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SXSW 07: Psychedelic on PRETTY IN THE FACE, ...How I Planned To Kill Tony Blair, BLACK SHEEP, Suffering Man's Charity, BIG RIG +

Hey folks, Harry here... I ran into Psychedelic in the bathroom of the Alamo South last night as he was tripping balls - the dots of his eyes were swirling and he was color shifting in the bathroom mirror like you wouldn't believe. Luckily - the floor remainsed mostly solid so i could escape... but ya know... flying fucking monkies, bitches, flying fucking monkies.

Hey Harry and Fellow Killer Sheep, SXSW Rocks!! Energy flows into the streets as the pulse of Austin boogies. The audiences here are so full of energy and people so friendly. Despite some health problems, a very nasty sore throat—but I’m feeling better, I’ve been having a FABULOUS time. I’ve been hallucinating all on my own for the aforementioned reasons. Here’s how it’s shaded the movies. Everything’s Gone Green I actually caught this in L.A. the night before heading to Austin, but it plays SXSW too. Notable novelist Douglas Coupland (Generation X) pens his first script for this anemic romantic comedy. After being dumped and loosing his job, Ryan (Paulo Costanzo) gets a new job working for the British Columbia lottery commission. Boy meets girl. Boy finally gets girl in last two scenes. The first third is boring. Then it somewhat held my attention with some good dialogue lines and commentary on the nature of greed and shallow society. Generation X came out sixteen years ago yet Coupland still writes about the same late 20s/early 30s characters. Paul Fox directs handsomely. The performances are decent. But with an autopilot plot and uninteresting characters there’s not much. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a date movie, you could do worse. The Gits This beats with more heart and terrific music than 99.9% of what comes from Hollywood these days. Some movies beg to be made and their story erupts off the screen. The Gits were a punk band that started in Ohio and moved to Seattle before the whole early 90s grunge explosion. Mia Zapata was the group’s soul. Her voice channeled Ma Rainy, Bessie Smith, and Janis Joplin. She was backed by delicious rowdy rockin’, some of the best of the time. That says a lot considering the period. The Gits became a driving force in Seattle and were quashed by Zapata’s murder. Before discussing the murder and its aftermath, the movie wisely and deservedly celebrates the music’s “ragged glory” to quote Neil Young. A portrait of an organic passionate community is rendered in vivid life colors. A look into Zapata’s eyes and it’s understood why she inspired so many. From Kerri O’Kane’s direction to the music, everything works. Mulberry Street A rat plague crawls through New York City. Health authorities are called in. When people are bitten they turn into rats. That last sentence sounds cool, but they don’t go full blast with it like the wolves in The Howling. As a result, they’re more like zombies with two front fangs and longish ears. The characters’ introductions are so scattershot that none are established in more than two-dimensions. I never cared. The first half bores. Then some reasonable action kicks in, but none is really inspired. There are scenes of Armageddon chaos in the street as men in contamination suits crack down. But it’s derivative like Jim Mickle’s script and direction. It’s maybe decent for late night cable. Buttercup (short) The Cleavers, metaphorically speaking, go to suburban hell when Mom gets on cocaine. It’s a satiric take on wholesome family clichés. Alan Ball would be proud. Some jokes are delightfully subtle. Writer-Director: Simon Hawkins Twisted: A Balloonamentary There’s peculiar pleasure in discovering idiosyncratic subcultures. Balloon twisters play children’s parties, corporate celebrations, and more. The beginning step, using lengthy thin tubes as a sculpting medium, is a basic dog. From there elaborate sculptures that often have a surreal or cartoonish quality, and whose creation can take hundreds of hours or more, are limited only by imagination. Every finished work lasts only a few hours. They range from religious, abstract, cute, to naughty adult. At conventions (yes, balloon twisters have conventions) masters teach the art, twisting techniques, and business. One couple even falls in love and marries; she wears a unique wedding gown. Directors Naomi Greenfield and Sara Taksler’s documentary is competent but has minor pacing problems at the end. They’re too attached to get objectivity needed for the last fourth. Flakes This plays as a pilot for a sit-com. Instead of High Fidelity’s record store there’s a cereal bar. Quirky locals munch on everything from Frosted Flakes, Coco Puffs, and obscure “out of print” cereals from the 60s. Christopher Lloyd plays a Jim Ignatowski variation as the store owner. Then an evil corporate franchiser opens a bland homogenized copy store across the street. Meanwhile, the mid-20s “in a rut” musician who manages the original store (Aaron Stanford) has problems with his artist girlfriend (Zooey Deschanel). Will the franchise win? Will the musician put out his forever-in-progress record? It’s amiable enough entertainment, but it’s the same stuff in a different setting. Chief saving graces are Stanford and Deschanel’s performances. Director Michael Lehmann (Heathers, The Truth About Cats & Dogs) needs a story and plot structure as interesting as his settings. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane MINOR SPOILERS Interesting ideas get pushed aside to rigorously adhere to horror-slasher conventions. Mandy begins as a mirror to everyone around her much like the girls in The Virgin Suicides. All the boys (jocks, stoners, rich kid stereotypes) want to fuck her except her one artistic-geek friend. All the girls want to claw her eyes out because she’s the hottest babe in school. It gets interesting when a drunk jock jumps to his death attempting to dive in a swimming pool from a rooftop in order to impress her. Why not have guys die in increasingly bizarre ways trying to impress Mandy? But no, there’s a big trip to an isolated wooded location where a crazy killer offs people one by one. Yet, there’s another interesting opportunity. Earlier than normal, the killer is revealed and one of the teens almost gets the upper hand. Why not capture the killer and have a deadly battle of wills heat psychological boiling points? But no, the killer escapes and keeps murdering. Director Jonathan Levine shoots a compelling visual style with some impressive sequences. There are interesting nuances, funny lines, and thoughts sprinkled throughout. By the end, all the annoying blunted characters (Mandy’s fairly three dimensional) are surprisingly humanized. Even the twist ending isn’t bad, but there could have been so much more. Big Rig Documentarian Doug Prey (Hype!, Scratch) delves into trucking subculture and paints a portrait of working class America. A vast array of subjects tell of dangers on the road, racism, economics, politics, and comradeship. Families are strained and some find salvation in the rhythms of the road. Most believe the country is going to Hell and things will get worse before getting better. Because of high gas prices and other factors, most barely make a living. Prey once again proves his prowess at weaving compelling narratives. My only criticism is that there’s no discussion of drug use, especially of speed, within the industry. Seeing how there’s been publicity concerning this, the absence of any discussion is noticeable. Having stated that, this is fantastic documentary filmmaking and definitely worth seeking out. I look forward to Prey’s next work. Black Sheep This is everything you could possibly hope for from a killer sheep movie and maybe a little more. Amazingly, there is real, actual, genuine wit. New Zealand Writer-Director Jonathan King wrings every possibility from the joke, and then goes further. A sheep ranch in New Zealand is home for genetic experiments by an evil brother. His good brother, who has sheep phobia, returns to claim his share from the ranch’s sale and to confront his longtime fears. A young animal activist/environmentalist gets many laughs with her daffiness. WETA Workshop brings home the bacon (or I suppose lamb in this case) with creature effects. It drags in the middle, but few movies scream for an AICN audience like this one. It’s destined to play midnight shows forever and to have a long cult life on DVD. Two jokes near the end may be the funniest jokes I’ve seen in a long time. Thinking about one the next morning, I laughed out loud because it was so absurd. Suffering Man’s Charity Second time director Alan Cumming—his first going solo—has made an orgy of overacting. From first frame to last, the main performances have almost no restraint. Yet, since the characters are self-aware drama queens anyway, it kinda works. My attention didn’t waver. A snob gay music teacher (Cumming) writes lousy operas despite his aspirations. He takes in an aspiring writer (David Boreanaz) “to mold him with culture” as he writes. When the young writer/hustler leaves, the music teacher goes ballistic and a long night of torture, screaming, and whipping ensues. The direction is consistently sharp with Cumming throwing visual curveballs to keep the audience on their toes. I understand how this would easily grate some peoples’ nerves. Yet the fact it didn’t get on mine may be a testament to how well done it is. However, it’s shrugged off easily when over. The Prisoner, Or: How I Planned To Kill Tony Blair An Iraq journalist, who was tortured during Saddam’s reign, was taken prisoner—by United States soldiers— in a midnight raid along with his father and brothers for plotting Tony Blair’s assassination. The innocent men were held captive for months, with no evidence or recourse for legal action, in squalid conditions where there were bombings from outsiders. Directors Michael Tucker (Gunner Palace) and Petra Epperlein make the fascinating yet smart choice of telling this powerful story using comic book panels intercut with interview segments. The comics commentate on how Americans perceive the war and how this distance from its reality allows horrendous events to transpire because Iraq people are dehumanized. It’s a hard hitting documentary that should be seen by anyone concerned over how the war is being conducted. Pretty In The Face This exquisitely depressing piece of cinema almost functions as an essay on how low self-image, weight problems, and denial lead to the destruction of relationships. Writer-Director Nate Meyer is very gifted with observing behavioral nuance and human interactions. Displaying some of the talents of Neil LaBute and Todd Solondz, Meyer is one to watch. Several connected stories are intertwined. A grossly overweight mother and teenage son enable their unhealthy eating patterns. The son grows resentful and angry. Meanwhile, the mother’s brother and his girlfriend encounter relationship brick walls. The girlfriend wants to expand their sexual exploration but her low self-image is a roadblock. Meanwhile, the mother’s brother is tempted by the sexy new lead singer in his rock band. The lousy singer openly uses her sexuality to manipulate males. The finely crafted drama is so dourly relentless that it undercuts the whole movie. Meyer, who is thin, wants to do a comedy next. Interjecting humor into his ideas is the right direction. I have to rush out right away to catch the next show. -Psychedelic
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