|Written by Mark Wensel|
But these movies were ALL worth it and I didn’t want to cut any out just to conform to a number.
‘Cause I’m from Austin, dammit! I refuse to conform!
Until they build a condo where I stand.
After the jump check out the films that I thought were the best.
On August 1, 1966, a crazed man climbed to the top of the University of Texas Tower with a small arsenal and began shooting whomever he felt needed to die.
Fifty years later, we are finally hearing from the survivors of the first school mass shooting in the USA. Keith Maitland has made a passionate and beautiful documentary to tell their story using their own words and rotoscope animation to let the action unfold in front of us.
The best thing about this film is that it’s the story of the survivors, NOT the killer. I think Charles Whitman’s name is mentioned maybe twice through the entire film. Maitland made the conscious decision to make this about the heroes of the day, not the villain. He’s gotten too much press over the last half century.
It’s a mostly non-political film, but it’s easy to see that many of the crew and the interviewees are very against the campus carry law that is going into effect in Texas on the 50th Anniversary of this tragedy. It’s said to be a coincidence. I don’t think anyone truly believes that.
Tower is going to air on PBS in about a year, but the production is hoping to get a theatrical release on August 1st to counter the campus carry law. Or at least, comment on it. See this movie. And take some friends. It is absolutely the best film I saw at the festival.
Maitland had another movie at the festival called A Song For You about Austin City Limits. Also a great film, it was more of a standard music doc. Totally worth checking out.
A few years back, John Carney brought us one of the best films of the 2000s, Once. He hasn’t quite hit that high note again, but he’s certainly trying for it, here.
Sing Street is the story of a teenage boy (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) in 1985 Ireland. He’s just been moved into a strict Catholic school and can’t seem to make any friends. When he talks to a rebel girl who pops up across the street, he decides that it’s time to start a band, mainly to get her in the videos.
From here on out, it’s a great coming of age story with lots of great music. The new music was co-written by Once scribe/singer/actor, Glen Hansard and, stylistically, it’s all over the map. As the band learns more about music of the 80s, they try out different styles and nail all of them.
Probably the most fun I had in the theatre at the festival, Sing Street is definitely one to watch for.
Directed by Greg Kwedar
Written by Clint Bentley/Greg Kwedar
The life of the US Border Patrol is pretty rough. Most of their time is spent standing around. Watching the desert. Waiting.
Agents Flores, Davis and Hobbs (Gabriel Luna, Johnny Simmons (Young Neil!) and Clifton Collins, Jr) are doing just that. A couple of cars go by their checkpoint, but nothing big. That’s when something happens. Davis is about to let one go by when Hobbs decides that it’s not good enough. Chaos ensues and a drug bust is made. But who’s involved? And what can they do to stop it
Transpecos is a suspenseful film about what’s going on along the border. There are a lot of drugs being run over the border, sure. But there are also a lot of good people and a lot of nothing.
I heard that people were leaving the first screening in the middle to call the film’s sales people to try to buy the distribution rights. I can see why. This is a genuinely good film with great performances and a story that resonates.
Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith were some of the greatest sidemen who ever lived. They played for lots of different bands, but they were known for backing Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Mostly in the case of Hubert, but all of them to an extent, every modern musician has been influenced by them. Sadly, not a single one of them is in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
It’s hard to make this kind of film feel different from other films of the genre, so what you have to hope for is a set of subjects that make the movie rise above. Luckily, Pinetop, Hubert and Willie do just that. They lived good, long lives, were amazing musicians and were all genuine human beings. Rosenbaum got to be friends with all three of them before they died (all within 8 months of each other) and their warmth shows through in the interviews and the music.
Of course, there’s a concert that is edited into the film, and it’s the typical conglomerate of great musicians playing great music. That’s not a bad thing. It made my top five list for a reason. This is a fun doc that will get you interested in these three important men.
I love thoughtful sci-fi that focuses more on story and character than big special effects. This is some pretty great effects, but they really kind of don’t matter. What matters is the relationship between a father and son and a friend (Joel Edgerton) who will do anything to help them.