Rest in peace until the next year, South by Southwest. The
red carpets have been rolled away and the theater marquees have been wiped. All
that's left are the memories and a bunch of films that might some day appear at
a theater near you.
The directorial debut of Katie Dellamaggiore follows
the champion chess team of PS 318 in Brooklyn,
NY. With a no-fuss,
straightforward style she introduces this bunch of amazing kids from tough
economic backgrounds who fill their living rooms with trophies taller than they
are. But then the kick comes in, the economy collapses, and public schools
across the nation lose funding, especially for after school programs. "Brooklyn Castle" is a response to the sport
scholarship trope and "Waiting for Superman." The kids' lives change, they
break records, shed tears, and prod the audience to action. The audience here
gave it their Best Documentary award.
"Fat Kid Rules the World"
A bittersweet dark comedy about an overweight depressed high
school student and the unlikely rocker friend he makes after a failed suicide
attempt. The directorial debut of Matthew Lillard (Shaggy from "Scooby-Doo," or
the bad guy who makes George Clooney sad in "The Descendants") won the audience
narrative feature award. Rightly so, as the captivating story brings to
life this kid's isolated world and his eventual exploration of the underground
rock scene. Levity brightens the dark script, with exaggerated day dream
sequences (think Jonah Hill's imaginary segues from "Super Bad") and awkward
scenarios. Without being too emotionally draining, it shows the two boys
struggling with their demons and we're rooting for them despite their faults. No
distributor has picked it up yet, but hopefully this will go beyond an actor's
pet project and get into theaters. Like many of the other films at SXSW,
"Fat Kid Rules the World" is not the easiest to watch, but it's damn
A pair of brothers
revive a childhood contest in which they must take on 25 different challenges to
determine "the best." The Duplass Brothers ("Cyrus" and "Jeff Who Lives At Home")
have made a movie for anyone who has a rival sibling with a competitive streak.
On the negative side, the camera becomes a tad distracting as "The Office"-like
zooms threaten to teeter a regular conversation into "Bourne" territory. And
the characters, though a lot of fun, can shrink into one-dimensionality. But as a comedy in the midst of a rather
serious film festival, it probably made a better impression on me than it might
have otherwise. Give it high grades for its creative concept, but the execution
leaves something to be desired.