It’s gotten to the point in the film fest where folks are almost burnt out, but not quite broke enough to justify missing a film. The lines were still long, though for shorter periods of time which is fantastic on those no longer wishing to squat on the pavement for an hour. The city has begun shifting towards music, and as films tapers off so too will the sensibilities of vacationing out of towners. Danielle Houtkooper
In a world where the price of a person’s life is determined by an invisible line they were born behind, Transpecos acts as a bridge between two worlds of corruption. Three border patrol agents watch a Texas check point on a lightly traveled highway. After a routine situation turns turbulent, trust is tested, ethics ignored, and we’re left with an innate responsibility to fix what’s already been broken.
It’s imperative not to give anything away with this film; every time you’re sure you’ve figured it out you’re surprised. The trio of Johnny Simmons, Clifton Collins Jr., and Gabriel Luna is intuitive and thoughtful. Luna’s performance is vividly forceful, ideal in character inception and someone to watch as the film makes the festival circuit. The background of the unforgiving desert is simplistic and plays well to the overall story. As a whole the film’s topical situation makes it all the more relevant, as if it needed more reason to emerge triumphant.
There’s a beauty in Miss Stevens that sits still throughout the film. The story of an unfulfilled young English teacher, and the perils of growing up, the stillness experienced in scenes of growth is immense. It’s an underlying theme masked only by the dazzling soundtrack and score. Played by Lily Rabe, the titular character takes three of her students on a weekend long field trip for a theater tournament. While the kids learn their obligatory lessons, Miss Stevens is able to make mistakes, growing on her own accord.
Whether you go into the movie with expectations or walk in blind, you’ll leave surprised and better than you were before it started. Between Rabe’s spellbinding performance and relative newcomers Lili Reinhart, Timothée Chalament (Interstellar), and Anthony Quintal, we’re presented with a perfect ensemble cast that compliments the well written screenplay.
Midnighters Shorts (Part Two)
“A Reasonable Request”
Featuring a welcomed appearance by John Ennis, “A Reasonable Request” questions how far a father and son are willing to go for a payday. A son sits timidly starring at his coffee as he waits for his father in a diner. The two are estranged, and the awkward tension given off by both is intimidating. As father does his best to apologize for his absence, son quickly gets to the point of the meeting; he’s been offered two million dollars to give his father a blow-job. The room is silent until the father grunts and agrees. Shocked at the quick response, the son is suspicious, and the two duke out their deeper problems as they argue the merits of an incestual indecent proposal. Things get weird as the father negotiates for more money, followed by more hypothetical sex acts. The whole thing is madness, hilarious in its subject and outcome. The best part is their mutual admiration for one another at the end of the short—this is what it took to repair their relationship. Jesus.
“An Arm’s Length”
Featuring an angsty child and his mommy issues, the short opens to a bloodied adolescent as he sits on a park bench wiping blood off of his tape deck. He describes his life and disdain for his overbearing mother. Going through her sins, we see him grow from an infant to his current state, never once leaving his mother’s side. They eat together, they shower together, they sleep together. He never has a moment to himself, even as he attempts to get intimate with a five knuckle shuffle his slumbering mother seems to peer at him with her gaudy sleep mask. His resentment grows as he does, and it seems inevitable that at some point he will probably stab his oppressive parental. That is, until the grossly hideous revelation that his mother never cut the cord between them after he was born. The shot has them sitting next to one another in the back of the car, the cord swollen and pulsing with their every movement. Just as all hope is lost, the boy finds a pair of sheers beneath his car seat. As his mother nags at his father, he quickly cuts the cord, splattering blood everywhere and making a dash for independence. It’s a new take on “momma’s boy” that remains burned in the corneas and psyches of the unsuspecting audience.
Two teens who could easily pass for young SNL alum’s Mya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig pout in a doctor’s office as baby Wiig lies to her mother about their whereabouts. Baby Rudolph smugly complains about her role in the situation as she condemns her friend for “slutting it up”. A nurse (played by Transparent’s Amy Landecker) begins questioning her situation in an obstetrician’s office. Baby Wiig has gotten herself knocked up and Baby Rudolph does not approve. As the two bicker the nurse sits confused, eventually asking, “how far along are you?” to which the film answers all the way with a quick pan out to the whole room. The baby comediennes continue to bicker as Baby Wiig vehemently explains she has only had sex for the first time the night before. Things go from bad to worse when she goes into labor and the doctor enters. As her “baby” begins to peak through, his head explodes. We get an Alien situation with less stomach bursting, leaving the doctor and nurse wholly dead and Baby Wiig & Rudolph cluelessly screeching. The millennial aspect to it is hysterical; the two are both hopelessly oblivious to the situation until it’s too late. Even then your almost torn between wanting to watch them bumble through the end of humanity and getting brutally murdered for their ignorance. Truly a perfect teen fable.
“Eat My Shit”
What would you do if you were born with a deformity so grim, you would never show your face in public? ‘Eat My Shit’ answers this question with a hearty, “Fuck that.” A young girl sits in a restaurant talking to her mother on her cell phone with a bit of a lisp discussing a photo Instagram took down from its site for being obscene. The camera remains planted on the back of her head as she protests, explaining she only took a selfie and it makes no sense. As the camera pans forward it’s revealed that she has an asshole where her mouth should be. Puckered and pink, it comes fully equipped with tiny butt cheeks and a hairy taint. If that weren’t horrific enough, we soon find out how she eats (with a tube and a funnel into her mouth-ass). She’s obviously hurting as she carries around a book with pictures of her face covered in lips she finds in magazines. Regardless her server makes fun of her misfortune, leading to anger and tears. In a moment of clarity and gut churning horror, she shits out of her mouth onto the check, retaliating for every laugh and insult. As she packs up her bag she takes a picture, chooses a filter, and posts it to Instagram. The whole scene is frank and atrocious, hysterically breaking the barriers of sharing in the age of instant technology.
After years in prison, a man is finally free, and looking for a good time. After a suggestion from an esteemed prison colleague, he heads to a bar to get wasted and chase some tail. It isn’t until he’s in the bathroom that he catches wind of what his buddy was referring to. “For a good time, go out back” he reads as he zips his pants back up. Walking out back he’s presented with a hooker type who quickly blows him off. Just as he resigns himself to get trashed and neglect his failures, a camera change clues us into someone watching him. The trashcan moves, and as he inches forward to investigate a horrid little troll of a creature comes rushing towards him. Rather than rip out his innards, the little monster begins fellating him in the alley cooing “is this what you want?” The moment doesn’t last long, and to commemorate the thing spits his newly found treasure into his hand and spreads it along the parolee’s face. “You may forget your sins, but you’ll never forget your Gwilliam,” he states as he hands off a phone number to the bewildered man. Back at his room the man lies in bed newly showered as he shivers off the night’s events. After a moment, he reaches for the phone and pulls out the number. Producers of the film provided the audience with a barf bag for the big occasion, and the creative use of gross out humor was definitely appreciated. The horrifying revelation of the whole bit was that we truly won’t ever forget our Gwilliam.
While the opening weekend may have come and gone, there was one thing everyone was buzzing about Monday night, and that was the debut of Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg’s animated Sausage Party. Like Key & Peele’s Keanu, Sausage Party was dubbed a ‘work-in-progress.’ Unlike Key & Peele, who told the audience late Saturday night that “if you guys like it, it’s done,” Rogen was quick to point out that it would be very obvious to everyone in the audience exactly how not finished it was. As the first audience to get to see the roughly 70% finished product, here’s a look at the hotly-anticipated Sausage Party, or, how I spent my fourth day of SXSW.
Worth it. Christian Long
There’s so much I want to say about Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s hard-R animated comedy Sausage Party, but feel like I can’t for a couple of reasons. One, to no one’s surprise, it’s shocking—pretty much by anyone’s standards, which is impressive in its own right, considering Rogen and company have made careers out of pushing the envelope in terms of what’s acceptably raunchy for mainstream, adult comedy. Two, so much of the film’s story is tied directly into these eyebrow-raising moments that to reveal them would be giving too much away, and possibly detract from anyone’s personal viewing experience, even if this film is almost six months away from its theatrical release.
That being said, the basic plot breaks down like this: Seth Rogen plays Frank, a hot dog (get it?) who, along with his seven buddies in their little hot dog package, are enthused about their chances that they’ll be taken from their supermarket shelf by “the gods” and get to travel to the great beyond. That’s a shared understanding that all the anthropomorphized food products have going for them: they get chosen, put into a cart, then carried off into an eternal paradise.
This belief system starts to unravel when a customer returns a jar of honey mustard, who comes back utterly disparate and shell-shocked, desperately trying to reveal the much darker truth about what lays beyond those supermarket doors. The one character who listens to him is, of course, Frank, who starts to question their entire belief system.
All of this happens very early in the film, setting the stage for Frank’s journey of eye-opening self-discovery. During this journey, Sausage Party manages to cram every offensive ethnic stereotype and parody of major global events into its 88-ish minute runtime. And it works fantastically.
Speaking with Rogen and Goldberg beforehand, who talked about this idea that had been gestating between them for a number of years, an idea about a self-aware hot dog looking for the meaning of life, which they had a very difficult time getting made, not just for the over-the-top humor, but the rather heady story at the heart of the film.
“[The existentialism] was the first thing we were able to sink our teeth into, no pun intended,” explained Rogen, “was this idea that what if food had this belief system that they suddenly realized wasn’t accurate. That was one of the first ideas that we had.”
“It grew into much more than that,” replied Goldberg, who went onto explain that “each character was very much created by the actor.”
Speaking of, the voice work, delivered by the usual suspects, including Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, and Michael Cera, along with a few surprises, is all top notch. The animation, too, is lush and crammed full of in-jokes and subtle references — at least the parts that were done. Rogen explained to the crowd beforehand that the ‘work-in-progress’ tag wasn’t some sort of “semantic trickery,” that it simply “wasn’t fucking done.”
Helping to create this unique-yet-familiar look to the animation were veteran cartoon directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, who called making the movie a “refreshing change.”
“Because none of it’s been done before, so all of us had to get used to that. There was one moment where a storyboard artist stood up and said ‘Remember this moment, guys, because we’re all getting paid to draw this filthy shit that’s going into this movie, and we won’t have to go in front of HR or anything. This will never happen again.’ Though we hope it will happen again, not just R-rated, just more…sophisticated stories in animation.”
Tiernan also joked that “there wasn’t as much swearing in this as there was Thomas the Tank Engine, so that took some getting used to.”
“We would wake up every morning and be there at 9 am,” said Vernon, “and we’re going ‘Does the cheese really need a nipple ring?’ And they’d say ‘Yeah, it’s funny.’ So, alright, we’ll put the nipple ring on the cheese. So we’d have to stop and take stock and think ‘This is a dream job.’”
It’s the perfect return to form for Vernon and Tiernan, who first met on the set of Ralph Bakshi’s not-for-kids cartoon Cool World. After Vernon was brought this long-gestating idea, he recalled the “absolutely filthy Charlie Brown cartoons we’d draw for one another,” and immediately brought his old partner back into the fold.
Though perhaps the most revealing thing that can be said about Sausage Party also came from the Q&A, when audience member asked how they’d planned to get this past the MPAA, to which Rogen gleefully replied “We already did! It turns out, we can show food fu-uck!”
The movie is due out in theaters this summer, where it’s almost certain to permanently redefine the term ‘food porn.’ In the meantime, you can check out the recently-released red band trailer. Just consider yourself warned.