by Michael Bergeron
There were lines aplenty but I never had a problem getting into a seminar or screening, albeit I did arrive in a timely manner for either. The recently wrapped South By SouthWest Film Festival and Conference once again provided enough cinema fuel to power anybody’s film mojo from now until the end of the year. Another columnist was heard saying that SXSW is the new media clusterfuck of the next decade. As the entire convention overlaps film , internet and music venues that statements not too far off the mark.
Certainly realize that SXSW isn’t the only film festival in the state of Texas. This month sees the 43rd annual Houston Worldfest unwinding April 9-18 (http://www.worldfest.org) at the AMC Studio 30, a.k.a. the Studio Drive-by 30 and next month the Marfa Film Festival (http://www.marfafilmfestival.org) unreels at select screens in harmonic West Texas from May 5 though 9. Winners and favorites of this year’s SXSW can be found at: http://sxsw.com/film
SXSW Film divides its selections into categories that include films that will soon be playing at a megaplex near you. This year kicked off with the comic book parody Kick Ass (opening wide April 16) . Teen rejects find their inner elf by coming out as upper heroes. Nicholas Cage in a supporting role himself dons a superhero costume. Here, Cage is channeling the Adam West Batman. Cage is too good for an Oscar in this role, I would suggest a Nobel Prize. On a smaller scale the crime thriller The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo had an Austin showing. This Swedish film opens at the Landmark River Oaks in early April and has already stirred Hollywood interest in a remake. In a way that’s good and bad. After all this 2008 serial killer mystery already has three films, based on the novels,
in worldwide release so why don’t they just release all three existing movies with subtitles. Duh? On the other hand the remake is currently attached to David Fincher, not exactly a slough when it comes to cinematic mayhem.
On a lost weekend of magical proportions I saw the following films. Hubble 3D was an absolute showstopper. While just a 43-minute IMAX 3D documentary this film takes the viewer on a fly-through of our universe based on imagery obtained from the Hubble telescope. This isn’t CGI, but rather data that is rearranged in a way that allows the viewer to zoom though our Solar System at warp speed until we’re hovering on the edge of a black hole or a birthing star in the Orion Nebula. Locally this amazing production is currently playing at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Hubble 3D also include stupendous views of Shuttle launches. True as opposed to faux IMAX 3D is the wave of the future.
Music docus included The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights a film that follows Jack and Meg on a tour of Canada. The film wisely allows ignorant American viewers to understand the different provinces of Canada. The White Stripes played throughout Canada and would always include a free show (think Cactus Records) during this tour. The charm of the film means that it’s not about being an in your face study of the performers so much as it captures the moment. Years ago when I saw Magnetic Fields at Numbers nightclub I wondered why Stephin Merritt was such a douche bag to the audience. The docu Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields explains the matter in full detail.
Lovers of Hate offered up a cool Polanski vibe a la Cul de Sac about a romantic triangle but I really prefer director Bryan Poyser’s debut film Dear Pillow. A NY Thing was a thoughtful sex farce set amongst big apple slackers. American: The Bill Hicks Story plays like a labor of love regarding the late influential comedian.
The two best films I caught at SXSW were Mars and American Grindhouse. The former weaves a fictional account of a trip to Mars and uses roptoscoped live action although in a different style than the Waking Life style of that type of animation. American Grindhouse covers the waterfront. The film offers coherent facts about exploitation films from the beginning of film history to the present. Freaks, Mom and Dad, the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, Hitchcock and Wes Craven, women in prison and even Jesus versus Nazi genre films are mentioned in detail. If there’s any justice in the cinematic universe by the end of the year every film fan on the planet will have the chance to see these two films. SXSW is just a shot away.