Fred Topel’s coverage of SXSW 2012 continues with reviews of Paul Williams Still Alive, Marley, Crazy Eyes and Iron Sky, the film everyone is talking about. Is it worth the hype? Well…
Paul Williams Still Alive
This documentary won me over early on when it started to deconstruct the very documentary format. Stephen Kessler’s pursuit of the legendary songwriter begins with attempts at the PBS version of a documentary, and introduces Williams today arguing over what questions Kessler is asking. As a narrator, Kessler is irreverently defying his subject’s wishes and audience expectations, but Williams really directs him. It’s a fabulous collection of archival clips and a poignant reflection from Williams today. Whether it’s memory lane or an introduction to Williams’ oeuvre for new listeners, mainly it’s just freaking funny.
I am not a reggae fan. If I were, a two and a half hour documentary on Bob Marley would be a dream. Since I’m not, it’s a very dry biographical documentary. No new take on the format, just archival material, talking heads and new footage of the significant locations where Marley lived, performed, influenced, etc. The film does explain the social context of Marley’s music, from slavery’s remaining pall over Jamaica to Marley’s children dealing with the prejudices of their friends’ parents. The film explains the significance of Rastafarian culture and the meaning of dreadlocks. There’s all the hits and some concert footage or firsthand anecdotes. Director Kevin MacDonald subtitles a lot of the Jamaican English, and I needed even more subtitles than were provided. If someone made me a two and a half hour documentary about Meat Loaf I’d be in heaven, but this one’s for the Marley fans.
I ended up sitting right next to Madeline Zima during the screening of her movie. She was lovely but I wish I could have liked the film she was in. Zach (Lucas Haas) is a mopey drunk talking about relationships, or rather slurring about them. He’s obsessed with Rebecca (Zima) whom he calls Crazy Eyes. She hangs out with him and kisses him but won’t sleep with him. Zima is a cute drunk but these are really awful characters behaving obnoxiously. Zach drives to and from all these drinking binges, so that’s bad. There’s also so much humor derived from attempted date rape, or “struggle f***ing” as they call it, that I don’t think that’s okay. I don’t really care that it’s offensive but it’s just not clever. Zima was laughing it up, trying to get the audience into it. I guess it’s supposed to be funny or edgy. Remember when we had Swingers? That was nice. These people do not offer a worthwhile perspective on relationships. I can save you some time. Don’t be an alcoholic. Your relationships will improve. Rebecca vomits a lot so looks as gross as Zima is capable of looking. So check it out this July from Strand releasing!
I love high concept and I was really hoping for a Hobo with a Shotgun here, but Iron Sky can’t live up to its premise. Nazis have been hiding on a moon base since 1945 and plan their return to Earth in 2018. Only president Palin (Stephanie Paul) can lead the world’s armies to stop them. Oh, and a black astronaut (Christopher Kirby) the Nazis turned white and a naïve Nazi (Julia Deitze) who learns that there’s more to life than a master race. The effects are good but there’s no real excitement in all the Roland Emmerich-esque space battle/destruction. The practical sets and costumes look cheap, for example an Oval Office that looks nothing like “The West Wing.” The political jokes fall totally flat, too on the nose, no subtext and I don’t think they’re even making comments. It’s just the same old observations about oil mongering and Republicans. Paul doesn’t really look like Sarah Palin and her accent is southern, not Alaskan. Mainly, it’s just not outrageous enough. When you start with Nazis on the moon you’ve got to deliver.