As with 2021, this iteration of the South by Southwest Film Festival is wildly varied in tone and consistency, delivering what I assume will be some of our favorite movies of the entire year and we are only in March! After the jump, check out our full coverage from SXSW, including capsule reviews for the titles not afforded full written articles. Don’t miss out, as Allison and I count down our top ten favorite movies of the fest!

Films

2nd Chance

(Written by Allison Brown) Although slow to start, 2nd Chance is well done, and keeps the audience engaged throughout its wild runtime. The upcoming Showtime documentary follows the trials and tribulations of Richard Davis, the inventor of the modern bulletproof vest and founder of Second Chance. By legend, Davis shot himself 192 times! Once director Ramin Bahrani breaks the facade of the myths Davis built for himself, the documentary truly begins to take off. Despite working on the product with the best of intentions to save others, Davis is a highly controversial figure, and a pathological liar. His hubris is on another level; he has prepared his head to be cryogenically frozen, so he can be reanimated once the technology exists. The film is strongest in Richard’s interviews, where he is completely caught in a lie and refuses to admit guilt. Davis is trigger happy, and far too frivolous with guns and explosives. As a result, he put many lives at risk, a hard juxtaposition from the mission statement of Second Chance. Not only is he the stereotype of your average redneck, but he also created marketing movie re-enactments to promote his vest, which in some circumstances, became anti-liberal propaganda nearly taken as fact by the police. He tried to cover up actual crimes he and his company committed or were indirectly responsible for, and was arrested, yet somehow came out on top. 2nd Chance will make many viewers incredibly angry, but despite this, Davis’ wild history is sure to be worth a watch.

A LOT OF NOTHING

I struggle to think of a more potent and on-the-nose title than A Lot of Nothing. Fittingly, I came away from the film with just that. It deals with an important topic—the unwarranted shooting of an innocent person by an officer—with a hand so heavy that it amounts to a scribble on the page. After their neighbor makes headlines for this shooting, Vanessa (Cleopatra Coleman) wants answers. She takes this to an extreme when her husband, James (Y’lan Noel), seems particularly cavalier about the whole situation. Vanessa forces Brian (Justin Hartley) at gunpoint into their garage, whereafter James tapes him down to a lawn chair. Vanessa’s heart is in the right place (she desperately wants to unstick Brian from his generational cycle of hate), but the couple’s grasp over the kidnapping spirals wildly out of control. A Lot of Nothing is beautifully filmed, but the scripting is flimsy when it comes to stakes. A scene near the end of the movie should feel exciting and intense, yet is stopped dead in its tracks by the leads having a heart-to-heart. The lack of urgency trickles down to every area of the production, wherein the use of slow-motion does little to propel the action. The score also feels all wrong—the music does not match the situations unfolding onscreen. A Lot of Nothing, indeed.

APOLLO 10 1/2: A SPACE AGE CHILDHOOD

Richard Linklater is one of my favorite working directors, so it gives me little pleasure in putting to words my feelings on his newest cinematic offering. This rotoscope-animated dramedy channels the earlier work Linklater sunk into 2006’s A Scanner Darkly, focusing now on a story set in the Spring of 1968. Linklater could depict the coming-of-age subgenre in his sleep (see: Boyhood, Everybody Wants Some, Dazed & Confused), so I am not sure why Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood feels this small-stakes and derivative. From top to bottom, the movie is narrated by Jack Black—the constant vocal presence is full of personality, but a little lazy. The specificity of the time period is so laser-focused and exploding with details, including but not limited to: optimistic technological advances, the allure of the bowling alley, popping the tab of soda into one’s beverage, the Cold War, the Clean Air act, kids getting paddled as “corrections,” the prank calls of the era, hippies, every great TV show and song title of the 60s name-dropped, and so much more. The emphasis on these tiny elements leave the actual kid-participating-in-the-moon-landing and struck from obscurity feeling like a subpar afterthought.

BITCH ASS

I will try to keep this one as short and sweet as possible as not to offend. I absolutely loved the “hood” horrors of yesteryear (including but not limited to Tales From the Hood, Candyman, and 2001’s Bones), so I was thrilled to cover this one for SXSW. Tony Todd does an awesome intro and outro presenting, and the setup is as if we will be watching a long lost VHS tape. The only problem is, nothing about Bitch Ass feels authentic. The lack of a vintage filter could possibly be forgiven if the remainder of the project was off the walls fantastic. I get that the intent was to shut off one’s brain and strap in for the ride, but when it all feels so pedestrian and poorly made, how can one become invested? Twisted versions of games like Operation, Connect 4, and Battleship sound fun in theory; however, the execution is horribly wrong. Also lovely in concept is an exclusively all-black cast for a slasher film. The script and direction let them down at every opportunity despite this being a revolutionary novel concept. My laundry list of complaints would be practically endless in a full review, so I’ll just leave it at this: Bitch Ass is in desperate need of a course-correcting bitchslap.

THE CELLAR

Full review at the link.

CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH

Previously reviewed at Sundance 2022.

Chee$e

(Written by Allison Brown) I would have enjoyed Damian Marcano’s Chee$e more if I were under the influence myself. Giddeon Grines (Akil Williams), who goes by Skimma, learns to make artisan cheese with only lime, milk, and a cloth from Mr. Ottone at his day job. He then uses this unique trade to smuggle marijuana with the help of his oldest friend, Peter (Julio Prince). To their surprise, cooking the cannabis into the cheese creates a more potent and incredibly profitable strain, “cheese weed,” which opens one’s third eye and causes hallucinations. Meanwhile, Skimma’s one-time hook-up, Rebecca (Tishanna Williams), is pregnant with his child. When Skimma discovers the news, he states, “my dick didn’t stick inside of you long enough to make any kind of animal.” The language towards women in this film is appalling. Chee$e barely touches on it, but it appears that Rebecca borderline raped him. Perhaps this is why Skimma acts like a chauvinist pig and treats her like absolute trash. Abortion is not a thing in Skimma’s small village, so he feels obligated to eventually provide for his child and use the drug dealing profits to hopefully escape his dead-end life. There were elements of Chee$e I enjoyed, but for the most part, I found it difficult to remain engaged. Chee$e’s color grading is amateurly executed; not only is it extremely inconsistent but it is vastly overdone. It feels as if the editor recently discovered early 2000s LiveJournal, and decided to apply a different icon filter to each five minute segment of the film. In one scene, our lead flashes back to memories of a late loved one, and the blacks are adjusted to remove nearly all the cyan and yellow and increase the magenta to display almost fully purple footage. It becomes difficult to decipher the visuals. If the editor chose just one of the contrasting tones for emphasis with a more muted choice for the rest to create a trippy hallucinatory vibe, the color would be more impactful. The subtitles are strange as well; I felt like I was watching a sing-along video as the words shuffled and bopped along to the intonation of the dialogue. The one strength I will note is a scene where Rebecca breaks the news of her illegitimate pregnancy to her church congregation. The leader’s phony supportive speech is translated to the condescending language she intended. That was a smart touch!

THE COW

Full review at the link.

DEADSTREAM

Found footage horror is one tricky beast—get it perfect, and you could have the next Blair Witch Project, but stumble and you could end up like The Devil’s Due or The Last Exorcism. Deadstream attempts to approach its brand of terrors with an annoyingly juvenile bend to its humor, and an insufferable influencer at the center! Writers and directors Vanessa Winter and Joseph Winter misunderstand what works in the found footage format, and the lead character is so insufferable that I found a hard time getting into the film at all. Faux social media personality Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter) makes money out of facing his fears “one dumbass challenge at a time.” After he gets cancelled, Shawn attempts to make a victory lap six months later by facing one of his biggest fears: spend one night alone in a seemingly haunted house. Armed with a selfie cam and a crucifix, Shawn live-streams his increasingly ridiculous exploits. The whole movie is an exercise in preposterous, hollow concepts, and goes nowhere fast. Forgive me for not finding anything scary about a demon who wants to shove their finger up one’s nose. For a better exercise in found footage influencer culture, check out Spree or Dashcam instead.

DIAMOND HANDS: THE LEGEND OF WALLSTREETBETS

Admittedly, I know next-to-nothing about the stock market, and had only passively heard about this GameStop controversy as it was happening without any true context. Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets is at least functional as a documentary, examining multiple sides, mixing media and techniques to keep from becoming stale, and attempting to fill in the clueless viewers (like me!) about what exactly happened here. Between manipulating market prices, the pandemic flooding the market with money, get rich quick schemes, and borderline-delusional Reddit communities, Diamond Hands has a lot of ground to cover in a relatively short time. It feels both overstuffed and empty at the same time. Maybe it is the fact that I cannot sympathize with people who have essentially gambled all of their money away. What’s really the difference between being indebted from betting one’s life savings on gambling at a casino versus gambling it all on the stock market? While tragic, it doesn’t make the situation any less that person’s fault in my opinion. This is where the biggest barrier existed for me to get invested in this—like regular gambling, one person walks away with $8 million in earnings, while another has lost literally everything. Keep holding on to that GameStop stock, because clearly there is a future for those who do!

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE

Full review at the link.

Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down

(Written by Allison Brown) A friend suggested I make time to check out Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down despite the film not even being on my radar, and I am so glad I did! I wasn’t familiar with her story beforehand. In 2011, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was almost fatally shot in the head while meeting with her constituents in a Safeway. The documentary follows her recovery, adorably with a big emphasis on speech therapy using song, and her eventual return to politics. Anyone else could have receded from the public eye after suffering such a traumatic event, but Gabby chose to keep fighting for causes that she was passionate about. She eventually founded “an organization dedicated to saving lives from gun violence” with husband Mark Kelly called Giffords. Gabby’s story is both inspiring and tough to watch. I can’t imagine knowing what one wants to say, but not being able to properly communicate it. She just seems like such a good-hearted person, and is great representation for the Jewish community. I found it especially sweet that she mentioned she was studying for her bat mitzvah as an adult at the end. The romance between Gabby and her ex-astronaut husband is perhaps my favorite part of the film. It is clear that Mark deeply cares for his wife, and commendable that he does not hesitate to stay married despite her reduced mental capacity. His eventual choice to become a congressman as well to strengthen Gabby’s voice is like passing the torch. An impressive feat of directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West to acquire significant exclusive commentary from President Barack Obama helps to hit home the couple’s message. Gun control is vital now more than ever in the United States. When discussing the subject with friends outside the country, they genuinely cannot understand why the United States is in this situation, and why nothing has been done to correct the issue after so many tragedies. I hope that, as a country, we can continue to make strides, and eventually reduce and stop mass shootings.

HYPOCHONDRIAC

Full review at the link. Full-length interview with writer/director Addison Heimann and cast coming soon!

I GET KNOCKED DOWN

Ever heard that 90s pop classic, “Tubthumping,” by the band Chumbawumba? Perhaps its instantly-recognizable lyrics about getting up again after being knocked down will take one back to a simpler time, one in which a happy accident was the root of the band’s biggest success to date. They may have only lasted from 1982 to 1999, but over a decade is an admirable run for any major band. The problem is that far too little of indulgent, bizarre documentary, I Get Knocked Down, is actually focused expressly on the band’s rise to fame or their touring. Vintage footage sprinkled throughout remains a pure highlight, but every single time the picture shifts to the modern-day “radical without a clue” lead singer Dunston Bruce (who also co-directs the film with Sophie Robinson), the weird “Babyhead” alter ego is headache-inducing. I got the sense it was aiming for Twin Peaks strangeness, but ends up more like a poor man’s Christmas Carol. A lovely documentary about a band obsessed with self-expression and political activism is hidden somewhere deep beneath it all. Too uneven to recommend, I Get Knocked Down may be strictly for band purists.

I LOVE MY DAD

Full review at the link.

IT IS IN US ALL

Full review at the link.

Jethica

(Written by Allison Brown) I was really excited to watch Jethica, but the film was an unfortunate disappointment. I was surprised to see it was so low budget; this would have been fine if the substance made up for what was lacking in other areas. Director Pete Ohs spends more time depicting beautiful landscapes than building the narrative. I swear every five minutes in the very short 70-minute runtime Jethica cut to a faraway scenery shot. I assume this was to depict the point of view of a stalker, but it just takes the audience out of the story. Ohs’ portrayal of the “ghosts” is poor, with amateur makeup vaguely appearing to be a black eye, repetitive dialogue, and a lack of visual translucence. It was just too difficult to get past this to enjoy anything else in the film. At one point when Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson) and Elena (Callie Hernandez) begin discussing the nature of her stalker, I thought I would start to love this. Once Kevin (Will Madden) appears as a ghost, Jethica goes downhill. Everything he says and does is grating; I was begging for another ghost to come and “kill” him. Jethica lacks all stakes once it is revealed that the dead cannot hurt or even touch the living. Callie Hernandez and Ashley Denise Robinson then start speaking monotone, and personally, I do not enjoy this style of performance. I am confused by the team’s choice of Jethica as the chosen title. I assumed the lead’s name was Jethica, but both myself and a friend who watched could not recall a moment where the title was said in the entire film. Jethica would have been more successful if the ghost was hidden out of frame and not depicted at all, and there was more focus on the chemistry between Jessica and Elena.

LINOLEUM

Full review at the link.

THE LOST CITY

Full review at the link.

MAMA BEARS

Full review at the link.

MASTER

Previously reviewed at Sundance 2022.

MICKEY: THE STORY OF A MOUSE

Mickey: The Story of a Mouse is a surface-level exploration of one of America’s most defining icons: Mickey Mouse! Featuring a variety of vintage cartoon footage, interviews, and Walt Disney insight, this documentary may not dive as deep as one would hope, but watching it still brought out the sense of childhood hope and joy I have always felt towards Mickey. The way that Mickey became weaved into our social consciousness remains a marvel to behold; his rise from Walt creation to worldwide phenomenon sprouted from short-movie theatrical success is well-documented and concise. This SXSW doc is at its best when it dips toes into the darker side of Disney while acknowledging that history cannot be ignored. I also loved lamenting the hidden masterpiece that is Fantasia. Following different iterations and eras of Mickey is a hell of a trip—one cannot help but wish there was a better framing device than a new minute-long Mickey short. DVD behind-the-scenes featurette or full-length movie quality documentary? You decide.

Millie Lies Low

(Written by Allison Brown) As someone who suffers from anxiety, I found the premise of Millie Lies Low to be intriguing. The film follows a hopeful architect, Millie (Ana Scotney), as she travels to New York City to represent Wellington at a prestigious internship; her face is on every billboard in town as a promotion for her college. The only problem is her mid-air meltdown on the way, where she is immediately stranded without the funds for a new ticket. Her only internalized choice is to fake that she made it to the Big Apple after all! The scene is set for a movie filled with unease and discomfort from the second it opens with a glaring yellow fuzzy title card that is literally painful to read. I am still quite unsure how I felt about the film overall. Millie is not a likeable character whatsoever; she is self-absorbed, messy, unprofessional, and a complete fraud. I cannot imagine making any of Millie’s choices myself. I found Millie Lies Low maddening to watch, but I do think that is the filmmaker’s goal. None of the characters are really someone the audience can root for; each are addicted to social media, and on the surface, seem to be living their best (shallow) lives while they crumble apart inside. One can sympathize with job rejections and a struggle to handle college, but the actions they take as a result are appalling. I will say that Michelle Savill’s film has perhaps one of the cringiest, most uncomfortable scenes I have ever watched in film, which may be reason enough to check it out.

THE PEZ OUTLAW

Who doesn’t love a Pez? Yes, you heard me right—Pez, the popular candy-dispenser topped by a cutesy face or pop-culture icon which were once the hottest things in the entire world, especially to collectors. So how exactly did a poor dreamer who came from a ratty old hole-filled house help make Pez-collecting into a million-dollar business? Meet Steve Glew, the subject of SXSW documentary, The Pez Outlaw. In this movie, we learn about Glew’s story from top to bottom, retold by Glew himself, those closest to him, and the contradictions to his recounting by the bigwigs of the Pez company. Examining this tale from every angle was probably the most concise way to portray this complicated man. My jaw dropped at the prices some of these people would pay—one lady admits that the most she ever spent on one single Pez dispenser was $11,000! The Pez Outlaw makes a convincing argument as to why Glew and his vision was both wholesome and necessary; his influence clearly spread far and wide. I had a fun time absorbing it all. Stylistically varied and technically informative to the extreme, The Pez Outlaw is a strongly-focused documentary that is easy to recommend thanks to its breezy and charming subject matter.

PIRATES

Full review at the link.

THE PRANK

Full review at the link.

PRETTY PROBLEMS

Full review at the link.

RAQUEL 1:1

Full review at the link.

SERIOUSLY RED

It may not hit the high highs of my favorite “celebrity impersonator” movie ever, Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely, but I’ll be damned if Seriously Red isn’t an adorable good time. For fans of Dolly Parton, I cannot see them having a single issue with this Australian dramedy and its beating heart. A quote from Dolly herself flashes onscreen at pivotal moments in the life of Red (Krew Boylan), a woman who starts out in real estate, then turns to impersonation thanks to her undying devotion to Dolly. She is so obsessed that even her coffee cup says “cup of ambition” on it, a reference to Dolly’s lyrics in 9 to 5. Performing big and breathing, sleeping, and eating Dolly is easier said than done—it takes hard work to get to the top in the impersonation game. Boylan is magnificent, as are the numerous song-and-dance numbers. Daniel Webber as a Kenny Rodgers impersonator and Rose Byrne’s Elvis Presley are other strong highlights. Seriously Red is a cutesy fable about learning to love oneself through the mirror of another, and realizing one’s truest potential.

SHERYL

Sheryl Crow is said to be one of the most humble and eloquent figures in pop music, and 2022 documentary Sheryl is a testament to her charming personality and devotion to perfection. Sheryl comes on the heels of several music-related docs. Between the two I saw at this year’s SXSW, it is far superior in every way to the Chumbawumba documentary. Layered with vintage footage, deep dives into song origins, dabbling in nearly all her major hits, highs, lows, and everything in between, it is both cohesive and sprawling. I cannot claim to be the biggest Crow fan outside of her hits, yet this does an amazing job of answering nearly every question one would have about Crow’s life thus far. Hard topics dig deep, and one subject makes Crow actually cry herself. My biggest issue is the lack of names attached to interviews—the viewer is left to fill in the blanks as to who is speaking. Sometimes, like when Keith Richards or Laura Dern chime in for their input, the lack of names makes sense. More obscure figures though should have a title at least, and would make a strong doc even stronger.

SISSY

Full review at the link.

SLASH/BACK

Being a massive fan of slasher films and meta humor, Slash/Back was easily one of my most anticipated movies of this year’s SXSW. Unfortunately, I have to say that I found it to be a major disappointment. I was impressed by the gory makeup effects and not much else, finding the characters difficult to penetrate. The snowy landscape of its setting is wasted on a shaky premise. Bringing indigenous culture into the mainstream is admirable indeed; one wishes it carried a stronger sense of purpose, especially when accompanied by a soaring, quirky music score. A deformed bones-breaking figure that crawls on the ground has, by this point, been run directly into the ground.

SOFT & QUIET

Full review at the link.

SPAZ

Full review at the link.

SPIN ME ROUND

Featuring a mystery angle that goes nowhere fast, Spin Me Round strands a talented cast in a confined setting. Amber (Allison Brie), a longtime worker for Tuscan Grove company (an Olive Garden knockoff), wins an exclusive ticket to a prestigious management program in Italy! Here she will learn about Italian culture from a new perspective. Italy is nothing like the Italy of Amber’s dreams, however, and Amber may have difficulty finding love here amongst the craziness. This bizarre comedy from Jeff Baena could double as a postcard for Italy, where it was also filmed. The cinematography is indeed beautiful and perfectly captures the stunning landscapes of the Italian countryside. Allison Brie as naive and spunky Amber is a bit of an annoying character to follow as our lead. For an ensemble comedy, there is little mesh to the talent assembled. To my surprise, it is really Molly Shannon that steals the show as Deb. Her suitcase was stolen, so she relies on Amber for help. Deb literally has a different outfit in every scene. If only the rest of Spin Me Round was as delightfully preposterous!

STAY THE NIGHT

Stay the Night is a simplistic romance drama that aims for a slice-of-life style, yet cannot maintain the beauty of the pared-down tale for the full runtime. Carter (Joe Scarpellino), a professional athlete who may now be Syracuse-bound to play in the minors after being unceremoniously fired, and Grace (Andrea Bang), a stuffy stuck-in-one-position HR advisor, connect for a one-night-stand. This brief sexual encounter leads to more, as they often do. She wants her first time to be special, as Grace is a virgin; Carter meanwhile is trying to escape from the pressures of own situation. There is sadly barely any meat to the story, making Stay the Night just a series of conversations with fleeting connection.

STILL WORKING 9 TO 5

Full review at the link.

TO LESLIE

To Leslie is an excellent showcase for the talents of Andrea Riseborough and young actor Owen Teague. Riseborough has completely redeemed herself for the abomination that was 2020’s The Grudge reboot in my eyes. After winning big at the lottery ($190,000 to be exact!), Leslie (Riseborough) doesn’t exactly spend her newfound wealth wisely. She completely destroys her relationship with her son, James (Teague), and falls down a rabbit hole of addiction and alcoholism. Allison Janney appears in a smaller role than one would expect, effortlessly chewing up every piece of dialogue she is given. The story depicts the kind of tale we have seen time and time again, but it feels told from a passionate and personal perspective. It may not be among SXSW’s best offerings this year, but To Leslie is a damn good acting masterclass that champions of the mid-budget drama will celebrate.

We Feed People

(Written by Allison Brown) Upcoming Ron Howard project, We Feed People, follows celebrity chef José Andrés and his organization, World Central Kitchen, as they risk their lives traveling internationally after major disasters to provide food relief for those in need. Andrés seems to fall somewhere in the middle of selfless and thrill-seeking. In one segment, the team live tracks a hurricane and begins preparing ahead of its path. They then travel less than a hundred miles away, and Andrés shares live footage that seems to depict a very hazardous situation for his team. This seems to be a common situation. He is a devoted family man, but his daughters know he must be ready to leave at any time, and his wife keeps a backpack ready to go. It is impressive that Andrés is seemingly always on site at the disaster to assess instead of just sending a team. He cares so much for others that at one point, he was funding the meals on his own dime, and taking out personal loans just to keep people fed. It is difficult to watch We Feed People and not feel for those struggling, and World Central Kitchen’s mission statement, but at times I grew a bit bored. We Feed People starts to feel repetitive, as it shows similar dilemmas in the face of different specific tragedies; perhaps highlighting a greater variety of the struggles would have made the film stronger. I also thought there would be an additional focus on the process of preparing the food over solely the logistics in getting to these places and showing the scope of the disasters. The portion at the end replaying the height of the pandemic was traumatizing, as it has been a while since I was reminded of the scope of scarcity, even for those of middle class. José’s bravery in creating widescale food distribution and helping restaurants throughout America deliver food at a time where interacting with people on this scale was a physical risk to his health is commendable. I think this segment at the end was the most powerful, as it was easier for me personally to relate. All in all, We Feed People is well done, but I found other SXSW documentaries this year to be more compelling.  

Without Prescription 

(Written by Allison Brown) Without Prescription can be best described as a tamer Violet (SXSW 2021), combined with a less critical chamber film slightly reminiscent stylistically of 2021’s Mass. Director Juliana Maité tells the story of Olivia coming to terms with a difficult familial holiday, Christmas Eve. With problematic probing friends and family, Olivia’s obsessive-compulsive disorder begins to resurface. It presents in the unwavering urge to brush her teeth, as well as spit. Olivia cannot afford health insurance due to her poorly paid contract teaching job, and as a result, cannot afford to see her psychiatrist to get a prescription for the medication that will resolve her nagging ailment. She seeks unsavory means of obtainment from an old friend, Jessica, whom she happened to meet in a mental institution. This leads to a visit with the pharmacist’s son, David, which ends in a platonic prolonged stay in his home, while they wait out a heavy downpour of rain. The film is unofficially broken up into two parts, before she meets with David and after. I found the latter to be less compelling than following Olivia’s plight in the beginning. As with Violet, my anxiety was at its peak in many uncomfortable parts of the film. One scene, where Olivia’s OCD voice tries to convince her to “pull out a tooth” and “get something sharp,” caused me to literally squirm in my seat. I deal with OCD myself, but the mental illness clearly presents itself in a variety of habits and intensities. Luckily, mine is on the mild side. I cannot imagine dealing with Olivia’s struggles. After Olivia is stranded in David’s home, the film depends solely on a one-location conversation to hold the audience’s attention, peppered with hints of Olivia’s OCD voice resurfacing. Some parts are definitely compelling, but others lag. Overall, the film is worth a watch, but more time alone with Olivia would have made for a stronger film.

Women Do Cry

(Written by Allison Brown) Women Do Cry’s narrative is all over the place with no refinement whatsoever. Directors Vesela Kazakova and Mina Mileva go out of their way to somehow cram every terrible travesty that Bulgarian women deal with in this one single film with little room for development. Suicide (which is eventually turned into a joke as not one, but two characters literally climb out a window in preparation), HIV, adultery, spousal abuse, postpartum depression, transgenderism, homosexuality, and repeated imagery of a mangled stork are just a few of the touchpoints Women Do Cry endeavors to hit. If animal abuse is an issue for you, one character puts lipstick on her cats and rubs it all over their fur to metaphorically represent her new social status as a “whore.” The lack of compassion in the language used towards transgender and gay people is completely offensive, even if one of the characters is intended to positively represent both communities. Every single character is appalling, and many are verbally or physically abusive; it is nearly impossible to sympathize with their plights. I was interested to see what Maria Bakalova of 2020’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm would do next, and I truly expected more. Her character was perhaps the most divisive, with random notes of mental illness thrown in that eventually overshadow her HIV diagnosis. All the extremely negative reviews noted on social media make so much more sense after watching. Recent MTV film Three Months addresses the HIV/AIDs topic with more sympathy and fervor. Skip Women Do Cry and watch that instead.

X

Full review at the link.

Television

HALO

I am admittedly not a big XBOX or Halo game series fan in general, aside from passively playing multiplayer with my cousins and some pals when I was younger. Still, I had rather high expectations because on a purely cinematic level, Halo as it exists in game form is impressive and complex. Nothing of that goodwill is reflected in the final product of this derivative action series. Set in the year 2552, it takes more than ten minutes of the runtime just to give us some alien action, and to get into the Master Chief of it all. The show was giving me major District 9 meets The Mandalorian vibes, only cheaper. At the end of the debut episode, Master Chief (played by brooding Orange is the New Black actor Pablo Schreiber) dramatically removes his helmet. There is a fatal flaw in presenting him as the lead—Master Chief is given no personality, and made a totally flat caricature. You know the old saying… if Star Wars walked, it was so Halo could trip over its own footing and fall flat on its alien-dialect-spouting face.

SHINING GIRLS

Full review at the link.

SWIMMING WITH SHARKS

Full review at the link.

WECRASHED

Full review at the link.

Josh’s Ten Favorite Films

Allison’s Ten Favorite Films

This year, we were so close to traveling in person, and we honestly loved several titles out of 2022’s SXSW Film Festival. Some of these movies will leave people talking about them all year long! We look forward to what next year will bring… Learn more about this year’s SXSW on the official website.

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