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    Conviction, S&M Lawn Care, Paradise Recovered, Weakness, Dog Sweat, Shelter in Place, Rainbows End, An Ordinary Couple, Ballhawks

    By | October 21, 2010

    The 17th Annual Austin Film Festival and Conference is now underway! From Oct. 21-28, the Austin Film Festival will be host to filmmakers, actors, screenwriters, industry pros, and people who just love film. One man (Executive Writer – Don Simpson) from the Smells Like Screen Spirit crew has single handedly completed the task of reviewing 9 of the films screening at AFF 2010 in the next week, to provide a sneak preview just for you. Stay tuned for further coverage of the festival throughout the next week; including interviews, tweets and many more reviews.


    Conviction (2010) | Review

    “…Goldwyn takes a few too many dramatic shortcuts and abides all too closely to preexisting formulas and conventions. There is no narrative depth or subtext; what you see is exactly what you get. The only real chance that Goldwyn takes is in casting Rockwell against type (Swank is cast in an all too predictable and standard role for her) — besides appearing weighed down by heavily-caked old-age makeup and a horrendous hair piece, Rockwell succeeds in his meaty dramatic scenes. Rockwell’s best scenes, however, are when he is granted artistic license to do what he does best — go nuts.”


    S&M Lawn Care | Review

    “Lawns By Drake functions cleverly as a allegory for big budget Hollywood films — the filmmakers who put style and sex over substance — while S&M Lawn Care represents the hard-working and big-hearted independent filmmakers of the world. This David and Goliath struggle seems most prevalent in the world of comedic films. In my opinion, S&M Lawn Care is a million times funnier than The Other Guys, Get Him to the Greek or Funny People; but it is extremely rare that an independent comedy is able to beat a Hollywood comedy in the box office. Heck it is nearly impossible for independent comedies to even have an opportunity to compete at the box office.”


    Paradise Recovered (2010) | Review

    “Producer-director Storme Wood and producer-writer Andie Redwine’s Paradise Recovered is essentially a modern-day retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Wood and Redwine intelligently discuss faith and religious tolerance (and intolerance) — as well as critically analyzing abusive and prohibitive religious sects — all without a tinge of condescension or judgment. Gabriel and Esther’s characterizations are handled brilliantly — in terms of acting, writing and directing. Rather than criticizing religion and spirituality (or lack there of), Paradise Recovered walks the fine line of only taking extreme religious sects to task. More than anything else, Paradise Recovered turns out to prove that religious and spiritual people can peacefully co-exist with atheists, agnostics and everyone else as long as there is an open and intelligent discourse.”


    Weakness (2010) | Review

    “Weakness, the debut feature film by writer-director Michael Melamedoff, is a very eloquent yet dismally realistic portrayal of a lost and confused man who could probably be satisfied with a way to just decelerate the dreadful downward spiral of his existence. Joshua’s life, at least as represented in Weakness, is like a 90-minute long train wreck (Melamedoff’s film utilizes events such as a fall from a roof and a near car crash as metaphors for Joshua’s life); and Cannavale, in his doleful and subdued performance, ably conveys Joshua’s many weaknesses without always verbalizing them. Joshua definitely does not make the best choices or say the most appropriate things; in many ways Joshua just plows through life with a kind of nonchalance, just assuming that things will begin to improve without his urging.”


    Dog Sweat (Aragh Sagee) | Review

    “Utilizing a guerrilla-cum-cinema vérité aesthetic — probably out of necessity and for style — producer-director-editor Hossein Keshavarz documents the lives of several young people who are attempting to discover personal freedom within the confines of contemporary Iran. Misunderstood by their parents and family elders and feeling oppressed by conservative Islamic society, these young Iranians find ways to rebel against oppression while, at least for the most part, staying under the radar and making enough compromises to safely survive.”


    Shelter in Place | Review

    “Shelter in Place is an intriguing — yet, clocking in at 48 minutes, all too brief — documentary about a community battling against environmental pollution and the evil Behemoth of corporate power. Shelter in Place’s incredibly empowering narrative is quite beautiful to watch (with lots of worthwhile, seemingly off-the-cuff, b-roll) but I am not entirely satisfied with when Nelson opts to end the film — it seems to end too soon or at least too abruptly. Though I do understand it is difficult to determine when to end a documentary like this one, because the story never ends…”


    Rainbows End | Review

    “Quite awesomely narrated by the great Don Morrow, Eric Hueber’s Rainbows End chronicles the California-bound road trip of these six men, two roosters, and one dilapidated green bus…all in search of their proverbial pot of gold. Presumably shot in the strange vein of Babakiueria, Fear of a Black Hat, Forgotten Silver and This is Spinal Tap, it is difficult not to conclude that this is a world of fiction (though it is screening as part of Austin Film Festival’s Documentary Feature Competition). No matter if Rainbows End is a work of truth or fiction (or both), the film does include a brilliantly absurd cacophony of music, wrestling, cockfights, mayhem, zaniness and — let us not forget — cars that are blown up by a cannon.”


    An Ordinary Couple | Review

    “Orin Kennedy and Bernardo Puccio decide to commemorate their 30-plus year relationship by erecting a marble monument by the lake at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Gay marriage being impossible at the time, the monument would be Kennedy and Puccio’s way to historically document that they have loved each other for over 30 years. As part of the package deal at Hollywood Forever, a Life Story Documentary is produced as a way to fill in the gap between the date of birth and date of death.”


    Ballhawks | Review

    “Every good documentary needs a good moment of dramatic tension — Ballhawks doubles our pleasure (like Wrigley’s Doublemint gum) with two. First is the question of whether or not the Cubs will ever make it into the post-season. In 2004, after decades of disappointment, the Cubs find themselves in the running for a wild card slot near the end of the regular season. (Playoffs are especially meaningful for ballhawks because playoff home runs tend to have greater significance than regular season balls.) Second is the ever-looming bleacher expansion (and an additional fence) which threatens to render the ballhawks of Wrigley an endangered species by severely limiting the number of homers that will clear the confines of the stadium.”

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