Yep, it's been a while - but I'm back to talk about SXSW some more. Today I'll get into the full length not documentaries I really, really enjoyed. I've limited myself to five.
"Wanted: Someone to go back in time with me. This is
not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You'll get paid after we
get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once
before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED."
Whether it's out of
genuine interest or desire for a weekend out of town to try and
hook up with an old flame he pitches an investigation into the classified listing. Before you know it Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) along with
interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) are down by the Washington shore staking out a post
office box to identify the time traveler in question. It doesn't take long for them to identify Kenneth (Mark Duplass)
as he's picking up mail. First Jeff attempts to make contact but things doesn't really
click. A more subtle approach by Darius does the trick and she begins
the process of becoming his confidant. As Jeff deals with the reality of time's impact on his lost love (who is shockingly no longer 18). More of each character
is revealed, we learn perhaps Kenneth's motivations and laugh
out hilarity ensues. Amongst some sweet and occasionally touching moments.
Over the course of the picture government agents are on Kenneth's tail, Jeff continues
to be on the make (at one point picking up two young women and some
goth dude) and the film barrels towards what you suspect may be its
inevitable end. And maybe it does. In that it's extremely
satisfying conclusion to a dynamite ride. Performances
balance well between sweet and laugh out loud funny giving what could be
caricatures adequate depth. Darius's pre-planned meet cute with Duplasss will leave you (as it did the SXSW audience) taken by her smooth can on a shelf arranging moves.
It's just that kind of film. There are serious issues in the mix about regrets, and the might have beens. That's done well - and it's an important thing to think on from time to time. Thankfully it never lets the film become a downer.
I think the only people who might not love Safety Not Guaranteed are the publishers of Seattle Weekly whose magazine gets made fun of at times. As a whole it's a dynamite film that's just a ton of fun. It's funny, it's sweet, and it makes you think about the things you'd want to go back and change. Suspect we've all got a few of those to wrestle with as we go to bed each night.
Oh, and it's about flippin' time travel .... (maybe)
Sleepwalk With Me - Comedian/director Mike Birbiglia takes us along for a thinly veiled autobiographical ride as he becomes an accomplished performer, plans his wedding, simultaneously contemplates whether he wants to get married and struggles with a remarkably dangerous sleepwalking problem. We're always hearing how great comedy comes from great personal pain. But it's rare for a film to demonstrate it so convincingly. This moving picture that has a lot of bits some of us may feel more than a little uncomfortable with due to self recognition. But it's hilarious and directly shows that process of turning real life trauma into hilarious stand-up.
Sleepwalk With Me opens as Birbiglia drives and talks to the camera. Asking the audience to restrain from talking by way of a personal example. Just the other day he was in a theater when a phone rang. Only to be answered with the phrase "who dis?" which insulted him even more than the average call would. For heaven's sake, he doesn't even care who's calling, this guy is going to pick it up during the film regardless. The open works well as a reminder that Birbiglia is freaking funny (I assure you, it works well onscreen). Something worth calling out as the beginning of the film has him struggling. Working as as a bartender while doing some pretty weak standup sets. Over time he hones his craft, while physically and emotionally getting more distant from his longtime girlfriend. A couple that clearly has mixed feelings about their long-term prospects even though there seems to be a lot of affection there. Most of the film is told in flashback. With the occasional re-entry of Birbiglia driving along and turning to face the camera and offer comment. "Remember ... you're on my side" he cautions before one admission that particularly might cast him in a less than flattering light. Birbiglia pull any punches creating one of the stronger films out there about how personal pain can be channeled into great comedy. As long as it's not your personal story I suppose.
There's a lot more to say about this film - but the main thing is to watch it at the first opportunity that presents itself.
can read my full review elsewhere on this site. Better yet, just go check it out in a theater ASAP. It's out in theaters nationwide now.
The Aggression Scale
was exactly the sort of midnight film I was looking for at SXSW - fast
violent and satisfying. Well worth the sleep deprivation I dealt with
the day after seeing it. Two teens (with issues) go to war against a team of professional hit men
over a bundle of cash. An adrenaline fueled, morally questionable ride
with the impact of a shotgun blast to the chest. Which coincidentally is
literally how the film opens. Do you really need to know more?
If you're looking for a straight to the point midnight film experience I
believe it'll scratch that itch in a very satisfying way. Probably my
favorite of the midnighter films I saw at SXSW. Not gonna be an Oscar
nomination coming out of it for anyone. But these days I think they only
give those out for movies about movies anyways. I could probably say a
lot more. But I respect The Aggression Scale for being lean and to the point.
Mark travels back to his mother's house for a birthday celebration after being assured Jeremy won't be there. But as we're watching a movie we'll need Jeremy to crash the festivities. The pair agree to complete the Do-Deca, much to the chagrin of Mark's wife and their mom. Resulting in much of the incredibly complex competition being executed covertly. Or at least they think covertly. With events ranging from a race, to laser-tag and boxing this is one serious athletic endeavor. As well as an event that seems genuinely to have been crafted by two adolescent brothers. It's the be-all battle for brotherhood supremacy. Or perhaps the saving event of their relationship.
A film created by the Duplass Brothers back when they were still working micro-budget it feels real, and raw. It's surprisingly enjoyable given the seriousness of the film's second half. It totally worked for me - and I think it will for most people. At least most people who are adults and have a brother. Especially if you're pretty sure about having a brother but a little less confident in evaluating yourself as an adult, mentally speaking.