Monday, March 10, 2008

SXSW Film Recap: Days Three and Four

Yesterday, we went to see two movies; a doc, Flying on One Engine, and Run, Fat Boy, Run, the new Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) movie directed by David Schwimmer.

Flying on One Engine is the story of Dr. Sharadkumar Dicksheet, a 77-year-old, Indian-born doctor who resides in America, but spends much of the year performing free surgeries to children in India who are born with facial deformities, i.e. cleft palates. The kicker is that he's in a wheelchair, has lost his larynx to cancer, and has an aneurysm in his head that could blow and kill him at any time, yet he still spends months and months out of the year doing these surgeries; more than 140,000 of them.

Interesting story, interesting guy. In America, he lives basically in poverty, but in India, they treat him literally like a god, bowing down to him, touching his feet, and such. (And, lord, the deformities that he corrects...they're heart-wrenching.) And, somewhat refreshingly for these sorts of movies, the good doctor has absolutely no false modesty - he's totally convinced that he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, and seriously pissed that Al Gore got it and not him. I gave it 3 1/2 stars...and it earns 1/4 extra star for not being twenty minutes too long, as EVERY OTHER DOC I HAVE SEEN SO FAR has been. (Mick has an idea for a t-shirt, to sell at next year's SXSW - "Directors: Edit Thyself.")

Run, Fat Boy, Run will, of course, be in wide release in the next few weeks. The true "filmies" who attend these things eschew the big-name movies, as they will have a chance to see them in the theater...but, as I won't get out again, probably, I often go to see them.

I liked it, but then, I'm going to like any Simon Pegg movie. As I've mentioned probably six hundred times on this blog, Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorite movies of all time. (Must do that "favorite movie line" meme sometime soon.) However, it was absolutely not Shaun of the Dead, or even Hot Fuzz; this, this was, just EXACTLY like, if you took the over-the-top British humor of those movies, but then totally softened and romantic-comedied it up by having a member of the cast of "Friends" direct it! (David Schwimmer was there, taking questions, afterwards. He seems nice - unassuming, funny, really happy to see us all there.)

Ah, though, nothing to hate. It's sweet. The Man liked the track-n-field stuff in it, and I looove Hank Azaria and Dylan Moran (the guy who played David in Shaun). Really missed Nick Frost, though, (Ed from Shaun,) who is in most of these movies. Oh - and may I add, I had NO idea that Hank Azaria looked THAT good naked. I have a newfound respect for him.) 3 1/2 stars. Simon and Hank get half a star extra apiece (and Thandie Newton gets one, too, for just being so damn pretty).

Today, I saw two docs, Living with the Tudors, and FrontRunners. Living with the Tudors is about a group of historical reenactors in Suffolk, England, who meet every year to live for a month or so in period costumes - sometimes it's Tudor, sometimes WWII, sometimes Jacobian, etc. When they're there, they don't break character - whatever their character is - and live totally as they would in that time peroid. It's like a Renaissance Festival times 100. The filmmakers were regular attendees - serving as "limners," or miniature painters - but, even with approval to film there, they got quite a lot of shit from the hardcore folks who didn't want any of this to even be recorded on film.

It was nice; a quiet little film, very calm, and almost under the radar, but still interesting and compelling. This one was just a teeny tince too long. Three stars.

Tonight, Mick hauled me out of complacency on the couch to see FrontRunners, a doc about a seriously competitive high-school senior class presidency race in the top public high school in the country, Stuyvesant High in NYC.

It was - OK. Fun to see high school kids talking knowledgeably about the Nixon-Kennedy debates; I totally want to move to New York and send my kids there! But, I'm not sure I'm as compelled by the subject matter as I should have been. And, once again, TOO LONG. (It occurs to me that perhaps my attention span is waning, but I really don't think so. All, y'all, just trim a little bit of your precious footage!) 2.5 stars.

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