Archive for the ‘SXSW’ Category

Second Skin online for free thru 8/13

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I saw Pure West’s Second Skin at SXSW 2008. It’s now being made available by Snag Films for free through August 13. Here’s what I thought when I first saw it:

Second Skin digs into the world of MMORPGs, and how these online games create new lives and identities — on both sides of the computer screen — for the people playing them. Not being a gamer, I wondered how much I would care about the film’s subject, especially in light of the fact that 90% of the audience I viewed it with seemed to be there to see a film about their lives. Happily, the film finds some dynamic people to follow and it does superb job of chronicling their lives, both on- and off-line. I suspect this will have a healthy life on DVD, and perhaps theatrically.

Watch Second Skin on Snag Films.

SXSW: Wrap-up

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Last year I think I spent as much time posting thoughts on films I was seeing at South by Southwest as I did actually attending films and panels. This year I chose to err in the other direction. There were simply too many movies to see, panels to attend, people to meet, and parties to drop by.

Highlights (in the order I saw them):

Nights and Weekends by Joe Swanberg & Greta Gerwig
Wellness by Jake Mahaffy
Paper Covers Rock by Joe Maggio
The New Year Parade by Tom Quinn
Present Company by Frank V. Ross

All make use of handheld digital video, feature naturalistic performances, and were made with small (or no) crews and budgets. Despite the superficial sharing of neo-neo-realistic qualities, it would be tough to compare them. Suffice to say that all are worth seeing.

As good as those films were, perhaps my two favorites of SXSW were two very polished documentaries, Second Skin and At the Death House Door.

Second Skin digs into the world of MMORPGs, and how these online games create new lives and identities — on both sides of the computer screen — for the people playing them. Not being a gamer, I wondered how much I would care about the film’s subject, especially in light of the fact that 90% of the audience I viewed it with seemed to be there to see a film about their lives. Happily, the film finds some dynamic people to follow and it does superb job of chronicling their lives, both on- and off-line. I suspect this will have a healthy life on DVD, and perhaps theatrically.

At the Death House Door was the most emotionally gripping film I saw at SXSW. A somewhat conventionally shot documentary featuring lots of interviews, it reminded me that no single documentary style has a monopoly on greatness. The film follows Carroll Pickett who, during his 15 years as the house chaplain to a Texas prison, presided over 95 executions, including the very first lethal injection done anywhere in the world. The film also tells the story of Carlos De Luna, one of those 95 prisoners executed, and one that Pickett believed to be innocent. This is a movie that had me in tears — both at horrific things, and also in admiration at the remarkable heroism of ordinary individuals. Emotions aside, it did bring some nuance to arguments for and (especially) against the death penalty. The fact that it was premiering in Austin — that is, in the capital of the state where these executions took place — made the screening experience all the more poignant. At the Death House Door was co-produced by IFC, so look for it there (and, perhaps, theatrically).

As for panels, not all of the ones I attended have been posted (nor do I know if they will) but here are the festival’s recordings of some for those of you that couldn’t be there.

SXSW 08: Blogs, Buzz, and Buddylists

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

This afternoon I’ll be moderating the Blogs, Buzz, and Buddy Lists panel at South by Southwest. If you’re in Austin for SXSW, stop by. You’ll see:

Karina Longworth: film blogger, Spout.com

Victor Pineiro: Writer-Producer, “Second Skin” – premiering at SXSW

Ian Schafer: CEO, Deep Focus

Alison Willmore: Film blogger, IFC.com

… along with yours truly.

And if you don’t catch the panel, I’ll be in town through Wed blogging about the screenings and panels I attend. Drop me a comment or email and we can connect.

UPDATED: Two more sites that we discussed on the panel today:

All These Wonderful Things

The Workbook Project

SXSW: Features Line-up

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

SXSW announced its line-up of features for 2008. IndieWire has the story. The full slate is listed here.

Suffice to say there are a lot promising titles in the premieres. Among the competition features are new works by Jake Mahaffy, Mary Bronstein, and Joe Maggio. Among the non-competition films are new works by Frank Ross, Joe SXSWanberg & Greta Gerwig, as well as Tom Quinn’s Slamdance-winning film, The New Year Parade. Congrats to all!

Frownland

Monday, September 10th, 2007

In March I caught the premiere of Ronald Bronstein’s Frownland at SXSW. Soon after seeing it, I wrote:

Frownland is clearly designed as an audience endurance test, a kind of cinematic middle-finger. Though not enjoyable in any conventional sense, it’s an unusual and original film that succeeds on its own uncompromising terms. Recommended viewing for brave lovers of cult films; others will probably want to skip it.

I would only slightly modify this statement to say, as we enter month nine of 2007, that Frownland ranks as one of my favorite films of the year. I was reminded of this by reading David Lowery’s Filmmaker Magazine interview with Bronstein, which has just been posted online.

Not everyone shares David’s or my admiration for the movie. Here’s an interview highlight from Bronstein that illustrates what a polarizing movie this is:

[A] fight nearly broke out after this one screening in Las Vegas. Some guy in the back of the theatre was booing throughout the closing credits. When they ended, this other guy stood up, turned to face the booer, and screamed, “You! You’re a fucking asshole!” I mean he really screamed. He was absolutely enraged. Red as a beet. Shaking. That’s when a third guy stood up and started defending the booer. The second guy turned on the third. Everyone was arguing. It was sort of a melee. Turns out that last guy was the attending critic for Variety and he wound up writing us a killer review.

Click here to read the whole thing.