Don Clinchy's blog

SXSW Review: King Kelly


King Kelly

My goal at every film festival is to see at least one film so stunningly original, powerful, entertaining and culturally relevant -- in other words, a film that so completely blows me away -- that I can declare it my favorite movie of the festival. For the 2012 SXSW Film Festival, that film is King Kelly.

Filmmaker Andrew Neel's biting cinematic statement about self obsession and online culture is, as they say, all that. King Kelly is intensely observant, cringingly funny and profoundly disturbing, a film that demands our rapt attention while viewing it and provokes shell-shocked sociological discussions afterward. It's the rare film that rises to a level above mere excellence -- it is, in a word, important.

And oh, how sorely we need more important films like King Kelly. We need more films that blast us with bitter realities, grab us tightly and shake us out of our perpetual slumber of indifference toward our own crumbling culture. We need more films that cleverly trick us into thinking they're entertaining us with humor when, in fact, they're issuing clarion warnings about our society's rampant dysfunction.

SXSW Review: Sun Don't Shine


Sun Don't Shine

Crystal and Leo are the perfect couple.

Perfectly unhinged, that is. The two subjects of Sun Don't Shine live in a world of rage and are best avoided as they travel the highways of central Florida, greeting everyone who crosses their paths with wild-eyed looks of desperation. As their harrowing back stories unfold during their road trip, we learn the dark details of their lives and their journey.

If my description of Sun Don't Shine is cryptic, it's because revealing any further details would undermine most of the film's spellbinding tension. All I'll say is that Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley) are running a ghastly errand.

Filmmaker Amy Seimetz has crafted a gripping piece of cinematic horror with Sun Don't Shine, a film that peels away layer upon layer of darkness to develop its twisted story and characters. The story's simplicity and compactness belie its complex characters and broad indictment of human behavior. There is far more going on than just a crazed couple on a road trip from hell; the movie gets to the heart of what inspires people to commit violent acts and craftily blurs the line between good and evil.

SXSW Review: Bernie



Move over, Waking LifeBernie is my new third-favorite Richard Linklater film.

Why isn't Bernie my favorite or runner-up? As good as the film is, Slacker and Dazed and Confused have earned their rightful places at the top of my list of Favorite Linklater Films and probably will stay there forever. Pap Smear Pusher and David Wooderson deserve nothing less.

Bernie, however, is arguably the best Linklater film in a decade, an uproariously funny and engaging movie based on one of those only-in-Texas stories that would be the stuff of great fiction if it weren't astoundingly and painfully true.

Based on a Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth, who co-wrote the screenplay with Linklater, Bernie is the story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a Carthage, Texas mortician who in 1990 befriended elderly widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) after her husband's funeral. Tiede became Nugent's business manager and constant companion, tending to her needs and traveling the world with her for several years. Their relationship became the talk of their small East Texas town, the subject of much speculation and gossip about why the well liked thirtysomething Tiede took such an interest in the crotchety septuagenarian Nugent, who vied for the title of the town's most hated person. The most common theory had to do with Nugent's multimillion-dollar fortune, which she left to Tiede in her will.

SXSW Review: Somebody Up There Likes Me


Somebody Up There Likes Me

The ironically titled film Somebody Up There Likes Me is more like Somebody Up There Is Messing With Me, for all the characters' suffering. But their losses are our gain.

Bob Byington's latest feature is everything we've come to expect from the Austin filmmaker, a charmingly off-kilter examination of human relationships torn asunder.  It's a thoroughly eccentric film, a movie so hilarious and engaging that I can forgive its slightly nonsensical premise.

At the center of Somebody Up There Likes Me is the bumbling, befuddled Max (Keith Poulson), a hapless everyman who can't seem to hang onto the breaks life gives him. When his ex-wife -- a nameless woman billed only as Ex-Wife (Kate Lyn Sheil) -- rejects his attempts to reconcile, Max plunges into the dating game with coaching from snide and sarcastic co-worker Sal (a show-stealing Nick Offerman). Max wastes little time in wooing and marrying Lyla (Jess Weixler), a breadstick-addicted waitress at the upscale steakhouse where Max and Sal work.

SXSW Review: America's Parking Lot


America's Parking Lot

"How 'bout them Cowboys?"
-- Dallas Cowboys fan Stan "Tiger" Shults

Yeah, how 'bout them? Meh -- I'm not a sports fan, much less a fan of America's Team. Dallas Cowboys football culture -- with its mindless hero worship, distorted sense of importance and blatant displays of greed -- is one of a thousand reasons why I left Dallas 20 years ago and never will go back.

That said, I still found Austin actor and filmmaker Jonny Mars's new documentary America's Parking Lot to be a terrific examination of one of America's most passionate subcultures, the raucous tailgaters at Cowboys home games.

America's Parking Lot focuses on Stan "Tiger" Shults and Cy Ditmore, two longtime members of the Gate 6 Tailgaters, so named because they parked near Gate 6 of Texas Stadium, the Cowboys' former home dome. It is impossible to overstate Shults and Ditmore's enthusiasm for their team or the importance of its role in their lives. How devoted are they? Ditmore has invested more than $10,000 in his grilling trailer, which he dutifully tows to every Cowboys home game -- he hasn't missed one since 1988 -- and uses to cook upwards of a thousand dollars' worth of meat for hundreds of his fellow Gate 6 revelers.

SXSW Review: Kid-Thing



The SXSW 2012 feature Kid-Thing is aptly titled, for this latest effort from Austin filmmaking brothers David Zellner and Nathan Zellner deftly captures a child's world.

At the center of this oddly tragicomic story is 10-year-old Annie (Sydney Aguirre), a virtually parentless girl whose father, Marvin (Nathan Zellner), is too preoccupied with his goat farming, demolition derby driving and beer drinking to pay much attention to his lonely and bored daughter. Left to entertain and fend for herself, tomboyish Annie does, well, kid things, exploring the world around her rural home near Austin and getting into various forms of mischief. She makes crank phone calls, shoplifts, smashes things with a baseball bat and hurls balls of dough at passing cars. She is anything but a model child.

On a walk through the woods, Annie hears a call for help and discovers Esther (Susan Tyrrell), a woman trapped at the bottom of a well. But rather than summoning help, Annie visits Esther repeatedly, bringing her food and carrying on bizarre conversations with the increasingly desperate woman. Annie checks in with Esther as if toying with her is just another childish amusement, like playing with fireworks or splattering various objects with her paintball gun.

Review: Bullhead



One of Bullhead's production companies is aptly named "Savage Film." The name fits because Bullhead (Rundskop) is entirely savage, a grim and brutal story about, as director Michael Roskam describes it, "people being driven to extremes."

Distributed by Austin's own Drafthouse Films and nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, the Belgian import Bullhead is extraordinarily intense, a gripping and often unpleasant tale of organized crime in the Flanders area of Belgium. The story follows Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts), a young, impressively muscular cattle farmer with a penchant for steroid abuse and an outlook haunted by a long-ago trauma. A veterinarian coerces Jacky to make a crooked deal with an equally crooked Flemish beef trader; as Bullhead is an intricate thriller, it's impossible to say much more without spoilers. I'll say only that the story involves gangsters, a stolen car, a murdered cop and confrontations with characters from Jacky's painful past.

Review: Pina



I've never claimed to be a fan of modern dance. While I have great respect for dancers' and choreographers' creative talents, physical abilities and dedication, I've always thought of modern dance as an art form that's more entertaining to do than to watch. Admittedly, I've seen only a handful of modern dance performances. Perhaps I'm but a mere philistine -- frankly, I just didn't get most of them.

After seeing Pina, however, I have a newfound appreciation and understanding of modern dance. The captivating new Wim Wenders documentary about German choreographer Pina Bausch is a feast of striking imagery that makes the art of dance come alive like no other movie I've seen.

Pina is a film of great beauty, although one that stems from great tragedy. After a long and distinguished career as a dancer, choreographer, teacher and ballet director, Bausch died suddenly of cancer at age 68 in 2009. Her death came only days before shooting for Pina was scheduled to begin, so what was to be a film about an aging artist still at the height of her career is instead a moving tribute to her artistic legacy.

Lone Star Cinema: Paris, Texas


Paris, Texas

In a career spanning more than four decades, director Wim Wenders has delivered an eclectic mix of feature films, shorts and documentaries for the big screen and television. With Wenders's latest documentary, Pina, opening in Austin soon, it's a good time to look back at what may be his most celebrated movie, the inimitable Paris, Texas.

Released in 1984 to wide critical acclaim, Paris, Texas is the story of reticent oddball Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton), who wanders deliriously out of the desert into Terlingua, Texas as the film opens. A local doctor treats him and contacts his brother, Walt (Dean Stockwell), who travels from Los Angeles to reunite with Travis, a lonely and damaged soul who has been estranged from the family for years.

On a difficult road trip back to Los Angeles -- Travis refuses to speak at first and has a penchant for disappearing if left alone -- the two brothers gradually warm up to each other again. We learn that Walt and his wife, Anne (Aurore Clément), have been raising Travis's 7-year-old son, Hunter (Hunter Carson). Travis's wife, Jane (Nastassja Kinski), is also estranged; beyond making monthly deposits from an unknown location into a bank account set up for Hunter, she has no contact with the family.

Four Texas Shorts Invade Sundance and Slamdance 2012



I recently had the chance to see four Texas short films headed for Sundance and Slamdance 2011 this month. If these shorts are any indication, audiences at the Park City festivals will see a very eclectic mix of moviemaking from Austin and Houston.

Fourplay: Tampa (Sundance)
Former Austinite Kyle Henry's Fourplay: Tampa is a surprisingly explicit romp about gay men hooking up in a Florida mall restroom. The story centers on Louis (Jose Villarreal), who enters the restroom looking for, well, satisfaction. As Slackerwood is a mostly family-friendly film site, I won't describe what happens next in prurient detail; I'll just say it involves lots of libidinous men in silly costumes (among them a cowboy, Marie Antoinette and the Marx Brothers) and some very amusing sacrilegious naughtiness. Bear in mind the subject matter in the following trailer.

Syndicate content