Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You Missed Out, Friend

If you are among the majority of my friends and fam who didn't attend South by Southwest, you missed out on a whole helluva lot, let me tell ya (big props to my brother Tim and Phil Harder for showing up). If you haven't noticed, I love SXSW and I'm more than willing to evangelize on its behalf. Part of being an evangelist (thought not necessarily a good one) is rubbing the good news the faces of the uninformed. So here I present my Top 5 Bands and Top 3 Films of SXSW 2010. Check 'em out--and get your arse down to Austin next March!

Best Bands:
1. Balkan Beat Box.
These lively Israelites put on the most outside-the-box show I saw this year, complete with disco lights and roaming saxaphones. //Balkan Beat Box: Move It//
2. Warpaint. This all-chick band from LA rocked the faces off a late-night crowd. No gimmicks, just great music. //Warpaint: Elephants//
3. Das Racist. Despite being the drunkest act of SXSW, they put on a bumpin' show with deep bass beats and the kinds of tongue-in-cheek rhymes that I've come to expect from the NYC hip-hop underground. //Das Racist: Shorty Said//
4. Trampled by Turtles. TbT is a five-man hillbilly band that lays down some wicked licks featuring fiddle, banjo, and mandolin. I smiled as Texan audience members were shocked to learn that TbT hails from Duluth. //Trampled by Turtles: The Darkness and the Light//
5. Crystal Method/Steve Aoki. I've wanted to see these masters of the dance floor for a long time--even worse since Crystal Method's show was preempted by the Austin fuzz at last year's Moon Tower. And Aoki gets involved in the crowd; he doesn't just stare at his computer like most DJs. //Steve Aoki: WARP//

Top Films:
1. Micmacs.
Remember the deliciousness of the pranks in Amelie? Take that flavor and spread it over an entire movie, minus Amelie's high-fructose sweetness, and you've some idea what to expect from Micmacs. Also expect beautiful photography, ingenious mise-en-scene, delightful performances, and fantastic fun. I like Micmacs so much I'd hate to spoil any of it by writing about it. Just go see it.
2. Harry Brown. Most of the blurbs I saw about Harry Brown touted Michael Caine's excellent performance, but the real reason to watch it is the way that the filmmakers' method comprehends their message. The film asks the viewer questions about violence and justice, due process and vigilanteism, but offers only ambiguous answers. Throughout, the director and DP offer us camera angles that suggest the ambiguity of the content. Is that group of kids downstairs about to become victims of a random attack? Or will the film reveal them to be the instigators of the opening scene's shooting (the most shockingly visceral attack I've ever witnessed as an opening scene)?
3. MacGruber. MacGruber the SNL sketch features Will Forte's anti-MacGyver getting blown up in under thirty seconds--every time. How, I wondered, could that possibly translate to the big screen? MacGruber the movie works because (a) it is really stinking funny, and (b) because Forte & crew broadened the scope of their spoof to include all kidnapped-missile movies, all spec-ops movies, all buddy movies, all ass-kicking movies with a romantic sub-plot, and all Val Kilmer movies. So, all action movies, basically. And did I mention that the writing and acting made me and the 1200+ people who showed up for the premiere laugh hysterically? While MacGruber bears no pretensions of being a smart action film, it proved to be a worthy bit of feel-funny escapism.