Amazon recently announced that it will be streaming movies from this year’s canceled SXSW festival free for 10 days in late April — and while the exact dates and line-up are both unknown as of this posting, here are my Top Ten picks from the event’s digital press screeners:
1. Once Upon a Time in Uganda
An inspiring documentary about “Africa’s Tarantino” and Uganda’s “Wakaliwood” film community. Read the full review here: https://culturevulture.net/film/top-three-documentaries-at-sxsw-2020/
A whip-smart near future “gig economy” satire. Read the full review here: https://culturevulture.net/film/lapsis-ill-meet-you-there/
3. The Donut King
The strange but true story of a Cambodian refugee who escaped the Khmer Rouge and founded a Southern California donut empire. Read the full review here: https://culturevulture.net/film/top-three-documentaries-at-sxsw-2020/
4. My Darling Vivian
Hollywood and Nashville sold the world a rose-tinted narrative about the love affair between Johnny and June Carter Cash. But the Man In Black’s daughters would like to set the record straight about his first wife: their mother, Vivian. Read the full review here: https://culturevulture.net/film/top-three-documentaries-at-sxsw-2020/
5. I Will Make You Mine
This charming, lo-fi character study is actually the third film in a trilogy (after 2011’s “Surrogate Valentine” and 2012’s “Daylight Savings”) about a shaggy dog musician (Goh Nakamura) and a trio of women who are alternately enamored with and exasperated by him. Yet no foreknowledge of the previous work is necessary to enjoy this sweet ensemble dramedy (written and directed by Lynn Chen, reprising a co-starring role that she also played in the first two films, which were directed by Dave Boyle).
6. Tfw No Gf
“Incels” (a.k.a. “involuntarily celibate” males, primarily young, rural, and white) tell their own stories in this compelling documentary by Alex Lee Moyer. Read the full review here: https://culturevulture.net/film/tfw-no-gf/
Ruth (Molly Windsor) joins her affable boyfriend (Joseph Quinn) in a spooky off-season beach community where lipstick on his mobile home mirror and long red hairs in his dirty laundry suggest infidelity…or is something else entirely going on? To say more would spoil the mystery of writer/director Claire Oakley’s dreamy fantasia, which seems at first to be heading in one genre direction before drifting into another, propelled by similar psychological currents.
8. Rare Beasts
Billie Piper (best known for her role as traveling companion Rose Tyler on “Dr. Who”) stars in her own writing/directing debut about a troubled, prickly trio of eccentrics: Cressida, a single mum raising a young son (Toby Woolf) while dating a co-worker (Leo Bill). Your feelings for each are likely to shift continuously throughout this aggressively eccentric, darkly humorous odd duck of a movie, which exaggerates and externalizes the raging emotions, tensions, and insecurities typically hidden just beneath the surface of work, family, and romantic relationships.
9. I’ll Meet You There
Uneven yet heartfelt, writer/director Iram Parveen Bilal’s drama explores questions of faith within three generations of a Pakistani family in the age of Trump. Read the full review here: https://culturevulture.net/film/lapsis-ill-meet-you-there/
10. For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close
John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, and Tina Fey are household names, yet few outside the comedy geek community remember Del Close, the late Second City teacher/director who sharpened the improv chops of dozens of A-list performers while never quite achieving their level of fame — partly because, as Heather Ross’s warts (and warts) and all documentary reveals, Close was a drug-addled crazy person actively despised by some of his students and co-workers (like “SCTV” alumni Dave Thomas and, reportedly, Martin Short) while fondly remembered by others (including Bob Odenkirk, Tim Meadows, and writer/director Adam McKay) for helping to shape the course of their careers. Mirroring its subject’s mercurial highs and lows, Ross’s erratic film veers from intriguing interviews and archival material to enervating stylistic experiments (including some arch, unnecessary reenactments) in service of an ultimately memorable life less ordinary.