Ethan Hawke s directorial
debut is an aesthetically gorgeous and intellectually entertaining
journey into the historically bohemian enclave, The Chelsea
Hotel. Established in 1905, The Chelsea was once home to writers
and artists like Dylan Thomas and O. Henry.
The films camera plays "the fly on the wall"
as the viewer is taken from room to room, in no particular
order, to observe the hotels struggling tenants over
the course of 24 hours.
The ensemble cast is studded with offbeat favorites Steve
Zahn, Uma Thurman (Hawkes wife), Robert Sean
Leonard (playing an equally tragic role as his turn in
The Dead Poets Society) and Vincent DOnofrio,
along with new recruits Rosario Dawson and Mark
Webber. The latter pair plays married lovers that must
separate as Webber seeks money in his friends seedy
work to keep the couple afloat. A highlight of the film is
when the two recite a Dylan Thomas poem that poignantly portrays
Hawke acknowledges his film is a lyrical tone poem that follows
an elliptical journey through the lives of his eclectic characters.
Indigent Films, a company that allotted $1 million to produce
10 films shot entirely on digital video, produced Chelsea
Walls as well as Richard Linklaters
When I walked out of Michael Gilios Kwik
Stop after the first half-hour, the SXSW ushers mentioned
to me that Gilio had also written and starred, and it suddenly
made sense. This was intended to be a vanity project for an
ambitious actor (and his friends) to look good and show some
range. No dice. Gilio and his main partner in this crime had
no appeal as characters, actors, or plot points. I just didnt
care that their lives went nowhere, and the appearance of
Karin Anglins superior
acting made everyone else look so bad I couldnt stand
to see any more. Is there a payoff at the end? Does anything
work out? I couldnt care less, and neither will you.
In times when makeovers are performed
everywhere from Oprah episodes to Cosmo spreads, Made-Up
freshens a time-honored tradition. In his directorial debut,
actor Tony Shalhoub (Big Night) studies how
beauty and age are adversaries in the game of life.
Kate documents her older sister Elizabeths
makeover, executed by daughter Sara. Along the way, Kate spices
the plot with a love interest (played by the endearing Shalhoub
himself) for Elizabeth. Throughout the shoot, Elizabeth battles
with the mirror and resigns herself to only be filmed with
her mask of makeup, Liza Minelli wig and stick-on face-lift.
This festival gem was smart, hilarious
and a great first effort by Shalhoub.
First-time director Tony Shalhoub got such a gift
with Lynne Adams funny
observations about women, self-esteem, and the convergence
of appearance and make-up.
Never have I seen a film where every individual shot looked
so bad, but the whole, edited together, worked magic. Winner
of well-deserved awards at both Sundance and SXSW, Eric
Easons Manito reveals
a troubled family in Spanish Harlem, exploring their hopes,
their dreams, and the albatrosses that drag them down. Excellent
performances by a non-actor cast, brilliantly directed, make
this a small film not to be missed when you get the chance.
Best narrative feature of the fest.
Nothing So Strange
In the middle of a charity event in 1992, Bill Gates
was assassinated from atop a neighboring building! So begins
Brian Flemmings Nothing
So Strange, a mockumentary about the Gates assassination
and the conspiracy theories (and nutcases) it spawned. A funny
beginning, but Nothing So Strange cant decide
whether its a zany send-up or a serious analysis of
the LAPD. Stock footage of the Watts riots and Malcolm
X fight with board meetings of the society formed to re-open
the investigation of Gates murder. I got so bored I
walked out after 45 minutes.
Six In Austin
Taking their cue from the film Six In Paris, six Austin
filmmakers present a program of separate, and apparently unrelated,
stories. With no theme to bind them, its tough not to
have favorites in this uneven work. I can recommend the humorous
Rummy, wherein a mans chance encounter with his
ex brings up unsuspected depths of feeling, leading to a doggie
custody fight; and The Absence Of Wings, which shows
Kat Candlers (cicadas)
note-perfect touch with young adult actors who portray the
truly disaffected and unhappy.
If you havent seen the one that
started it all for Troma
Films and you have a sense of humor about silliness
on screen, you really should go out and rent The Toxic
Avenger. Part of a Lloyd
Kaufman retrospective at SXSW, this film exemplifies
low-budget action, cheap effects, and over-the-top everything
else in a morality tale of the geek who rids the town of evildoers
after turning into a monster via a barrel of toxic waste.