the Prof. Î¾However, the standout of the show is the soundtrack, featuring performances by the band in its younger days. Î¾An infectious celebration of life and sound. Î¾On a side note, a soundtrack of sorts is already available on CD
, if you would like to get a taste for the movie beforehand. Î¾Here's hoping for a theatrical run.LAST TRAIN HOME.
Î¾(EyeSteelFilm Productions. Î¾1 hour, 27 minutes. Î¾Directed by Lixin Fan. Î¾Music by Olivier Alary.)
Î¾Î¾Every year in southern China, millions of migrant workers cram themselves onto overstuffed trains in an attempt to get home for the Spring Festival. Î¾Last Train Home
follows Changhua and Suqin Zhang, a couple who travel with extra baggage this year: to bring their runaway daughter home, in hopes that she can get an education and live a better life than them. Î¾This is a very raw, quiet and emotional documentary. Î¾There is little-to-no narration, but the visuals speak volumes. Î¾The contrast between the shabby factories, the cramped trains and the beautiful, mountainous countryside is amazing. Î¾It's heartbreaking to see two parents work and deprive themselves of contact with the family they are trying to support. Î¾To see the scale of this yearly migration is a real eye-opener, especially since these are the people making many of the products we buy.MICMACS TIRE-LARIGOT.Î¾(Sony Pictures Classics. Î¾1 hour, 45 minutes. Î¾Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Î¾Music by Ralph Beau and Max Steiner.) Dany Boon, Andre Dussollier, Nicolas Marie, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Yolande Moreau, Julie Ferrier, Omar Sy, Dominique Pinon, Michel Cremades and Marie-Julie Baup.
Î¾Î¾Bazil (Boon), a man with a bullet lodged in his brain who lost his father to a landmine when he was young, falls in with a ragtag band of misfits after losing his job and home. Î¾He then sets out, with help from his new friends, to wreak havoc on the two weapons manufacturers that have affected his life. Î¾Micmacs
is a wonderfully odd little movie, which comes as no surprise considering the director, who is best known for his previous films Amelie
and The City of Lost Children
. Î¾The cast is talented, the set pieces are inventive and the energy is undeniable. Î¾But beneath the goofy, clever exterior lies a rather serious message about war and revenge. Î¾Still, this film is a light-hearted and very fun adventure, and I can't recommend it enough.
Also, getting to see Jeunet at the screening was a real treat. Î¾He's a very funny and clever man, and honestly seems to love making films. Î¾It shows through his works, and it's especially apparent after hearing him speak.CYRUS. (Fox Searchlight. Î¾1 hour, 32 minutes. Î¾Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass. Î¾Music by Michael Andrews.) Î¾John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh.
Î¾Î¾Down-on-his-luck divorc©e John (Reilly) meets Molly (Tomei), the girl of his dreams, only to discover that she has an oddly intense relationship with her son Cyrus (Hill). Î¾As John and Molly get closer, Cyrus works harder and harder to keep them apart. Î¾This is the film I wanted Step Brothers
to be. Î¾Reilly and Hill bounce off of each other well, and the conflict is very entertaining without going over-the-top. Î¾However, it's the underlying emotion that really sold me on the film. Î¾It seems like a goofy romp at first, but it actually has a lot of heart. Î¾I will admit that the pseudo-documentary-style camera work threw me a bit, but it's far from being a deal breaker. Î¾The Q & A afterwards featuring Hill, Reilly and the Duplass Brothers was funny if a bit awkward. Î¾The speakers were good-natured enough, but they spent most of their time chiding the audience for asking some really bad questions. Î¾Asking an actor about the research he did to get into character when he's playing a normal guy is admittedly pretty silly. Î¾Fox Searchlight is distributing, so we should see this released sometime this year.ELEKTRA LUXX.
Î¾(Gato Negro Films. Î¾1 hour, 44 minutes. Î¾Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez.) Carla Gugino, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Timothy Olyphant, Malin Akerman, Adrianne Palicki, Marley Shelton, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Justin Kirk.
Î¾Î¾Elektra Luxx (Gugino) is a pregnant ex-porn star trying to make a living, but her life is thrown is disarray by a flight attendant with ties to her past. Î¾Things only get worse as fiancees, private investigators, a twin sister and even the Virgin Mary are thrown into the mix. Î¾Technically, this is the second movie in a trilogy (the first being Women in Trouble
), but it's easy enough to get up to speed, thanks to a very entertaining turn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a pornography connoisseur/historian. Î¾ Gugino is very good as the sardonic ex-starlet and Palicki is hilarious as an almost-aggressively-dumb actress for whom Chriqui is a capable foil. Î¾The film is very entertaining, but unfortunately, I didn't get to see how it ended due to a malfunctioning projector. Î¾It was shot in high-def and it looked beautiful, especially the splashily-animated opening credits. Î¾I felt really bad for the director too, since he had to run on stage and stall for time while repairs were attempted. Î¾He was quite entertaining, and several of the actresses were in attendance (Gugino, Chriqui, Akerman and Emma Bell). Î¾The movie is very impressive given the short shooting time and scant budget, and I look forward to getting to see the rest of it.
My takeaway from this year's SXSW is this: apply earlier, get an actual badge and try to favor the Paramount Theater.Î¾ It's a huge house that is hard to get turned away from, plus it's a beautiful, historic theater
to boot. Î¾Also, take the whole week off. Î¾There were a lot of movies on offer (about 130 feature-length films and 140 shorts), and I intend to have a much better score next year.