As the weekend began, more people trickled in to the town of Austin. The energy is picking up as people want to escape winter blues and have a good spring break. Also, music is a big draw and they wouldn’t mind seeing the famous in the streets of Austin. SXSW is the place to experience this. Who can blame them for wanting to attend? There’s a lot to discover at SXSW! For me, the Friday I was there felt like I discovered something new about each film. I was looking forward to sharing with others my multiple discoveries.
The riveting and energetic documentary 12 O’Clock Boys explores the Baltimore street gang culture of dirt bike riders known as 12 O’Clock Boys. We are thrown into the documentary via archival news footage of previous incidents and get an understanding of the past as well as a background story. We follow various interesting people including Pug, a younger kid who idolizes the bikers and eager to join. Over the running time, the viewer slowly gets to know some of the subject matters from wild kids to concerned parents. In an impressive directorial debut, Lotfy Nathan has a gritty urban style similar to what documentary filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) captures behind the camera. As a director, Lotfy Nathan is a refreshing force to be reckoned with and worthy of a lasting documentary career. I wish 12 O’Clock Boys would’ve won the documentary award over William and the Windmill or at least a consolation prize for best debut documentary filmmaker. We might be hearing more from Lotfy Nathan soon enough.
Based on a Neil LaBute play, Some Girl(s) is a narrative comedy about a man (Adam Brody) reconnecting with previous ex-girlfriends he wronged for some needed closure before he gets married. For a nearly sold out show, the audience seemed underwhelmed with the feature as a whole…as did I. It’s a challenge sustaining drama and interest for a movie that essentially features five separate subplots in five different scenes. The director didn’t seem up to task. Some performances worked (Emily Watson), others not so much (Mía Maestro). The Zoe Kazan scene had some hits and misses, but was awkwardly complex and eventually fell flat. To my surprise, Kristen Bell shows legitimate acting chops in her performance as Bobbi. For someone who’s has seen her recent movies struggle, this was an unexpected highlight for me. She deserves a better career and from this surprisingly good performance, I hope to see more from her. With the good work in Some Girls(s) and the Kickstarter campaign for Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell might be on the verge of a surging comeback.
The best discovery is when you can call something your favorite! My favorite documentary of the entire SXSW film festival, Unhung Hero explores the manhood issues of comedian Patrick Moote. After it is revealed his girlfriend rejected marriage proposal was because of his perceived small penis size, Patrick Moote goes on an humorous journey of education and self-enlightenment interviewing women, specialists, and even porn stars. Many scenes make the viewer feel uncomfortable and the best remedy is to laugh…out loud…very loudly! There are too many great moments I don’t want to spoil for potential viewers. The audience applauded multiple times through out the doc and consistently laughing very loud. Some were even cheering during some of the tough moments for the “unhung hero.” It’s hard not to react this strongly to a hysterical documentary. Since the documentary Unhung Hero doesn’t currently have a distributor, there’s plenty of potential for a smaller studio to make a profitable investment picking up Unhung Hero. I’m dumbfounded at the lack of attention movie bloggers and other movie press members have given to Unhung Hero. They clearly didn’t see it, but you should though. Hopefully, sooner rather then later. I’ll make an effort to keep TMB readers in the loop with updates. It’s too honest and genuinely hysterical not to miss.
One thing I hoped to discover would be a new midnight movie that audiences will enjoy with a movie like Big Ass Spider. Personally, I should’ve looked elsewhere. Big Ass Spider wasn’t up to my standards nor liked it as much as I thought or wanted. The plot was pretty simple and wasn’t as cheesy as it could’ve been. To me, it felt phoned in as if the filmmakers didn’t see the potential they had with That doesn’t mean its not worth watching. It is for select audiences who like this sort of thing. However Big Ass Spider didn’t win me over like I was expecting it to do. The high octane camp stumbles at times, but there are some great throw away, chuckle inducing one-liners. The audience enjoyed it so much more than I did I cannot help but wonder if this is just my negative attitude not connecting with the movie. This could be a cult classic in the making and this year’s Birdemic. Only time will tell with Big Ass Spider!