ENJOY THE MOVIES
Holy gore hell. It's only March, and we already have at least two incredibly unique, extremely strange mind-fuck animated films that are definitely not for kids. Dash Shaw's Cryptozoo premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in January, and The Spine of Night just premiered at the SXSW Film Festival this month. (And let's not forget about that wacky puppet horror Frank & Zed from the Nightstream Film Festival last year.) These films are yet another reminder that animation is a medium, not just a genre, and can be used to tell any kind of story - including extremely violent, gory, not-for-kids stories that could only be realized with animation. Fresh from SXSW, The Spine of Night is an instant cult classic, find-it-on-VHS-anywhere-you-can-at-whichever-video-store-stocks-it, extra gnarly, mind-melting sensation. Just don't watch this sober.
You know that inner voice that always prevents you from doing the right thing? That always stops you from being your true self? What if you could learn to reject it and listen to yourself instead, staying true to who you really are. That is the concept behind Violet, a seemingly autobiographical film that marks the feature directorial debut of filmmaker Justine Bateman. This indie dramatic feature just premiered at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival and it's one of the most creative films I caught during the virtual festival this year. It's set in Hollywood, following a development executive struggling with her life as this voice, literally voiced by Justin Theroux, keeps telling her how much she sucks and how she should just keep quiet and do her job just like she's told. Eventually, she learns to stop letting that voice control her and starts listening to herself.
"More often than not, a hero’s most epic battle is the one you never see; it’s the battle that goes on within him or herself." Love him or hate him, Kevin Smith is a fascinating guy and iconic filmmaker. Love him or hate him, he has made 13 movies (so far), created a podcast empire, and cemented himself in pop culture history as a famous fanboy. Like many of us, he started as a film lover. He always wanted to be a storyteller, but had no idea if he could ever be successful. After seeing Linklater's Slacker, off he went to the Vancouver Film School in the 1990s, where he met producer / filmmaker Scott Mosier, and the rest is history. Malcolm Ingram's new documentary Clerk, which just premiered at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, take us through Smith's entire life, examining his legacy and many accomplishments – both as a filmmaker and as a person.
I'm just going to say this right up front: Ninjababy is one of the most creative, innovative films I've seen this year. This film rocks! For whatever foolish reasons, I was resistant to watching this one when it first premiered at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival. Then I finally caught up with it at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, after many of my colleagues had been raving about it. I wasn't ready to be this blown away by how brilliant and innovative and progressive and hilarious it is. This is the kind of fresh, insightful filmmaking that the world needs more of. This is the kind of empathetic, thoughtful, and delightfully witty storytelling that will shape the next era of cinema. It's not what you're expecting, and yet it's so much fun, and so smart in every way as it goes on and confronts real issues of what it's like to be a woman. This is modern cinema at its best.
"The way he looks at people. It's like… he understands. He looks into your soul, and understands." Dogs, man, they're the best. I love dogs. I mean – I LOVE dogs. My favorite animal. Always the cuddliest. Always the cutest. Always your best friend. Always. We Don't Deserve Dogs is a new documentary film made by cinematographer / director Matthew Salleh; produced by Rose Tucker. It was set to premiere at the SXSW Film Festival this year, though it deserves to go well beyond just that festival. This film joins the pantheon of all-time great dog documentaries, including the likes of Los Reyes and the Netflix series Dogs. It is a huge breath of doggie heaven fresh air. I loved every last second of it, and can't wait to rewatch it whenever I need a boost. It's an extraordinary feel-good look at how amazing dogs are and how humans connect with them.