SXSW Part 3: The Search For Spock

15) Crying With Laughter
I toss around the words "Black Comedy" a lot, but what can I say? Filmmakers like Schadenfreude. Crying With Laughter is a Scottish film concerning memory. Our hero and villain are old school friends who reconnect after several years. Our antagonist is tortured about an incident he can't forget and manipulates our protagonist, who can't remember, into rectifying the problem. All the while, the narrative is driven by the protagonist's creepily honest stand-up routine. The tragedy and horrors of a suspense thriller, abduction, senility and child abuse are literally turned into joke fodder. Unfortunately, trying to attempt this tangent on perception and perspective drowns out the original theme of memory as a subjective force. Still, it's exciting and paced perfectly.
Final Score: 4/5
In a Word: Memorable

16) Barry Munday
This is a film for all the Apatow fans. Titular character Barry Munday is an unashamed womanizer, living his life vicariously through his penis. After hitting on the wrong girl, Barry finds himself castrated in a fit of rage by a jealous boyfriend and his trumpet. Yes. A trumpet. Prior to the unwilling removal of his testes, Barry inadvertently knocks up Jennifer, played by Judy Greer, who looks and acts exactly like Kitty from Arrested Development (I was expecting her to rip off her shirt in anger and reveal two askew nipples). Due to these two new events, Barry is forced to radically change his life, accepting his new role as a father and disowning his sexually deviant ways. The film is absolutely hilarious. With the exception of a few cringe-worthy awkward moments, the film is comedy genius from beginning to end. If you enjoy this type of comedy, join the grassroots movement to get this distributed.
Final Score: 5/5
In an Image: Photobucket

17) Barbershop Punk
A film with a name like "Barbershop Punk" could be about any number of great things. In this case, 'Punk' refers to dissidence and rule breaking while 'Barbershop' refers to the A Capella musical genre. This is a documentary, following Robb Topolski, a software engineer who blew the whistle on Comcast's violation of internet autonomy. Certain individuals (read: Big Business) were given priority concerning connection speeds while other individuals (read: People standing up to the man) were routinely denied service. Robb was uploading barbershop quartet music to the internet. He, like other pirates, were frequently denied reliable internet service because of their actions. By doing so, Comcast was called out by the government for fraud, violation of privacy, accepting bribes, and attempting to hide the entire ordeal from the public. This is a film about rights to privacy and the privatization of the internet. Piracy is only a small portion of the film. Yet the piracy issue never fades away. The film knows where it wants to go, but never actually gets there. It's interesting to watch, especially to fellow pirates and computer geeks, but it's more explanatory than informative. Basically, net neutrality is good. That's the movie. Plus Robb owns a minimum of three pairs of Crocs, which makes him an asshole, no matter how noble his endeavors.
Final Score: 3/5
In a Word: Neutral

18) This Movie is Broken
Very rarely does a movie come along with a title as applicable here. This Movie is Broken is supposed to be a concert video of the Canadian band Broken Social Scene (who are awesome, by the way). Instead, the movie is a puree of a Broken Social Scene concert vid, and a lame plotline poorly ripping off Before Sunrise and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. Just when I think the movie is going somewhere important, they interrupt with the band playing a song. And just when I'm getting into the band playing, they interrupt with the plot. The plot, by the way, is terrible. Boy loves girl, boy is too chickenshit to tell girl, girl finds out anyway and tells boy off for not being honest, boy has completely inexplicable and unexplained gay experience, boy gets girl anyway despite girl finding other boy in bed with first boy. It's stupid and it ruins what was supposed to be a great concert film. This Movie is Broken most certainly is.
Final Score: 2/5
In a Word: Portmanteau

19) The Runaways
First, let me dispel all fears: They did not ruin the Runaways story. Second, let me just say this was a very good half of a movie. The biopic of Cherie Currie and Joan Jett's game-changing rock band, The Runaways, is a semi-honest portrayal of punk rock that follows all the stepping stones of the musical-drama genre. Kristen Stewart is, for all intents and purposes, Joan Jett. She completely becomes her character and it almost makes me forgive Twilight... Okay, it doesn't even come close, but she's terrific nonetheless. Dakota Fanning is less impressive. She plays her part with disinterest, hamming up the film halfway with overly-dramatic deliveries and halfway with blank stares. Michael Shannon, however, steals the show with his performance as manager Kim Fowley. Whenever he is onscreen, magic happens. As far as I'm concerned, this film gets punk rock dead-on. Wearing a black t-shirt does not make you punk. Getting blitzed, having random sexual encounters, erupting in spontaneous violence and ending the night covered with a minimum of four bodily fluids makes you punk. For that, I love it. It's no-holds-bar punk rock goodness, and the cast delivers on all accounts... for the first half. As I said, it's a great half-movie. Near the midpoint, the film slags as it follows Cherie's descent into drug abuse. It's the standard musical-drama formula. Again, we have to endure a long, long exposition of "Oh, I'm a genius, but I'm destroying myself." The movie becomes less about entertaining and more about wrapping up the loose ends to coincide with history. For example, when Joan gets the idea to form The Blackhearts, you can all but hear the metaphorical light bulb go "ding." The Runaways is a great idea and a great execution, but it's nothing new.
Final Score: 3/5
In a Word (more or less): Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb

20) The Parking Lot Movie
Following in the style of TV shows 'Ace of Cakes' and 'American Gun,' The Parking Lot Movie is a cinema-verite documentary about the employees of a workplace and the unassuming events they encounter. While the escapades of parking lot attendants doesn't sound like great cinema, you'd be surprised at the entertainment value present. This film is a nugget of 1990's era Slacker-dom temporally dislocated by fifteen years. It combines cultural apathy with consumer rage, and produces one of my favorite films from the entire festival. It touches on subjects including cars, license plates, class struggles, capitalism, anger, justice, drunkenness, and existence. It also holds the distinction of being one of the few films I wish was longer. If you have ever worked a menial McJob, this film is a must see.
Final Score: 5/5
In a Word: Enterprising

21) Saturday Night
Saturday Night is a documentary helmed by James Franco, following the creation of a single episode of Saturday Night Live from start to finish. From 2000-2005, Saturday Night Live was my favorite TV show (I lost interest in college when I made friends and finally had something to do on Saturday nights besides watch TV.) I read a book on the production of the show, and had a pretty solid understanding of the process. That being said, the process brought to life was still an incredible revelation. The level of dedication going into one episode of a TV show often maligned for its low quality is astounding. While my admiration of SNL is still in the highest regards, seeing the inner workings raises my respect to astronomical heights. My only grievance was the final composition of the film. To me, it seemed less like a documentary and more like a DVD extra feature. At any rate, the film was captivating, entertaining, and assured me that the unsettling terrors gleaned from the Empire Carpets jingle are totally normal.
Final Score: 4/5
In a Word: J'Accusi

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