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SXSW ‘09: Tuesday/Wednesday Wrap-Up

My final two days of viewing at SXSW brought more interesting treats. Of course, there is so very much that I didn’t get to see (Winnegebo Man, Sorry, Thanks, etc.), but that just gives me more of a reason to look forward to the Sarasota Film Festival, which kicks off next week.

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo — Jessica Oreck’s film is smarter than I’ll ever be, but not smart in the way of showing off. Smart in the way of tackling a subject with such intellectual precociousness. Featuring a never-ending assault of gorgeous imagery from Sean Price Williams (Frownland), Oreck’s film tackles the expansive subject of Japan’s fascination with insects in a way that is illuminating, educating, and entertaining. Easily one of my favorite films at this year’s SXSW, and one that is certain to make my year-end list when the time comes. I almost feel too overwhelmed to even write about it, but hopefully time and a second viewing will give me the in that I need to express what I think makes this such a melodious treat.

Eggshells — In the process of restoring Tobe Hooper’s long-lost 1968 feature debut, Eggshells, SXSW co-founder Louis Black and Mark Rance of Watchmaker Films arranged for a screening at this year’s fest. In the Q&A, Hooper revealed that he wasn’t always on track to become a legend in the horror genre. That happened after he had made this film and subsequently saw George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Before that, his vision was firmly implanted in the world of experimental narrative. Eggshells tells the tale of a group of hippies living in a house that has some supernatural energy pulsating in the basement. Bursting forth with striking visual imagination, Hooper’s film is a vital addition to the indie film canon and deserves to be watched when it’s finally released on home video.

We Live in Public — Ondi Timoner’s Sundance winner made me want to throw up with disgust. Two of my least favorite things on Earth—rampant exhibitionism and virtual obsessiveness—merged in the form of human psychopath (and inarguable genius) Josh Harris, who exploited others and himself in order to more deeply explore the online revolution before anyone else knew what the online revolution was. That said, Timoner’s doc is one of the more fascinating documents of turn-of-the-century life on Earth. I have a lot to say about this film, which I will certainly do in the future.

The Eyes of Me — Director Keith Maitland’s profile of blind Texas teenagers should open viewers’ eyes (pun intended) to a world that they otherwise wouldn’t consider. As we live with these individuals over the course of a school year—two freshmen and two seniors—we understand the obstacles they must overcome. Fortunately, this wasn’t Maitland’s main agenda in making The Eyes of Me. If anything, he wants to show us these challenges and then get past them to make us realize that these are teenagers like any other and they deserve to be treated as such.

See you next year, SXSW!

— Michael Tully

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Michael Tully is an award-winning writer/director whose films have garnered widespread critical acclaim, his projects having premiered at some of the most renowned film festivals across the globe. He is also the former (and founding) editor of this site. In 2006, Michael's first feature, COCAINE ANGEL, chronicling a tragic week in the life of a young drug addict, world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film immediately solidified the director as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a reputation that was reinforced a year later when his follow-up feature, SILVER JEW, a documentary capturing the late David Berman's rare musical performances in Tel Aviv, world-premiered at SXSW and landed distribution with cult indie-music label Drag City. In 2011, Michael wrote, directed, and starred in his third feature, SEPTIEN, which debuted at the 27th annual Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by IFC Films' Sundance Selects banner. A few years later, in 2014, Michael returned to Sundance with the world premiere of his fourth feature, PING PONG SUMMER, an ‘80s set coming-of-age tale that was quickly picked up for theatrical distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2018, Michael wrote and directed the dread-inducing genre film DON'T LEAVE HOME, which has been described as "Get Out with Catholic guilt in the Irish countryside" (IndieWire). The film premiered at SXSW and was subsequently acquired by Cranked Up Films and Shudder.

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