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Nerdlocker – SXSW Day 3

Day Three of SXSW Film was mostly amazing with a slight disappointment in the middle.

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Tye Sheridan, McConaughey, and Jacob Lofland

It started with the new Matthew McConaughey film, Mud, written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Nichols’ previous film, Take Shelter (starring Machael Shannon and Jessica Chastain) was an unexpected pleasure at last year’s Fantastic Fest. A slow psychological family drama about a man who may, or not, be losing his mind. Mud is compelling in a similar way. It draws you in slowly, developing relationships between the characters. Only near the end do you discover what the film is really about.

On it’s face it’s a coming of age story about a young boy named Ellis (played by Tye Sheridan from The Tree of Life… and is remarkable in this film). He and his family live on the river in a houseboat in Arkansas, and it’s tough times. His family is falling apart and so he escapes with his friend to a little island, where they discover a vagrant named Mud (McConaughy), living in a boat that was stuck in a tree during the last flood.

At first I wasn’t sure what to make of the film. It spent a great deal of time showing us who the characters were and where they lived (both physically and psychologically). And not a whole lot was happening. But each character decision led them down a winding road to a place they could never come back from. And it was fascinating.

All coming of age stories are typically about the loss of innocence, in some sense or another. Ellis’ parents are no longer in love and are getting a divorce. He’s falling for an older girl and hasn’t quite lost the idea that love conquers all. When he finds out that Mud is hiding out on the island waiting for the woman he loves, while being hunted for committing a crime in her name, he decides to help him because this is the proof that he needs that love really can overcome anything. But it’s not to be. He is losing his home and his innocence one betrayal at a time.

And when the time came for Mud to step up and stop being a coward (and I admit this part of the movie was a bit predictable from the get go, but I am okay with it because it was executed well and McConaughey totally sold it!), that’s the moment the entire film came together for me. The question of why I was watching the film was answered. And from that moment on the pace of the film didn’t let up. Everything the film was leading up to started to hit the audience moment after moment after moment. And all those moments were oh so good.

I want to say Mud is maybe this generation’s Stand By Me, crossed with a bit of Winter’s Bone with a side of Killer Joe. And I don’t think that’s overstating it. It really is that good. I’ll be seeing it again, thank you very much.
Here’s the trailer:

thewait_webI followed up with the M. Blash film, The Wait, staring Chloe Sevigny and Jena Malone. It’s Blash’s second feature, his first one starring both Sevigny and Malone as well. The Wait is about two sisters whose mother has just past away. Emma (Sevigny) gets a mysterious phone call from a woman who says her mother will come back to life. She’s so desperate to believe it that she prevents her sister Angela (Malone) from having the body removed from the house by the undertakers.

I thought it was an intriguing idea but it turned out to be more of a self-indulgent meditation on the inability of people to let go. For me the film became tedious. The characters were just going through the same motions over and over again to no end. This film probably would have worked as a twenty or thirty minute short but as a feature length film it fails in whatever it was attempting to do. In short, it was boring. Oh well.

I couldn’t find a trailer for this one…

 

I ended the night with The Punk Singer, a documentary about Bikini Kill and Le Tigre front-woman, feminist and all around bad-ass chick, Kathleen Hanna. Seriously, it’s one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. Filmmaker Sini Anderson has put together a concise and extremely interesting documentary that never stagnates in its story-telling.

I don’t want to get to much into what Kathleen Hanna does. If you are unfamiliar you should read her Wiki-page, go listen to a few Le Tigre albums, and then watch the film. As of now I don’t know the distribution details of the film. Anderson told me they didn’t have a deal as of yet (that was on Sunday the 10th), but hopefully it will get a theatrical release and then show up on Netflix.

Hanna during the Q&A after the screening

Hanna during the Q&A after the screening

I will say this though, as interesting as Hanna’s career as an artist, activist and singer is, the most interesting part of the story is why she suddenly stopped performing in 2007, which had been kept from the public until now. While filming this documentary Hanna was diagnose with late stage Lyme disease, which had been causing her to get sick consistently for the previous five years, and was the reason she stopped performing and touring. She had gone misdiagnosed for over five years, which allowed the disease to wreak havoc on her body. During the Q&A, however, she said was feeling much better (after having been on the proper medication for the last two years) and there was a possibility of her beginning to perform again, most likely with her new project The Julie Ruin.

During the Q&A she was also asked why she thought she had gone misdiagnosed for so long. She admitted it was because of several factors. One, she minimized her symptoms when discussing it with the doctors, partly because she believed some symptoms to not be relevant, partly because she wasn’t aware some things were symptoms, and partly because she thought the doctors wouldn’t believe her (a belief that is warranted, imo). The other part was the fact that the medical community in which she sought treatment didn’t, in fact, believe her. One nurse even told her that there was no disease that could effect so many different body systems at once. In Hanna’s opinion, and in my opinion as well, there is a certain amount of sexism and elitism at work in this. The medical community not believing what a woman tells them about her experience of what is going on with her body, and the belief that they all know better than any layperson could.

No word of a Le Tigre reunion, but I for one am looking forward to seeing her on stage again. Here’s hoping to a full recovery.

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Here’s their pitch on youtube for their kickstarter campaign:

Me and NEIL GAIMAN!!!

Me and NEIL GAIMAN!!!

Oh, I almost forgot. The BEST THING EVER happened to me after The Punk Singer screening. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman were there and chatting with Kathleen Hanna. I spotted Mr. Gaiman and nearly fell over, cuz, well, he’s my favorite author OF ALL TIME. So I waited until he wasn’t occupied and casually approached him, told him he was my fave author and a huge inspiration, then apologized for being so nervous and ridiculous around him. THEN HE HUGGED ME and this happened! We then had a really nice conversation about his new upcoming book, how I submitted my voice to the American Gods audio book contest (and didn’t win, obviously), and how writing is the best job in the world (his words, since he would know)… le sigh!

I grew up on Kung Fu theater movie weekends, a lot of Top Ramen Noodles, G.I. Joe's, Evil Knivels Stunt Cycle and Stretch Armstrong. My Movie reviews and Artist Interviews have been a regular around Nerdlocker.com. Follow me on Twitter @arainbolt. or email me aaron@nerdlocker.com