Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) goes with the flow. A free-spirited poet, Moondog spends his days drinking, getting high and gallivanting around Key West. His wife Minnie (Isla Fisher), a wealthy socialite drawn to Moondog’s nonconformity, calls Moondog back to Miami for their daughter’s wedding. When tragedy strikes, Moondog’s inheritance is at stake. He must buckle down and get his next poetry collection written and published. Will Moondog be able to stop partying enough to finally write his next masterpiece?
As we follow him on his journey, we meet the motley crew of characters who inhabit Moondog’s world. There’s Lingerie (Snoop Dogg) the tycoon who lives large and has an affair with Moondog’s wife Minnie. Moondog and Lingerie party with their buddy Jimmy Buffett. In rehab Moondog meets Flicker (Zac Efron), a hip partier with a penchant for vaping and beard shaved to look like tiger stripes. Out of rehab, Moondog gets a job with his friend Captain Wack (Martin Lawrence), who takes families out on dolphin tours and makes one rather unfortunate mistake. Moondog’s literary agent Lewis (Jonah Hill) seems to be just as happy to talk business as he is partying. The most sensible person in Moondog’s world is his daughter Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen) who is seemingly straight-laced but still embraces her parents’ eccentric personalities.
Director Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum is one wild ride. Several film critics complained that the film meanders but in my opinion that’s one of the strengths. Korine allows the viewer to settle in for a while and live and breathe with the characters. The adventures of Moondog and his cohorts had me laughing and scratching my head. Korine’s brand of weird not be for everyone but I dug it. The story is a big “f*ck you” to conformity, culture and social norms. I live for Korine’s slow motion sequences and this film features a hilarious one starring Moondog and group of vagabonds (whom he literally just met hours earlier) breaking into his wife’s locked up mansion and causing utter chaos.
Moondog fits McConaughey like a well-worn glove. Jonah Hill seems to have modeled his performance after Truman Capote. I wish there was more time with Snoop Dogg, Martin Lawrence and Zac Efron’s characters. For you Parrotheads out there, Jimmy Buffett has a small role playing himself. I absolutely loved Isla Fisher’s character Minnie, perhaps my favorite in the film, but I wish her story line had taken a different turn than it did. Alas.
It’s important to note the representations of sexuality in this film. The women used as ornamental sex objects, specifically in a scene when McConaughey, Buffett and Snoop Dogg are partying on a boat, is outdated and sexist. This might have worked for a rap video ten years ago but doesn’t work today. I can’t tell if Korine is poking fun at this or if this is part of the hedonistic lifestyle. On the flip side, it was interesting to see a scene between Isla Fisher and McConaughey where the female protagonist is receiving oral pleasure. A rarity especially in American cinema.
As someone who works in book publishing, I found the story line of Moondog’s poetry career weak at best. It gives the film some semblance of a plot but you have to suspend your disbelief that Moondog is actually a genius who can win top literary awards for his work. I wasn’t buying it.
The Beach Bum is not as good as Korine’s Mister Lonely, which is still my favorite, or the more comparable Spring Breakers, but is enjoyable fare if you’re on board. And you have to be on board for this ride.
The Beach Bum had its world premiere at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival as a headliner. It releases in theaters on March 29th.
They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This is absolutely true for the residents of Yellowknife in Northwest Territories, Canada. Home to one of the last open landfills in North America, the Yellowknife dump is a salvager’s delight. These prospectors hunt for objects they can reuse and recycle. Some of the items thrown away are brand new or in perfect condition, others need some TLC. In a town with a long history of gold and diamond mining, these salvagers find treasure in their own unique way.
Director Amy C. Elliott’s documentary Salvage is an intimate portrait of a community in flux. In one of the most isolated areas in North America that’s ever changing with increased government regulation and population growth, the livelihood of these salvagers is in jeopardy. Elliott’s film explores three aspects of this community: the individuals who salvage and their personal motivations in doing so, the dangers of salvaging with exposure to sharp objects and disease and the government officials who are trying to control the landfill to protect the citizens.
Elliott’s film delivers a powerful message about wastefulness and resourcefulness but doesn’t do so in a heavy handed way. The audience is left to come to their own conclusions about how what their own approach to trash and recycling. Part of the fun of watching the film is learning about the individual salvagers and watching as they discover treasures at the dump. Some of the items include wedding dresses, brand new clothes with the tags still on them, Halloween costumes, glass jars, 60 lbs of bagged vermicelli, scraps of wood, antiques, toys, moccasins, photo albums and much more.
One of the biggest takeaways from this film for me was how lazy we are as consumers and the stigma that surrounds resourcefulness. The term “microcosm” is thrown around a lot in the film and Yellowknife dump truly is a microcosm of the community but it’s also a microcosm of society and the inherent dangers with progress. We lose something important when we’re not able take care of ourselves, our community and our planet.
Salvage is a fascinating documentary and viewers will gain perspective on what it means to be part of a consumer culture.
Salvage had its world premiere at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival as part of their Documentary Spotlight series. Stay tuned as I’ll be interviewing the director Amy C. Elliott for this site!
The 2019 SXSW Film Festival starts next week and I’m thrilled to be attending this year for the very first time. Many thanks to SXSW and Rotten Tomatoes for this amazing opportunity. I’m furiously building my itinerary with plenty of great films, panels, interviews and new experiences. Follow me here and on my social media for all the details.
I would have to clone myself a dozen times to experience a significant chunk of SXSW has to offer. But alas there is only one of me. I did my best to curate a list of films that piqued my interest. I’m focusing primarily on documentaries, movies directed by women, Spanish-language cinema and indie films in general. 60 % of the films screening at SXSW are directed by women which is a fantastic feat. Here is how my current slate of films breaks down:
Films Directed by Women: 9 (out of 15)
Now on to my SXSW picks!
Sunset Over Mulholland Drive
Directed by Uli Gaulke
SXSW Documentary Spotlight
If you know me it’ll come to no surprise that this new documentary about residents of the Motion Picture & Television Fund home is my #1 pick. I’m a big champion for elderly and the residents of MPTF all have amazing stories to share about their contributions to the entertainment industry. I had the honor of visiting my friend Lillian Michelson at MPTF last year. Gaulke’s documentary follows a group of MPTF residents as they collaborate on new projects. I’ll be reviewing this one over at my classic film blog Out of the Past.
Directed by Amy C. Elliott
SXSW Documentary Spotlight
Elliott’s new documentary explores the open landfill of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada and the group of townspeople who salvage items from it. Yellowknife dump is one of the only open dumps in North America and regulations to control it pose a threat to the local community. I’m very curious to see what this film has to offer in terms of insights into what the objects we throw away have to say about us as a society. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Stay tuned as I’ll have an interview with the director as well as a review!
What drives someone to the breaking point? Paul Solet’s new documentary Tread takes a look at Marvin Heemeyer, the Colorado man who in 2004 ran a fortified bulldozer through his hometown, systematically destroying homes and businesses. This bizarre case has always intrigued me and Solet’s film offers various perspectives in an attempt to answer the biggest question: why?
The Beach Bum
Directed by Harmony Korine
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Stefania Lavie Owen, Jimmy Buffett, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence
There will be big competition for the Headliners at the festival and while I’m happy to watch those at a later date, I can’t pass up the opportunity to see a Harmony Korine film at SXSW! I love Korine’s Spring Breakers and Mister Lonely and am excited for his latest movie. The Beach Bum stars Matthew McConaughey as Moondog, a free spirit who marches to the beat of his own drum. It features a stellar cast! I’m ready for another quirky yet subversive story, Korine-style.
Docs about 20th Century entertainers are my jam and I’m hoping to get a chance to see this one about legendary comedian Richard Pryor. I’m especially curious to see how this film explores his life and career in the context of the era.
Starring Anna Margaret Hollyman, Michael Mosley, Andrea Suarez Paz, Julie White, Amy Hargreaves, Macon Blair, Lee Eddy, Blake Delong, John Merriman, Nathan Zellner
SXSW Festival Favorites
Inspired by the story of 1920s evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, Sister Aimee looks like a fun twist on a bit of obscure 20th century history. I reviewed The Miracle Woman (1931) over on my site Out of the Past which stars Barbara Stanwyck and is also inspired by McPherson. Would love to examine how these two films compare with each other and what Sister Aimee has to offer to a contemporary audience.
Directed by Patricia Ortega
Starring Lucia Bedoya, Belkis Avilladares, María Elena Duque
Director Patricia Ortega’s drama explores the intersection between religion and gender. The story centers around a young religious dressmaker who discovers she was born intersex. Her parents kept her corrective surgery a secret and raised her as a girl. I love South American films and the exploration of identity and gender definitely piqued my interest. Would love to see how this compares with Lucia Puenzo’s film XXY (2007).
La Mala Noche
Directed by Gabriele Calvache
Starring Nöelle Schönwald, Cristian Mercado, Jaime Tamariz, Ariana Freire, Diego Mignone, Gonzalo Gonzalo, Christian Cabrera, Javier Ordóñez
SXSW Global – World Premiere
This Ecuadorian/Mexican thriller is about a prostitute trying to escape the seedy underworld run by her mob boss. La Mala Noche is perhaps the darkest film in my line-up and I’m excited to see what director Calvache has to offer!
Principal Cast: Laura Tobón, David Escallón, Carlos Fonnegra, Christian Tappan, Julián Giraldo, Natalia Castaño, Margarita Restrepo
Another South-American film directed by a woman! My fingers crossed that I can fit this one into my schedule. The story follows two friends, graffiti artists, who plan to paint a mural of a whale to cover up a threatening message. I’ve been hungry for more Colombian cinema ever since I watched Karen Cries on the Bus (2011) last year.
Nothing Fancy: Diana Kennedy
Directed by Elizabeth Carroll
SXSW Documentary Feature Competition
Nonagenarian Diana Kennedy has spent the better part of her life researching and documenting the history of food and cuisine in Mexico. This new documentary explores her life’s work which includes nine Mexican cookbooks and her unique lifestyle (she’s lived off the grid since the 1970s!).
Directed by Ben Asamoah
I’m fascinated by internet scams and those spam e-mails we all get in our inboxes trying to extort us out of our life savings. This new documentary follows the story of three Ghanaians who are turning to the internet fraud as a source of livelihood. I’m hoping this film touches upon the ramifications of this sort of “career” and how it’s judged, or not judged, in another culture.
Directed by Jenna Ricker
SXSW Documentary Spotlight
I love sports documentaries especially when the subject is a woman! Director Jenna Ricker’s new film for ESPN explores the career of Janet Guthrie, the first female race car driver to qualify for the Daytona 500 and Indy 500.
Directed by Hilary Brougher
Starring Talia Balsam, Scott Cohen, Andrus Nichols, Michael Oberholtzer, Naian González Norvind , Midori Francis, Macaulee Rusnak Cassaday, Isis Masoud, Violet Rea, Guthrie Mass
SXSW Narrative Feature Competition
Set in the Catskills, this drama tells the story of a family coming apart at the seams. The film’s star Talia Balsam is a big draw for me but I also love that this film is written and directed by a female filmmaker.
Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall
Directed by Alfred George Bailey
SXSW 24 Beats Per Second/Documentaries
Jim Marshall photographed some of the biggest names in the history of music: Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, etc. This new documentary offers a look at the man behind the camera. I love stories about people behind-the-scenes. Pair that with some pop culture history and I’m sold!
Directed by Brandon Vedder
SXSW 24 Beats Per Second/Documentaries
As someone who walked away from a strict, conservative Christian upbringing, I’m fascinated by stories of others who have done the same. Vedder’s new documentary paints a portrait of David Bazan, a former evangelical Christian and member of the band Pedro the Lion.