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All the flicks I saw at the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival. All of 'em.
by Scott Weinberg

Film festivals are great. Where else can you see 25 brand-new movies in one week? OK, heaven. Good answer. But after sizing up the goods at the Sundance Palace and the South By Southwest Barbecue - I'll go with the southern-fried flicks, thank you very much.

Here's what I got - in order of outright grooviness:

May - OK this one wasn't actually part of the festival, but since the only theaters in the nation showing it were in Austin and Fresno - I had to jump at the chance to go see it. I just freakin' loved this movie. Period. I've posted my review below if you're interested, but it's a five-star flick all the way.

Full review:

Cabin Fever - A new cult classic. Trust me on this. If you dig horror flicks, make sure to see this one early on; it's an excellent time with a lively audience. :)

Full review:

Bubba Ho-tep - Astonishing that a movie so goofy could also be so heartfelt, scary and funny at the same time. Still no distrib. Bruce Campbell will shock the world - if the flick ever gets seen.

Full review:

Dummy - Adrien Brody, Milla Jovovich, Illeana Douglas and Vera Farmiga are just fantastic in this weird-yet-lovable (and often hilarious) romantic comedy. Keep an eye out for it.

Full review:

Melvin Goes to Dinner - Clever and often very funny adaptation of the play of the same name. Bob Odenkirk directs the chat-heavy flick with a deft touch, and the four diners are spot-on perfect (particularly screenwriter Michael Blieden and Dinner and a Movie's Annabelle Gurwitch). It's wall-to-wall conversation, but the juicy sort that's so much fun to eavesdrop on.

A Mighty Wind - Christopher Guest gets his improv gang back together again and the result is as hilarious as you'd expect. If you enjoyed Best in Show and/or Waiting for Guffman, you'll absolutely dig this one.

Tom Dowd and the Language of Music - Excellent documentary about one of the world's most respected (yet unknown) sound designers. Sounds dull eh? Well, Dowd was the genius behind the recordings of Led Zepplin, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, several Motown legends, and a host of others. Plus he invented 8-track recording which makes him a trailblazer in the art of recorded music. Great doco.

Assassination Tango - Robert Duvall's newest may be a bit languid for some (I fully expected to be a bit bored), but it's actually a compelling and sweet movie. Plus...who doesn't love Robert Duvall?

Full review:

Fulltime Killer - Clever movie homages and brilliantly creative action sequences highlight this Japanese action flick. Very cool.

Phone Booth - "Tight" is a word I used to describe this flick about 6 times before I got tired of using such a vague and silly adjective. Colin Farrell is really damn good in this tight little thriller. (See? I'm an idiot.) Schumacher wrenches up the tension, the supporting cast is uniformly strong (Forrest Whitaker especially) and there are several really tight moments. Er, I mean intense. Ack, I'm such a shitty writer. But this is a damn fun flick certainly worthy of a trip to the multiplex.

Full review:

Security - Low-budget no-name thriller that's damn damn funny. Nothing but improv for 80-some minutes, but the tale of two clueless security guards trying to solve a late-night chocolate theft is quite simply very amusing.

You'll Never Wiez in this Town Again - I can't believe I'm actually saying this but "Damn that Pauly Shore movie was FUNNY!" Shore wrote, directed and plays himself in this cameo-laden farce about the pitfalls of has-beenism and the dangers of faking your own death. Surprisingly very funny.

EvenHand - Alternately witty and sobering tale of two Texas cops and the various oddballs they keep running across. Strong acting and an avoidance of cliche help to keep things interesting.

The Eye - Stylish and atmospheric Japanese horror thriller from the Pang Brothers. Equal parts Blink, The Sixth Sense and several others, but still creepy-cool enough to stand on its own. A few slow spots and a ponderous score can't sink it.

Full review:

Flag Wars - Pretty cool doco about one bizarre neighborhood in Columbus Ohio: the long-standing African American residents are being ousted by a group of homosexual homeowners. No kidding. It gets pretty nasty.

The Hard Word - Slick and profane Aussie crime flick. Guy Pearce and Rachel Griffiths vamp it up to a criminal degree, and the whole cast is a rabid and nasty hoot. Suffers from about two finales too many and a schizophrenic pacing - but still worthy of a look.

Valley of Tears - Sadly enlightening doco about an infamous onion-workers strike from the 70's.

Full review:

The Dance - Boxers-in-prison doco. Alternately fascinating and redundant, though a solid flick overall.

Flowers - Mega low-budget drama about the dangers of accepting employment in an illegal after-hours nightclub. Piper Perabo pops up in Act III.

Jon E. Edwards is in Love - Outspoken soul singer Edwards preaches and pontificates about how damn cool he is. Still, an interesting guy usually makes for an interesting documentary.

Only the Strong Survive - Miramax picked up this musical documentary about a reunion of some Motown greats, including Mary Wilson, Isaac Hayes and Sam Moore. Great performance footage, somewhat interesting backstory stuff.

Cinemania - Grating and generally unpleasant documentary about New York's five most amazingly obsessed movie freaks. Tough to get behind a doco that takes the stance of "film the obsessive/compulsive wacko and snicker", but if you think YOU'RE a movie freak - you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Full review:

A Midsummer Night's Rave - Cheapy modernization of the Bard suffers from fairly atrocious acting and pedantic tone. Maybe I was just in a bad mood that night.

The Nature of Nicholas - Impressive-looking yet drearily off-putting tale of a young boy's struggle with his burgeoning homosexuality. I didn't dig it, but I watched it the same night as the other one I didn't dig.

Sexless - That this navel-gazing irritant managed to win the Audience Award is a testament to the power of local-boy ballot stuffing. Anyone out there ever seen a flick about whiny 20-somethings pining on and on about sex and relationships? You can bet the filmmakers here sure did.

Three and a Half - Artsy-schmartsy and generally dull 'cinema poetry' (that's what the director called it) that showcases the fictional lives of the creations of three subway-bound artists. Got that?

Happy Here and Now - Ally Sheedy, David Arquette and a few other familiar faces populate this arcane and uninteresting tale of New Orleans weirdness, complete with online love affairs, dead fireman's wives, and a drunk Clarence Williams. Not good.

Spun - I've already vented this bile from my system in the form of a full review. Suffice to say that this is one of the stupidest, ugliest and least entertaining movies I've ever seen. Some see it as brilliant; I see moldering garbage.

Full review:

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originally posted: 03/17/03 15:10:47
last updated: 12/30/03 10:57:53
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