Salon’s Andrew O’Herir ponders the happenings at South By:
“South by,” as veterans inevitably start calling it, isn’t trying to elbow its way into the top rank of world festivals, the way Tribeca is, and it isn’t a major film-industry event, with studio heads and Hollywood agents hosting A-list parties. OK, here’s what it is: SXSW is a great place to catch movies, directors and trends way out in the depths of the indie ocean, a long time before they reach the mainstream, if they ever do. (For better or worse, the “mumblecore” movement coalesced here, along with a semi-related wave of indie horror films.) It’s a terrific fest for documentaries, a pretty good one for underground genre films, and a spotty one for indie narrative features, given the hard reality that most movies that premiere here do so because they didn’t get into Sundance.
He runs down the films he thinks are worth noting. We shave the list down even further, looking for that elusive Oscar movie after the jump.
The first one that jumps out at me is:
“The Promotion” “Pursuit of Happyness” screenwriter Steven Conrad makes his directing debut with this forthcoming Weinstein Co. comedy that pairs John C. Reilly and Seann William Scott as mid-level supermarket managers dueling for a hot new store position. Sure, it’s an indie formula flick, but could be a good one.
“Bulletproof Salesman” Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, the duo behind “Gunner Palace” and “The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair,” return with a dark-comic portrait of Fidelis Cloer, a professed war profiteer who has spun America’s Iraq misadventure into entrepreneurial gold.
“FrontRunners” Longtime doc producer Caroline Suh makes her directing debut with this intriguing look at the student-body-president election at New York’s Stuyvesant High School, probably the most prestigious public school in the country. The campaign is dominated by unspoken race and gender politics (what a surprise!) and the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Stuyvesant produces its own kind of insanity, something like your weirdest high-school memories on steroids.
And most especially this one, which I myself will be watching asap and will report back:
“One Minute to Nine” Devastating doc from Texas director Tommy Davis explores the saga of Wendy Maldonado, a rural Oregon woman sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her abusive husband. Using home videos, family photos, 911 tapes, crime-scene photos and contemporary interviews, Davis incrementally builds a skin-crawling portrait of the ultimate marriage from hell.
By the way, Oscar watchers, we are entering the first phase of the year when the various film festivals, large and small, bring some films out from behind the salad bar and other films take a dive (getting booed at Cannes, etc.) We will attempt to keep track of them as occasion arises. First up is SXSW.