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"Cold Weather": The case of the disappearing ex.

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. There's a scene, maybe a third of the way through "Cold Weather," in which the drifting main character Doug (Cris Lankenau) meets up with his ex-girlfriend Rachel (Robyn Rikoon) when she arrives in town for a business trip. Coming in out of the rain -- the film's set in Portland, and it's perpetually raining -- she gets a bit of a luminous, It Girl entrance, and as the two catch up over coffee, you consider how, in most movies, this would...

Saluting the hues of "Red White & Blue."

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. "Red White & Blue" is sort of like a slasher movie in which every character functions as both the killer and the prey. The film has three protagonists; all of them victims, all of them guilty. Everyone is wronged. Everyone, in turn, commits wrongs in retaliation. Like its title, the film has three parts, one for each protagonist. First, we meet Erica (Amanda Fuller), who spends night after night sleeping with an endless parade of anonymous hookups...

Bearing the brunt of "Bear Nation."

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. Amongst the tousled, too-hip-for-the-room Japanese punks and the deglammed hipster brunettes with Jackie O. shades, one of the more recognizable constituencies walking around this year's SXSW would have to be the portly bearded male, so prominent in number that you'd think you were living in a wet dream of the men profiled in "Bear Nation," Malcolm Ingram's look at the fetish of a certain subset of gay men towards the hirsute and hefty...

The two Americas of "World's Largest" and "Citizen Architect."

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. America may be under siege by killer bees in Texas and giant buffaloes in the middle of North Dakota, if "World's Largest" is to be believed. The people in small towns are getting stung and stomped not by creatures' tails and hooves, but rather by the hope that building large fiberglass monuments in their honor will lure tourists to their tiny burg off the side of the highway. Of course, roadside attractions have been a staple of American...

"Tiny Furniture": In dependence.

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. Honestly, "Tiny Furniture" should be intolerable. It's about post-college malaise, which is the type of topic that becomes exponentially harder to relate to as you get distance on it. It's about the added doldrums of figuring out a career when you come from the kind of privileged background where you're not actually required to get one, which is the type of topics that's hard to relate to at all. And it's semi-autobiographical...

Having it both ways with "Lovers of Hate."

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. "Why don't you just help me?" Rudy Lucas (Chris Doubek) pleads of his brother Paul (Alex Karpovsky) at one point in "Lovers of Hate." It's a simple question, but it takes nearly Bryan Poyser's entire movie to answer. Strangely, this is long after our awkward first impression of Rudy, a shaggy, unsuccessful middle-aged writer living out of his Ford Escort in Austin after being kicked out by Diana, his wife of 12 years (Heather...

"MacGruber" avoids a bomb.

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. To answer the immediate question at hand, "MacGruber" is in fact the funniest "Saturday Night Live" spinoff since "Wayne's World" in 1992. But as anyone who follows such things knows, that isn't necessarily high praise. In the years in the wake of the success of "Wayne's World," many recurring characters were granted the feature treatment, mostly after they had already been run into the ground by the show...

"Centurion"

I wish I found Hadrian's Wall half as intriguing as British director Neil Marshall apparently does. The structure, located in northern England, was built by the Romans to defend their northern line against the tribes beyond it, and it's inspired the lesser two of Marshall's films -- 2008's camptastic "Doomsday," which imagines a future where a plague outbreak in Scotland leads to the wall being rebuilt for quarantine purposes, and "Centurion" (which played one...

"Audrey the Trainwreck": An ode to the everyday grind.

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. Every day of Ron Hogan's life looks exactly like the one before it. The alarm clock goes off at 6:30. After a stretch at the side of the bed, it's time to shower and dress. Then a stop off at the convenience store for the same cup of coffee before heading into work as a purchaser of ATM parts, where he has the same conversations with the same colleagues. After work, there's the same series of hopeless Internet dates at the same coffee shop, or...

"Serbian Film": Giving new meaning to the term "torture porn."

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. When introducing the world premiere of "Serbian Film," the directorial debut of Srdjan Spasojevic, the filmmakers suggested that the screening might result in Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League, who had programmed it, getting arrested. That's pretty big talk in a theater that's become the country's primary conduit for the most weird, wild, challenging or just plain fucked-up international cinema. But around the time that Milos (Srdjan...

Reliving the Obama drama of "11/4/08."

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. The loud yellow letters that open Jeff Deutchman's "11/4/08" announce that "You are watching a consensual piece of cinema," which carefully sidesteps the fact that it is not a film in any traditional sense of the word. Shot on dozens of digital cameras, it could also be described as a work in progress, compiled by moviemakers across the country and around the world on the night Barack Obama was elected president. It deals in emotions...

James Franco sketches out "Saturday Night."

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. James Franco's student film for NYU's graduate program was originally intended to be a portrait of "Saturday Night Live" star Bill Hader, but "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels had other ideas. In a short video played before the start of "Saturday Night," Franco's full-length look at the venerable NBC variety show through one week of production, the actor-turned-documentarian offered a disarming mea culpa for missing out...

The indefatigable "Elektra Luxx."

Reviewed (sort of) at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. Sometimes the movie gods smile upon you, though Sebastian Guitierrez probably wasn't feeling that way during the SXSW premiere of "Elektra Luxx." Roughly an hour and ten minutes into the sequel to last year's crowdpleaser "Women in Trouble," you could hear the voices of Marley Shelton and Carla Gugino scheming again. The only problem was you couldn't see them. As a panicked Gutierrez and others retreated to the back...

"The Red Chapel": Looking for comedy in the North Korean world.

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. A confession: I've passed over "The Red Chapel" before. It's been making film festival rounds since the fall of last year. I'd glance over the description -- "small theater troupe," "Denmark," "cultural exchange visit," "North Korea" -- and I'd imagine... actually, I don't know what I'd imagine, but it wasn't promising. Well, mea culpa. This Danish documentary is incredibly uncomfortably...

The potetry of "Leaves of Grass."

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. At the intersection of pot and poetry, at a place we might as well dub "potetry," lies Tim Blake Nelson's "Leaves of Grass." Pot movies, like potheads, have a tendency to wax philosophical -- this one has an actual philosophy lecture. In it, Brown classics professor Bill Kincaid (Edward Norton) argues for Socratic ideals of self-discipline and control. He practices what he preaches, too; in the next scene, a young female student throws...
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