SXSW Part 2: SXSW Harder

8) American: The Bill Hicks Story
This documentary about one of the most underrated stand-up comedians was one of the few must-sees for me. I was expecting it to be a by-the-numbers documentary about Hicks' private life, his struggle with alcohol, and his battle with media. But it was actually engaging and informative. While it did play the Walk The Line "Oh, I'm a genius, but I'm destroying myself" route, it portrayed Hicks' entire career from his teenage origins to his rise to (if you can call it that) prominence. As is the nature with documentaries in which the subject is deceased, an overwhelming portion is comprised of stories and laments from close friends and family. But breaking up the tired monotony is animation consisting of hundreds of photographs of Hicks throughout to life, bringing the monologues to life. Overall, very informative and entertaining for any fan of Bill Hicks and his game-changing comedy.
Final Score: 4/5
In a Word: Vitriolic

9) MacGruber
The second-most hyped film at the festival, MacGruber is the first film based on a SNL sketch since the string of laughably unfunny travesties from the early '00s (Night at the Roxbury, Superstar, The Ladies Man). Will Forte brings the MacGyver not-quite-a-parody parody to excellent heights. The film is funny, paced just right, and is sure to be quoted incessantly by high-schoolers for the next several years. My only qualm about the film is nothing really astounded me. This is a big problem for comedies. The jokes get me in the door, but unless there's something else, I don't want to hear the exact same jokes again later. It's funny, but not legendary funny. At the very least, people will stop telling me how much they love lamp.
Final Score: 4/5
In a Word: Celery

10) Erasing David
A documentary about the pervasiveness of surveillance and the subtle Big Brother nature of the modern world. Filmmaker David Bond decides to drop off the face of the world for one month, and hires two private investigators to try and find him. Tracking him using credit cards, mobile phone records and other technology, the chase is on for David to escape the watchdogs. While he does hide out in a grass hut in the countryside for two days, this isn't an experiment about disappearing, this is an experiment about privacy. Throughout the chase, David interviews experts on privacy, surveillance, safety and bureaucracy about why information about us perpetuates eternally, why it's collected, and who has the ability to find it. It's terrifying how little things we take for granted are being compiled and waiting to be used against us. It's a real wake up call for everyone in the digital age, whether you're tech-savvy or not. It's half 1984, half The Fugitive, and it's all non-fiction. I highly recommend.
Final Score: 5/5
In a Word: Startling

11) Harry Brown
Michael Caine is awesome. He looks like my grandfather, he's smoother than Rupolph Valentino, could outcharm Hugh Hefner, and now he proves he could kick Jet Li's ass. Harry Brown uses the blueprints of Gran Torino, but makes a unique prefecture. An old man sullied by the decrepit nature of his environment decides he has had enough. Using his military training and forty years of pent-up frustration, Harry Brown sets out to rid the streets of gangs, teenage asshats and drug runners. Travis Bickle couldn't do it better himself.
Final Score: 4/5
In a Word: Stabby

12) Trash Humpers
I... I have no clue what this is. The press billed this as a horror film, but... I don't know what the hell this is. It's insanity captured on a VHS tape. Four elderly people go about stomping radios, eating pancakes, lighting fire crackers, reading bad poetry, shrieking like banshees, hitting things with hammers, and humping trash cans. It's absolute insanity. It's experimental, I guess. Think of it as Tim and Eric making a film without jokes. I laughed at times, I cringed at times, and when I wasn't looking at my watch wishing it to be over, I guess I was entertained. It's hard to say. Entertained the same way someone is entertained by a snuff film. Again, I really have no fucking idea what the hell this was. It's trying to emulate Found Art via a video cassette of grotesque imagery. Think of it as Rubber Johnny stretched out to 78 minutes. I can't accurately score this because of the confusion, so I'll give it a score of:
Final Score: Banana/5
In a word: ....?

13) World's Largest
This documentary focuses on roadside marvels, particularly of the gigantic variety. Towns facing bankruptcy give one final financial hailmary by constructing the "World's Largest _____" in an attempt to get passing motorists to stop and visit. Amidst all the examinations of tourist traps is the tragic tale of Soap Lake, Washington. One of the poorest towns in the state, Soap Lake is at a crossroads whether to hunker down and hope for the best, or go nutso and create the World's Largest Lava Lamp. We see all sides of the issue; do we put all our money into a silly adventure? Will people actually stop and see this thing? Is this lava lamp going to cheapen the image of our township? Is this even a feasible idea? Quite honestly, the film never takes a stand. It presents all ideas, but the rhetoric is absent. It's an objective, unbiased documentary, and that's its weakest point. It doesn't have anything else to say beyond the standard "America's Small Towns are in trouble" lament, which frankly has been done to death. It criticizes big box stores, but in an unnoticed irony, Target donates the resources to construct the Lava Lamp. If nothing else, it is a great composition of the artistic oddities which could only originate in America. An interesting film, but with nothing to say.
Final Score: 3/5
In a Word: Shantytown

14) Music Videos
I'm fudging a bit calling this a movie, as it's just a collection of music videos. But what is a music video but a short film completely choreographed to a one-song soundtrack? Plus, it brings me back to my high school days when I would watch FuseTV for hours on end because nothing else was on. No review here, just a list of the videos shown. I'm sure you can find them on YouTube or Vimeo. My five favorite are noted.
- Heypenny, 'Copcar' (Director: Joey Ciccoline & Paul Padgett) (My Second Favorite)
- Grizzly Bear, 'Forest' (Director: Allison Schulnik)
- Writer, 'Four Letters' (Director: Brad Kester)
- Hunter Cross and the Strays, 'Twisty Ties' (Director: Paul Ahern)
- P.O.S, 'Drumroll' (Director: Todd Cobery & Scott Wenner)
- Chris Garneau, 'Fireflies' (Director: Daniel Stessen)
- The Diagonals, 'Clones' (Director: Nick Smith)
- N.A.S.A., 'Spacious Thoughts' (Director: Fluorescent Hill)
- Man Branch, 'The Gym Is All She Has' (Director: Matt Leach)
- Truckers of Husk, 'Person for the Person' (Director: Casey Raymond & Ewan Jones Morris)
- Passion Pit, 'To Kingdom Come' (Director: Mixtape Club) (My Fourth Favorite)
- Kevin Devine, 'I could be with Anyone' (Director: Ray Machuca & Sherng-Lee Huang) (My Favorite)
- These United States, 'Everything Touches Everything' (Director: Maxwell Sorensen)
- Fatback Circus, 'Brain Damage' (Director: Rodney Brunet)
- Socalled, '(Rock the) Belz' (Director: Kaveh Nabatian)
- Fires of Rome, 'Set in Stone (M83 Remix)' (Director: Matthew Lessner)
- BRONTOSORUS, 'Amy' (Director: Pete Scalzitti) (My Third Favorite)
- Cinnamon Chasers, 'Luv Deluxe' (Director: Saman Keshavarz) (Winner: Best Music Video)
- WHY?, 'These Hands/ January Twenty Something' (Director: Ben Barnes)
- Height, 'Mike Stone' (Director: Justin Barnes)
- Apes and Androids, 'Golden Prize' (Director: That Go - Noel Paul & Stefan Moore) (My Fifth Favorite)

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