Monday, March 20, 2017

The Best of the 2017 SXSW Film Festival

I recently finished my first trip to Austin, Texas for the wildly popular SXSW extravaganza. During my 5-day venture to the film festival I caught 15 different titles that reaffirmed the strong current state of independent filmmaking. Here is a look at the best screenplays, performances, directors and overall films that I had the pleasure of viewing last week.

Note: Due to large crowds I avoided most of the headliner films such as Baby Driver, Song to Song, Free Fire, Atomic Blonde and The Big Sick, therefore they won't appear in my lists below.

Best Screenplay

Honorable Mention: Person to Person, Us and Them and Win It All

#3. Gemini

#2. T2 Trainspotting

And the winner is ...

#1. Small Town Crime

Writing and directing duo, Eshom and Ian Nelms, deliver an exceptional script flooded with timely humor and massive intrigue. Small Town Crime gives off a Coen brothers feel, making it a top-notch selection for a multitude of reasons.

Best Supporting Actress

Honorable Mention: Aislinn Derbez (Win It All)Caitlin Fitzgerald (This Is Your Death) and Tavi Gevinson (Person to Person)

#3. Zoe Kravitz - Gemini

#2. Anjela Nedyalkova - T2 Trainspotting

And the winner is ...

#1. Octavia Spencer - Small Town Crime

Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer has proven it all, but once again she shows off her dramatic prowess in Small Town Crime. As the adopted sister of a booze addled former-cop, Spencer's character becomes the target of a malicious duo who discovery her brother is on their trail.

Best Supporting Actor

Honorable Mention: Robert Carlyle (T2 Trainspotting), Robert Forster (Small Crimes) and Joe Lo Truglio (Win It All)

#3. Ewen Bremner - T2 Trainspotting

#2. Larry Fessenden - Like Me

And the winner is ...

#1. George Sample III - Person to Person

Dustin Guy Defa's Person to Person is in many ways a collection of disjoint stories detailing various forms of human connection and interaction. None of the film's personal characters resonate with the audience as much as George Sample III's portrayal of Ray, a heartbroken romantic who makes some stupid decisions after losing the woman he loves.

Best Actress

Honorable Mention: Emma Booth (Hounds of Love), Anne Hathaway (Colossal) and Renee Felice Smith (The Relationtrip)

#3. Lena Olin - A Critically Endangered Species

#2. Addison Timlin - Like Me

And the winner is ...

#1. Lola Kirke - Gemini

I was completely enamored with Lola Kirke's performance in Noah Baumbach's indie comedy, Mistress America. She returns with another towering lead performance in Aaron Katz's latest mystery, Gemini. Kirke stars as Jill, best friend and manager to a Hollywood starlet whose dead body she discovers. And when all signs point to her, she must go undercover to unlock the mystery of her friend's murder.

Best Actor

Honorable Mention: Timothee Chalamet (Hot Summer Nights), Bene Coopersmith (Person to Person) and Ewan McGregor (T2 Trainspotting)

#3. Jack Roth - Us and Them

#2. Jake Johnson - Win It All

And the winner is ...

#1. John Hawkes - Small Town Crime

When John Hawkes was unforgivably omitted from the Best Actor race for his 2012 turn in The Sessions, I was crushed. However, the versatile performer continues to offer spectacular work in the comedy-thriller, Small Town Crime. His alcoholic ex-cop character is seeking redemption for ruining his career as an officer, and perhaps solving the mystery behind a random dead body he stumbles across could set him on a straight path.

Best Director

Honorable Mention: Joe Martin (Us and Them)Eshom & Ian Nelms (Small Town Crime) and Joe Swanberg (Win It All)

#3. Aaron Katz - Gemini

#2. Danny Boyle - T2 Trainspotting

And the winner is ...

#1. Robert Mockler - Like Me

You know I have to be overly impressed with a filmmaker for him to top my favorite director, Danny Boyle. Yet, Like Me helmer, Robert Mockler, delivers an unforgettable viewing experience with a twisted blend of experimental and narrative filmmaking that channels the likes of the great David Lynch. Mockler offers such a unique perspective to storytelling that I can't wait to see what he has in store for the future.

Best Picture

Honorable Mention: Like Me, Us and Them and Win It All

#3. Gemini

#2. T2 Trainspotting

And the winner is ...

#1. Small Town Crime

Eshom and Ian Nelms unleash a thrilling and often hysterical crime mystery that overtook a packed theater of spectators during its world premiere. Small Town Crime boasts a strong script that's brought to life by an expansive and well-rounded cast. It works as an entertaining popcorn flick, but it also offers a bit of complexity with an unpredictable story that's perfectly-paced. Small Town Crime is definitely one indie film that you'll want to keep on the radar in 2017.

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