Best of SXSW 2018

SXSW ended a couple of weeks ago so some of the movies are already available (I’m slow – sorry).  Others may take more than a year (if ever to see the light of day).  Here are the movies I enjoyed the most.  I thought the lineup, especially the documentaries (as can be seen by the number of docs in my favorite movies) was very strong this year .

The World Before Your Feet

This is an entertaining documentary about a guy who is walking every street in New York City.  He’s been on his quest for a few years, has walked almost 7000 miles already and may just continue walking even when he’s done.  He has an interesting backstory and interactions with the people he meets along the way.

Trans-Military

A timely documentary that follows several transgender service men/women as they help to protect our country.

Ruben Blades is Not My Name

A doucmentary about the acclaimed salsa singer,  actor, Harvard graduate, lawyer, one time candidate for Panamanian president and more.

Chi-Town

In the vein of Hoop Dreams a really good documentary about an inner city Chicago basketball star.  The filmmakers followed him for several years through high school (including all the challenges of living in a poor section of Chicago), college and his quest (still ongoing) to make it in the NBA.

Blindspotting

One of my favorite movies at the festival.  A drama/comedy about two friends (one black/one white) trying to navigate their way through the final days of probation for one in a gentrifying Oakland neighborhood.    The two friends in the movie were at the Q+A and are friends in real life.  They had been working on this film for eight years!

Ready Player One

If you’re into gaming, virtual reality, sci-fi, action movies,   a movie with tons of references to 80s movies/games and/or Stevn Spielberg movies you will enjoy this movie.  I liked it a lot but that may have also been influence by a very enthusiastic 1100+person crowd  with Steven Spielberg and members of the cast participation in the Q&A.

The Director and the Jedi

This is a documentary about the making of the latest Star Wars movie.  A good look at the artistic process of making the movie as well as some of the controversy with Mark Hamill disagreeing with the direction his character took in the movie.  There was a very interesting Q&A that included Mark Hamill and the director, Rian Johnson.  Hamill is a character.

The Last O.G.

The first two episodes of this TBS show.   Tracy Morgan, in his first series work since his accident, plays a character trying to resume his life after 15 years in prison in a gentrified Brooklyn. I found it pretty funny (as was the Q&A with Morgan and Tiffany Haddish).  Jordan Peele is one of the creators.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

A moving documentary about the life and career of PBS  children show icon Fred Rogers.  I don’t know how anyone can be so nice.

Science Fair

I love documentaries about competitions.  Spellbound, about the national spelling bee is one of the best.   Science Fair is in the same vein – several high school students from around the world are followed as they try to qualify, prepare and then compete in a major competition.   The first 90 seconds or so of this youtube clip starts the movie showing the winner of an earlier competition.

The Dawn Wall

A gorgeous to look at documentary of the first successful scaling of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan.  The climb got a lot of TV coverage when the climb was made in 2015.  This was a ‘free ascent’ meaning this type of climbing is done just using their hands and feet (with picks and rope just used to prevent falling to their death).  The climb took 19 days and they would sleep in tents hanging off the side of the wall at night!  As amazing as the climb was the back story was just as fascinating.  Definitely try to see this movie!

Hearts Beat Loud

A sweet little film about the bonding of a father and daughter before she heads off to college.  It stars Nick Offerman

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes

Muhammed Ali appeared on the Dick Cavett show numerous times.  This is an insightful documentary about Ali through some of his good and bad times as well as the relationship between Caveat and Ali.

First Match

A gritty movie about an inner city girl who becomes the only girl on her high school wrestling team only to be led astray by her ex-con father.

Isle of Dogs

While this was the closing night film I must confess I  saw it after.  I am a big fan of Wes Anderson and I really enjoyed this film.  It was made using stop motion animation (like Fantastic Mr. Fox).  The  movie is set in Japan 20 years in the future and  tells the story of a boy searching for his dog.  An incredible cast provides the voices (in both Japanese and English).  It’s not his funniest movie but I liked the story and it’s a joy to look at.  If you can see it at an Alamo Drafthouse do so and get there early to see the pre-show which provides lots of insight into Anderson’s style and elements of the movie.