SXSW Report: “Me And Orson Welles”

orsonwells540MAGNET’s movie man in Austin caught a screening of the new film by Richard Linklater. Mitch Myers reports:

Me And Orson Welles isn’t being released until the fall, but when the Texas film community gets together for SXSW, anything can happen. Hence, the secret surprise screening of Richard Linklater’s new film was no secret and certainly no surprise. He based his Welles flick on Bob Kaplow’s novel of the same name, and the “period drama” takes place during one week in New York City, circa 1937, well before the great Welles made his immortal mark in film and radio. The plot revolves around a brash teenager (Zac Efron) who’s given a role in Welles’ Broadway production of Julius Caesar and gets into a bizarre love triangle with the director (Christian McKay) and his lovely production assistant (Claire Danes). This mainstream homage feels just a little like My Favorite Year, and although the show-within-the-movie shtick has been done before, it’s clear that Linklater has matured well beyond slackers and stoners, and there’s no turning back for him as a filmmaker. Maybe next time Linklater will make his own epic a la Citizen Kane, but this is not it.

SXSW Report: Keep Austin Wavy

wavyvertMAGNET’s Mitch Myers reports from the SXSW Film Conference And Festival, where his viewing schedule included Made In China, The Overbrook Brothers, Wake Up and … a Wavy Gravy documentary.

Despite the fratboy vibe that pervades SXSW, it was great to see the original hippie clown prince, Wavy Gravy, hustling his tie-dyed documentary, Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie. Of course, it took filmmaker Michele Esrick 10 years to complete the movie, but now you can learn how beatnik storyteller Hugh Romney evolved into the outspoken commune leader, social activist and ice-cream flavor Wavy Gravy. From his early Greenwich Village days sharing a performance bill with Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane to leading humanitarian efforts at the original Woodstock, Wavy has lived long enough to become a counterculture icon. And now you can send your children up to Camp Winnarainbow, where Wavy teaches the performance arts and how to be a clown (in a good way).

Speaking of novelty items, Made In China is a small, sweet film about a naive young man who travels across the globe to find a manufacturer for his innovation in comic personal hygiene. Eager to follow in the footsteps of the inventors of the Pet Rock, sneezing powder, fake vomit, the joy buzzer, Groucho glasses and the Slinky, our inexperienced hero gets taken for a ride but never loses his entrepreneurial spirit.

The Overbrook Brothers is an amusing, Austin-made movie tracing the competitive contempt between two brothers who find out they are both adopted and hit the road to find out about their respective birth parents. Their one-upmanship has no limits, and neither of these guys knows how to walk away.

One of the most unusual films I’ve seen is Wake Up, a powerful documentary about Jonas Elrod, a twentysomething who, after the tragic death of a close friend, begins to see spirits, demons, angels and other cosmic presences. These visions are disturbing to Jonas, disrupting his simple life as well as putting a cramp in his relationship with his girlfriend. Although he’s an unwilling candidate for spiritual enlightenment, Jonas seeks out a variety of doctors, monks, priests and shamans in effort to deal with his unique situation. Ironically, the answers are right in front of him, which is the one thing he has trouble seeing. Repeat: This is a documentary, not fiction. Check it out.

SXSW Report: I Love You, “Winnebago Man”

wm450MAGNET’s Mitch Myers files his second round of notes from the SXSW Film Conference And Festival:

After being mocked by some of the MAGNET editors for seeing I Love You, Man on SXSW’s opening night, on day two I got down to the business of watching obscure documentaries like a hip indie journalist should.

Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo focuses on one of the last prison rodeos in the United States. Once a year, the Oklahoma State Prison allows a select group of inmates to compete against contenders from other institutions, including women. The chance for injury is high, and there’s a gladiator feel as inmates ride bulls and bucking broncos, placing themselves in dangerous situations just to get out of their prison routine for a couple of days. Filmmaker Bradley Beesley (also responsible for Flaming Lips documentary The Fearless Freaks) follows the inmates through their efforts, and it’s a surprisingly sentimental meditation on hope and the human spirit. And like the man in the movie says, “In the rodeo, you hope that nobody gets hurt. But if they do, you sure don’t want to miss it.”

Documentary All Tomorrow’s Parties reveals the music festival in all its shambling glory. Taken from found or contributed footage from umpteen filmmakers, this movie is stitched together and reflects the controlled chaos of ATP years past with performances by Nick Cave, the Stooges, Belle And Sebastian, Mogwai, Sonic Youth, Portishead, Daniel Johnston, Patti Smith and many others. The music-loving youth culture is showcased as much as the music itself, and while the narrative thread is choppy and indistinct, you get a good idea what goes on at these events.

The highlight of the night was Winnebago Man (pictured), which takes an inside look at Jack Rebney, a distinctive character who made an obscure promotional film for Winnebago back in 1989 with so many angry, foul-mouthed outtakes that he (unknowingly) became a VHS-viewing oddity and, later, a YouTube sensation. Tracking down this combustible personality and peeling back the layers of his rage was not easy for filmmaker Ben Steinbauer, but the results are fascinating. The rise of Rebney’s video notoriety is a story unto itself, and the unexpected coda that arrived two decades after the fact is a happy ending in the most classic sense. Check him out on YouTube and you’ll be hooked. Like many other people, I love this guy, man.

Mogwai’s “The Sun Smells Too Loud” (download):

SXSW Report: “I Love You, Man”

iloveyouman540bMAGNET’s first missive from Austin doesn’t involve any hot new bands or sold-out showcases. The film portion of the SXSW festival got underway Friday night with the screening of Paul Rudd/Jason Segel comedy I Love You, Man. We sure hope SXSW gives this underground art film and its unknown cast a chance at mainstream exposure. Mitch Myers reports without sarcasm:

The 2009 SXSW Film Conference And Festival kicked off with the premiere of I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel along with Jon Favreau, Rashida Jones, SNL’s Andy Samberg and Jaime Pressley. Rudd carries the lead far better than he did in last year’s Role Models, and there are plenty of laughs generated by this talented ensemble. There were a couple of obligatory gross-outs involving puke and dog doo-doo, but this is a mostly straightforward comedy about a guy about to get married who’s confronted with the fact that he doesn’t have any male friends to invite to his wedding, let alone be his best man. Segel steals plenty of scenes as Rudd’s irreverent, fun-loving new best friend, and the chemistry between the rest of the cast works equally well, especially Favreau and Pressley as a married couple who fight so they can have make-up sex. Most of the actors were on hand for the premiere, and the Q&A afterward was fun despite the fact that all everybody wanted to know was when Segel’s Muppet movie was coming out and whether or not Favreau was working with Vince Vaughn. Verdict: Better than Forgetting Sarah Marshall but not quite up there with The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma” from the I Love You, Man soundtrack: