Five Stand Out Films at SXSW
The Paramount Theater (Getty Images)
"Spring Breakers" -- Former Disney stars Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, along with Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine, break bad as bored, hedonistic college students. When they learn that they don't have enough money to go on vacation, they simply rob a coffee shop -- and Presto! It's spring break time. After partying harder than Andrew W.K., they fall in with a sleazy rapper/would-be drug kingpin Alien, played with relish by James Franco, who pulls the girls deeper and deeper into the crime underworld. Sure, director Harmony Korine's tendency to let the camera linger on his stars' lithe, bikinied body feels more than a little creepy, but he has a genius for creating pungently bizarre images. Case in point: Franco's beachside serenade to Britney Spears's "Everytime" as the girls, clad only in bikinis and pink ski masks, dance while clutching AK-47s. It plays like some insane mash-up of a K-Fed video and "Red Detachment of Women." I still haven't figured out if "Spring Breakers" is exploitative garbage or brilliant. Perhaps it's brilliant exploitative garbage. It is definitely, however, lurid, ridiculous, and frequently hilarious.
"Upstream Color" -- If David Cronenberg and Terrence Malick ever got together and made a movie, it might look something like "Upstream Color." Shane Carruth, who wrote, directed, edited, sound edited, starred in, and mostly likely catered this film, creates a world that is maddeningly opaque yet completely compelling. This is not a flick that is easily summarized, but it centers on Kris (Amy Seimetz), a woman who after suffering a devastating, if baffling, crime finds herself seeking safety and comfort in the equally damaged Jeff (Carruth). But that description leaves out the worms -- which petty thugs use to create some kind of mind-controlling drug. And there's the menacing bloom of blue organisms. And then there's that pig farmer -- who in this world may or may not be God. If you found "Inception" a little too weird, give it a miss. But folks who like enigmatic, thought-provoking, and original movies, this flick is for you.