I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t think I tackled SXSW properly. I also am pretty sure I wasn’t prepared for it. I haven’t been writing much since Sundance, I definitely am starting to feel burnt out but here I am, trying to get back to it. Here is my SXSW Round-Up, before I post another film festival round-up. It’s been a busy and long few weeks, but good ones.
So, let’s try and write about some of the movies I saw, shall we? In chronological order, let’s start.
There’s a few of these that are already reviewed by Arianne (who kicked SXSW’s ass). So I’ll be including a link to their articles as well.
Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil
Demi Lovato has been the spotlight and been someone I’ve watched on TV since I was in high school. I grew up watching Sonny With a Chance, or Camp Rock, before her music would take over the airwaves. During that time, I wasn’t aware of the struggles that she so bravely opened up about in this documentary. I’ve always been a fan of hers, but I’ve been prouder to make that statement after watching this documentary. Brutal honestly about her drug use, her addictions, her relationships and break-ups.
Fans of her should definitely watch this, but also anybody who struggles with anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, or addiction. Which is a large percentage of our population. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I definitely related to a lot of the statements that Demi would say.
Read Arianne’s review here.
Broadcast Signal Intrusion
It’s been a few weeks and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Broadcast Signal Intrusion. There was a lot that I had really liked about it, but I had issues with some of the dialogue being too on the nose. Or in one scene in particular, the editing was agressive and harsh. It felt like it stole a lot like Zodiac, but it also reminded me a lot of Channel Zero given it’s connection to creepypasta. Harry Shum Jr. is incredible in the film, but I wish the film matched him.
Introducing, Selma Blair
The second of four documentaries I saw at the festival, which might be tied with Dancing with the Devil, some of the more emotional and touching docs. Introducing Selma Blair is about Selma Blair’s (Legally Blonde, Hellboy) fight against Multiple Sclerosis. The film opens with her talking and walking, before her dog jumps off her lap. Then we see Blair struggle to speak, and walk. We see how bad it can be for her. Similar to Demi’s doc, we are brought into Selma’s life, and we see all the pain she goes through day after day. It’s both haunting and inspiring to be a fly on the wall on her journey.
Like his movies or not, Kevin Smith has put a major stamp on the filmmaking world, and those who want to become filmmakers. The same way many people first saw Clerks and thought “I could do this”, Smith saw Richard Linklater’s Slacker and knew that he could. Clerk is a film about Kevin Smith’s journey, not only as a filmmaker but as a person in the public eye. The truth is, he may be known for the Askew Universe, but he’s also known as a comic writer, a podcaster. A public figure that does it all, and has built a community that filled with nerds and non-nerds alike. It’s a great look into Smith’s life, his work and all the things he’s looking forward to doing in the future.
One of the best things I saw at the festival. Full of heart, and so loving. It was the perfect thing I needed to see, and the same will go when the film is released and I get to see it for a second (or third, or fourth) time as others witness it for their first.
Arianne wrote about this film so that right now, I don’t have to.
Give Jenna Ortega all the roles and awards. She’s been slowly been making her name known for quite sometime now, but The Fallout should get her a lot more notice after this. The Fallout is about Vada, who has to somehow move on with her life after a mass shooting at her school. Ortega gives an incredible performance of someone who is stuck and struggling. As a teenager, she unfortunately holds everything in and won’t ask for help, and it’s heartbreaking watching her spiral as she slowly figures things out. I expect a lot of great conversations about this film in the future.
Honestly, a bit of a let down. I’ve been looking forward to a solid vampire flick, and Jakob’s Wife wasn’t it. At least, not in the style I was anticipating. I think my biggest issue with the film is the that I wasn’t sure what the tone would be, once realizing that the film had more comedic elements than I initially expected. The always incredible Barbara Crampton is great as Anne, (Jakob’s Wife) who slowly becomes her own person again, and not just defined by who she’s married to.
The Sparks Brothers
I love Edgar Wright and ever since the announcement of this doc, I was always unaware of how would Wright’s style would work in a documentary. Apparently, the answer is very well. From the opening moments of the film, I was chuckling along while learning about everyone’s new favourite band. I, like many people, wrote many song names down as the Wright sat with both Russell and Ron Muel and talked about Sparks massive discography. I ran out of space on my phone after this film, I added too many of their albums into my playlist. The documentary is about 15/20 minutes too long though.
For anyone who might unaware, the term Swan Song refers to one last act before someone’s death or retirement. With Swan Song, we see retired hairdresser Pat Pitsenbarger (Udo Kier) in a nursing home. He is asked to do one last job, for one of his friends and oldest clients for their funeral. We watch Pat walk around his small town in Ohio realizing how he is both out of touch, and ahead of his time. Pat’s (and other older Queer folk) influence started in places like this, and eventually, reverberated outwards. At one point, he sits on a bench with a friend and sees two men and their child playing catch. Not that Pat ever really ever hid who he was, but it was a struggle for him, his friends, and his husband. As he looks out and sees this family, he looks at a legacy, and how things that weren’t possible before, can be the norm.
Pat goes to a gay bar, one that he used to own with his own routine when he was younger. He sees and reuintes with people who don’t know him, but love him. The same way you will when you watch this film. Pat hasn’t gone anywhere without rings on every finger. At the bar, he is complimented on them. He mentions how there’s a story attached to each and every one. When asked for one, he says he can’t remember. While worth a laugh, you feel the weight and history that so often is erased. Queer stories that have led to this moment, stories we’ll never hear but just as crucial.
Swan Song is a beautiful film, a lovely tribute to the real Pat Pitsenbarger, and other folk just like him. Swan Song was my favourite flm of the festival.