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Annette Kellerman From SXSW: 11-04-08, HUBBLE 3D, And AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY!!

Hey there. I'm back with more from this year's South by Southwest Film Festival.


In my last round of reviews I talked about my aversion to movies over two hours long. I know that may piss off a lot of people, but I just happen to feel strongly that most great stories can be aptly summed up in 120 minutes or less. It's just my opinion...which brings me to my rule about documentaries- if its over an hour, it better be damn good. Unfortunately, most docs that pass the 60 minute point begin to lose my attention. Yes, yes, there ARE many docs that have proven my perosnal theory wrong, however these films tend to be a mere glimmer in a sea of over-indulgent docs that stretch the limits of their subject matter simply to qualify as feature length. Most every film that falls victim to this ploy would totally rock as a short and would leave me wanting more versus the drawn-out snooze fests that most turn out to be. Whew! That being said, 11/04/08 could have been a terrific short documentary. The concept is great, the footage is vast, and yet the overall content is quite frankly boring and repetitive. In case you couldn't deduce from the title, the film revolves around the last presidential election. In a stroke of genius, director Jeff Deutchman employs the help of his friends strewn about the globe to record the local events and thoughts of the "man on the street" amid such a historical day in American history. Footage from Manhattan, Chicago, Geneva, Berlin, New Orleans, St. Louis etc, etc, shows people at the polls, on the street, at parties, and even campaign get the picture. While the film attempts to capture the excitement and enthusiasm of a country on the brink of change, I'm afraid that the end result is just not that compelling. There are bright spots- a 60 year old African American women trying to relate the significance of such and event finally happening in her lifetime; a pair of NYC hipsters getting their free cup of Starbucks coffee for casting their vote; a Muslim couple in Dubai voicing their support for Obama because of his supposed heritage. But unfortunately, the rough mishmash of footage, horrible sound and overall repetition makes for pretty boring viewing. Great concept, poor execution. Would've have been a great short.


Absolute magnificence are the first words that come to mind when describing Hubble 3D, a cinematic treat that almost defies description all together. What better format to view the astonishing images of space travel and the universe than 3D IMAX? The film is all about the NASA mission to repair the Hubble telescope. Director Toni Myers shows us the astronauts preparing for the challenges ahead in the enormous underwater training facility at NASA. We get to see them suiting up and reflecting upon the importance of the task at hand. And, yes, of course we are treated to the always awe-inspiring launch, which literally brought tears to my eyes in all its rumbling, larger than life IMAX glory. And that's just the beginning. The real story starts when the crew faces the awesome task of "doing brain surgery with oven mitts on"- performing the delicate procedures to replace the faulty equipment that had halted Hubble's progress. There is just something so surreal about seeing an astronaut on a space walk, tethered to a ship with the earth rotating in the back round, surrounded by millions of dollars of technology while he struggles to manipulate a screwdriver in zero gravity. Obviously, every mission these men and women embark upon is important, but the amount of future discovery that hinges on the success of this particular outing is certainly not lost on this crew. They know better than anyone that the images and research from the telescope will literally help unlock the mysteries of the universe. I don't think I need to exclaim spoiler alert by letting you know that despite a few stumbling blocks and some tense moments this mission was indeed a success. And though it was completely fascinating to see the astronauts at work, the truly jaw-dropping portion of the film comes with the new images from Hubble that their hard work made possible. The mind boggling amount of data that Hubble has recorded into the furthest depths of the universe translated into 3D images is simply, well, mind boggling. Early in the film, we get to travel to Orion's belt and explore a "star nursery" where possible future galaxies are forming right before our eyes. Absolutely stunning. Near the end of the film, Hubble takes us to the furthest depths of the universe, some 10 billion light years away where the light from the heavenly bodies we get to view began traveling toward the earth eons before the earth even existed. I had to constantly remind myself that the images I was seeing are real and not computer generated. Completely amazing stuff. This film is a stunning cinematic event that should not be missed.


If you aren't familiar with Bill Hicks, you need to quit reading this and look him up on YouTube- immediately. If you are already a fan of the late comedic genius, then you too have likely proselytised about the legend because most Hicks fans don't just passivley enjoy his razor-tongued humor, they want to spread his word. They want more people to join the cool club. They wear T Shirts adorned with his likeness and quote beloved lines from the stand up routines that have immortalized him forever. I remember the first time my friend Jed showed me a Bill Hicks performance on a ratty old VHS tape long before the internet provided such coolness with the simple click of a mouse. I was so blown away. I had never really seen a stand up comedian that was so witty and well-spoken while making me laugh my ass off. I remember thinking, "who is this guy, and why am I just now discovering him?" My elation at my new discovery was mared by utter disappointment when I learned that he had died back in 1994 from pancreatic cancer. I would LOVE to hear Hicks' take on the state of the world today- I'm sure it would be chock full of clever realization doused with profanity, shouting, and a haze of cigarette smoke. American: The Bill Hicks Story chronicles his life through the commentary of his family and friends, matching the narration with a vast collection of photos, home videos, and clips from his childhood all the way up to his last stand up routine. The look of the doc is very stylized- much like other docs Tales of a Rat Fink or The Kid Stays In The Picture. Directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas use every trick of editing and computer wizardry to make old photos seemingly spring to life as the story of Bill's life unfolds. There are only a few instances where this visual style is a bit overwhelming. Overall, though I find this type of innovative documentary film making is a fresh departure from traditional interviews and pan and scan photos. This is definitely not your standard talking head documentary. If you already a fan of Bill Hicks like me, you will be delighted to gain further insight into his family, childhood, and early forays into the world of stand up comedy. If you are not already a fan, this film is Hicks 101. Either way, it is definitely required viewing. While its not likely that a doc about a semi-famous, deceased comedian will be hitting theaters any time soon, I have no doubt that this film will show up on cable, DVD, VOD, or some screen near you. Do yourself a favor and check it out at your first opportunity.
Well, I'll be checking in later with more of my coverage of SXSW.
Cheer, Annette Kellerman

Readers Talkback
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  • March 16, 2010, 7:13 p.m. CST

    there needs to be a hicks biopic

    by brabon300

    the man was a genius...and this world needs him

  • March 16, 2010, 7:21 p.m. CST

    Hicks Biopic

    by Nachokoolaid

    I thought there was a Hicks biopic in the works.

  • March 16, 2010, 7:22 p.m. CST

    Hubble thing sounds cool though

    by Nachokoolaid

  • March 16, 2010, 7:44 p.m. CST

    Hicks Biopic

    by 100Proof

    Frankly, I feel like this documentary is more akin to what Hicks would've wanted. A biopic would likely focus less on the man's stunningly cogent views on life, happiness, and personal freedom and more on his tragic end and become exactly the kind of slickly marketed puff piece that he spent the later part of his life railing against. Where as something like this documentary is interested in dealing with his viewpoints and prophetic wit that he so desperately wanted to share with an America he felt was flying off the rails.

  • March 16, 2010, 8:06 p.m. CST

    Your short attention span issues are something...

    by Jaka

    ...I'd keep to myself if I were you. Just gives people a reason to call you ridiculous for thinking most docs of 60 minutes are boring. *cough* The Hubble IMAX sounds incredible. I'll be looking for a theater where I can see that for sure. I watched long stretches of it live on NASA TV and that was mind bogglingly ridiculous. Can't imagine what it will look like in giant IMAX 3D.

  • March 16, 2010, 8:07 p.m. CST

    Here is the thing,,,,,,,

    by Sparhawk38

    100proog is right. Hicks would not have wanted a biopic. He wouldn't have wanted a creatively empty studio to profit from it , either. OR maybe he would have liked a biopic of himself to be so bad that it bankrupted the studio. Either way, the guy was unbelievable. Smart and wicked. His best stuff is when the audience doesn't get it and he gets a littled pissed off and keeps pushing them. He was unique and I wish he was still around.

  • March 16, 2010, 8:17 p.m. CST

    longer than 60 minutes, that is

    by Jaka

  • March 16, 2010, 9:20 p.m. CST


    by annettekellerman

    I know I've totally opened myself up to ridicule, but at least it makes for good talkback;) I'm delighted when I'm proven wrong- the Hicks doc clocks in at 105 minutes, so I guess I contradicted myself already.

  • March 16, 2010, 10:17 p.m. CST

    I wanna see that Hubble movie!

    by Orionsangels

  • March 16, 2010, 10:21 p.m. CST

    HUBBLE 3-D-420


  • March 16, 2010, 10:53 p.m. CST

    Hubble 3D = Fuck Yes.

    by jimmy_009

    I will definitely catch this one on a real IMAX screen.

  • March 16, 2010, 11:48 p.m. CST

    Hicks BioPic

    by RenoNevada2000

    Russell Crowe was having a script developed for him to star in, but that was two years ago. It's probably dead by now.

  • March 17, 2010, 1:18 a.m. CST

    How about a 3-D Hicks biopic set in space?

    by kevred

    It's late. Time for sleep.

  • March 17, 2010, 1:22 a.m. CST

    Bill Hicks was a Man-God

    by DOGSOUP


  • March 17, 2010, 2:49 a.m. CST

    Bill Hicks should be on the National Curriculum.

    by Gabba-UK

    Kids should be introduced to as many view points as is possible. Hicks' world view may not be everyones cup of tea but it would spark debate within a teenage population so used to soaking up the controlled corperate bullshit of the media that apathy is now a disease, more prevalent and more damaging than a dose of clap in that age group.

  • March 17, 2010, 3:01 a.m. CST

    why i want a bill hicks docudrama

    by brabon300

    not because i expect it to be good, but because mainstream films bring more attention to a subject than do docs<p> because of hicks early demise, an entire generation has grown up without knowing him<p> and much of his gen wasted time and money on hacks like dane cook<P> look at the attention the runaways are getting with their docudrama, and the movie will not be good<p> so cast that evil midget shia labouf as hicks and bring in the tweener crowd to have their panties ripped off

  • March 17, 2010, 4:31 a.m. CST

    Hubble 3d. You may have seen it, but did you learn anything?

    by V'Shael

    "Early in the film, we get to travel to Orion's belt and explore a "star nursery" where possible future galaxies are forming right before our eyes." <p> Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds? That's like saying you went to your Walmart to see how planets were made. Except it's even more wrong. <p> I wouldn't listen to a tour guide if he couldn't distinguish between the room in my hotel and the country we were in, either.

  • March 17, 2010, 4:54 a.m. CST

    I agree brabon

    by AnUsulDarkley

    Dane Cook sucks. How is he popular? The first person on Myspace to get a million fans. Please.

  • March 17, 2010, 5:03 a.m. CST

    Kellerman... you got camel-toe!

    by workshed

    But don't worry - most men have no problem with this. Great reviews btw. Cannot wait to see Hubble 3D. There's nothing you could tell me about Bill Hicks - I've been a mate of Kev Booth for years. I used to run a cabaret bar at the Edinburgh Fringe in the early-90s.

  • March 17, 2010, 10:31 a.m. CST


    by annettekellerman

    I borrowed from the verbage in the narration. Its a film made for a movie going public, not astro physicists like yourself.

  • March 17, 2010, 2:42 p.m. CST

    Anybody else getting serious wood from AK's cartoon?

    by BurnHollywood

    To hell with Jessica Rabbit...

  • March 17, 2010, 5:39 p.m. CST

    i was thinking

    by PlayerHater_of_the_year

    the exact same thing, big tits, camel toe, robot leg. lovin' it.

  • March 17, 2010, 8:01 p.m. CST

    True Annette

    by Jaka

    And I realize nothing is absolute. I'm just one of those people who loves long films. Documentaries or fiction, makes no difference as long as there's a story to tell and it's visually pleasing. Unless it's just stank ass awful, like saaaaay, Meet Joe Black, I really just enjoy long movies.