No one needs awards coverage this deep
This year's fest offered films from good to bad, but almost nothing great
AUSTIN, Texas - After 10 days and seemingly hundreds of films, the 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival closes this weekend. In typical form, I saw almost none of the ones that ended up taking home trophies. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of film festival coverage – you try to be strategic, see things that received good feedback from others, and when possible, stray into auditoriums in your spare time hoping to uncover a gem. But even after six days, I missed the Narrative winner, “Gimme the Loot,” and the Documentary winner, “Beware of Mr. Baker,” as well as the Audience winners for the Narrative (“Eden”) and Documentary (“Bay of All Saints”) categories.
Nevertheless, I saw quite a gauntlet of films programmed to play during the festival, including several that preciously appeared at Sundance, such as Craig Zobel’s transgressive “Compliance” and Joe Berlinger’s “Under African Skies.” But even the wonderful “21 Jump Street” and the thrilling “The Raid: Redemption” were easily among the best films I saw. Both of those appeared essentially as stopovers en route to their theatrical releases, whereas a lot of selections build buzz at festivals like this one, and the fate of many others hung in the balance in a very real way based purely on the response of attendees.
The comedy looks to top the box office this weekend
Well, who'd'a thunk it? The 1980s TV reboot that absolutely no one asked for has rather taken critics by surprise -- crass and rough-edged as it is, the sheer unapologetic silliness of Phil Lord and Chris Miller's film has charmed everyone from Ebert to A.O. Scott. I am also in the fan club, having particularly appreciated its generational flip on the teen-movie formula -- and the delightful performance of Channing Tatum. Our HitFix neighbor Drew McWeeny is even more enamored, going so far as to give it an A+ rating. Early box-office numbers suggest audiences are with the critics for once, but what about you? When/if you've seen it, don't forget to give us your take.
His delightful comeback feature 'Damsels in Distress' opens April 6
While I expect to maintain a long and happy friendship with all the films in my Top 10 of 2011, there's one title I'm pretty confident I'll revisit more often than the others. I've already seen Whit Stillman's deliciously off-kilter campus comedy "Damsels in Distress" twice, and still I'm itching for a revisit when it lands in theaters next month. Verbatim quoting of vast chunks of its hilarious, verbally lacy script seems an inevitability; apologies in advance to those who have to be around me.
I'm intrigued to see how the film plays when it finally surfaces outside the festival ghetto. My two viewings of the film, at the Venice and London fests, couldn't have been more atmospherically opposed. At Venice, where it premiered as the closing film (my review), it was warmly greeted at the press screening by a riotously cackling crowd of critics who couldn't have been more game for Stillman's breezy humor after a festival dominated by grim-faced fare.
Festival entries fluctuate from pointless to purely entertaining to provocative
AUSTIN, Texas - As with any big film festival, the variety of choices that attendees have at South by Southwest seems endless. But at the Austin festival, the general cinephilia of the locals seeps into the programming, and as a result, its schedule is populated with a truly eclectic and unusual range of movies.
Having barely survived the first weekend of SXSW – which not only included a gauntlet of screenings and interviews but a Daylight-Savings changeover that resulted in the loss of an hour of sleep – things relievedly slowed down a bit on Monday, and I was able to attend screenings of several films that were each noteworthy for different reasons.
The filmmaker takes on the Rasta legend in his fifth feature doc to date
AUSTIN, Texas - Depending on when you started paying attention to him, Kevin Macdonald is either a documentarian who ventured into fiction work or a fiction filmmaker who digressed into documentaries. After the success of “The Last King of Scotland,” however, he’s been impossible to ignore in any cinematic context and has repeatedly moved back and forth between the two disciplines as his career continues to deepen and develop.
His latest film is “Marley,” an epic biography of the life of iconic reggae singer Bob Marley. In Contention sat down with Macdonald at the South by Southwest film festival, where he discussed the challenges of examining such a ubiquitous figure honestly, reflected on the different directions his filmography has taken in recent years and offered a few thoughts about how he filters failure and success in an industry that looks at him as incisively as he does his subjects.
Is this gonna be kinda awesome?
I was just talking about Tim Burton. The singular filmmaker's work has been on a bit of a "meh" slope in recent years, and "Dark Shadows" was really starting to look like just another obvious piece of material for him to play around with before moving on to the next. But judging by the recently released trailer, the film might just have its share of inspired moments.
I never saw the 1960s television series being re-booted and sent up here, so I have not loyalties or expectations, even. But it seems to me a good time for a film like this amid these vampire-obsessed pop culture days, or at least one without the names Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer on it.
Johnny Depp has the starring role as blood-sucker Barnabas Collins. Joining him will be Michelle Pfeiffer (in her first collaboration with Burton since "Batman Returns"), Eva Green, Chloë Grace Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter (of course), Jackie Earle Haley and Christopher Lee, among others.
Channing Tatum an unexpected delight in irreverent TV show reboot
"Fuck 'Glee,'" Channing Tatum's hulking undercover cop mutters early on in "21 Jump Street," having disguised himself as a teenager for a high-school drugs bust, only to discover that his letterman-jacketed jockishness no longer carries the social cachet it did in his youth. It's a throwaway line that nonetheless unlocks several suspended levels of socio-cultural awareness in Phil Lord and Chris Miller's enthusiastically goofy spin on the long-buried youth TV series of the same name -- a blithe barrage of wildly variable gags that would no more admit to such awareness than have Tatum and his partner in bromance, Jonah Hill, kiss on screen.
"Glee" would, of course, and therein lies the point. Perhaps the most conceptually playful and self-sustaining entry in the recent mini-genre of 1980s TV reboots, "21 Jump Street" employs its dodgy cultural lineage less as nostalgia kick than as conversation starter: amusing (and genuinely flummoxing) Johnny Depp cameo aside, the film is only incidentally interested in its source material, and far more preoccupied with the tension between between past and present adolescent generations.
The controversial films will screen at the Academy next Wednesday night
Part two of the AMPAS’s 30th annual "Contemporary Documentaries" screening series features two of the most talked about docs of the last few years. "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and "Catfish" will screen on Wednesday, March 21, at 7pm at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. Admission is free to the public.
2010 Best Documentary Feature nominee “Exit Through the Gift Shop” inspired the oft asked question, “Who is Banksy?” Its legitimacy as a documentary has also been called into question. Ostensibly, the film follows street artist obsessed Thierry Guetta on his journey to capture some of his heroes in action. In the course of his filming the most elusive of them all, Banksy turns the tables, takes over the director’s role and makes the film about Guetta himself. (Incidentally, it was also Kris' number one film of 2010.)
Newly tapped for a Rudin remake, Kate Dellamaggiore's doc rises above similar terrain and inspires
AUSTIN, Texas - On Monday at a SXSW screening here, director Katie Dellamaggiore announced that Sony Pictures and producer Scott Rudin purchased the remake rights to “Brooklyn Castle,” her documentary about a group of New York schoolkids that compete regularly in national chess tournaments. This of course is but the latest doc set to be remade by Hollywood, but it’s hard to imagine a fiction film doing justice to the complexity and utter humanness of Dellamaggiore’s version.
The film uses school chess programs to evidence both the neglect legislators show towards education when time comes to cutting checks, and yet the remarkable impact that programs like these can have on the lives of the children who participate in them. A truly inspiring story, “Brooklyn Castle” ranks among the first tier of SXSW’s 2012 films, and deserves a place among documentaries like “Rize,” “Resolved” and “Spellbound” that choose to emphasize substance over sensationalism in their depiction of kids who are sadly often looked at as statistics.
Seven objectionable seconds are trimmed across the pond
If it wasn't obvious, Gary Ross’s adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s dystopic young adult fantasy novel “The Hunger Games” opens worldwide beginning next Wednesday March 21. The book tells the story of an imagined future in which a series of wars and natural disasters have drastically reduced the size of North America, which has become the country of Panem, a polarized collection of 12 “districts” that have very limited contact with one another, each with a specialized trade.
An opulent “Capital,” which is largely hidden and isolated by a mountain range, presides over the districts and their resources. As a reminder of the consequences of a long-ago rebellion, the Capital demands that each district conduct a yearly lottery wherein a boy and a girl will be selected to participate in a televised fight to the death in a manufactured “arena.”