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SXSW2007: Film: 3/15 - 3/17

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  • 638 Ways To Kill Castro
  • Hell on Wheels
  • Campaign
  • After the Wedding ( Efter brylluppet )
  • Trailer Park Boys
  • Crazy Sexy Cancer
  • Dirty Country
  • Helvetica

638 Ways To Kill Castro

Documentary about all the assassination attempts the CIA has made on Fidel Castro. Talks about Mafia collusion, Cuban dissident collusion, etc.

It was interesting, but I thought that it would be better on a lazy afternoon on Discovery channel or the (old!) A&E.;

Hell on Wheels

Documentary about the Texas Rollergirl phenomenon ( seen at the ORIGINAL Alamo drafthouse in the company of Rick Linklater and many of the tatooed demonesses of the skatekey ).

It details the formation of the original Austin rollergirls known as Bad Girl, Good Woman (BGGW). Shortly after, the original founding women, who have absolute control and pay no dues, start seeing a rift develop against the girls who are paying to play. Uninsured bouts (!), creative control, and finances lead to a fascinating study in how not to handle organizational behavior.

Ultimately, 65 of 80 skaters decide they could do it better. Today in Austin there roll both the Lonestar Rollergirls and the Texas Rollergirls.

The irony fruit falls close to the tree as the original group finds itself adopting the measures lobbied for by the now-Texas Rollergirls.

Interesting, especially for locals.

Campaign

Campaigning is weird.

Campaigning in a rigidly hierarchical, politeness obsessed, highly homogenous country is even more weird.

Can you imagine a candidate standing in front of a subway wishing would-be constituents “a pleasant commute”?

What about the candidate riding around in a loudspeaker-enabled van hollering outside your apartment block on Saturday morning?

No, campaigning Japanese-style is something else entirely! This film studies Yamauchi Kazuhiko’s bid for local government on behalf of the LDP ( the party of Koizumi ). In a district where the LDP leader has retired, Yamauchi is ‘dropped-in’ and goes straight to the campaign trail leaving his stamp vending business behind.

Yamauchi is, well, cute. He talks about stamps with great respect and you get the feeling that he would be more at home at a nice desk, with a cup of tea, looking at Stamp engravings versus on the campaign trail shouting himself hoarse and grabbing catnaps in a parking lot.

It also lenses on the parlimentary nature of Japanese politics. An uncharismatic nebbish such as Yamauchi can get the seat of powerful political entities such as the LDP and their “supporter clubs” get behind him.

After the Wedding ( Efter brylluppet )

Go See This

This was the best drama we saw during the festival.

Teenage Jacob ( Mads Mikkelsen, Le Chiffre from “Casino Royale” ) and Helene go to India from their native Copenhagen Denmark. Jacob apparently has a tryst with Helene’s friend. Helene goes back to Denmark, Jacob stays in India and starts an orphanage for street children.

Jacob needs more funding for his orphanage, so he seeks out shipping magnate Jørgen. Jørgen invites the out-of-town guest to his daughter’s wedding at their gorgeous Nordic estate.

At the wedding Jacob realizes that Jørgen has married Helene in the intervening years and that the beautiful bride might very well just be his own daughter.

At this point Jørgen starts attaching conditions to the money for the orphanage and Jacob must decide between altruism, family, obligation, and duty.

I walked in expecting some weird partner-swapping European movie ( See: “Cousin, Cousine” ), but instead I saw a melodramatic ( but not too much ) examination of hour our lives, all of our lives, insersect and connect, perched between birth, weddings, and death. Much more than just the notion of familial obligation ( “my wife”, “my daughter” ) is a dynamic rooted in the sense that we all need to be a bit more mindful of how we treat everyone we encounter, because the connections to those we love wind up circling back in ways we could not fathom.

The cinematography is beautiful, Copenhagen is stunning, and Mads Mikkelsen is one handsome and debonair fellow. Sidse Babbet Knudsen exudes a calm, focused, ( can one imagine this ) Scandinavian sensuality that is the perfect balance to his smoldering intensity. Yet for the anger about their parting, and the frustration of having been thrown back together under such surprising circumstances, they find the quiet and the cigarettes necessary to work through their past, to let their hurt go, and to see each other as adults now, more mature reflections of who they once knew each other as.

Stine Fischer Christensen plays Anna, the young bride in the wedding. Christensen brings a believable innocence, the kind of innocence 20 year-olds have. It’s neither cheapening to her character nor to the intelligence of the audience.

Lastly Jørgen, played by Rolf Lassgård

Trailer Park Boys

The funniest movie we saw.

Three east-Canadian Trailer Park dwellers, fresh out of their stint in jail, head back to their stripper wives, rotted-out cars, and alcoholic park manager.

It’s sort of like the Judd Apatow / Will Ferrell movies. Lovable losers are determined that very pedestrian goals are the things they want most in life ( to be an anchorman, to go fast, etc. ) and, thanks to a supporting cast of quirky friends and a banal conflict, enough plot arc hangs together to deliver an endless stream of jokes.

What Ricky wants most is for his daughter to stop stealing BBQs and pawning them for cigarettes, he wants his newly-augmented sometimes-stripper girlfriend to leave her girlfriend and marry him, he wants to stick it to his alcoholic trailer park manager, he wants to beat his former jail warden at hockey, and he sees the key for all that getting back into the cannabis production business. Only hitch is, where to get the, uh, seed capital?

Answer: Pull off the Big Dirty: a crime to set up his business.

This film is based off the popular Canadian TV show and features some hilarious Canada-culture jokes ( all the films at the local theatre are Rush songs, Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson shows up as a cop investigating the boys as suspects in stealing an ATM ).

We laughed all the way through.

Come to think of it, that may have been what made the “Airplane!” movies work: a thin plot about a plan, and then basically a joke-a-second series of setups and punchlines.

Crazy Sexy Cancer

Here’s a setup for you. You’re young, pretty, and have a good acting career working up via commercials and stage work. In the middle of your 20’s, on valentines day, you find out you have an inoperable cancer.

The opening phrase of the movie is: “Happy Valentine’s day: You have Cancer!”

From here on out Kris Carr honestly exposes the realities of coming to terms with not being able to take care of herself anymore, of having to feel ugly, to feel useless, to feel victimized, to feel dead while still alive…of having cancer.

Kris takes up macrobiotics, Kris takes up wheatgrass diets, Kris makes some of the crudest jokes I’ve ever heard and I laugh in discomfort and because she’s incredibly funny.

Kris rediscovers her beauty, Kris falls in love, Kris remembers that she’s still alive, and Kris got an ovation when she stood up in the audience to admit that she’d just watched her own story with us.

Kris has a book coming out by the same title and TLC will be showing the movie come August 2007! Kris' story is hilarious and touching and real. If you have cable, do not miss.

Dirty Country

Meet Larry Pierce: a small-town factory worker and family man who happens to be the raunchiest country music singer in America. Since 1993, Larry has quietly released over a dozen dirty country albums at truck stops across the country. Without the time or money to pursue a “legitimate” career in country music, Larry is content to lead an ordinary life and moonlight as a dirty country singer. But when he is forced into early retirement at his factory job of 30 years, Larry faces an uncertain future. That is, until a young band with dirty songs of its own shows up at his door and offers to take Larry onstage.

SXSW

Larry’s just a down home midwestern guy with a proclivity for writing songs about naughty parts, often in ode to his midwestern wife.

Forced out by his auto parts company, Larry is unsure of what to do with himself, and is mad as hell. The band -itis, who do their own ribald cabaret-metal music throughout the north and midwest, meet up with him, go on tour, and give him two gifts. One is a stratocaster and the other is a new direction. At the end Larry’s riding his dirty language to places he’d never thought about visiting and flashes a dashing smile.

Nothing earth-shattering, but a lot of fun.

Helvetica

After 3 days at interactive pondering design and art, I wanted a break away from the topic, but this movie had gotten such buzz in the internet community I had to check it out.

Helvetica is the history of the Helvetica typeface, you know, the one this blog is written in, the one that labels all signs on the NYC subway, in essence it is the default typeface for our world. But how did it get there? What’s so powerful about it?

What does it say about us, what does it say when we use it? Why not Baskerville or Albertus?

Helvetica opens with a printer loading up a lead tray with the leads to write the word “Helvetica” in Helvetica. It’s a reminder of the origins of print, print design, and lettering.

Helvetica: A Documentary

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