Mike Saulters's blog

Review: Sound of Noise

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Sound of NoiseAmadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson) is the unfortunate tone-deaf offspring of a concert pianist and a famous conductor. His grandfather was a world-famous musician, and his younger brother is a childhood prodigy who began playing violin at four and wrote his first symphony at 12.

But Amadeus, a police inspector and head of the anti-terrorism division, has absolutely zero musical ability and in fact hates music. It is therefore sad irony when he must chase down a group of terrorist musical protestors who hate traditional music as much as he does. While they act out a citywide performance art piece like a miniature flash mob, he draws ever closer, and the scope of each piece gets bigger.

Sound of Noise, like its characters, refuses conventional description. It is quirky, fun, surprising, and charming, but it suffers from an emotionally detached ending that neither fully satisfies nor entirely disappoints. The use of everyday objects as musical instruments is not at all new. Stomp has been performing for over 20 years. The idea of performing such pieces as musical protest, and on such a grand scale, however is novel. Though Sound of Noise won a jury award for Best Fantastic Film at Fantastic Fest 2010, it has a few flaws that make it fall flat.

The largest issue is the terrorist characters. They're self-absorbed, unsympathetic and generally unlikeable (aka drummers ... kidding). They come off as snobbish thanks to their bad attitude toward music and other musicians. There is no personal interaction between any of them, and they are in short generic bad guys. Somewhat like the nihilists in The Big Lebowski, their goals and message are unclear. As an audience you want to see their cool performance, but its anarchic nature obfuscates their message. Maybe they don't have a real message; they just want to make cool music.

The music itself throughout Sound of Noise is entertaining and catchy, moreso the first two of the four movements. As the scale of the performances increase, the complexity decreases, so the finale is somewhat less spectacular than had been anticipated. So to summarize, Sound of Noise was fun, but not GREAT fun, grand, but not spectacular, funky and quirky. The movie dances to the beat of its own drum.

'Pinetop Perkins: How Long' World Premiere at Antone's

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PinetopWe just received a press release (reprinted below) for this upcoming screening and concert, which we know you won't want to miss.

Tone Poet Productions presents Pinetop Perkins: How Long, a short film documenting the last studio recording made by American blues legend and Antone's fixture Pinetop Perkins. The film will have its world premiere screening on Friday, March 23 at the famous blues stage Antone's, 213 West 5th Street, Austin, TX 78701 at 9 pm. Tickets available at the door for $15, or in advance for $10 through Antone's online. The evening will also feature a host of musicians who will play Pinetop's music as a special anniversary tribute concert in memory of his passing in 2011.

ABOUT THE FILM:

A moment in music history was recorded in Austin, Texas in September 2010 at Yellow Dog Studios: the last recording session of blues singer, piano player and multi-Grammy Award winner Pinetop Perkins. The recording sessions were produced by award-winning guitarist Jake Langley.

It was a project inspired by Langley’s love of the blues genre, and was his attempt to pay homage to one of the genre’s originators and recognize this artist's legacy; a legacy that has been passed on through generations of musicians around the world. These historical sessions brought together some of Austin’s finest and brightest young rising stars to play alongside Mr. Perkins: Emily Gimble, Gary Clarke Jr., Caroline Wonderland, and Cindy Cashdollar.

SXSW 2012, Day Nine: So Much to Do

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KeyholeDay nine, and the SXSW Film Festival has finally come to a close as it makes way for the last days of the Music fest, which is already underway. At this point, choosing films for the last couple of days has become difficult. In part, this is because the music fest crowds make downtown Austin something to be avoided more than usual.  Not only that, but the "Catch a Chevy" and the Film Fest Flyer shuttle services have been cut back. Many slots the last couple of days are filled with shows I've already seen or have little or no interest in checking out. Yes, there's always the chance that something will surprise you, but after a week of constantly surprising yourself, most of the films with even slightly interesting descriptions have been exhausted.

My last couple of days included a couple of those "take a chance and be surprised" selections, one of which worked, and one that didn't. Both days, I confined myself to the Alamo Drafthouse at the Village, where long lines would not be a problem.  No doubt, this was a response to lining up three hours early for Iron Sky on Wednesday.  It feels like I spent more time waiting in lines this year than I did sitting to watch films! Consequently, I also skipped several earlier screenings just so I could relax at home and catch up on sleep.  

The one I most regret skipping, based on word of mouth, is the Matthew Lillard-directed movie Fat Kid Rules The World. The synopsis of the film didn't really grab me, however. Likewise, I had scheduled the documentary Wikileaks: Secrets & Lies, but I'm already familiar enough with the story, and reactions were mixed among friends. My friend and Movies.com writer Jacob Hall (@JacobSHall) tweeted regarding the movie, "Essential if slightly dry viewing. If you want to understand the whole debacle. Made for TV and looks it."

Sleepwalk With Me is the semi-autobiographical film Mike Birbiglia directed and co-wrote with Ira Glass, based on Birbiglia's off-Broadway show. This was a lighthearted trip through his early career that highlights the struggles of a fledgling comic. It was entirely unclear which parts of the story were fiction and which were true. The movie never falters, but if at any point it did, Birbiglia has the charisma to carry it past that point.  Lauren Ambrose and Carol Kane were delightful casting choices as his girlfriend and mother respectively.

SXSW Review: Wolf

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Wolf cast & crew

The feature film Wolf, by Texan writer and director Ya'Ke Smith, is the story of a black family dealing with the fallout from their son's molestation by the bishop of their church. I specify "black" because Smith is telling the story from an African-American cultural perspective, which informs the actions of every character. Smith shot the film in his own church, with the blessing of his bishop, after hearing the stories of many friends who had undergone similar experiences.

In his acting debut, Jordan Cooper portrays Carl, a young man dealing with feelings of confusion and rejection after Bishop Anderson (Eugene Lee), feeling guilty for molesting him, has broken off the relationship. Carl's feelings escalate until they precipitate a suicide attempt. In the hospital, his parents discover what's been going on thanks to photos and video on his phone. While they encounter opposition from church leaders in their pursuit of justice against the bishop, they also must deal with opposition from Carl.

SXSW Review: Trash Dance

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 Trash Dance Cast & Crew

Saturday was a big day for Austin film, not just because of the SXSW super-secret screening of local C. Robert Cargill's horror debut Sinister (J.C.'s review), but also because it saw the world premiere of Austin-shot (and choreographed, scored, acted, and directed) Trash Dance, for an afternoon screening at the Paramount Theatre. Trash Dance was shot by Austinite Andrew Garrison as he followed choreographer Allison Orr creating the largest project of her life.

Orr spent a year working with employees of the Austin Department of Solid Waste Services: working their routes, learning their jobs, studying their movements and most importantly, gaining their trust as she designed and worked with them during their spare time to craft a performance including 24 workers with 16 of their work vehicles. While just ordinary people, they all demonstrate unique and wonderful talents, playing harmonica, breakdancing, or barbecuing. The level of time commitment was even more extraordinary given most of these people worked second and even third jobs to help make ends meet.

SXSW 2012, Day Six: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

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Line for Safety Not Guaranteed at Alamo Slaughter

This first photo is actually from Tuesday, Day 5, taken at the Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter for the most packed screening line that venue has seen yet. Both the badge line and the pass/single ticket line for Safety Not Guaranteed stretched out the doors and curled around the courtyard in front. The studio sent a camera crew to film crowd reaction shots after the very successful movie's second performance.

SXSW 2012 Shorts Preview: Extra! Don't Forget Texas!

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Hellion

I've already covered selected shorts from SXSW's program -- see Part One and Part Two of my preview -- but there are still two opportunities to see the Texas Shorts program, with films that are set in Texas, made in Texas, or made by Texas and Austin filmmakers.

Catch the Texas Shorts program today -- Tuesday, March 13 -- at 3:30 pm at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, or on Friday, March 16, at 5 pm at Alamo Slaughter. (Aside: If you watch anything at Slaughter, say "Hi" to Miss Hallie Hughes-Hawkins, @halliehh on Twitter, who has been very lonely for familiar faces since moving to the new location from South Lamar.)

In addition to the Texas shorts I previously reviewed, Tumbleweed! and Knife, the selections also include Hellion, made in Austin by director Kat Candler. This brilliant short shows what happens when Dad gets home to find his three demonic sons have terrorized the babysitter. As the father, Jonny Mars has a smoldering intensity that reminded me of Gary Sinise. The twist ending left me chuckling.

Also, Russell Oliver Bush directed an entirely Austin cast and crew in conjunction with the MFA Film Production program at The University of Texas to create Magpie. Phillip (Daniel Hershberger) visits his daughter Maggie (Ashley Spillers), who has just become engaged to Aaron (Paul Boukadakis). Estranged since he walked out on Maggie and her mother, Phillip finds himself exploring her house, trying to reconnect while she is away at work. What he finds unlocks the door to his guilt and leads to a surprising confrontation in this moody, even creepy drama.

SXSW Tips: Getting Around the Fest

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SXSW Film Flyer shuttle

Yesterday was an experiment in transportation. I'm usually loath to be without my car, but downtown traffic is tough, parking is expensive and sometimes you need to quickly get from point A to point B. So, after watching Paul Williams: Still Alive yesterday at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, I determined to leave my car parked there and take the shuttle downtown for the Paramount show, The Raid: Redemption.

As I waited in line for the shuttle, however, I saw one of the Catch a Chevy cars and along with my friend Jeremy Kirk (@jeremykkirk), Film School Rejects writer and Golden Briefcase host, we hopped in.

The Catch a Chevy program is like a free taxi to anywhere SXSW-related. As long as you have a badge, they will take you to satellite venues, party locations, the convention center, even the airport. The driver told us you can visit http://www.chevy.com/sxsw using your smartphone to get a map of locations near you. This is a useful and innovative way for Chevy to advertise and give thousands of test drives in just a week or two. The cars are only available until 9:30 pm, however.

SXSW 2012, Day Three: Sinister, Still Alive, Redemption

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Scott Derickson, Jason Blum, Ethan Hawke, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, and C. Robert Cargill

Day three of SXSW actually began with the end of day two. Thanks to earlier screenings delaying the start of the super-secret screening of the Scott Derrickson/ C. Robert Cargill movie Sinister, Sunday was under way before the audience was admitted. The screening took place at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar.

Sinister, conceived and written by Austin film critic Cargill, was universally well received, spawning a number of reviews that all contain the phrase, "I must disclose that I'm friends with Cargill ..." The no-nonsense ghost story was described by many as the scariest movie they've ever seen. Cargill was joined after the film by director and writing partner Scott Derrickson, producer Jason Blum, star Ethan Hawke and producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones for a Q&A.

SXSW Review: Chasing Ice

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Chasing Ice

James Balog is an award-winning environmental photographer whose work is often seen on the cover of National Geographic magazine. In 2007, he began the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), his passion project to place cameras around the world and use time-lapse photography to document the retreat of glaciers. Chasing Ice documents Balog’s work with EIS as he conceives and begins to implement the project.

As a documentary film, the message in Chasing Ice is diluted. It is focused as much on Balog personally as on the importance of his work, and it is that work that is the real star. Visually, it makes a much larger impression to show mountains of ice disappearing within the span of six months and then demonstrate to the audience how ten years have seen a glacier recede as much as the previous century. This photographic work elevates an inconvenient truth to a terrifying fact.

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