Reviews

SXSW Film Review: Clerk [2021, Malcolm Ingram]

Posted on by Gary in Movies, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

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What is meant to be the functional difference between biography and autobiography?

Methinks the entry exams for all Kevin Smith fan clubs have already been failed by the posing of that question. It will surprise no one (myself included, especially if I was ever to write an autobiography) that I have never seen Clerk(s), nor Jay and Silent Bob(s). While a culture touchstone, there is just an intentional lack of obscurity that I could not abide. The elitist in me felt like shouting, “I’m not even supposed to be here”!

However, that point is also intentionally missed. It is objectively and precisely what makes Kevin Smith such an enduringly popular tide within the phenomenal tsunami of nerd culture. Clerk is a victory lap whose purpose was never in doubt from the first millisecond. What self-respecting, self-deprecating humorist shows off a VHS recording of a grandiose teenage proclamation if it was never realized? In chronological order, Clerk pinballs around the milestones of Kevin Smith’s journey through life, betwixt the movie and comic book industry, supported largely by the same entourage. It charts his constantly rising star and occasionally twinkling luminosity, all the way to the marijuana, heart attack and his “gone soft” moments.

From the outside perspective, it is a defining culture slideshow from the ’90s to the present. Of course Bill and Ted preceded Jay and Silent Bob. Of course 3 decades of longevity can be bestowed upon anything that manages to still receive periodic filling of the feeding trough from its creators, given said creators are still around. Just as the Sundance illuminati figured out that Clerks was not a clever elitist swipe but a genuine blue collar outing, Kevin Smith and Co. also worked out that they didn’t have to bow to any gatekeepers. The joke’s on the Illuminati who funded such a slacker Coming-of-Age – but who’s counting intellectual grudges if one’s hands are riddled by papercuts from Benjamins? The clear differentiation between Hollywood and Nerd subcultures, in their telling, is accessibility. Whereas it is the major currency in Hollywood and perhaps the crossover Influencer universe, it is democratized in the Nerd culture. As they imply from the inside perspective, no less, anyone nerd enough can print accessibility in the View Askewniverse.

In its warmest interpretation, Clerk is indeed a tear-jerking saga where millions awoke with Kevin Smith to find that they resonate with, and more importantly, have the economic might to dictate, a multitude of harmlessly parallel niche worldviews full of wiener-nazis and man-walruses. In the far darker corner, though, sits the he-who-shall-not-be-named president. As Red State foretold, worldview fandom and worldview fundamentalism is not as far separated as they seem. And in the tally, maybe there wasn’t much separating elitism and populism, either.

SXSW Shorts: Learn Tagalog with Kayla, Marvin’s Never Had Coffee Before

Posted on by Ricky in Movies, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

SXSW Online this year might lack the power of the mighty Hollywood machine (and the hilarity that ensues when something like what happened with Ready Player One occurs) but I have found the Shorts section of this year’s film programming to be of extremely high quality. Here’s two that stood out:

Learn Tagalog with Kayla (2021, Kayla Galang)

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This short, without spoiling too much, captures a certain post-pandemic vibe that I think we can all relate to. There’s a realness to this film that triumphs at capturing what I imagine a lot of people are feeling right now, all with the mood of a public access video. Really enjoyable.

Marvin’s Never Had Coffee Before (2021, Andrew Carter)

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Speaking of movies that capture our times correctly, I can’t praise this short enough for perfectly conveying the anxiety and weird social traditions that have been established since the Pandemic started. This short is funny each step of the way, and frankly, very entertaining.

SXSW Film Review: Joe Buffalo (2021, Amar Chebib)

Posted on by Paul in Movies, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

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Credit: Liam Mitchell

“To me, skateboarding was definitely like a saviour,” says Joe Buffalo at the beginning of this film, and after seeing his story unfold over the course of Amar Chebib’s short documentary, it’s hard to disagree with that statement.

Joe Buffalo tells the story of its protagonist’s life, from his experiences in the residential school system to his run ins with the law (“Jail damaged my spirit”) to his struggles with addiction. But while his story is certainly tragic, the film doesn’t dwell too much on that, choosing rather to focus on the importance of Buffalo’s “saviour” and how pivotal skateboarding has been for him. In fact, some of the most impressive and memorable moments in the film are the shots of Joe Buffalo in action on his board.

With Joe Buffalo’s career on the rise and him turning pro after skating for 35 years, the film ultimately ends off on a positive note, looking hopefully towards the future.

SXSW Film Preview: Without Getting Killed Or Caught (2020, Tamara Saviano, Paul Whitfield)

Posted on by Paul in Movies, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

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While our focus over the years has primarily been on the music during SXSW, we’ve also kept an eye on the film festival portion of SouthBy for quite a while now and one of the films that’s caught our eye for this year’s edition is Without Getting Killed Or Caught.

The film, initially scheduled to premiere at last year’s SXSW prior to its cancellation, tells the story of the complicated relationship between legendary Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark, his wife Susanna and another Texas legend, Townes Van Zandt. Featuring interviews with the likes of Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, and Vince Gill and narration by Sissy Spacek taken from Susanna’s diaries, it’s sure to be an interesting look at a moment in Texas music history.

Take a look at the film’s trailer below as well as a performance by Clark of “L.A. Freeway”, the lyrics to which gave the film its title.

SXSW Online takes place March 16-20, 2021.