SXSW Day 2 Log (I’m Fine, Twyla Moves, US vs Reality Winner, Here Before, Tom Petty, Recovery)

Hey everyone! After a rough start to the South by Southwest Film Festival Day 2 proved to be much better. In fact, I liked all 6 films I watched today to one degree or another. Hooray!

So let’s get started with the recaps!

I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)

I have to say COVID is proving to be a better setting for storytelling than I might have guessed. In this first entry writer, director and star Kelley Kali gives us a day in the life of a grieving widow trying to get housing for herself and her daughter during the pandemic. She travels around down in roller skates and does various gig work and gets more desperate as the day goes on.

It’s a sobering film but Kali is such a likable presence on screen it keeps us invested. It kind of reminded me of the first act of Moonlight in a lot of ways. Some will find the slice of life concept to be a dull but I enjoyed it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Twyla Moves

Twyla Moves is a documentary done by PBS for their American Masters series (it actually airs this weekend on TV). I really enjoy American Masters and this goes right along with what they do. It kind of reminded me of Ailey about Alvin Ailey from Sundance 2020 (which was also for AM).

This one is about choreographer Twyla Tharp who I had never heard of but is absolutely incredible. They listed off her resume and she had major projects every year since the 70s including films like Hair and Amadeus. I kind of wish it had gotten into more of her backstory and personal journey but it stays mostly in the professional realm but still fun to watch.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

United States vs Reality Winner

From the minute I heard federal secrets dropper Reality Winner’s name I wanted to learn more about her and that’s what this documentary does. It’s fairly basic in its presentation but the story is so strange and compelling it doesn’t need much manipulation to work. If you want to learn more about Reality than give this one a watch.

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Here Before

If you are looking for an artsy thriller at the festival Here Before may be the movie for you. It stars Andrea Riseborough as a woman who becomes convinced her new neighbor is actually her dead daughter reincarnated. This is a beautifully made film with an excellent performance by Riseborough (who is almost always good even in Birdman which I do not like). The pacing is very slow in this one and there were times my attention drifted away but still enough good to recommend.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free

Obviously this Tom Petty film will be a must watch for fans of him and his music. However, I also think it will be interesting to anyone who has a love of music and is curious to go BTS of the making of an album. In this case it is his ‘Wildflowers’ album and of course everything is touched by the knowledge of his sudden passing in 2017.

If you are looking for Tom’s backstory or how he became a musician that’s not what this is. It’s a showcase of the making of an album and all the people and hours of work that went into it. As a lover of music I enjoyed learning about the process and hearing lots of great Tom Petty songs!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Recovery

My friend Jonathan actually told me this movie was premiering at the festival. It stars Mallory Everton (who also cowrote and directed) and Whitney Call. They are both stars of the comedy skit youtube show Studio C and they bring that zany energy to this hilarious comedy.

Recovery is definitely a hair edgier than what you get on Studio C but it should be fine for adults. It’s about 2 sisters who have to go get their Grandma from a nursing home infected with COVID. A comedy like this comes down to the writing (which is very funny) and the chemistry which these 2 have in spades. I loved i! You may think it’s too soon to laugh at COVID but give it a chance. I bet you will find yourself cracking up just like I did.

It’s definitely the best of the festival so far. I loved it!

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

SXSW Day 1 Log (Kid Candidate, Introducing Selma, Islands,Demi Lovato, Hysterical, The Lost Sons)

Hey everyone! Today begins the first day of the South by Southwest Film Festival of SXSW. This is my first year attending the festival and of course I attended virtually this year. Hopefully next year I can go down to Austin and attend in person (which is something I was planning to do last year before the world went nuts).

I have to say day 1 I am mostly underwhelmed by what I saw. Maybe I just picked poorly but there is only 1 out of 6 I really loved and only 2 I think I will go fresh on. Oh well!

Here are my quick thoughts on the films:

Kid Candidate

The documentary Kid Candidate tells the story of Hayden Pedigo who is the 24 year old who decides to run for city council in Amarillo Texas. Hayden seems like a nice enough kid but his lack of motivation to study the issues and become an educated candidate makes the whole thing feel like a publicity stunt or at best a youtube gimmick.

The director also fails to challenge him on his ideology. He appears at tea party and MAGA events but then doesn’t seem to share their beliefs (or he may and the filmmaker just doesn’t ask him about it). The parts where we get to know the Senegalese population and the way religious dogma is used by the other candidates is interesting but not enough to carry the whole film.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Introducing Selma

Introducing Selma is only tangentially a celeb biopic. It briefly talks about Blair’s acting career and shows clips from Cruel Intentions and Legally Blonde but that’s about it. She could have had any job and the story would be compelling. It profiles her experiences with MS and her stem cell treatments in 2019 (and her time with the pandemic in 2020).

She is an inspiring, authentic person who struggles at times to speak and move. What could be cloying feels true and devastating. This was my favorite of the festival for the day.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Islands

Islands is a story about a 50 year old Filipino man who must start caring for his aging Father after his Mother dies. This film has some sweet moments and if you like slice of life movies it may be worth a watch.

However, the acting feels mostly amateurish and when they have Josh fall in love it is with his cousin, which is a weird choice. It could have been a very sweet little love story if they weren’t related. This one isn’t awful but I can’t recommend it.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil

If you are a big fan of Demi Lovato you will probably enjoy Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil. As someone who doesn’t know much about her I found the experience frustrating. First, it is a docu-series put into a movie format which I think made the editing kind of weird but I felt like this is a situation of a director wanting a certain narrative that the subject wouldn’t provide.

Particularly off is a section where she tries to argue for moderation instead of sobriety and it’s painted as an inspirational moment until other guests like Elton John strongly disagree with that approach. There’s interesting stuff in there and some shocking reveals of what Demi and her team have been through but it unfortunately wasn’t put together very well. Also there is a cheap tie-in to her new album at the end which adds to feeling of being manipulated.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Hysterical

Hysterical is a documentary about female stand up comics. There are definitely key figures I wish they had interviews with like Amy Schumer and Ali Wong who are seen but not heard from. Also Ellen Degeneres is never even mentioned (Tiffany Haddish, Sarah Silverman?).

Regardless, the ladies they do talk with are funny and I enjoyed hearing their stories and talking about how the comedy scene could do better in including female voices. It wasn’t a piece to complain but to show their obvious talent. Most importantly it was funny.

7 out of 10

The Lost Sons

When I watch a documentary I always ask: ‘would I rather read an article on the topic?’ If so than the film didn’t do it’s job. The Lost Sons is such a film. It does have a compelling story of a man who finds out he was a replacement baby for his parents who had their son kidnapped at the hospital. The problem is so many key players had died or were unwilling to be filmed that there’s not enough meat on the bone for a feature film. This would be great as a short true crime podcast or newspiece but not as a feature.

The man in question Paul Fronczak does about 80% of the interviewing and I wish he had more charisma. A side of me felt like this whole thing was an attempt to buoy his failing acting career (multiple clips are shown). It seems like others enjoyed this more than I did but it’s made by the same people who did Three Identical Strangers, which was far more absorbing and effective with a very similar story.

Feels like a TV spot stretched out to a feature film. Just listen to the podcasts about it instead.

3.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy