South by Southwest 2018: Films
Admittedly, I dropped the ball on films, missing “Isle of Dogs,” “Ready Player One,” “A Quiet Place” and “6 Balloons.” Then again, a girl can only walk so fast. Here are my reviews of the films I did manage to watch and mostly enjoy, specifically “Sorry to Bother You,” “Krypton,” “Jeom,” “Agua Viva” and “Solar Walk.”
“Sorry to bother you,” says Cassius Green, an aspiring telemarketer played by Lakeith Stanfield, as he is hung up on once again. But contrary to Green’s initial shyness, director Boots Riley is anything but sorry about his sci-fi fantasy comedy. Releasing in July, “Sorry to Bother You” features a stacked cast like Stanfield, Tessa Thompson and Steven Yeun. The film is bold and daring, filled with absurd plot twists and biting satire.
Showing both the minutiae moments and the broader experiences of being black in corporate America, Green learns to put on his “white voice” when talking to customers, hovers between his desire to maintain relationships and his desire to pay rent, and becomes a first-hand witness and accomplice to a 21st-century vision of slavery. To lessen the sobering critique of capitalism and classism, Riley pushes the absurdism to an extreme and thus makes an inclusive space where everyone can laugh. Still, even though “Sorry to Bother You” doesn’t take itself too seriously, the deeper implications of the movie still shine through.
When exiting the theater, still in mild shock, I overheard some people grumbling that “Sorry to Bother You” is just another “Get Out.” Which is funny, because that thought process definitely didn’t stop us from having an exodus of superhero movies that all feature muscular white men. Instead, I’m excited to see what other directors are inspired by “Get Out” and “Sorry to Bother You,” and look forward to this next genre of comedic social critique.
Speaking of muscular white men, “Krypton” is a new Syfy show that features Cameron Cuffe as Superman’s grandfather, Seg-El. “Krypton” follows Seg-El as he strives to redeem his family’s honor and save Krypton from an unknown threat. The show premieres on Wednesday, March 21.
The pilot episode opened up a lot of opportunity for future political intrigue and romance. The relationships between characters are often shrouded with mystery and encourage future watching. The mother-daughter conflict between lover Lyta Zod, played by Georgina Campbell, and her mother Alura Zor-El, played by Ann Ogbomo, is especially unique as both women play strong roles. Not to spoil too much, but Alura leads the military guild and stabs Lyta’s hand in training, which doesn’t exactly speak loving mom and daughter to me.
The pilot ultimately crumbles under the writing and Cuffe’s acting. I respect the director and writers for sticking to the comics, but having a supervillain named “Brainiac” in the 21st century is beyond laughable. Also, it doesn’t help that Seg-El and his family speak primarily in cliches that seem drawn straight from the cliffhangers in the comics. Lastly, while Cuffe certainly looks the part for Superman’s grandfather, he seemed to have inherited a similar lack of proper emotional expression. When something seriously terrible happens to Seg-El, I feel less sympathy for him than I do for Lyta when her hand gets stabbed.
It’s too early to say how the rest of the series will go, but I’m moderately interested in the development of the intricate relationships. That is, if Syfy doesn’t cancel “Krypton” like many of its other shows.
Directed by Alexa Lim Haas, “Agua Viva” follows a Chinese manicurist’s attempt to vocalize her feelings of loneliness and meaningless after moving countries. The nameless manicurist struggles with the monotony of her day-to-day routine, her inability to hold meaningful conversations in English, and the notion that there was no resolution to her vague feelings.
The short reveals the manicurist’s thoughtful perceptions of those around her while simultaneously portraying her frustration at her current situation. Although this feeling of meaninglessness is one that has been touched upon by many a film and book, “Agua Viva” creates a fresh take by delicately building the frustration one watercolor frame at a time.
“Jeom” means birthmark in Korean. The namesake stop-motion film by Kangmin Kim is a light-hearted take on Kim’s own ugly jeom, and how he passes it down to his child. The short is endearing, gets its story across with minimal dialogue and utilizes a unique stop-motion style, where frames are made up from simple construction paper patterns.