This year at the South By Southwest film festival they screened over 130 movies of all genres from all over the world. No one is able to watch all of them, but I saw a good portion. This year’s selection was very strong, and overall I liked more movies than last year. I previously reviewed my personal festival favorites, but of course there are plenty of others. See what’s worth watching, or what to stay away from:
Final Portrait (6/10)
Written & directed by Stanley Tucci, with Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer
“Final Portrait” is the story of a touching and offbeat friendship between world-renowned artist Alberto Giacometti and American writer and art-lover James Lord, based on Lord’s memoir. Giacometti offers Lord to paint a portrait, but the process is much more intense than Lord thought, time wise and emotionally.
“This movie is literally watching paint dry” joked director/writer Tucci, and he’s right. While the movie features brilliant acting, particularly from Rush, the film lacks character development and story. Overall, it would have fit better on a theater stage. Most movie-goers will be bored by this limited setting of a guy sitting for a portrait, while the artist starts over and over again. Only recommended for art lovers!
American Animals (8/10)
Written & directed by Bart Layton, with Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner
The unbelievable but true story (seriously, this is a true story!!!) of four young men who are bored with life and start planning to steal an expensive book from the university library just for fun. However, their fun turns serious when the students decide to go through with their plan, which ends up being one of the most audacious art heists in US history.
This movie almost qualifies as a documentary, because it inter-cuts the narrative with interview snippets of the real perpetrators and the librarian that was the victim of this heist. While at times ridiculously funny, the interviews remind the viewer that there are real people behind this story, and particularly the victim who had a traumatic experience. “American Animals” is a great mix of genres that goes beyond entertainment, wrapped in an intriguing cinematic language à la Guy Richie. The young actors also did a really good job, especially when the plot got serious. This is definitely worth watching and highly entertaining.
Written & directed by Melanie Laurent, based on the novel by Nic Pizzolatto, with Ben Foster, Elle Fanning, Beau Bridges, Lili Reinhart
After surviving a set-up by his criminal boss, a hitman rescues a young prostitute and flees with her to Galveston, Texas, where the two find strength in each other as dangerous pursuers and the shadows of their pasts follow close behind.
This stunning neo-noir thriller is based on the book by the writer and creator of “True Detective.” Laurent gives a compelling directorial debut and tells this dark story with lots of heart and a glimpse of hope. Intense movie with great acting – noir-fans will love it!
Meow Wolf : Origin Story (7/10)
Written & directed by Morgan Capps & Jilann Spitzmiller, with George R.R. Martin, Vince Kadlubek, Sean Di Ianni, Caity Kennedy, Matt King, Emely Montoya
A group of artists, punks, and weirdos create a subversive DIY-art-collective to disrupt the art establishment in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which in the face of internal turmoil evolves into a cultural phenomenon on the path of becoming a global creative empire.
This documentary features video clips from the last decade, illustrating how a loose group of friends turned into a million-dollar-corporation with the goal of creating art and employing artists. Very interesting in its boundary-breaking approach, the group endures lots of crises and roadblocks before their idea becomes successful, all with the help of Santa Fe resident and “Game of Thrones” creator George R. R. Martin. Highly interesting and meticulously assembled, this is the story of the rise of a movement, far away from politics. This is a rather conventional documentary on a highly interesting subject. This documentary is quite interesting, especially if you have visited their installation in Santa Fe.