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  • SXSW FILM 2011

    The Other F Word | Review

    Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

    Director: Andrea Blaugrund Nevins

    Writer: Andrea Blaugrund Nevins

    Featuring: Tony Adolescent (Adolescents), Art Alexakis (Everclear), Rob Chaos (Total Chaos), Joe Escalante (Vandals), Josh Freese (Vandals, Nine Inch Nails, Devo), Fat Mike (NOFX), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Lars Frederiksen (Rancid), Matt Freeman (Rancid), Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.), Brett Gurewitz (Bad Religion) , Tony Hawk (Pro Skater), Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks, Bad Religion), Mark Hoppus (Blink-182), Jim Lindberg (Pennywise), Mike McDermott, Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo), Duane Peters (U.S. Bombs), Joe Sib (Side One Dummy Records), Ron Reyes (Black Flag), Rick Thorne (Pro BMXer)

    The center piece of all things anti-establishment and the angst driven soundtrack to the last few decades is undoubtably Punk Rock. The members of these bands (aka punk rockers or punkers) became the leaders of the middle fingered fight against “The Man”. The — Fuck Authority — attitude of punk rock is as abrasive as it is honest, and at times a lifestyle that fulfills the Live Fast Die Young anthem of not making it to see the age of 34. For those of them that do hit the ripened middle ages of manhood, another F word enters the picture: FATHERHOOD. How can the verse of anarchy be sung while pushing a stroller around the supermarket?

    Clay Liford (Wuss) | Video Interview

    Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

    “Wuss is a masterful work of sound and vision, clearly exceeding the production values of most independent cinema. Liford’s uniquely desaturated, nearly monochromatic aesthetic visually binds his two features together, while clearly separating himself from most other filmmakers. I bet if Wuss was produced in Hollywood, it would certainly include bright, cheery and over-saturated cinematography and a Billboard Top 40 soundtrack, but judging solely from Earthling and Wuss, that is not how Liford sees (or hears) the world.”

    Below is our conversation with Clay Liford in downtown Austin, TX, for SXSW Film 2011:

    Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega (BETTER THIS WORLD) | Video Interview

    Sunday, May 29th, 2011

    “Co-directors Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway do a much better job than I could ever do in retelling this amazing story of idealism, loyalty, lies and betrayal. In constructing their narrative, de la Vega and Galloway must first re-create for the audience what happened prior to the commencement of their production, so they rely on archival footage and talking head interviews recollecting the events. De la Vega and Galloway allow everyone, including the FBI, to tell their version of the story and surprisingly enough, they all seem to be on the same page (or at least the same chapter), except for the actions of the FBI informant.

    The unfolding of the events is spine-tingling (at least for someone of my political persuasion). Better This World represents how conservative America’s post-9/11 War on Terror went terribly awry, ripping away the civil liberties of American citizens and instantly squashing any form of political dissent.”

    Below is our conversation with Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega in downtown Austin, TX, for SXSW Film 2011:

    Another Happy Day | Review

    Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

    Director: Sam Levinson

    Writer: Sam Levinson

    Starring: Ellen Barkin, Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth, Ellen Burstyn, Thomas Haden Church, Ezra Miller

    Jeez, I really do not know where to begin with this crazed, convoluted narrative about a crazed, convoluted family…

    Let’s see… Lynn (Ellen Barkin) is the stressed out, neurotic mother of Elliot (Ezra Miller) — one of those perpetually mopey teens who wears black on the outside because black is how he feels on the inside — and his younger brother, Ben (Daniel Yelsky), who totes around a video camera and documents everything for no apparent reason. Lynn’s estranged eldest son, Dylan (Michael Nardelli), is getting married to Heather (Laura Coover).

    Before I proceed, there is some necessary backstory to discuss: 20 years ago, when Lynn and her then husband Paul (Thomas Haden Church) divorced, Paul took Dylan and Lynn kept their daughter, Alice (Kate Bosworth). That one decision seems to have permanently effected everyone — even those who were not born at the time — in the family like some sort of gypsy curse. Dylan was raised by Paul and his current wife, Patty (Demi Moore), and he seems to have grown up to be the most normal of Lynn’s kids; while Alice grew up to become a self-mutilator. Elliot has not faired any better than Alice, he has been in and out of drug and alcohol rehab four times and counting. With at least two troubled, psychologically scarred kids under Lynn’s watch, her entire family — especially her mother (Ellen Burstyn) — suspects that Lynn is to blame.

    Fuck My Life (Que pena tu vida) | Review

    Saturday, May 21st, 2011

    Director: Nicolás López

    Writers: Nicolás López, Guillermo Amoedo

    Starring: Ariel Levy, Lucy Cominetti, Andrea Velasco, Paz Bascuñan, Leonor Varela, Matías Lopez, Nicolas Martinez, Ramon Llao, Ignacia Allamand, Claudia Celedón

    Javier (Ariel Levy) is a young advertising professional who has fallen in love with Sofia (Lucy Cominetti). Javier and Sofia’s love life starts off a bit rocky, but their relationship matures into two years of approximate bliss. Eventually, though, Javier becomes bored and breaks up with Sofia — he instantly regrets that decision.

    Most of writer-director Nicolás López’s Fuck My Life takes place after their break up, as Javier alternates between moping pathetically and pathetically attempting to win Sofia back. Throughout his emotional roller coaster, Javier’s best friend since childhood, Angela (Andrea Velasco), serves as his sole support; she also has a keen knack for telling him the truth, no matter how brutally honest it is. Most importantly — at least in the postmodern context of FML — Javier and Angela communicate incessantly via text messages. Despite Javier’s countless mistakes and misfortunes (drunken tomfoolery, one night stands), Angela remains by Javier’s virtual side, always a text message away.

    Caught Inside | Review

    Saturday, May 21st, 2011

    Director: Adam Blaiklock

    Writers: Adam Blaiklock, Matt Tomaszewski, Joe Velikovsky

    Starring: Ben Oxenbould, Daisy Betts, Sam Lyndon, Simon Lyndon, Leeanna Walsman, Harry Cook, Peter Phelps

    Caught Inside is a not-so-tall tale of how rationally real (not reel) people would react to a brutish man like Bull (Ben Oxenbould). I am getting ahead of myself though, so please allow me to back my ass up a bit… A group of impeccably attractive Aussie blokes charter a private boat — the aptly named Hedonist — captained by Skipper Joe (Peter Phelps) for a surfing safari to a remote island located somewhere off the coast of Thailand with radical swells and tubular breaks; Bull is along for the ride because he is the key to finding the clandestine locale. It is supposed to be a guys only escapade, but Toobs (Simon Lyndon) brings along his girlfriend Alex (Leeanna Walsman) and her scrumptiously seductive friend, Sam (Daisy Betts).

    Sanctimoniously sculpted bodies bronze, Fosters flow and hormones hit hysteria, as the Hedonist sails further and further into white-capped isolation. Hours away from anyone of authority, Sam’s scantily clad, idyllic frame sets all of the guys’ loins-a-blazing. Bull interprets Sam’s teasing nature (as well as her celluloid past) as a free pass to do as he pleases with her; Rob (Sam Lyndon) is also smitten with Sam, but not as aggressively so. When Bull finally takes advantage of a moment alone with Sam, Rob and the guys try to take Bull by the horns; but no one on the boat — despite the preponderance of finely chiseled six-packs — can match up to Bull’s muscularly menacing presence.

    American Animal | Review

    Saturday, May 21st, 2011

    Director: Matt D’Elia

    Writer: Matt D’Elia

    Starring: Matt D’Elia, Brendan Fletcher, Mircea Monroe, Angela Sarafyan

    I give Matt D’Elia a tremendous amount of credit for the sheer audacity to make American Animal, his debut feature. American Animal is an incredibly confident film that its sure to elicit strong responses from its audience. It is utterly impossible to watch American Animal without having some kind of opinion about it: you will either see D’Elia as a novel genius or he will drive you absolutely bat-shit crazy.

    I can state with utmost confidence, that American Animal’s chief protagonist (or antagonist) Jimmy (Matt D’Elia) will certainly make a long-lasting impression on you. Jimmy is a spastic ball of uncontrollable energy and anxiety, as if his blood has been replaced in perpetuity by a potent cocktail of speed and LSD (to which he often adds marijuana). Jimmy’s manic personality could be tied to the fact that he is dying. Knowing that death is imminent, Jimmy has chosen to embrace absolute freedom; essentially, to do whatever he wants to do, whenever he wants to do it, all within the confines of his apartment. Jimmy’s aspiration is for the human race to evolve beyond the need for rules of morality, and he views himself as the necessary link or gateway to the next evolutionary step. In case you are wondering, Jimmy does not have a job; he does not need to, he is a trust fund kid.

    How to Die in Oregon | Review

    Saturday, May 21st, 2011

    Director: Peter Richardson

    Watching characters die on film is never easy for me, but watching real people really die on film is a harrowing experience at best. I should clarify — Peter Richardson’s How To Die In Oregon is not a snuff film, it is about Oregonians who, due to terminal illness, are able to choose to take a lethal dose of medicine that will bring upon near-instantaneous death; a task that is legal in Oregon, in accordance with Death With Dignity, a state physician-assisted suicide law passed in 1994. The video footage of each death serves as legal documentation to prove that the patient died of sound mind and of their own hand.

    Within the first few minutes we witness — via video footage shot by a relative — cancer sufferer Roger Sagner take a few slurps of the physician-prescribed medicine that promptly knocks him into a coma before finally killing him. Before his final breath, he assures his family and friends that “it was easy”, but the act is certainly is not easy to watch. To be honest, I did not expect Richardson to show this man’s (or anyone’s) actual moment of death; but it is amazing just how powerful the moment is. The film is only a few minutes from its opening credits and already the eyes of the audience are blurry with tears. We never even got to know this man, but suddenly we are crying. How did this happen? Honestly, I think Richardson deserves an Oscar specifically for being able to produce tears earlier and in a higher percentage of eyes than any other filmmaker.

    Hesher | Review

    Thursday, May 12th, 2011

    Director: Spencer Susser

    Writer: Spencer Susser, David Michôd, Brian Charles Frank

    Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Devin Brochu, Rainn Wilson, Brendan Hill

    T.J.’s (Devin Brochu) mother (Monica Staggs) died a couple months ago in a car wreck (to the tune of “Teenager in Love” playing on the radio). T.J.’s father, Paul (Rainn Wilson), deals with the tragedy by popping enough pills to maintain a near-catatonic level of numbness making him totally oblivious to the world around him. T.J.’s elderly grandma (Piper Laurie) does what she can to help run the household; but for all intents and purposes, T.J. is raising his own damn 13-year-old self.

    Enter Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a metalhead who resides in an ominous black van and does whatever the hell he pleases. Hesher is the definition of rebellion and anarchy, and a mother’s worst nightmare. Hesher habitually guzzles Pabst Blue Ribbon and smokes (cigarettes and marijuana); eats like a Neanderthal, stabbing his dinner with a knife and tossing peanut shells with reckless abandon; shimmies up telephone poles in his tighty-whiteys; has a penchant for blowing shit up and setting things on fire; mumbles and growls, instead of speaking; stomps, rather than walking; remains shirtless for the majority of the film, showcasing his crude DIY tattoos; and prefers Metallica during the Cliff Burton years (Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets). Hesher is like a one-testicled super-[anti]hero, impervious to pain and able to bounce back like Gumby after a hard fall or a good old kick in the balls (that must be when having only one testicle comes in handy). He also seems to be able to vanish into thin air, or appear out of nowhere. (Hesher lurks outside of T.J.’s English class just as the teacher asks about the meaning of a character’s dream — which seems like it might be a clue as to who — or what — Hesher really is…)

    Green | Review

    Saturday, May 7th, 2011

    Director: Sophia Takal

    Writer: Sophia Takal

    Starring: Kate Lyn Sheil, Sophia Takal, Lawrence Michael Levine

    Allow me to begin with a tip of the hat to Smells Like Screen Spirit’s Associate Editor Dirk Sonniksen who really nailed it in his review of Sophia Takal’s Green. I am not sure I have a whole lot to add to Dirk’s review, but I will do the best that I can…

    Jealousy can turn people into monsters, which explains the pervasive horror film tone throughout Green — a technique that worked incredibly well on me, because I approached the film completely green. For all I knew, Green could have very well been a slasher film. So, I want to pause right here and give my spiel about films that truly benefit from lack of knowledge… What I loved most about my first viewing of Green was the uncertainty; the thought that writer-director Sophia Takal’s film could turn into a total bloodbath at any moment. The tension is always there — fueled by Ernesto Carcamo’s spine-tingling score. Not knowing if and when blood would be shed truly adds to the cinematic experience; as does not knowing which way Takal will take the narrative at each intersection it reaches. Before reading on, let me repeat myself one more time: Please read on only after viewing Green…

    Those of you who are still reading this review have either already seen Green or are incredibly stubborn. Either way, I will continue…

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