Sunday, March 9, 2014

SXSW 2014 Film: Pulp

As a brit-pop fan since High School, I was very excited to hear that a documentary about Pulp was premiering at SXSW. I was not prepared for what a great concert film I just saw. I was expecting a film that documented the band members as children and talked about how they formed and all of their milestones but that is not what this film is at all. In a sense the filmmaker assumes you know that stuff and even if you don't it's not really important to the story. The film's focus is on the band's "final" gig, a big hometown show in the industrial city of Sheffield, England. Rather than get caught up in all of the minutia of interviewing schoolyard chums, former roadies and all of that business the filmmaker interviews the people that give the city its character. We meet Pulp fans of varying degrees and we get to know the city that informed the band's sound. The film also shows how the band's music has become so much larger than the band itself. Jarvis Cocker's lyrics have inspired books, classes and any number of enthusiastic choral arrangements.

Without a doubt, Pulp was one of the best contemporary concert films I have ever seen. If you enjoyed the LCD Soundsystem documentary, then you have to see Pulp.

I hate to tell y'all this but the Pulp documentary is only showing ONCE MORE at SXSW but don't fret because you can bet your ass this fine film will return to Austin at some point this year. In the meantime, you can still catch it at 7pm Wednesday night at the Stateside.

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SXSW 2014 Film: The Possibilities Are Endless

You may already be aware of the singer Edwyn Collins but what you may not know is that he suffered from a serious stroke. The film, The Possibilities Are Endless documents Collins' journey from the debilitating haze of brain trauma back to a more normal existence. Don't be fooled though, this is not your typical music documentary. The filmmakers' goal was to make an artistic film that felt like an extension of songwriting.

Most songwriters don't plainly lay out their message, they reveal it in codes and symbols leaving it up to the listener to create their own interpretations. The Possibilities Are Endless was done in a similar style. Rather than point a camera at a subject and let them speak, the subject's words are matched with beautiful, lyrical images that visually interpret the stories. This isn't a journalistic approach to documentary filmmaking, it's more abstract and emotional. It takes the viewer through the confusion and the fog and the fear and eventually back to the core of the artist, which is his art.

The Possibilities are Endless - Official Trailer

Art has the power to heal and regardless of obstacles, an artist must create art. In spite of everything that life had to throw at Edwyn Collins he remained a true artist and an inspiration. This film doesn't just show us the journey, it walks us down the path.

The Possibilities are Endless screens twice more during the festival. If you don't have official credentials the screening at Village is your best bet for rush tickets.

Tuesday, March 11 | 2:00PM - 3:22PM | Alamo Village

Thursday, March 13 | 7:00PM - 8:22PM | AMC Theater at VCC

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SXSW 2014 Film:Big Significant Things

Big Significant Things is the sort of film you make in your late 20's when you feel like you'll never do shit with your life and you're scared. At its heart it's a roadtrip film married to a coming of age film but unfortunately it's not a very good film. The themes are highly indentifiable and there were some great acting performances but there was far too much meandering. The protagonist meanders and the story meanders. I get what the film was trying to say but I don't think the filmmaker has developed their filmic vocabulary well enough yet. With that being said, I didn't walk out of this film and I wasn't miserable. I think that it's a very fine first film and that this filmmaker will go on to make great films within the next few years. However, when asked what I thought about this film yesterday after seeing it my response was, "I loved the Title Sequence and the Fonts!" To me, that says it all.

You only have two more chances to see Big Significant Things at SXSW 2014 and one of those chances is 90 minutes from now. So, if this brief review made you want to rush out and see this film, you better get some pants on now.

Sunday, March 9 | 11:00AM - 12:25PM | Alamo Slaughter

Wednesday, March 12 | 4:30PM - 5:55PM | Alamo Ritz 2

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SXSW 2014 Film: Buzzard

I recognize that the SXSW film, Buzzard isn't for everyone but it's definitely for me. If history is fair, which it's not, Buzzard will be revered in the same way that Slacker was revered as a film that encapsulates the feelings of a generation. This dark-comedy follows a young man who is constantly trying to game a system that has failed him. His job is shit, his apartment is shit, his friends are shit and his decision-making skills are shit. In other words he is me and he is all of my friends. Marty spends the film making selfish decisions and doing his best to avoid their consequences. I don't want to summarize too much because I feel like there are so many great scenes that could be easily spoiled.

Buzzard - Official Trailer

You still have three more chances to see Buzzard at SXSW 2014 but it was also picked up for distribution by Oscilloscope Laboratories so even those of you not at the festival will get the chance to see this film soon.

Sunday, March 9 | 9:45PM - 11:22PM | Alamo Village

Thursday, March 13 | 7:00PM - 8:37PM | Alamo Ritz 1

Friday, March 14 | 7:00PM - 8:37PM | Rollins Theatre at The Long Center

If you're a local without credentials, this evening's screening of Buzzard at Slaughter is your best bet. It'll cost you $10 and you'll have to wait for tickets in the Rush line but I feel like your odds of getting in are fairly decent.

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SXSW 2014 Film: Documentary Short Program 1

The great thing about a shorts program is the films are short. If it's a good film, it feels even shorter or makes you wish it were full length. If it's not a good film, at least it didn't waste a bunch of your time. There were six shorts in the program I watched at SXSW yesterday. The films varied in their subject matter and length but all of them were at least entertaining. The worst of the six was the shortest and it wasn't bad, it just felt like a web video. My favorite was Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace, which was the longest film in the set but also the most engaging. The subject matter was interesting and the film itself was very well-done. I would most certainly watch a full-length feature about or inspired by the artist Kehinde Wiley.

Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace - Official Trailer video via YouTube

Obviously, I'm a big music nerd so I was excited to see short films about the New Orleans Bounce scene, a DFA Records documentary, and a very short film about kid-metal group Unlocking the Truth. The Unlocking the Truth documentary definitely could have been longer. Since, the group played FunFunFun Fest last year I feel like there is a lot more to their story than what was in the short documentary but I suspect that festival appearance happened after this film was shot.

There was also a documentary about an openly gay baseball player who INVENTED THE HIGH FIVE. Isn't that crazy? Someone was the first person to give a high five and it turns out that dude was gay. As a gay man, I will think of this film whenever I see a Republican giving a high five. I'll think, I wonder if he/she knows how gay that is?

The feature in this program that I have yet to mention was a documentary about Shephard Fairey. I love art documentaries and I think Shephard Fairey is a really interesting person but this really should have been a feature-length documentary. The film makers crammed WAY too much story into this short, which made it feel like a trailer or show about a movie. It either needed more focus or more screen-time.

There are about a billion shorts playing at SXSW and I highly recommend checking them out especially if they're showing at the Topfer, which was very posh.

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SXSW 2014 Film: For Those in Peril

Yesterday, I started my day with a film from a first-time filmmaker. For Those in Peril made its N. American debut at SXSW this year after receiving critical praise at the BAFTAs. The film used a blend of techniques to help the story unfold, mixing a fairy straight-forward narrative with poetic visual interludes to give us further insight into the protagonists state of mind.

The plot deals with a young man who is the only person to survive a commercial fishing boat accident. The film explores the depth and breadth of grief, loss, guilt and blame. This is not a light-hearted romp but it's not really a crier either. This film is a meditation. I can't say that I full understand every moment of For Those in Peril but it's hard to not identify with elements of this very human story. I give the film a B-. It's a great first feature-length and will certainly serve as a calling card for visionary storyteller Paul Wright.

For Those in Peril - Official UK Trailer

There are still three more chances to see For Those in Peril at SXSW 2014, including a screening that starts in two hours! If you're a local without SXSW credentials you could probably still see this film at Village or Slaughter, just look for the Rush Ticket line and be prepared with a ten dollar bill for the cashier.

Sunday, March 9 | 11:00AM - 12:33PM | Alamo Village

Wednesday, March 12 | 2:00PM - 3:33PM | Alamo Ritz 2

Thursday, March 13 | 2:00PM - 3:33PM | Alamo Slaughter

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