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South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual film and music festival in Austin, Texas, ends today—and BW culture editor Paul Barndt got himself a press pass (see, bwogging has its benefits). The music part is higher profile, but it’s a pain–unless running around Austin to catch half-hour sets at crowded bars is your idea of a relaxing break–so Paul stuck to the movies, which don’t have as many belligerent drunks. His personal highlights follow.

picElvis & Anabelle
, shot in and around Austin and set in rural Texas, stars our very own Max Minghella, C’09. He sports a convincing twang as Elvis, a young mortician who has taken over the family business from his ailing father. Anabelle (Blake Lively) is a beauty queen who dies of eating disorder-related heart failure. She ends up on Elvis’ table, and when he kisses her, she springs back to life. (It’s not creepy, it’s magical!) Sheepish full disclosure: Ms. Lively, by the time the movie was half-done, had forced her way into my pantheon of celebrity crushes, which had, until that fateful Saturday night, been the same for several years. She is disarmingly cute and distractingly beautiful, so much so that I feel uncertain of giving an accurate assessment of the scenes in which she was on-screen.

I can say that Elvis & Anabelle is an amiable and operatic movie, one that grabs you by the collar and yells, “Believe in miracles!” Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s laughable—and by laughable, I mean one heartstring-tugging scene is almost identical to the funniest sequence in Caddyshack. Still, I’d take this warm-hearted charmer over Minghella’s last movie, the nihilistic and thoroughly unpleasant Art School Confidential.

When can I see it? I don’t think it has theatrical distribution, and, given that it was pretty good but not great, I wouldn’t expect to see it in anything beyond an arthouse theater or two in New York and LA. 

pinManufacturing Dissent
is an enlightening, razor-sharp documentary about documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (and, depending on your perspective, what a douchebag he is). It was originally meant to be a straight bio for a television station in Canada, where Moore is pretty darn popular, but the filmmakers (Moore fans) just couldn’t seem to get in touch with Mike, try as they might over weeks and months. To be fair, Moore was busy promoting his Bush-bashing Fahrenheit 9/11, but does this sound familiar? Moore became a household name with Roger & Me, his documentary about his quest to get an interview with General Motors CEO Roger Smith and ask him about the downfall of Moore’s hometown, Flint, Michigan, once a booming auto town. Roger eludes Moore time and time again, and the film ends without any word from Roger. Only Moore did interview Roger Smith. Twice.

This is one of the many details Moore’s fudged over the years, which, taken together reveal an insecure megalomaniac, if not an altogether horrible person. It’s fun to watch Moore be dismantled with its own bag of tricks, but the big message Manufacturing Dissent gets across is to take all documentaries with a pile of salt.

When can I see it? Presumably, the Canucks are still getting it on TV, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t show up stateside in theaters or DVD before the end of the year.


hjKnocked Up
is the spiritual successor to The 40 Year-Old Virgin. Judd Apatow wrote and directed them both, the cast is largely the same, and the title pretty much says it all. Stoner layabout Ben impregnates hot working girl Alison in a drunken one-night-stand, and the two have to decide just what they heck they’re going to do. Apatow, also behind the poignant TV show Freaks and Geeks, has developed a signature kind of humane, relatable comedy that has both specific and broad appeal. The premise isn’t as clever as Virgin’s, so I’m giving to the edge to that movie, but the execution is just as good. Also, for those of you not ready to barf at the mention of Class Day (I stand behind Matthew Fox), there was this little exchange (paraphrased):

[Alison has just been awarded a job as an interviewer for E!]

Alison: I’m so excited! I have my first on-air interview today!

Ben: Oh. With who?

Alison: Matthew Fox.

Ben: Oh. You know what’s interesting stuff he’s done, right?

Alison: What?

Ben: Absolutely nothing.

When can I see it? June 1, at a theater near you.


sdfSome stoner comedies only imply that their characters smoke the ganj. Many have obligatory psychedelic “we’re high!” montages, and then, instantly, the characters are fully functional human beings, exchanging witty banter and performing feats of athleticism. Smiley Face is the first movie I’ve seen in which the protagonist is genuinely stoned the entire time. Jane F. (Anna Faris, of the Scary Movie franchise) smokes up, gets the munchies, inadvertently eats a plate of pot cupcakes, and is then stoned out of her gourd for the next 90 minutes. And Faris is good. If you don’t trust me, this gem from Glenn Kenny of Premiere is what inspired me to see the movie in the first place: “As the very-much-too-high Jane, Anna Faris gives the most virtuoso performance of impairment since Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot. No, I’m not kidding.”

Director Gregg Araki and screenwriter Dylan Haggerty clearly put a lot of love into this production, but Faris’ performance is really the only standout element. It anchors a host of one-dimensional characters, and a story that hints at deep things, but is more sketchy than profound.

When can I see it? Was originally supposed to be April 20. IMDb has May 17, but Gregg Araki said July.

Check back tomorrow for a report on filmmaker panels (including Robert Rodriguez talking about Grindhouse, his grisly double feature done with Quentin Tarantino), and other sundry Austin happenings.

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  1. Anonymous  

    Oh noes! You forgot to link to Bruce Sterling's fantastic (annual) address. (Paul: I hope you didn't forget to go see it while you were there.) Anyway, it's on the SXSW site. Sterling on video as the dumbest medium, the omni-consumptive future of broadband, commons-based peer production as a novel (and now, thanks to Yochai Benkler, academically recognized!) industrial method, why blogs are for hicks, and so on:

    It's about an hour.

  2. oh man

    i love freaks and geeks.

    and youtube, for posting episodes.

  3. heh heh  

    I think I actually LMAO'ed upon seeing the title of this article.

  4. kazzy

    I feel like i'm the only person who liked Art School Confidential. Yes, the whole Swarthmore strangler bit was cheesy, but the film was very poignant commentary on the nature of the contemporary art world (particularly the last scene).

    Max kissing dead people... um...

  5. sammy  

    Yeah, Blake Lively was pretty hot in last year's create-your-own-college comedy, Accepted. Pretty much the only redeeming quality of the movie...

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