As I'm typing this, the full weekend of Sidewalk is still in my head sinking in. It was an amazing festival, probably the best in years and that's due to the amazing staff, volunteers and films that we all enjoyed.
There was over 200 films that played over the three day weekend festival and I managed to watch nine great films, so making my top five was very difficult. However, I highly suggest these when they are available, either on demand, theaters or randomly in your Netflix scrolling at midnight when you can't sleep.
1. Other People
Wow. That's the only word I can come up with to describe this film.
I was not expecting to be hit so hard and you are hit, smack at the beginning.
Other People tackles themes of grief & homosexuality in an interesting way - not wanting to explain things so black & white.
The comedy adds levity and the emotional moments mostly land as first-time director Chris Kelly succeeds in telling a story that's clearly very personal to him. Jesse Plemons has always impressed me and does a nice job as a lead here. Molly Shannon, on the other hand is excellent, and gives one of her most well-rounded performances to date.
J. J. Totah steals the movie with his dance for his father's birthday. J. J. plays a confident gay teen brother of a friend of David's who is absolutely f'ing adorable.
Again, Molly Shannon was remarkable, supported by such a strong cast, including Bradley Whitford and the amazing June Squibb who made me feel like I was watching real life, not a fictional story. Five stars all around. Watch out for this one in the upcoming award season.
Now excuse me, I'm going to call my mom and give someone a hug.
2. The Love Witch
The Love Witch is an amazing feature, shot and edited on 35mm, that displays Anna Biller's floor dropping talents. Her obsessive attention to 70s period detail is incredible, as well as her fluency in the visual language of films of that era: if you have watched almost any given moment of the film and didn't know any better, you would absolutely believe it was made in the early 70s. This time, Biller has set the film in present day, using the idealized world of graphic wallpaper, lavish paintings, music and gorgeous costumes (which I believe she made all herself) as a way of showing how Elaine sees the world. It also happens to be a hell of a lot of fun. It's a giallo-like technicolor tale of neurosis and love that Mario Bava or Dario Argento would appreciate.
Now, I want to go buy some teal eyeshadow.
3. Swiss Army Man
I'm kinda at a loss for what to write about Swiss Army Man.
This film is first and foremost a visionary piece of filmmaking. Yes, it's about farts and other dead body humor, but while this may seem like a daunting and awkward focus for a feature-length movie, it all works together. By the second act you'll begin to enjoy the obscurity, and by the third, you'll be on the edge of tears.
The journey of Hank and Manny through the lost forest is one that dives into the heart of what makes us human. It uses the power of fart jokes and deep conversations about masturbation to display the fears and joys inherent in a human life, and how we must find reasons to keep living, no matter how hopeless the world or your life may seem. I am in such awe of both Daniels and can not wait to see what they come up with next.
Swiss Army Man is a one-of-a-kind experience that should be required viewing for anyone who dares to call themselves human. Embrace your farts, love your friends, and masturbate, because it makes you happy.
Oh, and if you don't know Jurassic Park, you don't know shit.
4. Holy Hell
As I was viewing this movie I tweeted that this movie was by far the scariest film the entire weekend. Not because it was a gory horror movie, because it was a real documentary of a West Hollywood cult formed by a strange teacher in the 1980s that eventually just exploded on itself.
If you've ever wondered how a person ends up in a cult, or ever wondered why they would stay and if you've ever wondered how the truth is revealed, this film says it all. Director Will Allen was a member of the Buddafield for over twenty years and he was the official filmmaker of the group that recorded over hundreds of hours depicting the life of the Buddafield and it's leader. This footage and the brave interviews with members who had left the group, offer a special view into a life that seems impossible to most anyone. These people are not fools; they are survivors and watching toward the third act, if you are human, you feel these people's pain and cry.
I also will NEVER think of "Rosemary's Baby" EVER again.
5. Little Sister
So many low-budget American indies are about twentysomethings who return to their childhood home in order to figure out what their life means and to achieve some great personal catharsis, but so few of them understand what home really means, or know how to find it. It's been over a decade since "Garden State" embraced that template for a new generation of filmmakers, yet Zach Clark and Melodie Sisk's weird and wonderful film is one of the few movies that has used it to tell a story that feels true to itself. It's just really nice and Addison Timlin is a dang star.
Being downtown in Birmingham's Theatre District, seeing great films in our out of this world venues of the Lyric and Alabama Theatre was truly a gift. It has been an inspiring weekend and I hope to be more involved for next years in helping bringing more great indie films to my hometown of the Magic City.
I’m a girl that likes the pork, eggs, homemade soups..vintage books and children’s books, artists who love what they do, writers/bloggers who inspire me, and good food and music with fabulous people to share it with.