Saturday, March 23, 2013

SWSX 2013 review round-up!! (5/8 - 5/16)

Howdy folks,

Well, after 9 days of madness and a week of recovery, here's the brief recap of my South by Southwest (SXSW) experience.

All in all, I'd say the biggest challenges lay in the way things were scheduled regarding my viewing proclivities. Many of the films I was interested in seeing were slotted in the "Midnighter" series which, appropriately enough, lived up to its name by playing late into the night. I was not overly alarmed by this, having gotten used to seeing the wrong side of sunrise at both BIFFF and Fantasia. However, I was completely unprepared for the fact that I also needed to get up early in order to secure a spot in the SXXPress passes line (which more or less insure getting one into a film by granting priority to pass holders).

The other hitch was that the Midnighter films all seemed to be programmed against one another, which meant that I needed to stay out after midnight every ... single ... night. And get up ... every ... single ... morning. In a word, yack.

But I survived and lived to tell the tale, which I've done to the best of my abilities — and which you can enjoy by clicking on the links to the longer-than-usual reviews that ensued.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth - we'll make sure you get some change back.


Milo (2013)

Holy Ghost People (2013)

Snap (2013)

Vamp U (2013)

Big Ass Spider! (2013)

You're Next (2011)

Kiss of the Damned (2012)

Cheap Thrills (2013)

Plus One (2013)

Haunter (2013)

The Lords of Salem (2013)

V/H/S/2 (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)


Coldwater (2013) d. Grashaw, Vincent (USA)

A teenager is forcefully taken from his home in the middle of the night, by his parents consent, to a harsh wilderness reform facility. Well acted with a surprisingly violent climax.

Fifth Season, The (2012) d. Brossen, Peter / Woodworth, Jessica (Belgium)

A mysterious calamity strikes a rural village when spring fails to arrive. Amazing hypnotic visuals and absurdist vignettes compete with a narrative that heads downhill from the outset and ends up emotionally six feet underground. Inexorably devastating, perhaps too much so, with shades of The Wicker Man tossed in for good measure.

Loves Her Gun (2013) d. Marslett, Geoff (USA)

After being attacked on the streets of New York, a young woman moves grabs a ride to Austin where she quickly encounters the prevalent Texas gun culture. Largely improvised and well-performed mumblecore disappoints by going exactly where you think it will time and again.

Short Term 12 (2013) d. Cretton, Destin Daniel (USA)

Set at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers, primarily through the eyes of passionate and tough caretaker Brie Larson, who has a few issues of her own. The Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award winner for Narrative Feature is a well crafted ensemble piece with universally terrific acting (especially from some of the younger set).

Upstream Color (2013) d. Carruth, Shane (USA)

Abducted and brainwashed via a mysterious organic material, a young woman later meets a man who may also have been subjected to the same process. Carruth’s long-awaited (and Sundance Special Jury Prize winning) follow up to Primer is a challenging piece of cinema that dances across the water’s surface, giving us just enough information to stay invested and not enough for any definitive conclusions to be drawn. Fascinating but prepare to have your logic circuits scrambled.

Yellow (2013) d. Cassavetes, Nick (USA)

Heather Wahlquist (who also co-wrote the script) is a young substitute teacher who keeps life lively by a steady diet of drugs, casual sex and vivid hallucinations and/or fantasies. Great acting and joyously imaginative imagery make this a personal SXSW fave.

Zero Charisma (2013) d. Graham, Katie / Matthews, Andrew (USA)

A metal-loving gamer geek’s world is upended when a neo-nerd hipster joins his weekly fantasy role-playing game. Hilarious and human, with enough inside jokes to please D&D fans while remaining accessible to newcomers.

Downloaded (2013) d. Winter, Alex (USA)

Teenage hacker and programmer Shawn Fanning, along with adolescent raconteur Sean Parker, launched the file-sharing service Napster in 1999, forever changing the face of the internet with the code that would become the basis for all peer-to-peer file sharing. A little by-the-numbers, but an effective recap of the event from concept to lawsuit to bankruptcy.

I am Divine (2013) d. Schwartz, Jeffrey (USA)

Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, is profiled from his humble beginnings as an overweight, teased Baltimore youth to internationally recognized drag superstar through his rule-shattering cinematic collaborations with John Waters. The larger than life personality is well-served in this affectionate and articulate examination of his/her career in screen, stage and song.

Milius (2013) d. Figueroa, Joey / Knutson, Zak (USA)

The life story of one of the most influential and controversial figures in the history of Hollywood (Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now, Conan The Barbarian, Red Dawn) from his formative years at the USC Film School alongside Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. A great first hour is ill-served by a excessively drawn out denouement of endless talking head praise, but still informational and entertaining.

Sound City (2013) d. Grohl, Dave (USA)

The legendary Van Nuys, CA studio where such artists as Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Fear, Johnny Cash, Rick Springfield, DIO, Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine, Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer and countless others created classic after classic over the past 40 years is given its day in the sun by superfan Grohl. The perfect doc with which to wrap up the festival, superlatively combining both mediums.

SXSW Totals: 25 films, 24 1st time views, 14 horror, 18 cinema

2013 Totals to date: 72 films, 68 1st time views, 30 horror, 27 cinema

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